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Expert Reviews 1 of 4
By David Thomas
January 15, 2010
In a world of high gas prices, the fuel-efficient, sub-$30,000, four-cylinder Acura TSX makes a lot of sense; it has a comfortable ride, and it sells pretty well. For 2010, Acura adds a powerful V-6 to the TSX lineup, which makes for a car that's much more sporting and fun to drive than the four-cylinder TSX. It's not cheap, however, treading on the midsize Acura TL's price range, and I doubt shoppers will want to give up the added size of a TL for a sport-oriented TSX.
We reviewed the four-cylinder TSX for 2009, and you can read about it here. Besides the six-cylinder engine in the TSX V-6, which I detail below, not much has changed. Compare the 2009 and 2010 versions here. Performance In addition to the optional 280-horsepower V-6 engine borrowed from the TL, the TSX also gets a sportier suspension package. It's this suspension and handling upgrade that most radically changes the car's driving persona versus the base four-cylinder. While that car's soft suspension soaks up bumps, it delivers few thrills; I doubt anyone looking for the driving experience of an Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series would consider a four-cylinder TSX.
Not so the V-6. The steering was exceptionally precise without being overly heavy, like in a BMW. Even though the TSX is front-wheel drive, it had minimal to no understeer during hard acceleration, which many driving purists complain about in front-wheel-drive cars. The TL's V-6 makes this smaller sedan fast, but it didn't strike me as besting any of its competition. The car feels heavy and well planted, and acceleration comes on in a smooth burst despite the fact that the automatic transmission has just five speeds. Most of today's luxury cars — and even non-luxury ones — with V-6 engines pack six gears. Some, such as Infiniti models, have seven speeds.
I've also tested the four-cylinder TSX and found it to have plenty of power for those not seeking driving thrills. It also has an optional six-speed manual transmission, which is a bit more fun to drive. The four-cylinder versions don't have the handling chops of the V-6, but the V-6 doesn't come with a manual.
The superior handling comes at the expense of ride comfort. While it isn't as rigid as either an A4 or 3 Series, you'll definitely feel road imperfections through the seat. The nice thing about the four-cylinder TSX is its comfortable ride. If you value one of those things well above the other, that should direct you to the engine option that's best for you.
Of course, mileage is also impacted with the V-6. It gets 18/27 mpg city/highway, while the automatic-transmission-equipped four-cylinder gets 21/30 mpg. A front-wheel-drive A4, with its turbocharged four-cylinder, gets 23/30 mpg. The Audi's turbo-four provides more driving thrills than the base TSX and might be a good compromise for drivers trying to make up their minds. Exterior If you don't like the look of the new Acura TL and its beaklike grille — or the looks of other models in the company's lineup — blame the TSX. When it was redesigned last year, the look translated well to its smaller dimensions and sales were brisk.
There are no exterior changes for 2010. You get the same rounded fenders mixed with angular lines everywhere else. It's a slick, somewhat space-age look. It's modern without looking offensive and remains one of the company's best-looking vehicles. Interior Seating position is important in a driver's car, and I never really fell in love with how I fit in the TSX. I sat more upright than I really want to in a sedan, with my knees bent at nearly a 90-degree angle to get to the pedals. Strangely enough, the RDX crossover I recently tested feels more like a sedan than an SUV, and despite the TSX's stance, its sight lines weren't a great deal better.
The black leather interior is very sports carlike, if a bit overwhelming. I would probably go with the Parchment (tan) interior to lighten things up. All the interior materials are high quality, especially for this segment.
The center stack of controls is chock-full of buttons, but after two consecutive weeks testing Acuras, I was more than accustomed to them. I'd guess owners would acclimate quickly as well. The backseat is tiny, just like those in the competition. It's also the main reason why, if I were thinking of spending $34,850 on a V-6 TSX, I'd pony up another $255 and get the larger TL, which features the same engine and horsepower. Features Acura has one of the simplest pricing and trim-level setups in the business. You get a lot of standard features, and there's usually only one type of option package, which is treated as a separate trim level. So you can get a TSX or a TSX with Technology Package. That's the trim name, "with Technology Package."
That package adds a navigation system with live traffic and weather, a 415-watt sound system, and voice-activated Bluetooth and audio and climate controls. It's not a cheap upgrade, at $3,100, and the nav system is pretty outdated. The resolution is rough, and it's hard to use the large knob controller to input destinations. Ford and GM are putting out some of the most elegant multimedia systems in the business right now and even the new Kia Sorento SUV has a superior-looking nav system. It's a shame luxury automakers like Acura are falling behind. Safety In 2009, the TSX was named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, having earned the highest score of Good in front, side and rear crash tests. IIHS is requiring roof-strength tests for its 2010 Top Safety designation, and the TSX hasn't yet been tested. However, because it scores so highly in the other tests, this car's safety credentials should be considered excellent. Acura TSX in the Market While I like both engines in the TSX, the V-6 makes little sense. When compared with others in the segment, and even with the larger TL, it doesn't seem worth the money. With the car-buying world shifting to more efficient engines, Acura seemed to have a winner with the base TSX and its pleasant ride. Perhaps it still does.
Shoppers considering the V-6 should definitely cross-shop the Audi A4 and the Infiniti G37 sedan. Both offer more driving thrills, a similar price and equally good looks.