Surrey, British Columbia – I loved the first generation Acura TSX. When introduced back in 2003 it was the best front-drive sports sedan on the market. However, I’ve mixed emotions about the second-generation remake. While it looks great and a lower base price is certainly welcome, is it really better?
The 2009 TSX is a ground-up redesign. It’s longer, wider, lower and heavier (by 65 kg). All of which also alerted my concerns, as it was the light feel and agile handling of the current TSX that was very appealing.
The original TSX was like a “light” alternative to the pricier Acura TL. Trimmer, leaner and more nimble, it came with an engine that loved to sing those high notes. A less-expensive and more fuel-efficient luxury car, it was fun to drive even around town and a hoot when the open road went all twisty.
Like the original, new TSX comes with just one engine, a 2.4-litre inline four-cylinder, and there’s a choice of transmissions, a great six-speed manual and a five-speed SportShift sequential automatic. Maximum horsepower has been sacrificed in order to boost torque at low r.p.m. Fuel economy is about the same with the manual and a little better with the automatic.
In addition to a more menacing stance, the new TSX is roomier on the inside and packed with all kinds of new technologies. The base price has been reduced by $3,500. Leather upholstery is no longer standard.
The TSX does come standard with a sunroof and a power passenger seat, a new folding key with remote entry, a seven-speaker sound system and a Bluetooth cellular phone interface. A HomeLink remote control system and a dash-mounted electronic compass are also included.
A Premium Package ($3,300) adds leather seats, XM Radio, automatic headlights, two-position driver memory seat and an auxiliary USB jack with iPod compatibility, plus HID headlights and fog lamps.
A Technology Package ($6,100) adds a surround-sound 415-watt audio system with a six-disc CD/DVD changer. A navigation system and a rearview park-assist camera are also included in this package.
The Acura family of vehicles is definitely looking like a family these days with clear styling traits across the product line. The grille now has a broad chrome upper garnish and a blacked-out centre section. The wheel openings are well defined and it’s a sharper more angular design theme.
The headlights are bigger and the assemblies include protruding turn signals lenses. An angled character crease along the side lines-up with both front and rear door handles. It also curves up the trunk lid and ties-in nicely with the small rear spoiler on the trunk lid.
To get leather upholstery you now have to buy an optional Premium Package, which my test car came with, in addition to the Technology Package. The instrument panel has a new gauge layout with metal-look rims on the gauges and floating indicator needles. The navigation screen is recessed in an upper centre dash position to minimize glare from the sun. It’s controlled by a new large multi-function control knob in the centre of the dash.
Overall, passenger space is up by about four per cent and trunk space is down by 4.5 per cent. Although the trunk opening is apparently wider, it’s still not a particularly large opening and the trunk floor isn’t flat.
A full array of airbags and an electronic stability-control system are standard. Changes to the body structure, which Acura calls Advanced Compatibility Engineering, are designed to improve both passenger protection in a collision and reduce pedestrian injuries.
The body now offers better side protection and is more crash-compatible with other vehicles with different bumper heights. Its new design hood, hinges and windshield-wiper pivots also help minimize pedestrian injuries.
In crash tests done recently by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety the ’09 Acura TSX received “good” ratings in both side- and rear-impact tests. In these two types of crash tests, the previous generation TSX did not get favourable results.
On the highway, the new TSX is certainly a more mature automobile, it’s more refined and it is a more comfortable cruiser. While still an athletic sedan, it now is more stable, has an improved ride and a quieter cabin.
The manual-shift transmission in my test car had precise short throws and the solid feel of a rear-driver. I also liked having the pull-up handbrake on the driver’s side of the centre tunnel. And a light clutch made it easy to drive in city traffic.
I love the driving position in this car. The front seats are very comfortable, with excellent lateral support and there’s lots of room for a bigger-than-average person. However, I was surprised to see its conventional ignition key had not been replaced by a keyless ignition and a push-button start.
Even with its new-found low-speed torque, if you’re not prepared to rev this engine above 4,000 r.p.m. it may seem a bit anemic for a vehicle with high-performance aspirations. And, yes, I did miss those lost horses at the upper end of the rev range.
Overall the steering was a little disappointing as it’s also lost some road feel. Yes, its precise, tracks a stable straight line and responds quickly to steering wheel input, but it has also lost some sensitivity.
The new Acura TSX is mighty fine looking, plus it’s attractively priced and a safer automobile. In my opinion, Acura has decided to “North Americanize” the new TSX. I guess we’ll find-out if Canadian buyers really want a TSX that’s more like a TL.
Pricing: 2009 Acura TSX
32,900 to $40,300
Manufacturer’s web site