By Derek Price
Driving home late at night, lightning starts to flash overhead, spreading out in three-dimensional plasma river deltas in the sky.
Rain begins falling in gentle drips, then a sudden flood, as the sound gets so loud I wonder whether I’m hearing giant drops of water or tiny pieces of hail.
Yet instead of being scary, like these Greek-god storms tend to be when you’re on the highway, the whole experience was invigorating because of the car I was driving: the 2024 Acura Integra Type S.
This exciting four-door car returns Acura to a spiritual place it hasn’t been in at least 15 years. While it’s not the first Type S to return to Acura’s stable — that honor belongs to the pricier TLX and family-friendly MDX — it is the first one that honestly deserves the badge.
From 2001 to 2008, the Type S designation was given to only the most hard-edged, souped-up cars designed for Acura and Honda enthusiasts who craved a bit of the wildness those brands offered in their home market of Japan. Extra power, track-tuned suspensions and manual transmissions were almost all part of the recipe.
To this day, one of the most visceral cars I’ve ever tested was the 2002 Acura RSX Type S. The noise from its VTEC engine was ear-splitting.
Acura resurrected the Type S label in 2021 with the TLX, and as nice a car it is, it’s only available with a 10-speed automatic. Same thing with the MDX, also a very nice three-row SUV with massaging seats but somewhat blasphemous as a “Type S.”
This one, though — it’s legit.
The Integra Type S is the best Acura I’ve driven in at least 15 years, hands down, and my inspiring drive in the lightning storm made that clear.
With a six-speed manual transmission, it already creates a better driver-and-machine connection than the vast majority of four-door cars sold today. Short shifter travel and a light feeling clutch make it wonderfully communicative to drivers who care about that sort of thing.
Add all that together, and it’s the kind of car that makes a driver feel confident when sheets of water start to cover the roadway because you can tell precisely what is happening at every moment.
A 2.0-liter turbocharged engine makes 320 horsepower in the Type S, a massive numerical jump over the 200 horses the standard Integra wrings from its 1.5-liter engine. It sounds great, too, thanks to a straight-pipe design with active exhaust valves that deliver mechanical music when you want it and serene silence when you don’t.
The Integra Type S sends its overkill power to the front tires, and a flawlessly tuned suspension lets you feel exactly what those tires are doing. Tight, heavy steering helps, too.
An adaptive front suspension system comes standard, letting you pick between Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes. I found the comfort mode perfect even for spirited driving on winding roads, but I could see Sport+ being better on the track.
I also like its liftback design, a very unusual feature in this class of car. The whole back window raises up, almost like a crossover, to make it easy to load big, bulky cargo in the trunk area.
Insiders will know a fact about the Integra Type S that will make it a little harder to make a shopping decision: it’s very closely related to the Honda Civic Type R. In some ways, the Honda cousin is even more glorious to drive, especially if you like that raw, hard-edged, abrasive feeling.
I’ve put a lot of miles on both cars, and I’d pick the Civic Type R for country roads or track days, no question. But by a very narrow margin, I’d pick the Integra Type S for highway trips and daily driving. It has more creature comforts and takes just enough of the hard edge off to make it more livable for everyday use.
The Integra Type S is priced at $50,800, which is about $7,000 more than a Civic Type R and roughly $20,000 more than a base Integra. That comparison makes it look expensive, but from another angle — compared to the Mercedes AMG and BMW M products — it seems like a steal.
At A Glance
What was tested? 2024 Acura Integra Type S ($50,800). Options: Premium paint ($600), carbon fiber tailgate spoiler ($950), premium floor mats ($240), 19-inch copper allow wheels ($2,186). Price as tested (including $1,195 destination charge): $55,971
Wheelbase: 107.7 in.
Length: 186 in.
Width: 74.8 in.
Height: 55.4 in.
Power: 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder (combined 320 hp, 310 lbs. ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel economy: 21 city, 28 highway
Why buy it?
It’s the most exciting Acura for enthusiasts in at least 15 years. It offers many of the same thrills as the Honda Civic Type R without some of its hard edges.