The Acura TSX is the antithesis of the North American version of Honda’s latest Accord. One is keen, agile and keys on performance, the other takes comfort and roominess to heart. It speaks to the fundamental differences between the two continents. One is packed with tight twisty roads and century-old buildings; the other is all about boulevards and sprawling malls.
Such is the difference between the Accord and the TSX, which is also know as the European Accord. Where the former coddles the rear seat riders with 944-millimetres of legroom, the TSX is a tight-but-livable 868-mm. Likewise, there is a world of difference in the complexity of each. The Accord has myriad buttons crammed into an impossibly tiny space; the TSX has 29 buttons, two knobs and a mini-mouse. The reason for the disparity is the navigation system’s touch-sensitive screen. It allows the driver to pull up a number of different menus (climate, audio and so on) and simply touch the required command. It is so easy to negotiate the owner’s manual is destined to remain the least used part of this car.
The rest of the TSX’s cabin hones in on the sportier side, too. The front buckets, for example, have bolder bolstering, which keep the riders planted with more authority. There’s also a full suite of toys – everything from an eight-way power driver’s seat and moonroof to steering wheel mounted audio, cruise and voice activation controls. The voice recognition system really is one of the better ones and simply because it does not punish the user for having an accent. The 360-watt audio package also deserves mentioning – its performance is strong and, with an auxiliary input and 12-volt outlet in the centre console’s box, it supports a number of different mediums. Crank up the volume and the eight speakers fill the cabin with crystal-clear sound.
There are, however, some foibles. The LATCH system is unnecessarily difficult to use – for a family-oriented car this is not a very bright move. Second, the DVD player for the navigation system hangs from the underside of the rear parcel shelf where it is venerable if care is not taken when loading the trunk (it also drops the capacity from 13.2 to 12.8 cubic feet). Finally, the trunk opening and the rear-seat pass-through are limited in size.
The TSX rides on double wishbones up front, rear multiple links, gas-pressurized shocks and anti-roll bars at both ends. As is true of the rest of the car, the setup is decidedly European in its feel and feedback. The ride is firm but comfortable, and yet when the road begins to twist and turn it banishes unwanted body motion. The large P215/50R17 tires then keep understeer at arm’s length in spite of the 61/39-front/rear weight distribution. It is a dynamic package that begs to be driven with purpose. If things do start to get out of hand, the electronic stability/traction control system is ready, willing and more than able.
A big part of the reason for the driven feel is down to the powertrain – a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine that’s mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. The engine, which puts out 205 horsepower and 164 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm, loves to rev and when it does, it sings a sweet siren as the tachometer sweeps towards the 7,100 rpm redline. It also delivers its sweetness across a broad range. The credit goes to i-VTEC and variable timing control. Depending upon the demand, it tailors the output to suit.
The slick six-speed box reinforces the engine’s willingness. The ratios are tightly spaced, the shifter’s throw is short, the gate is precise and the clutch is a delight. The combination makes it easy to snick up and down the box. Add to that a pedal setup that promotes heel/toe shifting, and you have package with a huge fun-to-drive quotient.
The proof of how well it all comes together is found in the numbers. It runs from rest to 100 km/h in 7.4 seconds. It is decidedly faster than the Accord and yet there is only a 10-kilogram difference in the stated curb weights.
The stopping power is equally impressive. The four-wheel discs haul the TSX from speed (100 km/h) in a short 40.1-metres, the stops remain fade free after several full-on applications and the pedal is easily modulated, which makes finding the threshold a synch – the upshot is the anti-lock system stays out until the driver hammers the binders.
The Acura TSX is a blast to drive. It is fast, sure-footed and right-sized. Driving the Accord and its European sibling back-to-back highlighted the differences. If comfort and room take precedence pick the Honda, if its packaging and sportiness buy the Acura TSX.
Acura has just revealed the 2009 Acura TSX so it should be quite interesting to see how it compares to this very capable model.
Type of vehicle: Front-wheel drive compact sedan
Engine: 2.4L, DOHC, inline-four
Power: 205 @ 7,000 rpm; 164 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Brakes: Four-wheel disc with ABS
Base price/as tested: $36,200/$39,000
Destination charge: $1,725
Fuel economy L/100 km: 10.8 city, 7.2 hwy.
Standard features: Automatic climate control, power locks, windows, mirrors, moonroof, 8-way driver’s/4-way passengers heated seats, perforated leather, cruise control, tilt/telescopic steering, 360-watt AM/FM/6-disc CD with auxiliary input and eight speakers, DVD-based navigation with touch-screen, high-intensity discharge headlights with auto on/off, fog lights, electronic stability/traction control, front and side seat-mounted air bags, drop-downside curtains