Last year, Acura debuted the second generation TSX. The small “near luxury” 4-door sedan is a bit larger than its predecessor, and features crisp handling characteristics and sporting performance from its 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder motor that puts out 201-hp and 172 ft- lbs of torque. It’s a nice little package for a car that lists in the $30,000 to $33,000 range.
|1. New for 2010, the TSX is now offered with a V6 engine with 280-hp and 254 ft-lbs of torque, enabling a 0-60 mph time of 6.0 seconds.
2. Fuel economy is rated at 18/27 mpg (city/highway), compared to 21/30 mpg for the 4-cylinder.
3. Setting V6 models apart visually is a set of 18-inch wheels.
4. Pricing starts at $34,850 for V6 models, with 4-cylinders priced from $29,310.
This year, the big change is that the TSX is now available with the 3.5-liter 24-valve VTEC V6 engine, the same engine offered on the larger base TL model. The V6 puts out 280-hp and 254 ft-lbs of torque, which can push the TSX from zero to 60 in 6 seconds flat. That’s strong performance to be sure, but the added power and weight to the front wheel drive sedan produces a disquieting amount of torque steer. And there are some flat spots in the power delivery as you push the tach needle to its 6800rpm redline. Still, the V6 fuel economy is a respectable 18-mpg city, 27-mpg highway – which isn’t too much of a sacrifice from the 4-bangers 21/30 mpg rating.
The V6’s handling suffers a bit over the 4-cylinder model, despite the beefed-up front suspension. There is noticeable understeer in hard cornering, and the heavier V6 isn’t as tossable as the 4-banger.
The brakes were a little disappointing too, with a sloppy feel in the first inch or so of pedal travel, but once into the grab zone, they are effective in bringing the car down from speed.
The 5-speed automatic transmission has a Sport mode that uses paddle shifters – right side for upshifts, and left side for downshifts. The system works well, and the shifts are fairly immediate. I do wish all manufacturers would adopt the Ford system, however, where either side paddle shifter can upshift or downshift.
Like many such transmissions, when in Drive mode, a tap on the paddle shifter will either upshift or downshift from the gear you’re in, resuming to automatic shifting when the tachometer reaches the rpm where it normally shifts.
The ride quality can feel a bit harsh at times over broken pavement. Some of that is due to the 18-inch wheels with low profile tires, and to the fact that the suspension is tuned for a sporty ride. The upside is very flat cornering, and despite the understeer, the car gives the driver a confident feeling when hustling through the twisties. On smoother roads and highway speeds, the ride is quite comfortable.
The electromechanical power steering can use some sorting out. On a straight stretch of highway, it seems like the driver needs to correct the steering wheel a bit more than usual. Still, steering response feels immediate, and the driver gets good feedback.
The exterior styling is typical of Acura and Honda, handsome, without being overly stylish. There isn’t much that differentiates the 4-cylinder model from the 6 either, except a V6 badge and the 18-inch wheels.
Inside, the cabin is nicely laid out. There are two large dials for the speedometer and tachometer, with an information screen between them. Those dials are trimmed with brushed aluminum. The dash materials are soft with a nice graining to them. There is no analogue clock, which has become the cliché for automakers signaling that this is an upscale model. The cabin is more techo-rich looking than cozy luxury looking.
The perforated leather seats are comfortable and are heated. They are wide enough for all-day comfort, and with enough bolstering to hold you in place when you feel like driving aggressively.
The steering wheel is a bit cluttered with redundant controls for the stereo, as well as cruise control, phone controls, voice command controls, and toggle switch for the information screen.
The center stack is nicely laid out and easy to use. Good storage throughout the cabin including a nice size glove box, door pockets, and center console with USB port, MP3 jack, and power outlet. I needed a search party, however to find the tilt steering wheel lever, which is located waaaay down beneath the steering column.
Rear seat legroom is tight if the driver needs to push the seat all the way back on its track, but headroom and shoulder room for the rear 2 passengers is adequate. The trunk is a bit small, but the 60/40 folding split bench seat will help increase the effective use of it.
There is a long list of standard features on the TSX, such as iPod integration, steering wheel-mounted controls, leather seating, 8-way power driver seat and 4-way passenger seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Xenon HID headlights, heated side-view mirrors, and dual-zone climate control.
The V6 adds 18-inch alloy wheels, one-touch ignition key start and Acura's new Active Sound Control system, which works by eliminating exterior sound entering the cabin. A moonroof is standard, but despite the pop-up wind deflector, there is a pronounced flutter effect at around 30 mph when all the windows are closed.
All the safety gear is included, such as front, front side-impact and two-row side-curtain airbags, plus electronic stability control.
My test car came with the Tech package, a $3,100 upgrade. It adds a navigation system with live traffic and weather, and a back-up camera, an outstanding 10-speaker 415-watt sound system and voice-activated Bluetooth plus audio and climate controls. Unfortunately, the nav system seems quite outdated. The screen resolution is just fair so it affects both the navigation map screen and back-up camera clarity. A large knob controls the input of destination addresses and is somewhat cumbersome. I tried the voice activation to input an address, and became frustrated with that as well. I spoke the words “Lincoln Avenue” for the street name, and it did not recognize that. Then the system asked me to spell it. When I voiced the “n” it replied with “rear defroster on.” I understand that the voice recognition systems on all cars can be a bit finicky, but this was a bit more cumbersome than most.
I registered a few other niggling complaints during my test. For starters there is no keyless entry, so you can keep the key fob in your pocket. I was pleased to find two handy rear seatback releases on each side of the trunk wall to lower the rear seatbacks, but twice I pulled on them and the mechanism didn’t drop the seats.
I’ve always liked Honda products, and in almost every car I’ve ever tested, the vehicle exceeded my expectations. The Acura TSX is the first one that under-whelmed me. It certainly isn’t a bad car, and it has no single flaw that would be a deal-breaker, but just had plenty of annoyances. And with a sticker price of $38,760 ($24,850 for the base V6), there must be two dozen other cars in the price range that I would enjoy more on a daily basis. Among them would be larger cars like the Buick LaCrosse, Hyundai Genesis, Nissan Maxima, Audi A4, and even the larger Acura TL for just a few dollars more.