Its styling, handling, creature-of-leisure interior and overall build quality makes Acura's TSX a staff favorite. Which is why we're puzzled about the aftermarket's slow response to this fine sedan. Even in Japan, the CL9 (Accord Euro R) gets the short end of the cool mods list, compared to the Integra and Civic. Feels has some nice aero and Mugen has several catalog pieces for it, even though the JDM version gets around with a smaller displacement K20.
We predict, however, that in two or three years, when TSXs start coming off of lease programs or stray out of warranty, second- and third-gen owners will start asking for more power. Soon you'll be able to get into a three-year-old TSX with 50,000 miles for less than 20 grand. Tuning companies will respond with a small array of cams, valvetrain upgrades and chip tuning to optimize the TSX powerband and drive-by-wire throttle.
Daniel Desmond couldn't wait that long and we don't blame him. Truth is, the TSX arrives from the factory underpowered. Two-hundred horsepower doesn't go very far when it's asked to haul around 3,200 pounds. Blame the car's world-class interior and creature comforts for some of that, but anything you can do for a bump helps.
When we reach Desmond at Desmond Performance, the tuning shop his family owns in North Carolina, he's been making inquiries into some of his parts on order: a one-off silver carbon-fiber hood from VIS, Rotora big brake kit, a set of Volk GT-AV Mercury silver wheels, and a Comptech supercharger and aftercooler kit.
Having relocated to Charlotte from Los Angeles two years ago, Desmond Performance shines a lone beacon for Japanese and European car enthusiasts stranded in the dripping, pumping heart of NASCAR country. They're likely the only game in town within 500 miles if you want Volk or Work wheels, or maybe some grip from Power Enterprise. For the discriminating S2000 and 350Z owner, Desmond carries ARC parts.
Without the blower kit available, Desmond gathered a quality configuration of bolt-on power adders, including an Injen cold-air intake, DC Sports 4-2-1 header and DC exhaust. He noticed the gains at the pedal largely from the intake and header, and credits the Sun Auto Hyper Voltage and Hyper Ground system for a noticeable increase in throttle response and power delivery at highway speeds.
Desmond doesn't have any dyno or quarter-mile evidence, which bums us only slightly. We're more excited to see a nicely styled TSX with well-crafted I.C.E. install that, frankly, cancels out any gains in power-to-weight ratio. Even though Desmond is waiting on Comptech to deliver the additional power boost, he used his downtime wisely on the TSX's suspension. Koni Yellow shocks up front feature adjustable damping and spring perch, and paired with Neuspeed springs offer a wide range of ride height.
"I don't like the stock stance," he says. "It almost looks lifted."
We agree. The TSX does stand tall for a car that wants to play in the sports sedan class, but looks much better when, like Desmond's, it's dropped about 3 inches.
A 3-inch drop, 17-inch Racing Hart rims and Nitto 225/35 tires. How does it ride?
"The ride is still comfortable, but the handling is amazing compared to stock," he explains. "The ride quality is good and definitely firm. There's not much body roll at all."
Eliminating some of that body roll is a Cusco Type II front underbrace and Comptech titanium strut tower bar. Desmond's got a set of front and rear sway bars on order from H&R to further keep the TSX on a tight track. With many miles of North Carolina backroads driving available, Desmond's suspension mods are a good investment.
"I'm really happy with the overall quality of the car. With the addition of Comptech's short shifter, the trans feels great. But my favorite aspect is the handling character, the overall balance."
We'd be down with the suspension too if it weren't for a prime slice of I.C.E. We're not huge fans of multiple screens, but in a four-passenger sedan built to draw eyeballs to the Desmond Performance name, we see the logic. Desmond has a PS2 running the DVD/game show, outputting signal to four 7-inch screens. No audio company we know of makes a conversion dash kit for the TSX that relocates the climate controls (Metra Electronics does have one for the current Accord), so Desmond retains the stock audio source unit up front (not bad; has a six-disc in-dash changer).
From the stock source, signals travel to two JL Audio amps. The JL 500/1 handles power for the dual 10-inch JL subs in the trunk, while a 300/1 drives the components in fiberglass "kickpods" up front in the footwells and in the trunk lid. Desmond and the DP crew did everything on the install, from fabbing the 'glass enclosures to wrapping the suede trunk lid. About the only thing DP didn't do was sandblast the Acura logo on the Plexiglas amp cover, which looks sweet in the dark with its blue trim lighting aglow.
As he waits on his Comptech blower to deliver the 50-to-75-hp surge he craves, Desmond admits only minor regret with his choice.
"I chose the TSX because there were already so many RSXs around. And the biggest difference holding [the TSX] back is its electronic throttle. But it almost makes me jealous seeing all the mods available for the RSX."Patience, good man, patience.
Daniel Desmond's 2004 TSX
K24A2 with stock internals and valvetrain. Underhood, it's all pretty basic, only an Injen cold-air intake, DC Sports ceramic 4-2-1 header and DC catback exhaust conceding to additional power. Desmond also integrated Sun Auto's Hyper Voltage and Hyper Ground system to improve the electrical path. Future plans include a Comptech supercharger and aftercooler, once available.
Rims & Rubber
Racing Hart CX two-piece 19x7.5s provide the rolling motion at all four corners. Wheels are a +43 offset with a 5 x 114.3 lug pattern. Rubber stock is Nitto NT555 sized 225/35-19.
The TSX handles well from the factory and sounds like it takes the twists even better with Desmond's upgrade to Koni Yellow shocks front and rear, featuring adjustable damping and spring perch. Neuspeed race springs make it bounce all around, and Desmond incorporated an SPC camber kits front and rear to level out the lowered sedan. A Comptech titanium sturt tower bar and Cusco Type II front underbrace gives the chassis additional rigidity while Desmond plans his next purchase: H&R sway bars, once they're available.
Power Slot rotors work in tandem with Rotora's four-piston calipers, Type H2 ceramic pads and stainless-steel braided lines to slow the TSX. Desmond fills the master cylinder with Project u G/Four 335 fluid.
Body: The factory satin silver metallic paint extends to a Lucky Star four-piece body kit, Carbon Creations titanium front splitter and VIS Racing M3-style decklid spoiler.
Inside: Desmond wisely chose to keep the factory interior just the way he found it, with the minor exception of blue ambient lighting in the footwells to complement the extensive I.C.E. setup in back.
I.C.E.: This TSX is an audiophile's dream. A JL Audio 500/1 amp drives (2) JL Audio 10-inch W6V2 subs submerged in a custom fiberglass enclosure, while a second amp, a JL 300/1, runs the Alpine component speakers in the cabin and another pair in the trunk lid (for setting up shop at shows and parking lots). A quartet of Directed Video 7-inch monitors provide visual entertainment, one in the front console, a flip-down for rear-seat passengers and two fiberglassed into the trunk lid. A PS2 with wireless controllers offers gaming crack on demand.
The additional demand on the charging system is met with an Optima Yellow Top battery and Stinger capacitor. A Viper two-way security system provides theft deterrent. A custom glass piece with sandblasted Acura logo covers one of the amps in the trunk while up above a fiberglass decklid panel, wrapped in black suede, holds two monitors.