Steve Schaefer, Sat, 18 Aug 2007 08:00:00 PDT
Honda has an enviable reputation for providing nice, reliable, well made cars that are, at least in their simplest form, affordable. The existence of the Acura brand lets Honda keep it that way. Acura offers an upscale line of vehicles that compete with higher targets. So, the TSX sedan can go after BMW intenders who know about the economy and reliability of Honda, and are therefore willing to consider an alternative.
My test car, with a navigation system, listed at $30,760. That sounds like the price of a small BMW, doesn't it? Well, BMWs are a wee bit more expensive, but they also come with six-cylinder engines. The TSX has a four-but what an engine it is. You get 205 horsepower from their high-tech powerplant, and can control how it makes its way to the tires by selecting either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic-for the same price. The latter provides a sequential SportShift, so you can still pick your gears, without a clutch.
Being a Honda underneath it all, the TSX qualifies as a Low Emission Vehicle. The EPA's Green Vehicle Guide gives it a 6 on the Air Pollution score, but splits the Greenhouse Gas score by transmission. The five-speed automatic gets a 7, while the six-speed manual, while arguably more fun, gets a 6. The EPA gives the car a 22/31 mpg City/Highway rating. I averaged 23.1 mpg.
The TSX is sleek and cleanly styled. The nose wears the pentagonal grille that Acura is hoping you'll recognize as a special brand trait, although a few other brands' faces look remarkably similar. The big calipers logo in the grille is unmistakable, of course. Acura cleverly extends the grille sides to include wraparound headlight pods, which taper up to slits and wrap round the sides of the car. In back, slimness continues, and the rear panel line cuts down rakishly from taillight to wheelwell like a county highway on a map. The car's overall shape is pleasant and modern, and is not otherwise distinguished.
Inside, Acura delivers the goods, with everything you want, including bolstered leather seats with multiple electrical adjustments, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and power windows, locks, and mirrors. You also get a power moonroof and keyless entry. They even give you a powerful 360-watt premium sound system with eight speakers and a six-disc in-dash CD. There's an input jack for your iPod.
Other than selecting a transmission, your only factory option is a navigation system. My Arctic Blue test car had one. This one uses vocal commands, so you don't have to look away to push a little button on the dashboard. Not only do you get 560 voice commands, but the system has stored more than 7 million points of interest and the voice recognition system can decipher 1.7 million cities and street names.
The TSX has the safety features people want, all standard. That includes dual-stage passenger airbags, which use a series of sensors to make sure that kids and small adults are not hurt in an accident by the airbag that was meant to protect them.
The TSX is carried over from the perfectly fine 2006 model, but it does gain a standard tire pressure monitoring system this year.
So-what's this sport sedan like to drive? The 205 horsepower feel strong on anything short of a racetrack. The rigid body and four-wheel independent suspension keep the handling immediate and accurate, and the drive-by-wire throttle control creates an appropriate feel for the situation when you tap the accelerator. The electronic throttle works with the Vehicle Stability Assist system to control of the car under emergency situations. It even makes automatic transmission shifts smoother.
With concern today over folks yakking as they drive along, Acura helps in offering a Bluetooth enabled hands-free phone system called HandsFreeLink. This voice-activated feature won't keep drivers quiet, but does eliminate manual dialing and distraction, and gets both hands back on the steering wheel.
You can get a TSX starting at $28,190 plus $670 destination and handling fees. The navigation system adds $2,000. That price isn't inexpensive, but the car is loaded with technology, style, and performance, all standard. If you need more room but like the concept, check out Acura's larger TL or flagship RL cruiser.