The Acura Integra is not coming back, because it never left

Author's 1995 Acura Integra GS-R. Syd Cummings

Last week, Acura announced that it is bringing back the Integra for 2022. This move comes more than 20 years since the company replaced the third-generation Integra with the rather excellent but somewhat less-loved RSX. Once Acura put the RSX to pasture in 2006, for roughly six years there was no vehicle in the lineup to inherit the sporty compact coupe mantle, though the TSX did an admirable job filling the niche as a four-door sedan. Eventually, a successor came in the form of the Acura ILX in 2012. The ILX, like the Integra and RSX before it, was and remains heavily based on the Honda Civic.

So let’s be clear: The Integra is not “coming back.” It has been here all along. The name is returning, and that’s about it.

You’d be forgiven for forgetting that the sleepy ILX is still in production and available brand-new at your local Acura dealer. Of course, the Civic Si is a much better vehicle in every way. In fact, the ILX is so unloved that Acura omitted it entirely from its new-Integra press release that mentions the RSX. Oops!

Acura Integra teaser sketch. ©2021 Honda North America

Two-door opportunity

If history is any indication, this new Integra will be an Acura-fied Civic Si. From price and performance perspective, that would place it between the Civic Si and the Civic Type R. And with the Civic coupe variant now dead, and the number of sporty compacts dwindling, this may be a great time to bring back a premium flavor of a proven enthusiast favorite.

In addition to performance and power distinctions, Honda has the opportunity to showcase the Integra with a distinctive two-door body style. From the looks of its teaser outline (below), we’re in for a handsomely shaped coupe. For the current, new generation of the Civic, Honda has dropped the coupe; the new Civic is currently available only as a sedan and soon as a four-door hatchback. It is most likely that the Si model will be sedan-only and the next Civic Type R will be a hatchback-only version. An Integra coupe would offer something different than the larger (and more mainstream) new TLX sedan. The RDX and MDX will remain the core moneymakers, and Acura can let the NSX can go out with a Type-S-sized bang.

This teaser silhouette of the upcoming Acura Integra, shown off using illuminated drones at Monterey Car Week 2021, strongly suggests a sporty two-door. ©2021 Honda North America

Chassis and engine

Surely the Integra will boast fancier leather seats, a bigger screen, and a booming audio system compared to what’s inside the economy-class Civic Si. But under the hood, this car deserves some version of the turbocharged 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that is currently in the Accord Sport 2.0T and the Acura RDX. (A modified version of this mill makes 306 horses in the Type R, versus 252 hp in the Accord and 272 hp in the RDX.) While a manual could be optional, we expect at least Honda’s 10-speed automatic, and a more powerful Type S is very possible.

We’re fairly confident that the new Integra will have a double-wishbone front suspension, something Honda made a big stink over when the current TLX was introduced. There is no reason that it would not carry over to the Integra. This also important to consider because the third-generation Integra was the last Honda to wear a double-wishbone front suspension.

Acura RDX with the SH-AWD system. ©2021 Honda North America

Plot twist

What is the one thing the Civic never had? What today’s Accord lacks? What could further make the Integra special? What’s available on all Acuras besides the dead-man-walking ILX? That would be all-wheel drive.

If Honda really wants to separate the Integra from the Civic, or really wants to convince buyers that the Acura brand brings an up-level experience to the table, it makes sure the Super-Handling AWD system is available on the Integra. The RDX and TLX already use that driveline. The technology and and parts exists. Even if the price surpasses that of the Civic Type R, an AWD Integra coupe is sure to feel like a very different vehicle than the wild front-drive hot hatch.

©2021 Honda North America

The name game

With the Integra name incoming, is Acura setting itself for other moniker changes? Are automakers finally realizing that alphanumerical names are awful? Can you explain to your neighbor the difference between the TSX, TL, and TLX? What about the MDX, RDX, and ZDX? My bad, the ZDX is dead. Remember the ZDX!? No? That’s okay, no one does. Of course, if you’re asked about the Acura Legend, that car left a bigger mark in people’s memories. Great names like Vigor used to rule the road. Then the Isuzu-based Acura SLX came around and ruined everything.

The obvious reason for resurrecting the Integra name is its power to trigger nostalgic memories for Gen-X. The Integra was the car to have when current 40–50-year-olds were 15–25 years old. Gen-Xers are now at an age where their kids are beginning to drive their own cars or leave the house. The back seats in the trusty MDX sit unused. A personal luxury coupe would sure be nice—something for just them, something that makes them feel young again. An Integra.

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