October 26, 2008
The host of first-class amenities from power moonroof to leather heated seats to automatic climate control leaves no doubt that the Acura TSX is a luxury car.
Yet the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder rated at 21 m.p.g. city/30 m.p.g. highway with a 5-speed automatic affirm it's also an economy car.
And its $28,960 base price makes it the entry-level offering in Acura's luxury lineup.
For 2009, TSX has been redesigned. Body panels are sculpted with sharp creases for a more upscale, hand-carved appearance.
TSX is based on the European version of the midsize Honda Accord sedan. Acura offers a smaller car in Canada based on the compact Civic, but Honda has no plans to sell it here. And there will be no mini Acura "Fit" in response to volatile gas prices. TSX stands as Acura's mileage champ.
That doesn't excuse the familiar lament over 4-cylinder engines—the grunt and groan each time the gas pedal gets a hard kick. Such noise is expected in an economy car, not a luxury model.
And though the 4 delivers 201 horsepower, it musters just 170 foot-pounds of get-up-and-go torque. Stand on the gas pedal, and it's not only noisy, it also feels like the chute just opened to keep you from gaining full speed.
TSX offers a 6-speed manual tuned for torque and its livelier launches. But acting more nimbly comes at a price—lower mileage than with automatic—20 m.p.g. city/28 m.p.g. highway.
A V-6 would solve the noise and energy problems when chugging down the merger lane but create two others: higher price and even lower mileage.
No complaints with the smooth ride and respectable handling; no leaning in corners or wandering on the straightaways. TSX makes stability control and traction control standard for solid footing on slick or twisty surfaces.
It completes the package with side-curtain air bags and four-wheel anti-lock brakes. Splendid for that safe, secure feeling.
No jostling or jarring in the cabin and good seat comfort and support upfront. In back, however, it's snug. Door openings are narrow and hamper entry/exit. Once in, well, leave your legs out.
The 2009 is about 2.5 inches longer and about 3 inches wider than the '08. The added width is welcome news for the hips; the added length would be better appreciated if it contributed to rear-seat leg and knee room rather than just a bigger footprint on the pavement for stable handling.
The trunk is massive and would hold a month's worth of luggage or grocery bags. But cutting back to three week's worth would free an inch or two for the back seat.
If you need to carry more, rear seat backs fold flat for added cargo space. Good idea, bad execution as you have to pull seat-release handles in the trunk, then walk around to the cabin and yank the backs. A cabin release would save lots of time and energy.
Base price of the TSX is $28,960 and includes a rather complete package with leather seats (front heated), power driver/passenger seats, power glass moonroof, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth phone, power windows/mirrors/locks, keyless entry, digital clock, power plugs and dual cupholders front and rear.
Nice attention to details include housing USB and auxiliary jack ports under the front-seat center armrest along with a power plug. A small covered tray in the dash holds coins or keys and a small covered tray next to a power plug holds a cell phone.
Voice-activated navigation with back-up camera to see what's behind is part of an optional $3,100 technology package. The navi brings real-time traffic alerts that pinpoint delays ahead and weather reports that will warn you if a thunderstorm, ice storm or tornado is developing.
You also get voice-activated audio. Push a button on the steering wheel, utter "radio on," wait several seconds for the synthesized voice to repeat "radio on," and the radio comes on.
Amazing but also amusing in that voice activation took 7 seconds to turn the radio on while a finger on a button does it in 1.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Rides. Contact him at email@example.com.