It's Time to Bring Back the Acura Integra
Acura hails the new TLX Type-S as a return to what the brand does best. But you know which Acura we miss the most?
Acura's new TLX isn't just beautiful—it's a refocus of the entire brand back to what Acura says defines it best. Yet there's still one glaring omission in this definition of pure, unadulterated Acura-ness missing from its line-up, and it's one of the best front-wheel-drive cars of all time: the mighty Integra.
For years (it was sold from 1986 to 2001 in America), the Acura Integra was the accessible sport compact car that filled out our high-school parking lots. These were the type of inexpensive but fun cars that got us interested in driving beyond the usual rationalization of "this vehicle will get me away from my parents," reliable enough to get beat on by teens and engaging enough to prove there's more to driving than going dangerously fast.
The RSX was next, but it went to a MacPherson strut suspension that doesn't perform as well as the double-wishbone design in the Integra it replaced. The TSX and ILX came afterward but were never offered as two-doors—and crucially, never really excited people in the same way as the Integra. These were sensible-looking sedans for, I don't know, business people checking up on their business accounts or something. It was clear that Acura's attention had shifted away from the cars that defined it as a brand, and the automaker knew it.
Acura fixed part of its wandering attention span this week with the new TLX, a gorgeous performance sedan that looks like a refined version of its concept car and brings back the hotter Type S trim for the first time since 2008. More importantly, the TLX caught the attention of people who haven't talked about a non-NSX Acura in years.
Emile Korkor, the Assistant VP of Sales and Marketing for Acura Canada, explained to AutoGuide that the new TLX isn't just a pretty performance sedan—it's part of a wider strategy to redefine Acura as its own distinct entity within the wider automotive world.
“The more we moved away from the focus on sedans, the more we saw our brand being diluted and customers questioning what we were about,” Korkor said.
Acura realizes that its crossovers are still going to be their volume sellers, with Korkor estimating that performance sedans will end up only comprising 20 to 30 percent of sales. Yet focusing on the same kinds of vehicles that sell for everyone else left Acura with no brand identity of their own.
It's the Porsche conundrum: the cars that define the brand won't necessarily be its biggest sellers, but those cars do give buyers something awesome to associate the rest of the lineup with. Crossovers like the Macan and Cayenne have been Porsche's best selling models for a while, but if you say "Porsche" to someone, they're going to think of the sports cars like the 911 that made Porsche famous.
Same deal with Acura. The first Acura to come to mind after you shout "BUT NO NSX!" probably isn't anything made in recent years, but is a fun-to-drive coupe or sedan. You know, a car.
It's also probably the widely adored Integra, whose influence Korkor said was instrumental in the decision to put a double-wishbone suspension in the TLX.
“Right from the beginning, the focal point was: what did we do great?" Korkor told AutoGuide. "What were the great things about our vehicles, the best elements of our performance sedans? Let’s take those and reincorporate them into this vehicle, and we’ll establish that as our benchmark. The focus was really ourselves.”
Acura needs to go a bit farther than just making its other cars handle like the old Integra. They need to bring the Integra back.
In case you haven't looked at the news this year, the economy is not looking so great. Many consumers will be looking to downsize things in the near future. The German sedans that Acura tends to benchmark its cars against will be a bit more than some of their existing customers want to spend on a replacement. It's also harder to justify a standalone sports car when money is tight, so for a lot of people, that rules out two-seaters or cars with cramped back seats.
You know what classic Acura came in both two- and four-door versions? I'm just saying.
Many marques have shifted their attention away from cars as Acura had done, especially in North America. Some even quit selling their smaller cars here entirely. The only thing Ford will continue to sell here that's not a pickup or an SUV is the Mustang, for Pete's sake. If there's ever a time to revive the fun but practical sport compact car, it's now, when people need something affordable that doesn't eat away at their soul.
The car widely hailed as the best front-wheel-drive car ever made was an Acura: the Integra Type R. We know the Integra as a great car, if not from driving one, then from the Fast and Furious movies, Initial D or any number of incredibly quick builds that graced every automotive outlet on earth.
It's time to revive the beloved Integra badge on a car that's worthy of that name. Keep it small, lightweight, fun, attainable for regular people, and preferably offered with three pedals. It's the car we need right when we need it most.
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