Jun 21, 2010

2006 Acura RSX Type-S Review


Americans have always been known to have a special bonding to their automobiles, even if it's "just" a commuter we tend to build a special type of relationship with them.  In fact, the auto has a very special place in our day-to-day lives as it is one of only 3 things most of us almost every day along with our phones and computers.

So it should be no surprise that sports-car enthusiasts worldwide have an extra-special affinity for their machines; they tend to do more than just move us from point A to B they're a method of relaxation, competition, an extension of our personalities and all too often our egos for both men and women alike.

But sports-cars are also associated with being high maintenance, high-cost both in purchase price and cost-of-ownership (especially with inflated insurance rates) and not the most practical choice when it comes to doing day-to-day tasks such as getting groceries or even moving around your family and friends.  And so a dyed-in-the-wool sports-car is usually relegated to those who purchase them not for utility or practicality but pure fun and enjoyment; something to brag about, polish on weekends and generally show off and drive "enthusiastically".  But would it surprise you if I said there actually is a sports-car that retains all it's playful fun without sacrificing too much utility?  It exists, albeit in a model no longer being produced by it's manufacturer:  The Acura RSX Type-S.

According to purists a true sports-car is rear-wheel drive, but many make allotments for all-wheel drive cars such as the older Quattro or the newer Impreza WRX STi or Mitsu Lancer Evo.  However by and large there are a majority of cars that qualify as high-performance yet are front-wheel drive, and the RSX is one of these.

The RSX Type-S is an evolutionary model that is deeply rooted in the Honda Civic  Si dating back to 1984.  When Honda Motors launched it's upper-class line, Acura it also took the best qualities of the "Si" Civic and refined them into the Integra.  Later Acura changed both the model name and it's body style and in 2001 introduced the RSX along with it's sportier brother, the "Type-S" model.

Right away the RSX become the darling of the auto industry sweeping awards and accolades left and right all while winning over the buying public, and why not?  It was a affordable in each of it's model years, had a wonderfully simple but logically laid out interior with a smooth running, fuel-efficient 4-cylinder motor and very comfortable seats.

The RSX Type-S added an in-dash six-CD changer, standard leather seating, 17-inch wheels, a more firmly tuned suspension and more powerful brakes. The Type-S also had a four-cylinder engine tuned to produce extra horsepower (200 hp, later increased to 201) and a six-speed, short-throw manual gearbox.  The short-throw shifter in the Type-S is the smoothest, most accurate I've ever experienced in a car that cost less than an M3.

But all the reads more like a typical auto-magazine write up than an actual account from a users perspective, and that my friend, is the real beauty behind this gorgeous machine.  In fact, driving the RSX is a like a marriage between a miserly, gas-sipping econo-box and a tread-tearing, corner-carving F55; put the two together in and what you get is the RSX Type-S.  Literally.

Because the RSX is a 4-cylinder machine - and a Honda design - it's incredibly fuel efficient.  When driven "normally" by a responsible person (as in not having a speed-crazed, never-grew-up teenager in an adult body behind the wheel) you can easily achieve just a tick over 30 MPG.  From a sports-car.  No kidding.  But that doesn't mean there's no oomph to get up and go when that wild hair strikes - which is often when behind the wheel of the Type-S

 Like all 4-cylinder motors and exactly like a Honda CBR-type motor, the RSX Type-S likes to be revved high with it's redline at 8200 rpm and makes most of it's power after 6000 rpm when the VTEC controller kicks in and rips it up all the way to redline at 8200 rpm.  It's a rush that definitely puts you back in the seat and begs you to do it again.  Adrenalin junkies, unite!

But power means nothing if you can't control it and the Type-S with it's improved handling package makes holding a line in the twisties a breeze.  In fact, there were many times that I was up against the likes of an M3 which is world-renowned for it's uber-perfect suspension package and the Type-S held it's own each time - and even allowed a few overtakes - in tight and aggressive cornering.  Of course that same M3 would stand up and walk away from the RSX in a straight line because of the huge horsepower advantage in the BMW but I've never met an M3, or AMG-badged Merc that could out-corner a Type-S RSX.  Or maybe I'm just that good a driver, who knows?

OK, so it's plenty fast, corners exceptionally well and has the potential to sip fuel rather than guzzle it when driven like an old lady.  Is that all?  Not by a long shot.  The other not-so-obvious feature of the RSX is the huge amount of storage space in the rear.  I know what you're thinking, "A sports-car with room for my stuff?"  Yep.  Because it's a hatchback and the rear seat-backs fold down flat with the rear deck you end up with tons more space than any typical trunk in a sedan or even 2-door coupe.  How much space?  Well I don't know the actual cubic feet available but I can give it a more realistic overview:

As you might have gathered from this site my career is all about commercial imaging, both film & video and still photography.  That means when I'm on a shoot I need to carry a ton of equipment with me.  On one particular gig I was able to pack the following in the rear of my RSX Type-S - along with my client in the passenger seat:

-  (2) large Pelican 1650 cases full of equipment
-  EXFX jib
-  Bogen 528XB heavy-duty tripod for the jib
-  P+S Technik Skater dolly in it's case
-  P+S Technik Pro-35 lens adapter in it's case
-  Panasonic HPX500 in it's case w/lens and batteries
-  Smaller Pelican case with a selection of Nikon lenses for the lens adapter
-  (4) Bogen heavy-duty Boom Stands for lights
-  (4) Photoflex large softboxes with cables and light housings
-  Bogen 3251 heavy duty tripod
-  Bogen 529 Hi Hat
-  Bogen 526 Video head
-  A bakers-rack with (2) 42" inch shelves and (4) 36" inch legs to setup the Skater dolly onto
-  (5) 20-lb sandbag weights
-  150lbs of counter-weight for the EXFX jib
-  Various accessories for the camera and audio setup
-  A large blanket to go over all that stuff to keep anything from hitting the rear hatch glass too hard during the trip.

All that plus two humans in the front - in a sports-car!!  Unreal.  All while cruising faster than 80mph and still getting better gas mileage than the minivan I had considered renting for the trip instead.

Not impressed yet?  What if I told you that it always got lots of attention from women and every guy that saw it wanted one, would that impress you?  No?  That's good because although I was always complimented on how clean it was, it certainly never got nearly as much attention as my 2005 Scion XA Release Series 1.0 did!  Now *that* was a girl magnet!  And a story for another review page.

Without any reservation, the 2006 Acura RSX Type-S was the most enjoyable, well-designed, reliable and all-out "funnest" vehicle I've ever owned and I had planned to keep it at a minimum of 10 years.

Sadly, a non-thinking woman driver took my dream car away when she turned left in front of me one sunny day (see pics below).  If I could find another Type-S that was in the same immaculate condition I kept mine in I'd scoop it up in a heartbeat.


A 2-door sports-car no matter how well designed or pragmatic simply isn't for everyone, nor should it be.  But if you're in the market for a used sports-car but don't want to end up with a gas-guzzling, insurance-rate killing over-priced beast then the 2006 RSX Type-S should definitely be in consideration.

The closest thing to this car that's ever been produced was the last generation RX-7, but those aren't fuel efficient and in fact they burn oil (purposely since the rotary engine design requires the extra lubrication) and they were also notoriously unreliable with many dealers calling them "duds" because of all the quirky behaviors.

I haven't looked at used prices recently but I can guarantee you that nothing in the new-car market today can compete with this cars reliability, usability, practicality and overall cost-effective ownership.  And did I mention, it's a hell of a lot of fun to drive?

1 comment:

  1. In comparison to this and the 8th gen Civic si, which one would be better?