Heeding the Siren Song of the Acura TSX
Acura Builds a
"Touring de Force"
by Jim Bray
Talk about a home run!
Acura's new TSX sports sedan is more like a grand slam.
And oh, she's a seductive beast. Spend more than a couple of minutes behind
the wheel and you're lost obsessed with this wonderful car and willing
to do whatever it takes to keep it.
I kid you not. I spent a bit more than a week with this latest Acura and
by the time it was supposed to go back I was contemplating committing Grand
Theft Auto, thereby ruining my life (to say nothing of my career writing about
cars!) over something as mundane as an automobile.
Not that the TSX is mundane. Hell, no! While it's very unassuming to look
at even bordering on the bland to some eyes its whole is much
more than just a sum of a bunch of Honda parts. It's a precision-crafted motorcar
that's so comfortable, so balanced, so efficient, so much unadulterated fun,
that it's almost as if Honda's Acura division brought in a bunch of Swiss watch
makers and other world class artisans to refine the car.
The TSX is based on Honda's European spec Accord. To me, this means that
- as great as the North American Accord is
- drivers in the Americas are getting short changed because the European version
as personified by the TSX is a true driver's car - as opposed to merely being
an excellent, but softer, state-of-the-art family sedan.
The company says the TSX is aimed to go head to head with the BMW 3 series
and Audi A4. That's heady company; I haven't driven either of those other cars,
but they must be really something if they're in the same league as this Acura.
I find it hard to believe they could be any better, though I do have a soft
spot in my driving heart for the rear wheel drive personified in the 3.
Anyway, in typically Honda fashion, the TSX is technologically savvy and
features incredible attention to detail even the small details. For
instance, the doors have detent positions in them that hold them open at different
amounts, depending on how wide you need them open in any particular instance,
and they close with the kind of thunk that does your heart proud. And the door
handles are sleek, easy to grasp and pull, and feel terrific in your fingers.
Likewise the tactile sensations you get inside the cabin make it seem as if
all the levers, buttons and assorted gewgaws are sliding on well-greased ball
And that's just the beginning.
The TSX is a front engine, front drive four door sedan. My Canadian spec
tester was fully loaded (in fact the press material says it's only available
in one trim level, though I saw one with a little spoiler on its bum and
it really did spoil it). This means it has pretty well everything in it that
you could want.
It's also a rocket, and the specs don't tell the whole story.
The TSX is powered by what has to be the nicest four banger I've ever had
the privilege to spur onward. It's an aluminum alloy 2.4 liter inline four
that features Honda's i-VTEC variable valve timing and lift technology and
puts out 200 horses at a typically high 6800 rpm - and 166 lb.-ft. of torque
@ 4500 revs. That probably doesn't seem like a lot for a four door sports sedan;
after all, you can get six cylinders and 260 horses (with similar torque) in
the Infiniti G35 and BMW's 3 series also offers a six. And the four banger
is the only engine Acura offers for the TSX.
The TSX's four is fine. Trust me. It's more than adequate
in fact it goes like hell and seems to revel in being driven hard. Wind it
up through the revs toward the red line, upshift the 6 speed manual (a five
speed automatic is also available, but I'll search you out and slap you if
you buy it instead of the wonderful manual!) and you're nicely in the torque
curve for the next gear. The TSX leaps ahead happily like a gazelle, almost
taunting you with
Yeah, c'mon, is that the best you can do? The engine never feels
as if it's even close to breaking a sweat.
It's so intoxicating that I wouldn't be surprised if you'd blow over the
legal limit just from taking the TSX for a spirited ride, without any kind
of alcohol being involved.
And the high tech whine of the engine is a joy to hear.
So why not a six? Honda/Acura makes some fine V6's (witness the Accord and
the TL as examples) and you can never have
too much oomph can you?
Acura's media kit explains it this way:
A V6 like that in the 3.2TL would deliver abundant power, but would increase
the size and weight of the car, and move the TSX away from its sporting intentions.
An in-line 4-cylinder, using the latest Acura technologies, would make for
a lighter, well-balanced, more compact vehicle that that put the emphasis on
overall sporting performance and handling responsiveness.
Okay; I've driven the car and I'll buy that explanation. While
More Power! is the battle cry of car nuts around the world, more
power would be merely gilding the lily when it comes to the TSX. It has plenty
And of course there's more to a good car than a good engine. The TSX begins
with a rigid unit body structure, four wheel double wishbone suspension, handsome
17 inch wheels with disc brakes and four channel ABS, Vehicle Stability Assist
and traction control. Despite being a front driver, there's little torque steer
and the Michelin MXM4 M+S tires stick to the road nicely and add to the TSX's
excellent stability in the twisty bits.
It's all quality stuff, as is the interior makeup.
The TSX' cabin is luxuriously appointed and laid out with logical simplicity.
Unlike the new Accord, which is very nice but which takes a little getting
used to before you're comfortable with the new center panel layout, there's
no learning curve. Everything is where you'd expect it to be, it's all within
easy reach and it's so easy to operate a blind person could do it. Even the
armrests are placed perfectly, including the one on top of the center console,
which slides forward to facilitate lazy or tired arms.
Audio and climate controls (which include dual zone automatic air conditioning)
are completely straightforward. The LED analog instruments are attractive and
efficient, the auto-dimming rear view mirror works as advertised, the power
outside mirrors include front-facing turn signal lights and aren't so large
that they block your view.
And as mentioned above, the buttons, levers, switches and the like are smooth
yet their tactile feel is almost as if they belong in a Rolls Royce. The attention
to detail in this car is legendary Acura.
The seats are leather (perforated and with bun warmers up front) and the
driver's seat boasts 8 way power adjustment. When I first got into the TSX
I was disappointed with the diving position until I discovered that the steering
wheel (which nicely facilitates 9 and 3 o'clock hands) tilts and telescopes.
The telescoping made all the difference and from that point on the TSX fit
me like a well-tailored suit or what I would assume a well-tailored
suit would fit like, since I dress up only under duress.
Well, it fit like that until my wife adjusted the seat for her comfort, which
led me to bemoan (gently, and with massive picking of nits) the lack of driver's
The front seats are well bolstered for cornering (whee!) and are comfortable
for long drives. We took the TSX on an all-day loop through the Rocky Mountains
and numb bum was minimum, while the exhilaration of the mountain roads was
maximum. About the only complaint, and it's a common one for nearly all cars
I've driven that are so equipped, is road noise when the sunroof is open.
The stereo system is very good, better than those found in garden variety
Hondas. It's a 360 watt Acura Premium system featuring the usual
AM/FM and with an in-dash CD changer. It really rocked, though it also set
off a bit of rattling somewhere in the roof area when I unleashed a particularly
powerful passage from The Who. It isn't only loud, though, it's also fine sounding.
Standard safety stuff inside includes the usual front airbags (the passenger
one is mounted seamlessly and blends into the instrument panel),
side curtain airbags, side airbags. Hell, there are so many airbags in this
car it would probably lift off the ground if the gas inside them were lighter
than air. There are also door beams and front seat belt pretensioners with
load-limiters. And the car itself uses crumple zones and a sliding front subframe
to further its life-saving skills.
Convenience features include cup holders, auxiliary power outlets, many storage
spaces, and there's even a built in garage door opener, for those with built
As you've probably gathered by now, the TSX is so much fun to drive that
it'll probably be outlawed some day. Step on the drive by wire throttle (which
is hinged at the bottom instead of sticking down from the top, giving a feel
kind of like some transit buses I've driven) and the car leaps to attention;
once you've passed about 3000 rpm it seems to smile, hitch up its figurative
pants, and leap forward with abandon.
The six speed manual transmission is a joy to flick, with very short throws
and an excellent layout. It takes a bit to get used to the extra gear, and
I shifted into fourth instead of sixth a couple of times (okay, a few times),
but it's far easier than some other 6 speeds I've used.
The steering is power assisted rack and pinion and it feels exactly right.
The suspension is tuned so that you feel everything on the road, but with your
brain rather than your teeth. The car handles frost heaves and bumps like a
football player running through the tire obstacles, and when you hit the sweeping
curves of a mountain highway the TSX seems completely in its element no
Honda sport ute jokes intended.
This car is so good that one wonders what Acura could have in store for a
possible Type S version down the road. I can only think of two things on my
particular wish list: a driver's seat memory feature and - okay I'm a slut
- even more power. And I wish Honda/Acura would move their sunroof controls
from the dash to a place where you don't have to reach and squint for it and
that isn't a specifically TSX shortcoming.
But the TSX doesn't really need either to suit me. This is one car that had
me scheming to find ways to pay for it. That doesn't usually happen with a
test car as far as I'm concerned. Oh, I often fall under a car's spell and
can easily imagine owning one. But this is the first one that almost had me
begging my wife for the keys to the savings account.
The Acura TSX sells for $34,800 Canadian and $26,490 US.
And I call that a bargain.
Well done, Acura!