Still, the RSX's approach to life's twisty moments was exalted more often than it was maligned. The MacPherson strut-type front suspension and double control-arm rear provided a thoroughly enjoyable balance of alertness and compliance, although some found that during truly spirited cornering, the inside front wheel would lighten up and spin a bit too quickly. During an outing at Michigan's Waterford Hills Raceway, the car's ease of use and amazing rev range made it an instant favorite. Wrote DeMatio, after consecutive stints in a Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo S, a Honda Civic Si, and our RSX: "This is the best front-wheel-drive car I've had on the track today; there is understeer, but it's quite manageable. Steering is great, brakes are great, chassis is great."
Noise, particularly from the wheel wells, was ever present, and we compounded the problem early in the year by changing out the stock Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 all-season tires for a set of high-performance Yokohama AVS Sports that proved as boomy as they were grippy. It wasn't long before we swapped back, happy to trade some adhesion for a bit of peace and quiet. The activity under the hood, similarly, was anything but Accord quiet. Several of the logbook entries expressed gratitude for the tall sixth gear, which at least let the over-caffeinated engine chill out a bit on the highway. Generally, however, there was no doubting that the Type-S, despite its hoity-toity brand name, placed performance above pleasantry, a notion summed up by the logbook entry that stated: "This is the best car stereo I never heard."
The exterior styling was, by and large, the only truly controversial aspect of the RSX. Production editor Jennifer Misaros called it "a complete bore," and one detractor labeled the Acura "a modern Toyota Paseo." DeMatio noted that from the side, the RSX "looked kinda small and lumpy." Others were less critical, even adulatory, calling our little two-plus-two "cute," "appealing," "exceedingly handsome," and even "BEAUTIFUL!!!"
There was no such hullabaloo regarding the interior. The cockpit was often praised as driver-centric and aesthetically pleasing, with marvelous seats, a fat-rimmed wheel, and a hypermod assortment of textures and finishes accented by branding-iron-red lighting. We found the ergonomics and the driving position to be, true to Honda/Acura form, above reproach. Wrote one: "Unlike the Toyota Celica, the RSX doesn't feel at all cocoonlike. It manages to combine airy comfort with racy intimacy."
Similarly, the high-grade materials and tight construction would do many a more expensive car proud; in our $23,670 RSX, they were an absolute revelation. Moreover, that price (up a mere $100 for the 2003 model year) included such niceties as perforated-leather seats, a power moonroof, and a Bose audio system with a six-disc in-dash CD changer. In fact, the Type-S comes fully loaded. A buyer's only decision is color. For '03, Acura has introduced a $4800 Factory Performance package for the Type-S that includes a stiffened suspension, slotted brake rotors with performance pads, and lightweight wheels with wider rubber, along with an array of aerodynamic add-ons.
On the dependability front, no news is good news, and our RSX was, for 365 days, completely news-free. Nothing broke. Ever. At the 30,000-mile mark, senior editor Joe Lorio commented, "This car does a lot to reinforce Honda's reputation for quality." During our Four Seasons car's last week at 120 East Liberty, Acura sent us a 2003 RSX Type-S with little more than delivery mileage on the odometer. Our hard-driven test car was utterly indistinguishable from the pristine loaner, with the minor exception of an extra gloss on its driver's seat leather, buffed as it had been by a thousand rear ends. Marveling at its agelessness, one writer remarked of our Type-S: "It's the Dick Clark of cars!"
As every Acura has done before it, the RSX Type-S demonstrated that finesse does not necessarily equal frailty, that refinement is not a sign of weakness, and that there is, after all, a replacement for displacement. The ballet dancer is every bit the athlete the power lifter is. Acura's littlest offering endures in a segment that has seen countless casualties during the last twenty years-Volkswagen's Scirocco and Corrado, Nissan's Pulsar and NX2000, Isuzu's Impulse, Renault's Fuego, Ford's Probe and Mercury Cougar, and BMW's 318ti, to name a few. In this truck-mad age, it would seem that the sport coupe's time in the sun has passed. And yet, when hustled down a lonely back road, its four cylinders singing past seven grand, the RSX Type-S feels anything but out of date.