Test Driven: Acura TSX Wagon

Acura seems to have a very different approach to the luxury car market than its Japanese luxury car kin, and it’s paid dividends for them over the years.  While Lexus and Infiniti chase the big boys in Germany, Acura goes after the lower priced market and does a good job of offering a slick alternative to the norm.  The TSX, while in every other part of the world a Honda Accord, is Acura’s entry-level model, but this is no bad thing.  Since I wanted to try the wagon out for the sake of a family member who may need one in the near future, I got a set of keys and took a black TSX Tech Sport Wagon for a drive.

Acura’s new styling language has been their biggest news as of late.  On some models, it looks great, but on others, it looks ugly. Thankfully the TSX is one of the former–the older one isn’t at all ugly, but the newer one with the new family styling cues looks more grown-up than the older ones.  The new wagon is supposed to only cover about 5% of sales for the year, but according to the sales representative I spoke with, every single one made is sold, so Acura clearly isn’t losing money on this design.  The TSX’s lines translate well to the wagon body style, with chiseled sides and angular character lines that, in a way, hide its size.

The interior is more of the same, with typical Acura quality workmanship.  The seats are soft and supportive, with very good side bolsters–a nice performance-minded touch.  The interior layout is conventional, and its flair doesn’t take away from the function.  For about 34K, this little wagon offers most of what the Audi A4 Avant I drove would offer at a mugch higher price, including GPS navigation, xenon headlights, sport seats, a higher-quality audio system, and a compass, all welcome additions.  The fact is, the TSX offers the space, quality, and features of the compact German wagons at a fraction of the initial cost.  Visibility is above average, and rear cargo room even with the rear seats up is commendable for its size–the opening is wide and tall, so moving an apartment wouldn’t be that big of an issue for this little wagon.

On the road, the TSX wagon isn’t at all a cheaper version than the German establishments.  It rides firmly, yet feels more comfortable than the A4 Avant, despite its larger rims.  The body is well-controlled even though the car crashes over large bumps in the pavement.  As for road noise, the TSX suffers from a good degree of interior boom thanks to the large expanse of space, which amplifies the wind noise around the mirrors a bit.  The engine note, though, is far from irritating.  The little inline-4 is quiet at normal operation, but step on the gas and it wakes up with authority.  Despite being down about 10hp from the Audi A4 Avant’s 2.0T engine, it feels livelier off the line and, typical of its Honda roots, makes power very close to redline, bringing with it a surge of VTEC song.  The transmission feels well-matched to the motor and doesn’t hesitate to downshift at all–a nice touch, especially with the paddle shifters, which feel more usable here than on the RDX.  The brakes felt very secure and the pedal was much more usable than that of the Audi, while the steering felt sharper on turn-in.  It has minimal body lean as well.  It’s not perfect, but for someone who wants a premium wagon without paying for a BMW or an Audi, the TSX wagon is just about perfect.



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