2009 Acura TSX Review

Justin Berkowitz
by Justin Berkowitz
2009 acura tsx review

You may not know this, but Acura has only two executives. One of them oversees the design and build of fantastic, fun, reliable, affordable cars. This suit was responsible for all the Integras, the NSX, the Legend and the original TSX. The other executive has the reverse Midas touch. He botched the RSX, let the NSX stagnate for a decade, and shot the Legend in the head and gave us the RL. And now that sonofabitch got his hands on the new TSX. To say the result is disappointing is to say that gas is becoming a bit dear. Advance? I don't think so.

The last TSX's sheetmetal was as neat and tidy as an OCD's tie rack. The new model is as ugly and confused as a meth addict living under a highway overpass. The TSX's profile is just plain hideous, complete with Mercedes S-Class-style over-blistered wheel arches and Grandpa's belt line. Every detail has a strange shape. The TSX's trapezoidal grill is smiling, angry-eyed Pokemon. The doors and door handles are disco ball-styled with some 30 different surfaces.

Prior to seeing this car's exterior, I thought some of these shapes were only theoretically possible. Not to put too fine a point on it, it looks like Acura hired an inebriated M.C. Escher.

The interior is worse. While the button-laced steering wheel is slicker than the hair on the sorority girls that will be driving it, the center console is an ergonomic disaster zone. There's no design per se, just hidden buttons adrift in a Black Sea of more buttons. That said, they're all well-marked. If you have reading glasses and don't mind taking your eyes off the road to play button, button, where the Hell's that button, you're good to go.

The TSX's polymers are corporate parts bin in quality, but there are huge panel gaps, coral-sharp edges, misaligned pieces of trim and some fauxluminum that looks like it came from the Chinese factory that cranks out the fenders for the 1:24 70 Chevelle™ Baldwin Motion Plastic Model Kit. But hey, the TSX's gauges are handsome and clear. Oh, and did I mention that this diminutive, svelte-bottomed writer found the Acura's entry model cramped in both the front and back seats?

By now, the odds are in Acura's favor, right? Surely the Euro-style driving experience which glorified the previous iteration will make up for "Why Did You Think You Can Dance?" aesthetic and functionality missteps. Hint: nope. If you drove and loved the previous TSX, you'll want to drive over to the Discovery Channel. Specifically, the Myth Busters demolition department.

The TSX's steering is now "electric motor drive." To laypeople, that means "Oops. We meant to put that Novocaine in your mouth, not your forearms." The helm's too light, and there's no feedback, except for occasional bursts of torque steer. For a vehicle that used to boast razor sharp steering, this is a great leap backwards. The car's handling and cornering are perfectly adequate– which puts the TSX painfully middle of the pack. It's a disappointing descent to mediocrity.

The official press release paints the Acura TSX as some kind of high-tech commuting professional car. So why is the double-wishbone (with rear multi-link) suspension is abusively harsh and jarring, and noisy to boot? The target demographic drink expensive coffee. In the TSX, they will be wearing expensive coffee.

The TSX's powertrain is new model's sole bright spot. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder is as smooth and refined as a V6. It puts out enough horsepower (201) and torque (170 ft. lbs. @ 4300 rpm) to motorvate the Acura from rest to 60 in a none-too-thrilling 7.7 seconds. While that's on par with similarly-powered competitors like Audi's base A4, so what? Equally disappointing (given the lack of thrills involved), the autobox TSX's offers 21/30 mpg. That's only slightly better than the V6 Accord's 19/29.

And what ABOUT the Accord? The TSX is tagged at $2500 more than a comparably equipped (i.e. four-pot) Accord EX-L, rewarding oxymoronic stealth badge snobbery with a whopping 11 horsepower and a logo that would flummox a Jeopardy contestant. Or, for $200 less than the TSX you can drive off the Honda lot in a loaded 268 horsepower V6 Accord. And that's just in the Honda corporate stable. You could fill an entire 800-word article with "better cars than the Acura TSX that cost around $30k."

But really, the 2009 TSX doesn't suck because there are better choices. It sucks because it's ugly, the interior's cramped, the steering's awful, it's no fun to drive and the suspension is laughably loud. And okay, a little bit because the last TSX was so much better (which now becomes a legend, so to speak). Honda needs to put the right people back in charge of their supposedly upmarket brand before it becomes a total irrelevance. Or, in this case, after.

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  • Fps_dean Fps_dean on Aug 02, 2009

    Other than the grill in the front, I don't think this car is all that ugly -- for example, it's not nearly as ugly as the new TL. But it does look just like an Accord with a cheesey looking front grill and an Acura badge. The interior is a little different, but isn't particularly better in either car. When I could get an Accord with a more powerful v6 that gets very close to the same gas mileage, which looks the same on the outside and arguably has a nicer interior while paying a little less, what is the point of the TSX to exist? It better have mighty fine suspension, well above it's price range -- which is all I can think of.

  • Slance66 Slance66 on Aug 09, 2010

    Two years after the last comment, I'm compelled to reply. I've driven this car twice, compared it to an '08 and I think the reviewers miss the mark. The 2.4L is a nice engine, well matched to the size and weight of the car. I don't recall reviews of the 325i as slow, when it had less power. It's FWD, get over it. Most cars are. The steering and handling are much better than the other FWD family sedans on the market. Compare it to them. Notice the word "family" in front of sedan, instead of "sport". Compared to the prior model, the interior is much nicer, as are the seats. The ride is more compliant, and road noise is vastly improved. I prefer the current instrument panel, and the outside from every angle but the front. So what is this car? Competitor to G37 and 328i? No way. Competitor to the new Sonata, Camry, Mazda 6, Mazda 3, Legacy GT, GTI, Passat/CC, IS250 and A4...yes. I shopped a lot of cars recently and the TSX is just right for a family sedan that dad can drive and enjoy some decent handling and revvy acceleration, while pulling down over 30 MPG on the highway with loads of tech gadgets to boot. The IS and A4 can do it, but at a much steeper price similarly equipped and the IS has much less room in the back. The Camry and 6 are barges, as is the current Accord. The 3 is too small and cheap inside, the Passat, 2011 Sonata and GTI come closest, but VW reliability rates a fail and the Sonata is not as well built inside or out.

  • Inside Looking Out The next 4Runner will be BEV.
  • The Oracle This is a proper Italian red sauce turd.
  • Carson D This isn't a notice of a wait time for 4Runner fans. This is a deadline for the opportunity to buy one new before they're gone. Whatever comes next, there is no possible way that it will be as good at doing 4Runner things as what is available today.
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