Although it had a relatively short lifespan, the Acura RSX sport coupe holds its ground as a favorite in the tuner community. It remains a fun-to-drive platform for both modification and performance driving.
On April 12, 2001, at the New York International Auto Show, Acura’s executive vice president, Dick Colliver, took the stage to unveil the all-new RSX to the world. He remarked, “The RSX is designed to deliver best-in-class performance, best-in-class luxury and best-in-class features and amenities. The RSX has exactly what today’s youthful, discriminating driving enthusiast is looking for.”
Colliver’s speech continued, “RSX is important to Acura because it will provide us with a gateway to lifetime owner loyalty as young buyers find a home at Acura — and then move up through the product line. Compared to the car it replaces, the RSX is designed to move us further upscale and appeal to those buyers who are in the upper echelons of this market segment.”
Colliver was referring to the beloved Acura Integra, which had been around since the brand’s initial launch in 1986 as an entry-level compact.
The RSX went on sale three months after Colliver’s speech and built strong momentum right out of the gate as a 2002 model year vehicle. Two distinct variants of the RSX were available, including a base model and a sporty Type-S.
Power for both variants came from 2.0-liter K20 DOHC inline-4 motor, with the base producing 160 horsepower and the Type-S producing an even 200. One of the key engineering features of the K20 motor was its intelligent VTEC, which adjusted valve lift, duration and timing for optimized performance throughout the rev range.
The Type-S was only available with a 6-speed manual transmission, while the base could be optioned with either a 5-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual. Both of the initial RSX models used the same 16-inch 5-spoke wheels, although later in life the Type-S was set apart by a set of 17-inch wheels.
Some of the interior appointments varied by trim level, with the base offering cloth seats while the Type-S had perforated leather upholstery. But the list of standard equipment was impressive for its time, including automatic climate control, an in-dash Bose CD player, a power moonroof, power windows and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
A midcycle refresh was applied beginning in model year 2005, when the car received cosmetic changes to the front fascia, side skirts and rear end. New trim materials and gauges were incorporated to the interior and, more importantly, there were updates to the engineering and suspension for improved handling. The Type-S motor received a 10-horsepower bump to 210 total horsepower.
Acura updated the color palette to keep things interesting through the car’s lifespan. One of the hot new colors added to the post-refresh model was called Blaze Orange Metallic. The RSX was discontinued after model year 2006 without a replacement, as the brand’s direction shifted to sedans and crossovers. To this day it remains Acura’s last two-door coupe, and for that reason it is considered by some to be a future collectible.
As a bona fide Acura addict, I have owned more than 40 vehicles from the brand. It was only a matter of time until I acquired an RSX. The opportunity finally presented itself in late 2022, when my neighbor Susan contacted me about letting go of her Satin Silver Metallic 2002 RSX Type-S after 20 years of ownership.
Susan bought the car from Scottsdale Acura in Arizona on June 21, 2002, for $24,158 with 12 miles on the odometer. She asked for dealer-installed window tint and an accessory rear spoiler. That car served her reliably for the next two decades and accrued about 123,000 miles during that time. Aside from a clutch replacement and an air conditioning system overhaul, there were no major needs or surprises.
New life ahead
Cosmetically, though, the car accrued its share of battle scars. The passenger front fender was crunched, the driver rear quarter panel took an impact and the front bumper lower lip was left hanging on for dear life. Remarkably, the ebony leather interior stayed in exceptional condition all those years.
My vision for the new-to-me RSX-S is to bring it back to its former showroom-worthy condition via mechanical and body work. The power steering system is producing some groans, and the motor mounts could probably use a replacement. Still, the car revs and drives just as eagerly as any Honda sports coupe should.
The RSX sales brochure for 2002 reads, “Driving should be more than a way to get places. It should take you to a very particular place. The all-new 2002 Acura RSX is dedicated to this ideal and designed for driving exhilaration you can feel from your fingertips all the way to your toes.”
Many enthusiasts will agree that the Acura design team succeeded in delivering that all-encompassing experience, and I am excited to get to enjoy it even 20 years later. Stay tuned for more as I breathe new life into my 2002 RSX Type-S.
If you are in the market for an RSX — or any fun-to-drive coupe — start your search on KSL Cars.
KSL Cars does not endorse any vehicles. The views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not reflect the views or opinions of KSL.com or its employees.