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Change Track: 2005 Acura RSX
    Managing Editor

When it was introduced in mid-2001, the Acura RSX became an instant hit. It was a FWD sports coupe with luxury pretensions that you could easily afford. Characterized by excellent handling, modern styling and solid build quality, the RSX gave the sports-conscious consumer a good amount for his or her money. The fact that this affordable sports coupe also bore the premium Acura nameplate didn't hurt its popularity either.

Three years down the road, the RSX can still hold its own against many of the newer rivals within its segment, as well as those outside, including many of the new four door sport compacts that have showed up on the scene. However, with the rest of the Acura lineup being completely new and fresh (save for the MDX and NSX), the RSX was beginning to look a little tired. Being privy to this, Acura has given the RSX an overhaul for 2005. The exterior modifications are easily recognizable, but what's changed underneath is equally important.

The Exterior
Immediately noticeable from the outset are the new headlamps and tail lamps. The previous RSX's scalloped lighting design treatment, while fresh in 2001, was beginning to look a bit too trendy. In the front, Acura smoothed out these scallops for a cleaner appearance and installed new tri-beam headlamps that look similar to the new RL's assemblies. Unfortunately, the RSX still does not provide HID headlamps as standard or optional equipment, thus being the only vehicle in the Acura lineup to rely solely halogen bulb technology. A new grill, which echoes the current familial design trend, was fitted to the RSX and the lower portion of the front fascia has new rectangular air ducts. In my opinion, the new front end is a little reminiscent of the late CL sports coupe.

In the rear, the scalloped tail lamps have also been smoothed out. A new, taller rear bumper adorns the rear in conjunction with a larger exhaust tip. The rear bumper now incorporates narrow black bumper strip, which don't entirely fit in with the vehicle, in my opinion. The purpose of a strip like this is to reduce visual height or thickness. In this case, the RSX might have been better off looking as substantial as the bumper truly is. The high performance Type-S version also receives a new decklid spoiler as standard equipment. Overall, the new rear is very similar to the current TSX and also shows hints of the late Honda Prelude, circa 2001.

Other changes include larger side sills and standard 17-inch wheels on the Type-S that give the small coupe a more substantial and racy look. The base RSX gets restyled 16-inch wheels, however, and doesn't receive the larger side sills. In the end, I don't know if I agree entirely with the narrow black bumper strip across the back end, but it definitely adds a certain European feel to the vehicle while cutting down visual thickness in the rear. Either way, the new RSX is clearly recognizable as an Acura.

The Interior
The interior has also benefited from some mild updating and refining. Probably at the top of the list of improvements are the new seats. Redesigned with larger side bolsters and thicker cushioning, the new seats simultaneously provide more support and better comfort for longer trips. Other than that, some titanium accents have been scattered around the interior in key areas like the shift boot surround, hand brake and head rests. I'm glad to see that Acura hasn't changed the red instrument lighting, which some have claimed to be "garish". The red lighting is actually very effective as it doesn't inhibit night vision and it also adds to the sporty atmosphere of the car. The RSX still comes standard with luxury features such as automatic climate control, power moonroof, a Bose audio system (on the Type-S), and heated, power side mirrors. The RSX also has optional perforated leather upholstery (standard in the Type-S), but the fabric/pseudo-suede interior in the base model is almost preferable. One feature that is missing, but I think should be included, is heated seats. It's a low cost feature that would make the RSX fit its "luxury sports coupe" title a little better. It's also another feature (along with the HID headlamps) that is present on every other Acura automobile. Other than that, the RSX's interior was and still is an excellent place to conduct the business of driving.

Along with its excellent handling dynamics, the RSX is known for its VTEC equipped 2.0L power plants. Nothing has changed for the base engine, which is still rated at 160 hp and 141 lb-ft. This engine provides for spirited driving and the option of utilizing an automatic for those who require one. The Type-S engine in the previous RSX was a high revving 200 hp / 142 lb-ft. unit that, as long as the engine was kept on the boil, would rocket the RSX to illegal speeds pretty fast. For 2005, Acura has increased the output of this engine by utilizing higher performance cams, and a larger diameter intake and exhaust. The engine now produces 210 hp and 143 lb-ft of torque. While these aren't exactly knock-your-socks-off impressive gains, they are an improvement over an already superbly performing engine. They also push the Type-S engine to 105 hp/Liter - a specific output only surpassed by one other Honda/Acura vehicle; the Honda S2000 roadster.

The base RSX comes standard with a 5-speed manual that provides for smooth shifting. A 5-speed "SportShift" manu-matic transmission is optional only on the base model. The Type-S still comes exclusively with a 6-speed manual transmission. For 2005, the Type-S transmission has benefited from the addition of carbon synchronizers to the 5th and 6th gears, as well as employing a lower final drive ratio that provides for even quicker acceleration off the line. The lower final drive is a definite benefit here, as it also reduces wear and tear on the clutch (less power and clutch slippage is required to get the car moving).

Suspension systems on both the base and Type-S models have been given a host of improvements to provide even more corner-carving performance. The overall geometry of the suspension has been revised, along with firmer dampers and springs, thicker sway bars, re-tuned bushings and a reduced ride height. Even the steering system was updated, benefiting from beefed up components, a quicker ratio and increased steering pump flow. These changes improve the responsiveness of the steering as well as giving the driver a more linear, on-center feel, according to Acura. The brakes also got a little attention in the form of a larger master cylinder, reduced pedal throw and a more rigid feel in the pedal. These improvements collaborate in improved stopping power and allow the driver better brake feel.

The Final Review
These mid-model changes improve an already excellent offering from Acura. It's always good to see a company focused on giving the driver a more refined and in-touch experience with the vehicle. In the years since its original introduction, the RSX has remained pretty much unchallenged in the compact luxury sports coupe segment, save for the Mini Cooper S. However, the Mini still fails to provide the amount of available horsepower that one can get in the RSX. Ironically, I think some stiff competition for the RSX has come from within Honda itself, as well. With the introduction of the redesigned 2003 Accord Coupe, the availability of a 240 hp / 212 lb-ft V6 mated to a 6-speed manual transmission made a tantalizing alternative to the RSX Type-S. In fact, the argument got stronger when you consider that the Accord EX V6 Coupe gave you more standard features and provided more interior room than the RSX, while only demanding a small premium in price. However, since the Accord can't match the sinewy dynamics of the RSX, you could argue that the two cars cater to different consumers, but for those consumers who aren't biased one way or the other, it could represent a tough decision. Regardless, the 2005 RSX builds upon virtues that are typical of Acura: style, value, performance and luxury. The new RSX has all four in spades and should prove to be a continued success for another four model years.

Highly recommended in the compact luxury sport coupe segment

Engine (Type-S), transmission, handling, overall engineering quality, value

Missing a couple key luxury options (HID, heated seats), a little more torque would be nice


Engine:2.0L I4
Transmission:5 Spd Manual
5 Spd Auto
6 Spd Manual
0-60:est. 6.1 Sec Type-S
Horsepower:160/210 hp
Torque:141/143 lb-ft
EPA Rating:27 C Base
34 H Base
27 C Type-S
34 H Type-S
Price:20,175 Base
23,570 Type-S