Based on its reported positioning and the effort being poured into the project, the 2023 Honda (ahem…Acura) Integra is shaping up to be a pivotal vehicle for both Honda’s USA luxury offshoot as well as the Japanese automaker themselves.
Prior to the recent confirmation by Acura (…Honda) that the much loved Integra nameplate will be returning in 2023, there was already a brimmed reservoir of anticipation about its possible re-emergence.
The surprise announcement certainly has the enthusiast community excited, but has also raised some interesting questions about Honda’s true endgame. Is it as simple as giving the fans what they want? Or is there some deeper intent at play?
After all, it has been a whole 15 years since the Integra was available to showroom buyers. Since its discontinuation in 2006, Honda seemingly had little interest in its revival, opting to offer coupe versions of the Civic to fill that void. So, why now?
To help shed a little more light on this, Motor Trend had a chat with Acura veteran Jon Ikeda, vice president representing the Acura Brand Office of American Honda Motor Company, who conveyed the sentiment that the all-new Integra will be passed the ‘high performance’ torch from the 2nd-generation NSX, which is due to be retired at the end of 2022.
While that hybrid supercar succeeded in its objective to reorient the Acura name around high performance, quality, and luxury, an Integra seems like an unlikely candidate to convincingly sit at the helm once the NSX bows out, especially if it remains the accessible, volume-focused model we’ve come to know it as.
It’s easy to assume that this isn’t just going to be a sportier Civic leading a double life like its prior outings. In stark contrast to its predecessors, there is much more weight and expectation being placed upon the shoulders of this upcoming Integra, both by the fans and its creators. Acura must be changing something significant about the ‘Integra’ formula. It stands to reason.
But that isn’t what Mr. Ikeda seems to be hinting at. Instead, through his comments, we know the 2023 car will not be electrified upon its arrival, partly due to higher costs that would price it out of being an ‘entry-level’ model.
Ikeda is also unwilling to confirm if the Integra will be offered, as it was in the past, as both a two-door coupe and four-door saloon. That said, unlike the recent NSX which was primarily engineered in Ohio, the upcoming Integra will be developed entirely in Japan and will share underpinnings with the 11th-generation Honda Civic. Does that also mean that the 2023 Integra will (hopefully) also be sold in other markets under the Honda badge?
As far as any Type R DNA making its way into the Integra, Ikeda is noncommittal in his response, saying that the brand does expect demand for a higher performance version after the car hits the market initially, at which point the Acura will consider a go-fast ‘Type S’ variant.
With this in mind, it’s looking less and less likely the Integra could emerge as a like-for-like rival to cars like the recently launched Nissan Z and Toyota GR Supra given that it will be, essentially, a faster Civic with a sleeker coupe body and half the practicality - just don’t call it a Type R alternative (yet).
That’s a big shame as that’s a space that Honda could really sink its teeth into. In 1999, the company demonstrated its chops in creating a rear-drive, front-engine corner carver with the S2000, a car that blended open-top thrills with European class and refinement, and even Japanese dependability and affordability - all essentially from scratch.
That car exposed Honda to an entirely new, more upmarket segment of buyers and pulled double duty as a technical showcase for how far its revolutionary VTEC system has progressed.
Strangely, these seem to be similar to goals now held by Acura, a luxury marque, who are instead responding with a car intentionally aimed at the mass market while at the same time describing it as their performance mainstay. Confused yet? We are….
The 2023 Integra, from what we know so far, is positioning itself as the everyman enthusiast’s coupe, similar in spirit to the Toyota 86. However, there’s a good reason why that wasn’t ever called a Lexus.
There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.