If you’re an old Honda enthusiast like me, you probably reflect fondly on the late 90s and early 2000s. This time period is considered by many as the “golden era” for Hondas and Acuras as cars like the Integra, the Prelude, and the S2000 roamed the streets. They still do but in far fewer numbers.
Those golden days are gone, but in an attempt to remain nostalgic (and possibly relevant), Acura resurrected the Integra nameplate last year after a 22-year hiatus. Overall, the new Integra’s reception was lukewarm, but being the Honda head that I am, I was excited to drive it. Luckily, I recently had the opportunity to drive the 2023 Acura Integra A-Spec. But did it live up to the hype in my mind? More importantly, did it continue the legacy of the older model?
The 2023 Acura Integra is nostalgic in one way
I wish I could say that the 2023 Acura Integra lives up to the excitement that the older model had, but it doesn’t. After a week of driving the new model, I realized that it doesn’t have to. In reality, the only part of the car that genuinely harkens back to the Integra from the 90s is the “Integra” logo that’s embossed in the front and rear bumpers.
At least, that’s all I could find. Gone is the visceral feeling that I would get while driving the 1995 Acura Integra GS-R that I used to have. There’s no more high-revving VTEC 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that sings all the way to an 8,000 rpm redline. Instead, there’s a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine that puts out more torque and more power, but it lacks the same high-strung character that the old car had.
2023 Acura Integra A-Spec vs. 1995 Acura Integra GS-R
Speaking of power, let’s take a look at the breakdown of each car’s engine stats. It’s interesting to see how much a 28-year difference makes:
|2023 Acura Integra A-Spec||1995 Acura Integra GS-R|
|Engine Type||Turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder||Naturally-aspirated 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine|
|Horsepower||200 hp||170 hp|
|Torque||192 lb-ft of torque||128 lb-ft of torque|
|Transmission||Six-speed manual||Five-speed manual|
|Curb weight||3,073 pounds||2,667 pounds|
|0-60 mph time||7.0 seconds||7.5 seconds|
As we can see, both cars are pretty similar when it comes to performance, as the new Integra’s heftier weight offsets the increase in power. Then again, the Acura Integra was never meant to be a monster when racing in a straight line. Instead, it was meant to carve up the tight corners on your favorite back road, which is what this iteration does well.
How does the 2023 Integra drive compared to the 1995 model?
When driving the 2023 Integra on the same roads that I used to drive the old one over 20 years ago, I realized that the new model has a lot going for it. There’s an adaptive suspension with MacPherson front struts and a multi-link configuration in the rear. This setup is markedly different from the Formula One-derived double-wishbone suspension used in the 1995 Integra – a setup that many enthusiasts love.
But I would argue that the setup in the new car is better for daily driving purposes. The Integra A-Spec soaks up road imperfections well, and the damping, steering, and throttle response can be changed with the flick of a switch. The older Integra felt great on the road as well, but a lot of the dips and bumps on the road transmitted a lot of harshness into the cabin – it definitely didn’t feel like a luxury car in comparison.
The steering in the new Integra could be a little tighter at high speeds. But again, my mind is going back to the old car’s hydraulic power steering, which gave just the right amount of resistance. It also transmuted the road feel through the steering column well, which felt very racecar-like.
Speaking of driving feel, the shifter in the new Integra blows the old one out of the water. Honda is great at making shifters feel positive and tight as a drum, and the one in the 2023 Integra does not disappoint. It feels much better than the mechanically-linked shifter in the old Integra.
As for the engine, the turbocharged unit that powers the 2023 model is smooth and provides plenty of thrust when you need it. It’s not as fun or visceral as the older model, but given today’s turbocharged movement, it can keep up with other cars in its current class.
Ultimately, comparing the driving experience of these two cars is like comparing a sunny day to an overcast one. You can go out and enjoy both of them the same way, but you will like one a little more than the other. Which one you enjoy more is entirely up to you, though.
The new Integra isn’t the evolutionary car that we wanted, but it works well
The golden era of Hondas and Acuras is gone, but we need to accept the automotive era that we are in now. We live in a modern time where commuters want Apple Carplay and heated seats more than a high-revving VTEC engine and racecar-like road feel. In that case, the Acura Integra did evolve. It’s comfortable, and it’s quick enough to get you smiling on the twisty backroads you take after a long day at work.
Sure, It may not have evolved the way I wanted it to. But that’s OK. This new Integra lives up to the hype in a different way.