The Integra is something of a comeback for the Acura compact, a tacit admission that its predecessor, the ILX, wasn't the most exciting possible entry point for the brand. The new Integra is supposed to be sportier, more engaging, and more interesting. So it's bizarre to see Acura dropped the ILX's dual-clutch transmission (DCT) and instead offers a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) for customers who don't want to shift themselves.
CVTs have a bad reputation in the enthusiast community for sapping the fun out of any powertrain they're mated to. Because they use variable-ratio gearing, they can adjust gearing to keep the engine in its powerband, maximizing efficiency but creating a monotone groan by keeping revs steady. Honda's newest CVTs can emulate seven-speed automatics that are shiftable via steering paddles to reduce this behavior, but it's still a less crisp and engaging experience than a good DCT. Jonathon Rivers, the lead product planner for the Integra, told us that the DCT was always something of a concession prize.
"In the case of ILX, it actually started with a manual transmission. Keep that in mind," Rivers told Road & Track. "So it had a manual and it had a regular [torque-converter] automatic when it launched. When they did the first refresh of ILX, they, unfortunately, got rid of the manual transmission and to keep that sportiness, they put the DCT out there."
Enthusiast buyers still clamored for a manual, though, meaning the DCT never quite solved Acura's problem. The company knew that the strategy had to change.
"In our case, that particular transmission in our lineup actually went out of production. So there's that side story," Rivers said. "But the reality is, we looked at the customer, we knew that fuel economy was going to be a top priority. We know that with the transmission tuning that we could do we could still get it to be very sporty and compliant. And, having the six-speed manual as the true enthusiast option, we knew we were covering both bases."
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