Acura’s First Wagon is a Winner

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon.

As sport sedans go, the Acrua TSX has always kind of flown under the radar. Never getting as much attention as cars from brands like BMW or Audi, it nonetheless is a pretty nice car once you get behind the wheel.

Last model year saw the introduction of an optional V6 engine to supplement the standard four cylinder unit, as Acura may have felt that some buyers were passing over the TSX since it didn’t have a six.

Now, the company is expanding the TSX range further with a fun little wagon. The car itself isn’t exactly new, as it’s based on the Accord Touring sold in Europe. In truth, the TSX sedan is essentially the Euro-spec Accord. It seems that only North America gets the porkier Accord available at your local Honda dealer, due to our taste for cars that are a little more “broad in the beam” to quote an old nautical term.

I joined other wagon fans in excitement when Acura announced that the Sport Wagon would join the TSX lineup, but then that excitement was tempered somewhat when Acura later talked about engines. No V6, and by the way, no 6-speed manual transmission option, both of which are available on the sedan.

But it turned out that all is good. I jumped into a dark gray TSX Sport Wagon, and the first twist of the key brought that wonderful Honda/Acura engine sound to my ears. A perfect combination of solidity and frugality, and a feeling that lots of engineering time was put into it.

The engine is silky-smooth in its power delivery, and puts out an impressive 201 horsepower. Lots of clever tricks with the valvetrain and fuel management systems mean that the same engine that’s docile around town can turn into a tiger when the revs climb. Even with the automatic, the car is tons of fun to drive.

You can also have fun in the TSX sedan, but the Sport Wagon adds a huge dose of practicality. Without being overly large on the outside, the little wagon offers a big, cleverly packaged cargo area. Of course the rear seat is split 60/40 for versatility in folding, and there are several hidden compartments to keep valuables from sliding around or being visible to thieves.

With the entire rear seat folded, Acura says cargo capacity is 60.5 cubic feet. So anyone with a need to carry things like bicycles, camping gear or just the haul from a big shopping trip at Costco should find plenty of utility. The floor is nice and low too, so lifting in heavy objects is a lot easier compared to an SUV.

Speaking of SUVs, I kind of wonder if Acura is risking cannibalizing sales of its own RDX crossover. After all, the TSX Sport Wagon costs a bit less and gets better fuel economy than the SUV, though the latter is available with all wheel drive.

As a day-in, day-out car, this little wagon is really pretty nice, and lacks for nothing, especially with the optional Technology Package. Acura’s first-rate navigation system is very easy to use and has the all-important traffic map built in. The sound system is great, with special speakers mounted up high in the rearmost interior panels.

It would also seem like a smart buy if gas prices keep climbing, even though Acura recommends premium fuel for the TSX line. The Sport Wagon is rated at 22 mpg city and 30 highway, for a combined number of 25. Considering the utility if offers, that’s pretty good.

Add in the fun factor, and the starting price of $30,960, and I think Acura has a winner on its hands.

I’ll see you down the road.

Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net.

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