For its second season in Acuras lineup, little has changed for the compact RSX sport coupe, which replaced the long-lived Integra. Unlike the Integra, which came in coupe and sedan forms, the RSX is built only as a front-wheel-drive hatchback coupe. Dick Colliver, Acura executive vice president, promises a true race-bred driving experience.
In base form, the four-cylinder engine generates 160 horsepower. The performance-focused Type-S edition spits out 40 hp more and features firmer springs and dampers and a larger front stabilizer bar. The RSX is the first Acura equipped with an intelligent valve-control system, which is intended to enhance performance and efficiency.
The RSX is curvaceous in profile; it has a grille that provides a family resemblance to other Acura models. Large multireflector headlights and a beveled chin spoiler accompany the grille. Displaying chiseled accent lines, the body features short front and rear overhangs. Compound-curved window glass complement thin A- and B-pillars to improve visibility. The RSX rides a 101.2-inch wheelbase and measures 172.2 inches long overall.
Michelin P205/55R16 tires are mounted on five-spoke alloy wheels. Variable-assist rack-and-pinion steering is installed. The suspension consists of Control-Link MacPherson struts up front and double wishbones in the rear. A power moonroof is standard.
Four people fit in the RSX, with two front bucket seats and a 50/50-split, folding rear seat. The upholstery is a blend of regular and suede-look fabric in the base coupe, while the Type-S gets perforated leather; leather is optional in the base model. Large, metallic-faced gauges are grouped in a pod thats angled toward the driver, who clutches a leather-wrapped steering wheel. A seven-speaker Bose stereo system with an in-dash CD changer goes into the Type-S edition. Cargo volume totals 17.8 cubic feet.
Under the Hood
A 2.0-liter, 16-valve i-VTEC four-cylinder engine powers the base RSX, which produces 160 hp and 141 pounds-feet of torque. The Type-S gets a stronger four-cylinder that generates 200 hp and 142 pounds-feet; it requires premium fuel.
A five-speed-manual transmission is standard in the base model. An optional five-speed Sequential SportShift automatic unit incorporates Grade Logic Control, which holds the proper gear and decreases unnecessary shifting on steep grades. Type-S coupes come only with a close-ratio six-speed-manual gearbox.
Standard equipment includes all-disc antilock brakes, side-impact airbags, occupant-position and height sensors for the front passenger, front seat belt pretensioners and a LATCH system for child-safety seats.
Acura took an impressive leap forward with the defiantly sporty RSX, which ranks as exceptional. In both the base and Type-S versions, the coupe behaves in a manner comparable to its alluring style.
Crisper handling is a big bonus with the tautly suspended Type-S, which exacts little penalty in ride comfort. The base model rides even more pleasantly.
Base-model performance is eager, if subtle, with the Sequential SportShift automatic transmission, but the 160-hp engine emits a fair amount of blare when pushed to high rpm levels. Type-S acceleration ranks as all-out energetic, and its richer exhaust note is particularly satisfying. The close-ratio gearbox in the Type-S is one of the best around.