Pros: Sporty acceleration; superior interior quality; exceptional reliability

Cons: Tight rear passenger legroom; steep base price

What's New: Unchanged for 2013

Introduction

Introduced for 2004 and updated in 2009, the TSX remains a favorite for entry-level luxury buyers. Although it arrives unchanged from the previous model year, the 2013 Acura TSX includes a recently introduced Special Edition version that brings some sportier touches inside and out. Acura's introduction of the new ILX means the TSX no longer occupies the bottom slot in Acura's lineup. The TSX is based on the Honda Accord, but not on the version so familiar to U.S. drivers. Instead, it shares underpinnings with the European-market Accord, adding extra performance and luxury to Honda's exceptional reliability and build quality.

The TSX model lineup includes the sedan and the newer TSX Sport Wagon. Though only available in a front-wheel-drive, 4-cylinder engine and automatic transmission set up, the TSX Sport Wagon extends 5-door versatility to the TSX model line. With a base price of $30,510, it's one of the most expensive vehicles among its direct competition.

The 2013 TSX Special Edition is now the only version available with Acura's close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission. Buyers who prefer to forgo the clutch pedal can also get the Special Edition with a 5-speed automatic. While the TSX Special Edition offers sporty interior and exterior styling tweaks like 17-inch wheels, a more aggressive front fascia, a rear spoiler, aluminum pedals and Luxe Suede seat inserts with red stitching, some options available on other trims are absent on this trim level. You can't get it with the V6 engine or the Technology package.

Comfort & Utility

With the exception of the Special Edition, the TSX offers standard leather seats with contrasting stitching. The seats are both sport-inspired and extremely comfortable. Acura prides itself on a quiet cabin, and makes ample use of sound-deadening materials in the floorboards as well as thick windows and an acoustic windshield.

Customers seeking sporty compact luxury with utility should check out the TSX Sport Wagon. Acura boasts that the TSX Sport Wagon offers SUV-like cargo capacity (60.5 feet with the rear seats folded down) without sacrificing driving enjoyment. The Sport Wagon also features four hidden compartments for out-of-sight storage. A 2.4-cu-ft storage area is cleverly located beneath a lift-up hatch within the load floor, which is perfect for keeping a laptop or other valuables out of sight.

Technology

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

Performance & Fuel Economy

The 2013 Acura TSX sedan is available with a choice of two engine and transmission options. First, a 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder is mated to either a 5-speed automatic or, with the Special Edition package, a 6-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. The larger and more powerful 3.5-liter V6 is mated exclusively to a 5-speed automatic. With the V6, the TSX 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 4-cylinder and a 5-speed automatic transmission. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it returns fuel economy of 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

Safety

Safety in the TSX begins with its frame constriction, which uses Acura's Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure (found in the rest of the Acura lineup as well). ACE is an Acura-exclusive design that enhances occupant protection, especially in frontal crashes. A network of connected, high-strength structures distributes crash energy more evenly throughout the front of the vehicle. This enhanced frontal crash energy management reduces the forces transferred to the passenger compartment and can also help 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 of 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 which drivetrain customers choose, each is peppy and exhilarating in its own right. For customers more interested in a thrilling driving experience, the 2.4-liter with the 6-speed manual is ideal. Customers who wish to simply harness a wave of power with a flick of the accelerator will prefer the 3.5-liter V6 with the 5-speed automatic transmission.

In fact, the 3.5-liter V6, producing 280 horsepower, is nearly overkill for the front-wheel drive TSX. Put the transmission into Sport mode and hammer the throttle and the TSX rockets forward. The sensation is certainly fun, but the engine's power proves too much for the front wheels, which quickly lose their grip. Traction control engages to keep wheelspin in check.

Once the tires regain traction, the TSX is easy and pleasurable to drive in the city, on the highway or on country backroads. Steering is light, acceleration is highly responsive, the transmission shifts smoothly and the cabin is quiet. Like most Acuras, the suspension is on the stiff side. But the firmer, sporty suspension suits the TSX well.

The TSX is a small luxury sedan driver's dream. It is one of the most enjoyable 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 has sharp looks, plenty of amenities and an impressive 100,000-mile warranty to sweeten the deal.

Volkswagen Passat: The Passat is certainly more family-friendly than the TSX, with softer suspension and a roomier interior. What it lacks in driving excitement, it easily makes up for with frugality. The Passat is big, relatively inexpensive 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-hp inline 4-cylinder engine, the Kizashi deserves a test drive before you sign for a TSX.

AutoTrader Recommends

Customers looking at the TSX will most likely be attracted to its sporting nature. Although the V6 is by far the fastest of the TSX variants, we suggest customers save their cash and stick with the base 201-hp 4-cylinder engine. Not only does the 4-cylinder save weight (which improves handling), but it also knocks more than $5,000 off the sticker price. The V6 is faster but not as efficient. And as gas prices rise, that $5,000 savings will help offset the increasing cost of driving.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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