While its 2009 update is less than the overhaul expected by Acura enthusiasts, the Acura TSX remains a value king in the realm of entry-level luxury sports sedans. While most of its competitors flirt dangerously close to the 40 grand price line, when modestly equipped, a fully loaded TSX can be had for just over 32K. In fact, aside from having to choose between a manual and automatic transmission, a potential buyer will only have one option package (there are no stand-alone options) to check off on the list of available add-ons in order to hit the price ceiling. Fortunately, unlike many value-oriented car companies, Acura offers loads of standard accoutrements without watering down its entry-level sedan’s performance characteristics with budget-bin mechanical components.
Under the hood resides the same 2.4 liter, DOHC i-VTEC, 16-valve in-line-four that powered its predecessor. Some fine-tuning has given it better low-end and mid-range torque (172 lbs-ft @ 4,300 rpm vs. last year’s 164 lbs-ft @ 4,500 rpm) at the expense of some high-end horsepower (201 hp @ 7,000 rpm vs. last year’s 205 hp @ 7,000 rpm). This torque/horse power trade-off along with an increase in mass seems to be indicative of the new car’s maturation. What was once a boy racer dressed awkwardly in a business suit has become a legitimate junior executive with a more focused mission statement: to provide the luxuries of a corner office with a view but retain the rev-happy aural excitement to keep the driver feeling young.
The way this mission statement translates to the road is entirely dependent on the road. Around town the TSX’s steering can be a bit light and suffer from a vague on-center feel. Noise isolation has never been, nor is it in this case, an Acura strong point either. Where the TSX shines is in the fast paced environment of the expressway. At higher speeds, the steering’s electric power assist backs off just enough to become transparent. And thanks to a lightning quick 13.4:1 steering ratio, road feel in a TSX is amplified in high-speed turns over slightly uneven freeway slabs when compared to an Audi A4 with a 16.1:1 steering ratio. Stomp down on the throttle and you’ll be thankful for the lack of sound dampening material. The howl from the Honda engineered four-cylinder power plant will make you feel like a fast and furious street racer.
As for the corner office part of the equation, Acura makes good on its goal. The instrument cluster has been given a classy indicator needle treatment a la Mercedes Benz. Our tester came with the optional Technology Package which upgrades the already advanced Ipod-friendly audio system to a 10-speaker system designed with the help of Grammy winner Elliot Scheiner. This 415-watt sound studio is also capable of handling the DVD audio format and its surround sound benefits. Currently, no other cars in the TSX’s class offer DVD audio compatibility.
In summary, the 2009 Acura TSX is a refreshing alternative to entry-level German luxury sedans like the dated Audi A4. While it does appear to be growing out of its hot-blooded racer role, there is still enough playful personality in its chassis and under the hood to loosen your tie after a hard day at the office. Acura’s reputation for reliability combined with a ready-to-rev naturally aspirated four-cylinder heart makes the TSX a responsible cure for a mid-life crisis.
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