The Acura RSX has a different feel to it then most coupes I've driven lately. It's that Acura air of pseudo-luxury that turns a $23,570 coupe into a much finer machine. That price tag is a bit higher than the standard RSX because we're behind the wheel of the 2005 Type-S, a model that features a 210-horsepower i-VTEC engine. For some reason the I-VTEC feels much faster, with only five more horsepower, than the Saturn Ion Red Line I just got out of.
The performance features are nice and we’ll delve into them later in the week. But the nice thing about buying an Acura sports coupe is the nice leather interior and high quality finishes. Sure the RSX is starting to age a bit, but there’s nothing wrong with the original style that still seems modern.
Another aspect that has to be addressed, even though some will say it’s superficial, is the cachet with driving an Acura. If you want a sporty car and want more respect or feel a bit too old to be driving a vehicle with a big hood scoop or spoiler, than the RSX certainly fits the bill. My fiancée who is rarely impressed by anything I bring home, no matter the horsepower rating, instantly remarked, “I like this one.”
And with the Milano Red exterior, Titanium Leather, 6-disc CD changer, sunroof, heated side-view mirrors and more included in the sticker price, this particular package is easy to like.
Please take note that I’ll run original exterior images with the next post. On top of my recent computer issues I had a digital camera problem today too.
Now that I've driven the RSX Type-S for some significant miles I can say I'm impressed but not blown away. This is one of the nicer sports coupes I've been in lately and with its price tag it is one of the more expensive ones as well. The performance gains from the Type-S package are, in my mind, essential and I don't know if I'd even want one of the base, 160 horsepower models.
The clutch is smooth and light, while the shifter tends to feel a bit flimsy in the hands. It still offers easy
transitions and the combination is one of the major factors that make the Type-S a terrific daily driver. I know many
readers complain when I put so much weight on how certain models act as everyday cars, but in this segment all the
power and performance still need to be somewhat practical. And in the case of the Type-S the fun quotient isn’t
sacrificed. The high revving i-VTEC engine will surely delight those looking for power and the exhaust note sounds
The handling isn’t as tight as the Saturn Ion Red Line and maybe even the Scion tC I’ve tested recently, but it is more than adequate. Steering is much more precise than either of the other two coupes though. The 17 inch wheels offer great traction and handled wet first-day weather well. There is of course that trademark Acura understeer but if you’re aware of it going in it’s not as distracting.
So far I’m enjoying each day in the RSX. There are zero quality issues which sets it apart from the other two coupes immediately. There are also a lot of cool features included in the price that I’ll talk more about tomorrow.
One of the things Acura has done right in recent years is their almost one-rate pricing. That doesn't mean you can't negotiate it just means most models come completely loaded with everything most drivers would want. The TSX and TL are prime examples of this strategy at work, but the RSX Type-S doesn't leave anything off from its starting price.
Sure you can add on things like a cargo net and all weather floormats but in reality you have all you need already. First, there’s a power moonroof. While the RSX’s is small compared to others in the class, it doesn’t ring up on the option tally either. The 6-disc in-dash CD changer is well laid out, has a nice feel and is easy to operate. I just wish the Bose speakers offered more range. On a sampling of a number of CDs I noticed guitars were muted considerably and vocals were amplified no matter how I adjusted the bass and treble. Shoot a comment over if you want a run down of what artists and discs I played.
Comfort features like lumbar support in the drivers seat, heated side-view mirrors and speed-sensing, variable intermittent windshield wipers make driving in any weather a joy. To me the windshield wipers were spot on and worked as well as those in much more expensive models. A small thing I know, but it’s amazing how much of a difference it made on a cold and rainy morning commute.
Another cool utilitarian feature is the two-in-one cup holder and tray. The lid easily slides revealing a tray for coins and then disappears allowing drivers room for drinks. No answer on what to do when you come to a toll and have two Big Gulps blocking access to your change but it’s still nifty.
Also, the comparison between a RSX Type-S and standard RSX with manual and leather is $23,570 and $21,250 respectively ($20,175 without leather). There is definitely more than $2,500 worth of car for the money in the Type-S and I’m not just talking about all the badging. And as readers have noted you do get what you pay for in comparing the Acura to the last two coupes we were in, the Scion tC and Saturn Ion Red Line. But Acura has also had a lot more time to perfect this package and it clearly shows.
My final days in the RSX were spent like the first few; routine driving to and from work, a few errands around town and that was about it. But days like these are when buyers will appreciate the RSX's smooth ride and comfortable cabin. Not everyday is spent whipping around curvy hillside roads you know.
And if for some reason you have a commute like that, the RSX Type-S will still provide plenty of performance for the dollar. What you don’t get is an over the top, completely tuned semi-rally car. That is just not what Acura is attempting. If you want something like that move up to the base Subaru WRX. The RSX on the other hand doesn’t jolt the spine over bumps, cancels a lot of road noise and you still get to hear the engine rev proudly and the exhaust snort with authority. Of course there’s no Knight Rider like boost of turbo either, but the car can still move through traffic like the knife it resembles.
As for the other coupe’s I’ve driven recently there’s no question which one I’d want to live with for an extended period of time. It is an Acura and that extra dough you spend on a monthly payment is worth the comforts as long as you can afford it. The question really is if you’re going to spend $23,000 on a car is the RSX Type-S the best you can get for your money? Among the import crowd devoid of coupes in this range with these amenities it is the only car you can get for this money. The outgoing Mitsubishi Eclipse and Toyota Celica wouldn’t offer much competition and a new round of coupes like the Cobalt SS and supercharged Scion tC might eventually try to unseat the RSX. But in Type-S trim it stands alone for now.
New Car Test Drive
Many minor changes add up to major improvement.
The Acura RSX receives many upgrades for 2005, and while no one change is particularly significant, together they add up to a car that is considerably improved over last year's model.
The previous-generation Integra helped establish the current trend of import tuners. Introduced in 2002, the RSX took the Integra's place as Acura's front-wheel-drive sport coupe. The RSX has lost some of its edge competing against the high-performance Subaru WRX, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, and Dodge SRT-4. All can be had for roughly the same money, and offer significant performance advantages.
What the RSX has to offer is the luxury, refinement and prestige of an Acura.
Build quality and fit and finish are excellent. The RSX looks aggressive, and mild styling revisions for 2005 enhance its crisp, clean lines. Its cabin is nicely trimmed. It's oriented around the driver, with excellent seats and convenient storage. The standard RSX is fun to drive, particularly when equipped with the manual transmission. The Type-S is a lot more fun, with a sweet-sounding engine that revs to 8100 rpm. Updates to the 2005 Acura RSX Type-S help it regain ground in the hotly contested market of young, upwardly mobile enthusiasts.
The 2005 Acura RSX is available in two trim levels. The base model ($20,175) comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 160 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque. It comes with 16-inch wheels and tires, cloth upholstery, a five-speed manual or optional five-speed automatic. Leather is optional ($1,075).
The RSX Type-S ($23,570) raises the bar to 210 horsepower (up from 200 last year) and 143 pound-feet of torque from its version of the same 2.0-liter engine. Type-S comes with leather, a six-speed manual with no automatic option, and 17-inch wheels and tires.
Both RSX models have only a handful of options to clutter the buying process. Power door locks, automatic climate control, an anti-theft system with remote entry, tilt steering wheel and a glass moonroof are standard across the board. It also comes standard with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heat-rejecting window glass and premium audio systems: a six-speaker in-dash CD player on the RSX and a seven-speaker Acura/Bose 6CD in-dash changer on the Type-S.
An additional performance package is available for both models. Called A-Spec, this dealer-installed option includes a four-piece aero kit, a big wing, even stiffer springs, and special wheels with high-performance 17-inch tires. New to the package for 2005 are upgraded brakes, with slotted rotors and better pads.
The Acura RSX presents a classic wedgy fastback shape, with a short nose, wheels pushed out to the corners, and a smooth profile that sweeps elegantly from the nose to the high tail. As befitting its sport-coupe market, it's more aggressive than many other Acuras, even given the company's aggressive new styling direction.
The changes made for 2005 continue the theme of subtle but effective. The front bumper is updated with a larger, more aggressive radiator opening under the bumper and a more dramatic five-sided Acura grille. Additionally, the headlights now feature blackout trim around the reflectors, a common aftermarket upgrade. The revised taillights have an embossed look to them, and the rear bumper has been modified for a racy look. Standard on the Type-S is a new spoiler on the rear decklid, although we still like the unadorned look of the standard RSX better. Overall, the look is clean and tidy, and Acura has continued to avoid styling cliches in favor of tight, crisp lines.
Fit and finish is excellent, of course, with narrow gaps between body panels. Acura is also careful to use as few breaks between body panels as possible to give the car a carved-from-a-solid-piece look.
Under the sexy skin is a chassis that is reinforced for 2005, making it 15 percent stiffer in the front and 21 percent stiffer in the rear. Insulation material has been added in the doors and roof to reduce road noise, and the side mirror gaps have been sealed shut to reduce wind noise. It works to a certain extent, but the RSX is primarily a sporty car, and you can expect more road, engine and wind noise inside than in one of the company's more luxurious offerings.
The RSX interior is very driver-oriented, with the center part of the dash tilted slightly toward the lucky person behind the wheel. It's not really luxurious, but textures and surfaces are all very nice for a car in the low 20-thousand range, and switchgear is all exemplary, as befitting an Acura. New chrome and titanium-look accents add a touch of elegance to the stylishly businesslike design.
The automatic climate control couldn't be simpler to use, with three large dials your only input. Similarly, the audio controls are logically placed for intuitive operation. The rest of the interior layout is just as sensible, making it easy to acclimate oneself to the car and get on with the business of driving.
The thick three-spoke steering wheel neatly frames clear gauges with black numerals on new off-white faces that turn red-on-black at night. The 9000-rpm tachometer and 160-mph speedometer dominate the cluster, with fuel and temperature gauges flanking them. Cruise control and basic audio controls are mounted on the steering wheel for added convenience.
The front seats are excellent, with good lateral support, a deep bucket for your butt, and even small shoulder wings to help keep you in place in hard corners. They grip you even when covered in leather, but remain comfortable for longer trips. As with most cars of this size and class, the rear seat is something of a joke, reserved only for small humans or medium-size dogs. A better idea is to fold down the seatbacks, enhancing the already sizeable cargo area under the hatch, and letting you pretend you have a two-seater.
Storage for small stuff is plentiful. There are bins in the doors, a sizeable lighted glovebox, and a clever tray/cupholder combination forward of the shifter. The cupholder works fine, as long as you aren't trying to stuff a convenience store bladder buster in there.
The Acura RSX is all about driving, and in both versions, it's a blast. Acceleration is brisk in the RSX, darn quick in the Type-S. All the controls work well, with solid brakes, accurate and sharp steering, and predictable handling.
Suspension settings on both of the RSX models were revised significantly for 2005 for better handling. Camber and caster were revised for better roadholding and more predictable steering. The new suspension settings also lower the center of gravity by 7 mm, which helps reduce body roll. Ride comfort is improved (although it's still stiff) through the use of revised bushings and damper seals. Anti-roll bars on both models were widened and thickened, from 23mm to 25.4mm with a wall thickness of 3.0mm up from 2.8mm in previous models. The Type-S bars go from 23mm to 26.5mm, and the wall thickness is revised from 2.8mm to 3.5mm. The Type S also gets a stiffer strut tower brace, further helping the steering response. And, as previously mentioned, the steering rack itself was revised with a shorter ratio for better response, resulting in quick response that doesn't feel darty. In the rear, the spring height was reduced on the Type-S, further lowering the center of gravity. The rear anti-roll bar diameter was also increased from 19mm to 21mm.
The revised suspension settings add up to a car that feels sharper and more finely honed than its predecessor. While it is more compliant, the ride is still stiff. However the benefits in handling are immediately noticeable. Overcook a corner and the car understeers, but a gentle easing of the throttle or a moderate tap of the brakes will tuck in the nose and help rotate the rear end. The RSX is one of those cars that rewards skilled drivers, and feeds a lot of rope to the unskilled ones before they hang themselves.
The shifter is a joy, placed perfectly next to the wheel. The feel of the shifter in the Type-S has been revised and it really shows with crisp, accurate shifts.
Step on the brakes and you're rewarded with solid pedal feel, thanks to a larger master cylinder and a more rigid pedal. The standard ABS helps slow the car quickly and without fade. The Type-S gets bigger front and rear rotors for even better braking performance.
The engines in both RSX models are very sophisticated, with variable valve timing, overhead cams, four-valves per cylinder and all-aluminum construction. Both models use Honda's i-VTEC technology, which combines a cam-phasing valve timing (VTC for variable timing control) with VTEC, which actually changes the valve lift. However, it works differently and for different goals in the two models. The RSX's system is tuned more for emissions and fuel efficiency, while the Type-S is designed for power. The base engine develops 160 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 141 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm, same as last year. Thanks to improved intake, exhaust and cams, the Type-S gains 10 horsepower, for 210 at 7800 rpm and 143 pound-feet of torque at 7000 rpm. Both engines meet strict LEV-II emissions requirements, and while premium fuel is required for the Type-S, it's only a suggestion for the RSX.
To get the most from the base engine, it's best to stick with the standard five-speed manual, a slick-shifting unit with ratios that maximize power from the engine. The automatic features Acura's Sequential SportShift, a mode that allows for manual shifting of the gears. It works well, giving the driver full manual control, refusing to shift up or down unless directed by the driver (although it won't let you do something stupid, like start from a dead stop in fifth gear). Left in Drive, Grade Logic Control keeps gear hunting to a minimum on long uphill stretches. But it's still not as quick to respond as a true manual, and fuel economy suffers a bit as well.
The Type-S is a whole other beast. The redline is much higher (8100 rpm vs 6800 rpm in the RSX), and those extra revs are where much of.
The RSX is a sophisticated and sporty player in the compact performance car market. More luxurious than cars like the Subaru WRX or Dodge SRT-4, it offers very good performance and a handling package that is hard to beat. While not exactly a luxury car, it is nicely equipped, and the driver's seat is a comfortable and fun place to be.
Most drivers opt for the lower-horsepower base RSX, with its 160-horsepower engine. It's a rewarding car, and they'll be very satisfied, as long as they don't test-drive the Type-S while they're at the Acura dealership.
New Car Test Drive correspondent Keith Buglewicz is based in Southern California.
Acura RSX ($20,175), RSX Type-S ($23,570).
Options As Tested
Acura RSX Type-S ($23,570).
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