Hondas luxury division unveiled a replacement for its subcompact Integra at the 2001 New York Auto Show, barely three months after an RS-X prototype was seen at Detroits auto show. Unlike the Integra, which came in coupe and sedan forms, the new RSX is built only as a front-wheel-drive hatchback coupe. Calling the RSX a groundbreaking sports car, Acura Executive Vice President Dick Colliver says the automaker hopes to sell about 30,000 units annually. The RSX, he adds, promises a true race-bred driving experience.
On sale since July 2001, the RSX comes in base form with an all-new, 160-horsepower four-cylinder engine. Like other Acura models, the RSX also has a performance-focused Type-S edition, with 40 hp more, firmer springs and dampers, and a larger front stabilizer bar. The RSX is the first Acura to be equipped with an intelligent valve-control system that is said to enhance performance and efficiency.
Acuras target buyer is 27 years old with an active lifestyle, a college degree and a $60,000 annual household income. Three out of five buyers are expected to be male, with the Type-S expected to have a greater appeal to the male audience.
Curvaceous in profile, the RSX has a grille that provides a family resemblance to other Acura models. Accompanying the grille are large multireflector headlights and a beveled chin spoiler. Displaying chiseled accent lines, the body features short front and rear overhangs. Thin A- and B-pillars are complemented by compound-curved window glass to improve visibility.
Michelin P205/55R16 tires are mounted on five-spoke alloy wheels. New variable-assist rack-and-pinion steering is installed, and the new suspension consists of Control Link MacPherson struts up front and double wishbones in the rear. A power moonroof is standard on both models.
Four people fit in the RSX, which has two bucket seats up front and a 50/50-split, fold-down rear seat. The upholstery is a blend of regular and suede-look fabric in the base coupe, while the Type-S gets perforated leather (which is optional in the base model). Large, metallic-face gauges are grouped in a pod thats angled toward the driver, who clutches a three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Standard equipment includes automatic climate control with air filtration, keyless entry with an anti-theft immobilizer, and power windows and mirrors. A Bose seven-speaker stereo system with an in-dash CD changer and a trunk-mounted woofer goes into the Type-S edition. Cargo volume totals 17.8 cubic feet.
Standard equipment includes automatic climate control, keyless entry with an anti-theft immobilizer and power mirrors. A Bose seven-speaker stereo system with an in-dash CD changer and a trunk-mounted woofer goes into the Type-S edition.
Under the Hood
An all-new 2.0-liter, 16-valve i-VTEC four-cylinder engine powers the base RSX, producing 160 hp and 141 pounds-feet of torque. The Type-S coupe gets a stronger four-cylinder that generates 200 hp and 142 pounds-feet of torque. Both engines qualify under LEV II (Low Emissions Vehicle) standards, but the Type-S requires premium fuel.
What Acura calls a quick-shifting 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 while driving on steep grades. Type-S coupes come only with a close-ratio six-speed-manual gearbox. Type-S coupes come only with a close-ratio six-speed-manual gearbox.
Side-impact airbags and three-channel, all-disc antilock brakes are standard and come with occupant position and height sensors for the front passenger. The Type-S has larger front disc brakes. Front seat belt pretensioners and a LATCH system for child-safety seats are standard on both models.
Acura has taken an impressive leap ahead with the defiantly sporty RSX, which ranks as exceptional all around. In either form, the coupe behaves in a manner comparable to its alluring style. Even the base model maneuvers with agility, though it doesnt necessarily reach beyond some sport-coupe rivals.
Crisper handling is a big bonus with the tautly suspended Type-S, which exacts little penalty in ride comfort. Occupants might feel nearly all the pavement imperfections, and the ride can get bouncy on wavy surfaces, but it will annoy few. The base RSX coupe rides even more pleasantly.
Base-model performance is eager, if subtle, with the SportShift automatic transmission, but the 160-hp engine emits a fair amount of blare when pushed to high rpm levels. The automatic also may suffer a bit of a dead spot, causing the engine to slow down significantly during gear changes.
Acceleration with the Type-S ranks as all-out energetic, and its richer exhaust note is particularly satisfying to the enthusiastic driver. Though it is able to rev to high rpm in an instant, the engine also is happy to loaf along at low speeds. The close-ratio gearbox in the Type-S is one of the best around, requiring only a quick flick to move up or down the gears.
The rear seats are for small people, but the front is wholly adequate, with firm but comfortable seats. The unusual gauge orientation, with zero at the bottom of the tachometer and speedometer, seems odd at first but logical later. Instruments are neatly red-lit at night.