Acura TSX Review

P.J. McCombs
by P.J. McCombs
acura tsx review

Badge engineering is the bane of the pistonhead’s existence. Or is it? Actually, bad badge engineering is the pistonhead’s pariah. Most adventures in grille-swapping produce soulless cash grabs like the Mercury Monterey and Chrysler Aspen. But some automakers “leverage synergies” in such a way as to respect– dare I say advance– the identities of the brands involved, and produce a genuine bargain. Case in point: the Acura TSX.

The Acura TSX is nothing more than a Euro-market Honda Accord Type-S with the Acura calipers affixed to its grille, trunk lid and steering wheel hub. It’s badgineering at its best/worst. But as I threaded my test TSX through the Oakland hills, snicking its six-speed with thumb-and-forefinger flicks, teasing the magnificent motor’s 7100 rpm redline, the car’s quiet urgency quelled any bitching about bloodlines.

Stylistically, the TSX is all Acura. Parked next to its step-up siblings, the Japanese uber brand’s family resemblance is unmistakable. The TSX stares you down with the same squinty, clenched visage as the TL. It sports similarly crisp, wedgy bodywork. Compare this sensual sheetmetal sleight of hand to Mercury’s efforts, where the products wear varying expressions of surprise (Montego), malice (Milan), and torpidity (Grand Marquis), loosely united by their splashy waterfall grilles.

Most badge jobs stumble fatally at the second hurdle; they try to cover their trailer trash genetics with miserly applications of upmarket switchgear and gussied up dashboards. The TSX’ Euro Accord’s cabin shares virtually nothing with its cheaper, chubbier U.S.-spec cousin. Thanks to the TSX’ shorter wheelbase and narrower track, it offers a far cozier and more intimate workspace than the Accord.

Perched atop hip-hugging seats, TSX pilots survey a lean, understated instrument panel rendered in pliable polymers. A narrow ribbon of aluminum highlights its contours, flowing seductively from one door panel to the other. The TSX’ cabin appeals to both Type A and B personalities; anal retentives will marvel at the budget luxury ($28k msrp) while slackers will get off on the svelte surface grains and subtle switch clicks.

Bargain pricing relieves the TSX of any obligation to drive as well as a BMW 3-Series. Which is just as well, as it doesn’t. Without turning a wheel, the TSX’ front wheel-drive configuration cedes the dynamic game to BMW. Speed demons would also do well to remember that the TSX is built on an Accord Type-S, not a Type-R.

That said, the TSX’ road manners are not without merit or, shall we say, “fun.” Most Hondas and Acuras are “low-fat” cars: poised, light on their feet, breezily responsive to control inputs. The TSX expresses these familial genes. But it also turns the screws down just a bit tighter, while dialing up refinement. The result is more reassuring than it is involving, but the TSX’s switchback savvy is undeniable.

Much of the TSX’ confident nature stems from its steering. While it can’t match the 3-Series’ pointiness or tactility, the TSX’ tiller is quick and expertly-weighted with virtually no slop through the bends. There’s also no torque steer to challenge directional stability. Why should there be, with no torque?

Gutless, rev-happy fours are another Acura hallmark, established by two decades of Integratude and RSXedness. The TSX’ 2.4-liter mill is muffled and refined to anonymity at everyday revs. Less wonderfully, it never feels as strong as its 7.2 second zero to 60mph time suggests. Some adrenal adventurers will enjoy reaching for the 7000 rpm power peak; others will wonder why they didn’t try to swing the payments on a V6 TL.

Never mind. Who needs torque when you’ve got the sweetest shifter this side of a Honda S2000? The TSX’ interface’s action is as oily as a Buick salesman and as precise as a Leicaflex. No rival– front-wheel-drive or otherwise– plays snick-or-treat like this transplanted Honda. (Anyone opting for the optional automatic should know that the little “D” stands for “dull”).

And speaking of sensible, the TSX’ lineage guarantees a bounty of prosaic pleasures. Spacious, well-lined trunk? Check. Prudent fuel economy? Check. Reliability? Red dot at the ready. Talk about a peace [of mind] Accord…

Fortunately for Acura, the company’s badgineers enjoy a unique advantage over Detroit’s denizens: you can’t diss the heritage of a brand that doesn’t have any. That said, while Acura may not struggle with the historical baggage weighing down Lincoln, Mercury, Chrysler, Saturn and other platform pimpmeisters, it still lives or dies by its products’ inherent appeal. Accord or no, the TSX ticks all the right mass-market boxes.

So, Detroit boffins and beancounters, repeat after Acura: “I will only capitalize on overseas products IF I can maintain stylistic and tactile continuity to the brand for which it stands. I will not seek solely to enlarge my brand’s lineup, but to enrich it.” In other words, the TSX is proof positive that badge engineering needn’t be a bilious bean counting bonanza. Hey, who knew?

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2 of 58 comments
  • Maxrent Maxrent on Aug 22, 2007

    This car is even sweeter in wagon/combi/estate form - Euro Accord Wagon. Why are there a dearth of wagons in NA? Do car makers want us to buy a SUV(more profit) instead? Overall this car looks like a great "no-brainer" used car candidate. Anyone know if this will be getting a diesel in the future for NA market? Thanks for the review.

  • Allegro con moto-car Allegro con moto-car on Jan 05, 2008

    I drive a 2001 Accord (NA) 4-banger with the world's greatest 5sp shifter. Last year I had a $600 service performed (timing belts, water pump, valve adj, coolant, plugs) and I'm good to go for 'nuther 100k miles. The new NA Accord is now too big, does not feel like a mid-sized. My next purchase is prolly a mid-sized (next gen) Civic, but if Acura ever offers adaptive CC on the TSX I ditch my ride for the TSX.

  • Akear Lets be honest, Lucid will not be around in five years. It does not matter that it is probably the world's best EV sedan. Lucid's manufacturing and marketing is a complete mess. The truth is most EV companies are going under within the decade.
  • Peeryog OK , my fault. But there were a number of inadvertent scatalogical references in the original post. To which, having the intellectual maturity of a 12 year old boy, I snickered.
  • Ajla People that buy a new Silverado or Sierra without a V8 are like the people that get salmon at Peter Luger.
  • MKizzy The Mazda 6 wagon needs to be brought here pronto. Sexy looks aside, it would look less out of place in Mazda's CUV lineup vs the sedan, and since Mazda wants to go "premium," wagon customers tend to be the most affluent (if Daimer-Benz is to be believed). My second choice is the attractive Hyundai i40 wagon, which would replace the defunct VW Sportwagon in the small/mid size wagon niche.
  • Carlson Fan GM needs new leadership. A 9000lb off-road vehicle???? Don't get that thing stuck in a remote area.Imagine if they had brought back the iconic K5 Blazer name and built something to compete with the Wrangler like Ford did with the Bronco. They could have offered that with an electric power train in addition to the gas models. Ford may have some quality issues right now but whoever is steering that ship knows what they are doing. The Bronco & Maverick where both brilliant ideas.