After spending years trying to get potential buyers to understand and accept its eclectic alphabet soup naming strategy, Acura appears ready to switch back to more conventional badging — starting with the once-popular Integra nameplate.
As an event in Monterey, California leading up to the weekend’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Japanese automaker sent a flock of drones into the sky where they formed into the shape of the original 1986 sports coupe. Moments later, they transformed into a silhouette of what will be the next-generation Integra — and the number “2022.”
Soon afterwards, the automaker confirmed, “The Integra is back,” Jon Ikeda, vice president and Acura brand officer, declared. “I’m thrilled to say Integra is returning to the Acura line-up with the same fun-to-drive spirit and DNA of the original, fulfilling our commitment to Precision Crafted Performance in every way — design, performance and the overall driving experience.”
A series of missteps
Acura was the first Japanese-owned luxury brand. The Integra was one of the most important — and popular — products it offered in its early years. But it was culled in 2001 as part of what critics contend were a series of bad decisions. Not only were familiar name like Integra and Legend abandoned, but also Acura adopted confusing alternatives such as ILX and TLX. For most customers there was little clear logic or direct connection to vehicle size, body style or cost.
Until now, Acura officials have defied calls to bring back more conventional naming, though they might have gotten a nudge from a competitor, Lincoln receiving raves when returning to familiar nomenclature for news models like the Aviator.
Acura isn’t saying much about the next-gen Integra though it is clearly sticking with a traditional, sports coupe body style. There’s a good chance it will be based on the same platform as the newly redesigned Honda Civic Coupe, albeit with upgrades to make it more sporty and luxurious — and a body design that clearly follows the brand’s new design language that debuted with the 2021 TLX makeover.
Backing up a “fun-to-drive spirit”
As with the TLX, the reborn Integra will have a “fun-to-drive spirit and DNA,” much like the original coupe, Ikeda stressed. The company has emphasized the new model will not be a direct replacement for the old ILX line.
There will be plenty of questions floating around in the months ahead of the new coupe’s formal unveiling. For one thing: will it use a conventional gas engine or opt for some sort of hybrid drivetrain. While parent Honda is taking a cautious approach to pure electric technology, corporate officials have emphasized their plan to substantially boost their use of both conventional and plug-in hybrids in the coming years. And Honda showed with the latest CR-V crossover that PHEVs can deliver significant new levels of performance, as well as better mileage.
A hybrid, especially a plug-in, would almost certainly shift to all-wheel drive, though Acura may choose to equip the Integra with its sport-focused Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system, either way.
A Legend reborn?
The news about Integra accompanied other developments during Acura’s event in Monterey. The automaker formally showed off the new NSX Type-S model that will be sold in extremely limited numbers this coming year. The special edition will bump power up to 600 horsepower and add other tweaks to enhance handling. But the news is bittersweet as the NSX will end production in 2022. That said, Acura officials hinted they will study future options and an all-electric NSX appears to be one possibility.
There’s another question hanging over Acura following the Integra unveiling. And it was given even more potential meaning due to the wording of a news release the automaker sent out Friday morning.
“A Legend Returns,” the headline began. While that might be an appropriate description of the old Integra, Legend also happens to be the name of an even more sorely missed early Acura model. Company officials aren’t talking but there’s now plenty of speculation underway suggesting that the Legend name could be next for the brand to bring back.