For most of our editors on staff, last year's redesign of Acura's formerly taut, Euro-flavored TSX was greeted with skepticism. Though the first-generation TSX was short on rear seat room, it had an eager, involving personality that made the car a great alternative to more mainstream entry-level luxury cars. But that attribute was largely lost in '09 with the larger, more Americanized TSX. Though it offered more room in the back and a softer ride, the new TSX was also heavier, oddly styled in a few areas and had a more isolating feel behind the wheel. Thankfully, the 2010 Acura TSX sets things mostly right, provided you don't mind springing for the newly available V6 version.
This year, Acura gives those who love driving reason to come back to the TSX. Utilizing pretty much the same engine found in the larger TL sedan, the TSX V6 puts 280 broad-shouldered horses under the driver's right foot. The V6 comes paired with a five-speed automatic transmission only, but at least with the V6, TSX drivers no longer have to worry about getting embarrassed on freeway on-ramps by Grandma in her V6-powered Toyota Camry. Additional changes for the TSX V6 include a slightly firmer suspension and a recalibrated steering system. We didn't like the new electric power steering system introduced for the '09 redesign, as its numb feel countered the TSX's intended sportiness. Thankfully, the V6 model's steering provides more feedback about what's going on at the front wheels.
Overall, the 2010 Acura TSX is a mixed bag. On the one hand, there is the four-cylinder version with its rather lackluster feel behind the wheel; on the other, there's the V6, which is much livelier and more entertaining to drive thanks to its potent engine and revised steering and suspension calibrations. Both cars, however, offer typical Acura strengths like solid build quality, a comfortable cabin and the latest high-tech features. Though we still would advise folks shopping the four-cylinder TSX to take a close look at the Audi A4, Lexus IS 250, Volvo S40 and even loaded versions of the Mazda 6, Nissan Altima and Volkswagen Jetta, the V6 version makes a stronger case for itself in the entry-level sport sedan segment.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The 2010 Acura TSX is a compact entry-level luxury sedan available in two fairly loaded trim levels, base and V6. Standard equipment on the base TSX includes 17-inch wheels, xenon headlights, foglights, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, an eight-way power driver seat with memory, a four-way power passenger seat, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a 60/40-split-folding rear seatback. Also standard are Bluetooth and a seven-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, auxiliary audio jack and a USB port. In addition to the more powerful engine, the V6 adds a slightly firmer suspension, 18-inch wheels and revised steering assist (for more weight in the wheel).
The optional Technology package adds a rearview camera and a navigation system with voice recognition, real-time traffic and weather forecasting. In addition, that package includes a 10-speaker Acura/ELS surround-sound system with an in-dash six-CD/DVD-audio changer.
Powertrains and Performance:
The front-wheel-drive TSX is available with a choice of two engines. The 2.4-liter inline-4 makes 201 hp and 170 pound-feet of torque (172 lb-ft with the manual) while the 3.5-liter V6 pumps out 280 hp and 254 lb-ft. Available transmissions are a six-speed manual (four-cylinder only) and a five-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel shift paddles.
We've timed a four-cylinder with the manual at an unimpressive 7.7 seconds for the 0-60-mph sprint, while the automatic clocks in about a second slower. The spirited V6, conversely, posted a wholly competitive 0-60 time of 6.4 seconds.
Fuel mileage estimates for the four-cylinder/automatic TSX are 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined; the manual version drops to 21/28/23. The TSX V6 comes in at 18 city/27 highway and 21 combined.
Standard safety equipment on the 2010 TSX includes antilock brakes (with brake assist), stability control, traction control, front seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. In our simulated panic braking test, both the four- and six-cylinder versions of the TSX took 133 feet to stop from 60 mph. That's disappointing, as it's at least 10-15 feet longer than we'd expect for a sport sedan.
In government crash testing, the Acura TSX earned a perfect five-star sweep for all frontal- and side-impact tests. The TSX likewise aced the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests, scoring "Good" (the highest possible) in both frontal-offset and side-impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features:
The 2010 Acura TSX's dash is awash with buttons, and that's with or without the optional Technology package. Although the layout is logical, the sheer quantity of little black buttons (upwards of 40) would make a 747 pilot feel at home. On the upside, the Technology package's navigation system features voice commands, real-time traffic, weather forecasting and a large LCD screen with a secondary control knob. The accompanying 10-speaker ELS surround-sound system is certainly good enough to justify the extra cost.
Elsewhere inside the TSX, materials are consistent with the rest of Acura's well-built line. However, those looking for a Lexus-like level of opulence will be disappointed, as this Acura is only a bit nicer than its Honda Accord cousin despite its sportier, BMW-like aesthetic. Interior room is good, with only a shade less space than the larger TL. The TSX also has considerably more interior space than the Lexus IS 250 and a hair more than the Volvo S40. The trunk measures 12.6 cubic feet.
The 2010 Acura TSX is calm and quiet when cruising down the freeway. For manual-equipped base models, a short-travel clutch and linear throttle tip-in give the car an easy-to-drive nature; however, most base TSX buyers will likely opt for the five-speed automatic, which hampers the already tepid acceleration but provides pleasantly smooth shifts. Less welcome on the four-cylinder version is an over-assisted electric power steering system that feels disconnected from the road. Enthusiasts will gravitate toward the V6 version, which adds superior steering feel along with effortless thrust.
Still, even the base TSX is a fairly enjoyable car to drive on twisting roads, as body roll is kept in check and the car has a composed cornering attitude. The TSX V6 is sharper still thanks to its sportier suspension tuning and confident power delivery.