Mention hybrid automobiles and most folks invariably think of cars and trucks that are part internal combustion engine-powered and part battery-propelled. But, I submit, there is another kind of hybrid; one that blends two distinct genres or automobiles into one. Like Acura's TSX.
Originally based on the European Honda Accord, this one defies precise categorization. Is it a luxury car? Is it a sports sedan? Should I buy it for its performance, luxury appointments or technology? In a word: yes.
The TSX has enough luxury mod-cons to satisfy all but the most demanding sybarites, while incorporating a decent amount of performance and driving enjoyment. This is not a hard-and-fast sport sedan along the lines of the Audi A4, Lexus IS-250 or BMW 3-Series, but it can keep up.
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Especially now that it has a bigger engine. As of 2010, you can order the TSX with Honda's 3.5-litre V-6 that features four valves per cylinder and V-Tec variable valve technology. Versions of this engine are found elsewhere in the Honda/Acura lineup and, in this configuration, it develops 280 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque.
It's mated to a five-speed automatic only, although you can get a six-speed manual transmission with the standard-issue 2.4-litre four-cylinder model. My tester featured the V-6 with Acura's Technology package. Interestingly, the next-level-up Acura TL also has this engine and you can get it with the six-speed manual.
Anyway, the addition of a couple of extra cylinders gives the TSX a healthy performance injection and will enable it to get from a standing start to 100 km/h in about six seconds, give or take. The automatic also has steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles, which work well enough. I didn't use them much myself, but if you're feeling frisky and find yourself on a quiet back-road - well, there you go.
That said, it seems to me that the automatic transmission situation pretty much sums up my feelings for the V-6 TSX. Where the four-cylinder version with the manual gearbox encourages you to drive with enthusiasm and has kind of a sporty flavour, this latter arrangement does not. I drove my test car like I would any other upscale sedan; staying in automatic mode, in other words, with all the mod-cons going full tilt. That's not a criticism, but I view the V-6 model as more of an upscale saloon than sport sedan.
Speaking of which, although Acura products have all kinds of extras and convenience goodies, some things still confound me. For example, I could never get the power mirrors to stay adjusted. Every time I parked the car, I found myself having to readjust the mirrors when I got back in, despite the fact that I set, and re-set, and re-set again the memory buttons. You can set and forget the seats, but apparently not the mirrors. I've found this annoying little glitch on other Acura products as well. The MDX, for one.
One other note here, although I admit it's trivial. The TSX - at least with black interior and paint - is a hot car to drive. If there's any kind of sunshine, the car heats up like a convection oven and the air conditioning is hard-pressed to establish any kind of comfort level. Even during a non-air conditioning day, when fresh air ventilation would usually be enough, I found myself sweating buckets. I'm one of those drivers who only uses the A/C when absolutely necessary. With the TSX, it's absolutely necessary.
And, although it's obvious, I have to add that Acura has failed with the awkward chrome slab front grille of all its models. This is currently the ugliest front-end treatment in the industry (with the Mazda3 running a close second). What were Acura stylists thinking here?
Otherwise, equipment level is high on the V-6 TSX, with all the usual mod-cons - leather interior, dual-zone climate control, heated seats, power front seats, Bluetooth, and power up-down driver and passenger side windows - coming standard. With the Technology package, you get an upgraded sound system, back-up camera and voice-activated navi system, among other things. All of which adds $3,000 to the price tag.
So, no real complaints about the TSX. But no standing ovation either.
Despite its healthy power output, high standard features level and up-there price tag, there's nothing about this car that makes me sit up and beg. I don't covet it the way I would some others. As always, I appreciate Honda's engineering accomplishments, but the TSX doesn't move me.
2010 Acura TSX V6 Technology
Type: Four-door luxury/sport sedan
Base Price: $42,790; as tested, $44,685 (including freight)
Engine: 3.5-litre V-6
Horsepower/torque: 280 hp/252 lb-ft
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/ 100 km): 11.3 city/7.4 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: BMW 323, Audi A4, Honda Accord V-6, Lexus ES350, Infiniti G37, Hyundai Genesis
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