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Review: 2005 Acura RSX

July 20, 2005 03:08 PM EST | Acura , Coupes | Email to Friend

View large imageWith an overall feeling of refinement, and exemplary steering, Acura's RSX is a car you can drive to work everyday and still cut loose in it over the weekend.

High-revving Type-S engine, nimble handling, sharp steering, clean interior design, plenty of standard equipment.

Modest torque output, tight rear-seat headroom, forgettable exterior design.

What's New for 2005
For 2005, the RSX receives a number of changes. Horsepower for the Type-S is bumped up to 210, thanks to new high-performance camshafts, a larger intake duct, large diameter exhaust pipe and a high-flow catalytic converter. The six-speed transmission on the Type-S gets a lower final drive ratio and carbon synchronizers (instead of brass) on fifth and sixth gears for a smoother shift feel. Suspension upgrades on all models include a 7mm lower ride height, revised stabilizer bars and inversely wound springs. The steering and braking systems have been refined for better feel and response, and the Type-S gets a larger diameter front strut tower brace and 17-inch wheels. Front and rear fascias have also been redesigned, along with the side sills, grille, headlamps and taillamps. The Type-S gets a rear spoiler, as well. Inside, you'll find new deeply bolstered seats with thicker cushioning and new trim accents. Overall body rigidity has increased by 15 percent in front and 21 percent in the rear.

When Acura came to be in 1986, it had two cars for sale: the Integra hatchback and Legend sedan. The Integra quickly became a favorite of driving enthusiasts and commuters alike; it was responsive and energetic while also being practical and relatively inexpensive. Though the Acura family has grown since then -- there are now six different models -- the sport hatchback lineage continues on with the RSX. True to form, this is one of the best sport hatchbacks currently available. Within its price range, competing cars include the Hyundai Tiburon, Mini Cooper, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Scion tC, VW GTI and the soon-to-retire Toyota Celica. One could also include Audi's TT and Mercedes' C230 Sport Coupe -- both come from luxury brands, like the RSX, though Audi and Mercedes are more expensive, come with additional luxury features and have more prestigious images. The base RSX serves quite adequately as a daily driver. It's easy to pilot and the large cargo area adds utility. In Type-S form, the car is considerably more fun, though its exclusive six-speed manual transmission will put off potential buyers who are unwilling to shift gears themselves. Regardless of trim, the RSX is a front-drive sport hatchback you'll want to consider. Like other Honda and Acura products, it expertly blends performance, comfort and features into a package that costs less than most of the competition. If you're looking for a car that can do it all, the RSX aims to please.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The RSX two-door sport hatchback comes in two trim levels: base and Type-S. Both are well equipped. With the base RSX, you get standard features such as 16-inch alloy wheels; automatic climate control; power windows, locks and mirrors; cruise control; a power moonroof; a leather-wrapped steering wheel; and a CD player. These items, plus 17-inch wheels, stronger brakes, firmer suspension tuning, a rear spoiler and an in-dash six-disc CD changer come on the Type-S. Leather seats are standard on the Type-S, though you can upgrade the base car's cloth with leather if you so desire.

Powertrains and Performance:
Both the RSX and RSX Type-S feature 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engines. Like most Honda and Acura engines, they are smooth and high-revving. The base RSX puts out 160 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 141 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. For the Type-S, Acura tunes the engine to bring horsepower up to 210 (at 7,800 rpm) and 143 lb-ft of torque. V6-equipped sport coupes like the Hyundai Tiburon GT and Mitsubishi Eclipse GT produce significantly more torque and, as such, are a bit more tractable for city driving than the RSX, but both will have you paying more at the fuel pump. The base RSX comes equipped with either a five-speed manual or an optional five-speed automatic transmission. The automatic features Acura's Sequential SportShift, a special mode that allows the driver to select individual gears quickly by moving the transmission lever into a special gate. The Type-S has an exclusive six-speed manual.

The RSX comes with standard antilock brakes and side airbags, in addition to the federally mandated safety features. In government crash tests, the RSX received five out of five stars for driver and front-passenger protection in a frontal impact. In side-impact tests, it received four stars for front-occupant protection.

Interior Design and Special Features:
Drivers wanting to relax after strafing twisty roads should enjoy the RSX's driver-oriented cockpit, contemporary materials, easy-to-use automatic climate controls and large metallic-faced gauges. Front-seat occupants will be comfortable, but adults sitting in back will find headroom is lacking. The RSX has 17.8 cubic feet of luggage space, about a cube more than an Eclipse or Celica.

Driving Impressions:
Neither engine offers an abundance of torque, and the Type-S motor, in particular, needs to be revved quite high in order to achieve maximum acceleration. The six-speed shifter, however, is quite exemplary in its feel and quickness. On curvy roads, the Type-S feels secure and buttoned down, though the base car is still pretty sporty. The Acura's ride quality is a little on the stiff side compared to a coupe like the Eclipse, but those looking to add a dose of sport to their daily commute will not be disappointed.

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