Acura, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2008 Acura TSX – Road Test

The TSX is the entry-level car in Acura’s stable in the U.S (in Canada the CSX is the entry-level Acura). Based on the smaller European Honda Accord, the TSX promises to be sporty, as well as good value for money in the sub-luxury department. Considering the TSX is up against the likes of the BMW 3-series and the Audi A4, it’s competing in a very cut-throat part of the food chain. As is customary of Acura, the TSX is thousands of dollars cheaper than the car/vehicle it’s up against in the marketplace. Acura have a knack of pricing themselves just between two levels of near-luxury or luxury vehicles and the TSX is no different. Sometimes the Acura is a bargain, and sometimes it’s over-reaching. Which one is the TSX?

I’ve been waiting a while to drive the TSX and it was worth the wait…sort of. One downside was that I waited so long the all-new 2009 TSX came out shortly after I test drove this one – oh well.

First Impressions
The TSX isn’t one of those cars that jump out at you in a parking lot full of plain-vanilla boring vehicles. In fact it can be easily mistaken for a Honda Accord – or any other Japanese sedan for that matter. It’s smaller than most other cars in its price category and that is it’s main down fall. From a driver’s perspective – it’s so much fun to drive – only those that have driven it can really appreciate its attributes.

The leather seats are firm and perfectly contoured for holding you in place while throwing it into the corners of your favourite 2-lane back road. The driver gets an 8-way power-adjustable seat with lumbar support and 2-position memory, while the front passenger gets a 4-way power seat – both having 2-stage seat heaters for the colder days and evenings. The thick leather-wrapped steering wheel has audio, telephone and cruise control buttons clearly and logically place around it and is tilt and telescopic adjustable.

Closing the door, I hear the sound of an old 1973 Civic – you know – a tink, instead of a deep thunk as the door closes. What the??? I get out and close the door again. Yep, it sounds like a cheap replica of a car from the ’70’s. The rear door sound perfectly tuned to a near-luxury level that the TSX is, but the front doors sound soooo cheap!

Starting the engine, I put the car into first gear and ease out the clutch – with a lurch. I’ve been driving automatics for the past couple of weeks, so I have to now remind myself to use the left leg. But after a week, I’m still having the same problem: it’s not me – it’s the car. I pride myself in being able to smoothly change gears to the point that my passengers don’t even know I’m driving a stick shift, but the TSX makes that impossible. For some reason the clutch take-up is very abrupt and no matter how much I concentrated it’s only on the odd occasion that I actually manage to change gears smoothly. Unfortunately, this problem isn’t only connected to the first gear – all of the gears are difficult to modulate smoothly. My wife for once agreed with me – it wasn’t my driving that was the problem – it was the car. While trying to perform the 0-60 mph sprint, it is even worse because the revs drop the instant you lift off the gas pedal – from 7,500 rpm right down to 4,000 rpm before you’ve even had the opportunity to engage the next gear. That resulted in a very jumpy and frustrating effort that I was thankful to be finished with as soon as possible.

It’s too bad the shifting takes so much concentration, because once you ignore the problem and just live with it, the car becomes worthy of being compared the Honda S2000 for fun and excitement. With a very tight suspension and steering set up, the TSX is a blast to drive, making even the most mundane trips a joy. As is typical of the Honda powerplant, the VTEC engine is a gem to take all the way to it’s redline before shifting. In the case of the TSX, the sudden rush of power comes on once you’ve reached 6,000 rpm, and carries right through to the 7,000 rpm redline. Overtaking maneuvers on 2-lane roads is completely effortless; just make sure you’re hanging on with both hands. Even while cruising on the freeway, the engine feels like it just wants to go. Whenever a space opens up allowing you to let it rip, you just take the spot with no need to gear down, the power comes on evenly until the 6,000 rpm and then it’s “hang on” time.

As per usual, once you get to a near-luxury vehicle the automatic climate control system gets very complicated. Buried within the SatNav is the climate control, and doing something as simple as adjusting the fan speed is an ordeal. First you have to decipher which button will let you into the menu that you want. I couldn’t figure it out until I pushed the “air” button and wouldn’t you know it – the fan speed came up! Once that was accomplished it was easy because the correct display screen came up, but why not just put a dial, or heaven forbid the word “Fan” on the button? There are actually two “air” buttons. Grrrrrrrr. Adjusting the dual-zone climate control is easy- it’s just the fan speed that’s not very clear.

The audio system is easy to use, and the sound was a bit tinny at first, but once we got used to it, it wasn’t too bad. The in-dash 6-disc CD/AM/FM unit that comes standard has a 360-watts and 8 speakers, but is NOT MP3 capable – unexpected and unacceptable in this price range. There’s a power outlet and an auxiliary jack for an MP3 player inside the armrest/console.

Rear seat accommodation is adequate even for a car of this size. With a flat floor, there’s plenty of room for two pairs of feet, but the seats are so tight there’s no way you could get anyone to sacrifice themself to sit in the middle area. With two people back there, it’s acceptable, with lots of foot space under the front seats. Knee room was also good for such a small car. Once back there, shoulder and hip room, as well as headroom isn’t too bad. The rear seat folds 60/40 for additional cargo capacity and has to be released from inside the trunk, otherwise you have to use the car key to lock/unlock it from inside – a nice feature for those using valet parking. The 12.8 (13.2 cu/ft. without the SatNav) trunk is reasonably large and very square making it extremely useful for transporting cargo.The TSX comes in 2 models – Base and Navi. The price for the automatic and the manual is exactly the same, the only difference being a 5-speed automatic versus a 6-speed manual.

For more details, pricing and options go to: or (don’t expect to get pricing at the Canadian site- it doesn’t work).

The Conclusion
As a mid-sized 4-door near-luxury sedan the TSX is a great little car, but the driver is the only one that will truly appreciate the car. The seats are very comfortable and supportive, while the chassis and suspension are on par with any sports car. It’s a blast to drive, but the notchy gearbox/clumsy clutch takes a good bit of the gloss away from it. Comparing to other available options out there; the 4-door Civic Si, is bigger, cheaper and has a better clutch/gearbox – but beware of the very uncomfortable seats in the Si. Alternately, the Acura CSX Type-S is better in every way as long as you don’t mind the slightly odd look.

Bumper to Bumper 4-years/50,000-miles [5-years/100,000 kms in Canada] and a 6-years/70,000 mile [5-years/100,000 kms in Canada] powertrain warranty. Roadside Assistance is also 4-years/50,000-miles [4-years/unlimited kms in Canada].

Pricing for the 2007 Acura TSX
As tested: $30,290 [$38,900 Cdn]
Base price for the starts at: $28,190 [$37,400 Cdn]
Destination & Delivery: $670 [$1,255 Cdn]

Fuel Consumption: [Fuel: Premium 91 Octane]
The 2.4 Litre manual is rated at 21.8 mpg [10.8 L/100 kms] City and 32.7 mpg [7.2 L/100 kms] Highway
I averaged 25.6 mpg [9.2 L/100km] during 80% highway driving

A blast to drive
Very quiet at all speeds
Very comfortable seats

Gearbox not up to usual Acura/Honda standards
Cheap sounding front doors which are also not up to Acura/Honda standards

Would I Spend My Money On It?
No. Buy the Acura CSX Type-S (same engine, less money)

Back Seat Driver Test: 8 out of 10
I’m quite surprised there’s so much foot and knee space back here. / This is quite comfortable – the seat angle is very good.

Immediate Competition:

Acura CSX, Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Hyundai Azera, Lexus IS 250, Lincoln MKZ, Mazdaspeed6, Mercedes-Benz C230, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry, VW Jetta and Passat, Volvo S40 T5

By The Numbers:
Powertrain: 2.4 Litre DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder i-VTEC engine, 6-speed manual transmission; FWD
Horsepower: 205 @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 164 @ 4,500 rpm
0-60 mph: 9.73 seconds.

9 – Quality
10 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
9 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
10 – Special Features (SatNav/Heated Seats/ Sunroof, etc)

9 – Ease of Entry/Exit
9 – Front Roominess
7 – Rear Roominess
10 – Driving Position/Controls

7 – Drool Factor
9 – Fit & Finish

10 – Engine
6 – Transmission
10 – Ride & Handling

Ownership Value
7 – Bang for the $$
10 – Fuel Economy

132 Total / 150

Copyright © 2008 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text / Images: Iain Shankland

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