Naysayers might think the Acura Integra Type S is just a Honda Civic Type R in J. Crew chinos and driving loafers instead of a flat-brim hat and a Mugen hoodie. And while not exactly wrong, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Sure, it shares the same 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and excellent six-speed manual transmission, but the Integra is meant more for back roads corner carving than manic lap times. It’s a car that can bring joy to the commute with a high-revving 320 horsepower engine with 310 pound-feet of torque, but it won’t kill your kidneys during a traffic jam—something the Civic Type R is unfortunately guilty of at times.
The Integra Type S also has a vastly more sonorous and engaging exhaust note than the Civic Type R, which to me makes it a much more engaging vehicle. So much so that I want to start this review by talking about noise. The exhaust shares the same three-outlet design in the rear, but while the Civic Type R has a higher-pitched tone, the Integra pops and burbles with a bass that belies its small-displacement four-banger.
During my day-long drive with the final-form Integra through the hills of Ojai, California I find myself downshifting the excellent six-speed manual transmission at every opportunity, just to hear the sonorous melody out of the tailpipes. When a convertible Corvette gets behind me in traffic, I use what little space in front of me to get on the throttle, treating him to an aural experience of his own. Why not? Even middle-aged bald guys deserve a bit of a concert, right?
So, how does Acura get this delightful sound out of the fifth-generation Integra Type S? After chatting with Acura R&D engineer Yoshiaki Akimoto and product planner Jonathon Rivers, I learned it all comes down to a unique exhaust construction, algorithmic magic and a bit of old-school timing.
Let’s Talk About That Sound
The Integra and Civic share much of the same exhaust design, with two key differences. Since the Civic Type R is sold worldwide, Honda had to ensure that it would pass noise compliance laws in international markets that have tougher sound rules than we do. As such, it has a resonator just forward of the main catalytic converter that functions as a restrictor. Good for local laws, bad for the fun-time sound.
But Acura’s primarily a North American brand. It doesn’t have to worry about such trifles with the Integra, so the company deleted that resonator. Boom—bigger sound for you and me. However, the exhaust tips are also wider, sitting at 4.33 inches. Their shape and surface are tuned by Acura sound engineers to get the sound low and raspy, just as God intended.
The center pipe has an active exhaust valve built in, but its opening and closing aren’t determined just by drive mode. Instead, Acura relies on a specifically formulated algorithm that takes into account everything that is going on during the drive experience.
“It’s not just comfort close, sport open,” says Rivers. “There is a very good science behind when and how it opens, given the percentage of throttle application and the rpms. There is a science behind it.”
Having said that, Sport+ definitely brings in both the noise and the funk, to the point where I can hear it in the cabin even with the windows up and the 16-speaker ELS Studio 3D sound system bumping out some serious tunes. However, none of the engine’s music is pumped into the stereo system. Instead, Acura uses Active Sound Control to make the exhaust note sound even better from the inside. No, Acura doesn’t pump sound in through the stereo speakers, but it does take advantage of said speakers’ noise canceling properties to help filter out everything but the music and the exhaust. Essentially I can rock out to Guns N’ Roses, but Axl never overwhelms the exhaust even when he’s telling you at full blast about his “shananananana knees knees knees.”
Timing Is Everything
The final piece of the puzzle I learn from Akimoto through a translator. If you have never heard a Japanese engineer explain something in his native language and then finish off his sentence with, “POP! POP! POP!” you haven’t lived. It truly is a magnificent experience.
Regardless, Akimoto tells me that many manufacturers delay the engine timing by just a skosh during shifting. This not only reduces shock to the drivetrain but it also produces just a bit of that exhaust noise we all love. In the Integra Type S, Acura exaggerates this timing lag, really emphasizing the pops and bangs. The result is that you get lots of noise on acceleration, but also on shifting and when lifting off the throttle. Yes, please!
Acura always intended for the latest Integra Type S to be an emotional car. The company didn’t set out to have the quickest compact sport sedan, or the most stylish or even the most value-packed—although it’s not too shabby in any of those categories. Instead, it wanted to bring joy to driving enthusiasts as they row their own on a back canyon road.
I drove a prototype version of this car in October in Japan and laughed the entire time. This go-around was no different– I have a goofy grin plastered on my face at each corner. Get on the throttle too hard before straightening those front wheels and there is just enough torque steer to keep things interesting, but I never feel out of control. With the torque coming on at 2,600 rpm and a lightweight flywheel, acceleration out of corners is delightful. The wide 265/30/R19 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires do a great job maintaining grip on these back roads and the larger Brembo brakes give me the confidence to brake late into turns. This is Miata-level fun, y’all.
The Acura has a rev-matching feature that works well, but those who really like to drive will want to turn it off. Be sure to do this before you hit the canyon as the controls are buried deep in the infotainment system and the car has to be fully stopped to access them.
On the fuel economy front, the Integra Type S is nothing special—it may be a four-cylinder engine but it’s a high-strung, high-output one. The EPA gives the Integra Type S an efficiency rating of 21 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 24 combined. The best I can say is I got close to the EPA rating myself and I certainly didn’t go easy on this thing. After a day of hooning and an hour or so of stop-and-go traffic I end my day at 23 mpg. Go me!
Inside And Out
My tester features the red interior—clearly the one to get over the black and white setup—with comfy yet supportive sport seats that are heated– unlike the Civic Type R. A 9-inch infotainment screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is here, as is a head-up display. The full suite of Acura Watch drivers’ aids are standard, though I don’t really test them out on my drive. The only thing I can tell you with certainty is the back-up camera is a blobby mess almost to the point of being useless. You’ll likely want to reverse out of parking spots the old-fashioned way and turn around and look for that kid on the Big Wheel with your actual eyes.
The Type S distinguishes itself from the standard Integra by a unique front end with a cool grille and a vented hood to help keep that turbo four-banger cool. Everything you see on the Type S is functional, from the side curtain with hidden triple canards to the rear spoiler and diffuser. It’s all show and all go here, folks.
The car is 2.8 inches wider with bigger fenders and is available in the Type S-only Tiger Eye Pearl paint color. I personally think it looks like baby poop and would definitely opt for the Apex Blue, but you might like it. I wish Acura offered a pull-me-over yellow heritage color that looked so great on the third-generation Integra, but alas, that is not to be.
Price And Early Verdict
The 2024 Acura Integra Type S starts at $51,995 delivered and there aren’t many ways to increase that price. You can opt for accessories like an Alcantara suede steering wheel, copper wheels or a carbon fiber tailgate spoiler, but the Type S is essentially WYSIWYG.
The Integra is the only liftback in the segment, a plus in my book. The Mercedes-AMG CLA35 costs about the same and has more tech features, but forget the manual transmission. Both the Audi S3 and BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe are less expensive, but again are only available with an automatic transmission. Those who prefer rear-wheel drive may want to look at the larger Alfa Romeo Giulia, but it is down on power by about 20 horses compared to the Integra, it’s over 1,000 pounds heavier despite being shorter overall and, you guessed it, only the Integra will give you a manual. (Editor’s Note: And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess which one is gonna be in the shop less. -PG)
At the end of the day, more than one journalist in my group had their wallets out, ready to put some money down on a new Integra Type S. And why not? The liftback makes it practical, the engine is efficient, the dynamics are stellar and the damn thing sings like a raspy Placido Domingo. Sign me up.
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