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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 06-08-06, 05:37 PM Thread Starter
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June 7, 2006
Test Drive: 2006 Acura TSX

Review and photos by Laurance Yap

It wasn't until I drove an Acura TSX for a few days that I realized just how many of them there were on the road. Everywhere I looked, it seemed, there were TSXs scurrying to and fro: blue ones, red ones, silver ones, and even some painted in the same pearlescent white of my test car. Since its introduction in 2003, Acura has sold a lot of TSXs, and 2005 was its best year ever, with 3,918 units eclipsing 2004's 3,704.

Really, it's not hard to see why. While it's not exactly an exciting car, the TSX pushes both the emotional and rational hot buttons of entry-level luxury car buyers. On the one hand, it offers impressive performance, entertaining handling, and plenty of luxury features; on the other, it's priced well, is a practical car with lots of room, and thanks to slow depreciation and great fuel economy, is cheap to own and run.

For 2006, the TSX has received a number of detail improvements that strengthen its package on a number of fronts, but its core appeal remains. The styling has been tweaked a little bit, with more aggressive front and rear bumper designs, standard front fog lights, and new wheels. Power has been bumped from 200 horsepower to 205.

And inside, a Bluetooth hands-free link for your cell phone is now standard, along with an auxiliary input jack for the stereo system. A high-resolution display between the speedometer and the tachometer replaces the old panel of warning lights with a trip computer, and the driver's seat now has a two-position memory.

Memory or not, the TSX's cabin is a really nice place to be. The power driver's seat is comfortable, but has big side bolsters for good support while cornering. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes, making it easy to find a comfortable driving position; the "floating" gauges are lit in sharp blue-white light and are easy to read no matter how bright it is outside. Moreover, the build quality of the TSX's dash - the sheen of the plastic, real aluminum trim, and chrome pieces - is as nice as many cars that cost several times the Acura's base price. Audi interiors were for a long time the benchmark for quality in the entry-luxury class; the TSX eclipses the A4 for overall finish, though its design is a bit more conservative.

Such design conservatism continues on the outside, as well. Though the TSX does have fairly sharp lines - witness the ridge running right from the point in the grille all the way to the back of the car - its proportions are pretty family-car-like, explained by its platform being based on the European version of the Honda Accord (which is slightly shorter and narrower than our Accord). On the other hand, it's a shape that is aging quite well, and a first-year TSX looks just as good as a brand new one. (I'd argue, in fact, that some of the touches on the 2006 model, such as the chunky spokes on the alloy wheels or the deeper front bumper, actually seem a bit heavy-handed, and compromise some of the deftness of the original design.) Acura owners, though, seem to like it this way; the consistency of the company's design keeps their cars' resale value strong.

So does the robustness of the car's mechanicals. Despite a relatively high specific output - 205 horsepower from 2.4 litres comes at a high 7,000 rpm - the TSX's engine and transmission feel bulletproof, and past experiences with family Hondas has suggested that they only get better with age. Though its power peak is fairly high up the rev range, the engine produces more than adequate torque from a standing start, and the six-speed manual transmission (a five-speed automatic is available as an option) makes it a pleasure to wring every last drop of performance out of the engine. Its gates are nicely spaced, its action is slick, and the clutch pedal is as easy as they come. Only sixth gear is a bit of a reach away, requiring a bit of a rightward joggle when shifting from fifth.

With a double-wishbone suspension front and rear, the TSX makes for fun in the twisties, too. The steering is light and responsive, and communicates plenty of road feel; the suspension allows only a little body roll and maintains good stability even in high-speed corners. The brakes work with even the lightest brush of the pedal, and stopping power is just fine. Downsides? The ride can feel a bit stiff over some of Toronto's broken pavement, and wind and road noise make their way into the cabin (though to be fair, my tester was fitted with aggressive winter tires).

Aside from an entertaining drive, the TSX's level of gadgetry for the price is its other primary attraction. In addition to the Bluetooth link, the TSX also comes with - as standard - a 360-watt, six-disc CD stereo system with eight speakers, automatic climate control, heated and powered front seats, a moonroof, gas-discharge headlights with an auto-off feature, and much more.

Opting for the $2,800 navigation package gets you a touch-screen DVD-based system that's one of the fastest in the industry, and the only one to offer a digital version of the Zagat restaurant guide (which is great if you're a foodie in foreign territory). The navigation system can also be programmed using voice commands, and even understands Canadian French.

Unfortunately, though I appreciated the nav system's functionality in my tester, its level of integration with the rest of the controls was a bit confusing. When you order it, some of the stereo controls, for instance, are relegated to their own menu on the touch screen, while others are accessed via a row of buttons below it. Some climate control switches are on either side of the screen - and work fine - but to adjust the fan speed, you need to hit the "AC" button down by the stereo controls to bring up another screen. The little joystick is too small to use with gloves on, and there's also some duplication of controls between what's offered on-screen and accessed using knobs and switches. I guess that's all a remnant of this system having been adapted from the same one used in the Acura RL, where it's designed to integrate all of the controls.

Still, I'm spoiled by cars with navigation systems these days, and I'd be loath to buy a car without one, given how much I rely on them when I travel. You do eventually get used to the system fitted to the TSX - any set of controls in a car becomes intuitive with time - and the rest of the package is just so appealing. Practical and fun at the same time - and with a strong case to make for cost of ownership - it's no surprise the TSX is as popular as it is.

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post #2 of 2 Old 06-12-06, 06:36 PM
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Great write-up!

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2004 Acura TSX 5AT | Purchased 8/31/04 | Sold 12/7/12

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