Here's Why the Acura RSX Type S Is Still Awesome

Here's Why the Acura RSX Type S Is Still Awesome

It might be old, but the Type S can still keep up

  • The RSX replaced the Integra in America in 2001
  • Even after 15 years, the RSX Type S is excellent to drive
  • Uses a naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that puts out more than 200 hp

Remember the Acura RSX? This was Acura's 2002 replacement for its Integra, the small hatchback that helped launch the brand. They were nearly identical when it came to length and wheelbase, but the new RSX was taller, heavier and wider. At the time, Acura enthusiasts bemoaned its absence and cursed the heavens.

But after a recent back-to-back drive of the original Acura Integra Type R and an RSX Type S from its final year of production, I'm convinced that the RSX was a worthy successor. It was cool in its day, but it's even better now, and it deserves a place in automotive history outside of the Integra's shadow.

2006 Acura RSX Type S.

2006 Acura RSX Type S.

Generations of high performance

Acura recently hosted an event and brought out several vehicles from its automotive archives — but these cars weren't just for show. They gave us special access for an afternoon along one of California's most famous roads: Angeles Crest Highway. Typically, automakers invite journalists to drive new and previously undriven vehicles. This event, however, combined vehicles both new and old in what Acura called a Heritage Drive. The lineup included the 2001 CL Type S, 2007 TL Type S, 2006 RSX Type S, 2021 NSX, 2021 TLX A-Spec, 2021 MDX A-Spec and a 2001 Integra Type R. I ruminated over my options and reached for the RSX keys first.

The RSX Type S was plenty powerful in its own right, putting out 201 hp and revving to an astonishing 8,000 rpm. It also had its fair share of game-changing engine tech when it was new. It was the first Acura vehicle to use i-VTEC, an "intelligent" valve-control system that used variable valve timing, and a camshaft phase control system called VTC (variable timing control). All that engineering meant it had a smoother idle, better throttle response at low rpm, and a more consistent power delivery.

Compared to today's crop of much-larger compact cars, the RSX feels nimble, agile and easier to drive than most. It's larger than the Type R, but the fun-to-drive spirit is still there. The seats are still comfortable, the VTEC system still makes fun noises, and the interior still feels upscale, even by 2021 standards.

2006 Acura RSX Type S.

2006 Acura RSX Type S.

Following up on an icon

Acura knows just how much the Integra Type R and its spiritual descendant, the RSX Type S, meant to the automotive world. I don't blame the folks at Acura HQ for wanting to remind us just how special those original Type S vehicles were. But after having my fill of modern Type S vehicles, I couldn't resist a go in the Type R.

Personal note: I've owned a 1996 Acura Integra for more than a decade, driving it daily for years and modifying it constantly. This was my first time driving a Type R, however, and just a short amount of time behind the wheel proved to me the extra worth of this high-performance version. Rev the Type R all the way up to 8,400 rpm and you can scarcely believe that pieces of the engine haven't flown out of the top of the hood. The Type R I drove had a mere 5,500 miles on the odometer so it ran like new, with quick shifts and precise steering that's truly difficult to find in the current batch of high-performance front-drive coupes. If they made the Integra Type R new today, I'd buy two.

2001 Acura Integra Type R.

2001 Acura Integra Type R.

Revving out the VTEC magic

The Type R's horsepower rating of 195 hp might not seem like a lot by today's standards. But when it's coming from a naturally aspirated 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, it feels positively heroic. To put that in context among modern high-tech sports cars, consider the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette — the Edmunds Top Rated Sports Car. The 6.2-liter V8 in the Corvette puts out 490 hp (495 hp with the Z51 package), but if it were using Integra Type R math (108.3 hp per liter) then it would be pushing out more than 670 horses.

Neither the RSX nor the Integra is a halo car like the supercar-beating NSX, but both models made high-performance driving feel much more attainable to average buyers. With high-performance versions like the Type R and the Type S, it felt like you were getting something special. Even though it was a relatively affordable front-wheel-drive coupe, the Type R produced more horsepower per liter than any other naturally aspirated car in the United States before it.

Acura Group.

Acura Group.

Edmunds says

Was driving the RSX Type S as fun as driving the bright yellow museum-kept Type R? Absolutely not. Was it more enjoyable than most FWD hatchbacks or coupes you can buy today? Totally. While it might not fetch crazy prices on secondhand auction sites, the RSX Type S still feels special, and it feels like a worthy successor to the Type R. At the very least, it's an excellent ambassador for Acura's Type S vehicles, including the upcoming TLX Type S. Check back soon for our full review of the new 2022 TLX Type S and see if it has what it takes to live up to the legend.


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