I'm never psyched to see a new car get bigger and heavier than its predecessor, as is the case with the new TSX. In this instance, the bloat seems particularly ridiculous because Acura is moving away from the compact arena just when it appears that premium-brand compacts might finally gain acceptance in America. The outgoing TSX, after all, was the bigger, more grown-up replacement for the Integra, and now the new TSX is bigger still, to the point where it's moved more than halfway to the size of the Acura TL. What's the point of that?
The TL, though, is itself about to be replaced; we drive the new one in July, and perhaps the new TL will reveal itself to be somehow vastly different than the TSX. We'll see.
If you can set aside the car's lineage, though, the TSX is really quite nice. Climb in, and the car makes a great first impression. The lightweight door swings open easily and slams with a solid thud. Leather interiors have become commonplace, but the hides in the TSX really announce their presence with a great smell. The dash is a little over-styled, but the logic of the navigation, the stereo, and the climate controls is impeccable. The seats feel great and there are no evident shortcuts in the cabin materials. I was also pleased to see a manual gear lever poking up from the console (I wonder if the new TL will maintain that option). The big 2.4-liter four in the TSX is so smooth, well-mannered, and potent that it could easily be mistaken for a six. It shrugs off the car's roughly 150-lb weight gain. I drove the TSX in the rain, and torque steer was kept under control only because the traction control system is hyper intrusive. I was mostly on the freeway, where the ride was quiet and far more comfortable than an RDX, but I was disappointed that the steering is a little dead and too quick just off center.
Overall, my first drive impression is that the TSX is still a very pleasant car, if no longer a compact car. Maybe Acura can bring back the Integra to fill the vacuum at the base of its lineup.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
It's easy to forget how well Honda manual transmissions work and feel. So many Honda buyers don't even know what to do with a clutch, and that's a shame. This six-speed is an absolute delight to use. Clutch takeup is great, and the effort is light enough to make city driving a pleasure. The in-line four feels pretty strong given the size of the car, but it would be much nicer if the TSX hadn't grown up so much.
I disagree with Joe Lorio about the infotainment controls. There are far too many buttons and knobs to make the system easy to use. The rest of this car feels pretty traditional and has sort of a simplistic luxury feel, but the dizzying array of buttons looks intimidating. I don't think the placement of the buttons does anything to make the system more intuitive.
The looks don't do anything for me, either. Acura's new corporate face doesn't look pleasing at all. I can't remember anyone liking the new RL when it debuted at the Chicago Auto Show last February, and the TSX wears the new look with only a little more grace.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
I know it was the right move for Acura, but I'm not nuts about the end result. The TSX needed more dramatic styling and a larger interior to bring in the masses, but the changes will disappoint some enthusiasts. Don't get me wrong: there is much to like about the new TSX. The suspension dampening is very impressive, the gearbox is still one of the best in the business, and the engine is incredibly tractable for a normally aspirated four-cylinder hauling this much mass. Unfortunately, you can feel the slight weight gain, and it dulls the driving experience. Also, the interior has a few too many buttons, especially on the steering wheel. Speaking of steering, the dead on-center feel is a letdown, and I was surprised by the lack of front-end grip. Also, I find the upper section of the front seats far too aggressive and confining. Still, most buyers will find that the amount of equipment for the price is hard to beat. I just wish this newest version carried more of the magic of the old car.
Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor
I like the new TSX--I really do. But I absolutely loved the old one. And from its Saturn-looking face, to its cluttered center stack, to its much less VTEC-y engine response, to its dumbed-down steering feel, this new Acura just doesn't have the neat character of the original TSX.
And I'm not just spouting off based on faded, rose-colored memories of the previous TSX. I drove an old one (a 100,000-mile, 2004 model, no less) back-to-back with the brand-new model, and I relished the original's simplicity of driving experience and design alike.
Still, the new TSX remains a fabulous entry-level luxury car (about $33,000 for our navigation-equipped example). It's a nice-riding, quiet, 28-mpg (EPA and observed) highway cruiser that's also fun to drive in the city and on back roads, primarily because of the fantastic manual gearbox that my colleagues have already mentioned. The USB/iPod integration is excellent, too, and once you get used to the myriad buttons on the dash, the entire navigation/entertainment system is easy to use.
A couple of weird things happened over my weekend with the car, however: I swear that the driver's seatback kept readjusting itself when I turned off the car, and for some reason, the backup camera didn't kick on one morning. Granted, our test car was a preproduction example.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor