To put it in "Sex and the City" terms, the 2008 Acura TSX may look more like the classy, refined Charlotte, but it can behave more like saucy Samantha -- an always-willing partner on twisty, backcountry roads. The TSX's fully loaded features list and smart electronics would even appeal to the rational, all-business Miranda. It has nothing to do with Carrie, though. She's just nuts.
Although in the final year of its product cycle before next year's redesign, the current TSX has aged as gracefully as the "Sex and the City" women. It still represents one of the best values around, as constant updates through the years have kept the TSX's standard and optional feature lists fresh. Thankfully unchanged is its excellent handling, and the TSX is still more entertaining than other entry-luxury front-drive sedans and even approaches some rear-drive models in this regard.
The TSX's familiar Achilles heel, however, continues to be its engine. The high-revving four-cylinder provides above-average fuel economy for this segment, but those looking for V6-like power delivery may find the VTEC four-cylinder tough to love. In our experience, the slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission suits the engine's demeanor better than the five-speed automatic, though dealers don't order many of these in this automatic age.
Even so, the 2008 Acura TSX exists as a happy medium in a crowded entry-level sport sedan field that stretches from the fully loaded Nissan Altima and VW Jetta GLI to the BMW 3 Series and Lexus IS 250. While there may be models that are faster, more luxurious, more fuel-efficient, better-handling and less costly than the TSX, a scant few (if any) offer such a brilliant mix of it all. Perhaps in a way, this charming little Acura would apply to Carrie -- a woman who, above all else, wants it all.
The 2008 Acura TSX comes in one body style and one fully loaded trim level. Standard equipment includes 17-inch wheels, xenon headlamps, foglights, leather upholstery with heated front buckets, an eight-way power driver seat with memory, a four-way power passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, a sunroof, Bluetooth connectivity and a premium audio system with in-dash six-CD changer, satellite radio and auxiliary input jack. The lone option is Acura's superb voice-activated touchscreen navigation system that includes Zagat restaurant ratings and voice commands for the audio and climate systems.
Even though the TSX debuted back in 2004, it still features one of the nicest interiors in its class. Both attractive and well-made, the cabin toes a line between traditional luxury and a modern, high-tech aesthetic. Controls are straightforward and easy to use, even when equipped with the optional navigation system. When so equipped, some of the climate and audio controls are integrated into the 7-inch touchscreen, but most major functions can be adjusted via redundant controls, thus eliminating the need to sift through numerous on-screen menus. The interior is also plenty roomy, offering almost the same amount of front and rear-seat legroom as the uplevel TL, and lagging only in rear, middle-seat comfort. Trunk space measures 13.2 cubic feet, a bit below average for this type of car.
There is only one engine available for the 2008 TSX, a 2.4-liter inline-4 that produces 205 horsepower and 164 pound-feet of torque. Buyers have a no-cost choice between a five-speed automatic with automanual shifting and an excellent six-speed manual. The manual is better suited to the engine's personality, as the more direct control it provides helps to compensate for the lack of low-end power. Although this compact front-driver can feel sluggish off the line, the TSX does the 0-60-mph sprint in less than 7 seconds. Plus, it returns very good gas mileage for 2008 with 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway.
Good luck finding a better-handling front-wheel-drive car in the entry-luxury segment than the 2008 Acura TSX. Steering is quick and sharp and responds to commands better than Lassie. Body roll is kept well under control, too, and the ride is comfortable and compliant enough for those who'll confine their driving activities to commuting and running errands. The brakes are slightly less impressive, as stopping distances are rather long for this class while pedal feel is lacking in progression.
Still, our only significant beef with the TSX is its lack of beef, or rather low-end torque -- particularly when compared to the small six-cylinders offered in other entry-level luxury sedans. At low rpm and when taking off from a traffic light, the engine can feel gutless, but once revved past 3,500 rpm toward its 7-grand redline, this VTEC power plant comes to life with an almost turbolike fury. Folks used to historically peaky Honda engines will feel right at home in the TSX, but those accustomed to the buttery smooth torque of a Lexus V6 or Audi/VW turbocharged four-cylinder may be disappointed.
The 2008 Acura TSX boasts a long list of standard safety equipment including antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, side airbags for front passengers, and front and rear side-curtain airbags. In frontal-offset crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the TSX received a "Good" rating, the highest possible; it received an "Acceptable" rating in side-impact testing. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing, the TSX earned a perfect five-star rating on all counts except for rear side impacts, where it received four stars.
The Acura TSX soldiers into 2008 with no significant changes.