Don’t count the internal-combustion engine out just yet.
Not with the likes of Honda’s 1.5L VTEC 4-cyl. hitting the market under the hood of the ’23 Acura Integra.
This 2022 Wards 10 Best Engines and Propulsion Systems winner – one of only three non-electrified ICEs to make our list – is a high-revving, free-spinning, well-engineered machine that holds its own in a competition field crowded with state-of-the-art, torque-happy, battery-electric vehicles.
Want to experience a little of what it might feel like from the driver’s seat of a Formula 1 car? Get behind the wheel of the new Integra, punch the throttle and slam through the shifts only when the engine nears its 6,500 rpm redline. Honda says it took weight out of the flywheel – and it shows. This high-revving engine spins up quickly.
The 1.5L turbocharged, double-overhead-cam, direct-injected engine delivers an impressive 200 hp at 6,000 rpm and 192 lb.-ft. (260 Nm) of peak torque across a wide band from 1,800 to 5,000 rpm. Those are solid numbers for engines 30% bigger.
And in this era of $4-per-gallon gasoline, the Integra’s 4-cyl. won’t take a huge bite out of your fuel budget, either. Our top-end, $37,000 A-Spec edition test car, which included a slick-shifting 6-speed manual gearbox, is rated at 30 mpg (7.8 L/100 km) combined. We did mostly short stints on city streets, but in one of our longest commutes recorded 33.9 mpg (6.9 L/100 km), meaning it’s not only fun, it’s pretty green.
What adds to the engine’s winning credentials is its civility. You don’t have to drive this car on the edge for it to be enjoyable – it exhibits perfect manners as a daily commuter too. And there’s just enough engine note for a dose of aural stimulation without becoming tedious.
Dotting the judges’ comment sheets are words like “blast,” “joy” and “fun.” Notes one, “Wow, it just loves to rev.” Says another, “This thing is quick, spins up fast and delivers plenty of torque in all gears. Yes, you can drive it civilly, but will you want to?”
In a world dominated by powertrain electrification and engine downsizing, the 4-cyl. in the Acura Integra sets the bar for high-output, sub-2.0L ICEs others should hope to match.
“What makes it relevant, to me, is how mechanically in harmony the whole powertrain is – gear ratios, engine output, response – it's all tuned to work together without any hiccups,” sums up WardsAuto Editor Bob Gritzinger. “This is Honda engineers at their best.”