Pros: Fast acceleration; superior interior built quality; exceptional reliability

Cons: Small rear passenger legroom; steep base MSRP

Introduction

Introduced for 2004 and updated in 2009, the TSX stands at the bottom of the Acura lineup for 2012 and remains an old favorite for entry-level luxury buyers. Based upon the Honda Accord platform, the TSX takes Honda's exceptional reliability and build-quality and adds palpable performance and luxury.

Starting at a base price MSRP of $29,810, it's one of the most expensive vehicles amongst its direct competition. Recently added to the TSX model lineup is the TSX Sport Wagon. Though only available in a front-wheel drive, four-cylinder engine, and automatic transmission set up, the TSX Sport Wagon extends five-door versatility to the bottom of the Acura lineup.

Comfort and Utility

The seats in the TSX are leather with contrasting stitching. The seats are both sport-inspired and extremely comfortable. Unlike other Japanese automakers, Acura prides itself on a quiet cabin. Acura make ample use of sound deadening materials in the floorboards, thick windows including an acoustic windshield.

Customers seeking sporty compact luxury with utility needn't look further than the TSX Sport Wagon. Acura boasts the TSX Sport Wagon offers SUV-like cargo capacity (60.5 feet with the rear seats folded down) without sacrificing driving enjoyment. Additionally, the Sport Wagon features four hidden compartments for out-of-sight storage. A 2.4-cubic-foot storage area is cleverly located beneath a lift-up hatch within the load floor.

Technology

The TSX is available with an optional Technology Package that includes an LED backlit navigation system, Song By Voice (SBV) user interface allowing passengers to call up song through voice recognition, Bluetooth connectivity, a 60-gigabyte hard disk drive (HDD), and the ability to download 15-gigabytes of personal music.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The TSX sedan is available with two engine and transmission options. First, a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder mated to either a five-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. With the automatic, the TSX is capable of an EPA-estimated 22 MPG in the city and 31 MPG on the highway. Or, secondly, a 3.5-liter V6 mated to a five-speed automatic and achieves an EPA-estimated 19 MPG in the city and 28 MPG on the highway.

The TSX Sport Wagon, on the other hand, is only available with one drivetrain setup: 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder and a five-speed automatic transmission and received an EPA fuel economy rating of 22 MPG in the city and 30 MPG on the highway.

Safety

Safety in the TSX begins with its frame constriction. The TSX was designed with an Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure that is also found in the rest of the Acura line. ACE is an Acura-exclusive body design that enhances occupant protection especially in frontal crashes. ACE utilizes a network of connected, high-strength structures to more evenly distribute crash energy throughout the front of the vehicle. This enhanced frontal crash energy management reduces the forces transferred to the passenger compartment and can help to more evenly disperse the forces transferred to other vehicles in a crash. This means the TSX is not only safe for its passengers but for the passengers in other vehicles as well.

All TSX models feature a broad range of passive safety technologies including six airbags. Head restraints are provided for all seats and the front seats employ an active headrest restraint system, limiting whiplash. Three-point seatbelts are provided for all seating positions along with seatbelt load limiters with an integrated automatic tensioning system for the driver and front passenger seat belts.

Driving Impressions

No matter the drivetrain customers choose, each is peppy and exhilarating in its own right. Customers more interested in a thrilling driving experience, the 2.4-liter with the six-speed manual is ideal. Customers who wish to simply harness a wave of shout-y power with a flick of the accelerator will prefer the 3.5-liter V6 with the five-speed automatic transmission.

In fact, the 3.5-liter V6 producing 280 horsepower is quite nearly overkill for the front-wheel drive TSX. Put the transmission into Sport mode and hammer the throttle and the driver's head is ripped back as the TSX rockets forward. It's an immensely enjoyable sensation but proves too much for the front wheels that quickly loose grip. Traction control must engage to keep the tires in-check.

Once tires regain traction, the TSX is easy and pleasurable to drive in the city, on the highway, or on some country back roads. Steering is light, acceleration is highly responsive, the transmission shifts smoothly, and the cabin is quiet. Like most Acuras, the suspension is rather stiff. But unlike the other, larger Acuras, the firm, sporty suspension suits the TSX.

Make no mistake; the TSX is a small luxury sedan driver's dream. It is one of the most pleasurable vehicles to drive not only in its class but also in the compact sedan market as a whole.

Other Cars to Consider

Kia Optima: The Optima is newer, cheaper, and bigger than the TSX but it's not quite as composed in the corners. If driving dynamics isn't number one on your list, the Optima does have an impressive 100,000 warranty to sweeten the deal.

Volkswagen Passat: The Passat is certainly more family-friendly than the TSX with softer suspension and a less sporting interior. What it lacks in driving excitement, it easily makes up for with frugality. The Passat is big, cheap, and fuel efficient.

Suzuki Kizashi: The Kizashi is one of the best-kept secrets in the automotive industry. Cheaper than the TSX and available with all-wheel drive, the Kizashi would be a strong competitor if anyone knew about it. Starting at $18,999 with a 185-horsepower inline four-cylinder engine, the Kizashi deserves a test drive before you sign on the line for the TSX.

AutoTrader Recommendations

Customers looking at the TSX are most likely enamored with its sporty soul. Although the V6 is by far the fastest of the TSX variants, we suggest customers save their cash and stick to the base 201 horsepower four-cylinder engine. Not only does the four-cylinder save weight-which improves corning capability-but knocks more than $5,000 off the sticker price. The V6 is faster but is it $5,000 faster? Remember, as gas prices rise, that $5,000 in your pocket can buy at least a few years worth of gas.

author photo

Nick Jaynes developed a passion for writing about cars working his way through Journalism School as a Volvo mechanic. When he's not writing, Nick can be seen hosting the popular automotive web-show DownForce Motoring. In his free-time, Nick collects vintage cars, trucks, and motorcycles.

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