The mind is a funny thing: musings on Acura’s Integra

The human mind is a funny thing.

Before I’ve even closed the door on this 2023 Acura Integra Elite A-SPEC, pressed its Start button, buckled up, or checked my mirrors, I’m transported back to the fall of 2000.

I’m in the parking lot of Atlantic Acura in Halifax, N.S., sitting in the driver’s seat of a brand-new Acura Integra GS-R. It’s silver, there’s a manual shifter (GS-Rs were manual-only), and there’s a sales consultant beside me wearing a tan overcoat that had to be too warm for the day.

Twenty-three years later, it’s time for a confession. I had no interest in purchasing a new Integra for $28,000, the equivalent of $42,646 today. Oh, sure, I’d have been happy owning one, but I hadn’t finished high school, I had a part-time job. $2,800 would have been too rich for me, let alone $28,000. I don’t know exactly how I weaseled my way into this new Acura.

But I was about to discover – on a test drive through Fairview, out highway 102, through Clayton Park, and back to Atlantic Acura – what made the Integra GS-R one of the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars of all time.

 

2023 Acura Integra
Photo: GARRY SOWERBY

 

The human mind is a scary thing.

Four months after a vicious hurricane wreaked havoc on tiny Prince Edward Island, flickering lights are still enough to send children into a panic. “Are we going to lose power… again… for three weeks?”

Forecasts of winter storms with high winds send Islanders outside to re-examine tree limbs and ponder the strength of root systems. Storm surge warnings elevate our collective blood pressure as we’re conveyed back in time to the early morning hours of September 24, 2022.

Fiona was a ruthless hurricane that, only three years after Dorian mangled parts of Prince Edward Island, caused Islanders to completely re-evaluate the appeal of coastal living.

 

@timcaincarspei

Put the 2023 Acura Integra A-Spec Elite (wearing Michelin X-Ice tires) through its paces along the north shore of Prince Edward Island this morning. #sounds #sound #acura #2023acuraintegra #acura #integra #pei #winter #carsound #winter #princeedwardisland #michelin #michelinxice

♬ original sound – timcaincars

 

 

The human mind is a funny thing.

This new Integra shares nothing but badging with the last Integra, a car that ran from 1994-2001.

Despite the march of progress made by the automotive industry as a whole in terms of power, efficiency, safety and technology, I know better than to think the 2023 Acura Integra can cause my spine to tingle like its forerunner did nearly a quarter-century ago.

 

2023 Acura Integra
Photo: TIM CAIN

 

I know it can’t cause the hair to stand up on the back of my neck at 8,000 rpm. And more than anything, I know this new car’s steering wheel will not communicate with my fingertips, nor the seat of my pants, the way the old Integra could.

In between the two cars in question came other Civic-based Acuras: the RSX, EL, CSX, and ILX.

Yet the return of one piece of nomenclature – itself just an awkward re-working of an English word meaning whole; complete; entire – is strangely strong enough to re-think the seating position of that old Integra.

 

2023 Acura Integra
Photo: GARRY SOWERBY

 

I’m scanning the hood-line of this ‘23 Integra, wondering how I angled the seatback in the ‘00 Integra in order to mimic my view plane.

I’m mindful of the different steering wheel thickness, I’m recalling the old car’s ballerina-like tip-toe balance, I’m sensing this new Integra’s patently obvious ability to produce heaps of mid-range passing power where the old car produced revs upon revs upon revs.

 

The human mind is a scary thing.

We’re driving down the Campbellton Road, a loop that runs from New London to Stanley Bridge along New London Bay, and the inlet where cottages had floated across from Hebrides Lane is now devoid of anything but classic north shore scenery.

Yet even in the early waking hours of a Saturday morning, there’s a tension in my gut.

 

@timcaincarspei

Heartbreaking. Gut wrenching. Knee weakening. I don’t know what to call it. We have a couple downed trees and a mangled swing – others have seen their homes and livelihoods literally washed away. #fiona #hurricanefiona #pei #stanleybridge #newlondon #damage

♬ BioTekal Folsom Prison Blues Wrath of man – Gatsby

 

This place, this moment in time that clearly lingers and just won’t evaporate like all of life’s good moments, is full of the silence in our back seat when the boys first laid eyes on those cottages. Campbellton Road is the place where their constant post-Fiona damage commentary instantly became a stone-cold silence that dominated the day-after.

This wasn’t just a storm. It wasn’t bad weather. Fiona was life-altering. And all too memorable.

 

The human mind is a funny thing.

People who have never once, in the decade of watching me drive different vehicles every week, asked me to stop by and show them a car, wanted an up-close-and-personal visit with the 2023 Acura Integra.

Pictures weren’t enough, and it’s not like Prince Edward Island has an Acura dealer to visit.

 

2023 Acura Integra
Photo: ACURA CANADA

 

“Well, my old one didn’t have head-up display,” they laughed.

“Weird to have a transmission that doesn’t shift when all you did was shift the old one. Non-stop shifting, just tryin’ to keep it in the powerband,” they remembered.

“You can get it with a manual,” I’d say, at least if you pony up for the top-spec Elite A-SPEC variant at $45,069, rather than the $36,869 entry model or $39,569 A-SPEC, all of which feature the same 200-horsepower 1.5-litre turbocharged engine from the Honda Civic Si.

 

2023 Acura Integra
Photo: TIM CAIN

 

“Quite a bit more space back there, eh?” they’d say with their neck craned to look at the back seat.

Beep, beep, beep, beep would go the Integrated Dynamic System as we all cycled from Comfort to Normal to Sport. My preferred setting was Individual, with Comfort suspension, Normal Steering, and Sport engine settings.

 

2023 Acura Integra
Photo: ACURA CANADA

 

Perhaps the firmness of the adaptive dampers in Sport mode hits my old body differently than it would have 23 years ago, loathe though I am to admit it.

 

@timcaincarspei

Our favourite beach on the north shore of PEI is hurting, but it wasn’t as bad as we expected. Meanwhile, PEI’s 1500km network of dirt roads is, well, not all that easily accessible right now. #fiona #hurricanefiona #pei #beach #hurricane #damage

♬ Hurt – Johnny Cash

 

The human mind is a scary and a funny thing.

Our capacity for holding history within us is immensely powerful and astoundingly frightening. Prince Edward Island will recover. Indeed, Prince Edward Island is recovering.

But the Island won’t bounce back the same way. Many beaches, as tourists will quickly discover this summer, are wildly different.

At the wharf in Stanley Bridge, buildings aren’t sitting where they sat on September 23.

Forest trails are less forested. Shingles on many rooftops no longer match. Boardwalks once suspended over parabolic dunes left simple sandy paths in their wake.

This doesn’t add up to an Island that’s inherently worse or better. It is, however, most definitely different.

Twenty-three years makes for a very different Acura Integra, as well. The edge may be gone; premium features may reside in lieu. The delicate dimensions are replaced by sufficient space for small families. Torque is now preferred over horsepower.

Of all that’s changed, there’s no denying that it really is quite a bit easier to live with the 2023 Acura Integra. Someday, we’ll learn to live with the memory of Fiona, too.

 

2023 Acura Integra
Photo: GARRY SOWERBY

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