Acura's sporty RSX coupe has been around since 2001, and that makes it easy to forget what an outstanding little car it is.
There are two models, one with 160 horsepower and the Type S with 210. The high-performance Type S and its 7,800-rpm redline has the soul of a super bike, yet it's as docile as a Honda Civic when you feel like dawdling. Acura is the American luxury division of Honda.
Acura has freshened the RSX's face with tri-beam headlights, a lower fascia with rectangular air ducts and, on the Type S, deeper side sills and a tiny spoiler on the trunk. The taillights are new and the exhaust system is larger.
Both RSXs use a dual-overhead-cam, four-cylinder engine that has variable valve timing and variable valve lift, or I-VTEC. I-VTEC enables this small engine to have a lion's heart. The 210-horse Type-S engine is truly a delight. It pulls well at low rpm, yet when you squeeze the throttle it screams through the gears like a motorcycle. The Type S is fast, aided immensely by the slick-shifting six-speed transmission. Getting the shift linkage right can be tricky on front-wheel-drive cars, but the Acura's feels as light, positive and direct as any I know. The gears are closely spaced to allow the engine to stay "on the boil" with each shift.
The final drive ratio was lowered for 2005, and carbon synchronizers are used on fifth and sixth gears.
The RSX is fun to shift even when driven nonchalantly because of the tight linkage and the gutty engine. It's uncommon for a small engine with such high-rpm capability to pull well at low rpm, but this one does.
Putting the power to the ground necessitates a firm suspension and grippy tires. The Type S uses struts in front and a compact, double-wishbone suspension in back. For 2005, Acura lowered the ride height, firmed up the shock absorbers and put in front coil springs that are wound inversely. These springs, said Acura, neutralize unwanted steering feedback from spring windup.
Sounds pretty technical to me, but it works. The Type S sits flat and knifes through turns with precision. The handling is so intuitive that it's easy to take it for granted.
The ride is certainly firm, but rarely did I think it was too taut. Seventeen-inch wheels and low-profile tires do a good job of hanging on to the pavement.
The antilock four-wheel-disc brakes are strong and sure. The Type S gets larger front discs and a bigger brake master cylinder for even more stopping power.
The cabin is snug, to be sure, and the back seat is best used for briefcases, coats or small children. The Type S has tall, deeply contoured front seats that do an excellent job of holding the driver and passenger in place during vigorous driving. The front passenger seat slides forward for access to the rear seat, but tipping the driver's seat is more awkward.
Typical of small Hondas and Acuras, my arms felt a tad too far from the steering wheel when I had the seat adjusted for my legs. I have a fairly short torso and proportionally longer legs even though I am not tall.
The RSX is a hatchback, but the liftover is tall. The back seat folds down to increase luggage space.
The Type S is quick, yet it still meets all of California's low-emission standards and returns 24 miles per gallon in the city. Highway mileage is 31. That's an impressive accomplishment.
The test car's base price was $23,320. With destination fees, the sticker price was $23,890.
Four years or 50,000 miles.
To get in touch with Tom Strongman, send e-mail to .com.
Engine: 2.0-liter, 210-hp 4-cyl.
Wheelbase: 101.2 inches
Curb weight: 2,840 lbs.
Base price: $23,320
As driven: $23,890
MPG rating: 24 city, 31 hwy.
At A Glance
Point: The RSX is a pocket rocket disguised as a mundane sports coupe. The 210-horsepower Type S zips up to speed like a motorcycle, yet it drives as comfortably as an economy car. Handling is excellent. It is one of the top performance bargains.
Counterpoint: The steering wheel felt far away when I had the seat adjusted for my legs. Putting things behind the driver's seat was hard because the seat doesn't slide forward when tipped.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Jim Flammang||Cars.com National||February 14, 2005|
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||December 18, 2004|
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