2024 Acura Integra Type S Prototype Drive: Possibly the Hot Integra We’ve Been Waiting For
Effectively, the Integra Type S is an angrier-sounding, more luxurious Honda Civic Type R. Here’s what it’s like to drive one at an oval at 125-plus mph.
My favorite part of adulthood is being able to buy a lot of the stuff that my parents wouldn’t get me as a kid. That BB rifle they always refused? I’ve got it. A dirtbike? Absolutely. A hopped-up Acura? Not yet, but after a brief drive in a 2024 Acura Integra Type S prototype, there’s a chance this pattern might continue.
It’s not the same Integra as the one I remember from my teenage years—we all know that. But that’s okay. Much like my waistline and number of dependents, the once-two-door Acura has grown considerably since 2006. If you recall, the Integra came back to life earlier this year from a 16-year hibernation carrying four doors, a plush back seat, and loads of luxury and tech amenities. Soon, there’s going to be an extra-spicy version of it, though Acura isn’t revealing the whole enchilada just yet.
For now, Acura is playing its cards very close to its chest. All that’s been confirmed so far is that this high-performance variant will be a 2024 model, and that it’ll be powered by Honda’s newest go-fast hardware.
The Integra Type S will sport a high-revving, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed manual transmission and limited-slip differential. Like its less-luxurious sibling, the 2023 Honda Civic Type R, Acura claims the Type S will have “over 300 horsepower” but did not elaborate on other mechanical or performance specs. For reference, the Type R produces 315 hp with the same engine and transmission combo, while the normal Integra pumps out 200 hp from its 1.5-liter turbo four.
That’s where the similarities end, however. And despite being one of the very few people to have driven an Integra Type S prototype, it was under such specific conditions that it’s way too early to compare it to its relatives, let alone anything else in the market. But don’t worry, there still are a few key things to share.
2024 Acura Integra Type S Prototype Review Specs
- Base price: TBA
- Powertrain: 2.0-liter turbo-four | 6-speed manual transmission | front-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 300+
- Torque: TBA
- Curb weight: TBA
- Quick take: Even in the prototype stage, the Acura Integra Type S previews a well-rounded and more refined Civic Type R. And that can only be a good thing.
A lengthy early-morning commute from Tokyo to Honda’s R&D Center in Tochigi had been followed by several hours of slide-show presentations about the automaker’s future. I knew that at some point in the day I’d actually get to drive a car, but most of the details were still unknown to me.
Eventually I was shuttled down the street from the vast industrial complex to an area where I felt much more at home: Honda’s R&D Proving Grounds. This is where all of the company’s high-performance vehicles are tested, and is home to a road course, drag strip, skid pad, and more. Its pièce de résistance is a 2.48-mile, four-lane oval with a staggering 45 degrees of banking at its steepest point.
After a stern reminder to keep my phone and camera tucked away, a camouflaged Integra Type S emerged from a garage and made its way to the paddock. A dizzying wrap sporting hundreds, if not thousands of “S” badges hid a more aggressive body than its non-Type S sibling.
The engineer driving the prototype had pulled the car around quickly enough to make it hard for my eyes to lock in on any of the car’s exterior characteristics, but the presence of a wider and more aggressive front fascia was evident. Out back, a flared rear bumper flanked three exhaust pipes à la Type R. I doubt this was an accident, much like doing this whole stunt in second gear to make sure I heard the crackle and pop of the exhaust surely wasn’t an accident either. Ignorant of the car’s specifications at this point, that raspy tone is what first stood out to me.
I was quickly ushered into the driver’s seat as someone else in the background told me I was the first non-Honda employee to drive an Integra Type S. Okay, no pressure. I adjusted my seat, steering wheel, and stabbed the accelerator a few times to have a listen. Compared to a regular Integra, this sounded like a Honey Badger anxiously waiting to tear shit up. Compared to the Type R, it was a much angrier and crackly sound.
By this point I had spent the equivalent of two days traveling to Japan in planes, taxis, bullet trains, normal trains, and shuttle buses, yet I had just three laps to see what the newest member of the Type S family was all about. The engineer riding shotgun asked if I understood the rules: 125 mph on the straights and 95 mph on the banking. I nodded and drove off onto a hot track just a few minutes after learning of the car’s existence.
I applied some throttle as I merged onto the innermost lane of the oval. I shifted to third gear and slowly wound up the revs to get a good feeling for the engine and transmission. Throttle response felt sharp and the shifter felt tidy as I gained speed and made my way to the outer lanes.
The Integra felt composed and produced very little wind noise while cruising at 6,000 rpm in fourth gear, though there was a satisfactory hint of exhaust noise to remind me this wasn’t just any Acura. Things move rather quickly at triple-digit speeds, y’know, especially when you’re driving on something that resembles an empty highway more than it does a race track, at least until the highway goes from flat to vertical.
I shifted from fourth to fifth and set the car up for our first trip up to the banking. A slight lift of the accelerator shaved a bit of speed as I gently turned the wheel left. I felt the passenger-side suspension load and the tires grip the tarmac. I was still taking it easy, though. This was the reconnaissance lap, after all.
Banked ovals are intimidating, always making you feel like the outside wall is just inches away and dying to get to know ya. I’ve hustled supercars at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Daytona, and a few others, but even those tracks seem rather tame compared to the wall-like Tochigi. To give you an idea, Indy has just nine degrees of banking and Daytona 31. Tochigi is 45.
I cracked open the throttle some more as I began transitioning back to the flat straightaway, where I’d get my first chance to put my foot all the way down and climb up to sixth gear. The turbo-four accelerated in a hurry and without hesitation from 95 to 126 mph, where the Integra hit an artificial speed limiter applied to that specific prototype. Womp womp. The previous-gen Type R with 306 hp ran out of steam at 169 mph, leading me to believe that this Integra Type S—provided with enough runway—could very well exceed that. Sadly, that was not for me to find out.
Ultimately there was no need for me to shift into sixth gear, as the car felt happy riding its 126-mph limiter in fifth at 5,500-6,000 rpm. With two runs on the banking under my belt, I began my second lap feeling a lot more comfortable with the car. My only takeaway at that point was that the car felt more like a Mercedes-Benz C-Class than the luxury variant of a Honda Civic.
I cranked things up a bit heading into the banking next time around, carrying more speed into the turn and letting the car naturally ride up into the top lane—the wall lane. I asked my amigo sitting next to me if this was okay with him as I gently careened to the right. He simply said: “You’ve driven in ovals before.” To be fair, I’m not sure if he meant that as a compliment or a question given that there was a slight language barrier, but I never heard him say “no.”
I pushed up into the top lane and gave it a bit more gas to get the car into a groove. The Integra was hugging the wall and cruisin’ like a sled on a bobsleighing track. My eyes were fixated on the road ahead and not the speedo, but a quick glance showed 114 on the readout—just a bit over the rules I had agreed to. I have no doubt the Integra could ride that top lane all day long at 126 or even 145 mph. Sadly, again, that was not for me to find out. One person who did find out was F1 champ Max Verstappen, who drove his Red Bull F1 car flat-out at Tochigi back in 2020.
The remaining lap was even more enjoyable, having gotten the new-car-new-track jitters out of the way. It’s not often that I get to drive a prototype—or any car for that matter—at essentially 100% throttle for five-plus minutes. It was a bit surreal.
Also surreal was the prototype’s performance, more notably, its stability. There are cars with six-figure price tags that aren’t this composed at speed. The way the rear end behaved was similar to that of a rear-wheel-drive car, but less jittery because the power was being applied at the front. Likewise, the front end never felt heavy or overwhelmed because the chassis was beautifully tuned and the suspension well balanced. Alignment, too, plays a big role when tracking at such angle and speed. It was all fantastically squared away.
The normal Integra's steering is lovingly direct with a pinch of Economy Car lightness to it—not exactly a demerit considering its Civic Si roots. The Type S prototype, however, feels slightly heavier and offered even more feedback. Not too much where it feels artificial, but just enough where it reassures you it's going to do what you want it to do, and go where you want it to go. Admittedly, this made my excursion to the top lane of the oval feel like a walk in the park. The nicely-padded rim provided a good grip and added to its premium feeling. I look forward to driving this on a road course at some point in the future, because I truly think it’d be a hoot to whip around.
I took my foot off the accelerator and let the car coast as I made my way off the track and into the pit lane, sending the exhaust into a crackling frenzy. I gently worked my way down the gears, shifting from fifth down to second over the course of a quarter-mile or so as rev-matching added to the fanfare by blipping the throttle.
Once out of the car I huddled with a couple of engineers from the Type S project. They didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Japanese, but with the help of a translator, an air steering wheel (sorta like air guitar), and fake engine noises, I relayed how happy I was with the balance of the car. Their faces lit up and they talked amongst themselves before the translator let me know that this was a key area that had been developed specifically at the oval.
Far from a full-fledged driving test, my brief experience at Tochigi in a pre-production Integra Type S prototype doesn’t paint a full picture of the car’s capabilities. If anything, it simply shows how much work Acura goes through to fine-tune its cars in order to demand a higher price (even though their Honda counterparts are already pretty damn good).
The real test will be for the production version of the car, the one that has to deal with real-world driving and not just blitzing a race track. But after hearing its feisty exhaust note and seeing how well it can handle sustained runs at at 120-plus mph, I can’t help but think that we’re in for quite a treat.
And who knows? Maybe I’ll keep buying the things that I couldn’t get as a teenager.
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