Drivers seeking a sporty sedan that's a bit more upscale than the typical family four-door will find a lot to like in the Acura TSX. It's a solid choice for daily use given its competent driving characteristics, high-quality interior and generous level of standard features. And like most Acura products, the TSX boasts a high level of refinement, a reputation for above-average reliability and decent value for the dollar.
The first-generation Acura TSX impressed us with its sporty and nimble feel, but the small backseat and firm ride weren't for everyone. The second (current) generation offers a roomier cabin and a smoother, more isolated ride, although the athletic feel was somewhat muted for these gains. The V6 model with its sportier suspension atones for that sin somewhat. Overall, the TSX is a smart choice, though not the most prestigious, for a new or used entry-level luxury sedan.
Current Acura TSX
For power, the front-wheel-drive TSX offers a choice of a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine (201 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque) or a 3.5-liter V6 (280 hp and 254 lb-ft). A five-speed automatic transmission is standard on all models, while an excellent six-speed manual is optional only with the four-cylinder.
Base and Special Edition trims are offered, with the Special Edition being available only with the four-cylinder engine. Base models come with an impressive array of standard features that are often optional on competitors, like xenon headlights, a sunroof, heated power front seats with driver memory, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control and a seven-speaker CD audio system with satellite radio and iPod integration. The TSX Special Edition adds more aggressive-looking exterior elements and sporty cabin upgrades such as red interior stitching and aluminum pedals. Base models with the four-cylinder engine may be upgraded with a Technology package that adds amenities like a navigation system and a rearview camera.
In reviews, we've found that while the 2.4-liter four is commendably smooth in the Honda tradition, it simply doesn't measure up to the six-cylinder and turbocharged four-cylinder engines found in other entry-level luxury sport sedans. The V6, however, provides a notable increase in thrust, delivered in a linear and smooth fashion.
In reviews, the TSX impressed us with its technology offerings, including one of the better optional audio systems around. But it disappoints with the way it drives, with numb steering feel that's uncharacteristic of a Honda product and braking performance that verges on unacceptable. The refined but lackluster inline-4 is also unlikely to impress shoppers in the TSX's upscale segment, although the sport-tuned V6 model brings improvements in both acceleration and handling. Ultimately, the TSX, particularly the four-cylinder version, often seems like more of a lavishly appointed family car than a luxury sedan.
Used Acura TSX Models
The current generation of the Acura TSX debuted for 2009 and brought a larger, roomier and somewhat controversially styled TSX to market. This first-year version was only offered with four-cylinder power -- there was no sportier V6 trim level.
The first-generation Acura TSX debuted in 2004. Sportier than the second-generation model, the original TSX was widely praised for its sharp handling and entertaining (though peaky) 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that generated 200 hp and 166 lb-ft of torque. Among the standard features were items like 17-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, a sunroof, heated power front seats with driver memory, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control and an eight-speaker audio system.
Antilock brakes, stability control, front side impact airbags and side curtain airbags for all outboard passengers were also standard. An impressive DVD-based navigation system with touchscreen and voice-activated software was the only available option for the well-equipped first-generation TSX.
In road tests, we found that while the original TSX's torque-deficient VTEC engine needed to be revved hard to get sufficient acceleration, it was nonetheless quite fun to wring out, especially when equipped with the slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission (a five-speed automatic was also available). Sharp handling and good steering feel made the TSX a sleeper sport sedan. The first-generation TSX also featured a high-quality and aesthetically pleasing interior design.
There were a handful of changes made to the original Acura TSX during its production run. Satellite radio, heated exterior mirrors and a power passenger seat were added in 2005. The 2006 TSX featured engine, feature and styling updates -- the four-cylinder engine was modified to produce 205 hp and 164 lb-ft of torque, and the navigation system gained faster processing and additional points of interest. Bluetooth, driver seat memory and the MP3 auxiliary jack were also new. Exterior enhancements included redesigned front and rear fascias, new side sills, foglamps and new alloy wheels. The following year saw a tire-pressure monitor fitted as standard, while 2008, the last year of this generation, saw no changes of note.