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2006 Acura TSX w/Navigation Review

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A Full-Zoot Hoot
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Acura

One must make rapid adjustments in this business. After a week driving the Honda Ridgeline pickup and acclimating to its size I traded it in for a strikingly red (Milano Red they call it) Acura TSX. My first impression was how tiny the rear-view mirrors are. Oh yea, this is a little car not a big trailer-hauler. And, look at that; a stubby little shifter with a six-speed pattern imprinted on its brass-colored, perhaps nickel, leather-wrapped knob. We’re going to enjoy this one.

The Japanese-built TSX, first introduced as a 2004 model, is Acura’s entry into the small sport sedan market, competing with BMW 3-Series, Audi A-4, Mercedes C-class and Lexus IS. And a good competitor it is. Based on the European Accord platform it’s smaller and much more agile than the US Accord. At around, $30,000 this 5-passenger, front-wheel-drive sport sedan with amazing standard content is a real contender in its class.

After getting the seat and mirrors right I scooted onto the Jefferies Expressway around the corner from the press car pick-up place near downtown Detroit. The entrance ramp is long and straight so I opened her up. I was just barely out of third gear and I was merging with light traffic at over 70 mph. The engine is amazingly smooth and effortless. What a hoot! I love a quick little sport sedan – especially in red.

That great 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine is a willing revver. Red line on the tach is 7,100 rpm but the rev limiter doesn’t kick in until 7,400. And, here’s my first criticism: what’s up with that rev limiter? Most cars feel like they’re running out of gas when the limiter kicks in - sort of a gentle loss of power. This Acura feels like someone jerked the hand brake, throwing me forward harshly. On the positive side, it feels great at those higher rpms – smooth and easy - to motor along on the freeway keeping the revs up to 4- or 5-grand. The iVTEC™ engine management system, featuring Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control, makes for a broad power range. The system works with dual cam profiles on a single shaft. For 2006 Acura increased the horsepower substantially to 205. That doesn’t sound like a big jump from the previous 200-horsepower but there is a new SAE standard for measuring horsepower and I’m assured that the increase is substantial. While less than awesome, the thrust is plenty gratifying for this performance enthusiast and Tune-up is recommended at 100,000 miles whether it needs it or not.

Premium fuel is recommended and the EPA estimates are 22 mpg city and 30 highway for the six-speed stick; 22/31 for the automatic. The engine is certified as LEV2 (low-emissions vehicle) by the California Air Resources Board. The fuel tank holds 17.1 gallons. Our test car weighed 3268 pounds. Coefficient of drag is an amazingly slick 0.27 partly achieved through unusual attention to undercarriage design as well as a smooth shape above. Through two tanks of fuel this week, including some spirited driving, we were consistently in the 28- to 30-mpg range.

ABS and Vehicle Stability Assist (adjusts brake pressure and power to the wheels) keeps us from getting into trouble with overconfidence. The system can be disengaged if you’re looking for some extra fun slipping and sliding.

Honda is very good at designing a lot of usable space into a small package and the TSX is a good example. Smaller than an Accord and larger than a Civic the TSX has plenty of passenger space. It feels roomier inside than the 3-Series BMW but I’ve not compared the measurements. Cargo volume is 13 cubic feet.

Our test car is equipped with the navigation system. Browsing around without reading the book I could manage most functions. With an 8-inch screen the map is easy to read. I don’t tend to use these navigation systems much unless I’m in unfamiliar territory and as a low-tech kind of guy I’m not all that intrigued by them. Colleagues who know about these things say the Acura’s navigation system is one of the best.

A few days into my week with the TSX we had occasion chase some orphan cars around Ann Arbor, which means a nice back road run with some twisty bits, through the little burg of Hell, along an end moraine left behind by the glaciers. (The orphan cars were doing a bit of a road trip in preparation for the Orphan Car Show at the Hudson dealership in Ypsilanti.) That route, Patterson Lake Road, has been badly neglected by Livingston County leaving it lumpy and bumpy and pocked. The TSX demonstrated its prowess by dancing over those rough spots with poise and perfect control. The damping of the suspension is just right to maximize sporty handling characteristics without a hint of harshness. The torque-sensitive, variable power assisted steering has a precise feel. The drive-by-wire throttle senses changes in driver input and adjusts itself for just the right resistance. The race-inspired, double wish bone independent suspension front and rear kept those Michelins firmly planted in spite of our pushing it hard.

Warranty is 4 years/50,000 miles on the vehicle, 6 years/70,000 miles on the powertrain and 5 years/unlimited miles on rust-through.

Since its introduction as a 2004 model the Acura TSX has been one of Car & Driver magazine’s 10 Best Sport Sedan. NHTSA has awarded the TSX a 5-Star rating (the best) for safety and the IIHS named it a Best Pick in frontal impact tests.

I’m impressed with the pricing of the TSX. The base price is $27,890, and it matters not whether one wants the sophisticated 5-speed automatic with manual mode, or the close-ratio, short-throw 6-speed stick. For that price the cars has more content than anything else in its class, we might say “full-zoot.” It comes with soft, perforated leather seats, moonroof, power everything, heated seats, dual exhaust, 8-way power drivers seat, 4-way front passenger seat, premium sound system with Bluetooth compatibility, XM Satellite-ready, auxiliary jack for iPod or other MP3 player, 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels shod with low-profile 50-series all-season Michelins, and more smart air bags than a Senate hearing. Add 2-grand to the price for the optional navigation system with 8-inch screen and voice recognition that will handle 650 commands. There are a few options one might add, but I’m not sure what more one might want or need. I might go for the $4,300 boy racer option called A-Spec which involves lots of performance enhancements, some of which may compromise every-day roadability.

I’m not sure how many Acura dealers there are but there are none closer than 60 miles to my mid Michigan location.

Sadly, I have to turn the TSX in this afternoon, so I’ll make the best of my drive back to Detroit – probably through Hell again. I’m picking up the award-winning Civic SI, another handling and performing icon from Honda. So I’ll have driven through Hell and back for Honda today, and mighty pleased to do so.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions All Rights Reserved