Acura gave up on hardcore performance (think Type-R) a couple of years ago, turning itself into a copy of Lexus ever since. So it's no surprise that when it redesigned the TSX, the car would grow larger and more comfortable, to sit well next to the crossover SUVs on the showroom floor. But why isn't it more powerful? And why must it seem so... bulky?
The TSX formula hasn't changed much. It's still a gussied-up, slightly twisted version of the Euro-market Honda Accord. Compared to the old TSX, it's 2.2 inches longer, three inches wider, runs a 1.4-inch longer wheelbase and is heavier by 167 pounds. Not as big as the current TL (though now about a quarter-inch wider), but the TL itself is due for reinvention.
Despite the thicker shoulders and additional heft, the only engine available is the same 2.4-liter, i-VTEC, Premium-drinking four from the original TSX, slightly re-tuned for better mid-range torque. However, that extra grunt costs 4bhp at peak-a drop from 205 to 201. Six-speed manual and five-speed automatic transaxles are offered again, with the automatic sporting a manual shift action via steering wheel-mounted paddles.
Fortunately, Honda's Accord-class chassis returns, with double wishbones suspending each front wheel and a multi-link independent suspension in back. Steering remains accurate and light, and the four-wheel disc brakes with ABS stop with easily modulated precision. Beyond that, the 17-inch wheels are now half an inch wider and wear 225/50R17 Michelin Pilot HX all-season tires.
Like the new-this-year North American Accord, the traditional Honda low cowl/large greenhouse design has been sacrificed in favor of a massive dashboard and taller doorsills. The big dash accommodates many electronic wonders and dozens of airbags, but it results in an interior with a certain bunker-like feel. It's not bad compared to, say, a Pontiac G6. But the old TSX cockpit was a more inviting place, with better visibility.
Of all the stuff shoved into the new TSX (dual-zone climate control, a multi-function display, digital compass and Bluetooth cell phone connectivity, among many others) it's the sound systems that are most impressive. Standard kit is a seven-speaker system with a USB controller port that is flat fantastic-sounding and even interfaces well with an Apple iPhone. But stepping up to the Technology Package brings a spectacular 10-speaker set-up that probably sounds better than most live musicians. It's awesome.
The Technology Package also includes navigation with voice recognition, a rear-view camera and the AcuraLink satellite communication system. If that's the sort of stuff that gives you thrills, put this magazine down now and go get a copy of Wired.
The new TSX is built the way one expects a made-in-Japan Honda to be built-every body panel perfectly aligned, brilliant paint, an interior that feels CNC-machined from a solid billet of premium leather. And it has some of the best-shaped seats available in any car.
However, the extra mass shows on the road. The new TSX still has great initial turn-in and good cornering limits, with the understeer past those limits being relatively benign. And, of course, the six-speed manual is simply one of the greatest-shifting transmissions ever built. The problem is that the engine seems constantly strained... it's always working hard.
Like any good Honda K-Series, this one never gets thrashy and never pings, knocks or barfs, no matter what it's asked to do. But the new car really deserves the turbocharged version that Acura installs in its RDX small SUV. Or maybe it could use the V6 from the TL. Both the turbo four and V6 have been rumored to be on their way to the TSX, and the car needs one or the other. A turbodiesel is also said to be coming, which could be intriguing.
The TSX of our dreams-smaller than this with a K-Series that will sing to 10,000rpm while whipping out nearly 300bhp-isn't likely to happen. We have to let that dream go.
2009 Acura TSXEngine Displacement/Type/Valvetrain: 2.4-liter inline four, aluminum block and head, DOHC, i-VTEC variable valve timing
Claimed Crank HP: 201 @ 7000rpm
Claimed Crank Torque: 172lb-ft @ 4400rpm (manual), 170lb-ft @ 4300rpm (auto)
Drivetrain/Layout/Transmission: Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive, six-speed manual/five-speed auto
Curb Weight: 3419lbs (manual), 3485lbs (auto)
Suspension (Front): Double wishbone with stabilizer bar (26.5mm, hollow)
Suspension (Rear): Multi-link independent with stabilizer bar (17mm, solid)
Brakes (Front/Rear): 11.8-in. rotors, single-piston floating calipers/11.1-in. rotors, single-piston floating calipers
Wheels (Front/Rear): 17x7.5 aluminum alloy
Tires (Front/Rear): 225/50/17 Michelin Pilot HX