2005 Acura RSX Type S
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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

With the possible exception of the soon-to-be-discontinued Toyota Celica GT-S, no other compact sporty coupe drives and sounds as much like a racing car as the Acura RSX Type S. From its screaming 2.0 litre i-VTEC twin cam four cylinder engine, to its slick short-throw 6-speed transmission, nimble handling and quick steering, the RSX Type S feels like it could be driven straight off the road onto the track without embarrassment.

I’m sure some of you are wondering, “What about the Dodge SRT-4 or Subaru WRX or WRX STi?” Yes, they could be driven straight onto the track as well, but frankly, the RSX Type S feels like a better-engineered car. My seat-of-the-pants impression is that the RSX Type S is more solidly built than those cars, more precise, more refined, and more durable. But it’s also different. The SRT-4 is a rough and ready performance sedan, while the WRX and STi are all-wheel-drive rally intenders. The RSX Type S is like a Honda CBR with four wheels: a lightweight, super high-revving performance machine that extracts the most from minimal resources (its leather upholstery and automatic climate control notwithstanding).

Changes for 2005


2005 Acura RSX Type S

2005 Acura RSX Type S
Click image to enlarge

Though the 2005 Acura RSX Type S looks the much the same as the 2004 Type S, it has undergone many subtle changes.

A mild styling update includes new triple-beam headlights for improved illumination, a new grille, and rectangular air ducts. As well, the side sills are more substantial, there’s a new rear spoiler, new taillights, bumper, and a larger diameter exhaust tip.

Most of the changes are mechanical upgrades and refinements. Horsepower on the Type S is up to 210 from 200 due to engine and exhaust system modifications: new high performance camshafts, a larger diameter intake duct, and a larger diameter exhaust pipe and free-flowing catalytic converter. The 2.0 litre 4 cylinder engine with i-VTEC (“intelligent” Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) now develops 210 horsepower at @ 7800 rpm and 143 lb.-ft. @ 7000 rpm, up from 200 hp @ 7400 rpm and 142 lb-ft. @ 6000 rpm in 2004.

Maximum horsepower at 7800 rpm is impressive, but I can’t think of another car that develops maximum torque at 7000 rpm! And the redline is 8100 rpm! That gives you some idea of the racy nature of this engine.

For comparison, note that the base RSX model with a 2.0 litre VTEC 4 cylinder engine develops 160 hp @ 6500 rpm and 141 lb.-ft. @ 4000 rpm, and has a redline of 6800 rpm. Oh, and the base engine takes Regular gas, but the Type S needs Premium.

Unlike the Type S which is available only with a six speed manual transmission, the base RSX is available with a 5-speed automatic transmission as well as a 5-speed manual. As I’ve said before, the base RSX is a better car for typical around-town driving because it’s more responsive at lower revs and is available with an automatic transmission. The RSX Type S is the ‘boy racer’.

For ’05, improvements were made to the Type S’ 6-speed manual transmission to improve shift feel, although it hardly needed it: the final drive ratio was lowered for quicker acceleration and shift feel was improved courtesy of new carbon synchronizers on fifth and sixth gears.

2005 Acura RSX Type S

2005 Acura RSX Type S
Click image to enlarge

As well, the suspensions on both RSX models (front MacPherson strut and rear double-wishbone) were revised with firmer shock absorber settings, thicker stabilizer bars, and inversely wound front coil springs that neutralize unwanted steering input caused by spring windup. On the Type-S the front shock bushings were replaced by bearings for smoother steering response. The Type-S features firmer springs and shocks, a front strut tower bar, and a rear performance rod.

Not to be forgotten in the handling equation are new Michelin Pilot 215/45VR-17 inch all-season high-performance tires mounted on new 17 x 7-inch alloy wheels.

Braking was also improved for 2005, with a larger diameter master cylinder and reduced pedal stroke for improved braking feel. Four-wheel disc brakes with a three-channel anti-lock braking system are standard. As well, the Type S’ rack-and-pinion power steering system was enhanced with a quicker steering ratio and a more rigid steering column.

Inside, changes are minimal: better front seats with larger side bolsters and a thicker seat cushion, and trendy titanium-look trim was added to the shifter, hand brake, and head restraints.



Driving impressions

You’ve heard the high-pitched wail of Formula race-car engines: well the RSX Type S is similar. The high-revving engine in the Type S sounds like a hive of angry hornets: the harder you press the gas pedal, the angrier they get. It’s an exciting sound, and in combination with the Type S’ excellent brakes, slick transmission and nimble handling, driving the Type S becomes more of an experience than a ride.

2005 Acura RSX Type S
Click image to enlarge

To get decent performance, you need to rev the engine high as torque isn’t great at lower revs. When accelerating normally in city traffic, but you may have to make more gear changes, but it’s not onerous. When cruising on the freeway, the Type S is pleasantly subdued, the engine turning over 3000 rpm at 100 km/h in sixth gear, and 3600 rpm at 120 km/h – less than half its top engine speed.

The 6-speed manual tranny has easy, short shifts, and must be one of the best shifters on the market. The shift knob itself features a smooth surface on the back where it meets the palm, and a rougher surface on the front side for improved grip with the fingers. Somebody’s been thinking!

The whole car has a quality feel on the road and absorbs bumps well. The ride is a bit stiff, but handling is great with mild understeer. The biggest problem you’ll have is keeping the front wheels from breaking loose when accelerating hard – there is no traction control.

Another quibble – its 11.6 metre (38 ft.) turning circle is too wide for a compact car.


Interior impressions


2005 Acura RSX Type S

2005 Acura RSX Type S
Click image to enlarge

The RSX Type S is well equipped, as it should be for $33,000. Automatic climate control, Acura/Bose stereo with 6-disc in-dash CD changer, leather upholstery, heated front seats, power heated mirrors, power windows with an auto-up/down feature, and leather- wrapped steering wheel are all standard.

I liked the attractive, sporty, ergonomic dash layout. The silver-faced gauges are backlit in red at night, as are the radio and heater controls. The centre dash area protrudes outwards and is angled towards the driver for easier reach, and the dials have a nice, expensive feel when turned.

The RSX’s fabulous perforated leather sport seats have excellent side support, integral head restraints, and multiple adjustments including cushion height adjustment. Two seat heater buttons are buried under the centre console, and there’s a clever two-way sliding storage area that reveals a storage tray or two cupholders. There’s also a handy 12 volt powerpoint for on-the-go charging.

2005 Acura RSX Type S
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To make it easier for rear occupants to get in, the right front passenger seat will slide forwards when you flips the backrest forward, and automatically slide back to its original position. The two rear seats are separated by a centre storage bin, and for adults, offer adequate legroom but headroom is marginal. In fact, the rear passengers sit right under the rear window.

With its hatchback bodystyle, the RSX is a surprisingly practical car for transporting cargo. With the split rear seatbacks folded and the privacy cover removed, I was able to fit 16 cardboard storage boxes in the trunk (see photo) and close the hatch.

2005 Acura RSX Type S
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My major complaint with the RSX’ interior is the poor visibility to the right rear when changing lanes (see photo). The thick rear C-pillar and the front passenger seat head restraint block visibility when attempting to change lanes. I did like the standard rear wiper/washer that assists rear visibility in bad weather.

Another criticism with the interior is that the steering wheel tilts, but doesn’t telescope, so it’s not always possible to see the instruments. As well, interior storage space is limited. The sliding tray in the centre is shallow, and there’s nowhere to store larger items like cameras and tissue boxes.

2005 Acura RSX Type S
Click image to enlarge

Standard safety features include dual-stage front airbags and front side airbags.

Canadian manufacturer’s suggested retail prices for the RSX line-up are: RSX ($24,900), RSX Premium ($26,900), RSX Premium with leather ($28,500), and RSX Type S ($33,000).

In the U.S.A, the RSX Type S retails for U.S.$23,670, which works out to about Can.$29,000 at current exchange rates – which begs the question: why are Canadians paying $4,000 more?


Technical Data: 2005 Acura RSX Type S

Base price $33,000
Freight $1,050
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $34,150
Type 2-door, 4-passenger compact coupe
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel drive
Engine 2.0 litre 4 cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves, i-VTEC
Horsepower 210 hp @ 7800 rpm
Torque 143 lb.-ft. @ 7000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Tires P215/45VR-17 Michelin Pilot 4 all-season high-performance
Curb weight 1288 kg (2840 lb.)
Wheelbase 2570 mm (101.2 in.
Length 4380 mm (172.4 in.)
Width 1724 mm (67.9 in.)
Height 1394 mm (54.9 in.)
Cargo capacity 453 litres (16.0 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 10.4 L/100 km (27 mpg) Imperial gallons
  Hwy: 7.0 L/100 km (40 mpg) Imperial gallons
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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