The last time we found ourselves behind the wheel of an Acura TSX it was a 2009 model. We praised its cabin technologies, its direct handing, and its powerful, yet economical, 2.4-liter engine. In fact, if we could change anything about the TSX, it would be Acura's overly complex, and at times confusing, dashboard interface. Give us fewer buttons, clearer organization, and updated graphics, we pleaded. Instead, Acura gave us more power in the form of the 3.5-liter V-6 engine from the base model Acura TL. Now, don't get us wrong. We love power as much as the next red-blooded American gearhead, but there really wasn't much wrong with the torquey four-banger in our previous tester besides its middle of the road fuel economy.
So, in a climate of drivers asking for greener cars, does a TSX V-6 with more power and less economy really make sense for Acura? With the TSX's chunky switchblade key in hand, we aimed to find out.
Test the tech: V-6 good, I-4 bad?
The 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine in the previous TSX tested made 201 horsepower and 172 pound feet of torque, which was enough twist to make torque steer and traction control an issue in the midsize sedan. When paired with a five-speed automatic gearbox, the four-banger could go 21 miles on a gallon of premium gasoline in the city and 30 on the highway.
The 2010 model only goes 18 city miles and 27 highway miles on the same amount of fuel, but in doing so it generates 79 more horsepower and 82 more pound-feet of twisting torque. Would we take a 16 percent hit to our combined fuel economy for a 40 percent increase in power? Sure!
With its newfound power, the TSX accelerates away from traffic lights like nobody's business. Need to merge into freeway traffic? No problem, just give it a little gas and the sedan gains speed in a linear and drama-free manner. There's no more waiting until 7,000rpm for full power, simply press the pedal and go.
Make no mistake, giving the TSX 280 horsepower to play with doesn't magically transform the sedan into a BMW 3-Series fighter. She handles and accelerates well, but not that well. However, the additional power does make the TSX feel less strained, more effortless, and more confident. You gets the feeling that the sedan is a bit more grown-up in V-6 trim.
Of course, the single option automatic transmission takes a bit of the edge off of the TSX V-6's performance credibility, but it does add a good deal of refinement. We expected more torque steer because of the increased power, but because of the gradual application of power and smooth shifts afforded by the torque converter automatic, the TSX V-6 seems to exhibit less torque steer than its manually shifted counterpart does.
In the cabin
The odd thing about the TSX is it actually packs a decent amount of cabin tech. There's a DVD-based navigation system with traffic and weather updates, Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free calling and audio streaming, USB-iPod connectivity, optional satellite radio, and a great sounding ELS premium audio system. Aside from the fact that the navigation system is DVD based, this should be a great assortment of cabin technologies. The problem is that to use all of this tech, you'll have to go through Acura's AcuraLink interface.
This interface is rapidly approaching a decade old and it's starting to show its age. Over the years, it seems that Acura has been piling on new features and shoehorning them into the interface wherever they fit. This results in dozens of buttons on the dash and all sorts of awkward usage situations. Allow us to walk you through what should be the simple process of using a phone in the TSX.
First, the voice command system for the Bluetooth system is completely different from the voice command system for navigation, which means there are two Talk buttons on the steering wheel. Make sure you hit the right one. If you hit the proper voice command button, the Acura will ask you for a command. It won't display the available commands on the screen, but when you're finished guessing commands, it will slowly read you a long list of suggestions.