2010 Acura TSX V6
2010 Acura TSX V6. Click image to enlarge

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2010 Acura TSX

I’ll be among the first to suggest that four-cylinder power is usually sufficient for almost any small- to mid-sized vehicle, even in the luxury category. BMW’s Mini is mighty zippy with its 1.6-litre four, and the VW/Audi group’s turbocharged four-cylinder is one of the best in the business, in my opinion.

Over at the Acura camp, the compact TSX has been all about the four-pot motor since its introduction in 2004, but that changed this year with the addition of Honda’s 3.5-litre V6 to the model’s option sheet.

This is one of those rare cars where I might actually recommend the V6 model over the standard 2.4-litre four-cylinder: while the four is a very good engine, it tends to be a little weak on low-end power, a problem that the V6 fixes, and handily. After all, choose the six and you get 280 horsepower and 252 lb.-ft. of torque, compared to 201 hp/170 lb.-ft. in the base engine.

The TSX’s new V6 is the same one used in a variety of other Honda and Acura products including, most notably, the (barely) larger TL sedan. So, while a smaller car might normally be expected to outperform a larger car using the same motor, that advantage is nonexistent here. This is among my favourite six-cylinder engines, though: it moves the little TSX with ease and is very nice to listen to while it’s at work.

2010 Acura TSX V6
2010 Acura TSX V6
2010 Acura TSX V6
2010 Acura TSX V6. Click image to enlarge

Differences in this car’s driving experience versus the TL are rooted in each car’s origins. The TL is based on the North American Accord, while the TSX is a near-copy of the smaller Accord sold in Europe, and I like this Euro-sourced platform better. It feels more playful, more willing to be tossed around than its bigger sibling and, thanks particularly to a 2009 styling refresh, I think it looks better than the TL.

Tossing a car around assumes some sort of playfulness on the driver’s part, too, and many a frisky driver will no doubt be turned off by the lack of a manual transmission option with the six-cylinder engine. Certainly, even in the sport sedan segment, many buyers do choose an automatic, but as an enthusiast, I think the lack of a manual is an oversight in a class ruled by the BMW 3 Series – which can be had with a manual transmission with all but one engine (the diesel).

That quirk aside, the TSX’s five-speed auto used here is a good one, and is well-matched to the engine. It shifts unobtrusively in stop-and-go commuting, but will also bang off smart, quick gear changes at full throttle and always seems to shift – both up and down – just when you expect and/or need it to.

Another thing you’ll find in many of the TSX’s competitors – cars like the aforementioned 3 Series, the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class – is all-wheel drive. Acura’s own SH-AWD setup is very good, but it isn’t available on a sedan below the TL, which itself only got it as an option last year. So, there’s another knock against the TSX V6: its front-drive arrangement has a touch of torque-steer in response to gratuitous use of the loud pedal. There are also the inherent traction and performance limitations of a high-powered front-driver: the need for traction control intervention in full-throttle starts, and the tendency for the car to understeer when accelerating through a turn. The lack of an AWD option might be driven by a platform that wasn’t designed to accommodate it, but regardless, it will cause some shoppers to pan the TSX.

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