First Look: 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon

Acura's MDX caters to customers shopping for a midsize SUV, while its ungainly new ZDX reportedly aims at those who seeking something more carlike. What, then, does Acura offer buyers who want a car, but with just a little more cargo space?

Why, a wagon, of course.

That's old-school thinking, certainly, but in today's world, cars like the 2011 TSX Sport Wagon --which was officially unveiled at the 2010 New York International Auto Show -- are a dying breed. Small crossovers and SUVS handily outsell wagons by an exponential margin. Let's say Acura does as well as the premium wagon segment leader, and ten percent of all 2011 TSX sales are of its new cargo carrier. That's little more than 3000 units per year in the U.S., assuming TSX sales next year will be closer to 2008's 32,000 than '09's 28,650.

Like the Audi A4 Avant -- which, in a good year, sells about 4000 units in the U.S. -- and the Cadillac CTS SportWagon, the TSX is a five-passenger model made more for golfers and weekend road trippers than the kind of growing families who bought wagons by the truckload in the '60s and '70s (those customers are already likely shopping the large three-row MDX sport-utility).

Like the TSX sedan, the Sport Wagon is essentially a well-equipped version of the European Honda Accord wagon rolling on special 17-inch, five-spoke rims. In North American trim, it's 3.3 inches longer than the sedan, but otherwise identical in dimensions. Special features aren't specific to bodystyles, either; including power glass moonroof, dual-zone climate control, leather seats, Bluetooth capability, USB and auxiliary jack connections, and the Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure.

A hard-drive based navigation system with real-time traffic and weather, and Acura's impressive ELS Surround Premium Audio System are optional.

Unlike the TSX sedan -- but like the A4 Avant -- the TSX Sport Wagon will be available here with only one powertrain, the 2.4-liter, 201-horsepower, 172 pound-foot twin-cam inline four mated to a five-speed automatic with paddle shifters (the A4 Avant also is four-cylinder/automatic only, but with a TFSI turbo). EPA fuel economy should be unchanged from the four-cylinder/automatic sedan's 21 mpg city, 30 mpg highway numbers.

Whether the TSX Sport Wagon can generate equally impressive numbers for Acura's sales sheets is another question. We hate to admit it, but most American consumers who shop Acura wagons are much more likely to look past the Sport Wagon and stick with its larger sibling.

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I don't doubt that most shoppers will opt for the mid-size SUV, but I'm glad Acura has a wagon in its line-up, particularly now that Subaru's offerings have grown so f-ing ugly. Having cargo space shouldn't mean the only choice is something that handles like a steel box on stilts. There are exactly three places I go off road: parking lots, parking decks and driveways. Something that carries the goods but still handles like a sport sedan is what I'd choose.

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