2013 Acura TSX Road Test and Review: Introduction
This is Europe’s Honda Accord. Seriously. To create the TSX, Acura swipes a high-end version of the Accord our pals across the pond drive, replaces that car’s appealing grille with one that is, umm, not, slaps some Acura badges on it, and calls it a day. Though this might sound like a slapdash approach, the result is a surprisingly satisfying entry-luxury car, one that exudes quality, and is comfortable, safe, fuel efficient, entertaining to drive, and surprisingly affordable. Better yet (for wagon lovers like me, anyway), the 2013 Acura TSX is offered in both sedan and station wagon format.
As great as the TSX is, it would appear that its days are numbered. The new 2013 Acura ILX is intended to replace the TSX, but since dealers sell just as many of the latter as they do the former, Acura might be reconsidering that strategy. Then there’s the debut of the flagship 2014 RLX to consider, a car that starts at $48,450. It sure would seem that Acura requires two models to bridge the $16,000 spread between a loaded ILX and the least expensive RLX.
In any case, if Acura decides to kill the TSX in favor of a next-generation TL (TLX?), I’m sure I won’t be the only one to miss this car.
The 2013 Acura TSX is sold as a 4-door sedan ($31,405) or a 5-door station wagon ($32,755), without or without an optional Technology Package ($3,100). The Technology Package adds a voice-recognition navigation system with real-time traffic and weather, an Acura/ELS premium sound system with a 15-gig music hard drive, a reversing camera, and a GPS-linked solar-sensing automatic climate control system. This is how my TSX Sedan test car was equipped, painted Forged Silver Metallic and wearing a window sticker of $34,505.
Additionally, the TSX Sedan is offered in a TSX Special Edition trim level, and in a TSX V6 trim level. The Special Edition model adds $1,000 to the price of a base TSX, adding black Luxe Suede seats with red trim and red contrast-color stitching, red gauge lighting, red cabin illumination, silver metal pedals, silver paddle shifters, a black headliner, a body kit, polished aluminum wheel surfaces with gray pockets, and a “Special Edition” badge. A 6-speed manual gearbox is a no-charge option with this package, and is the only way to get a stick shift for a TSX.
The TSX Sedan can also be equipped with a V-6 engine that is packaged with the Technology Package plus perforated leather sport seats and 18-inch aluminum wheels for $40,045. As transformative as the V-6 engine and the larger wheels and tires might be, they’re not worth thousands of dollars in extra expense, in my opinion.2013 Acura TSX Road Test and Review: Design
- No changes for 2013
When the second-generation TSX arrived for the 2009 model year, it was the first Acura sedan equipped with the brand’s now signature Keen-Edge design theme. At the time, the car’s appearance was shocking, but after everyone got a good look at the 2009 Acura TL’s beak a few months later, the TSX appeared relatively tame. Sane, even. Today, the TSX is a familiar yet distinctive entry-luxury model. But is it genuinely good looking? Not exactly.
The TSX’s cabin, however, is a different story. It looks, feels, and works like a proper car interior should, mixing quality materials with clear displays and controls that are easy to understand and operate. The three-dimensional gauge cluster exhibits style without sacrificing clarity, the screen atop the center of the dashboard is used only for navigation and only for display, and the array of large buttons on the center control panel is clearly marked and logically grouped. Everything is located where you expect it to be, and nothing is placed on the center console to remove the driver’s eyes from the road ahead except for the gear selector, heated seat controls, hand brake, and cupholders.
The TSX even requires that a key be twisted in an ignition lock, a charmingly old-school design that ensures that the car isn’t going anywhere without the key, and that a driver like me need not have the key stuffed into my pockets along with a smartphone, a money clip, a wallet, and house keys.
I know that I sound like some crazy old man lamenting the loss of the good old days, but Acura’s simple approach with the TSX is, at this point, a refreshing approach. I mean, this is a car, and the driver is expected to drive it, not stab futilely at an unresponsive touchscreen or capacitive touch panel. There’s little cause for distraction or confusion in this car, little reason to crack open the owner’s manual, and for that, I applaud, loudly.2013 Acura TSX Road Test and Review: Comfort and Cargo
- No changes for 2013
The Acura TSX has extremely comfortable front seats, with bolsters that do not confine under normal driving circumstances yet hold occupants securely when tossing the car into a turn. The tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel is pleasing to grip, wrapped in soft and smooth leather, and is perfectly sized and shaped. Acura also provides soft padding for the center console and door panel armrests, and for the upper portions of the door panels, where elbows are likely to rest. Thin windshield pillars and large side mirrors contribute to excellent outward visibility. I suspect that I could drive this car all day without suffering fatigue.
Adults fit comfortably in the TSX’s back seat, which supplies decent legroom, headroom, and foot room. The dished bottom cushion is designed to supply a modicum of thigh and lateral support, but is mounted inboard and slightly to the rear of the cabin, making it a bit of a struggle to get out. I used the TSX to cart children for the better part of a week, and the Acura posed no problems in this regard.
Though the TSX Sedan’s trunk is on the small side, measuring 14 cu.-ft., the opening is a good size and the space is shaped for maximum cargo cramming. Plus, the hinges are boxed, so there’s no worry about crushing any luggage. Get the TSX Wagon and you’ll more than double the amount of space in the trunk at 31.5 cu.-ft. behind the rear seat. Fold the back seat down and the TSX Wagon offers a maximum of 66.2 cu.-ft. of volume.2013 Acura TSX Road Test and Review: Features and Controls
- No changes for 2013
A model of clarity, the Acura TSX’s interior is not without flaw. In my opinion, many of the buttons on the center control panel need to be replaced by large multi-function knobs.
As it stands, a big central control knob anchors the TSX’s control panel, and when spun, serves to zoom in and out on the dated-looking navigation map shown in the upper display. Buttons for controlling navigation functions immediately surround this large knob.
Arcing around this cluster of navigation controls are the stereo controls, all buttons except for a small power/volume knob that could ought to be larger. Additionally, the TSX could use a knob for tuning and audio settings.
Automatic climate controls are tucked underneath and separate from the infotainment array, operated using buttons. Knobs for left and right temperature control, as well as manual fan speed adjustment, would be preferable.
Honestly, though, these amount to minor quibbles about a cabin that is genuinely easy to understand and simple to operate, with all controls located where the driver expects to find them.2013 Acura TSX Road Test and Review: Safety and Ratings
- No changes for 2013
Acura has some work to do with regard to the TSX’s safety features. Aside from a standard package of equipment offered by just about every car regardless of price point, the only item of note here is a reversing camera. And it’s not even standard equipment.
2013 Acura TSX Crash-Test Ratings:
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 2013 Acura TSX is a “Top Safety Pick,” the result of achieving the highest possible ratings in moderate overlap frontal-impact, side-impact, rear-impact injury prevention, and roof crush strength tests. This, however, is the last year the TSX will achieve the laurel. Starting next year, vehicles must also achieve a favorable rating in the Institute’s new small overlap frontal-impact test, for which the TSX rates “Marginal.” Without structural modifications, this car will not improve on that front.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not performed crash tests on the 2013 TSX.2013 Acura TSX Road Test and Review: Engine and Fuel Economy
- No changes for 2013
Acura offers two different engines for the TSX, a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V-6. The V-6 is available only for the TSX Sedan, and only in exchange for thousands of extra dollars.
The standard 4-cylinder engine is peppy enough, providing 201 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 170 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,300 rpm (172 lb.-ft. with the optional manual transmission). If these figures appear to be unimpressive, keep in mind that a TSX weighs less than 3,500 pounds. Also, Acura gears the standard 5-speed automatic transmission to take best advantage of the powertrain, and during my week with the car, it rarely felt underpowered.
Acura recommends, but does not require, that premium fuel is used with this engine. The TSX’s EPA fuel economy ratings are 22 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 26 mpg in combined driving. I achieved 26 mpg in a mix of city and highway travel.
The TSX Sedan’s optional 3.5L V-6 generates 280 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 254 lb.-ft. of torque at 5,000 rpm. Considering that the TSX V-6 weighs just 201 pounds more than a base TSX, you’ll understand when I tell you that the 79 extra ponies and 84 extra lb.-ft. of torque utterly transform the TSX, turning it into a rocket. Unfortunately, there is a steep price premium to pay for the added velocity.
Acura says that premium fuel is required for the V-6 engine, which is rated to get 19 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 23 mpg in combined driving.2013 Acura TSX Road Test and Review: Driving Impressions
The great thing about Acuras, as well as the Hondas upon which they are frequently based, is that the engineering intended to make them durable, safe, and fuel-efficient often has the unintended consequence of making them entertaining to drive.
Of course, in the Acura TSX’s case, part of the enjoyment that the driver experiences is the direct result of the car’s European tuning characteristics, particularly with regard to the suspension. The TSX delivers a taut ride quality combined with excellent communication from the tires’ contact patches, and while Active Noise Cancellation quiets the car’s cabin when underway, it is tuned to permit aural confirmation of road surface textures, in addition to tactile information. This clarity of communication instills confidence in the TSX’s driver, and while the front-wheel-drive car isn’t necessarily a sport sedan, it is a sporty sedan, thanks in part to these traits.
The TSX displayed impressive dynamic competence when I flung it down Latigo Canyon Road, a writhing, twisted, serpentine mess of tight curves and crappy pavement running along steep cliffs in Malibu, Calif. Limited only by a set of P225/50R17 all-season tires and the fact that 59% of the car’s weight sits over the front wheels, the TSX remained utterly calm, cool, and collected while ripping across pavement heaves and around off-camber corners.
The 5-speed automatic transmission also plays a part in making the TSX fun to drive. Geared to make the most of the 4-cylinder engine’s limited oomph, the transmission gives the TSX a sprightly feel in city traffic, and its Grade Logic Control system automatically holds a lower gear to provide improved hill climbing capability as well as engine braking on downgrades. The transmission is also equipped with a Sport mode to hold engine revs longer, and paddle shifters that are actually more like buttons are located on the steering wheel. Most of the time, I drove the car around in Drive, and that was fine.
Offering just enough horsepower and torque to make the Acura TSX feel quick, the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder is a refined engine, one that revs willingly and smoothly when the accelerator pedal is mashed. I’ve driven the TSX V6 model, and if that more powerful engine were offered as a $1,500 upgrade, I would recommend it. The V-6 makes the TSX downright fast, without much of a fuel economy penalty. At almost four times that amount, however, I can’t. So stick with the 4-cylinder engine, which, during my week behind the wheel, returned exactly what Acura claimed in terms of gas mileage.
Bringing the Acura TSX to a halt is no problem for its 4-wheel-disc braking system, which employs ventilated front discs. Granted, it was a cool 62 degrees in local mountains when I conducted my testing, but the TSX’s brake pedal delivered an impeccable performance, making it incredibly easy to fine-tune brake pressure and response.
If there is room for improvement with regard to the TSX’s driving dynamics, it is related to the steering. Around town and when driving down the highway in a straight line, the steering is well weighted on center and easy to twirl for parking. Fly around a freeway ramp, however, and a hint of light disconnectedness chips away at driver confidence. On twisty roads, the steering also proves a bit slow, forcing the driver to saw at the wheel if not shuffle steering.2013 Acura TSX Road Test and Review: Final Thoughts
The 2013 Acura TSX is a car that grows on you over time and miles, a vehicle that continually surprises and delights its driver through unexpectedly thoughtful design and details, with quality that extends beyond the surface, and with engineering that reflects attention to detail. Comfortable, fun to drive, and fuel-efficient, the Acura TSX appeals to both sides of a driver’s brain.2013 Acura TSX Road Test and Review: Pros and Cons
- Comfortable seats
- Quality interior materials
- Energetic powertrain
- Light, nimble handling
- Fuel economy matches EPA rating
- Lacks modern safety technology
- “Marginal” small overlap frontal-impact crash test result
- Expensive V-6 engine option
- Buttons. Lots of buttons.
Acura supplied the vehicle for this review
2013 Acura TSX photos by Christian Wardlaw