Acura TSXLooking at the spec charts alone, the Acura TSX sedan sounds like a yawn. But the specs don't tell the story; this is a car that's more than the sum of its parts, even though some of its parts are very familiar.
Acura can't hide the fact that the TSX is a version of the Japanese-made Honda Accord that's sold in Europe so it hasn't made much of an effort to do so. Except for the Acura "A" in the grille rather than a Honda "H," the euro Accord and TSX are virtually indistinguishable.
This car is also much smaller than the U.S. Accord with a 1.5-inch narrower track and 2.8-inch shorter wheelbase (105.1 inches) and it has double wishbones front and rear instead of the struts that suspend the Acura RSX and Honda Civic. The four-wheel ABS disc brakes and rack-and-pinion steering are familiar Accord pieces as well.
The drivetrain is familiar, too. The engine is a variation on the 2.4-liter, i-VTEC, DOHC, 16-valve four used in the CR-V, Element and U.S. Accord. But while those Hondas get 160 hp from their 2.4 liters, the TSX gets a full 200, thanks to a 10.5:1 compression ratio (up from the U.S. Accord 2.4's 9.7:1) and a 7000-rpm redline. The TSX engine has to scram to 6800 rpm to achieve 200 hp, but its peak 166 lb-ft of torque (five more than the Accord) comes at the same 4500 rpm as the Accord. That means the engine is both torquey across the rev range and eager to zing all day.
That's a wonderful combination-the engine feels like the 200 hp, 2.0-liter i-VTEC four in the RSX Type-S with more grunt down low and, thanks to counter-rotating balance shafts, it's as smooth as many V6s, too. A throatier exhaust note would be nice though.
Lashed to the engine is either a six-speed manual transmission similar to the RSX Type-S' (the ratios are more broadly spread and feed a shorter final drive gear than in the RSX) or a five-speed automatic like that used in four-cylinder U.S. Accords. As expected in Honda products, both transmissions shift with grace and precision-the six-speed's shift linkage may be even better in this car than in the RSX.
The TSX's interior is smaller than the U.S. Accord's, but it's better decorated. The TSX dash isn't shared with the euro Accord and features an LED tach and speedometer that are among the easiest to read in any car. Leather is standard.
Up front, the seats are comfortable, supportive, heated and there's eight-way power adjustment on the driver's side. The ergonomics are free of idiocies, everything is beautifully put together and the dual-zone ventilation system is effective. An in-dash six-disc CD changer pumping through eight speakers is standard and sounds at least as good as the exhaust system. Acura says the car is a five-seater, but it's wrong. The rear seat is shaped for two even if there are seat belts for three.
Weighing a hefty 3,230 pounds, the TSX is about 170 pounds heavier than the lightest U.S. Accord and 452 pounds heavier than an RSX Type-S. The standard 17-inch, seven-spoke aluminum wheels come inside P215/50R17 Michelin MXM4 all-season tires that provide decent adhesion and communication. Turn-in is nearly instantaneous, and when the limit is reached, it's a profound understeer that emerges. Acura's Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system isn't totally obnoxious, but its best feature is its off switch.
With a great engine, sweet handling, a decent ride and the second-best normally aspirated four-cylinder engine for sale in North America (edged only by the S2000's 240-hp, 2.0-liter wonder) the TSX is among the very best cars Honda has ever built. At around $25,000 when it went on sale in April, it's not cheap, but it's a lot cheaper than competitors like the Audi A4 1.8T, BMW 325i and Mercedes C240 sedans. And dynamically, it's fully competitive with them.
We'll have a full track test on one soon.
Just DrivenChryslerCrossfireFr all intents and purposes, the new German-built and American-designed Chrysler Crossfire two-seat coupe is a Mercedes.
Based on a concept car first shown in 2001, the Crossfire's body is sleek and slightly retro-looking with a narrow and long rear hatch that looks like a cross between one of the "Spinner" cars driven by Harrison Ford in "Blade Runner" and a 1965 AMC Marlin. There's something about the rear-drive Crossfire's muscular fenders, elegant details and oversize wheels and tires (225/40ZR-18 front rubber, 255/35ZR-19s in the back) that make it look larger than its puny 94.5-inch wheelbase (8.6-inches shorter than a Civic Coupe's) and 159.8-inch overall length(a massive 14.9 inches shorter than the Civic) would suggest.
As good as the Crossfire looks outside, it's even better inside. This is one of those machines in which every detail seems thought out with a single, unified, perfectly conceived theme in mind. Look at how the dash center sweeps down into the center console in a single, metallic-finished swoop. The decoration is restrained, but not austere and there's not a hint of phony forest to be found.
Both the dash-mounted ignition and rotary light switches are pure Mercedes, which makes sense, since all the parts they control are thoroughly Mercedes. In fact, at a fundamental level, the Crossfire is a coupe version of Mercedes' own SLK320 roadster.
The Crossfire has the same wheelbase as the SLK, is a mere 1.9 inches longer overall and shares virtually all its chassis and mechanical components with it. That means the Crossfire uses a double A-arm front suspension and Mercedes' signature five-link independent system in the rear. Power comes from the same 215-hp, 3.2-liter, SOHC, 18-valve V6 that's used in the SLK320, with the same six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmissions behind it feeding the same 3.27:1 final drive gear set. The steering is the same recirculating ball system with the same 3.1 turns lock-to-lock, and the brakes are the same four-wheel discs. And at 3,060 pounds, the Crossfire is just 60 pounds lighter than the SLK320.
So, no surprise, the Crossfire drives and performs a lot like the SLK. It's not a brutal performance machine, but a great cruiser with decent reflexes and an imperturbable stability. The bigger tires may add some effort to the Crossfire's steering, but that's about it for differences between it and the SLK's driving experience. And as a Mercedes (or a Chrysler for that matter) should be, the Crossfire is quiet and almost soothing in its ride motions. And since it's built in partnership with the legendary Karmann in Germany, it's built like, well, a Mercedes.
OK, so the Crossfire isn't a street racer. It's not a car we particularly lust after, and you'd be a fool to take one to track day, but with 6.5-second 0-to-60 performance, it's probably plenty quick enough for the fashionistas who can afford the mid-$30,000 price. The Crossfire goes on sale mid-summer this year.
VW's 20th Anniversary GTIAvailable in "jazz" blue, yellow or black, the 2003 20th Anniversary GTI is almost mechanically identical to the 25th Anniversary GTI that was sold in Europe last year or the GTI 337 that was sold here. That means the 180-hp, turbocharged, 20-valve four is backed by a six-speed manual transmission, the brakes are upgraded to 12.3-inch rotors up front, the shock tuning is more aggressive to work with thicker anti-roll bars, a lowered stance and 18-inch wheels and tires. The body kit is identical to last year's 337, but the badges are designed to mimic those on the first U.S.-market GTI, which appeared in 1983, and include-in a daring return appearance-the speeding rabbit logo itself.
Inside, the Recaro seats have "GTI" stitched into the upholstery, there's a dimpled golf ball-like shifter, the instrumentation is trimmed with aluminum and each car will feature a numbered dash plaque. Most everything available on a GTI will be standard, with the exception of stability control.
Only 4,200 20th Anniversary GTIs will be made for North America, with 4,000 coming to the United States and 200 being ritually sacrificed to those heathens in the Great White North. Want one? Bring $23,225 to the nearest VW dealer.
SCC InterviewMatt Edmonds Of The Tire Rackhe Tire Rack pretty much invented the mail-order tire business and has grown into one of the largest aftermarket companies. But it has also sustained a solid relationship with grassroots motorsports and re-upped with the SCCA as title sponsor of the Solo II National Championship. Matt Edmonds is the marketing director for The Tire Rack and is the point man for the company's motorsports efforts and someone with a solid feel for the current tire market.
Sport Compact Car: How did The Tire Rack hook up with Solo II?Matt Edmonds: Our first involvement was back in 1995. We started as the title sponsor of the national championships in Topeka, Kan., and have expanded our sponsorship now to encompass the whole of Solo II, including the national tour (nine events), Pro Solo and the national championships every December in Topeka.
SCC: Is your company involved with other motorsports?ME: We're involved with BMW Club Racing (as title sponsor) and another new racing organization, Precision Racing Organization. We've focused our marketing effort on grassroots motorsports and the heritage of The Tire Rack. Mike Joines, who started The Tire Rack, participated in solo events. In fact, that's how The Tire Rack started when the Phoenix Stahlflex was the hot tire and it took weeks to get it; Mike looked at it as an opportunity when The Tire Rack was just a gas station selling tires. Mike put the Phoenix in stock for shipment when they wanted it. Our sponsorship gives back to the grassroots motorsports community.
SCC: But motorsports aren't the majority of your business today, is it?ME: No, it's not the basis of our business, but it's the core of our business.
SCC: How much of the business is the sport compact market?ME: It's hard to put a percentage on it, but it's a growing area for us. The market is growing into our products. We've got a high-performance market, more than just a high-fashion product. It's been our policy to enhance the performance of the vehicle with a high-technology product.
SCC: Are there any recent developments worth noting?ME: As we see the market change, there's some new interests. The off-road rally interest is coming on. Not so much off-road as tarmac rally look. And we're starting to see the sport compact market expand beyond the Asian stuff, into VWs and Audis and stuff.
SCC: Is there any one tire that's most popular today?ME: From our side, it's the Kumho tire. That's very value-driven; we're dealing with beginning enthusiasts who have to watch their dollars. After that is Yokohama, which is very strong with its name and styling that pushes ahead of Kumho. If people in the sport compact market aren't completely working on a budget, they ask how the tire looks. Style is at least as important to them as performance.
SCC: Are any tires out there built specifically for style?ME: Style drives it, but the manufacturers aren't sacrificing performance for style. Some trends are keeping the sidewalls clean. Yokohama has done that with the Parada Spec II and Kumho's MX uses larger tread blocks, which always looks good.
Question Of The MonthThis month's query is simple and straightforward:What's the best-smelling thing about cars?Do you enjoy whiffs of Pennzoil? Is there something engaging about the odor of burnt rubber? Let us know. If your response is amusing (and not too sicko and weird), we'll publish your reply. E-mail us at email@example.com. And this is strictly an e-mail thing, so don't send us anything you expect us to smell.
Answers Of The MonthIn the February issue we asked you: Which is more fun to watch or participate in, front- or rear-wheel-drive drag racing? Here are some of answers we got.
Rear wheel all the way. Why do you think Ferrari, Porsche, Jaguar, and Lamborghini never made front-wheel cars? They SUCK. Know why Pro NHRA is all rear wheel? It works. Front drive makes for cheap and easy family cars and minivans, but nothing for racing or even really driving fast.-Aaron J. Dowdell, Boone, IA
Neither. The most exciting drivetrain in drag racing is AWD. Nothing beats that split second when the light flashes green and all four wheels claw the pavement with a fury found in no two- wheel-drive car.-Chris Ross '94 GSX, Parts Unknown
Neither. Drag racing is boring. I'd rather watch F1 or Rally. Just going straight doesn't do it for me.-Douglas C. Biehl II, Parts Unknown
I like to watch the rear-wheel-drive racing more, because it seems like there are more possibilites for something to go wrong. What's more exciting than watching cars wheelie or flip into the air? -Jesse, Parts Unknown
Seems pretty obvious. Would you rather watch wheelstands or wheelhop?-Scott Jackson, Parts Unknown
Drag racing is drag racing. It doesn't matter whether the front, rear, or all of the wheels put power to the ground.-Barry Hettler, Rochester, NY
I like front-drive drag racing better. There's more involvement. In a rear-drive car you mash the gas and the car does all the work, but getting a front-drive four-cylinder car into the 11s, 10s, 9s or 8s is amazing. I'm stuck up here in domestic Hell, so a fast front driver is fun to watch. Seeing a Civic blow the doors off of a Camaro or Mustang is worth the trip to the track.-Dustin, Sioux Falls, SD
Not Quite An EvoWant something that looks kinda/sorta like an EVO, but costs a lot less and should even carry affordable insurance? Then the 2004 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart is for you.
The Ralliart is a mere front-driver, but has the big 2.4-liter SOHC four in its nose pumping out 160 hp. It also comes wearing 16-inch wheels, a stiffer and lower suspension and four-wheel disc brakes. (ABS and electronic brake force distribution are optional.) All 2004 Lancers will get the new nose, but only the Ralliart will get the clear lens taillights. Inside, the front seats are the same ones used on the JDM Lancer Evolution GT-A and there are all sorts of carbon-fiber trim and brushed phony metal. Both five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions will be offered when the car goes on sale this fall.
Priced starting at less than $18,000, the Ralliart Lancer is intended to fill the hole in the Lancer line-up between the O.Z. Rally Sedan (which has no power upgrades) and the wickedly turbocharged, all-wheel-drive Lancer Evolution.
"2 Fast 2 Furious" Trailer Online ReviewedAre you desperate to see the sequel to 2001's "The Fast and the Furious?" The movie opens June 6, but the trailer for "2 Fast 2 Furious" is up right now on www.thefastandthefurious.com and we figure it's time for us to give our snap judgment based on those few seconds.
First, there's way too much neon on the cars. Second, the acting isn't going to win any Oscars. Third, the girls look hot. And fourth, all the action looks damned awesome.
Cars jump, cars race and, in one stunning sequence (we swiped the frames to show you here), a Saleen Mustang gets run over by a semi and then hit by a Corvette convertible. Not only does the scene look absolutely insane, but it also manages to destroy both a Saleen and a Corvette, making the world just that much more pleasant.
Despite the presence of actors, we think this movie is OK. If you have money leftover after renewing your subscription to SCC, go see this movie. After all, the trailer looks good.
Mazda Will Teach You to DriveThe Mazda Rev It Up program is the world's largest performance driving school and the cheapest. Training starts at just $40.
Rev It Up will travel to 15 different major cities around America and offer classroom instruction, some seat time with professional drivers and a solo event where drivers can pit their new skills against the clock and other competitors. Not bad for $40-and every attendee will also get to drive the Mazda6, Miata and Proteg on a "simulated street course." Beyond all that, there will also be "interactive activities" available for general amusement for those people who don't want to learn a damned thing.
Information and registration is available at www.mazdarevitup.com, but here's the schedule should you be unable to operate a computer.
San Francisco Bay Area, Alameda PointMarch 29-30
Los Angeles, CAHollywood ParkApril 5-6
Orange County(Irvine, CA), El ToroApril 12-13
Houston, TXSam Houston RacewayApril 26-27
Dallas, TXTexas Motor SpeedwayMay 3-4
Atlanta, GA, Atlanta Motor SpeedwayMay 17-18
Charlotte, NCCharlotte ColiseumMay 24-25
Miami, FLGulfstream ParkMay 31-June 1
Chicago, ILChicago Motor Speedway (to be confirmed)June 14-15
Minneapolis, MNMinneapolis Fairgrounds (to be confirmed)June 21-22
Cincinnati, OHTurfway Park (to be confirmed)June 28-29
Boston, MACMGI FieldJuly 12-13
Philadelphia, PA Philadelphia ParkJuly 19-20
Washington, DCFedEx FieldJuly 26-27
New York, NYBelmont ParkAugust 2-3
* Raymond Banasan, 18, of Fairfield was killed when he lost control of his Honda Civic during a street race in the northern California city in February. According to reports, two passengers in his car were also injured, but are expected to recover.
* McG, the filmmaker responsible for the movie "Charlie's Angels," has announced his intent to make a movie based on Mattel's Hot Wheels toy cars. McG was quoted by the Associated Press as promising a movie with "all the warmth and humanity of your favorite James Dean movie with the state-of-the-art visual effects and the hottest collection of automobiles ever brought to the screen." As this is written, Columbia Pictures was still looking for a screenwriter and a cast of very tiny actors to fit in the cars.
* There are rumors that Saab will rebadge a Subaru WRX and sell it as its own. Call it Saabaru.
* The SCCA has inked an agreement with The SPEED Channel that will put all eight of the 2003 ProRally Championship events on the channel. The one-hour shows will air on Thursday nights as part of the cable channel's "Thursday Dirt" programming.
* Toyo Tires has announced its tire will be the spec tire for all events in the United States Touring Car Championship. All entries will run on either 205/40-17 or 235/45-17 Proxes RA-1 tires.
* Michelin, which already owns BFGoodrich here in America, has taken a 10-percent stake in South Korea's Hankook Tire.
* One more reason the 24 Hours of Daytona sucked this year is that the Grand Am sanctioning body outlawed all rotary engine racecars.
* Toyota has announced it will build a new plant in San Antonio, Texas, to produce Tundra pickups. It will be Toyota's sixth plant in America when it opens in 2006 and will build 150,000 trucks during the first year.
* Nina Rivet Sukvir Singh Khosa, 20, and Bahadur Singh Bhalru, 23, were both sentenced to two years of house arrest in Vancouver for the street racing death of pedestrian Irene Thorpe, 51, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Both were convicted of criminal negligence causing death after Khosa lost control of his car during a November 2000 race with Bhalru and hit Thorpe. Diane Levair, Thorpe's sister, was outraged by the zero-jail-time sentences. "It's garbage," she says. "Where's my sister? What did she get? She got a conditional life sentence. It's not going to bring her back, and they get to walk? It's garbage, it's garbage."
WebsideIt's another month and another batch of Web sites. Send us info on yours or some other non-porn, automotive site that makes you deliriously delirious at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ah heck, send us the porn sites, too.