By KBB.com Editors
Looking for a premium-branded sedan with a sub-$30,000 starting price and fuel economy that reaches into the 30 miles-per-gallon range? Congratulations, you've found it. While its Acura TL big brother competes with heavy hitters like the BMW 3 Series and Infiniti G Sedan, the second-generation Acura TSX is light on direct competitors. The Volvo S40 is one, as are the lower-powered versions of the Audi A4 and Lexus IS. The TSX's big advantage versus most of its competitors can be summed up in a word that a premium-brand marketer like Acura would never use: Value. A fully-loaded, tech-laden 2009 Acura TSX tops out just under $33,000. Combined with an EPA rating of up to 30 mpg on the highway, the Acura TSX may be the best premium bargain going.You'll Like This Car If...
With fuel prices and the economy being what they are, the 2009 Acura TSX is a premium sedan for our times. In terms of technology, fuel economy, performance and value, the Acura TSX is a premium-level bargain.
While Acura now offers the bigger TL with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive, the 2009 Acura TSX remains strictly a front-driver. Most buyers, though, should consider this a non-issue. More troubling to some of us is the electric power steering system that demands constant attention on the highway.What's New for 2009
The all-new, second-generation 2009 Acura TSX is measurably larger than its predecessor and boasts an even more impressive collection of in-cabin technology. It's also quieter and feels more deserving of its premium badge.Driving It Driving Impressions
We could hardly ask for a better balance of fun and comfort from a sporty, front-wheel drive, entry-premium sedan than that delivered by the 2009 Acura TSX. It encourages a quicker pace when the road begins to meander, and adequately absorbs surface irregularities and external roars when cruising. We like the six-speed manual's precise shifting action and the five-speed automatic's exceptionally aggressive Sport mode. The Kryptonite in the garage is an efficiency-enhancing electromechanical power steering (EPS) system that ranges from a shortcoming to a deal-breaker, depending on which KBB editor you ask. Most vehicles require subtle steering input when traveling straight down the highway; the 2009 Acura TSX requires constant, unnatural-feeling correction. We're hoping the system will be improved over the life of the TSX, because we really like the rest of the package.Favorite Features
DVD-Audio Surround Sound
The base sound system is good, but the comprehensive premium sound system included in the Technology Package is downright amazing. You might think about dropping by the dealer just to experience the crystal-clear, 5.1 DVD-Audio Surround Sound.
Voice-controlled Navigation System
The 2009 Acura TSX offers a sophisticated navigation system with a big, eight-inch screen, voice input of city and street names, Zagat restaurant information, weather conditions and real-time traffic information and rerouting. A rear-view camera is also part of the package.
If soft, warm and rich is the vibe you seek from a premium sedan, settling into the TSX may leave you cold. The TSX eschews traditional luxury cues for a more technological type of richness, although wood-look trim is available. The seats are comfortable and supportive, and the second row sufficiently passes the six-footer test. The smallish trunk is less impressive, but a 60/40-split rear seatback adds flexibility. All told, inside the 2009 Acura TSX is a satisfying place to spend a long commute.Exterior
The 2009 Acura TSX is measurably longer and wider than its predecessor, and defined by sharp edges, pronounced wheel flares and a forward lean that give it a bolder, more athletic demeanor. The face is distinguished by angular, xenon high-intensity discharge headlights, Acura's new shield-like grille and a wide lower intake. Mirror-integrated turn signals, 17-inch wheels and a long shoulder crease lead back to complex tail lights, an integrated spoiler-like element and dual exhaust tips.Notable Standard Equipment
The 2009 Acura TSX boasts a long list of standard equipment that includes Bluetooth phone connectivity, iPod integration (and simpler auxiliary input), steering wheel-mounted controls, leather seating with position memory, moonroof and dual-zone climate control. All the safety gear is included, such as front, front side-impact and two-row side-curtain airbags, plus electronic stability control.Notable Optional Equipment
Every bit of optional equipment available on the 2009 Acura TSX is wrapped up into one mouth-watering Technology Package, the highlights of which include a world-class DVD-Audio Surround Sound system and a comprehensive advanced navigation system, both of which are detailed in the "Favorite Features" section of this review.Under the Hood
The second-generation TSX gives up four horsepower compared to its predecessor, but gains two additional highway miles per gallon. Considering torque is also up by eight pound-feet, it's easily a trade worth making. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is coupled with either a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic that features a high-revving Sport mode. Like in so many Honda and Acura vehicles, the i-VTEC engine is at its best when pushed hardest.
2.4-liter in-line four-cylinder
201 horsepower @ 7000 rpm
172 (manual), 170 (automatic) lb.-ft. of torque @ 4300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28 (manual), 21/30 (automatic)
The 2009 Acura TSX starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just over $29,500 and tops out at just under $33,000 with the Technology Package. Factoring sticker price, equipment levels and residual value, the TSX may be the smartest buy in the entry-premium arena. It's one of a handful of premium-branded cars that start at less than $30,000, it's loaded with the most modern of conveniences and its projected resale values best those of competitors like the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Volvo S40, and even slightly top those of its corporate stablemate and industry resale benchmark, the Honda Accord.