Acura TSX 2009 Review

A Sporty Economical Sedan

The 2009 Acura TSX, just arriving in dealerships now, has little to do with the 2008 version. The length has increased about two inches and the width almost three inches while the height has dropped about a half-inch.

The whole structure is different. The car has a meatier look with a wider stance. Looking at a cars exterior can be like a Rorschach test. If you go to Acura.com and click on their "Future Vehicles" there is a photo exposé on the 2009 TSX model. One particular shot is head on looking right at the car coming at you and it has a touch of BMW and Chevrolet Malibu. Do you think it has any Malibu or BMW? It certainly does in handling.

Acura’s Technical Touches Abound

While the ever-increasing size of cars concerns us, the TSX is one of the cleanest burning, highest mileage, nicest performance, high-tech luxury cars you can buy. Let us qualify that prior statement; as a healthcare professional you’re now being called on to operate loads of equipment so you need to be somewhat of a techno-geek. On the other hand after work, you may resent holding in your memory how to operate so many devices, and in this case avoid the tech package.

If you enjoy gadgets and the constant output of changing information, like road conditions or weather transitions, you'll be thrilled by the new TSX. Acura is trying to anticipate your need for information and then make it available.

Driving & Styling ComparisonsAcura considers competition for this car a Mercedes-Benz C 300, Audi A4 and BMW 328i 4-door sedans. The Audi A4 is most comparative in that it is standard with a 4-cylinder engine and front- wheel drive like the new TSX. If you compare option-for-option, feature-for-feature you'll find that Acura’s newest ‘09 model costs thousands of dollars less than the comparative cars from Europe. This car is a great value if you want front-wheel drive.

Putting the engine over the drive wheels as a rule gives you the best traction short of all-wheel drive. This is true of Porsche, as it is with the most passenger cars that are built front engine, front-wheel-drive. Front engine with front-wheel-drive tends to give you the best traction and most directional control because front-wheel-drive tends to broadcast earlier to the driver of a loss of traction or control. Stability control is standard on the TSX.

The styling seems to be a nice page in the windswept look that seems so typically Asian the cut of the whole front end reminds us of the armored plating on an ancient Japanese warrior. There is an aggressive masculine look on this car, as there was on the prior design yet, about half the buyers were female. The ‘09 TSX seems to be a car that looks better in person than in photographs.

Responsive Smooooth 4-Cylinder

The Acura is about seven inches longer than the BMW 3.0-Series yet feels comfortable quick and nimble. For mileage sake, Honda/Acura put a brilliantly designed 2.4 L, double overhead camshaft, variable valve timing, 4-cylinder engine. As we drove off with the 6-speed manual transmission, we actually thought we were driving a 6- cylinder car. After two city blocks we opened the hood to find a neatly packaged all-aluminum engine covered by only two pieces of lame plastic, the kind that covers the individual ignition coils beautifully placed on top of the spark plugs for the most powerful ignition that you can imagine. Then another piece was hiding the intake manifold and all those attractive injectors and their wiring. These decor cover pieces cost mechanics time to take on and put off. Many of us would prefer to see more of the workings of the engine and have easier access.

Honda has a lot to brag about with this large 2.4 L quick to respond engine, and the need for premium fuel is not one of them. Honda’s engines have traditionally been some of the world’s finest. The complete valve control system is brilliant, Honda calls it I-VTEC, the I for intelligent, V is for Variable and you can make up the rest. This big 4-cylinder engine is surprisingly smooth for lots of reasons: first, the two chain driven counter rotating balance shafts that eliminate a great deal of vibration and buzzing. Up front behind the grille under the hood behind the radiator, yet in front of the engine is a big cylindrical engine mount that has a pencil thin vacuum hose going to the engine. It’s a particularly unusual engine mount that changes as your car's engine changes its character. We understand that at low idling speeds it really loosens up to eliminate some vibration through the iron sub frame into the steel unit body. At other times it tightens up to create a more responsive power train.

Drive Choices

You have a very nice choice of two transmissions. The most popular is the 5-speed automatic which also offers the best fuel economy. The automatic is a more traditional type with a fluid drive torque converter that has a lockup feature. This transmission comes standard with paddle shifter's that allow you to take over in any mode. You can change gears quickly and see your gear changes on the instrument panel. Shortly after not using the paddles the system will resume to full automatic function. In the Sport mode gear changes are naturally more aggressive. As soon as you touch the paddle shifters in Sport mode you are now locked into manual mode. You'll probably get your best fuel economy just leaving it in Drive and using your foot consistently very lightly on the gas pedal and very lightly on the brake pedal.

You really have to enjoy a manual transmission and shifting yourself to take best advantage of this 6-speed. The clutch pedal is light yet consistently firm, much like the short throw shifter. It's easy to push through the gears, but you have to be careful, the six speeds are mighty close to each other. Reverse is easy, and the mirror will go down and check the curb for you while you're parking. How nice.

When test driving each transmission see how you like the way it shifts, see if you like the way the engine responds with the transmission and whether you find it pleasantly responsive. There should be no hesitation or lag.

Look underneath you'll find aerodynamics is seriously considered. The undercarriage is cleaner and more windswept. While you are looking underneath you’ll notice no fancy cast aluminum suspension parts down here, just traditional iron and steel used in an intelligent way to save mass and contour the road. The suspension is agile and strong, not that sporty or harsh.

Human Friendly Luxury FeaturesThe four doors move easily with plenty of room for four adults in meaningful luxury. Standard is leather upholstery, front heated power seats that can form to your body. Between the telescoping steering wheel and the eight-way power driver's seat individuals below 5 ft 4 in should be able to find a good fit. A number of vehicles today offer an adjustable accelerator and brake pedal that can also move closer to you. The people at Acura don't offer adjustable pedals. How do you fit?

The designers of Honda and Acura have always built driver-oriented cars. For the first time the power sunroof switch is moved to the ceiling for access by the co-pilot instead of on the left side of the instrument panel where only the driver could operate it.

Now, the center stack of the TSX is loaded with buttons and switches that all have multiple changing functions. Within two weeks, assuming you’ve read the owner’s manual more than once, you should be fluid at using all the controls on the steering wheel as well as the complete instrument panel. The instrument panel lighting is special the way it ramps up and down in brightness and looks beautifully crisp and clear. It's a wonderful use of the latest lighting technologies. The lighting on the interior is better than ever; more European.

Getting the Goodies

For a luxury car that’s still economical and responsive just order it with the automatic and the colors you like. Bluetooth is standard equipment so your TSX will find your phone when you step into the car. Take your book or music with you by plugging in your MP3 player iPod or iPhone into the USB port. If for some reason your USB doesn't work there is an auxiliary jack. Provided is a keyless entry with window controls and a folding key. You must use the key in the ignition to start.

That's plenty of technology for most people. But maybe you're not most people. So you order the Technology Package you want because it offers you a navigation system with voice recognition. What could be better? A rearview camera to see what you're running over while you're in a reverse. Also included is Acura link, which includes Honda’s version of OnStar; real-time traffic with traffic rerouting and even quick on-screen future weather forecasts. For you to communicate better with your car is an unusually outstanding audio system with 10 speakers, subwoofer, XM and more.

One more standard electronic control, you might not be aware of is the power steering. No hydraulic fluid here, just a fast stepper motor.

Acura’s Future Looks Cleaner

We would imagine within the next 24 months a 4-cylinder diesel will be available. Honda has some extremely clean burning diesels. In the meantime, if you're considering spending over $25,000 for a luxury car and would like something responsive quick yet touching 30 miles a gallon on the highway you should call ahead for a test drive of this 2009 Acura TSX.

As of our writing, complete safety testing has not been completed. We anticipate this vehicle with its 5 mph front bumper and especially strong roof structure to offer greater than average safety in most all crash conditions. If the Mercedes C-class is more than you want to spend or feels too heavy or you want to receive better gasoline economy then you should be doing a comparison test drive. See how comfortable and fun the Acura is to drive.

2009 Acura TSX: Fast Facts

Length

186.1 in.

Width

72.4 in.

Wheelbase

106.4 in.

Weight

3,485 lbs

Passengers

5

Drive

FWD

Engine

2.4L I4

Hp @ rpm

201 @ 7000

Ft-lb @ rpm

170 @ 4300

Transmission

Automatic w/manual mode

City/Hwy

21/30 mpg

Gas Requirement

Standard

Built

Sayama, Japan

Safety Score

*67

Real Price

$29,000 unloaded,

$32,000 loaded

Website

www.acura.com

*www.informedforlife.org ’08 data ’09 n/a