As it continues to expand its lineup, Acura has positioned a V-6 version of the TSX between its four-cylinder sibling and the slightly larger TL. An additional TSX - a sport wagon - will come along late in 2010 as a 2011 model.
The addition of the V-6 version is an effort to provide a sportier image to the brand, as is the availability for 2010 of a six-speed manual transmission for the TL at the top of that line.
Acura product planners believe there is a different customer for the TSX V-6. They see that person as a married male in his forties with no children, a university degree and a household income of $131,000 - perhaps an IT professional. This young professional is affluent, innovative, sophisticated and "in the know," according the Acura's research. He is obviously also interested in what the British used to call a Q-Ship - a heavily armed ship disguised as a mere merchant marine vessel, used to lure enemy submarines into making a surface attack.
The TSX V-6 is a barely disguised TSX. The only visual signs inside or out that it is the more powerful line-topping model are minimal and subtle - larger wheels and a V-6 badge on the deck lid.
At $39,790 it costs almost $7,000 more than the base four-cylinder version. But hidden within that same package and price premium are more than the bigger engine and wheels because the V-6 also comes with what is called a Premium Package.
That includes high-intensity-discharge headlights, upgraded leather trim and audio, automatic headlights and a two-position driver's seat memory.
An optional navigation package adds a voice-activated navigation system, rear-view camera and a further audio upgrade.
While the price jump is considerable, there is an accompanying change in character when going from the four- to six-cylinder engines. The high-revving four is a sweetheart, but like all Honda-developed engines, loves to play in the upper reaches of the rev band where it develops the most power.
If you have the six-speed manual transmission, you can play this game more easily than with the five-speed automatic by holding on to a lower gear longer. But with one less gear, there is less oomph off the line with the automatic accompanied by the need to use more throttle if in a hurry.
For most driving situations - and for any enthusiast - this is not an issue. But if you are looking for a more relaxed drive, you need more torque.
That is where the TSX V-6 shines in comparison to the four. More punch and less fuss. With 252 lb-ft. of torque and 280 horsepower, the 3.5-litre V6 has 81 more lb-ft and 79 more horses than the four.
The torque peak is still at a rather lofty 5,000 rpm, but the advantage over the four is evident lower in the range as well. This sophisticated and silky six drives the front wheels through a five-speed automatic.
The TSX is based on a platform that serves as the European version of the Honda Accord. Developed for European roads and drivers, it is thus more than happy when the road develops the bends.
An ultra-stiff platform means the development engineers didn't have to allow for chassis flex and were able to set up the suspension to do its intended job - control wheel motion.
The TSX has earned a reputation as one of the best-handling front-drive cars on the market and by tweaking suspension settings the additional 90 kilograms of the V-6 has done little to alter that rep.
This is a luxury car so refinement and ride quality are expected - as is a silent interior. To assist in achieving the latter, the TSX V-6 uses Active Sound Control, an electronic system that uses microphones to detect unwanted sounds and an amplifier to produce counter-waves through the audio system speakers to negate them.
There are no changes to the interior of the TSX V-6 but it is worth mentioning that it is a pleasant if subdued place to spend time. The quality of materials, fit and finish are exemplary and there is enough variety of texture and tone to keep it interesting.
The front seats are broad and deep with plenty of support and, while there is room in the back for three, it would be best if they are extremely close friends or of slight stature. Two will be much more comfortable.
The V-6 is a logical addition to the TSX bringing with it additional refinement and performance.
2010 ACURA TSX V6
Type: Compact luxury sport sedan
Base price: $39,790
Engine: 3.5-litre, SOHC, V6
Horsepower/torque: 280 hp/252 lb-ft
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): (estimated) 11.3 city/7.4 highway; premium gas recommended
Alternatives: Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class
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