2002 Acura RSX Type-S

Driver Side Interior View

With a stronger, smoother engine and a quicker, more positive shifter, the RSX Type-S initially comes across as an Integra GS-R turned up to eleven. That impression is fortified when you turn the RSX into its first bend. If the fatter, smaller-diameter steering wheel doesn't bring a smile to your face, the steering probably will. With the Type-S riding on the same Michelin all-season rubber as the standard RSX (size 205/55VR-16), turn-in is not as snappy as with some sport machines, but the upside is that the Type-S doesn't bite you with lift-off oversteer the way some aggressively setup front-wheel-drive cars can (the Ford SVT Contour comes to mind). Instead, the RSX is tossable, predictable, and easy to balance through a corner. Lift off the throttle, and the tail steps outside just a bit to tighten your arc, and it's happy to hang there for as long as you like. Get on the gas as you charge for the exit, and the Type-S never gets squirrelly, despite the absence of traction control or even a limited-slip differential. The most you'll need to do is nudge the steering wheel a bit to get it to return to center.

Driven back-to-back with an Integra GS-R at Motegi's road course, the RSX Type-S is more composed, more coordinated, and easier to drive fast. Its body motions are better controlled; the steering is quicker, with effort that is more progressive and more natural; and the shifter is much slicker. As you approach the end of a 100-mph straight, you'll find that the RSX's four-wheel disc brakes are more robust. (They're 11.8 inches in the front and 10.2 inches in the rear in the Type-S, with the RSX wearing slightly smaller 10.3-inch fronts.)

That the RSX surpasses the Integra in the fun-to-drive department may surprise those who read the spec panel first and noticed that the RSX has abandoned the Integra's double-wishbone front suspension for a damper strut setup. This change hasn't done the new Honda Civic any favors, but there's no arguing with the results here. Aiding the Type-S are progressive-valve, gas-pressurized dampers that are 40 percent stiffer than in the standard RSX.

Full Engine View

Wringing out the RSX over the Motegi road course, we also enjoyed the excellent driving position, with an elevated hip point (compared with the Integra), a well-placed dead pedal, and wing-back seats that hug you in corners. The RSX dash, which curves toward the driver, is a cut above the Integra's econo-looking unit; the switches are well designed, and the gray-faced gauges that are raised up from the instrument cluster look cool. The back seat is, once again, best reserved for the perpetually stooped, but at least Acura resisted the current two-door mindset that turns up its nose at hatchbacks in favor of far less practical coupes.

When it came time to draw the outside, though, we wish Acura had been a little more fashionable. (Actually, the sketches we saw looked pretty good, but much of the style seems to have been lost during the translation to sheetmetal.) The front is pointy-faced in what's becoming the Acura way, and the rear is okay, but in the side view, the high beltline makes the RSX look frumpy, and the Olds Alero-esque rear-window treatment says "two-door sedan." Furthermore, there's nothing to distinguish the sporty Type-S visually from the standard RSX.

This is not a dowdy, boring two-door sedan, and it shouldn't look like one. The RSX Type-S is a high-performance coupe that is a flat-out ball to drive--provided, of course, you stick to the pavement.

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