2009 Acura TSX

The test drives Acura arranged in the hills above San Diego for the TSX press preview in mid-February were compromised by a heavy snowfall that had Southern California drivers, including police officers in 4x4 SUVs, skidding, flipping, and rolling off the roads. Driving impressions? The Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 tires had good traction, but the TSX's rear defroster could barely keep up with the unexpected climate change. Luckily, we had the opportunity to return to the area the following day to take photos and drive on dry mountain roads, where the TSX demonstrated excellent body control and a willingness to play. Sure, you'll get some understeer when you're really pushing the car into hairpin turns, but you can still rotate the rear end through a corner. The brakes resist fade, and the steering - now electrically instead of hydraulically assisted - is communicative, even if it ultimately could use more feel and a touch more precision.

Like the newly face-lifted RL sedan, the TSX gets what Acura calls its "power plenum" grille, which is part of a new Acura family look. It's a handsome if somewhat anodyne effort at finally establishing a "face" for the twenty-two-year-old Acura brand. We could do without the two pointy extrusions in the bottom edge of the front air-dam surround, however, and the seventeen-inch wheels on our test car were pretty dull.

Acuras usually come well-equipped as standard, and one of the stated goals for the new TSX was that its owners would not be deprived of any of the goodies other Acuras offer. Thus the 2009 TSX is available with a technology package that bundles a state-of-the-art navigation system featuring traffic and weather reports with the incredible Panasonic ELS surround-sound stereo, which was engineered by Grammy-winning producer Elliot Scheiner and debuted in the TL sedan.

The TSX is the right sort of car for a new age of automotive enthusiasm that will rely on modest-displacement, low-cylinder-count powertrains for performance and efficiency. Do we expect keen 3-series drivers to abandon their BMWs for the TSX? Probably not. But the legions of people who reflexively look toward prestige German badges will do themselves a disservice by not checking out the TSX.

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