So, with the addition of an optional V-6 the new TSX erases the last significant division between itself and the TL sedan that sits above it in Acura’s lineup. In fact, all three Acura sedans are now V-6-powered, with front- or all-wheel-drive, or about as easily distinguishable as their names (TSX, TL, and RL). This is not the way to build a hierarchy.
Last year’s redesign already had the TSX shading the TL’s turf, as the car became considerably larger. With premium marques at last showing a dawning awareness that small entries might be palatable to the American consumer, the repositioning of the TSX seemed like a retrograde step.
Although the TSX V-6 strikes me as a strategic blunder, the car itself is hardly unpleasant. Yes, the wider body makes for a more spacious interior. The cabin is suitably plush, although Acura’s recent interior designs have been a tad overwrought. The V-6 is strong and (mostly) silent, and torque steer is even well-suppressed.
But I miss the old trim and nimble, four-cylinder, stick-shift, and far more affordable TSX. And judging from the old car’s strong resale value, others do too. It’s a proposition whose time has come again; although I’d argue that it really never left.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
The last time I drove an Acura TSX (the previous-generation four-cylinder model), a young man in the grocery story parking lot walked up to me and started going on about the TSX’s high-revving engine and how much he wanted to own one. This is not a scenario I see playing itself out with the new TSX, at least not the V-6 model. This TSX feels all grown up — it’s a much more refined proposition than the old car. The interior feels more upmarket (although it’s not overly luxurious), it’s more roomy (although it also feels heavier, which isn’t necessarily a good thing), and the V-6 puts the power down with no drama. If that’s what a buyer is looking for, the TSX is quite a nice car to drive. As others have pointed out, the TSX now bumps up against the TL in the Acura lineup, a matter that Acura’s product planners have likely noted. In the meantime, it’s not a bad thing that buyers of Acura’s entry-level car now have a choice of either a raucous four-cylinder or a more refined V-6.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
I still don’t understand why Acura has decided to completely vacate the niche it once served so well with the Integra and later on, the RSX and TSX in favor of a half-hearted assault on mainstream luxury sedans.
As Joe Lorio noted, there’s nothing overtly wrong with the TSX V-6 – it’s plenty good-looking, comfortable, and pleasant to drive. Acceleration is suitably swift and nearly devoid of torque steer. The 3.5-liter V-6 is muted in normal driving, and emits a pleasing, high-tech burble when pushed. What’s missing, compared to the old TSX, is that extra bit of sharpness. The TSX used to turn-in better than any front-wheel-drive car had business doing, and made you feel like you could place it exactly where you wanted to. This new car has no obvious dynamic flaws, but never does anything to grab the driver’s attention.
The interior is likewise a strong, but not exemplary effort. I love the chronograph-like gauges, and the ELMS stereo is good enough to make even satellite radio sound pretty decent. But I’ll never understand Acura’s obtuse and, at this point, outdated navigation/radio interface. (In fact, several Hondas I’ve driven recently could stand updates in this area.)
The real issue comes into play when you start thinking of what else you can buy for nearly $40,000. I’d test-drive an Infiniti G37, Cadillac CTS, Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series before heading over to an Acura dealer. Every one of those cars offers rear- and/or all-wheel-drive as well as a decidedly more premium image (yes, even the Cadillac). Those more interested in luxury, meanwhile, might do well to check out the Buick LaCrosse or Hyundai Genesis V-6, both of which offer similar power and feature content as the TSX for a bit less money. Whereas the TSX was once in a league of its own at around $30,000, it’s now arguably out of its league.
If Acura really wants to play with the big boys, it will at the very least need to give the TSX all-wheel drive. Of course, at that point, there really would be nothing left for the TL to call its own. Meanwhile, as Joe Lorio noted, the market again seems ripe for exactly the sort of reasonably priced, fun, and small luxury cars that Acura used to build.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
It’s a little surprising that I’m driving a TSX with a V-6, since by this point I thought I might have been in a TSX diesel; such were Acura’s plans in early 2008, when I first drove this new-generation TSX. Those plans were shelved, though, due to Americans’ lukewarm responses to diesels offered elsewhere, the fluctuating price of diesel fuel, and the economy. Anyway, the V-6 is a great engine. It works well with this gearbox. I put it in sport mode, and then you can shift with the paddles on the steering wheel, which work just fine. I got up to about 100 mph on an entrance ramp, and the response was very good. I’ve always liked this car; it’s got a great chassis, and even with the extra power, the front wheels are not completely overwhelmed. You can definitely squeal the tires if you hammer it out of a turn, but it’s not horrendous by any means.
The interior is your typical current Acura theme: a few too many buttons, but you figure it out pretty quickly. As for the price of the V-6 and the TSX V-6’s role vis-à-vis the Acura TL, well, that’s another matter.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
Aside from the parallels in packaging, let’s not forget that you can get into a larger TL for some $2000 less than this TSX we tested. Still, the V-6 TSX is an entertaining drive. Power is about as much as you could ever want for a front-wheel-drive car. The five-speed automatic transmission is excellent, with smooth shifts exactly when you want them. Highway comfort is excellent, while the handling is plenty capable. Sure, all-wheel drive would be nice for performance driving, as long as it wasn’t some half-hearted setup that waits until a wheel slips to move torque rearward.
The name of the $3000 technology package seems a bit misleading. The navigation system hardly seems like modern technology with a dull and grainy interface. While it boasts traffic and weather capabilities, the graphics are on par with the original Nintendo. It’s also awkward that the large navigation screen doesn’t share any functions or display capabilities with the audio or HVAC controls. Intertwining the two would certainly help in simplifying the jumble of buttons on the dash.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
2010 Acura TSX V-6
Base price (with destination): $38,760
Price as tested: $38,760
Dual-stage front airbags
Front side airbags
Side curtain airbags
Active front head restraints
Tire pressure monitoring system
XM satellite radio
Auxiliary audio input
USB audio interface
8-way power memory driver seat
4-way power front passenger seat
Heated front seats
Power windows and doors
Auto dimming rearview mirror
Auto up/down windows
Heated, power sideview mirrors
Navigation system with voice recognition
10-speaker surround sound system
Dual-zone GPS-linked automatic climate control
Options on this vehicle:
Key options not on vehicle:
18 / 27 / 21 mpg
Size: 3.5L SOHC V-6
Horsepower: 280 hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 254 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
Weight: 3680 lbs
18 x 8 in. aluminum alloy wheels
235/45 high-performance all-season tires