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How many more favorable reviews can we take? ;)

2004 Acura TSX
TSX stands out in its field

LIKES

Value-priced

Smooth power

Luxury refinement

DISLIKES

Slippery armrest

No Type-S (yet)

Staid styling

OTHERS CONSIDERED

Infiniti G35

Jaguar X-type

Saab 9-3


HOW APPROPRIATE THAT at least one Acura dealer out there surprised a customer by presenting her with flowers upon delivery of her new 2004 TSX. Whether the bouquet was roses or not is immaterial— in this case the car is the rose, by whatever brand name the Japanese automaker decides to stick on its decklid.

In the TSX, U.S. buyers finally get a car based on the non-U.S. Honda Accord, the smaller, narrower, sportier Euro-Accord that debuted in late 2002.

As an Acura, TSX gets all the refined appointments and sporting character we’ve come to expect from Honda’s luxury lineup, backed by Honda reliability and precision build quality, all wrapped up in a Euro- performance package. Standard luxury goodies covered by the $26,990 base sticker price include perforated leather seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel with remote audio and cruise controls, power sunroof, a 360-watt audio system with eight speakers, dual-zone climate control, power windows and door locks and keyless entry. Toss in the optional Acura navigation system with voice recognition as the only option for $2,000.

TSX’s only engine is the 2.4-liter, 16-valve, dohc i-VTEC aluminum alloy four-cylinder, rated at 200 hp at 6800 rpm and 166 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm. The lack of a V6 engine option was actually a draw for most buyers, who saw the four-cylinder as more than powerful enough while also offering better fuel economy than a six.

Transmission choices include a close-ratio six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic with an autostick. Four-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control with traction control, rack-and-pinion steering, and 17-inch alloy wheels fitted with V-rated all-season performance tires complete the package.

We raised an eyebrow when Acura suggested competition for the front-drive TSX would come not just from front/all-wheel-drivers like Audi A4, Volvo S40, Volkswagen Jetta and Passat and Nissan Altima, but also from rear-drivers like BMW 325, Lexus IS 300 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Turns out Acura’s assessment was spot-on with AutoWeek readers, who reported considering or previously owning many of those marques before choosing TSX. Buyers told us they considered almost all of those models, as well as Infiniti’s G35, the Jaguar X-type and Saab 9-3. Perhaps unexpected (or maybe just left unmentioned by Acura) was that buyers also passed on Acura CL and TL models, as well as the Accord coupe, en route to settling on TSX.

For buyers seeking sportiness in an upscale package, TSX fills the niche, competing head-to-head with more expensive competitors for interior quiet and comfort—with just a trace of a nice raspy exhaust note. And while rugged levels of torque steer are often the norm in front-drive sports cars, we detected not a trace of sideways pull, even under severe acceleration from a standing- start. We found the engine and drivetrain very smooth across the powerband.

TSX also received high marks in handling, offering quick steering response and smooth sailing through the slalom. On the skidpad (with stability control off), we found the handling very predictable and throttle-controllable, without any bump-induced upset.

The Accord coupe, at a nearly identical curb weight, is still a better choice for performance-oriented buyers, according to our test results. Compared to the Accord we tested (AW, March 3), the TSX was more than a second slower from 0 to 60 mph and almost a second slower in the quarter-mile. The TSX and the Accord coupe were comparable in roll-ing acceleration from 20 to 40 mph, and in braking.

Performance aside, owners told us the Acura’s high level of standard equipment vs. the competition made their purchase decision easy. They lauded TSX’s interior appointments (and its blue-hued ambient illumination, in particular), as well as its somewhat staid exterior styling. Said one owner, “The TSX has been criticized by the media for bland styling, but it will look better in five or 10 years than many new cars with more gimmicky styling.”

Kind of like a rose.

OWNERS SAY...

The TSX is a world-class bargain with none of the irritating quality problems of German marques. I was looking for something that was front-drive, fun and rock solid with all the technology for under $30K—you can’t do any better than this. I considered a G35 coupe but it wouldn’t make it up my driveway in the snow, and I didn’t feel that it was worth $7K more. The only complaint I have is the adjustable armrest doesn’t stay in place.
Rick Hasemeier, Trenton, Ohio

After six years with a Subaru Outback I was looking for something sportier. I checked out the WRX, but it had very pricey lease deals. Also considered the BMW 325i and Audi A4. The TSX was much better equipped than the other cars at roughly the same price, and I was also offer-ed a much better deal. The car performs flawlessly. The engine is smooth, the six-speed is very slick and the suspension delivers sure, taut handling without harshness. At 200 hp, the car is not super quick, but delivers more than enough acceleration in most circumstances.
Stephen Bogart, Brooklyn, N.Y.

My TSX replaced a 2000 Acura 3.2TL. I wanted something a little smaller, sportier and with a manual. The transmission is a joy to shift, the action is slick and precise. The engine revs quickly and sounds great, and the turn signals on the side mirrors are a neat feature. Overall styling is good, creature comforts are great and it’s a pleasure to drive. I considered the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Saab 9-3. The Acura was a much better value.
Andrew Gardner, Lexington, Ky.

The only other car I looked at was the BMW 3 Series. But when compared to the 325i, the TSX is a bargain. The standard equipment on this Acura would cost thousands more as options on the BMW. It has a four-cylinder engine that only Honda can build, it’s fast, and still averages 27 mpg. It has great traction and confident cornering ability, with reliability BMW can’t match.
David Solomon, Boynton Beach, Fla.

MANUFACTURER INFO
Acura Automobile Division
American Honda Motor Co.
1919 Torrance Blvd.
Torrance CA 90501
Customer assistance: (800) 382-2238
Internet address: acura.com
Country of origin: Japan
Number of dealers: 262
STICKER
Base: $26,990
As tested (includes $500 delivery): $28,990
Owners paid; average: $26,049 to $29,386; $27,356
OPTIONS AS TESTED
Navigation system ($2,000)
OTHER MAJOR OPTIONS
Five-speed automatic (no charge)
CHASSIS
Unibody four-door sedan
DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase (in): 105.1
Track (in): 59.6 front, 59.6 rear
Length/width/height (in): 183.3/69.4/57.3
Curb weight/GVWR (lbs): 3241/4300
CAPACITIES
Fuel (gal): 17.1
Cargo (cu ft): 12.8
ENGINE
Front-transverse 2.4-liter/143.6-cid dohc I4
Horsepower: 200 @ 6800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 166 @ 4500 rpm
Compression ratio: 10.5:1
Fuel requirement: 87 octane
DRIVETRAIN
Front-wheel drive
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Final drive ratio: 4.7:1
SUSPENSION
Front: Double-wishbone with coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers and antiroll bar
Rear: Multilink double-wishbone with coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers and antiroll bar
BRAKES/WHEELS/TIRES
Discs front and rear, ABS
Aluminum 215/50R-17
Michelin Pilot HX MXM4
STANDING-START ACCELERATION
0-60 mph: 7.38 sec
0-100 km/h (62.1 mph): 7.83 sec
0-quarter-mile (89.7 mph): 15.6 sec
ROLLING ACCELERATION
20-40 mph (second gear): 2.9 sec
40-60 mph (third gear): 4.1 sec
60-80 mph (fourth gear): 6.0 sec
BRAKING
60 mph-0: 135 ft
HANDLING
490-foot slalom: 43.4 mph
Lateral acceleration
(200-foot skidpad): 0.83 g
INTERIOR NOISE (dBA)
Idle: 39
Full throttle: 73
Steady 60 mph: 59
FUEL MILEAGE
EPA combined: 25.0 mpg
AW overall: 23.5 mpg
 
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