2012 Acura TSX

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First Drive: 2009 Acura TSX

This 2009 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2014.
By Douglas Kott of Road & Track

San Diego, California — Undeniably, the new 2009 TSX is one slick package. Its styling has more impact, its width is a full 3 in. greater, its interior is now more "TL Jr." than "Civic Sr." and an optional Technology Package offers concert-hall sound, a world-class navigation system, voice-command technology and XM satellite radio with real-time traffic and weather. Yet its 2.4-liter i-VTEC-modulated inline-4 receives only Oliver Twist-like bumps to its power and torque curves, just enough to offset its 140-lb. weight gain over the last-generation car.

So, with 201 bhp peaking at 7000 rpm and 172 lb.-ft. of torque at 4400 moving a curb weight of 3419 lb., the TSX's acceleration is adequate, yet your throttle foot (assuming for a moment that it could talk) might say, "Please sir, I want some more." Let's guesstimate a 0-60 time slightly south of 8 seconds and a quarter-mile in the mid-15s. Getting to those benchmarks is made tolerable by two excellent transmissions: a 6-speed manual with a light and precise shift action, and a 5-speed Sequential SportShift box, a torque-converter automatic that can be shifted with steering wheel-mounted paddles. And the TSX's EPA numbers are slightly better, the manual car coming in at an estimated 19/28 mpg city/highway.

Yet crossing the TSX off your list based on middling acceleration potential alone would be a mistake, as there are substantial improvements here. That width increase and what Acura calls "Keen Edge" styling bulk up and sharpen the body, and accentuate cues that are still recognizable from the previous generation, (headlights, taillights and general greenhouse shape) but the front grille, in the opinion of most journalists in attendance, is overdone. Pointy bits on the front spoiler lip are adventuresome for Acura, and HID low beams come as standard equipment.

Inside, there's also much to like. Immediately noticeable are the very supportive front seats, whose full and high-reaching side bolsters conjure up visions of the NSX's buckets. Front seat passengers are now about 1½ in. farther apart, so there'll be less elbow-bumping, but the interior doesn't seem much roomier, because the lower dash and door panels appear to wrap a little more tightly around your knees and lower body. A-pillars are a little slimmer for a better view out, and the LED-backlit instrument cluster has floating needles for the speedometer and tach and very upmarket metal-finish bezels. Despite the roofline being about 0.2 in. lower than before, rear-seat head room will accommodate 6-footers, thanks to concave relief in the headliner.

The Technology Package will be a huge hit on the pocketbook (in the $4000 range), but it packages the navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity for phones and all manner of devices, the aforementioned XM-supplied real-time traffic and weather data (one- and three-day forecasts are available, and extreme weather alerts will pop up) and a truly inspirational, 415-watt, 10-speaker audio system. This last item, developed with Panasonic and Grammy-winning producer Elliot Scheiner, plays from conventional CD and DTS discs, satellite or AM/FM radio, MP3 or WMA files and, for absolute cleanest sound, DVD-Audio discs.

But back to dynamics of the mechanical kind. We've always liked the agile feel of the TSX, and while the new car is reasonably sporty, it's not as light on its feet. Wider tires (Michelin Pilot HX MXM4s, size 225/50R-17) offer satisfying steady-state grip, but the extra weight and width of the chassis do reduce the "flingability" factor. And a new electric-assist steering, while one of the best examples of the breed, doesn't quite offer the road feel of the outgoing model's hydraulic system. The new TSX does feel more planted and stable, and road noise is reduced, all the better to enjoy that remarkably good sound system.

So the focus has changed a bit here, a little youth and athleticism traded for more maturity, sophistication and style, with pricing expected to remain about the same — perhaps $29,000 for a very well-equipped base car to maybe $35,000 with the automatic and Technology Package. Is more power on the way? Acura spokespeople remain characteristically tight-lipped, saying only that the TSX's engine bay is large enough to accept a V-6, or a turbo and its plumbing. Hmm, "TSX Type-S" does have a nice ring to it.

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BB01 - 8/1/2014 3:34:03 PM