By on November 12, 2021

Today’s Buy/Drive/Burn trio are near-premium sedans from the midsize segment. This set was a suggestion from commenter CoastieLenn on our B/D/B entry from last week. The year is 2011 – does Acura, Audi, or Volvo get the Buy nod?

Acura TSX

The TSX has been with us since the 2009 model year and goes into 2011 with a revised grille that features horizontal slats. Manual and automatic transmissions are available, and so are sedan and wagon body styles. Engines powering TSX are either a 2.4-liter inline-four or a 3.5-liter V6. Today we’ll select the sedan with V6 and Tech Package. The familiar Honda 3.5 is good for 280 horses, sent through the front wheels via the five-speed automatic. TSX asks $38,250.

Audi A4

The A4 entered its fourth generation for the 2008 model year and continues this year relatively unchanged. Like the TSX, the A4 is available in sedan or wagon shapes, and all examples this year share the same 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four. Base models are front-drive and use a CVT, while more upscale trims employ a six-speed manual, six-speed automatic, or even a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Today’s selection is the 2.0T Premium Plus sedan, the most expensive sedan trim. $36,300 ensures Quattro delivers 211 horses to all four wheels via the six-speed automatic.

Volvo S60

The midsize S60 is new for 2011 after Volvo skipped a midsize offering in the 2010 model year. Volvo offers its 60 model in a V wagon variant as well, though wagons have not been big sellers for Volvo as of late. In its debut year in North America, the S60 is available in just one trim: The fully-loaded T6. All examples are powered by a turbocharged inline-six of 3.0 liters, connected to a six-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is standard and helps to tame the considerable 300 horses underfoot. Yours for $37,700.

Three expensive sedans with near-premium badges on the front. Which one’s worth over $35,000 to you?

[Images: Acura, Audi, Volvo]

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48 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: Near Premium Midsize Sedans From 2011...”


  • avatar
    wjtinfwb

    10 years later, I’d buy the Acura, run like hell from the Volvo & Audi

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed.

      I’m surprised to feel that way about the Acura, but it’s the right call.

      From a distance, I am totally in love with that S60’s shape and transverse I6, but reports of long-term owner sadness keeps me away.

      Audi will just hurt from beginning to end, particularly post-warranty.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Since “Drive” is considered something like a rental or loaner, the Volvo.

        Burn: Audi! Didn’t that particular engine have more than usual problems? (Well, it IS an Audi!)

        Buy: Acura! With that V6, it’s dragster!

        • 0 avatar
          CoastieLenn

          @sgeffe- maybe we need to get clarification on these then. I always took “Drive” to be the one you’d actually want to use. “Buy” would be the one you want but don’t want to use. “Burn” is obvious.

          • 0 avatar

            Drive is the one you borrow occasionally to enjoy at little to no expense to you, like from a relative.

            Buy is the one you pay for with your own money and keep long-term.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Buy the Acura because it’ll last far longer than the others. Drive the Audi because they’re fun to drive. Burn the Volvo because although they are mighty comfortable and convenient, ours nickel-and-dimed (except not nickels and dimes) us back to the Japanese brands.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      This. As noted below the Audi will self destruct soon enough leaving you with the TSX anyway. Wagon manual FTW of course. I owned a Volvo after my only German car experience and will never repeat either mistake again.

    • 0 avatar
      ravenuer

      In other words, nickels($50 bills) and dimes($100 bills).

      • 0 avatar
        CoastieLenn

        I can attest to this. I told all my customers that were just getting into the Volvo scene- if you’re not prepared for a car that you WILL have to spend a couple grand a year on (usually all at one time), you should go back to Honda, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, whatever you’re trading in. Any car in this category is going to be between a Honda and Mercedes in pricing as well as in maintenance costs. It’s crazy how people don’t expect that.

        I think Volvo and Audi get a bad wrap because this is where people usually dip a toe before making the first transition from proletariat transport and full fat luxury. Those that aren’t ok with the maintenance costs wash out and go back to (insert make). Those that are ok with it usually end up eventually going to MB or BMW. Consider this segment “the gauntlet”.

  • avatar
    Mackey

    Buy the Acura
    Burn the Volvo because it isn’t the wagon
    Drive the Audi until the warranty ran out then burn it if it doesn’t burn itself.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    This is a tough one between two of them…

    Buy the Volvo. On just a personal level, my family has good luck with Volvos, and that S60 was just an all around comfortable car made for cruising. Parts aren’t cheap though…

    Drive the Acura. Better styling than previous Acuras, and this could be a coin toss between the Volvo. I’d be happy with either one. But I like the comfort of the Volvo a bit more, but this might be more fun for a weekend drive.

    Burn the Audi. It’s a VAG product. Hard pass. Burn with extreme prejudice. They might have handsome styling and a rich interior, but that just masks countless gremlins waiting to unleash hell and fury on the unknowing buyer and driver. I’ll even strike the match to send it to hell.

    (and I think I have my mind made up w/ the Speed3, Evo, and WRX B/D/B)

  • avatar
    ajla

    Buy: TSX. The Honda product rarely wins for me but I was always into the 3.5L TSX. I even looked into buying one in 2014 but were very thin on the ground and only in my price range when used.

    Drive: Audi. I have very little experience with Audis but this seemed nice enough.

    Burn: Volvo. Nice engine, but it is sideways and the front end on these was kind of weird.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Buy the Acura – it’s the best performer and will hold up over time.

    Drive the Volvo – looks good, and MOAR POWER

    Burn the Audi – the good news is that this design still looks great today, but the bad news is that it won’t be as fast as the other two, and the REALLY bad news will be the hit your wallet will take from an out-of-warranty Audi. An S4 would be the way to go, but those were priced out of this group new, and used ones are hooned/abused/not maintained/modded by the Chads. You’ll end up with a money pit that smells like strawberry vape and Axe inside.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Acura
    Volvo
    Audi

  • avatar
    ArialATOMV8

    I’d Buy the Acura. I’d trust its reliability the most and thought it looked sleek especially with a Basque Red Pearl paint-job

    I’d drive the Audi. My uncle had one and it was a fun car to drive while on lease (and under warranty). Also since I live in New England, AWD would be beneficial in the winter.

    Finally I’d burn the Volvo. We had a 2.0T facelift model as a rental once and,I swear its one of those cars where everything is mediocre at best.

  • avatar
    CoastieLenn

    Cool that this idea made the cut!

    Aaaaaanyway,

    Drive: Volvo. While I’ve got WELL over a decade in the Volvo dealership circuit under my belt and KNOW how hard these can hit you if you are one of those people that live by the mantra “The service manual is just a suggestion, I never did anything but change the oil in my Toyota. It’ll be fine, Janice.”, I’d still go for this one and it’s I6 goodness, comfy seats, and buuuuuuuuttery smooth lines.

    Buy: Acura. I’m one that usually hates Honda products because every single one I’ve owned has been a nightmare after 100k miles and the dealership holds this smug aura of “there can be no wrong, it’s a HOnDa”, the TSX has always had a spot for me. This being the 3.5 is what took it out of the “drive” segment for me because the one Honda that hit me the hardest as being a lemon was the 2012 Pilot with a 3.5. Damn thing didn’t even make it to 85k miles before there was glitter in the oil.

    Burn: Audi. We all know why.

    (P.S.: That Volvo service manual? It’s NEVER a suggestion. Consider it gospel and the car will last as long as you do.)

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I had buy on the Volvo as well but I think the 3.0 oil consumption issue was still happening in MY11 and wasn’t fixed until the following year.

      “That Volvo service manual? It’s NEVER a suggestion. Consider it gospel and the car will last as long as you do.”

      Bingo, but I learned this years ago from a Volvo master tech.

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      (P.S.: That Volvo service manual? It’s NEVER a suggestion. Consider it gospel and the car will last as long as you do.)

      Exactly. That’s how we got well over 100,000 miles in a (new at the time) 2002 Volvo XC70 Cross Country, and it is still running, even after it got sold to a neighbor so their son could drive to and from college. It runs well and still looks good. It has just been wear and tear parts, no major engine or transmission problems, and fluid changes. Unlike other European cars, this one didn’t seem to want to find trouble. You’ll find trouble if you don’t follow the Volvo service plan.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The right answer here is “buy the Acura,” but the choice of the wrong powertrain would cause me pain every day, so I’m going to buy the Volvo. The TSX was made to have a K24 and a six-speed stick, and wrecking it with a heavy V6 and slushbox is just painful. I’ll still Drive the Acura because taking the J35 through the gears in a straight line is still a fun experience.

    Burn the two point oh tee crap.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “wrecking it with a heavy V6 and slushbox is just painful.”

      Obviously I disagree but not many people went for it so the case for an Acura with a muscle car essence didn’t have much legs.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        None of them sold many copies, so my preferred “like an E30 but front-drive” configuration didn’t have much legs either.

        (And I’m just biased on this car, having owned and loved a stick first-gen TSX. I’m fine with the muscle car version if you call it an Accord.)

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Buy drive the Japanese one for far longer than the other two.

  • avatar
    2ACL

    Buy the Volvo. Despite owning a Toyota, Hondas, a Lexus, and Acuras (all reasonably reliable), I probably do/commission more maintenance than the average owner of said makes. So the talk of Volvos requiring adherence to the service manual doesn’t necessarily unsettle me. That I’d be buying a first-year example from a manufacturer with a so-so reputation for dependability does, but my intrigue with this car (and disdain for attributes of the others) is pushing me to live a little on the edge of my own rules this time around.

    Drive the Audi. I’m among those who talk lots of trash about owning Audis long-term, but this A4 fell within the thereabouts of when Audi began refining their dynamics, and if it’s anything like the S5 V8 I test drove with my brother two months ago, I’d enjoy it tremendously. Too bad 2.0Ts from this generation have seemingly myriad ways of blowing themselves up before 100k.

    Burn the Acura. Yes, it’s all but assured to be the most reliable of the trio. The non-VCM J35 actually has a good reliability track record, though there’s been the occasional report of oil control rings prematurely wearing or breaking entirely. However, I’ve owned/driven just about every millennial V6 Acura, and the TSX 3.5 just doesn’t bring any new or standout attributes to that repertoire.

    If we were talking the 2.4/6MT, it’d be my buy, and the others would shift down. But the 3.5? Arguably the harbinger and poster child of Acura’s largely nondescript 20-teens campaign.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Buy: Acura- It will last a long time with few issues. A sportier handling Accord.

    Drive: Audi- The Quattro is fine but the repair bills can be onerous.

    Burn: Volvo- The sideways mounted 6 banger is an odd duck. The wagon is preferable.

    Honorable mention: The final 2010-11 Saab 9-3 preferably in X drive trim. There were hefty discounts on them then.

  • avatar
    ttiguy

    Non-TTAC approved hot take:

    Buick Regal GS with the 6MT is a better buy than any of these. Yeah it was technically a 2012 but it came out in early 2011 so, to me, it counts.

    • 0 avatar
      CoastieLenn

      And there in lies the rub with Buick and the Regal GS. In almost total scale, nobody that bought the one of the three cars listed in this article considered buying a Buick, likewise nobody that would consider buying a Buick would consider buying one of these three. The Regal GS was a last ditch effort by GM to produce something, ANYTHING that might help capture a few more sales for Buick before it took its last breath.

      I LOVE the Regal GS, but as a complete package, it doesn’t belong in a comparison with these cars. Interior materials are parts bin GM. That’s never a good thing, especially in this segment and above.

      • 0 avatar
        ttiguy

        I owned one, so perhaps biased, but that gen Regal GS had great build quality. At least my Oshawa-built car did.

        But yeah, the Buick branding for that car was a mess. If thats important to you, then yeah it’ll kill it. If you can see beyond that, then it’s a better option than any of these three. Wisdom is the best shopping tool :)

        • 0 avatar
          MRF 95 T-Bird

          The Opel Insignia was supposed to be branded as a midsize Saturn but when the brand was quashed it went to Buick for a rebranding as the new Regal.
          These are very nice sport sedans that were well regarded even by Consumers Reports but unfortunately didn’t sell as well as expected.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Buick Regal GS 6MT is a better buy than these specific cars, but not an Acura TSX 6MT. Yes, the Regal’s got more midrange oomph. It’s worse in every other way.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    No brainer. The only one safe to buy as a 10 year old car is the Acura. Drive or burn is more tricky. In my case I kinda like the Audi more than the Volvo so that’s the one I’d drive.

  • avatar
    Dan

    The entry level European cars just don’t work to me. They’re simultaneously painful to own – more painful than the upmarket models when you consider the people stretching to buy them – with little or none of the redeeming prestige or special to drive.

    I’m not a Honda fan but in this company it’s a slam dunk.

  • avatar
    Gregg

    My 2011 Volvo S60 T6 was about the best car I ever had, and I’ve owned 34. It was loaded: adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitors, object detection braking, great leather and sound system, voice controls, real time traffic alerts, and it was powerful. It never gave me a moment’s concern in 7 years, and only cost me routine maintenance. I’d definitely drive it again. I first tried to buy an A4, but it was sold before being delivered to me, so that’s why I looked at the S60. So, I’d buy the A4 (and re-sell it), drive another S60 T6, and burn the damn Acura.A friend had one like this, and neither did it impress as premium car nor did the trim on it hold up over seven years.

  • avatar
    theonlydt

    Buy the Volvo – better to be nickel and dimed by the car than physio on my back. Gorgeous car, drove relatively well, those seats. Mine’s an AWD T5 please (wish it were the V60, of course).

    Drive – The Acura. If this were the first generation, 2.4 with the manual, the Acura would be in my “buy” category, but this one was too wide, too heavy, too squishy. The first generation was an exercise in well built delicacy and proper engineering, and it didn’t have the god-awful “beak”.

    Burn – The Audi. The shape has aged well, they drove well, but I like the other two better and the DI engines don’t seem to have lasted well. I was overtaken by one of this recently burning oil and sounding awful.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The two generations of TSX honestly don’t drive as differently as the look. The second gen with the stick is still a really nice drive, although just a bit softer than the first gen.

  • avatar
    eng_alvarado90

    I’d buy the Acura. Although it’s got the least appealing styling of this trio it’ll also be the most reliable. Just get the timing belt replaced every 100K and it’ll pile up miles.

    Drive the Volvo. I rented a 2014 T5. This one must be fun and the I-6 sounds sweet.

    Burn the Audi. Best looks won’t cut it when paired with worst reliability

  • avatar
    conundrum

    When these loads of fluff were abroad, I was enjoying my ’08 Subaru Legacy GT Limited. I preferred it to the previous TSX, which was a Euro Accord with all the zip of a shopping cart, but nicely made and the A4 had that sludge motor. The Volvo? My pal’s significant other had an asthmatic six year old 5 cylinder boring noisy version — yuck.

    In those days the Audi dealer was also the Subaru dealer here, and the sales guy who I’d known for years knew the game. When I asked him if I should buy the extended warranty for the Subie, he looked straight at me and said: “Well you’ve bought Audis and two Subarus from me, what do you think?” So I didn’t buy the warranty. Twelve good years until the trans went blooie. Nicest car I ever owned, tough old bird that could scoot and was wonderful in snow.

    I did not like this restyled TSX now made in Japan instead of Swindon, but out of this pile that’s what I’d have bought if I’d had to make a choice. By then the Subaru Legacy had turned into a perambulating wobbler with a CVT.

  • avatar
    Farhad

    Buy: Acura
    Drive: Volvo
    Burn: Audi

  • avatar
    stuki

    Darn, that Acura looks better than I remember it!

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    my BDB would be 2006 compact 5 doors… honda fit, scion xa, nissan versa

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Buy the Acura. Best value option of the three, good power and comfortable enough.
    Drive the Audi, especially in bad weather.
    Burn the Volvo. It’s not as fun and costs more for the long term owner. It also always seemed kind of goofy looking in sedan form.

  • avatar

    Buy the Acura. Hondas tend to last longer, the parts bin is a bit better. Some weak points but we’ve hammered my MDX 230k

    Drive the Audi…it’s great but I’ve done the ten year old german car thing, nope, no. The recycled plastics begin to fall apart at about ten years.

    Burn Volvo. I wasn’t a fan before it was bought by Greely, and before they all had the cheap Bosch parts that failed at 80k miles…a fault shared by SAAB.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Near premium deserves a near answe

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    Acura is the only choice here. And, I know of a 2012 TSX with 200,000 miles. I drove it for a few miles … you would never know it has so many miles. They owner keeps it clean. It might last forever.

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