So, you want a small, practical wagon with a little bit of Euro flair and luxury pretensions. Unless you’re willing to mix with the rabble in a VW, what are your options? Volvo V50? Dead. Audi A3? Not much time left before it’s discontinued in the USA. Try the BMW 3-Series Wagon if you want something German.
Everyone knows that Acura products share Honda DNA, but none are so thinly veiled as the TSX sedan and TSX Sport Wagon. While badge engineering has caused decades of problems for General Motors, Acura’s tactic actually makes sense. You see, the TSX is the European version of the Honda Accord (which thankfully shares essentially nothing with the overweight American Accord). While it would have been cheaper to have just imported the Euro Accord as a Honda wagon (they wouldn’t have even had to swap badges), the Accord in Europe competes with more lofty brands than in America.
For Acura duty, the only change made to the “Accord Tourer” was grafting the Acura beak onto the existing front bumper molds. Since bumper itself didn’t change, the TSX wears the smallest beak of the family, and honestly, looking at pictures of the enormous logo the Touring wears, the TSX is more attractive. The overall form of the TSX is thoroughly modern, in an angular Cadillac-ish kind of way. The slanted hatchback and rear windows that decrease in size as they head rearward attempt to distract from the fact that the TSX is indeed a station wagon. Acura added a splash of chrome trim around the windows and roof rails so you’ll look trendy and sophisticated on your way to the board meeting with your surfboard on top. While the BMW 3-Series wagon is decidedly handsome, the TSX provides firm competition in the looks department.
While the dashboard is suitably squishy, some interior plastics are less than luxurious. Haptic quibbles aside, the color palate is what gave me pause. Our tester looked as if it was carved out of a single black piece of plastic. Admittedly it is a nice piece of plastic, and the attention to detail is worthy of any luxury marque. However, I found the monochromatic interior oppressive after a while. The only way to avoid this black-on-black-on-black theme is to buy a red or white TSX (they come with a “taupe” interior). Although the dashboard remains black, the lighter leather makes the TSX a far more appealing place to spend your time. Want a red car with a black interior? That’s not on Acura’s menu. The TSX redeems itself with a low starting price of $31,360, undercutting the 328i wagon by over six-grand. For the price, I’m willing to overlook some less-than-swish door trim. Speaking of trim, base model TSXs get fake wood trim while the upscale “Technology Package” add fake metal trim. While neither faux option is “fauxin” anyone, the wood trim makes the interior a touch more upscale by helping break up the vast expanses of black.
Acura has long had a reputation for gadgets and buttons and the TSX is no different. Base models come standard with a bevy of features that are optional on other near-luxury brands. Standard features include: xenon headlamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, sunroof, heated seats, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth phone integration and a 360-watt, 7-speaker audio system with USB/iPod integration, MP3 compatible CD player and XM radio. There is only one option available, the “Technology Package” which may seem pricy at $3,650, (bringing the total up to $35,010) but it adds a decent amount of kit. In addition to GPS navigation, a 460-watt, 10-speaker sound system with DVD-audio and iPod voice control is also included. The voice command system is a bit less intuitive than Ford’s SYNC, but just as functional allowing you to select playlists, tracks, artists, etc by voice command. Also included in the package is GPS-linked climate control that tracks the sun, power tailgate, backup camera, and XM data services like weather, traffic, etc. My only quibble with Acura’s infotainment system is that it still has not integrated very fully with the rest of the vehicle like BMW’s iDrive. This means that vehicle settings and trip information are solely in the gauge cluster which means more buttons and more menus to learn and navigate.
Acura has no illusions of run-away TSX Sport Wagon sales. This Acura is destined for a lifetime of good reviews gushing about how exciting wagons are, followed by slow sales. As a result, the 2.4L four-cylinder engine is the only engine on offer. If you need more than the four-pot’s 201HP and 170lb-ft of torque, you’ll need to look at the TSX sedan or to another brand. While sedan buyers can row-their-own, Acura’s 5-speed automatic is the only cog swapper available in the wagon. Acura does include paddle shifters, but the transmission shifts too leisurely to make their use enjoyable and steadfastly refuses to shift to 1st unless you’re traveling at a snail’s pace. Fortunately, the transmission’s software is well suited to the car and leaving it in D or S is more rewarding and lower effort. As with the 2.4L equipped sedan, the wagon is neither slow nor particularly fast, scooting to 60 in 7.5 seconds.
Acura tuned the TSX’s suspension to be a good balance between road holding and highway cruising, but this is no soft wagon. Out on the road the TSX shines with a tight and willing chassis and excellent Michelin Pilot tires. The combo is eager to tackle any mountain road you might pit it against. Unfortunately the lack of power and lazy 5-speed automatic conspire against the chassis making the TSX something of a mixed bag when the going gets twisty, especially uphill. The TSX’s power steering is quick and fairly communicative, a rarity in this age of numb tillers.
During my week with the TSX I ended up taking an impromptu road trip to southern California. The TSX proved an excellent highway cruiser delivering 27-28 MPG on the open highway at 75MPH. The TSX’s combination of good looks, good reliability and simple pricing make the TSX Sport Wagon a smart choice for those that are practical and frugal. While the BMW wagon has yet to land on our shores for a comparison test, you can bet it will deliver more style, more luxury, and a much larger price tag. The only fly in this cargo hauler’s ointment is the s0-called wagon tax. As you might expect, the base wagon is $1,350 more than the base sedan. What you wouldn’t expect is that by simply checking the only option available on the wagon, this delta increases to $1,900. Yikes.
Acura provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gasoline for this review.
0-30: 2.8 Seconds
0-60: 7.5 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16 Seconds @ 83.5MPH
Observed Fuel Economy: 26.8MPG over 1207 miles