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For $26,490 you can have new a four-door Acura TSX.

That is, you can get a car that is currently sold in Europe and Japan as the Honda (nyse: HMC - news - people ) Accord and rebadged in this country as an Acura. See, we get an Accord that's bigger inside than the one that the carmaker sells in its home market and to Europeans.

So to sell us the smaller Japanese/Euro Accord (and to fill a hole in its upscale Acura lineup), the carmaker has revised the car by adding goodies such as standard stability control, leather, multiple airbags and a more powerful version of the same 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that sells in the lower-rung but larger American Accord.
Confused? You will be.

The TSX not only has less cabin room than an American-market Accord sedan, but it also has about 20% less horsepower than the top-of-the-line $25,800 Accord V-6 sedan that comes with a leather interior. Wait, it costs MORE to get a car that's smaller inside and has a smaller, weaker engine? Why?

Click here to see a video clip of the Acura TSX.

One big reason: You cannot get the American Accord Sedan with a V-6 and Honda's fantastic six-speed manual gearbox. To get both the big engine and that gearbox, you have to get the Accord Coupe, which has about the same interior dimensions as the TSX, but lacks back doors, so it's a less convenient car to own overall.

The TSX is a smaller car, so it handles better than the larger Accord Sedan, and several suspension modifications ensure that the TSX is tauter-riding than the Accord Coupe. Also, you get a swankier interior, and that Acura badge. Don't discount the latter: Acura dealers are some of the most pleasant in the business. J.D. Power and Associates' 2002 Customer Satisfaction Index put Acura well ahead of the likes of BMW, Jaguar and even Porsche--and several rungs above Honda, as well.

Then again, Honda isn't the only carmaker playing chassis games. Volkswagen (otc: VLKAY - news - people ) sells the Audi A4 on the same chassis as the VW Passat for a competitive $26,700 and that gets you quattro all-wheel-drive. Nissan (nasdaq: NSANY - news - people ) wisely uses the same chassis as the 350Z sports car for its $27,800 Infiniti G35 sedan (which is larger inside, handles exceptionally well and is more powerful than the TSX). And let's not forget BMW, which sells the 325i for $28,495.

So much competition muddies the picture even more. Can the Acura TSX play in this field, is it worth what it costs, or would you be happier in the Honda Accord or one of those other near-luxury models?

HIGHS:
Silky ride, ideal four-door commuter car, fun at higher speeds.

LOWS:
Tough competition, an engine that needs to rev to develop accelerative muscle.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Test Drives

Acura is in a strange boat.

As Jerry Flint pointed out recently, there's dissonance between the luxury division of Honda and the values of American consumers who favor more and more power, and bigger and bigger products. Meanwhile what made Honda great in the first place--"right-sized" vehicles with character, but not overt brashness--now works at the economy-end of the market only. But Honda/Acura has a pair of aces: stellar quality and a history of making superb engines and transmissions.

That dovetails pretty much with what you'd expect of the TSX, as well:

• It looks sharp, but reserved and, from some angles, bland.

• The car is quick enough to 60 mph (figure 6.6 seconds), besting times of its rivals from BMW and Audi at least.

• It's not huge inside, but comfortable for four adults.

I drove it and came away thinking all of the above and a few things more, as well. My tester had a lovely vanilla-hued interior (more befitting a Mercedes than you might imagine) with standard leather and a ring of lightly stained maple trim running around the dash and doors.

There are also unique gauges that glow a whitish-blue LED hue whether the headlamps are on or off. This makes them more legible than most indicators, even in direct sunlight, a lesson a few carmakers should learn from. I also like the on-steering-wheel audio and cruise controls. These reside at the sides of the T in the tri-spoke wheel so you won't accidentally knock a button and change the CD track. There's also dual-zone automatic climate control, a stock sunroof and a 360-watt audio system that delivers pristine musical reproduction. The driver's seat also adjusts electrically, and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes.

The TSX packs a lot more than the usual "near-luxury" accoutrements. However, as we've beefed before, skip the optional navigation system. Acura's system is excellent and easy to use, but for the $2,000 additional, Acura makes your life more annoying. It's not just that if you want to change a radio-station preset you have to hit three buttons. The system operates via a touch-sensitive screen and extremes of temperature can create real havoc. One cold morning (in the mid-30 degrees Fahrenheit) we hopped in the car and the fan was blowing full blast in our faces.

We thought we could remedy that easily enough: Just turn the fan down until the car warms up, right? Nope. You have to first hit a disclaimer OK button before you can operate anything on the LCD panel (which says something like, "I have read these instructions and agree not to do anything stupid like look at the map instead of the road"). Said button is on the LCD panel, which was too frigid to sense our rapidly freezing digits, and we were unable to make any adjustments whatsoever. Instead we had to sit in the car and pray that the last temperature setting wasn't MAX COOL.

Whose idea was this anyway? Remember simple buttons? Why must we be held hostage by more technology than is necessary?

Anyway, luckily the day warmed up nicely, and eventually we were able to operate these ancillary controls with thawed fingers. Speaking of which, this car has a meaty steering wheel and chunky six-speed shifter, and the tandem provides most of the fun the TSX has to offer.
Handling is great. Like the Accord Coupe, this car has highly communicative steering, zero-torque steer (save at very high rpms) and feels far more athletic than you'd expect. There's chassis roll, sure, but it's not unpredictable, so you can eyeball your path through a turn and toe that line perfectly, so long as you don't push exceptionally hard. If you do, the car might chart wide of your target, but the front-wheel-drive TSX will also tighten its line with a squeeze of the gas if you keep the motor on simmer, above 3,000 rpm.

Let the revs drop below that point and you won't get bucking or hesitation--you won't get much propulsion, either. Yes, like all of Honda's excellent four-cylinder engines, this one likes to sing at a higher pitch, and because peak torque doesn't kick in until well past 4,000 rpm, you'd better like the tune of the TSX's powerplant because you're going to hear it.
We think most buyers will like this mechanical song, though. The 2.4-liter motor is hooked to a freer-flowing exhaust and makes a nicely resonant, racing-car growl. Okay, a refined racing car, but there's a little menace back there, behind the curtain. Kick the motor up above 5,500 rpm and you'll hear it for certain.

Also praiseworthy is the six-speed gearbox, which is just like that of the Accord Coupe--dead solid perfect with an easy feel that always tells you your precise gear no matter the circumstances.

Oh yes, I almost forgot--there's also a backseat in this car! These split and fold flat to make room for a bike, or anything else bulky, and when upright are perfectly adequate (though legroom isn't exceptional, it's fine for sub-six-footers) for most adult passengers.

So, sure, the TSX is practical as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Should You Buy This Car?

Remember when we compared the TSX with the BMW 325i, Audi A4 and Infiniti G35? That wasn't quite fair. The BMW only gets 184 horsepower and is slower to 60 mph, the Audi will cost you about $30,000 if you start to add on all the things that come standard on the TSX (leather, sunroof, front seat heaters, premium audio system), and the G35 also gets pricier if you want leather, jumping to $29,100.

So the Acura is suddenly a bargain? Well, no. It's a fair deal for a fun car, and it strikes a good balance between excellent handling and a relaxed disposition. If I had a 100-mile daily commute, I'd be happy in this compartment because the transmission shifts so easily, so it doesn't feel like work. That said, we'd also be comfortable in the Accord Coupe, and we like Honda's V-6 better than the four-cylinder under this hood because it's more forgiving of low-rpm driving.

We also think the G35 is a steal because it's a bigger car but not a significantly more expensive one.

Best bet? Drive all three. You won't go wrong. Unless you really want a BMW or Audi, in which case would you even look at an Acura? That's what we thought.

Like all current Mercedes, the TSX gets on-mirror turn signals, so SUV drivers can see the TSX more easily.
 

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Specs
Manufacturer Contact: the Acura Web site

MSRP: $26,490

Color Options: Satin Silver, Meteor Silver, White, Red, Blue, Gray, Black

Suspension Type: front: Independent, double-wishbone with coil springs and stabilizer bar; rear: Independent multi-link double-wishbone with coil springs and stabilizer bar

Acceleration: 0 to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds

Engine Type: 16-valve, DOHC four-cylinder, 2.4-liter

Horsepower: 200 hp @ 6,800 rpm

Torque: 166 foot-pounds @ 4,500 rpm

EPA Mileage: 21 city / 29 highway


http://www.forbes.com/2003/05/05/cx_mf_0505test.html
 
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Having recently test driven the 03 Accord V6/Navi and the 04 TSX/Navi, here are a few comparisons.


NAVIGATION:

Same excellent navigation system on both cars. Yes, this Navi system kicks butt!! I consider it as the best built-in unit available, period. It is a vast improvement over the previous standalone version in the older Acura's as well as 03 Honda Oddessy. It has more built in coverage, and sports an easy to see, easy to hear trip routing.

The Accord version uses a slightly smaller screen, however it makes up for this with better readability (too bad the TSX uses a hi-res display in lo-res mode). The TSX has a nicer buttons, with a better feel than the plain buttons of the Accord.

Now the integrated climate control system... that's another story! It suffers usability problems on the both the TSX/Accord. It tries to guess what you what and where you want it. But damnit, if I want low heat to the feet, you'll be fighting wth the system each time you turn on the car. Me thinks it is missing a simple "ON" button to resume prior settings. Instead they just give you a stupid "AUTO" button that switches it on without regard to user direction (FAN SPEED or FAN LOCATION). In fact, when you turn it on, it won't even tell you what FAN SPEED or FAN LOCATION it has choosen for you. This is a major bug, which I really hope they correct in the next DVD firmware upgrade.


OUTSIDE/LOOKS:

The exterior of the Accord V6 Sedan is way too plain. The TSX adds substance to both the front and rear. There is an excellent "light blue" color available on the TSX. I forget the name, but whoa, it blew the socks off me. Deck lid spoiler is an option on the Accord, where it is built in on the TSX.

The TSX also has the dimming rear and side mirrors which the standard EX Accord lacks. (Dimming rear mirror is available as an option on the Accord, however no side mirror). The TSX has 17" wheels, the Accord V6 has 16".


INTERIOR:

Nice color accents on the TSX, with silver controls on the black steering wheel and better dash layout than the Accord. The TSX had a recessed cover for the cupholders. However the Accord actually had "fingers" inside the cupholder which the TSX lacked. Another neat detail, only available on the Accord, is that you can access the trunk through a keyed portal behind the pull down center rear console.

ENGINE/POWER:

I prefer the power of the 240hp V6 to the 200hp TSX, but I must say, if you're looking for a manual 6 speed sedan, the TSX is for you!



SUMMARY

All in all, both are very nice cars. I'd go with the Accord V6 EX/Navi for auto, and TSX/Navi for manual tranny.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
esoplan said:
Having recently test driven the 03 Accord V6/Navi and the 04 TSX/Navi, here are a few comparisons.


NAVIGATION:

Same excellent navigation system on both cars. Yes, this Navi system kicks butt!! I consider it as the best built-in unit available, period. It is a vast improvement over the previous standalone version in the older Acura's as well as 03 Honda Oddessy. It has more built in coverage, and sports an easy to see, easy to hear trip routing.

The Accord version uses a slightly smaller screen, however it makes up for this with better readability (too bad the TSX uses a hi-res display in lo-res mode). The TSX has a nicer buttons, with a better feel than the plain buttons of the Accord.

Now the integrated climate control system... that's another story! It suffers usability problems on the both the TSX/Accord. It tries to guess what you what and where you want it. But damnit, if I want low heat to the feet, you'll be fighting wth the system each time you turn on the car. Me thinks it is missing a simple "ON" button to resume prior settings. Instead they just give you a stupid "AUTO" button that switches it on without regard to user direction (FAN SPEED or FAN LOCATION). In fact, when you turn it on, it won't even tell you what FAN SPEED or FAN LOCATION it has choosen for you. This is a major bug, which I really hope they correct in the next DVD firmware upgrade.


OUTSIDE/LOOKS:

The exterior of the Accord V6 Sedan is way too plain. The TSX adds substance to both the front and rear. There is an excellent "light blue" color available on the TSX. I forget the name, but whoa, it blew the socks off me. Deck lid spoiler is an option on the Accord, where it is built in on the TSX.

The TSX also has the dimming rear and side mirrors which the standard EX Accord lacks. (Dimming rear mirror is available as an option on the Accord, however no side mirror). The TSX has 17" wheels, the Accord V6 has 16".


INTERIOR:

Nice color accents on the TSX, with silver controls on the black steering wheel and better dash layout than the Accord. The TSX had a recessed cover for the cupholders. However the Accord actually had "fingers" inside the cupholder which the TSX lacked. Another neat detail, only available on the Accord, is that you can access the trunk through a keyed portal behind the pull down center rear console.

ENGINE/POWER:

I prefer the power of the 240hp V6 to the 200hp TSX, but I must say, if you're looking for a manual 6 speed sedan, the TSX is for you!



SUMMARY

All in all, both are very nice cars. I'd go with the Accord V6 EX/Navi for auto, and TSX/Navi for manual tranny.
thx for the review makes me want to go test drive the accord v6 too .:D
 
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