The RSX line starts with a 2.0-liter/160-horse I-4 engine, with the RSX Type-S fitted with a higher-strung variant producing 210-hp, up 10 horses over '04. The increased output occurs at a stratospheric 7800 rpm, with last year's model peaking at 7400 rpm. Rated as a Low Emission Vehicle-II, the RSX Type-S is available with only a six-speed manual transmission.
Behind the Wheel
While the horsepower peak promises thrilling power, the meager 143 lb-ft torque peak means the engine has to be flogged deep into the revs. Just as the i-VTEC (variable camshaft) and dual-stage intake manifold technology imply, the engine has two distinct personalities. Around town, the Type-S performs like a capable compact car, delivering adequate power and returning very good fuel economy. Pushed hard, the engine comes to life in the north end of the rpm-range, creating a more raw and indeed engaging experience.
From a standstill, the RSX benefits from a mid (3500+) rpm launch for swift acceleration, though it is quick to respond in passing. A single or double-downshift brings the car immediately to life, rewarding the inner racer within all of us. The manual shifter is just average, with decent height, throw, and linkage.
The RSX is rather well insulated from noise, vibration, and harshness for its class under around-town driving conditions, but when driven harder, engine buzz intrudes on the interior serenity. Several measures were taken to reduce aural feedback in the 2005 model, but some buyers may have issue with such raw sounds in a luxury-badged vehicle.
The fully independent suspension is communicative and inviting, allowing the RSX Type-S to handle like other sport compacts wish they could. The ride leans to the firm side without being harsh, perfect for the intended market. The steering feel has more feedback and resistance than platformmate Honda Civic, and again, it is spot on for its target.
The RSX Type-S offers an enticing transition point from affordable compacts to midsize cars, giving buyers the luxury channel ownership experience, elevated refinement and feature set, stimulating performance, and good fuel economy. It effectively targets Gen Y and Gen X auto enthusiasts on the move, especially those who may be drawn to such cars by the desire to indulge in aftermarket upgrade components. The freshened Type-S already has this tuner look and feel from the factory, with more refinement than any assemblage of catalog components could accomplish.
For those who seek a fun commuter, the RSX Type-S leaves one wanting for little, with all traditional amenities represented in the driver-centric cabin. However, the Type-S mileage is tempered by the cost for the recommended premium fuel.
Less hard-charging drivers should consider the well-equipped base RSX. While power may be down 50 horses on paper, the real-world difference may not be an issue in commuting, the softer suspension may even be welcomed on some roads, and its preferred fuel is regular 87-octane gasoline.
Even within the Honda family, the RSX is flanked by enticing alternatives. On one end, the Honda Civic EX coupe has a better Cost of Ownership, including a lower transaction price and better fuel efficiency. Moving up, the Acura TSX offers a more polished package with four doors whose slightly higher asking price is offset by a more attractive Cost of Ownership rating.
Like all Acuras, even the RSX is covered by a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty and roadside assistance package.
When it's time to graduate from a Civic, the Acura RSX Type-S rewards with power, handling, features, and quality befitting a buyer whose career is on the launch pad.