Road Test: 2009 Acura TSX
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2014.
By Aaron Robinson of Car and Driver
Back when gasoline was still cheaper than Glenfiddich, Honda's luxury division rolled the dice on a compact sedan with a wholly un-American persona. The 2004 Acura TSX, essentially an overseas-market Honda Accord, was cut narrow for Europe's squeezed streets, firmed up for keen drivers, and armed with a no-frills four-banger to take on the turbocharged and six-cylinder competition. The only choices: manual or automatic, and navigation system or wrinkled map. Pitching this lean front-driver as the cut-buck alternative to a BMW 3-series, Acura execs seemed to have been swilling their own stocks of Scotch.
We fell in love. The TSX was compact but not cramped. It was frugal on gas but felt swift. It commuted serenely and also sliced asphalt into ribbons. It was less expensive, better equipped in base form, and when fitted with the especially satisfying six-speed stick, about 2.7 times more entertaining than most of the luxury cars then oozing across our pages. It averaged about 32,000 sales per year, twice the expectation, Acura tells us. A three-time 10Best winner, the original TSX departs us, leaving behind size-14 double-Es to fill.
Acura's strategy? Hit the replay button. The driving joy remains in the 2009 TSX despite a few added inches and a few extra pounds. There are some improvements in cabin refinement, including additional sound insulation, and the roll call of standard features remains long. The changes are meant to address kvetches with the outgoing car by Camry and Accord leapers while retaining the core 30-something luxury newbies who like it edgy. If all hands report, Acura is hoping to ratchet up sales to 40,000 per year.
A 201-hp, 2.4-liter front-driving four-cylinder is still the lone engine. The base price remains under $30,000, at $29,675. Power leather seats, a sunroof, xenon headlamps, curtain airbags, stability control, and 17-inch alloy rims with Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 all-season tires are included. The rubber grows, from 215/50s on the old car to 225/50s.
Besides the transmission choice — a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic — the single factory option is a Technology package. It includes navigation, a 10-speaker hi-fi with iPod and USB connectors and a CD changer, and a rear-mounted camera. All up, a TSX is priced at $32,775.
As before, the TSX is a Euro Accord with Acura badges. The sporting pretension includes, again, a sporting suspension of unequal-length control arms shouldering the front axle and multiple links in back, all on subframes mounted to a stiffly latticed unibody. Lift the hood to see the factory crossbrace bridging the strut towers. No aftermarket Viagra needed here.
The TSX is narrower and shorter than the new plus-size American Accord, but it is larger than the preceding TSX and about 130 pounds heavier. Buyers wanted more interior acreage, so the wheelbase was yanked out by 1.4 inches and the overall length by 2.7 inches. Width is up by three inches, with a similar increase to the track.
It won't be hard to pick out the new car in a lineup. Not satisfied with sleek and simple, the designers went after the TSX with an angle grinder. The rear corners are squared off with vertical creases, the wheel arches flared out and then guillotined flat to look as though the body is being inflated against glass. There are chrome door handles and an oversized grille blade — anybody up for scything the north 40? All this bling and body clutter demands your attention, for better or for worse, which was perhaps the point. Shock, rage, death threats — a car designer will take anything over indifference.
The extra acreage? Our calculators insist that the front and rear seating areas each receive two more cubic feet. In the cup holders, perhaps. Individual interior measurements are up mostly fractions of an inch, meaning it's as intimate fore-and-aft as the old car, with a touch more clearance side to side. In the back seat, where car companies tend to sweep their sins, the head and shoulder room is generous but knees poke the front seatbacks and feet are only grudgingly allowed under the seats. Even with gooseneck hinges, the trunk holds steady at a boxy and usable 13 cubic feet, with the rear bench splitting 60/40 to open a wider tunnel.