Entry-level luxury cars have an interesting place in the automotive market as they attempt to balance affordability and luxury, but the Acura TSX now tries to match some of its sportier competitors by adding a V-6 engine under the hood for 2010. Looking to compete against segment icons such as the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Infiniti G37 as well as newer cars such as the Lexus IS and Buick LaCrosse, the 2010 Acura TSX V-6 continues to deliver exceptional styling and luxury with an added dose of performance.
Commanding a $5,240 premium over the base model, the 2010 TSX V-6 has a starting MSRP of $34,850, and this particular car added the top-of-the-line Tech Package for an as-tested price of $38,760 including destination. As is the case with many luxury cars, Acura's Tech Package is an all-or-nothing deal on the 2010 TSX V6, and it offers plenty of technology and luxury upgrades to justify the higher starting price. The real question about the 2010 TSX is whether the more powerful V-6 engine and a firmer suspension setup can help the front-wheel drive 2010 Acura TSX keep pace with some of the sportier rear-wheel drive sedans in this segment.
2010 Acura TSX V-6 Exterior
Aside from the new engine and retuned suspension components, changes to Acura TSX are minimal for 2010. Other than the obvious identifying badge on the decklid, the only ways to tell the base TSX apart from the V-6 model are the slightly different front fascia and sportier wheel designs. To meet the air intake demand of the larger engine, the front fascia's lower air inlets are larger to maximize the airflow. Some still haven't full accepted Acura's new corporate shield built into the grille, but the rest of the car is undeniably sporty. The angular lines of the front and rear perfectly complement the smooth edges and wide fender bulges along the side which gives the car its unique styling. Not only does Acura's latest design language help the TSX stand apart from most other entry-level luxury sedans on the market, it also ties in very nicely with the full range of current models ranging from the flagship Acura RL to the all-new Acura ZDX.
As for the wheels, the taller and wider wheels on the V-6 help lay down the extra power to the road and measure 18x8 inches with a stylish split five-spoke layout. While silver luxury sedans are about as original as coffee-can mufflers on tuned Honda Civics, the TSX looks good in just about any color including the three silvery hues it is offered in. This test model came in the dark silver/gray Polished Metal Metallic that would have looked even better with a set of smoked wheels (which aren't available). Wrapping the larger wheels, the TSX V-6 uses Michelin Pilot all-season high-performance tires as the base TSX model.
2010 Acura TSX V-6 Interior
Like all other current Honda and Acura models, the cabin may not be the flashiest for its price point, but it would be hard to beat in terms of comfort, ergonomics and technology. Like the exterior, only a handful of changes were made inside the TSX V-6 and include a one-touch ignition key system and a new tachometer to signify the V-6's lower redline of 6,800 rpm. This means that the rest of the TSX's stylish, sporty and luxurious cabin remains in tact with its attractive design that is trimmed in smooth leather and soft-touch surfaces. For seating, the five-passenger layout features front seats that are soft and plush rather than firm and bolstered like some sport sedans, and the rear bench seat delivers plenty of legroom for taller drivers. Even trunk space is ample at 12.6 cubic feet and offers a split folding rear seat with releases on the seat and in the trunk for quicker and easier operation.
As a part of the Tech Package, the TSX comes standard with Acura's easy-to-use navigation system which has been upgraded for 2010 to keep up with the newer systems available from BMW, Audi and Cadillac. In addition to a new display and improved telephone dialing, the navigation system features Zagat reviews, a rearview camera and real-time traffic and weather. The Tech Package also includes the Acura/ELS Premium Sound System that puts out 415 watts through its ten speakers and it also offers Dolby ProLogic II surround sound, MP3/WMA capabilities and a USB port. Another aspect of the audio systems on all TSX V-6 models is the inclusion of Acura's newest Active Sound Control system which uses the audio system to cancel out low and high frequency road and engine noises.
Other standard equipment includes the six-disc, in-dash CD changer, heated front seats, Bluetooth connectivity and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with an assortment of integrated audio, speed and voice-recognition controls.
2010 Acura TSX V-6 Performance & Handling
Dating back to the Acura Integra, no entry-level Acura model has offered a V-6 engine, but Honda's luxury division finally gave in to the pressure to help cement the TSX as a 'must-see' luxury car. Delivering 280 horsepower and 254 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels only, the TSX's 3.5-liter SOHC VTEC V-6 is the same engine as found in the base Acura TL. This 40 percent increase in horsepower and almost 50 percent increase in torque, over the base TSX with the 2.4-liter inline-4, results in surprising acceleration despite the additional 210 pounds of curb weight (3,680 pounds). Also surprising is the fact that the extra power doesn't hurt fuel economy too much with EPA estimates of 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway (just 3 mpg less on both ratings compared to the base TSX). The standard five-speed automatic transmission improves the sportiness of the car with its Sport mode and steering wheel shift paddles, but even in regular Drive mode the 2010 TSX V6 feels quick and nimble.
With the larger, sportier engine, Acura wanted to give the 2010 TSX V-6 a suspension to match the increased power output. The suspension layout is the same as the four-cylinder TSX with double wishbone in the front and multi-link in the rear but utilizes firmer front springs and retuned dampers. Like the suspension, the TSX's electric power-assisted steering is also retuned for a tighter, sportier feeling. The only real complaints that can be made about the 2010 TSX V-6 is the lack of both all-wheel drive and a manual transmission option, but the standard front-wheel drive and five-speed automatic transmission do a great job sending engine power to the road without giving up comfort or control.
2010 Acura TSX V-6 Safety
Acura is the only automaker that currently boasts a full lineup of cars that deliver five-star ratings for frontal- and side-impact protection from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the TSX V-6 even delivers a five-star rating for rollover protection. As for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), it gave the 2010 TSX Good ratings for front-, side- and rear-impact protection, but the car wasn't named a 2010 Top Safety pick due to not being tested for the new roof-strength test. Standard safety features for all 2010 Acura TSX models include six airbags, active head restraints, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock brake system, tire pressure monitoring system and vehicle stability assist.
The Acura TSX has always been a nice car for Accord drivers to trade up for, but with the addition of a V-6 for 2010, the luxury sedan finally adds more to the driving excitement. With a new suspension to match the bigger, more powerful engine, the 2010 Acura TSX V-6 finally gives Acura a sport sedan to go up against the entry-level sport luxury sedans from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. Fans of the TSX who demand slightly more interior room and versatility will be happy to learn that Acura introduced the station wagon variant of the TSX, the 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon, at the 2010 New York International Auto Show.
Select photos by Jeffrey N. Ross
Acura provided a vehicle for this review.