- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2002

Acura's all-new replacement for the Integra lineup is the RSX sports coupe it provides a shot of adrenaline to the luxury performance series.

Available in two versions, the sporty RSX and RSX Type S, the two models are fun-to-drive cars that are aimed at the growing enthusiast market.

The test car was the Type S that is provided with a high-output version of the twin-cam, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing a remarkable 200 horsepower and 142 ft./lbs. of torque. This is 40 more horses than the standard RSX.

It is a rev-happy engine that is mated perfectly to a smooth shifting six-speed manual transmission. The combination will provide fun for the enthusiast but if you're looking for a commute car with sporty intentions you're probably better off in the basic RSX. It offers a choice between a 5-speed manual and Sequential SportShift automatic. No automatic is available on Type S models.

Driving the Type S is enjoyable and the six-speed transmission allows the driver to get the most out of the engine. It is quick off the mark with a reported 7.3 second 0 to 60 mph time and a quarter-mile time of 15.7 seconds.

Fuel economy is excellent by sports-car standards. The test car averaged 27.2 mpg in combined city/highway conditions. The EPA rates it at 24 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.

Both the basic and Type S engines are powered by the latest evolution of the auto maker's VTEC technology the advanced, new I-VTEC "intelligent" valve-control system.

The I-VTEC system combines VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) with new VTC (Variable Timing Control), which continuously adjusts camshaft phasing by advancing or retarding the intake cam for enhanced performance across a broad power band in addition to improved fuel economy and reduced exhaust emissions. If you're not a "gearhead" then ignore the above paragraph. It is important because the technology allows both engines to meet stringent Low Emissions Vehicle-II (LEV-II) standards. They are also designed to run 110,000 miles before the first scheduled tune-up.

The car performs well if not brilliantly. Its cornering was excellent but I found the ride somewhat stiff and choppy and bad sections of the highway are quickly relayed to the driver and passengers. It should be pointed out to mute the criticism somewhat is that the Type S features a track-tuned suspension optimized by firmer springs and dampers, a front tower bar and rear performance rod.

On the plus side the four-wheel disc brakes with a three-channel Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) provide secure stopping ability. Type S brakes are larger than on the standard model to match its additional performance capabilities.

A high-mounted rack-and-pinion steering system provides excellent road feedback and tracks well.

Appearance is sporty and features short front and rear overhangs with sweeping curves and sharply chiseled accent lines. It features a signature five-sided Acura Grille. It received mixed reviews from friends to whom we showed the car. Some praised its sporty appearance and others just shrugged.

The cockpit is another story. We found it driver-oriented and easy to use the various controls. The driver and front passenger will find there is ample head, shoulder, hip and leg room. The story is different for the rear seat-passengers. Like most small coupes the rear seat is only for children; adults should take note before agreeing to enter the rear seats.

Type S buyers get perforated leather seating surfaces as standard equipment. It is optional on the base model. Fortunately the rear seats fold down to deliver abundant storage capacity.

Both models offer a long list of standard equipment including an automatic climate-control system, power moon roof, high-output audio system, in-dash CD player, keyless entry system with anti-theft engine immobilizer, power mirrors with an auto-up/down feature on the driver's side. Safety features include both front- and side-impact air bags plus dual seat-belt pretensioners on both front seats and side-impact protection pads.

As mentioned earlier, enthusiasts will appreciate the Type S with its quickness and roadability. The average buyer will probably be happier and slightly richer by sticking to the base RSX.


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