When we reviewed the 2005 Acura TSX last year, we had few complaints. The car's interior was up to the high standard of more upscale Acura models--with voice-activated navigation, heated leather seats, and an LCD touch-screen interface for most onboard controls--and Honda's 2.4-liter, 200-horsepower i-VTEC engine provided the luxury sport sedan with enough zip to make the ride interesting. Aside from a few goofy design elements, the only major faults we found with were the car's limited standard stereo capabilities and sound quality, as well as its lack of Bluetooth integration.
For the 2006 TSX, Acura has tweaked the four-cylinder engine to put 5 more horses in the stable, while refacing a virtually unchanged body with a more friendly-looking front grille and headlight arrangement. Inside, one of our gripes with the 2005 TSX has been addressed, with the inclusion as standard of Acura's Bluetooth Hands Free Link (HFL) system, but despite the addition of an all-purpose auxiliary jack as standard, the '06 TSX stereo still sounds ropey.
Nevertheless, the Acura TSX represents one of the best-value cars on the market, considering its impressive lineup of standard features. Our Royal Blue Pearl six-speed manual test model came with all the bells and whistles, including navigation, and carried a sticker price of $29,890, excluding delivery.In the cabin, the 2006 Acura TSX presents a clean-cut, stylish appearance. Leather seats, soft plastic surrounds, and chrome accents welcome the driver and the front passenger. A crisp, bright instrument panel houses startlingly clear electroluminescent tachometer and speedometer gauges, and a steering wheel crowded with buttons and switches lets the driver know that this is going to be a high-tech ride. The six-speed manual's slender, chrome-topped shifter suggests the entertainment will go beyond the electronic gadgetry. The TSX is a compact sedan, and its compactness is very apparent on the inside. The front seats provided a snug fit for our scrawny frames and will present a challenge for more portly drivers. Space in the back is also limited, and rear passengers taller than six feet have little clearance from the sloping rear window.
The 2006 TSX comes with all that Acura's technowizards can offer: navigation with voice recognition, Bluetooth HFL, dual-zone climate control with air filter, and a proprietary stereo system with integrated XM Satellite Radio and an auxiliary input jack for portable MP3 players.
As we found with upgraded Honda models, the navigation system in the Acura is scarily competent at recognizing voice commands; in addition to being able to plot destinations by address or street (with text-to-speech technology giving road-specific turn-by-turn voice guidance), the system allows voice control over the air-conditioning temperature and XM radio channel and will even tell you the time (just say, "What time is it?"). Despite its nearly flawless performance, the navigation system's LCD touch-screen interface is beginning to look dated in comparison with newer units, especially the resolution of its map rendering and basic color-coded keys for points of interest. The display also suffers from glare in direct sunlight, giving the maps a washed-out appearance, and the square joystick used to set directions by a crosshair on the map feels a lot more primitive than other systems, such as the 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid's.
One of the most significant differences between the interior of the 2006 TSX and its 2005 predecessor is the addition as standard of HFL, Acura's Bluetooth hands-free calling interface. Available with Acura's TL and RL models for the past two years, HFL is an intuitive Bluetooth interface, which is operable only via voice command. Pairing our LG VX8100 to the Acura's HFL hands-free system was straightforward (say, "Phone setup," then "Pair"), and it took less than a minute for car and phone to find each other. HFL overrides the voice guidance and stereo systems and is operated via two rocker switches on the left of the steering wheel, with menus and other information displayed on the Acura's dot-matrix multi-information LCD. A number of neat setup options for HFL include selecting a ring tone or a prompt for incoming calls and lock-enabling the system. While system setup is straightforward, sound quality for hands-free calls through the front speakers is buzzy and distorted, and we experienced considerable voice echo. From the other end of the line, we sounded better, according to our buddy John, although still a little muffled.
As with the 2006 Honda Accord EX V-6 and the 2006 Honda Accord Hybrid, our major disappointment with the Acura TSX is the stereo system. Despite its eight speakers (two more than the Accord), the TSX has weak stereo sound quality, with the bass distortion setting at a relatively low volume. The six-disc changer had no idea what to do with MP3 and WMA CDs. Also, the auxiliary input jack in the center storage console will present a problem to the driver who wants to plug in a portable MP3 player; it's impossible to see the exact position of the port due to the rubber cap that hinges upward, blocking the already awkward view. A simple, uncovered auxiliary jack in the head unit would have worked just as well and been a lot easier to use. An optional MP3 player is available on the TSX for an extra $459, which is disappointing, especially seeing that many lower-end nameplates offer built-in MP3 playback as standard.
Our car did, however, come with XM Satellite Radio (owners get free activation and three months of free service). Along with the dual-zone climate control, it's voice controllable, and both XM channel and current cabin temperatures are displayed in an information pod on top of the dash.