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.
So you've fought through the pairing process, and now it's time to make a call. However, the AcuraLink system hasn't imported your contacts. The system is capable of importing them, but to initiate the process, you have to first head a few levels deep into the Info menu on the dashboard interface and tell the system to sync your contacts. Once this process is complete, you'll be able to access your phonebook from the Info menu. However, if you want to access your contacts with voice control, you'll have to push the contacts (one-by-one) to the Bluetooth system.
This process is far too complicated. In a Kia Forte, you just pair your phone with a PIN and your contacts automatically are imported for voice access, which is embarrassing when you consider that the Acura is twice the price.
One place the TSX with Tech excels is music playback and audio quality. The system's knob-based selection system is ideally suited to browsing large media libraries on connected iPods and USB devices. When connected to an iPod, it sorts music by Artist, Album, Genre, and so on. However, when used with a USB mass storage device, the Acura sorts the music by folder. Bluetooth audio streaming is also included as an audio source, as is XM satellite radio--which is used to provide the Acura's traffic and weather data--and a six disc CD/DVD Audio changer.
Whatever the source, audio is pumped through a 10-speaker ELS audio system with Dolby Pro Logic II decoding. This is a system that can best be described as strong. Audio is characterized by solid bass response is that isn't too boomy with a flat EQ curve, yet is full enough to be felt in your backside at moderate to high volumes. Mids and highs are clearly reproduced without being overpowered. As far as $40,000 rolling audio rigs go, the TSX and its ELS system are among the best on the road.
Under the hood
We were lucky enough to have tested the 2.4-liter TSX with a fantastic six-speed manual transmission. The TSX V-6 isn't available with that transmission. It's only available with a five-speed automatic transmission that is always in too high a gear in normal mode and too low a gear in sport. Fortunately, there are steering wheel mounted shift paddles for those times when you need a little more control over your revs.
Power is sent through this transmission to the front wheels. Before you go rolling your eyes at front wheel drive, remember that Honda (and by extension Acura) makes some of the best handling FWD cars on the market. The TSX is no exception. While slight torque steer is evident during fast starts, once you get the TSX moving, the handling is rather good. The toss-able sedan is eager to change direction at the flick of the steering wheel and goes where you point it as long as you stay within its generous performance envelope. However, push the TSX too hard and it'll push back with predictable understeer.
The TSX dances so well because of her sturdy legs. Although a bit on the firm side of what's acceptable for a luxury sedan, the TSX's ride doesn't seem harsh or intolerable. Sure, you'll feel the potholes and particularly rough expansion joints, but you'll also get a good feel of the rest of the road, which translates into a fun and involved ride. High-quality sound deadening keeps road noise from being too much of an issue.
So how does the TSX V-6 stack up to the competition?
Overall, we really like the TSX's increased power. The TSX V-6 accelerates quietly, confidently, and without drama when you want it to, and it can put a satisfied grin on your face with its deep exhaust note and nimble handling. The suspension is sprung a bit firm for a luxury car aimed at junior executives, but not so much that it is jarringly uncomfortable or boy-racerish. However, the TSX V-6 can only be had with the mushbox automatic transmission, where the four-banger can be had with a fantastic six-speed manual transmission. The dramatic gains in power also come with a small reduction in fuel economy, which will have the greenies shaking their heads. The result is a wash, resulting in a nearly identical performance score for the V-6 model.
Meanwhile, the cabin tech package is also a mixed bag. While the TSX with technology package earns a high comfort score thanks to a fantastic sounding ELS premium audio system and manages to check a lot of the right boxes for a tech car (navigation, Bluetooth, USB-iPod connectivity, traffic, and so on), the physical and virtual interfaces are ugly, poorly organized, and difficult to use at speed. Acura's cabin tech interface is approaching a decade old at this point and it certainly looks the part. If Acura truly wants to compete with Lexus, BMW, Audi, Ford, and GM, it's going to need a serious interface overhaul soon.