Friday, January 27, 2012

Acura TSX - More of What We Need

Giving the Germans a run for their money.
Acura was founded by Honda in the late 1980s to be an aspirational brand for the company. Folks loved their Civics and Accords (both of which were significantly smaller and less powerful back then), but Honda wanted to expand and felt that prospective buyers would be put off by a higher-priced Honda. Despite it's head start, Acura has lagged in perception below Toyota's luxury line, Lexus, which originated just a couple of years later.

The TSX is the heart of Acura, sitting in the Entry Premium category (high $20K - mid $30K). It's not too huge nor too small. It is actually the European Honda Accord, essentially--smaller and sharper than the now lumbering Accord sold (and built) in the U.S. In Europe, this is a sizeable vehicle, although it's fairly compact by American standards.

Competitors include the German trio: Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. There are Japanese competitors from Lexus and Infiniti, too, and the Volvo S60 can be considered part of the group, too. The TSX recently became available as a lean and handsome Sport Wagon (tested last year), which lets it compete with cars like the Audi A4 Avant as well.

My tester came with Acura's well-regarded 201-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, but there's also a potent, 280-horsepower V6 available. The four got 25.9 mpg during its stay with me, which matches up nicely with what the EPA awards it. The six is rated at 23 mpg average--not that much worse for it's significant power gain. The V6 lets the TSX match up with the V6-powered versions of the above-mentioned cars, which is important if you want to reach that entry premium buyer.

The four-cylinder car is offered with an automatic or a manual six-speed (yes, it helps compete against the Audi and BMW), but the six comes only with the automatic.

I like nice cars that drive well and have good sound systems and are filled with electronic goodies. But the demographic for the four-cylinder model is age 28 to 34, college educated, about evenly split male/female. Two out of three's not bad, I guess. The V6 model is targeted at a somewhat older buyer, more heavily male.

The TSX has a nicely crafted feel inside, with lots of buttons all over the console, dash, doors and steering wheel making it feel a little like a jet. The exterior wears the requisite edginess that Acura is using to define itself these days--but the shovel nose has been toned down a bit. Take a look.

If you're willing to look at the whole package and keep an open mind, a TSX could be a nice alternative to the Germans you've dreamed of owning.

Video by Chris Kidwell.

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