With its efficient engine, mundane exterior, and high-tech cabin electronics, the 2007 Acura TSX makes a perfect commuter car for sensible IT professionals and accountants. The small engine gets good mileage, but doesn't deliver impressive acceleration. Our test car was equipped with a five-speed automatic, which works easily and unobtrusively. And the body styling definitely won't turn any heads, unlike the Audi A3 we had in recently.
On the other hand, Acura TSX drivers can impress their geeky friends by telling the car where they want to go, what temperature they want, what radio station to tune in to, and what phone number to call. This is one conversational car, which will follow your dictates (as long as they come from the car's list of available commands) without fail. We didn't think the stereo was anything to write home about, and we're surprised that no premium stereo upgrades are available. But the car's navigation database is excellent, even including a built-in Zagat Guide for restaurants.
Test the tech: Restaurant run
The Zagat Guide gave us the idea for testing the TSX tech. We weren't going to do zero-to-60mph runs, as we did with the Audi A3, or attempt to drive to Los Angeles and back on a single tank, as we did with the Mercedes-Benz E320. The TSX's engine is neither that fast nor that efficient. Instead, we decided to navigate a route marked out by Zagat-rated restaurants in San Francisco.
And we hit our first snag. Although we could find plenty of promising restaurants in the car's database, the navigation system wouldn't let us easily program them all in. Once you input a destination, you can search for places along your route, but you can't put in way points for places that are far off your route. Nor can you put in one destination, then add more after that one. So we had to select our first restaurant, go there, then select our second, and so forth.
We set out on a sunny Friday at lunchtime, with the idea of picking up some grub along the way. The first restaurant that sounded promising in the Zagat database was Rotee, an Indian/Pakistani eatery in the Lower Haight. The navigation system calculated its route and we set off. We overruled the route guidance on a couple of streets because we thought we knew better. No problem--the system just recalculated quickly and quietly, letting us take our preferred streets. Unfortunately, the navigation system won't find you a parking space, which was the problem we ran into at Rotee.
So we found our next destination, Restaurant Gary Danko. This restaurant, and the next one we tried, Acquerello, only serve dinner. The Zagat information in the TSX doesn't show hours of operation, although we could have used our Bluetooth-connected phone to call ahead. So we finally settled on Pasta Pomodoro, a local cheap Italian place perfect for lunch. The first, and closest, location we tried, on Post Street in Japantown, had gone out of business, something we didn't fault the car for not telling us, since it appeared to be a recent change. And we made it to the next closest Pasta Pomodoro in 15 minutes, so lunch was still served.
In the cabin
With our stomachs full of pasta, we were able to evaluate the rest of the car. The materials in the TSX's cabin are nice, but not particularly luxurious. Unlike Toyota's Lexus brand, Honda isn't shooting for the stars with Acura. The refined materials all have good fit and finish, but only feel a small step up from what you find in a Honda. In fact, the interior doesn't feel much different than that found in Acura's top-of-the-line RL.
Acura has a very interesting method of packaging its cars: you either order the TSX with navigation or without. There are no real interior options, just some trim elements listed as accessories. Bluetooth with voice recognition is standard, as is a so-called premium stereo system with XM satellite radio. We're not sure if you can label a stereo system as "premium" if you're not upgrading from a lower-end version. Maybe, this being an Acura, there is no low end.
We've mentioned it in reviews for the Acura RDX and the TL, but we'll make the point again: we love Acura's voice-recognition system. You can tell it to make calls, what temperature to set, and what station to tune into. As long as you use the correct commands, its voice recognition is very accurate. Our only issue with the voice-command system is there are two sets of buttons, one set for making phone commands and one set for everything else. We would prefer better integration.