The Acura Integra is officially making its return in 2022. No joke! We’re stoked, too. It’s a return to the nameplate for Acura — we haven’t seen it grace any cars in the U.S. since 2001. Although the Acura RSX (that was sold here) built 2002-2006 was named the Integra everywhere else but America.
Now that we know “Integra” is coming back after 20 years off, though, it’s time to take a stroll through Acura Integra history. That history begins with the launch of Acura as a brand, because the Integra was one of the first two models that Acura came to America with — the Legend was the other.
1986-1989 — First generation
The first Integra didn’t see a long model run, as it lasted for just four model years. It was too early to incorporate Honda’s soon-to-come VTEC engine technology, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t come packed with awesome features and tech.
Acura actually offered two hatchback options — a three-door and a five-door — and a traditional four-door sedan. The only engine option was a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with a DOHC design that revved out to an impressive 7,000 rpm. It made 113 horsepower and just 99 pound-feet of torque for the first two model years, but a mid-cycle refresh saw output increase to 118 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque for the 1988-89 model years. Both a five-speed manual and four-speed automatic were available. It was a sportier car than the Civic at the time, and since Acura is the luxury arm of Honda, it featured a slightly nicer interior.
It’s a rare sight to see first-generation Integras on the roads these days, as rust and time have slowly removed them from America’s highways. No matter, as this Integra kickstarted the sporting and fun-to-drive spirit that would be found in those to come. It was a lightweight, high-revving compact car that helped Acura get off the ground.
1990-1993 — Second Generation
Just like the first generation, the second-gen Integra saw just four model years of production. Acura dropped the five-door hatchback offering, instead opting to limit the car to a three-door hatchback and four-door sedan. The styling saw some fairly big changes, as the pop-up headlights were dropped, and the hatchback looked more like a two-door coupe in its silhouette.
Performance got a big boost, as Acura upgraded to a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that made 130 horsepower and 121 pound-feet of torque. Just like the first-generation Integra, this one received a refresh (for 1992) that saw power increase to 140 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque. And once again, that power was sent through either a five-speed manual or four-speed auto. Handling and braking saw improvements over the first-gen, too, as Acura fitted 1990-1993 Integras with a fully-independent double wishbone suspension for all four corners. Plus, GS models could be optioned with anti-lock brakes.
The really important news for this generation of Integra was the introduction of the GS-R trim in 1992. It was the first Integra to feature Honda’s VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) technology that was used in many Hondas and Acuras after it. This Integra GS-R used a 1.7-liter four-cylinder that produced an exciting 160 horsepower and 117 pound-feet of torque. It revved to 8,000 rpm and made all of that power up toward the top of the rev range. This GS-R is the rarest one out there, as it was only made for two years.
1994-2001 — Third Generation
The third generation — the bug eye — is the one that most folks associate with the Integra nameplate. It was the one that brought us the Type R, and it lasted for eight long model years, double the length of time seen from the previous Integras.
Before we get to the Type R, though, the 1994-1996 model years saw this third generation get off the ground. Acura launched with both the standard models and the VTEC-equipped GS-R. Both could be had in either three-door hatchback or four-door sedan forms. The standard RS and LS trims were fitted with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that made 142 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque (this would later be revised down to 140 horsepower). Meanwhile, the GS-R had a screaming 170 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque from its 1.8-liter four-cylinder VTEC engine — this one redlined at 8,100 rpm, and was only offered with a five-speed manual.
Things got extra good in 1997 when Acura decided to bestow us with the Integra Type R. You’ve likely already read about this model multiple times over, but here’s a quick rundown: It had a seam-welded body/chassis, upgraded suspension, bigger brakes, limited-slip differential and a hand-built 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that made 195 horsepower and 130 pound-feet of torque. It weighed 33 pounds less than a GS-R, and features a bunch of exterior and interior modifications, most obvious of the bunch being the massive wing in back. We got the Type R for 1997 and 1998 before it took one year off and came back for both the 2000 and 2001 model years.
In between all this, Acura did give the Integra a light refresh. The 1998 model got revised bumpers, new lights and a few minor interior improvements. It went out of production after the 2001 model year, which is the same year it earned stardom in The Fast and the Furious.
Bonus: 2002-2006 — Fourth Generation (RSX)
The fourth-gen “Integra” was called the RSX in the U.S., but it was named the Integra and fitted with a Honda badge internationally. Spiritually, it’s where the Integra died in the U.S., and it’s where the new one will pick back up. Acura only offered it in three-door hatchback form, and power was up massively from the Integra it replaced.
A base RSX had a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that made 160 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque. Meanwhile, the 2002-2004 Type S model featured a high-revving VTEC version of this engine that produced a huge 200 horsepower and 142 pound-feet of torque.
The RSX saw one refresh before its death, but it was a good one. Acura upgraded the Type S to 210 horsepower and 143 pound-feet of torque, and upgraded the suspension while it was at it. The appearance was slightly changed, too, as it gained new bumpers, lights and some interior bits.
We haven’t seen another car in the same vein as the Integra from Acura since the RSX wrapped up in 2006. The ILX has been a disappointment when it comes to sport compact luxury cars, but Acura’s performance renaissance with the NSX and return of the Type S gives us hope that the new Integra will be a return to former greatness.
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