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Discussion Starter #1

Carmakers [in 1998]: “SUVs are the new minivans, because young parents hate the minivan’s Soccer Mom connotation. Also wagons are a non-starter for precisely the same reason.”

Carmaker [Acura, in late 2010]: “The new-new: wagons.”

If you’re scratching your head, you aren’t alone, but the spin from Acura’s Vikki Poponi, the brand’s ASVP of product planning, is that a certain segment of just-minted Gen-Y parents stigmatize crossovers just as their own parents stigmatized minivans. Shorthand: said 20-somethings rode to soccer practice in 2000 in the backseat of a Lexus RX.

So the logical conclusion if you won’t buy an SUV, minivan or crossover is that you, the new mom or dad, must buy all that’s left—a wagon. Or, even better, Acura’s brand-new $30,960 TSX Sport Wagon.

Sold as the Accord Tourer in Europe, the 2011 American edition gets a more deluxe interior, retuned suspension and lightly altered appearance. What we don’t get on this side of the pond is a diesel engine option or a 6-speed transmission. There’s just one engine, the 201-horespower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, and only a 5-speed, manually-shiftable auto-box transmission. (More on all of this, below, along with driving impressions.)

So, with all that spin does that mean that Acura is abandoning crossovers? Don’t be silly.

Acura’s MDX and RDX crossover sales are booming, both up nearly 50% so far this year. And Acura itself only predicts sales of the TSX Sport Wagon to be a modest 4,000 units in 2011, and estimates that the entire entry-luxury wagon slice of America’s auto pie is a dinky, 10,000 or so units. (For reference, baked into said slice are cars like the $29,000 Volvo V50 T5, $35,940 Audi A4 Avant and $36,200 BMW 328i Sport Wagon.)

But Acura wants a few bites out of this tiny sliver of sales. And because the entire brand is growing, with excellent numbers out of J.D. Power on initial quality as well as making cars that score very high residual value, Acura wants to use its momentum to push into spaces where the brand hasn’t previously offered options.

IHS Global Insight’s Aaron Bragman doesn’t believe the car will get to its predicted target, however, and doesn’t buy the wagon-is-the-new crossover spin. “It’s likely to be something of a sales disappointment. Wagons in general are not staging much of a comeback in the U.S. Crossovers can get all the car-like handling characteristics and room of a wagon (if not more), plus a higher seating position for better visibility.”


The Drive
Well, not ALL the handling characteristics of a car. The TSX Sport Wagon reminds this reviewer of what the considerably taller RDX cannot be, and even what the Subaru Outback has lost by continuing to grow taller and heavier.

It’s true that those vehicles get AWD and the TSX Sport Wagon is really just a TSX Sedan with a taller rear end (identical wheelbase; slight growth in length and height when including standard roof rails on the Wagon). But its additional 130 pounds of booty gives the TSX Sport Wagon superior front/rear balance vs. the sedan (57 front/43 rear vs. 60/40 for the sedan), not to mention cargo capacity that’s actually quite close to what you can get from an RDX: 25.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up in the TSX Sport Wagon vs. 27.8 cubic feet in the RDX. Drop the rear seats in the TSX Sport Wagon and you may not have the tall ceiling of the RDX, but the rears fold totally flat and the cargo capacity of 60.5 cubic feet is almost identical to that of the RDX.

Further, while the aforementioned Subaru boasts a larger cargo hold, it’s not not nearly as sharp handling an offering. You probably don’t cross-shop this Acura with that Subaru, but vs. those aforementioned bogies Acura itself is targeting —BMW, Audi, Volvo—it beats them all on total cargo, save the Volvo (also not as sporty a drive, by the way).

And while we’re talking better, the TSX Sport Wagon ekes out superior fuel economy stats (22 city/30 highway) vs. its German/Swedish competition, and of course it smokes the compact 5-passenger luxo-crossover competition, too. (In case you’re wondering the RDX gets 19 city/24 highway.)

Beyond the digits, the Sport Wagon is truly sporty. Steering is light but talks to the driver and though it’s an electrical system rather than a mechanical one, it resists feeling either numb or dead, or weighting up at the wrong instance.

The engine in the Acura is also a real pleasure, rev’ing cleanly and freely to redline, and the revised TSX’s transmission will hold gears in Sport mode right up to the rev-limiter, and paddle shifters tick off shifts up or down fairly quickly, if not as smartly as you get in Audi’s DSG.

This is, after all, an automatic transmission, not a dual-clutch manual, and you’ll find that shortcoming when you bomb into a turn expecting to be able to downshift from 3rd to 2nd gear, only to find that the electronics refuse your request. Ah, you want a true manual instead? That’s a no go, and you can blame your fellow Americans. Acura says fewer than 5% take the manual gearbox in the TSX sedan, which is a true shame because Acura/Honda make some of the very best manual transmissions on earth.


For a front-wheel drive car, the TSX Sport Wagon does very well in most circumstances, understeering predictably when pushed, but allowing a high degree of playfulness. If in fact the newly-nesting mom or dad is going to buy this car they’d never push it as hard as we did with Baby on Board at least, which leads me to believe it’s absolutely entertaining enough for most buyers.

Those who like really raucous wagons? Maybe not. For one thing, it’s just too nose-heavy vs., say, that 3-Series. Also, the suspension errs on the side of being smooth, but uneven, rolling pavement makes it feel soft-kneed rather than buttoned down, although this is only a 1st-impression takeaway. More roads, more time, and more varied conditions would be necessary to draw any absolute conclusions about handling.

The Acura TSX Sport Wagon's interior is clean and smartly laid out, the seats are supportive and comfortable, and cabin noise is pretty hushed. This isn’t quite the uber-sexy quarters you can find in the A4 Avant, but Acura gives you a pile of standard amenities, like leather seats and HID headlamps, that are all extras from Audi.

And that’s all part of Acura’s formula, believing that if the new-new is wagons, the new economy for entry-luxury buyers is bang for the buck. And these days that’s a pretty sound argument.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
AutoWeek


What is it?
Acura expands the TSX lineup with the addition of the Sport Wagon for the 2011 model year. In other markets around the world, the TSX sedan and wagon are sold as the Honda Accord--it's slightly narrower and shorter than the U.S. Accord. But the TSX keeps it's European-influenced styling and suspension settings.

The prime selling point of the TSX wagon is the added cargo versatility that comes from folding the rear seat.

How's it drive?
Like just about every other Honda/Acura product, this TSX Sport Wagon is fun to drive. Having said that, the 2.4-liter I4 is not necessarily the life of the party. Like most Honda powerplants, there's not a lot of low-end grunt, and the fun doesn't happen until you get further up the rev range. Acura officials made a conscious decision to not offer the Sport Wagon with the six-speed manual that is available in the TSX sedan because product planners say U.S. buyers are not big on manual transmissions. With single-digit take rates for Acuras with manuals, and with Acura expecting to sell just 4,000 wagons annually, it's easy to see why the manual remains on the shelf. But having the manual transmission would put a little bit of sport into the Sport Wagon that it is lacking.

Still, the steering is quick and responsive, the suspension is firm without being harsh, and the cabin is quiet at highway speeds, making the time behind the wheel enjoyable. Plus, with an available 460-watt ELS surround-sound audio system with a 15-gig storage, you have a concert hall on wheels, for those who appreciate such things. There are few, if any, better manufacturer audio systems offered today.

Do I want it?
Like similar wagons from Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, the TSX Sport Wagon is a terrific alternative to a sport-ute. With cargo-hauling capacities similar to those of a compact SUV (60.5 cubic feet of storage space with the rear seats folded) you get a fun-to-drive car with good fuel economy. And this being an Acura, you get a bunch of available technology, such as a terrific, easy-to-use nav system with a backlit VGA eight-inch color screen along with real-time traffic and weather, plus the above-mentioned rocking audio system. The TSX Sport Wagon is not available with all-wheel drive, and that might hurt it going up against competitors such as Audi and Volvo that do offer it. But if front-wheel drive and snow tires will get you through the winter, or you live in areas where that is not a concern, the TSX Sport Wagon is a solid player in what is becoming an increasingly crowded segment.

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon
On Sale: Dec. 21
Price: $31,820
Powertrain: 2.4-liter, 201-hp, 170 lb-ft I4; FWD, 5-speed automatic
Curb weight: 3,599 lb
0-60 mph: N/A
Fuel economy (EPA): 25 mpg​
 

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Discussion Starter #3
AutoMobileMag


If there's one quality of Honda automobiles that we value the most, it's their elegant simplicity. For a while, that engineering elegance translated well to the Acura brand. Products like the Legend and Integra gained substantial following from a widely varied group of people. From hard-core enthusiasts to near-luxury buyers, Acura represented a no-excess, no-baggage way to upgrade from mass-market products.

And then the brand faltered a little. 1st into the dumpster went the brand names that had so much equity. And next was the understated style that said "expensive" without saying "ostentatious." The results? Products like the current TL and RL-excellent cars ruined by buck-toothed grille, confusing market positioning, and names that no one can remember.

The Acura sedan that fared the best was the TSX. Staying mostly true to form, this mid-size sedan kept its 4-cylinder engine -- at least initially. It got the chevron-grille, but in toned-down form. The 6-speed manual stuck around, which pleased an ever-smaller, but always vocal group of enthusiasts. And then it got a V-6, which bumped its price up to within spitting distance of the (much) larger TL-and it started looking like even the TSX was losing its way.

And now, we have redemption. The TSX Sport Wagon marks a return to the cars that Acura should have been making all along. With front-wheel drive, a 4-cylinder engine, and automatic-only transmission, it's not trying to compete with the BMW 3-series Touring. Or even the Audi A4 Avant. It is, simply, a well-built compact wagon.

Sadly, it still has the Butter Face front end, but it's better looking than the sedan. Like all wagons, it's far more useful, too, with airy back seats, a big rear cargo hold and an available power liftgate. Take everything you know and love about the TSX sedan, add a backpack, and you have the Sport Wagon.

The TSX is fantastic to drive, with a quick, perfectly weighted steering rack attached to a thick, leather-covered wheel. The transmission still has only 5 forward gears, but it makes good use of the ratios, happily revving the snot out of the engine when needed. At 2.4 liters, this is a big 4, and it does get vocal at high revs, with a hollow, purposeful note that vibrates the floorboard-but it's more "sporty" than "thrashy." Of course, it can't compete with Audi's turbocharged 4-cylinders, Volkswagen and Volvo's 5-cylinders, or BMW's silken in-line 6s, but Hondas are at their best when they're not trying to emulate everyone else's high-torque, low-rev powertrains.

The only thing missing from the TSX? A stick shift. Oh, the product planners have promised us that TSX buyers don't want manuals. But it's been many years since Honda has offered a compact wagon-and we think they're mistaken. After all, almost one in 4 buyers of the Volkswagen Jetta wagon -- the car that we think buyers will cross-shop with this TSX-opt to shift for themselves.

Still, Acura hopes to sell only 4000 TSX wagons per year, or only about a 5th as many as Volkswagen Jetta SportWagens. We think that's a realistic goal -- but we're hoping to see a lot more TSX Sport Wagons than that. If only because wagons are such a smart, practical, and sexy alternative to compromised, dime-a-dozen small crossovers.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Examiner


Shaded by the toweringly majestic arches of the awe inspiring Golden Gate Bridge, I witnessed a car company pull off one of the most audacious press launches in recent memory. While every other automaker and their cousin Bob are busy launching new crossovers, luxury renegade Acura decided to introduce a premium wagon based on its sporty TSX sedan.

The delicious chutzpah of it all is made all the more satisfying by the fact that they have, indeed, pulled it off. The 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon is a fun to drive, economical (28 miles per gallon during my time driving it), affordable and has all of the utility of the best luxury crossovers. It also looks really, really cool.

It’s the family car for moms and dads (or dog owners) who still want to look cool.

EXTERIOR STYLING


Now, Justin Timberlake may have brought “SexyBack” but it was Acura that brought sexy to the back of the 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon. The Audi A4 Avant, BMW 3-Series Wagon, Volvo V50 and every other wagon on the market today look positively frumpy by comparison. I don’t think I have ever called an Audi frumpy before but the TSX Sport Wagon is just so sensual that nothing else really compares.

The cut of the rear tail lamps blends perfectly into the rear ¾ panel and this vehicle photographs well from every angle. With a lot of new cars you generally try and photograph them from 2 or 3 angles to keep them from looking awkward. I had no such problems with the 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon. The Sport Wagon also benefits from the sleeker new front grille design that bowed with the 2011 TSX sedan.

INTERIOR

The 2011 Acura TSX enjoys a few detail changes like silver inner door handles (so quit your complaining!), LED foot lighting, new dash trim, increased noise insulation measures and an updated navigation system with a larger VGA screen, storage for 3,500 songs and Acura’s “Song By Voice” technology. “Song By Voice” allows you to use just speak the name of the album or song you want to play from your MP3 player or the hard drive. Trust me, it’s cool.

The cargo area has 25.8 cubic feet of cargo room behind the 2nd row of seats and with them folded flat that figure expands to a whopping 60.5 cubic feet. The cargo area also has a number of sturdy metal cargo hooks built into the floor and side which can help keep your stuff from moving around.

These hooks will also be a boon for dog owners who want to secure a dog crate or safety harnesses for the utmost in canine security. In fact, as a dog owner I found the low entry height and this multitude of safety options really appealing. If I was in the market for a new vehicle for my dog Daisy Mae I would buy a 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon without question.

PRICING AND FEATURES

The “base” TSX wagon starts at $30,950 and comes with a 2.4 liter 201 horsepower 4-cylinder, 5-speed automatic, paddle shifters, leather upholstery, dual zone climate control, power windows, power door locks and mirrors, keyless entry, XM, Bluetooth, USB/iPod integration, power moonroof, Acura 7-speaker premium 350-watt audio, roof rails, power memory driver’s seat, heated front seats and returns an EPA estimated of 22 city/30 highway. No luxury wagon on the market today can compare from a price perspective.

The only upgrade is to the Tech Package which brings the price to $34,610 and adds Acura’s excellent navigation system with traffic rerouting, restaurant Zagat guide, real time traffic, real time weather, a back-up camera, the awe-inspiring Acura/ELS 415-watt Audio system with 10-speakers, 15GB hard drive of song storage, remote-linked power tailgate and GPS linked solar-sensing climate control. In my opinion the Tech Package is well worth the extra outlay.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

The 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon drives, steers and handles just like a regular TSX which is to say phenomenally. I was also surprised that even though it weighs approximately 130 lbs. more than the sedan that the 2.4 liter 4-cylinder always felt peppy and strong at all speeds throughout the rev range. The vehicle was also noticeably quieter thanks to the 2011 sound deadening measures that have also been applied to the sedan.

Turn in on the winding roads north of the Golden Gate Bridge was crisp and the steering felt nicely weighted. The 5-speed automatic did a terrific job of keeping the engine in the power band around tight corners and steep uphill climbs. Telepathic would be a good way of describing it.

In other words, if you love the TSX sedan you will love driving the Sport Wagon just as much. And boy, is this puppy so much more fun to drive than an SUV.

CONCLUSION

Sales of the 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon start on Dec. 21st2010 and 4,000 units are projected to be sold the 1st year. That seems like a conservative estimate to me given the number of people who are tired of “Mommy and Me” SUV/crossovers. This wagon should appeal to young families, empty nesters who don’t like driving bulky SUVs and, of course, fanatical dog owners like me.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
C&D


At 1st glance, a traditional mid-size station wagon is unexpected from a company that’s scoring its best sales numbers with a crossover, the MDX. Considering that there hasn’t been a conventional wagon in the U.S. Honda/Acura lineup since the 5th-generation Accord, which ended its run at the conclusion of the 1997 model year, the TSX wagon seems even more surprising.

But Acura knows that not all the young, affluent, small-family types out there are smitten with crossovers. There are at least a half-dozen traditional station wagons in the entry-premium category—base prices range from about $30,000 to $40,000—and there’s potential for great growth if… well, if people would just realize how much better wagons are than SUVs.

Sport With A Small S

Acura didn’t create this car from scratch. Like the TSX sedan, the new wagon is a luxed-up version of the European Honda Accord. But there’s an asterisk. Unlike the sedan, which has charmed C/D staffers through two generations now, the wagon comes up just a little short on the sporty score sheet. Agile: check. Competent: check. Quick, communicative steering: check. Excellent brake-pedal feel: check. No surprises: check. Comfort, quiet operation, and lots of standard features: check, check, and check.


Acceleration: Not so fast. When it goes on sale December 21, the TSX wagon will offer only 1 powertrain—the basic 201-hp 2.4-liter 4, mated with a 5-speed automatic. No manual transmission option. No V-6 option. With its modest torque, the 2.4-liter 4 isn’t an engine that’s likely to provoke acceleration brownouts or smoky burnouts. Paired in the sedan with the 6-speed manual gearbox, a very slick unit in the best Honda tradition, it provides acceptable go, amplified by the pleasure of engaging the right gear for the rather narrow powerband.


Bolted up to the automatic, though, the 4-cylinder produces forward progress that’s distinctly more deliberate. And adding mass to the equation—Acura lists the wagon’s curb weight at 3599 pounds, 129 more than the 4-cylinder automatic sedan and 199 more than the manual sedan—doesn’t make the going any quicker. 2-lane passing requires careful planning, and it’s hard to see the wagon as a weapon of choice for the free-for-all commuter.

If the absence of a manual transmission is disappointing, Acura’s rationale is hard to dispute. For 1, even though most of the wagon’s key competitors offer do-it-yourself shifting, the manual take rate for the TSX sedan has dwindled to less than 3%, according to Acura. Secondly, Acura’s business case for the wagon is very tentative—just 4000 units for 2011—making it important to keep the build orders simple. 4 of the car’s prime competitors offer traction at both ends, but Acura has no plans to offer all-wheel drive on either the TSX sedan or wagon.


The Good News

While blistering performance may not be part of the deal, there is nevertheless a lot about the car to like. The wagon is only 3.6 inches longer than the sedan, but delivers far more cargo capacity. There are 26 cubic feet behind the rear seats, with a flat load floor, several tie-down points, and more storage under the floor. With the seats folded flat, the cargo well expands to 61 cubic feet, as good as anything in this class and bigger than most.

And, like other Acuras, it’s well equipped. The base price of $31,820—which is near the low end of the competitive spectrum and $1350 more than a sedan—includes a satisfying array of standard luxo features. There’s only 1 option, the Technology package, which adds $3650 to the sticker and navigation and ultra-premium audio to the equipment list. The wagon is a tad thirstier than the 4-cylinder sedan—22 mpg city and 30 highway, according to the EPA, versus 22/31, but still near the top of the competitive charts.

The final plus: this is arguably the best-looking member of the TSX lineup, and close to the Audi A4 for visual leadership in the class. Acura has toned down the TSX’s lamentably beaky chrome grille for 2011, and the canted rear hatch adds a zoomy look to the package in addition to enhancing rear cargo access. A manual-transmission choice would make the station wagon more entertaining in our view, but the other TSX virtues are intact—and merely being a station wagon is a virtue unto itself.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
WSJ


To be blunt, this car is a badge job, a spiffed-up version of the Honda Accord wagon sold in Europe, wearing an Acura nameplate. A Groucho mustache would be a more effective disguise. Even more bluntly, it's a purely bureaucratic exercise in car-building. Honda had made the investment in developing a wagon version of the Euro-spec Accord—sold Stateside as the Acura TSX—and American Honda Motor Co. figured it could move some wagon-y tin, color in a little white space in the U.S. market and maybe, just maybe, the car would spark. Honda expects sales of the TSX Wagon to run 4,000 units annually, enough to cover the costs of marketing and certification. If more, sushi and sake for everybody. If not, no great loss. What's the Japanese equivalent of c'est la vie?

So while Honda/Acura execs were striving mightily this week to persuade journalists that, as a matter of brand identity, Acura can't simply mean "Honda plus," here they were, promoting a car that was just that. Why not distinctive sheet metal? Why not at least make the company's 3.5-liter, 280-horsepower V6 available, as it is in the sedan? Why not equip the wagon with Honda's excellent (though ridiculously named) Super-Handling All Wheel Drive, to compete against the AWD Audi A4 Avant and BMW 328i xDrive Sport Wagon? Execs blinked. Well, that would have cost money. Sigh. Perhaps a better logo for the Acura badge is not the stylized, A-shaped drafting compass but crossed pencils.

* Base price: $30,960
* Price as tested:$34,610
* Powertrain: Naturally aspirated 2.4-liter, 16-valve DOHC in-line 4-cylinder with variable valve timing and lift; 5-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift mode; front-wheel drive
* Horsepower/torque: 201 hp at 7,000 rpm/170 pound-feet at 4,300 rpm
* Length/weight: 189.2 inches/3,599 pounds
* Wheelbase: 106.4 inches
* 0-60 mph: 8 seconds
* EPA fuel economy: 22/30/25 mpg, city/highway/combined
* Cargo capacity: 60.5 cubic feet (2nd-row seats folded)
25 years after the introduction of the Acura brand as Honda's 2nd channel to sell more-expensive, higher-performing vehicles in the U.S., Acura continues to wander in the wilderness of its own identity. A geriatric flagship (the RL), no sports-car halo—the world-beating NSX having been consigned to the dustbin 5 years ago—and sales buoyed mostly by splendidly tarted-up versions of Honda crossovers, the RDX and MDX. The Americans did manage to convince the Japanese leadership to back the ZDX, the outrageously sleek fastback crossover designed in California that went on sale last year, but that's a spoonful of hot water in a very cold sea.

Acura remains marketing antimatter, nearly impossible to get your head around, bereft of poetry and valance.

But in a way, it's all very liberating. After all, the TSX Wagon can't betray the brand if the brand doesn't mean anything.

And the car? Oh, excellent, thank you. If General Motors built it I would be expecting the Sun to turn to sackcloth and the fig tree to cast its untimely figs, for the End Times would soon be upon us. And I'm willing to give extra points to any company that brings forward an entertaining, useful sport wagon as an alternative to a high-hipped crossover. Indeed, the TSX Wagon and the Acura RDX crossover have approximately the same cargo capacity with the rear seats down (about 61 cubic feet), but the wagon's unobstructed cargo floor is a foot or so longer (nearly 70 inches), so you can jam a mountain bike in the back and close the hatch, with room to spare. Also, the wagon has a nifty, under-floor storage bin to squirrel away items.

Not to mention the TSX Wagon is 7.2 inches lower and 144 pounds lighter than the RDX and—to no one's surprise—is that much more locked down and trust-inspiring when driven fast on open roads. The engineers managed to reinforce the wagon's unit-body to maintain the same rigidity as the TSX sedan, at a cost of a modest 130 pounds over the sedan (the wagon's curb weight: 3,599 pounds). The front-strut and rear-multilink suspension is reasonably athletic, helping the wagon to corner flatly and gather itself up quickly after it goes over big whoops. I suspect that the American-spec wagon is sprung a little more softly than the Euro-spec Accord wagon, but I can live with that. When you throw it into a corner hard enough to overwhelm the grip of the Michelin Pilots, the TSX Wagon understeers progressively and predictably—57% of the car's weight is on the front wheels. The speed-sensitive steering response is smooth if a little leisurely, and braking response quite strong. So the driving dynamics are definitely there, especially for a front-drive car.

But as most people walk away from a test drive, I'll wager they'll be thinking about 2 sensations. The 1st is a good 1. As part of the TSX/Euro-Accord midcycle refresh, Honda's white-coats have further quelled road noise and vibration, with what they call "high capacity" suspension bushings, as well as lots of new sound insulation around the wheel wells, thicker window glass and acoustic windshield glass. These cars have always had a soft, rounded and hushed ambience for their price and class. Now tire and wind noise is practically an abstraction.

The other sensation is a hunger, a yearning, a craving for more horsepower. Press the go button to merge on an interstate highway and the 2.4-liter, 201-hp VTEC 4-cylinder engine—extraordinary machine though it is—simply doesn't put out enough grunt to pull this thing to speed, um, gracefully. It's here that brand expectation meets engineering, because it's not that the car isn't competently quick; it's that the straining, herniating engine note as it rises to the occasion is so very unlike luxury. Luxury cars should offer a degree of effortlessness, no? This thing sounds like it's going for the Olympic dead-lift record.

To compensate, the TSX Wagon gets excellent fuel economy, 25 mpg combined, tied in its segment with the Volkswagen Passat 2.0T.

Another compensation: a slew of standard equipment. Standards on the TSX Wagon ($30,960) include HID headlamps, moonroof, heated leather seats and stitched-leather interior trim, Bluetooth, dual climate control. Step up to the Technology package ($34,610) and you get navigation with voice recognition, real-time traffic and weather, a mighty 10-speaker sound system with 15-gig harddrive, and the power liftgate. If you've got $35,000 to spend on a wagon, this is the most wagon you can get.

Reasonably handsome, unreasonably well equipped and…oh, I almost forgot: As part of the midcycle overhaul, Acura sent the TSX cars to the corporate orthodontist to dial down the disturbing, rabbity overbite of the car's grille. It's still no Gene Tierney, but it definitely looks better.

Write to Dan Neil at [email protected]
 

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Discussion Starter #8
CNET


The wagon lost popularity in the U.S. for a time but looks to be making a comeback, as people scrapping their SUVs for more economical vehicles still find the need for useful cargo space. Acura hopes to capitalize on this trend with the wagon version of the TSX, new for 2011.

Acura invited a group of journalists to spend a day with the new car in Northern California. Wagons have always been a popular type of vehicle for automotive journalists; the cars can combine sporty driving and practicality. It was a happy group that went out driving.

In some ways, there is not a lot to say about the 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon, as it is basically an Acura TSX with a wagon body. The Sport Wagon is a couple of inches longer than the sedan. The tailgate swings up high, so as not to be hazardous to foreheads. And, oddly, it has a power closing mechanism, an unexpected luxury on a fairly light and easy-to-move hatch.


The rear cargo area is spacious, even with the rear seats up. With the seats folded down it offers 60.5 cubic feet of space, according to Acura. The rear seats fold flat, making for a cargo area 5 feet, 10 inches long. That's enough to fit quite a few golf bags, or serve as an impromptu bed for most people.

Modest wagon

Although a TSX, the Sport Wagon lacks a few trim levels. Where the TSX sedan can be had with a V-6, a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine is the only option for the TSX Sport Wagon. And while an excellent 6-speed manual transmission is an option for the TSX sedan, the Sport Wagon gets stuck with a 5-speed automatic. The engine we can live with, but it's a shame about the transmission.

Like the TSX sedan, the TSX Sport Wagon proved an easy driver. Put it in drive, press the gas, and it moves forward without drama or hesitation. Acura likes to consider itself a luxury brand, but the TSX Sport Wagon's ride quality is not the cushy experience offered by much more expensive cars. Instead it is firm and competent, dealing with the road in a businesslike manner.

From the outset, it was obvious the TSX Sport Wagon used an electric power steering unit, as low-speed turning made a peculiar whirring sound. Acura leans to the side of power with the tuning, making it always easy to turn the wheel, sacrificing some road feel along the way.

Cruising on the freeway, the TSX Sport Wagon proved comfortable, the engine's 201 horsepower enough for passing and merging. Keeping an eye on the trip computer, we saw the average fuel economy hit around 28 mpg after some extended 65 mph freeway driving. EPA numbers for the TSX Sport Wagon are 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.


Out on twisty country roads, the TSX Sport Wagon was fine up to a point. At speeds that might cause a highway patrolman to glance up from the radar gun, the car held its own, proving stable with no excessive body motion. Getting the speed up to where that same highway patrolman would drop the radar gun, flick on the rollers, and peel out from the shoulder, the TSX Sport Wagon became sloppy, understeering and threatening to chase rabbits through the fields rather than stay on the road.

Given that Acura intends the car for buyers who lead active lifestyles, such as surfers, mountain bikers, and snowboarders, it is surprising that all-wheel drive is not an option. People who head into snowy regions might prefer competitive wagons that power four tires rather than just the front two.

Tech wagon

Acura doesn't skimp on the cabin tech in the TSX Sport Wagon, offering the same technology package that can be had in the sedan. This means Acura's newish hard-drive-based navigation system, which also shows traffic and weather. The system is perfectly usable, and the maps show good resolution, but they are only 2D.

One of our favorite features of Acura's navigation system is a points-of-interest database for scenic roads. Almost every state is represented, although some more than others. Rather than putting the car at one end or the other of a scenic route and guiding it through a series of waypoints, the system merely uses the coordinates for a center point. But it is still a nice way to get a Sunday drive recommendation.


A real high point of the technology package is the ELS audio system, Acura's premium sound option using 10 speakers and a 460-watt amp. For the wagon, Acura includes forward-facing speakers on the car's D pillars along with the center channel and subwoofer. Given the short length of our drive, we were not able to really test the quality of the audio, but if it lives up to that of other ELS systems in Acuras, it will be very good.

Acura includes a full range of audio sources, including Bluetooth streaming, satellite radio, iPod integration, and an onboard hard drive. CDs can be ripped to the drive, which reserves 15GB of space for music.

The TSX also includes a voice command system that lets uses ask for music from a connected iPod by name. Voice command also controls other car functions, such as navigation and climate control.

As with other Acuras, the TSX Sport Wagon suffers from a profusion of buttons on the dashboard. A source of particular annoyance is the double deck of phone and voice command buttons on the lower left of the steering wheel.

In sum

The TSX Sport Wagon makes a nice addition to the Acura lineup, which is dominated by sedans that show too little differentiation. We can certainly understand not including a manual transmission option, or even the V-6, but Acura should have given this car all-wheel drive, which would have made it more attractive to its intended audience.

Cabin electronics are generally solid, with modern features such as traffic and weather integrated with the navigation system. The audio system is also a high point, and the car's voice command makes it very competitive. To improve its luxury image, Acura could clean up the buttons.
 

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AutoBlog


Brush your long, grungy mop from your eyes, turn down the Nirvana and take a look around. It's the early '90s and an army of sport utility vehicles are flooding the streets. The newest four-wheeled object of America's affection has quickly become the default mode of transportation for everyone from inner city professionals to suburban soccer moms.

Fast forward a couple of decades and although sport utes are still around, they've largely been displaced by the crossover – the SUV's easier-to-maneuver, more fuel efficient and more comfortable unibody progeny. But even after years of refinement, the CUV is still a basketcase of compromises. Which begs the question: Did we have it right back in the day? Is a wagon still the best compromise of size, functionality and driving dynamics? We snagged the keys to a 2011 Acura TSX Sports Wagon to find out.

Needless to say, the TSX Sport Wagon is based on its sedan counterpart, but in addition to its two-box shape, Acura has set it off with a redesigned grille. The new piece looks far less hawk-nosed than the 1 worn by the 4-door, as its been broken up by a thinner frame that creates a slimming effect. The lower bumper also improves front-end styling with a much wider and more aggressive appearance. Seeing the TSX Sport Wagon for the 1st time is a bit like running into that formerly plain-looking girl from high school who got some work done and now dates a pro baseball player; she looks nearly the same, but somehow better. And she knows it. All of which suggests that Acura's stylists may have been listening to at least some of the criticism they've received over the company's controversial front fascia.

The Sport Wagon's updated nose gives way to that long wagon body, which also benefits from a handful of well-placed styling elements. Noticeable fender bulges wrap around the 17-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels and serve to bookend a razor sharp shoulder crease. A strong character line takes over and works its way around the perimeter of the car. It's a neat visual trick that keeps your eyes moving along the bodywork, and it also helps to hide the extra length the wagon wears – a grand total of about 3.6 inches. The overall appearance, however, is somewhat sportier than the sedan because of how the rotund rear end sets off the car's stance.



The driver's perch gives you the chance to enjoy the TSX's dark trim and subtle contrast stitching on its seats. The heated leather front chairs wrap around your body like a mold and while the Audi A4 Avant, BMW 328i Sport Wagon and Volvo V50 might have nice seats, none of them offer standard heating and few are as comfortable. Rear seat passengers are well taken care of, too, as the wagon loses just 0.1-inch of headroom compared to the sedan, while leg, hip and shoulder room all remain the same.

Better still, the rear seats fold down nearly flat with the touch of a switch. The side pockets and lower panels can be removed to reveal even more storage options and the 28-inch height of the rear opening allows for some sizable objects to catch a lift. The 60.5 cubic-feet of rear cargo space is downright cavernous compared to the 50.5, 48.9 and 44.2 found in the Audi, BMW and Volvo, respectively. The closest you'll get to equaling the TSX's cargo hold is the Cadillac CTS Wagon which comes in at 58 cubes with the seats folded flat.



It's not just comfort and utility that makes the TSX Sport Wagon a near ideal place to log trips over the hills and through the woods. All of the knobs and switches are easy to reach, and the available infotainment system hits the moving target of today's technological standards. With the exception of the bulbous multi-directional controller blighting the center stack, the controls are logically laid out, providing an easy learning curve. Dual-zone climate controls keep more than just the driver happy and even the base seven-speaker sound system provides an enjoyable audio experience. The navigation system and rearview camera, however, only show up on the dashboard if you opt for the Technology Package, but Bluetooth and USB audio come standard.

The base model starts at $30,960 plus $860 for destination and handling, while the TSX Sport Wagon with Tech Package costs $34,610 plus D&H. When upgrading to the latter, buyers also receive a power-actuated tailgate, boosted ELS 460-watt 10-speaker audio system with voice recognition, navigation with real-time weather, traffic updates and dynamic re-routing, and the rearview camera. A loaded Acura TSX Sport Wagon with Tech Package still comes in under the base price of the A4 ($35,940), 328i ($36,200) and comparably-equipped V50 ($35,650). The Caddy? Just over $38,000 in base spec.



Comparing pricing and amenities never paints a complete picture, though, and that's where driving dynamics come into play. "Sport" is the TSX Sport Wagon's middle name, and after hauling around Southern California for a couple of days, the moniker is well-deserved. If just. The suspension is firm – almost surprisingly so – making this five-door a joy to push hard, at least on SoCal's smooth roads. The rack-and-pinion steering is also tight and responsive, combining neatly with the TSX's stiff suspenders to make for an engaging driving experience.

When the road turns even slightly rough, however, the TSX Sport Wagon transforms into something of a child's moonbounce. While never unsettled, on certain course surfaces we found the Acura to be not unlike navigating a Boston whaler across a choppy harbor. Suspension for this front-wheel drive wagon is composed of double wishbones up front and multi-link setup in the rear, and we suspect the issue lies with the constant-rate coil springs. Perhaps a set of progressive units would help smooth things out, but prospective buyers who live in areas blessed with four distinctly separate seasons should keep the TSX Sport Wagon's stiff nature in mind.



Under the hood of the TSX Sport Wagon lies a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder producing 201 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 172 pound-feet of torque at 4,300 rpm. That doesn't sound like much, but the powertrain actually provides a surprising amount of motivation for this 3,599-pound premium utility sled and sounds pretty good while doing it.

Power is routed to the front wheels courtesy of a five-speed automatic transmission, while a pair of paddles mounted to the steering wheel allow for manual gear selection. When left alone, the automatic shifts smoothly, though sometimes it plays a game of hide-and-seek when pressing on with authority. If you're not in the mood for the cogbox's automated games, you can always switch the transmission into Sport and use the paddleshifters. Fortunately, whatever speed you build is just as easy to shed thanks to the TSX's well-sorted 11.8-inch ventilated front and 11.1-inch solid rear discs.


A 6-speed manual transmission would offer even more engagement, but sadly Acura can't build a business case for one. When pressed why we can't get a row-our-own version, Acura officials indicated that the company expects to sell around 4,000 units per year, or 10 percent of all TSX models sold. The take rate for manual transmissions amongst current TSX buyers is only around two to three percent, and with the wagon already making up a minority of TSX sales, it doesn't make financial sense to offer a three-pedal model.

So where is the V6 that's offered in the sedan? The four-cylinder does a surprisingly credible job, but the 280-hp, 3.5-liter unit available in the four-door would be a welcome addition. Just as Acura was listening to its customers with regards to the front-end design, it's also evidently deferred to market research regarding what engine to plunk in the TSX Wagon's beaky nose. As the theory goes, the average wagon buyer doesn't need 280 hp when 201 hp works just fine, and prospective buyers Acura spoke with placed a higher priority on fuel economy than power. The 2.4-liter is rated at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 30 miles per gallon on the highway, while the V6-powered sedan achieves 18/27 – numbers that would no doubt fall in the heavier wagon.


That all said, why is the TSX Sport Wagon finally available in the U.S.? Because Acura says it wants to provide an SUV alternative for its entry-level customers. The wagon is aimed squarely at those successful members of Generation-Y for whom owning an SUV has become a stigma. Priced below the competition and boasting better fuel economy, the 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon is not yet the near-luxury estate of our dreams, but it's a welcome step in the continued resurrection of the premium wagon.

 

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MotorTrend


Unlike its more plebian Honda mother ship, Acura has never sold a wagon in the U.S. Until now, that is. The all-new 2011 TSX Sport Wagon represents a 1st for the marque, which is introducing a low-slung family-hauler at a time when year-to-year sales of its RDX and MDX crossovers are up 52 and 47%, respectively. Odd timing? Perhaps, since the crossover segment continues to grow and the wagon segment remains niche. But, according to Acura's assistant VP of product planning Vicki Poponi, there are 2 very plausible reasons why the TSX wagon may surpass its modest 4000-units-per-year forecast.

1st, 15% of TSX sedan "leavers" -- those customers who replace their TSX with something other than another TSX -- shift to SUVs. As Acura sees it, there's an opportunity to keep them in the TSX fold with a vehicle offering SUV-like versatility. 2nd, Acura believes the TSX wagon's target customers -- 30-plus-years-old couples with college degrees, $120,000 household income, and a child on the way -- prefer greener and sportier alternatives to more fuel-thirsty and higher-riding crossovers. With EPA city/highway fuel economy numbers of 22/30 mpg and a low center of gravity that helps deliver an estimated 0.82 g of lateral grip, the TSX wagon is indeed green and sporty.


Compared to the 2011 TSX sedan on which it's based, the wagon adds 3.6 inches of length and 1.2 inches of height, making it dimensionally larger than its main competitors, the Audi A4 Avant, BMW 328i Sport Wagon, and Volvo V50. But those bigger measurements don't add up to a discernible cargo advantage. The TSX wagon, with 60.5 cubic feet behind the front row and 25.8 aft the second, delivers capacity on par with the others, coming closest to the BMW (60.9/25.0). That said, it's worth noting that the TSX offers more cargo room than its crossover sibling, the Honda Accord Crosstour (51.3/25.7), and nearly as much as the RDX (60.6/27.8).

Given the recessionary economy of late, prospective TSX buyers, as well as virtually every American, are keener than ever on value. Thus, Acura's sport wagon starts at $31,820 and bakes into that price 17-inch alloy wheels, leather-trimmed interior, Bluetooth phone, heated/power front seats, satellite radio, power moonroof, cargo cover, HID headlamps, and 5-speed automatic with paddle shifters. For an additional $3650, a Technology Package adds navigation, back-up camera, real-time traffic and weather updates, power tailgate, and ELS surround audio with 460 watts and a 15 GB hard drive. Spec a comparable A4 Avant or 328i Sport Wagon, and the price tag hovers around 45 large.

The Acura's strong value quotient does come at a small price. With a 2.4-liter 201-horsepower 170-pound-foot I-4 and a 5-speed auto as its sole powertrain, the TSX wagon is a bit light on oomph next to its rivals. Unsurprisingly, its 0-to-60 time of 8.3 seconds and quarter-mile run of 16.4 at 86.5 mph place it at the back of the wagon train. That said, its times are still respectable -- certainly for an I-4-powered 3556-pound rig -- and it doesn't comes across as lethargic or wanting for power. Moreover, the twin-cam 16-valve 2.4-liter is smooth, responsive, and emits a pleasing, racy growl when pushed - like it's happy to tap redline all day. And let's not forget that the Acura's fuel economy ranks highest among its peers.


While the TSX wagon is no podium-placer at the drag strip, it can more than hold its own on a twisty road. Unfortunately, due to inclement weather, we were unable to attain lateral acceleration and figure-8 numbers, but we expect the wagon's to match, if not supersede, those of the last TSX sedan we tested, which put down 0.81 g around the skid pad and 27.5 seconds through the figure eight. Those estimates would place the Acura well behind the more powerful, summer-tired A4 Avant (0.93, 26.3 at 0.66) and about on par with the V50 (0.83, 27.2 at 0.63). (We'd cite BMW 328i Sport Wagon figures, but we haven't tested one.)

Further, steering response from the electric power rack is laudable, albeit not up to 3 Series organic standards, with firm on-center feel and steady linearity throughout the turning range. The four-wheel disc brakes offer up a strong, reassuring pedal, erasing 60 mph in 126 feet (on a slightly damp track). Utilizing the same 7.5 x 17-inch alloys, Michelin Pilot MXM4 all-season tires, anti-roll bars, and front control-arm/rear multi-link suspension as the TSX sedan, the wagon receives unique dampers and springs, resulting in a ride that is tauter than that of most Acuras, save for the stiff-legged RDX. The wagon never feels harsh, mind you; it just lets you know that it would rather devour a twisty road than cruise a straight highway.


To answer the three questions likely on your mind: 1) Acura currently has no plans to offer the TSX wagon with a manual transmission, or 2) a V-6, or 3) all-wheel drive. Given its very conservative sales goal, the Saitama, Japan-built wagon is an inherently focused purchase, one whose buyers overwhelmingly check the boxes next to automatic, four-cylinder, and front drive. So building ultra-low-volume variants with slick six-speed sticks, 3.5-liter V-6s, or SH-AWD layouts makes little fiscal sense. And remember: To make the TSX wagon a strong value, Acura had to be pennywise with its initial investment.

Speaking of investment, the TSX Sport Wagon seems to be a sound one. Gifted with rewarding dynamics, top-tier mileage, and impressive versatility, Acura's newest offering would bolster any automotive portfolio. If you want to add it to your portfolio, best get in on the TSX wagon's 4000-unit IPO.

PHP:
Wagon Watch
How the TSX measures up against the luxury-sport-wagon set as well as a Honda cousin. (Prices include auto trans.)


  	Acura TSX Sport Wagon 	Audi A4 Avant 	BMW 328i Sport Wagon 	Volvo V50 	Honda Accord Crosstour
Base Price 	$31,820 	$36,815 	$38,450 	$29,850 	$30,570
Engine 	2.4L/201-hp/170-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4 	2.0L/211-hp/258-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 	3.0L/230-hp/200-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve I-6 	2.5L/227-hp/236-lb-ft turbo DOHC 20-valve I-5 	3.5L/271-hp/254-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6
Auto Trans 	5-speed 	8-speed 	6-speed 	5-speed 	5-speed
AWD 	NA 	Std 	Opt 	NA 	Opt
0-60 mph 	8.3 sec 	6.4 sec* 	7.1 sec** 	7.0 sec 	7.3 sec****
Wheelbase 	106.5 in 	110.6 in 	108.7 in 	103.9 in 	110.1 in
LxWxH 	189.4 x 72.4 x 57.9 in 	185.2 x 72.0 x 56.5 in 	178.6 x 71.5 x 55.8 in 	178.0 x 69.7 x 57.4 in 	196.8 x 74.7 x 65.7 in
EPA city/hwy 	22/30 mpg 	21/29 mpg 	18/27 mpg 	21/30 mpg 	18/27 mpg
Cargo volume, behind f/r 	60.5/25.8 cu ft 	50.5/28.0 cu ft 	60.9/25.0 cu ft 	62.6***/27.4 cu ft 	51.3/25.7 cu ft
*2009 MY with 6A, **mfr est, ***with front seat folded down, ****EX-L 4WD
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Autonews


SAN FRANCISCO -- Wagons represent only a thin slice of the near-luxury segment in the United States, but some automakers still feel obliged to offer one. For 2011, Acura will join the fight with a wagon version of the TSX sedan.

The basics: The wagon is basically a sheet metal extension of the sedan. None of the hard points have changed from the sedan. Even the seating locations are identical. As a result, the extension goes entirely into the cargo area.

Notable features: Although the TSX gives up 4 inches of wheelbase to the Audi A4 Avant wagon, the Acura is 4 inches longer overall. That gives the TSX a slightly hobby-horse appearance compared to the wheels-in-the-corners design of its German counterpart.

Interestingly, the TSX Sport Wagon has nearly identical cargo-carrying capacity as its RDX crossover cousin, with rear seats up or down. And with seats down, the TSX's flat floor is longer than that of the RDX, so a mountain bike fits easily. There also are hidden cubbyholes for valuable items.

For a car that weighs about 130 pounds more than its sedan cousin, the TSX wagon does well at maintaining road stability -- despite the sacrifice in torsional rigidity that an open cargo area creates. Acura engineers also did a fine job isolating the road noise that often creeps into the cabin from the cargo area.

While the Germans tend to ding customers with optional-feature charges, the TSX wagon boasts standard moonroof, roof rails, high-intensity headlights, Bluetooth, satellite radio, USB jack and heated leather seats with memory.

What Acura says:
"This is an alternative to SUVs, without the girth or the stigma and with all the utility," said Steve Center, American Honda Motor Co.'s chief marketing officer.

Compromises and shortcomings: While the sedan version offers a choice of a 4-banger or V-6, the wagon comes only with the inline-4. There is no manual transmission offered, nor is there all-wheel drive to compete against Audi's vaunted quattro system.

The market: It's getting crowded. BMW and Audi already have compact wagons, and the Lexus CT 200h hybrid may be a hatchback, but shoppers probably will cross-shop it. Acura plans to market the TSX to Generation Y, who Acura product planning executive Vicki Poponi says "are not scrawny teens playing video games anymore. 1/3 are already parents."

The skinny: Acura hopes the wagon will account for about 10% of TSX volume. Sales began last week. Selling 4,000 a year means slightly more than one wagon a month per dealer. That could create an inventory problem -- making sure the allocation system sends a vehicle with the right color, features and options for the prospective buyer. The penalty is the car sitting on the lot, unloved.
PHP:
Wagon matchup
 	2011 Acura TSX	2011 Audi A4 Avant
Wheelbase	106.4 in.	110.6 in.
Length	189.2 in.	185.2 in.
Width	72.4 in.	71.9 in.
Height	56.7 in.	56.5 in.
Engine	2.4-liter inline-4	2.0-liter turbo-4
Horsepower	201 @ 7,000 rpm	211 @ 4,300 rpm
Torque, lbs.-ft.	170 @ 4,300 rpm	258 @ 1,500 rpm
EPA mpg	22 city/30 hwy.	21 city/29 hwy.
Curb weight	3,599 lbs.	3,814 lbs.
Base price, inc. shipping	$31,820	$36,715
 

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Discussion Starter #12
LA Times

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon Shows ParentHood Can Have Perks
The 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon is the brand's entry into the wagon segment. The responsive and aerodynamically fit Acura offers enough space for plenty of baby gear and amenities to keep parents content.

Wagons are typically a practical purchase — an investment often dictated by a change in life circumstance. In other words, babies.

As a whole, wagons represent a settling down, a resignation of youth, a reluctant embrace of responsibility as the disposable income once spent on Lady Gaga downloads and sushi dinners yields to collapsible strollers and difficult-to-install car seats, sippy cups and their inevitable spills.

But the 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon presents hope. It's a fun-to-drive family car that could inspire drivers to temporarily turn around their "Baby on Board" signs and floor it as they exit the day-care parking lot and head to work.

Available since December, the TSX Sport Wagon marks Acura's entry into the premium wagon segment. Acura predicts the category will grow 50% in the next 5 years as Generation Y-ers say their "I do's" and settle down. The automaker also says Gen Y, unlike prior generations, demands the often contradictory goals of fun and fuel economy along with increased utility.

Unlike the TSX sedan, which was introduced in 2003, overhauled for the 2009 model year and is now available as a 6-cylinder, the TSX Sport Wagon is content to employ a 4-cylinder, 2.4-liter engine with intelligent variable valve timing to increase its gas mileage. For the wagon, the engine was retuned, incorporating new technologies such as plateau honing of the cylinders to reduce fuel economy. The use of low-viscosity engine oil also improves mileage.

The wagon is aerodynamically fit, with features that include low-friction hub bearings and an underbody that is covered to reduce fuel-sapping drag.

Together, they helped offset the Sport Wagon's 31/2 -inch length increase from the sedan to give it best-in-class performance: 22 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

And Acura's done so without making the power delivery feel bland and as mushy as Gerber peas. With pedal pressed to metal, it was surprisingly responsive. Its 170 pound-feet of torque was crisp and satisfying throughout the power band, and its 5-speed automatic transmission more than ample to handle its modest 201 horsepower.

The Acura's main competitor is the Audi A4 Avant, which is all-wheel drive. Although the TSX Sport Wagon is front-wheel drive, I didn't find its handling to be at all lacking.

Instead of a manual transmission option, Acura has gone with easier-to-use, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for drivers who want to imagine they've ditched the mom mobile and are helming a Lamborghini.

Its profile is wind-swept and muscular, with a long front end and windows that add to the fantasy. Each side's three windows diminish in size from front to back, as if the wind were making them evaporate. An Italian sports car it is not, though it does handle like a far smaller vehicle, with a low and well-centered chassis and leather seats that are comfortable.

The TSX Sport Wagon seats five. Collapsing the backrests for the second row opens up 60.5 cubic feet of carrying space. Its sporty, sloped rear window, however, prevents skyward stacking of Huggies boxes. Still, the only direct competitor that offers more cargo room is the Volvo V50.

Starting at $30,960, the TSX Sport Wagon is available in 2 flavors, both of which are stocked with the usual base-line luxuries that should appeal to those who haven't had enough sleep. That includes, most notably, heated leather seats (along with memory settings for the driver), power moon roof, USB port, Bluetooth and a 360-watt stereo.

An extra $3,650 buys a tech package that includes navigation, real-time traffic and weather reports, 15 gigabytes of music storage and a 460-watt surround-sound system to crank Arcade Fire until it's time to swap it for Dan Zanes.

My favorite feature of the up-sell is the power tailgate, which lifts the hatch with a touch of a button on the key fob and closes it with another button along the tailgate's bottom. That's an extremely useful feature for parents who lack enough arms.

The rear window screen is also a nice feature, shielding the prying eyes of competitive parents from noticing the nonorganic baby formula just purchased in bulk from Costco.

Both fun and utilitarian, the Acura TSX Sport Wagon cushions the unexpected lifestyle blows of new parenthood. It is a far cry from sacrifice to drive it.

 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Car Connection

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon
Summary Rating 8.0 out of 10

by Marty Padgett
Editorial Director
Jan 23, 2011​

The Basics

Wagons are back, at least at Acura this year. With the luxury arm of Honda adding crossovers galore under its twin-caliper badge, it's also slotted in a new wagon body for its entry-level TSX sedan—and the new version ends up being one of our favorite Acuras.

The wagon is an easy addition, since the TSX is a version of Honda's European-market Accord sedan, and since the wagon already is on sale on the Continent. But it's not an easy sale, by any means, since the compact wagon market in the U.S. is dominated by European brands with perhaps a bit more of a luxury reputation than Acura has.

For 2011, the TSX returns in sedan form, too. With either body style, this small Acura is attractive inside and out—particularly in wagon form--though it does have its low points. That point is up front: the latest Acura face has a grille that's ingloriously been dubbed a "bionic beaver" or likened to a beer opener. It's been tweaked slightly for 2011, though a dramatic change is still a couple of years in the offing. The cabin's more overtly handsome—it's full of cleanly designed, high-quality materials and easy-to-use controls, arranged along a gentle arc that spans the dash.

Though the TSX's V-6 adds some much-needed punch, the 201-hp 4-cylinder is more than capable for a car of its size and weight. Even in the slightly heavier wagon, the TSX's 4 delivers a swell balance of usable power and high fuel economy estimated at 22/30 mpg. The 280-hp 6 handles less well, and carries more weight on its nose, but fuel economy holds up at 19/28 mpg. Steering and ride quality are from the European camp, firm and taut, not cushy.

As the smallest Acura, the TSX reins in less interior space than the big TL and RL, but its proportions seem like a perfect fit for the brand. Front seats are comfortable and multi-adjustable. The back bench can be a squeeze for the biggest passengers, but anyone under 5' 10" will find adequate head and leg room. The cargo area's more like a backpack in the wagon model, with fewer cubic feet than you might expect, but a clever divider helps partition the space into useful chunks.

Good crash ratings mean you can drive with confidence in your family's safety, but a standard backup camera would be a nice addition. It's available as an option. Acura's reticence to adopt some tech features means lane-departure warnings, parking sensors and even adaptive cruise control are either unavailable or bundled in expensive packages.

It's the same for other entertainment features, though the TSX does come relatively well equipped with a USB port, Bluetooth, XM, and leather seating with heated, powered front buckets. Despite the extensive standard feature set, the Technology Package is well worth the price, especially in light of the excellent upgraded audio system and 60GB hard drive and navigation system included in the price. A power tailgate is optional.

Styling
8 out of 10 Smartly styled inside and out, the entry-luxury 2011 Acura TSX sedan and wagon have only a few minor “beauty marks.”

Since it was completely restyled in 2009, the Acura TSX is largely carried over for the 2011 model year, save for some very small cosmetic tweaks. The crisp-edged flanks, and generally modern, high-tech look of the TSX sedan is aimed right at younger professionals who don't cling to European brands—but still want a clean, conservative look. It's even better as a Sport Wagon: that trim body comes from Europe, and on looks alone, it's the most pleasing Acura, what with its Subaru-like slimness. Luckily for the TSX, both models underplay the bionic-beaver Acura grille that's been excoriated all over the Web--you don't quite get the same "it's Miller Time!" urge to open bottles on the grille's chevron as you do on the larger TL or RL sedans.

Inside, the basic styling elements are attractive and contemporary, with flowing, swoopy curves executed in pleasing materials and colors. It's never ruthless in its efficiency. An arcade of silvery plastic hones some of the visual weight from the dash, and the touchy bits never let on any lower-rent vibes. Wood trim is available, if you really want it.

Performance
8 out of 10 The Acura TSX's V-6 adds some much-needed punch, but the 4-cylinder has enough guts, and handling is admirable for a front-wheel-drive sedan.

Acura sees the TSX as its sporty alternative to cars like the Audi A4 and entry-level BMW 3-Series vehicles. For that reason, handling is a big priority—and a big success of its front-drive sedan and wagon.

A 201-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder is the standard powerplant on the TSX sedan and the only engine offered on the Sport Wagon. In the 4-door, the standard 6-speed manual transmission gives the car a lively edge, and the four-cylinder loves a midrange run through the gears. Honda builds some of the most easy-going, sweet-shifting manuals in existence, and it’s baffling to most car reviewers why the company would omit the 6-speed manual from the Sport Wageon lineup.

Even with the paddle-shifted Sequential SportShift five-speed automatic transmission, the 4-cylinder winds very smoothly up through the gears, with a noticeable drop-off between 4th and 5th that leads the charge to the Wagon's 22/30 mpg EPA fuel economy rating. Long uphill passes aren't the best idea, but a lightly-laden TSX with the 4-cylinder and automatic can handle more than the pedestrian numbers (about 8 seconds to 60 mph) will read.

The 4-cylinder TSX sedan and wagon are fitted with electric power steering, but the sensations coming from the long-telescope steering wheel create 1 of the better driving simulations out there. Ride comfort is swell, a fine mix of taut control through the suspension and a good amount of give and take from the passive all-season tires.

Last year Honda introduced a 280-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine option to the TSX sedan. The six delivers one of the few things the TSX lacked--power. Handling is still nimble and sporting, with a firm yet absorbent ride.

Quality
8 out of 10 It’s well-built from high-quality materials, but the Acura TSX needs more mute on tire noise, and could use a softer touch with seats.

The Acura's front seats match the others for space and comfort, if not on firmness—and still we've heard complaints about the stiffness of the TSX's seat cushions. They're at least broad enough for bigger American bodies, and the footwells aren't crowded. The center console brushes knees lightly, compared to the narrow V50.

The back seat should be reserved for people under 5' 10", though. The rear doors open to a middling amount of knee room, and the seats themselves could be a little less firm. The standard sunroof pushes the headliner down deeply into passenger head room, and there's no "delete" option on the order sheet.

Cargo space, on the other hand, is good, with an ample trunk and plenty of in-cabin pockets and compartments. The Sport Wagon is a winner, in terms of usability, even though the cargo area of 25.8 cubic feet of cargo space seems a little shallow. It will accept a few roll-on suitcases, or Costco boxes, or at least a couple of iMac boxes stacked flat. There's also a bin under the cargo floor for secure storage. It's far roomier than the larger, heavier, less useful and mostly ridiculous Acura ZDX crossover.

While the comfort and quality of the TSX are just shy of top-notch, they're right on par for the mid-size luxury sedan segment. Acura's selection of materials is high, and fit and finish are one of the best reasons to recommend the TSX.

Safety
10 out of 10 Crash ratings haven’t been fully decided, but based on previous scores, the 2011 Acura TSX gives you confidence for your family's safety.

Standard features include dual front, side and curtain airbags, as well as anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, and active headrests.

In the past, the TSX has earned a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The insurance-funded group has altered its scoring this year, and while the TSX keeps its "good" ratings, a new-roof crush standard hasn't been tested.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has changed its criteria, too—which leaves the TSX unrated, as of yet, for the 2011 model year.

A rearview camera is available as an option, but the TSX lineup doesn't offer the latest blind-spot warning systems or adaptive cruise control, for those who want them.

Features
10 out of 10 It’s richly equipped, but you’ll want to spend more for the 2011 Acura TSX’s optional Tech Package, and its excellent audio and navigation systems.

The sedan's standard-feature list includes dual-zone climate control, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, plus a premium 7-speaker sound system with subwoofer and XM Satellite Radio capability. An optional navigation system offers real-time traffic and dynamic rerouting capability to direct you around hazards and congestion when possible. A 10-speaker, 415-watt sound system is also available, along with a 6-disc CD changer in the Technology Package.

All Wagons come with a USB port, satellite radio, and leather seats. The $30,960 TSX Sport Wagon doesn't come with a rearview camera, though, unless you order the Technology Package, which amps up the sticker price to $34,610. That package also adds on a power tailgate, a 460-watt audio system, and the voice-controlled navigation system and its real-time traffic and travel information.

Green
7 out of 10 The wagon’s fuel economy leads the wagon pack, and the 2011 Acura TSX sedan gets good mileage in 4-cylinder form.

Acura balances driving fun with fuel economy in the 2011 TSX.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) records the TSX’s fuel economy by body style and drivetrain. The 2011 Sport Wagon rates highly at 22/30 mpg; the sedan earns ratings of 20/28 mpg for the 4-cylinder manual, while the automatic boasts 21/30 mpg.

The V-6 sedan still is rated at a fairly strong 18/27 mpg. It’s an especially good showing, considering the extra 79 horsepower on tap.

Acura offers no hybrid drivetrains with the TSX—or on any of its vehicles. A planned diesel version of the TSX sedan was canceled last year.
We like
* Eager-revving 4
* Above-average handling
* Wagon has sleek, tapered shape

We dislike
* Grille spoils sedate shape
* Wagon’s cargo bin is a little shallow
* Back seat tight for tall passengers

Key Takeaway
The 2011 Acura TSX is the essence of what the brand should be: compact, light, efficient, and user-friendly—not to mention fully equipped.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
USA 2day


Honda does good wagons. The Civic station wagon sold in the U.S. in the 1975 through 1991 model years was a neat-looking and practical alternative to the then-very-small Civic sedan. The 1991 through 1997 Accord wagon not only suited the eye but also handled corners better than the sedan; the wagon had room for a better rear suspension.

Now, a wagon joins the updated 2011 TSX line from Honda's Acura premium brand. TSX is the entry-level Acura, based on the car sold in Europe as the Accord. It's unlike the U.S. Accord.

The U.S. Acura TSX sport wagon is the Americanized Euro-market Accord Tourer. Acura figures it'll make out fine selling just 4,000 a year here because it already sells plenty over there.

The TSX is, some might say, old-fashioned despite changes for 2011. That is, it pre-dates the complicated-is-good theme of electronic gadgetry, and the over-accessorized engines and gazillion-speed transmissions that reign today. We applaud that, and credit it for much of what made the TSX sport wagon test car a delight every mile.

For instance, you can actually figure out quickly how to manipulate the knob/joystick control on the center control stack. If not, you still can adjust most functions via dashboard controls.

The drivetrain was a star. The 4-cylinder engine made its satisfying power not from turbocharging, but by being designed to maximize the engine's high-revving abilities (7,000 rpm redline), yet not require that it be driven flat-out to perform well. Thus, fun to flog and satisfying in the stop and lurch of crowded suburban traffic.

The 5-speed automatic — how quaint in this age of 8-speed gearboxes creeping like choking vines into more and more machines — shifted brilliantly, changing gears briskly and without pausing 1st for consultation with the fuel-economy overlords. The automatic shifted so nicely it was heartbreaking to realize what gearbox mediocrity satisfies some other automakers.

Our fear is that when Acura "improves" the car it will use some sci-fi transmission, lard-on the engine "modernizations" and embrace baffling interior electronic overkill.

The TSX line in general got these changes for 2001: New rear styling and taillights. New front styling that, unfortunately, includes Acura's signature cow-catcher grille. But the absurdity is minimized on TSX. And new interior touches that include a climate-controlled center console (keeps the Coke Zero cool) and improved heating/cooling for rear occupants. Plus more sound-deadening, faster navigation system.

The sport wagon is identical to the TSX sedan underneath — same wheelbase and track width — and specifications for headroom, legroom and so forth are all-but-identical to the sedan's, so the wagon doesn't give you more space to sit in, just a spacious cargo compartment.

It isn't a substitute for a small crossover SUV, because its hunkered-down design and sporting intent dictate a ground clearance of 5.9 inches (or a mere 4.3 inches fully loaded) instead of 7 to 9 obstacle-clearing inches in a similar-size SUV.

TSX isn't available with all-wheel drive. A shame because Acura's SH-AWD (for super-handling AWD) is a lovely system that not only fights foul weather but also improves cornering agility. Lack of SH-AWD is meant to keep the price down ($32,000 and up) so the wagon remains an entry-level Acura.

Hard-core types will grouse, too, about the lack of a manual transmission. Acura says only 5% of buyers choose manual, so the cost of bringing it to the U.S. can't be justified. Too, the automatic transmission gets better fuel mileage and comes with a manual-shift system.

Narrow, toe-tangling rear door openings made it hard to get into or out of the back seat. Once ensconced, though, there was marginally acceptable knee and toe space for two adults.

The car's low stance would be a negative for some. Unlike taller SUVs, you had to twist and plop down to enter, clamber up and twist to exit.

Still, the TSX sport wagon test car was unusually satisfying because of these attributes, in addition to the responsive drivetrain:

•The chassis was agile.

Electric power steering — hard to tune properly — was just-so. Brakes felt firm, not stiff or touchy, and made themselves known the moment your foot requested.

The wagon weighs about the same as the sedan, but the weight is better-balanced, giving a more controlled feel in tight corners. The wagon carries 43% of its weight on the rear, a 57/43 balance, per Acura specs, vs. the sedan's 60/40. A 50/50 balance is considered ideal by most driving enthusiasts.

•Cargo space was handy.

There's a lot of it, and it's cleverly done. Space under the floor can be used to hide valuables, or provide a deeper well for things that you don't want to slide or tip.

•Layout was sensible.

As-yet-uninfected by modern over-complexity, the wagon's knobs, buttons and dials were just about where you wanted them and worked about the way you desired.

•Interior was inviting.

Passenger compartment is the same size as the sedan, but seemed roomier, probably an illusion due to the wagon's open space in back. Color scheme of black, gray and white was simple, classy.

If premium-wagon buyers are paying attention, we can't imagine Acura will sell just 4,000 a year.

WHAT STOOD OUT…


Agile. Steering, brakes, balance — all surprisingly good.

Peppy. Gutty engine, crisp transmission.

Lacking: No all-wheel drive, no manual transmission

ABOUT THE 2011 ACURA TSX SPORT WAGON


•What? Station wagon version new to Acura's small TSX entry-level line. Front-wheel drive, 4-door (nominally 5-passenger wagon. Offers only 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed automatic transmission with manual mode.

•When? On sale in the U.S. since Dec. 21.

•Where? Made in Japan.

•Why? Big seller in Europe, where it's called Accord Tourer. Not much trouble or risk to try it in the U.S., where rivals BMW and Audi successfully sell small wagons.

•How many? Just 4,000 a year is the U.S. forecast.

•How much? Base model: $31,820 including $860 shipping; with Technology Package, $35,470.

•How powerful? Same updated powertrain (low-friction improvements good for 1 more mpg vs. 2010 engine) as other 2011 TSX models: a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder rated 201 horsepower at 7,000 rpm, 170 pounds-feet of torque at 4,300 rpm.

•How big? 4 inches longer, half an inch wider than Audi A4 wagon; TSX sport wagon is 189.2 inches long, 72.4 in. wide, 57.9 in tall on a 106.4-in. wheelbase.

Weighs 3,599 lbs. Passenger space, 94.4 cubic feet. Cargo space behind rear seat, 25.8 cu. ft., 60.5 cu. ft. when rear seat's folded.

Takes 36.7 feet to turn around.

•How thirsty? Rated 22 miles per gallon in town, 30 on the highway, 25 in combined city/highway use. Trip computer in test car registered 20 mpg (5 gallons per 100 miles) in suburban use involving lots of wide-open-throttle bursts, because they were fun.

Premium specified; regular OK temporarily, but Acura warns: "The long-term use of regular-grade gasoline can lead to engine damage."

Tank holds 18.5 gallons.

•Overall:
Major fun with lots of cargo space, but cramped rear seat.
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
InsideLine

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon Full Test
Isolated Middle Man or Perfect Middle Ground?

That the 2011 Acura TSX wears the least-prominent beak in the Acura lineup is reason for rejoicing. That it's now available as a wagon with a practical, stylish, hatchback hind end is reason for straight-up celebration.

After all, its TL and RL brethren, bigger cars with bigger price tags, succumbed to the Acura brand's now-iconic schnoz several years back, but the TSX — even through its transformation into a wagon — has remained remarkably beak-free.

Right on.

Wagon Logic
Regardless of your position on Acura's brand-identifying proboscis, the TSX is, and has always been, a well-equipped sport sedan. And for 2011 Acura is offering a wagon version as an alternative for those who want the utility of a wagon without the burden of a taller SUV.

Burden, you say? Yes. You see, we're car fans here. And short of a few stiffly sprung German exceptions, SUVs, even crossover SUVs, rarely handle as well as cars. And when they do, they really aren't all that fun to drive. We'll forgo the Newtonian physics needed to explain this phenomenon. Trust us here. SUVs aren't cars. And some people want cars with utility. Us included.

This combination, unfortunately, isn't always well received by American buyers. Lexus tried it back in 2002 with the IS 300 SportCross. It was cool, utilitarian and even looked pretty good. But Americans, firmly entrenched in SUV mania, refused to shell out for a wagon.

Acura doesn't seem to care, instead it is pressing on with blatant disregard for history and a solid commitment to people who prefer cars. Nice.

The Performance Cost/Benefit

But it's not 2002 anymore. Gas costs about a buck per gallon more than it did then, plus fuel economy in this SUV alternative should be better. And in the most painfully apparent observation in this story — it is. The EPA rates the TSX Wagon at 22 city/30 highway/25 combined — we recorded 24.3 mpg over 987 miles in our test car.

Infiniti's EX35 — a crossover that lands roughly in the TSX Wagon's price range — is rated at 17 city/ 24 highway and 19 combined mpg. We recorded an average fuel economy of only 17 mpg in our last test of the EX35.

Even at high rpm the i-VTEC 4 sings a refined song.

Certainly, the Acura's better fuel consumption comes with a penalty — namely that it's considerably slower than the V6-powered EX35. Our test car, with its 201-horsepower 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder and 5-speed automatic transmission (the only powertrain available in the wagon) hit 60 mph in 8.8 seconds (8.4 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip).

The quarter-mile, too, requires more time in the TSX. Its 16.5-second pass at 84.9 mph is slower than every luxury crossover SUV made today. The power deficit is most obvious during throttle-position changes, which catch the engine outside its power band. Subtle moves accomplish nothing. Be subtle with the gas pedal and not much happens. You need to wood it to get any real reaction.

Sport mode helps by holding onto gears longer, as does manual shifting via the steering-wheel-mounted paddles. An additional gear entirely would make an even bigger difference, but we don't expect to see a 6-speed anytime soon.

Braking distances are long for a car with a sport sedan legacy to uphold. At 127 feet from 60 mph, the TSX requires 6 more feet than the decidedly unsporty Toyota Venza. The 2011 BMW X3 requires only 116 feet.

But Wait. It Handles, Right?
Still, those seeking only utility and luxury might have less interest in its outright acceleration. Maybe you're after a carlike handling experience and simply don't need the speed.

And the TSX, for the most part, delivers. It zipped through our 600-foot slalom at 64.6 mph and circled our 200-foot-diameter skid pad at 0.83g. These numbers are better than a Toyota Venza or Chevy Equinox, but not as good as the best-handling luxury crossovers.

Still, we're not going to pretend the TSX Wagon is tuned as a driver's car. There's not as much feel or feedback through the electric-assisted steering as we'd like, and its chassis stops being enjoyable long before its limits are reached.

There's adequate damping to keep the small wagon from wallowing over surface changes on the freeway, but not enough to offer genuine control on a less-than-perfect road. And for a car with some sporting intentions, the numbers — and the subjective experience — could be better. The upshot is that comfort is quite high and the ride frequency is tame on most any surface. This is a civilized wagon, not a sports car. It will serve you well as long as you're more inclined toward country cruises than you are to back-road thrashings.

Will It Fit?
When it comes to simple cargo volume, the TSX Wagon offers as much as most crossover SUVs. With 25.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind its rear seats and 60.5 cubic feet of space with them folded forward, it falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. The more expensive Audi Q5 offers 57.3 cubic feet with its seats down, while the Toyota Venza offers 70.1 cubic feet.

The 2nd-row seats don't fold completely flat, but Acura makes up for it with 3 bins (two small, one large) beneath the rear load floor. There's another bin built into the driver-side rear panel, which contains a 12-volt power point. There are also steel tie-downs in the cargo area to lock your heavy goodies to the floor — something conspicuously absent in many hatchbacks. Wagons equipped with the Tech package supply a power-operated hatch via a button on the driver door, a button on the hatch or from the key fob.

There are no remote release handles for the 2nd-row seats. Folding the seats is accomplished by reaching inside the hatch or going old-school through the back doors.

The driver seat offers standard eight-way power adjustment and a manual lever on the side to manipulate lumbar support. Heated front seats are standard. Our 6-foot-1-inch copy editor stuffed himself in the backseat after adjusting the driver seat for his preferred position. His knees touched the seatback, but there was ample headroom. He'd tolerate a ride across town this way, but not much farther.

Familiarity
Otherwise, this is standard TSX fare. Leather covers the seating surfaces, steering wheel and shifter. There are steering wheel buttons for the audio and cruise controls, as well as for the standard Bluetooth phone connection. The center stack — all 40 buttons of it — is fairly busy, but we found it relatively easy to access critical functions. An auxiliary jack and a USB connection for your iPod are standard.

There's a sense of quality inside the TSX that falls somewhere between the sensible Mazda CX-7 and the luxurious BMW X3. Everything fits together nicely, the materials are high quality and road and engine noise are kept largely at bay. Even at high rpm the i-VTEC four sings a refined song. Sure, you'll have to work to get it there, but it sounds pretty good when you arrive.

Our test car, equipped with the Tech package (which includes navigation, a rearview camera, a 10-speaker premium audio system with a 15GB hard drive and the power liftgate), rang up a $35,470 total. That pricing positions the TSX Wagon at the bottom end of the luxury crossover spectrum and a few hundred dollars more than a similarly equipped Toyota Venza.

And by our measure, that's exactly where it should be. It's not powerful enough to compete with more expensive luxury crossovers, yet it's more appealing on the inside than your average Equinox or Venza. Acura isn't expecting big sales numbers and neither are we. Still, we're glad to see it offer this wagon anyway, as it's only a little more power and a better transmission away from being truly desirable.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

 

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Discussion Starter #18
Portland

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon:
So Sporty You Forget It's Practical

Not your grandfather's station wagon
By Jim Redden
The Portland Tribune, Feb 18, 2011

Station wagons exist in an automotive no-man’s land. Reviewers tend to like them because they handle like cars but carry a lot more cargo. Many consumers apparently consider them even more boring than minivans, however.

Several manufacturers are trying to change that perception, including Audi with its compact A3 and Cadillac with the station wagon version of its CTS sedan. Now Acura is entering the fray with the 2011 TSX Sport Wagon, a fun-to-drive wagon version of its popular compact sedan. From the driver’s seat, the new wagon does not feel much different than the sedan version, which has been considered among the best in its class. But the boxy rear end and large hatch gives it much more carrying capacity.

The TSX Sport Wagon also looks great. Unlike some earlier sedan-based wagons, the larger rear end does not look slapped on. A body crease flows gracefully up from the front grill to the tail lights, narrowing the side windows just enough to impart a sporty look without creating blind spots. The rear hatch slopes enough to prevent it from looking totally utilitarian. And the bulging fenders signal this is first and foremost a driver’s car, even though it can handle a little extra duty.

Some reviewers have criticized the angular styling that characterizes Acura's current line. We like the looks, but also think the Sport Wagon tones it down a bit without compromising the fundamentals, especially the front end and its fully integrated air dam.

Only 1 engine and transmission is currently available in the TSX Sport Wagon, a 201-horsepower 2.4-liter inline 4 mated to a 5-speed automatic with steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters for the manual mode. This combination produces decent acceleration and good fuel economy — an EPA estimated 22 miles per gallon in the city and 30 on the highway. The engine and transmission are responsive enough that freeway passing comes easily, even without shifting into the manual mode. Of course, doing that makes the TSX Sport Wagon even more responsive, especially on winding roads where full advantage can be taken of the well-spaced gear changes.

The engine is 1 of the new breed of small power plants with higher compression ratios – in this case, 11:1 compression. Up until recently, just about anything over 9:1 required expensive premium gasoline to prevent knocking and potential damage. But new variable valve timing technology allows lesser grades to be used. As a result, relatively small engines are able to produce more horsepower and still get better mileage than before, even on regular. Acura’s 201 horsepower is more than some lower compression V6 and even V8 engines got not all that long ago.

On the road, the TSX Sport Wagon is a pleasure to drive, in large part because of Acura’s legendary quality. The fit and finish of the interior in our test car was excellent. The materials were top-notch, from the leather on the heated front seats to the soft plastic on the dash. The controls were well designed and easy to use for the most part, although some of the push buttons were a little hard to tell apart at 1st.

Like the TSX sedan, the Sport Wagon is very quiet and stable on the road. The steering is precise and the suspension is very supple for a car with a relatively short wheelbase. Rough and broken pavement did not cause any undue bucking.

Standard features include leather seats, a premium stereo, a power moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, and Bluetooth connectivity. Our test car included the only available option – a Technology package that adds a hard-drive-based navigation system with a full VGA color screen, an upgraded ELS stereo with 15 GB music-storage capacity, and a power tailgate. They combined to give the TSX Sport Wagon a luxury feel, despite the practicality of the additional cargo space.

We hope the TSX Sport Wagon sells well enough to encourage more automakers to take the plunge and offer wagon versions their cars. Acura might also want to consider upping the ante by offering the other engine and transmission choices from the TSX sedan in the Sport Wagon, the 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and 6-speed manual gear box. That combination would be even more fun.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Boston

Honda hasn't brought Americans a station wagon since 1997. We quickly forgot about the slow-selling 5-door Accord when the CR-V, a higher car-based SUV with all-wheel-drive and a collapsible picnic table, came out that same year. It's still one of Honda's most popular models, and 1 of the top-selling cars in the small crossover segment.

Toyota dropped their Camry wagon in 1996. Ford's venerable Taurus and Mercury Sable wagons disappeared in 2005. Its compact Focus wagon went in 2007, the hotrod Dodge Magnum and more practical Mazda 6 wagon in 2008. Saturn threw out the midsize L-Series, which included a wagon, in 2003. And the plastic wood-paneled Buick Roadmaster and Chevy Caprice wagons were last seen when gas was a dollar per gallon. That last part makes me weep.

Few automakers have remained faithful to wagons. Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Saab, Volvo, Volkswagen, and Subaru have sold wagons every year in the US since the early 1990s, some for decades. There are roughly 100,000 sold each year, about 1% of the US market — that's less than the share of hybrids. Americans, apparently, have been happier with higher ground clearance and a few extra millimeters of headroom, despite the fact that most 5-passenger crossovers and SUVs offer similar space and cargo capacity as a decent station wagon.

So has Acura taken a big risk by launching a luxury sport wagon in a small market of stubborn holdouts? No, Cadillac did. They brought a spanking new CTS Sport Wagon last year and the maniacal 556-horsepower CTS-V for 2011. Acura imported the European-market Honda Accord Tourer, flipped the "H" logo upside down, and called it a day.

In doing so, they created a stylish wagon that's $8,000 less than a CTS and $6,000 off the tiny BMW 3 Series wagon and Audi A4 Avant. The slim, taut body looked especially fit in our tester's Vortex Blue Pearl paint, and even made Acura's unloved chrome "beak" handsome. In price, the 2011 TSX Sport Wagon is right with the Volkswagen Passat wagon and Volvo XC70, although there is no 6-cylinder engine or optional all-wheel-drive, both potential drawbacks in the luxury segment.


With front-wheel-drive and a set of milquetoast Michelins, our TSX slipped quite often in light snow, as would any 2-wheel-drive car with all-season tires (which today seem made for 3 seasons than 4). But when the roads clear, the TSX is very pleasant to drive, despite the typical 4-cylinder noise under hard acceleration.

The 2.4-liter engine makes 201 horsepower, and because it's from Honda, it revs smoothly and picks up power all the way to its high 7,100-rpm redline (like Volkswagen and Audi 4-cylinders, it requires premium.) The 5-speed automatic clicks off a series of quick, well-spaced ratios that leave the engine quiet at cruising speeds. My fuel economy — in mostly city driving, in mostly blizzards — was an average 20 mpg. It's EPA rated at 22 city, 30 highway.

More than anything, the TSX Sport Wagon feels light and easy to toss into corners. Hunkering down, the body allows a modest amount of roll and the electric steering rack exhibits a remarkable amount of accuracy. The suspension is pretty compliant on all but the worst expansion joints and ruts, and all the TSX really needs is the sedan's short-throw 6-speed manual.

In fact, if Acura offered a stick and shed the cow skin for cloth, it could knock another 2 or 3 grand off the $31,820 base price. Maybe delete a few more options and whittle it down to $25,000, a palatable Honda price. But for now, that's fantasy. Automakers don't want tighter profit margins in such a niche segment, and Americans aren't ready to remember 1997.


Buying this pricier European Accord has its blessings, particularly inside. Unlike the US Accord and Crosstour hatch, with their messy spreads of odd-shaped rectangles scattering the center stacks, Acura has reduced the button soup into a narrower — and older-looking — layout. Instead of HVAC controls on opposite ends of the console, they're below the radio, navigation, and phone controls in one unit. The thin LCD strip showing the radio selections is actually near the radio, without the Accord's horizontal vents splitting them apart. Less eye and arm movement, less distraction, and more intuition. It just works.

Unlike many automakers, Acura lets the driver adjust climate and sound without peering into the large LCD screen. And they go a step further: with simple voice commands, you can turn down the heat, dial a phone number, and select an iPod track without repeating yourself a dozen times. Maps and menus could be rendered in higher resolution, but they're easy to navigate, show real-time traffic, and even Zagat restaurant reviews. Soft-touch surfaces, snug, supportive seats, and great tactile feedback from the stalks and switches make the TSX worthy of its price.

Depending on your needs, our loaded $35,470 model can also buy a top-of-the-line Subaru Outback, which offers a hefty all-wheel-drive system and more powerful 6-cylinder engine. For a little more, the Volvo XC70 stocks more technology — like lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control — at this segment's higher end. Acura's playing it smart by keeping the price reasonable, though it could at least offer keyless entry and start as part of our car's $3,650 Technology Package.

Could the station wagon market crack 2% this year? If more crossovers like the Accord Crosstour came out of the closet and admitted their wagon tendencies, there'd be a shot. As wage-deprived Americans reminisce the boom times of the 1990s — and remember the fun, down-to-goodness wagons we once drove — Acura will make a catch.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
C&D

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: Short Take Road Test
Better Looking & Better @ Hauling than the Sedan

Our 1st drive revealed the 2011 Acura TSX wagon to be quite the charmer, and the car has grown on us since, especially from a styling standpoint. The public agrees. Nearly every reaction was some variation of “Wow, the wagon looks even better than the sedan.” Credit the uptick in visual appeal to the long, tapering line of windows; the retention of the sedan’s muscular wheel arches; and the long rear overhang, which fairly shouts, “I’m a wagon and damn proud of it.” Particularly in dark colors, the TSX wagon looks good.

1 More Gear, Please

But looks are only a part of the equation. How would this hauler fare with our test gear aboard? Available solely with Acura’s revvy, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder (it makes 201 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque) mated to a 5-speed automatic, the TSX wagon is about 130 pounds heavier than a similarly equipped TSX sedan and 200 or so pounds heavier than TSX sedans with the slick 6-speed manual. The only 4-cylinder TSX sedans we’ve tested have been manuals, and they hit 60 mph about a second quicker than the auto wagon, which took a ho-hum 8.1 seconds. At 16.4 seconds at 87 mph, the wagon also trails the manually shifted sedan through the quarter-mile, by about a second and 5 mph.


Although it’s pointless for us to press Acura to offer the manual in the wagon—we’ve been told it’ll never happen—we will lobby for the company to equip all TSX automatics with at least 6 forward speeds as soon as possible. Doing so would match almost every other $30,000-plus car on the market, and it likely would improve the wagon’s acceleration and add 1 or 2 mpg to its 22 city/30 highway fuel-economy ratings. (Our lead feet managed 22 mpg during this test.) It’s good, then, that Acura already has begun phasing 6-speed autoboxes into its lineup, starting with the V-6–powered MDX, the RL, and the freshly updated 2012 TL models. So we would expect to see a 6-speed automatic in the TSX sedan and wagon within a year.

Character Counts: More Sport Than Luxury

On the skidpad, the wagon’s roadholding figure of 0.82 g trailed that of the manual TSX sedan by 0.04 g. It should be noted, however, that after we got our number, we continued circling the skidpad just for kicks, enjoying how willingly the nose tucked in on throttle lift-off and allowed the car to rotate in step—literally—with our right foot. Quick and accurate steering, a strong suit for most Acuras, contributes to the wagon’s fun factor. Ditto the brakes, which brought the wagon to a halt from 70 to 0 mph in 180 feet, same as the sedan.

Although the TSX wagon is decidedly sporty, its firm ride and the presence of road and wind noise at highway speeds are giveaways to its somewhat plebeian roots. The TSX is the humdrum Honda Accord in Europe; our mammoth Accord isn’t sold there. So this is no full-boat luxury car, but its modern décor and pleasant mix of black and gray interior materials represent a refreshing break from the fake wood and chrome-drenched interiors common in the entry-luxury segment. Our test car was equipped with the Tech package, which raises the price of entry from $31,820 to $35,470 and includes an easy-to-use navigation system with real-time traffic and weather, Acura’s excellent 10-speaker ELS surround-sound audio system, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a power tailgate. That’s in addition to the leather-covered seats, USB/MP3/Bluetooth connectivity, and xenon headlamps that come standard on all TSX models.


Oh, Yeah—It Can Carry Cargo, Too

Of course, most folks in the wagon market have at least 1 eye on cargo-lugging ability, and in this respect, the TSX wagon does not disappoint. With 26 cubic feet of space behind the 2nd row, the wagon offers nearly twice the cargo capacity of the sedan. Fold the seats, and that number more than doubles to 61 cubes. Beneath the cargo floor are no fewer than 4 storage compartments of varying shapes and sizes, with another taller one tucked behind a panel aft of the left wheel well. As to its closest competition, the TSX wagon is slightly less capacious with the rear seats up but much larger with the seats down than the Audi A4 Avant, although it’s somewhere between 7 and 11 cubic feet tighter in both measurements than the Subaru Outback or Volvo XC70.

But the lively TSX wagon is appealing even beyond its practical aspects, thus rendering such spreadsheet-style comparisons less relevant. It’s 1 of those rare cars that needn’t be fast to be fun or have a trunk to be stylish.

Highs and Lows

Highs: Looks great as a wagon, snappy handling, vast cargo floor, sensible price.

Lows: Modest acceleration, needs another gear or two, cabin gets noisy at high speeds.

Specifications

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door wagon

PRICE AS TESTED: $35,470 (base price: $31,820)

ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, port fuel injection

Displacement: 144 cu in, 2354 cc
Power (SAE net): 201 hp @ 7000 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 170 lb-ft @ 4300 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 5-speed automatic with manumatic shifting

DIMENSIONS:
Wheelbase: 106.4 in Length: 189.2 in
Width: 72.4 in Height: 57.9 in
Curb weight (C/D est): 3600 lb

C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 8.1 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 22.3 sec
Street start, 5–60 mph: 8.6 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 16.4 sec @ 87 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 180 ft
Roadholding, 200-ft-dia skidpad: 0.82 g

FUEL ECONOMY:
EPA city/highway driving: 22/30 mpg
C/D observed: 22 mpg​
 
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