I figured it would be really easy to address my gripes. All Acura had to do was federalize the Japanese Market Integra Type R, and everything would be set right.
While those dreams will remain unrealized for 2005, Acura has pretty much addressed the key areas of concern. As you already know, the new motor (now labeled K20Z1) has been fitted with several Type R bits, and packs 10 more ponies and a few more lb-ft of torque under the hood. That's all well and good, but a larger concern for me was how the new car was going to deliver the power. After driving the Integra Type R, the extra 20hp at the top of the rev range was certainly impressive, but the truly lustworthy aspect of it was the tremendous advantage in grunt it holds over the K20A2 at the lower and midrange rpms. THIS is what I was really hoping to see improved in the 2005 model, and Acura has pretty much delivered the goods, but thanks to a couple hundred pounds of additional mass (vs. the ITR) it obviously doesn't quite have the snap of the ITR, but it feels quite a bit stronger than the '02-'04 RSX-S. To help it along, the '05 RSX-S runs the same final drive ratio as the ITR, but it seems that the torque has indeed been fortified in the low and midrange rpms. The dyno test (on the page that follows) provides corroborating evidence.
One of the things about the previous model RSX Type-S was that it had this peculiar knack of disguising its rate of acceleration. Nothing illustrated that better for me than driving it side by side with something that provided a tremendous sense of thrust, in our case it was a 260hp 6-speed Acura CL. During our weeklong combo test two summers ago, the RSX-S we had felt almost doggish in comparison to the CL Type-S, yet once the cars were underway, the RSX-S would put up a great fight. The CL's big advantage was really in the launch, aided largely by its limited slip differential (ooh, another sore RSX-S topic - we *still* don't get one here). But this new car is different. While it may not show much (if any) advantage in published 0-60 times (thanks to gearing so short that you now have to shift twice just to reach 60mph), perhaps far more important from a subjective standpoint is how quick this new RSX feels. It's simply a blast to rip up through the gears, and it even sounds a little better now too. Honda engineers were unable to match the smooth sound of the K20A, but much of the boominess of the K20A2 has gone away, and the K20Z1 now carries a deeper overall tune. The overall sound is still closer to the K20A2's than I had hoped, but it is indeed improved.
At this point, we've only had the car for a couple of days, so I haven't had the opportunity to really challenge the chassis, but from the driving I have done, it's definitely polished off many of the rough edges of the '02-'04 models. Body roll in particular seems to have been at least halved, while ride quality doesn't seem to have suffered at all. This leads to a dramatic improvement in overall poise. The car now wears (Type-R sized) 215/45ZR17 tires and lateral grip is quite a bit better than before, but the car still comes up a bit short in terms of longitudinal grip, particularly when it comes to hard braking. We understand that MOST drivers are better off with nice all season tires, but there should still be a low-cost option for performance tires. This is a "sports car", after all. The 5-spoke wheels must be reasonably light, as the wheel and tire combo tilted the scales to the tune of 41.0lbs, a reasonable figure. For a point of comparison, the similarly sized wheel and tire combo on the TSX requires additional postage for nearly 6 more lbs. For now, that's all we can really tell you about the chassis. Once we have the opportunity to challenge it more, we'll share more of our impressions, but at this point things are looking really good.
Overall refinement has been improved incrementally, but there's still a bit of engine rumble at freeway speeds. Wind noise and suspension noise are well controlled, but tire noise is moderate. The 2005 RSX's gearbox is said to have been enhanced for 2005 (with changes similar to those seen on the 2004 S2000's gearbox), and indeed gearchanges are quite excellent. While I wouldn't say that the earlier gearboxes were vague, the precision of the 2005 gearbox seems better with similar (light) weight feel. Gearchanges are smooth and can be executed quite quickly. I am glad that Acura didn't "enhance" the motor with an electronic throttle body - the instantaneous response of the mechanical linkage makes driving and shifting that much more fun. Seat comfort remains quite good, though I would like to be able to raise the front of the bottom cushion a bit more. The interior trim revisions are nice, but I really wish they would have retired the red dash lighting. It just doesn't provide adequate contrast for nighttime legibility.
See the results of our dyno test on the next page.