Page 1: Intro
Individuality is commonly expressed through automotive purchases. Take the typical mid-life crisis, for example. After years of commuting to work and taking the family on vacation in a common sedan or boring minivan, some people feel the need to proclaim a newfound sense of self with the latest sports car or convertible. Or maybe you know the owner of the “misunderstood” Pontiac Aztek. The Aztek’s beauty is definitely in the eye of its beholder, one who likely chooses the path less traveled more often than not, unflinching at the judgments passed by the masses.
For those of you interested in expressing your inner self through a tool more exciting than a Ford Taurus and less flashy than a Hummer H2, may we suggest the 2005 Acura RSX Type-S. With a conservative design hiding a high-revving powerplant, the RSX promises to attract attention when you want it, or to play the perfect wallflower when you don’t.
Page 2: Lineup
Performance junkies will want the Acura RSX Type-S, and it’s what we used to cover hundreds of miles of highway, mountain passes and rain-soaked city streets during our road test. Priced at just over $24,000, the Type-S adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport suspension, larger front brakes, a low profile rear spoiler and ground effects, a Bose sound system with a six-disc in-dash CD changer and subwoofer, a six-speed manual transmission, and 50 extra horsepower.
Page 3: Changes
More significant are the updates to the stuff you can’t see. Our Type-S featured an upgraded strut tower brace to stiffen the front end for sharper steering response and a stronger engine. To extract 10 additional horsepower for 2005, Acura tweaked the Type-S version’s camshafts and bolted on a freer-flowing exhaust system. These modifications bump horsepower up to 210 at 7,800 rpm (it was 200 at 7,400 rpm in 2004) and the torque rating squeaks up one lb.-ft. to 143, but the peak is now reached among the clouds at 7,000 rpm (compared to 6,000 rpm in 2004). Not only is power peaking higher than before, which requires harder driving to extract maximum performance, but also a lower final drive ratio that helps to preserve the RSX’s fuel economy rating (24 city and 31 highway) makes it harder to take advantage of the extra power.
If the power upgrade seems to be a wash, rest assured that all 2005 Acura RSX models feature improved brakes, more responsive steering, beefier stabilizer bars and firmer suspension settings for an overall boost to performance. Additionally, a reinforced body structure and more sound deadening material reduce noise, vibration, and harshness. Considering that maximum power is reached at a redline so high that it almost makes your ears pop, more sound deadening material is always welcome.
Page 4: Exterior
Problems with exterior build quality are rarely an issue with the Acura vehicles we test, and this example was pretty much on par. We noticed a slightly misaligned rear hatch and front windshield moldings that were a little loose, but otherwise the body panels, lights, and molding all fit tightly together.
Page 5: Materials
Our test car was a pre-production model, so the few quality glitches we found inside the RSX aren't likely to represent true production versions sold at the dealership. However, we did take issue with several design gaffes. The material used on the dash gave it a high-quality look, but the door armrests were constructed of a lower-quality, hard plastic. That's a great setup for those seeking either numbness or an unpleasant throbbing sensation in their forearms, but the use of a softer plastic or padding would placate the rest of us. Offering a center armrest would be a nice addition, too. Lastly, with the rear hatch raised, the protruding latch can catch taller people in the head if they aren’t careful.
Minor design complaints aside, our overall impression of the RSX remains positive.
Page 6: Interior
The front seats offer plenty of support, for both your back and thighs. However, given the narrow cushions and relatively short seat bottoms, larger adults might feel somewhat confined. The rear bucket seats were surprisingly comfortable and nicely contoured, and were relatively easy to enter and exit thanks to a passenger-side easy entry feature. With lots of foot room underneath the front chairs, taller rear seat occupants shouldn’t complain even if their legs rub up against the soft cloth seatbacks. Tilt your head under the rear hatch glass and you’ll even find some extra headroom, but those with thinning hair might want to pack some sun block for long trips.
There’s plenty of room in the 2005 Acura RSX for inanimate cargo, too. A few rubber-lined slots can be found in the center console, and each door includes both small and large storage pockets. There are five cupholders, two in front and three in back, but be warned that the Keg O’Cola from the late night drive-thru may not fit. Rear seat passengers get small storage cubbyholes, a fairly useless tray dividing the seats and a map pocket on the back of the front passenger seat. The 50/50 folding seat is a cinch to use, and expands cargo space to 16 cubic feet.
Page 7: Driving
Gratefully, you don’t have to drive the RSX hard to enjoy it. In routine highway driving, the ride is quiet and smooth. The steering is responsive with virtually no play, so you grip the sporty leather-wrapped wheel without making constant course corrections. And while you may think that shifting through six gears in traffic may be tedious, we were pleased to find that the revised final-drive ratio in the Type-S allows you to stay in the higher gears even at lower speeds. Rolling along in sixth at 45 mph may seem odd, but it works just fine in the 2005 Acura RSX Type-S. The shift knob is a good size, and moves through the gears with very little effort. The same can be said for the clutch – it is very easy to depress and modulate, so the chances of getting a sore calf muscle or stalling are minimized. Disc brakes, solid in the rear and vented in the front to dissipate heat, are also easy to modulate and didn’t exhibit any fade during our testing. Although the C-pillar is fairly thick, visibility is decent for a hatchback, provided you make use of rearview mirrors.
For days not devoted to commuting or grocery shopping, pushing the RSX to its limits is entertaining, too. In fact, that’s when this car is the most fun. On the isolated mountain roads north of Los Angeles, we exercised the Type-S to see what it could do. Blazing up and down twisty roads, diving hard into the corners, jumping on the brakes – nothing we did could ruffle this bird’s feathers. Through fast turns, the steering provided excellent feedback, body roll was almost non-existent and the grippy 17-inch Michelin tires didn’t make a sound. By keeping the revs up, the engine’s 210 horses are always ready to play and those beefy seat bolsters keep drivers firmly planted. Impressively, despite the flogging in the mountains, our test RSX Type-S returned an average of 25.8 mpg during the week we drove the car.
Page 8: Wrap-Up
Page 9: FAQs
One thing is cargo space. The RSX offers 16 cubic feet and has the versatility of a hatch, whereas many competing models offer a trunk with less room. Also, the RSX provides a 4-year/50,000 mile warranty coupled with Acura customer service at the dealership.
Are significant rebates available on the RSX?
Acura hasn’t jumped on the rebate bandwagon so far. Occasionally, the company will offer low-rate financing or dealer incentives, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll find a big rebate on any Acura product any time soon. However, RSX models have done very well with resale value, so while the purchase price may be higher, what you get out of it at trade-in time will likely compensate for the initial expense. This also makes the RSX a good candidate for leasing, since a higher residual value translates to lower lease payments.
Page 10: Notes
Base Price: $24,140
Type-S: Manual: 24/31 mpg
Engine: 210-horsepower, 2.0-liter DOHC i-VTEC inline four-cylinder
Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission
Wheelbase: 101.2 in.
Front head/hip/legroom: 37.8/51.1/43.1
Weight: 2,840 lbs
Competitors: Chevrolet Cobalt SS Supercharged, Chrysler Sebring Coupe, Dodge Stratus Coupe, Ford Mustang, Honda Accord Coupe, Honda Civic Si, Mazda RX-8, Mercedes-Benz C230 K Sport Coupe, MINI Cooper, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Saturn Ion Red Line, Scion tC, Toyota Camry Solara, Toyota Celica, Volkswagen GTI, Volkswagen New Beetle
Model: 2005 Acura RSX
Price: $20,175 (m/t): $21,075 (a/t)
Std Features: 160 horsepower engine, 16-inch alloy wheels, power mirrors/locks/windows, power moonroof, CD player, cloth upholstery, climate control, keyless entry, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, rear window wiper and defroster
Model: 2005 Acura RSX with Leather
Price: $21,250 (m/t): $22,150 (a/t)
Std Features: Leather upholstery replaces cloth
Model: 2005 Acura RSX Type-S
Std Features: 210-horsepower engine, six-speed manual transmission, sport suspension, leather upholstery, Bose sound system with six-disc CD changer and subwoofer, rear spoiler and lower body accents
Photos by Erik Hanson