Shaken but not stirred, we just got back from a spin in the 2006 Acura TSX. The TSX is the big brother of the RSX, and possesses a more mature character than its racy sibling, with a subtle exterior design and a refined cabin, in the center of which sits an elegantly slender shifter for putting the TSX through its 6-speed gearbox.
For a four-cylinder, the 2.4-liter iVTEC engine delivers a punchy ride, with close gear ratios and 205 horsepower providing wide torque bands. For those looking for extra zip around town, second gear in particular is to die for--as we almost found out literally, when a prat in a BMW 750Li blindly pulled out in front of us. As the ashen-faced BMW driver can attest, the TSX's ABS and electronic brake assist work admirably well when called into action at short notice. Thankfully, we can't vouch for the effectiveness of the driver's frontal, side, or curtain airbags, but it was reassuring to know that they were installed as standard.
In the cabin, the TSX comes with all that Acura's technowizards can offer: navigation with voice recognition, Bluetooth hands-free link (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 nav 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 name-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?").
Pairing ourto the Acura's HFL hands-free system was straightforward, 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 LCD multi-information display. A number of neat setup options for the HFL include selecting a ring tone or prompt for incoming calls and lock-enabling the system. Despite its nearly flawless performance, Acura/ Honda's navigation system LCD touch-screen interface is beginning to look a little dated in comparison with newer units, especially in regard to 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 for setting directions by a crosshair on the map feels a lot more primitive than those in other systems, such as that found in the 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid.
As with theand the , our major disappointment with the Acura TXS is the stereo system. Despite having eight speakers (two more than the Accord), stereo sound quality is weak, with bass distortion setting at relatively low volume. The six-disc changer had no idea what to do with our MP3 and WMA CDs, and while there is an auxiliary input jack in the center storage console, its awkward forward positioning means that plugging in a portable MP3 player from the driver's seat requires either double-jointedness or some kind of yoga experience.
Overall, though, the TSX is a comfortable, competent car. Its nippy, economical engine (28mpg on the highway, says the EPA) and its alloy-wheeled, leather-trimmed, tech-loaded Acura imprimatur will endear it to discerning middle managers the world over. CEOs in BMW 750s: Look out behind you.