SHARP & Acura
A well-honed performance car and a sharp-shifting manual transmission were synonymous back in the ‘90s. Whether it was a high horsepower supercar tackling the Nordschleife or a tuned hatchback buzzing around Main street, it’s a good bet the driver was rowing through the gears on their own. Today, manual transmissions are a dying breed, but cars like the new 2023 Acura Integra are keeping that old-school analog spirit alive.
Of course, when Acura revived the fan-favourite nameplate, giving it a manual transmission was a no-brainer. The new Acura Integra joins a long line of stick-shift-equipped sports cars and has a lot to live up to. Three pedals and a shifter are necessities with ancestors like this.
The First Integra
The original Integra embodied the true spirit of a pared-down, front-wheel-drive sports car. Like the new Integra, the first model in 1986 came with a manual transmission (arriving in the Canadian market in 1987), boosting the driver’s experience by requiring that little extra involvement. It was an instant classic amongst enthusiasts and the main source of inspiration for the newest member of the family.
The Integra GS-R
In ‘92, the Integra GS-R was one of the first cars to get Variable Valve Timing technology, more famously known as VTEC. Using the lightweight Integra as a foundation, Acura set about improving power delivery. Instead of using forced induction like its rivals, VTEC allowed the Integra engine to change its cam profile and boost horsepower at higher RPMs. There are few better things in the world than having the VTEC kick in and then shifting gears at a lofty 8,400 RPM.
The Mighty NSX
With a name like New Sportscar eXperimental (NSX), Acura knew it had an engineering masterpiece on its hands. Lightweight, analog, powered by a 3.0-litre V6 attached to a five-speed manual, and developed with input from Ayrton Senna himself, the NSX was the giant killer of its time.
As the spiritual successor to the Integra, the RSX carried the torch for the peppy FWD two-door sports car in the Acura family. The RSX gained modern styling with softer edges but maintained the approachable performance and character that made the Integra such a hit.
The Integra Type R
The Integra Type R is easily the pinnacle of the previous Integra model range, as it builds on an exceptionally balanced and sharp-handling platform. In Type R guise, weight is reduced, suspension is tightened, brakes are upgraded, and its engine received a host of improvements as well. Its engine now revved up north of 8,000 RPM, making 195 horsepower in North American specification — the Japanese market version hit 200. From 1997 to 2002, the Integra Type R dominated the SPEED Touring Car Championship, capturing 23 race wins, five Drivers’ Championships, and four Manufacturer Championships. With a pedigree like that, they Type R is hard to ignore when visiting this list.
Photos courtesy of Acura Canada