Auto Review: 2007 Acura TSX
Sept. 18, 2007
Is it just me, or have factory support and factory warranties become something of a taboo for most manufacturers of late (despite what the ads say)? Maybe the chronic abusers finally cried wolf one too many times, or maybe consumers have gotten so spoiled by quality that we expect something too close to perfection. Whatever the cause, getting around the chronic "unable to duplicate" claim and convincing a dealer to perform a warranty repair has become an exercise in refusing to speak softly and a willingness to carry an especially large stick. That has been my experience with Acura anyway. Thus, for reasons that shall remain unaddressed here, I found myself driving a service loaner, in stead of my '06 TL 6-speed, for the second time in as many weeks. My chariot for this particular weekend? A 2007 Acura TSX with an automatic transmission and no navigation. Never being one to be happy with what I have, or to let my pen (or keyboard) lie dormant when it could be criticizing something or someone, I decided to do a little comparing of the TSX to the TL that normally chauffeurs me through the drudgery of my day.
My first conclusion was reached within 30 seconds of pulling out of the parking lot: sport shift will never replace a manual transmission. Now, this is obviously not a ray of light to any like-minded enthusiast, but even with improvements in the design since Acura first introduced theirs, I find myself reminded anew every time I sit down in a car equipped with one. This particular model does not appear to be one of the better ones either. The long delay in to up- and down-shift from the time I moved the knob, in combination with the slushy quality of the shift itself, made the whole experience unendurable. It is much easier, and less frustrating, to just let the transmission do its own thing.
Further impressions of the car were more favorable. I haven't yet had the pleasure of driving some of the more high-powered monster four-cylinders like the WRX or EVO, but the K24 powerplant in this car was the most effortless four-banger I've driven yet, and once you let the transmission decide how to shift for itself the two work together seamlessly. The powerband is smooth and surprisingly even for a Honda. Again, I've never driven a car equipped with a K-series motor before, but this one was much less peaky than other Hondas I've owned and tested, with suitable torque on the low end to make passing an extension of the car's forward motion, not a sub-process involving extensive downshifting and effort from the motor. It definitely doesn't have the on-demand-in-any-gear power that the TL's V6 delivers, but the K24 is a gem of a four.
If the powertrain was good, then the steering and suspension setup has to be described as excellent. The TSX sits on skinnier tires than the TL (215 vs. 235) and doesn't have quite the aggressive stance that it's older brother exhibits, but its lower weight and sharper steering make up for any visual misperceptions. It feels light, quick and precise, and getting back into the TL it feels sluggish and heavy in comparison. Even with these positives though, the TSX still doesn't have quite the feedback that I would like in a smaller car. The suspension is a remarkable combination of road-worthy manners on the commute and amateur track-worthy handling on-demand. This wasn't a shock to me, as I've always been impressed with Honda's ability to build great suspensions, but I was gently reminded in several nice sweeping on-ramps that this is the Accord Type-R elsewhere in the world.
Everything else is typical Honda. The interior, though not as nice as the TL, is everything you would want from a car in this price range, if not more. The seats were supportive, if a little hard, and held me in place about as I was expecting. All controls were easy to reach and pleasant in form. The gauges were clear and easy to read, although I am not a fan of the left-centered speedometer and tach. Apparently I need to read these things straight up and down. The fuel light also came on absurdly early. Not a big problem if you know that it's going to happen, but it made me pretty nervous the first time since the person before me hadn't reset the mileage and I had no idea how much that tank of gas had actually been driven.
My only real gripe inside was with the function of the climate and audio controls. As these systems have grown more feature-laden in today's cars the number of buttons has increased, while the real estate that contains them has remained relatively constant. The resulting small buttons and hard to read labels made adjustments while driving much less intuitive than in the TL where the large buttons are much easier to find with both eyes on the road. A navigation-equipped TSX may have handled the layout a little better, but I did not have the opportunity to get a look at one for comparison. I also probably would have gotten used to the differences with a little more time as well, so I consider this a minor issue at worst.
Overall, the car left me with a very favorable impression, even with my negative disposition towards having to drive it. It offers a unique blend of power, balance, and economy that no other luxury carmaker has yet put forth and boasts a level of luxury and class that the more conventional carmakers cannot afford.