In July, Acura invited a group of journalists to Ohio to introduce the new Factory Performance (FP) package for the RSX Type-S. During this event we were able to drive the FP RSX on the road, on the dragstrip, and through a slalom course. The event culminated with a day of hot laps at the Mid-Ohio race track, though unfortunately we were driving the Mid-Ohio school cars (modified RSX Type-S) and not the FP RSX cars.
For your hard earned $4800 (estimated retail, + installation), Acura provides the following enhancements to your 2003 RSX Type S (the kit won't start selling until Spring of '03).
- High performance, track-tuned shocks and springs
- Slotted Brake Rotors and performance brake pads
- LIghtweight 17x7.5 inch alloy wheels
- High performance tires (225/45VR17)
- Factory performance rear wing spoiler (same as JDM Integra Type R)
- Under body spoiler kit
- Metallic look interior trim kit
- Factory Performance shift knob (similar to S2000 Ti knob)
- Factory Performance badging
Some people might scoff at coughing up nearly 50 Benjamins for a package that (on the surface) seems to lean more heavily towards the appearance side of the upgrade equation than the performance side. If you're like me, you might like to save a few bucks and forgo the extroverted add-ons such as the spoiler and ground effects, but once you have a look at the car, you might change your mind. It really does give the RSX a much-needed boost in visual appeal. I overheard more than a few journalists poking fun at the car when they first laid eyes upon it, only to start changing their tune as the day wore on. Many were even starting to pay it compliments. Overall I too grew to appreciate the styling enhancements. Furthermore, as Acura's own presentation slides tell the tale, the majority of the marketplace dwells in the realm of "under $3000" upgrades, but there are still a number of folks who spend between $3-5k on mods, and this is the market they want to address first. Acura feels that folks in this particular slice of the marketplace are more discriminating when it comes to quality, and they value the security of a full factory warranty. To hedge their bets, Acura plans to limit the offering to 1000 buyers.
On the performance side of the equation, several key areas were addressed. As you'll read in our review of the standard issue RSX Type S (coming soon!), the OEM tires have proven to be quite limited in their abilities, so an upgrade in this department is a no-brainer. With an extra 20 mm of width at each of the 4 contact patches, wrapped around attractive 17" alloy wheels, the tires suddenly become contributors rather than detractors. These Yokohama AVS ES100 tires (subject to change) provide a significant upgrade in overall grip, while minimizing the usual drawbacks that wide, low profile tires generally bring to the table. That is to say that I didn't notice much in the way of increased road noise, tramlining/groove tracking, or any significant degradation in ride quality. In fact, with the more buttoned down suspension, I actually preferred the ride/handling tradeoff of this car over the standard RSX Type S. The FP setup just felt "right", much like the previous generation Integra Type R. Speaking of the suspension, great strides have been made here as well. By dropping the ride height around an inch, and stiffening the dampers and springs for both compression and rebound, the RSX (which was already quite athletic) has been transformed into a bona fide road carver. The third "performance" area that was addressed were the brakes. We found the standard brakes to be fairly competent for most street driving, only to be ultimately limited by the OEM 16" tires. With the FP kit, the rotors are swapped for slotted units (perhaps more for aesthetics than anything else), and a performance compound is specified for the brake pads. At the time of our preview drive, the actual compound that would be used was still somewhat up in the air, and the FP guys were looking for feedback from our group. The brakes seemed to work fine, yet the pads did squeal a bit.
I drove the FP car for approximately 30 miles on public roads, and it was quite a rewarding experience. This is not enough time behind the wheel to form a complete opinion, but we can draw a few initial impressions from it. During my time behind the wheel, I had the opportunity to pitch it through a couple of cloverleaf onramps, and I came away very impressed with how well the car stuck to the road. Ohio roads are not known to be billiard table smooth, yet the FP car coped exceedingly well with surface irregularities, even mid corner. As mentioned earlier, ride quality was quite good, better in fact than you might expect in a car possessing this level of handling capability. I also drove the car down the dragstrip and several times through a slalom course. As you'll read in our review of the RSX Type-S, the stock suspension is not well designed for drag strip launches. Hard launches result in lots of axle hop and engine wind-up (it was really cranking hard on the mounts). Unfortunately, the FP setup doesn't seem to do anything to improve matters here. The slalom was a different matter altogether, however. Compared to the standard RSX Type S, the FP setup exhibited almost zero body roll, and it rotated willingly around each of the cones. The only peculiar trait of the FP treatment that I could detect was the steering feel, which was sort of chewy, for lack of a better term. It felt somewhat slow, and a bit numb. That didn't stop me from putting up fairly solid numbers through the slalom (around 6/10ths quicker than the standard Type S, in my case, and within a tenth of my best effort in King Motorsports' Mugen RSX, which featured a $4000+ Moton double-adjustable spring/shock setup), so it may just be an issue with personal preference. Whatever the case, we plan to spend more time with this car in the near future, and will provide more details on the steering feel at that point.
You may be interested to hear a bit about the pedigree of the FP package. The individual responsible for this setup is Makato Tamamura. You may not be familiar with Mr. Tamamura, but he played a heavy role in the development of the NSX's chassis and suspension, which is universally recognized as one of the finest handling systems in the world. Mr Tamamura's current day job is with Honda Access Tochigi, Honda's Accessory division for the Japanese Domestic Market. For his moonlighting assignment, Mr. Tamamura was tasked with developing a kit which would bridge the gap between the RSX Type-S setup, and the over-achieving JDM Integra Type R. We haven't driven a DC5 Type-R (yet), but I came away with the sense that Mr. Tamamura designed the kit to be tuned much closer to the Type-R end of the scale than the Type-S. I can't imagine there being much more room for improvement in a fully streetable setup. The FP setup is that good.
Currently, the Factory Performance division of Acura Parts has no plans to offer any engine upgrades, though we may see something on the order of a cat-back exhaust system at some point. In our book, a cat-back is more of an aesthetic enhancement than a performance piece, so this doesn't really count. We at the TOV would love to see some factory-authorized high-performance engine upgrades to go along with this excellent suspension/appearance package.