2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon TechnologyPosted on May 25th, 2011
Dynamic performance meets active lifestyles head on
By Nina Russin
Being a car enthusiast with an active lifestyle can be an exercise in frustration. Cars and trucks designed to hold large cargo don’t necessarily burn up the road. I’ll admit it: horsepower is like a drug to me. Slow cars don’t make me happy.
Imagine my delight when the new Acura TSX sport wagon arrived in my driveway. Could this be the best of all possible worlds? The athlete-friendly version of Acura’s sport sedan combines the fuel economy of a four-cylinder engine with Acura’s unique talent for designing steering and suspension systems driving enthusiasts crave.
The best part is, the sport wagon can hold a bicycle in the cargo area, and a kayak up top. The wagon’s low lift-over height makes it ideal for smaller drivers, who might struggle to load similar gear into a high-profile sport-utility vehicle. The test car even has a power liftgate. How cool is that?
The test car is the upscale Technology model, which adds navigation, a premium surround-sound audio system, real-time weather and traffic updates, automatic climate control and the power liftgate. Base price is $34,610, not including an $860 delivery charge, bringing the MSRP to $35,470.
Four-cylinder engine combines power with fuel economy
Power for the sport wagon comes from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder i-VTEC engine rated at 201 horsepower. The engine reaches peak torque, 170 lbs.-ft., at 4300 rpm. Since Acura engines are engineered to rev high, in this case 7100 rpm, that’s a very reasonable number.
The five-speed automatic transmission can be shifted manually using formula-style shift paddles on the steering wheel. The driver doesn’t need to move the shift lever to engage manual mode. The paddles work effortlessly, and make driving on twisting rural roads a lot more fun.
Of all the TSX models, the sport wagon has the best front-to-rear weight balance: 57/43 as compared to 60/40 for the sedan. Not surprisingly, the wagon weighs about 130 pounds more than the sedan, but at 3599 pounds, it is light enough to perform well on a small displacement engine.
Acura uses its signature double wishbone suspension up front and a multi-link setup in the back. The compact suspension design minimizes intrusion into the cargo area while providing a responsive ride. An electric power steering system is tuned to provide more assist at low speeds, with excellent on-center response on the highway.
Both the four-cylinder sedan and sport wagon share a 36.7-foot turning radius, making U-turns a possibility on wider suburban roads. Seventeen-inch aluminum wheels and Michelin all-season tires provide a wide, stable footprint. Four-wheel disc brakes stop the wagon in a firm, linear manner.
Test drive in Phoenix
My 100-mile test drive included surface streets and highways in the Phoenix metro area as well as the Bush Highway east of town. I kept the car in fully-automatic mode around town and shifted manually on the two-lane rural road.
Average fuel economy, according to the car’s information system, was 30.5 miles-per-gallon. I was able to conserve gasoline on straight stretches of highway by using cruise control, so I could drop the hammer on the two-lane road and still maintain positive numbers. The sport wagon does require 91-octane premium fuel.
The Acura wagon is one of those rare products which works equally well commuting through urban traffic and driving for sport on the weekends. Visibility around the perimeter is good.
A rearview camera which comes with the Technology package has lines superimposed over the wide-angle image, showing the car’s trajectory according to steering inputs. The wagon’s low profile minimizes blind spots beneath the rear glass when compared to a higher profile sport-utility vehicle.
Using the transmission in fully-automatic mode, the car has plenty of power in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range for accelerating into high-speed traffic. Passing slower vehicles at speed is a non-issue.
Since the roads around Phoenix are smooth, it’s hard to gauge how a suspension will perform in the Midwest and New England, places where weather tears up the pavement. The suspension worked extremely well controlling rebounds and keeping the chassis flat on the Bush Highway, which has a lot of decreasing radius turns and pitchy hills.
The sport wagon’s spacious interior holds four adults and their gear. The rear seats fold flat with the flip of the lever to extend the cargo floor, making the wagon bicycle friendly. Standard roof rails make it easy to add a rack up top.
The test car comes with leather upholstery. I would prefer cloth, since it doesn’t retain heat as much in the summer and is easier to clean. Seat heaters keep front row passengers comfortable in the winter.
The Technology model also comes with dual-zone climate control. Vents behind the center console circulate air through the back of the cabin.
Two-position driver’s seat memory enables multiple family members to share the driving. The seats offer ample lower lumbar support for longer drives. The steering wheel is small enough to be comfortable for women drivers, with redundant audio, Bluetooth, information display and cruise control buttons logically arranged.
I found both the navigation screen and gauge cluster easy to read in bright sunlight. Acura’s navigation systems are extremely good at recalculating routes. The graphics are bright and easy to read. Other comfort and convenience controls on the center stack are intuitive to operate, thanks to a mouse-type device.
Overhead reading lamps over both rows of seating and lamps in the cargo area illuminate the interior at night.
There are ample cup and bottle holders for both rows of passengers. USB and auxiliary ports in the center console bin interface with portable music players; a 12-volt power point enables the driver to recharge his cell phone on the go.
Because of its tall floor tunnel, two passengers will be more comfortable in the second row than three.
The cargo area is well configured, with additional storage areas for small items under the floor. Tie-down loops on the floor and on either side secure large items.
The Acura TSX sport wagon comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction and electronic stability control. Acura’s four year/50,000 mile warranty comes with complimentary roadside assistance.
Likes: The Acura TSX sport wagon is equally at home commuting through urban traffic or traveling to the trailhead on the weekend. The versatile cargo area makes the wagon an ideal choice for buyers with active lifestyles. The TSX combines excellent fuel economy with sporty performance, making it an appealing choice for driving enthusiasts.
Dislike: Premium fuel is required.
Model: TSX Sport Wagon Technology
Base price: $34,610
As tested: $35,470
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 22/30 mpg city/highway
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