2012 Acura TSX Sport Wagon

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2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon — Review

This 2011 review is representative of model years 2011 to 2014.
By James Tate of MSN Autos
Rating: 7.0

Bottom Line:

The TSX Sport Wagon is solidly built, loaded with technology, drives well and is fairly friendly to both environment and wallet. Still, a little extra fun behind the wheel would improve the car substantially and help it live up to its sporty intentions.
Pros:
  • Rigid chassis makes for capable handling
  • Great use of interior storage space
  • Quiet, comfortable cabin
Cons:
  • Steering feel is too light and rubbery
  • No zippier engine or transmission choices
  • Vast array of buttons can confuse

Ever since the Acura TSX first hit the streets in 2004, it has been a steady performer in the entry-level luxury-car market, particularly among buyers 30 and under.

The hot news for 2011: Acura is adding a Sport Wagon variant to the TSX lineup, based on the slightly massaged and face-lifted 2011 sedan.

Offering more cargo room than most competitors, ample storage and a flat load floor, the 2011 TSX Sport Wagon adds welcome versatility to a model that has grown staid. Plus, the Sport Wagon's tapering roof and sharp lines offer a fresh new design perspective.

But does the 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon live up to its "sporty wagon" label? Does it match up to the European models in its segment? Not really.

Model Lineup
Acura makes do with just one version of the 2011 TSX Sport Wagon, but it comes well-equipped. Standard goodies include 17-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, fog lights, a sunroof, keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt/telescoping steering column, an 8-way power driver seat with memory, a 4-way power passenger seat, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a 60/40 split folding rear seatback. Also standard are Bluetooth and a 7-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, auxiliary audio jack and USB port.

It is available with only one drivetrain configuration: the standard 4-cylinder TSX engine mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission powering the front wheels.

Like most Acura models, nearly all additional options are bundled into a Technology Package. This pricey add-on comes with a power tailgate, a rearview camera, a hard-drive-based navigation system, voice recognition, real-time traffic and weather forecasting, a 10-speaker HDD-based surround-sound system with single-CD player and digital music storage.

Under the Hood
Acura's traditional 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine is still much the same as it has always been, crisply churning out a smooth 201 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque. This torque figure is reasonably stout by parent company Honda's standards, which tends to design its powertrains for high-revving and high-horsepower-per-liter excitement, rather than useful grunt. Thanks to redesigned piston rings and lower-viscosity oil needs, the engine can now achieve 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway, a sacrifice of only 1 mpg compared with the TSX sedan.

Also shared with the TSX sedan, the Sport Wagon's 5-speed automatic transmission now features programming to hold a gear during cornering and to allow for manual gear changes without requiring the transmission to be in Sport mode. The double-wishbone front suspension and multilink rear suspension help the wagon stay firmly planted, while the dual-mode dampers and slightly lengthened wheelbase make for a smooth highway ride.

Inner Space
The updated interior is crisp, modern and par for the course. The button-laden center console gives the impression that form followed function, but in a mostly good way. However, the console does seem keen on making the occupants feel as if they're in the "Battlestar Galactica" command center, rather than in a practical, well-thought-out car. Learning your way around all the controls can take awhile. At first, they will confuse.

The front leather seats are supportive, heated and power-adjustable, and along with a quiet cabin help make for an overall comfortable environment. The TSX Sport Wagon also has the largest available cargo space in its class, with a large hatch and no fewer than four hidden compartments.

On the Road
This Sport Wagon is only partially worthy of the "sport" in its name. The chassis is impressively solid and remains tightly composed when the roads get twisty or choppy. The aluminum engine is lively and offers a good compromise between high revs and torque, while the brakes are solid and easily feel up to the task of slowing the larger wagon.

There are some definite drawbacks to the driving experience, though, at least for spirited drivers. First, the electrically assisted steering needs more feedback. It's not a case of it being inaccurate or sluggish; it's just electric, which typically means you don't feel much at all. Second, some help in the powertrain department would go a long way — if not the V6 engine of its sedan brother, then a sixth transmission gear would help. But if we understand Acura correctly, those options would simply drive the wagon out of the target customer's price range.

Even though the wagon variant weighs only 132 pounds more than the sedan, the engine and transmission seem to have a more difficult time finding a happy place in the rev range. It's a shame, because the lightweight 4-cylinder engine is smooth as silk and delightfully peppy. The 5-speed automatic transmission, on the other hand, seems to be a poor match for the car, often hunting for the right gear at the hint of a throttle modulation.

Right for You?
Ever since the days of wood paneling on the outside of cars, wagons have been slow to win the hearts of Americans. Many of those who do buy them are enthusiasts, and for them the TSX may cause mixed emotions. It's just not as sporty as its European counterparts. While it's capable of handling the twisties, it could use more oomph with which to do so. Plus, the lack of engine and transmission options may drive off otherwise interested buyers. At the end of the day though, this vehicle was made to get the kids to soccer practice in tech-laden style, and possibly save a few bucks in gas, compared with an SUV, along the way.

In its class, price has always been one of the TSX's strong suits, and the Sport Wagon doesn't disappoint at $30,960, an upcharge of $1,350 over the sedan. Even after ticking the box for the $3,650 Technology Package, essentially the only option, this new wagon remains a good package for the money.

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BB02 - 8/21/2014 9:38:01 AM