I have had the privilege of driving the Acura RSX Type S for the past year and always have had mixed feelings about it. Such a car that contains every type of trait that a passenger car can possess creates such a feeling. This car is marketed towards the younger crowd for sure with its high revving 200hp engine and extremely sporty looking exterior that will turn heads at any local movie theater, high school, or mall. If analyzed more deeply, you will discover an extremely well rounded type of sports car that should be anything but near extinction.
My initial feeling about this car is that it’s the watered down version of the Japanese DC5 Integra Type R. After complaining about how us Americans always get the halfway models of previous foreign cars I looked at the car’s stance and started to warm up to it. Then I started to think about what I intend to do with the car; drive to school, drive to work, hit up some winding roads, a little solo autox, and realized that the Type R would be too much of a hardcore vehicle for my taste because after all, I am an American living in the tri state area which isn’t always the most pure sports car friendly environment to live in. As stated, it has some traits from all different types of cars. A luxurious but sporty interior, a high revving motor that is only unleashed with aggression, attainable 32 mpg fuel consumption rating, track inspired chassis and suspension geometry, and a racy but mature exterior that is kid tested and mother approved.
Living in New Jersey, I feel that this is really the best testing grounds for any type of car. We have every type of situation and weather that you can think of for an automobile. On a typical driving day you may go though an open mountain road, fast moving 4 lane traffic, and total gridlock which can leave you with a soar clutch foot. I feel that if I can have fun and feel safe in a car like this in the middle of the state with the most vehicles per square mile in the US, than anyone else in the world will feel the same way. If you disagree with that statement just look at NJ car insurance ratings compared to the rest of the US and you will understand what I mean.
With this type of car, being the six speed successor to the older DC2 Integra that the youngsters deeply cherished, it is safe to say that it is probably a car that is being purchased by the parent and driven by the son. When looking at a picture of this machine, with its low stance, high wing, and bullet like front end, a parent can only be skeptical and worried about what their child intends to do with this car. The car’s character can be seen as somewhat bipolar, having a practical side that can get to school and work in most weather conditions with its FF layout and sip gas with its cute little ULEV 4 cylinder engine. The other side being the beast that comes out when the young man decides to let the revs go and make some new friends by scaring the crap out of them on that winding road right next to the police station down town. I would stress to the parents that are looking at this machine as your young one’s new ride to make sure that he has the common sense and discipline that is required to drive something like this. If you look at your child and you don’t see the responsibility that is required to drive such a machine, then just say “no” and save a life. Let’s be honest, speed is addicting, but if it were really a drug, these lightweight cars with Vtec power plants could be considered the dealers that get the young ones hooked for life. In a car like this, there is a fine line between harmless fun and blatant danger that must be recognized by whoever sits in the cockpit.
Now with the knowledge of what this car is intended to be all about and who will probably be driving the car it is time to give to my overall driving impression. Highway cruising is not the easiest because of the stiff chassis and racy suspension geometry with limited stroke. I found myself constantly making small steering adjustments just to stay in a straight line on imperfect roads. The steering also picks up a great deal of road distraction on roadways with imperfections. On flat ground, the car feels planted and invincible at just about all speeds, but where there are bumps and gaps I would advise to put the coffee back in the cup holder because the suspension hops quite a bit making the driver a little nervous and concentrated. In retrospect this is better than cars that make you fall a sleep at the wheel also causing problems. The 6th gear is great from about 60 mph on, this way you can get that 32 mpg and be high enough in the RPM band to actually pass someone without having to drop a gear or two. The cars gear ratios from 1st to 4th are just close enough to keep you in the upper Vtec zone of about 6000 rpm to the rev limit of 8000 rpm during highly spirited driving while the 6th gear (probably overdrive gear) is really there for high mph and mpg cruising.
Winding roads are a joy and is really where the beast comes out when you start to attack the corners. With brakes that are strong and well balanced, a stiff chassis, wide and sticky tires, heavy and responsive steering, and suspension that is firm but street able, the RSX S has all of the credentials of a pure sports car. The ABS can be a little strong in poor conditions but the well set brake balance allows you to brake deeply into a corner without under steering on dry roads. So with a little common sense, it’s an extremely controllable machine at speeds that most people would think are insane. The 8000 rpm rev limit and the high RPM power band give you a uniquely stronger feeling 200hp because you are getting it at those high revs where the throttle response is stronger. Let me tell you, feathering the throttle through a corner with that kind of response makes this car feel like an NA 2 liter that can take on the world. This power plant makes you forget everything about those “no replacement for displacement” thoughts because this responsive and light weight engine give you a harmonious driving experience and not to mention handling performance.
In conclusion, this machine is no doubt an impressive oddity because it’s a car that strives to be used by a broad crowed, but is only recognized only by a relatively small group. In America, this is just about the most raw, hardcore Honda/Acura you can buy because of its strong character that most vehicles under 30k seem to lack. It’s an admirable piece of engineering because the compromises that were made for us from the Type R in Japan were thought of in just the right places, which should make it desirable for pretty much anyone that is willing drive a manual transmission. The fate of these types of cars in America is definitely in the hands of the young people. I feel that as long as models like this continue to stimulate the young crowd with their excitement, practicality, and attainable pricing, America’s hot hatches will have a fighting chance for survival.