Automotive journalists love wagons because they mix sport sedan handling with the practical interior space of an SUV. It comes as a great surprise to us that there are not more wagons available. But Acura just upped the count by one with its 2011 TSX Sport Wagon.
As the model name suggests, this car is based on Acura's TSX sedan, using the same engine and cabin tech. But Acura added the wagon format to the model line, keeping its five-seat capacity but adding a spacious cargo area. Fold down the rear seats, and the cargo area gains considerable length.
Following the TSX sedan's recent styling update, the TSX Sport Wagon gets the same "Transformers"-like grille and angular headlight openings, the front of the car showing a mecha face straight out of Japanimation. In creating the rear hatchback, Acura designers did an excellent job seamlessly blending it with the sedan front, and adding some attractive curvature along the roofline.
With its tech package, the TSX Sport Wagon features very modern navigation, phone, and stereo systems. Acura fits a hard drive into the dashboard to store maps for the navigation system as well as reserving some space for music storage. The result is a system that responds quickly to user input, and quickly recalculates routes after a missed turn.
Sitting below the car's LCD is the familiar Acura interface controller, a protruding joystick/dial that, though ugly, is very usable. Past Acura models have an addiction to buttons across their dashboards, but the TSX Sport Wagon shows an honest commitment to cut down.
The onscreen interface is a refreshing change from days of old. Although it uses a similar paradigm, the look is much nicer than on the previous generation, which can still be seen in the Acura RL. Instead of gray buttons with jagged lines, the new interface shows higher-resolution graphics with a more pleasing color scheme.
Although the navigation system's maps have a higher resolution, they are still 2D-only, with no perspective view or 3D elements. Under route guidance, the system does not read out street names, either, but traffic data is incorporated into the system, and it will attempt to keep you clear of traffic jams.
Some particularly nice things about the navigation system are the Zagat restaurant guide included with the points-of-interest database and the listing of scenic routes throughout the country. Both of these features make the TSX Sport Wagon an excellent road trip car. Weather data is also a useful feature.
The Bluetooth phone system is full-featured, downloading a paired phone's contact list and making it possible to dial by name with the voice command system. And another advanced feature Acura has been rolling out in its various models is what it calls Song By Voice, a feature that lets you request music from a paired iPod or the car's own hard drive by artist, album, or song name. This feature works well and had no trouble with a difficult artist name such as Blitzen Trapper.
Along with hard-drive storage and iPod connectivity, the stereo also offers satellite radio and Bluetooth audio streaming. But the two former audio sources offer the best indexing and voice command capabilities. The car's disc player also reads DVDs.
The TSX Sport Wagon, with the tech package, also gets Acura's ELS audio system, which includes a 360-watt amp and eight speakers. This system produces a rich sound and is capable of delicate high frequencies, such as acoustic guitar strumming or satisfying bass. Cranking up both the subwoofer and the bass levels delivers chest-thumping sound.