In a review of Acura's second-generation TSX sports sedan a couple of years ago, I congratulated Honda's luxury division on sticking to a four-cylinder engine and long-held company precepts of balancing power and economy.
But I also noted that "dropping a six in" must have been tempting to make it an easier sell against the competition. My words have proven to be less prophetic than premature.
Acura obviously had a V-6-powered TSX in mind from the start and the TSX V-6 joined the division's lineup last fall with a motor that pushes out almost 80 more hp and some 80 lb-ft more torque than the four-banger.
This is a game changer in performance terms. The 201-hp, four-cylinder TSX, equipped with an automatic transmission, can accelerate to 100 km/h in an entertaining-enough seven-plus seconds. More than quick enough to be fun. But the V-6 TSX can knock an impressive second off that time, getting down into the low sixes. With the insertion of the V-6, the TSX has become a very quick automobile.
The V-6 car also gains sportier suspension tuning, revised steering and 18-inch clear-coat finished alloy wheels shod with P235/45R18 tires vs the 17-inchers on the four-cylinder.
Acura looked in the corporate parts bin to find the new motor for the TSX, coming up with the 3.5 litre V-6 from the TL. This motor has i-VTEC variable valve timing, dual-stage induction through a magnesium intake system and makes 280 strong horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 254 lb-ft of torque, which is available over a fairly broad band and tops out at a very high 5,000 rpm.
A little disappointing in this high-performance oriented TSX is that the only available transmission is a five-speed automatic. Albeit it's a Sequential Sportshift unit that delivers crisp up-shifts and has ratios you can select manually, with fairly prompt response, via steering-wheel-mounted paddles.
This transmission works well when you're getting on with things, but in around-town and highway driving, when you just want to add a little more power, a touch on the throttle often unlocks the torque converter letting the revs soar, which I found a little irritating. And with all the power available this somewhat-abrupt step up in its delivery can momentarily overwhelm the traction control system on slippery surfaces if you're a bit ham-footed.
The TSX V-6 weighs in at 1,672 kg or some 85 kg more than the four-cylinder car, which contributes to fuel economy ratings of 11.3 L/100 km city and 7.4 highway versus 9.6 city/6.5 highway for the four.
On the road, the TSX V-6's tauter suspension, with firmer springs and damper settings plus those meatier lower-profile tires, delivers sharp-ish turn-in and flat cornering.
But with the engine being responsible for a good bit of that additional weight just mentioned, the TSX becomes a little more nose-heavy. Understeer becomes more of an issue the harder you push things - and which version would be quicker through a corner would be interesting to find out.
The electric steering was revised to improve on-centre feel, which it does, and has a firmly natural feel. The brakes have been upgraded and pedal feel improved.
A downside to this sportier level of handling is a ride that those contemplating buying the TSX V-6 with prestige and luxury in mind rather than performance might find a little hard. I'd spend some time driving one, and also having a significant other driver spend some time behind the wheel, to make sure you'll be happing living with it on a day-to-day basis.
On the TSX's rather stylish outside, the only thing that differentiates the V-6 model from its four-cylinder sibling is the badge on the deck lid and, if you look closely, those bigger wheels.
It is virtually identical inside, too, which means a pleasantly open and airy cabin with enough separation between the two front-seat occupants and a rear compartment that will hold three if necessary, backed by a not-too-generous 357-litre trunk.
Efforts have been made to reduce noise/vibration/harshness and the V-6 comes with Acura's Active Sound Control System, which works to reduce unwanted high frequency noises. The optional navi screen in both models has been enlarged and changes made to the display.
Acura pitches the TSX as a luxury sports sedan, so it doesn't lack for features, which include the usual safety and electronic control systems, HID headlights, moon roof, four- and eight-way power/heated/leather seats, compass, dual-zone climate control, auto headlights, remote entry, tilt-and-telescope wheel, hands-free voice activation and Bluetooth and sultry blue ambient lighting.
Four-cylinder-engined TSXs start at $32,990 with the Premium package-equipped version going for $36,290 and the top-of-the-line Technology edition for $39,290. These models offer virtually all the same equipment as the V-6 versions, along with plenty of performance and a bit better economy.
So if you're going to buy a V-6, it will mainly be for the added prestige this engine is perceived to bring compared to the four, which many still associate with economy models. And that's going to cost you. The V-6 starts with the premium edition priced at $39,790, with the Technology version tested - which ads navi, a reversing camera and an Acura/ELS Premium sound system - listing at $42,790. Add an additional $1,895 in delivery charges to all those prices, incidentally.
While there's no denying the six's extra power makes the TSX a flyer, a driver really intent on enjoying a sporty driving experience would be better off buying a four-cylinder with six-speed manual gearbox.
2010 ACURA TSX V-6
Type: Luxury sports sedan
Base Price: $39,790; as tested, $42,790
Engine: 3.5-litre, DOHC, V-6
Horsepower/torque: 280 hp/254 lb-ft
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.3 city/7.4 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: BMW 328i, Infiniti G sedan, Volvo S60, Mitsubishi Gallant Ralliart, Mazda Mazda6 Sport, Lexus IS250, Subaru Legacy GT, Mercedes-Benz C300, Nissan Maxima, Volkswagen Passat, Cadillac CTS, Audi A4