If change is inevitable, then it
also presents an opportunity for improvement. Even the original Volkswagen Beetle
eventually gave way to the front-engine, water-cooled Rabbit, which is now called the
Golf. As the new Acura RSX displaces the more euphonious Integra, there is much for
driving enthusiasts to celebrate.
With its vigorous four-door sibling, the TL, in the fold, the RSX can concentrate on
the hot coupe market; so there is no longer a four-door model. The RSX can be had in two
coupe versions, the plain (but hardly ordinary) RSX and the mighty Type-S. Both employ a
fresh take on Honda's legendary VTEC technology to wring prodigious quantities of
performance from a dual-overhead-cam four-cylinder engine with just two liters of
The RSX winds up a generous 160 horsepower and 141 lb.-ft of torque in the vanilla
version, but the Type-S gets a screaming 200 horsepower out of the same engine, plus one
extra pound-foot of torque. Pulling along just 2,778 pounds of car, and with a 7,900 rpm
redline, that's good for some quick acceleration. Mileage is encouraging, at 24 city/31
highway for the potent Type-S and 27/33 for the regular car. You can subtract 3 mpg from
the city driving average if you order the optional automatic transmission.
The new improved engine somehow manages to increase performance while improving fuel
economy and lowering emissions at the same time. Both versions of the RSX qualify as Low
Emissions Vehicles, and neither needs a tune-up for 110,000 miles under normal
The advanced iVTEC system is engineered to provide extremely precise control of the
valve timing, lift, and duration over the engine's entire operating range. The
"intelligent" iVTEC system uses variable valve timing and lift electronic
control (VTEC) and also adds Variable Timing Control (VTC). This magical computerized
upgrade continuously advances or retards the intake camshaft for enhanced performance. A
high tech, dual-stage air intake manifold helps too.
The Type-S receives a new 6-speed manual transmission that meets and exceeds even
Honda's (Acura's) standards for precision and effortlessness. I didn't even mind the
constant shifting necessitated by rush hour commuting.
Performance is a great thing, but what's the car like to look at? How does it feel to
sit in? The body is a thorough 21st century update of the old Integra two-door. The
formerly small circular headlamps are now larger ovals that are laid back into the front
of the car in chromed bezels. The round bottoms are cut into the lower bumper, kind of
like a Mercedes. A narrow, smiling grille on a pointed nose gives the RSX some Acura
The hunkered down shape of the RSX makes it look and feel racy. It is hard to get a
long, sleek look on a 172-inch car, but a high, tapered window line and a nose-to-tail
lower body character line help to visually lengthen the car. Unadorned sides keep the eye
Inside, a unique woven texture on the dash conveys quality and substance. Silvery
touches all over the cabin give it sparkle, from the cup holders to the dash accents,
knobs, and shifter top. The gauges contribute to the theme, resembling silver-coated
coffee cup lids, which stand out against a flat black background. A stippling of dots on
the dash top and shifter knob contributes a high-tech feeling.
High-mounted controls are easy to see and use. The door panels offer three levels of
storage crannies, and the console offers a two-way sliding door that changes the space
from cup holders to a tray with the push of a button.
Deeply bolstered driving seats are firm in a sporty, comfortable way, like an Audi. The
leather is perforated where it touches your body, for extra comfort on those warm days.
The Type-S may be the top of the line, but every RSX has automatic climate control, a
power moonroof, keyless entry with an engine immobilizer, a full-blown audio system with
in-dash CD player, and power windows, mirrors, and locks.
The RSX, especially one like my Blackhawk Black Pearl Type-S, generates significant
road noise with its Michelin MXM4 low profile tires on alloy wheels. This is a car that
conveys the roadway to your hands, feet, and tailbone to keep you entertained and alert.
Members of its youthful market should appreciate it. This is normally where I mention
anything that bothered me. Well, it will be a short paragraph, because nothing did.
Pricing starts at $19,950 for the standard RSX with a five speed manual transmission.
Add $900 for the five-speed sequential SportShift. The Type-S, available only with the
six-speed tranny, tops out at $23,170. The Integra is dead. Long live the RSX! By
Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco