KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
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. Why? Because for those seeking a premium-branded sedan with a $30,000 starting price and fuel economy that reaches into the 30 miles-per-gallon range, the choices are rather limited. The Audi A4 is one, as are the Volvo S40 and Lexus IS. However, 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. The base model with a manual transmission (another increasingly rare feature in this class) starts just over $30,000 and even fully loaded barely reaches $34,000; a loaded V6 stays just south of $40,000. Piece together its quality, performance, features and fuel economy, and the TSX looks to be one of the best premium sedan bargains going.
You'll Like This Car If...
In terms of technology, fuel economy, performance and value, the Acura TSX is a premium-level bargain. Not only does it offer an enviable resale and reliability record, it's one of the few sport sedans left that still offer the option of a manual transmission.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Unlike the Audi and Volvo sedans, the TSX does not offer the option of all-wheel drive. More troubling to some of us is the electric power steering system that demands constant attention on the highway.
What's New for 2011
For 2011, Acura makes a number of changes aimed at quieting the TSX's cabin and improving fuel economy. Along with an all-new Sport Wagon addition (reviewed separately), the TSX receives revised front and rear styling, as well as a number of interior upgrades. An improved Technology Package includes a new LED backlit navigation screen, Song by Voice user interface and 15 GB of downloadable storage space on the system's 60 GB hard drive.
When it comes to all-around driving fun, we could hardly ask for a better balance of enthusiasm and comfort. We like the six-speed manual's precise shifting action and the five-speed automatic's exceptionally aggressive Sport mode, the later being especially welcome on the automatic-only V6 model. The 2011 Acura TSX encourages a quicker pace when the road begins to meander, and adequately absorbs surface irregularities and external roars when cruising. If there's a fly in the TSX ointment, it can be found with Acura's efficiency-enhancing electromechanical power steering (EPS) system. Devoid of feel that sometimes borders on numbness (depending on which KBB editor you ask), the TSX is no match for competitors such as the Audi A4 or BMW 1 Series when it comes to accurate steering feedback. While most vehicles require subtle steering input when traveling straight down the highway; the TSX seems to require constant, unnatural-feeling corrections. We're hoping the system will be improved over the life of the TSX, because we really like the rest of the package.
DVD-Audio Surround Sound
Audiophiles will have to have this comprehensive premium sound system. Included in the Technology Package, the 5.2 DVD-Audio Surround Sound is so utterly clear and clean, it puts all other stock systems to shame.
Voice-controlled Navigation System
The 2011 Acura TSX offers a sophisticated navigation system with an LED backlit eight-inch screen that Acura claims delivers 400 percent better resolution than last year's system. Also on board is Acura's Song by Voice music search, and voice activation for the navigation that allows for 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 lukewarm. Although the new interior does bring a bit more color to the console, door panels and steering wheel, even the contrasting color stitching isn't enough to make the high-tech TSX feel like an a upscale Audi. That's because the TSX eschews traditional luxury cues for a more technological type of richness, although wood-look trim is available. Beyond the visual, the TSX's interior is all business, offering seats that are both comfortable and supportive, and a rear seat that sufficiently passes the six-footer test. New rear heating/cooling vents help keep rear passengers comfortable while a climate controlled center console keeps perishables from perishing. The smallish trunk is less impressive, but long items can be safely stowed once the 60/40-split rear seatback is deployed.
Defined by sharp edges, pronounced wheel flares and a forward lean that gives it a bolder, more athletic demeanor than the original TSX, the 2011 Acura TSX is made more alluring with a new front grille and headlamp treatment, new fog light bezels and a new front lip spoiler. Around back, new tail lamps and license plate garnish heighten the TSX's visual appeal. Mirror-integrated turn signals, 17- or 18-inch wheels and a long shoulder crease all combine to make the TSX look longer and wider than it really is.
Notable Standard Equipment
The 2011 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. The V6 adds 18-inch alloy wheels, one-touch ignition key start and Acura's new Active Sound Control system, which works by eliminating exterior sound entering the cabin. 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 2011 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 HDD navigation system, both of which are detailed in the "Favorite Features" section of this review.
Under the Hood
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. Those seeking better low-end performance should look at the new 3.5-liter V6. With 280 horsepower on tap it's sure to be a scintillating ride, although without a manual transmission, probably not as much fun as the base car.
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: 21/29 (manual), 22/31 (automatic)
280 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
254 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/28
The 2011 Acura TSX starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just over $30,000 and tops out at about $33,500 with the Technology Package. The V6 models start around $36,000 and top out close to $40,000 when loaded. To make your best deal, be sure to check our Fair Value Pricing which shows what others in your area have paid for their TSX. 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 starts at $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 mirror those of its corporate stablemate and industry resale benchmark, the Honda Accord.