It's simple, really -- at least at 1st. Acura fanatics are certain to start a list of their favorite marque's all-time greats with the now-legendary NSX. In the No. 2 slot would be the dearly departed Integra. The former brand staple remains sought-after in sporty coupe, practical sedan, and especially Type R trim.
After that, it's not so simple. Some may point to the original Legend (a cult classic, particularly as a coupe) or the short-lived RSX. But we'll make the case for the TSX, the reigning entry-level car of the Acura line in its 2nd generation and 7th model year. Though its upscale appeal has increased recently, the TSX stays true to the idolized Honda attributes enthusiasts revere: a rev-happy engine (at least the I-4), low-effort manual transmission, double A-arm suspension, and a taut ride that'll inspire a Joker-like grin. It's those attributes that make the TSX our prohibitive favorite for the No. 3 slot in the Acura family hall of fame.
Under the hood, Honda's 2.4-liter K series inline-4 is safeguarded with a 7100-rpm redline and smoothly screams its way to a peak of 201 horsepower at (dramatic pause) 7000 rpm. The all-aluminum mill employs dual overhead camshafts and intelligent VTEC, meaning the valvetrain's electronic wizardry is supplemented with the efficiency-minded Variable Timing Control. With the revs on tap and ready to zing, executive editor Ed Loh affirms the overall package "has shades of Miata-fun baked in."
It's a bit short on torque, with just 172 pound-feet (170 pound-feet with the 5-speed auto), but with Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 all-season performance tires you'll reel off a 0-60 time of 7 seconds flat. Keep the pedal pressed and the 3338-pound small sedan eventually finishes the quarter-mile in 15.4 seconds at 90.3 mph. After all, Acuras are not typically designed to blow the doors off in a straight line. The 6-speed manual cuts through the shift gates like butter and with typical Honda precision while clutch engagement is so light that you'd wonder if you're driving something with 100 less horsepower.
Chassis and suspension are, delightfully, vintage Honda. The finely tuned TSX is immensely communicable, courtesy of its hardened steel build, front and rear double A-arm suspension, and dual-mode dampers. A deflector plate stack inside the damper housing alters the internal oil flow rate to automatically adapt the damping rate for both leisurely and spritely driving. In the hands of the willing (or the maniacs), the car is deft at laterally distributing its weight without completely overwhelming the rolling rubber. On the highway, the ride borders on stiff, but will never send the driver or passenger into a numbed physical state. That's reserved for the NSX.
Unfortunately, the TSX's electric power steering and brakes leave us a bit wanting. The single-piston stoppers could use more initial bite, but get the job done from 60-to-0 mph in 130 feet. The heavily assisted steering makes for supremely easy operation, but doesn't give you a great sense of what the front wheels are doing. At times, the leather-wrapped helm feels like it's capable of continuous, unobstructed rotation; obviously, the vehicle's forward trajectory would have a different say in the matter.
To the consternation of many an Internet fan boi, Acura's Keen-Edge design theme parades itself on the outer hull, but not with as much assertion as the larger TL. The polarizing "power plenum"
grille on the nose could soon make way to the more subtle piece like the 1 exhibited on the inbound 2011 TSX Sport Wagon, but we'll be interested to learn how this model is viewed years after it has passed on.
Regardless of its debatable looks, the 2010 TSX is actually safer than its first-gen predecessor, thanks to improvements that helped it acquire the absolute top safety ratings from both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In its 461-mile stint with us, the TSX burned through 19.7 gallons of the sweetest 91-octane gasoline in California, achieving a real-world-verified 23.4 mpg. We made propitious use of the cruise control to help with highway fuel consumption, but once we settled into the supportive leather seat, it felt natural to mesh with the unburdening, logical interior interfaces and simply drive.
In this age of electronic nannies, power-this and assisted-that, the TSX has one Vehicle Stability Assist button and an organic touch about it that leads Loh to conclude it's "1 of the best manuals currently on the market."
The Integra and the NSX earned special commendation for what they did for the brand in its infancy. Loh asks, "Who needs more than this?"
Let's see how the TSX pans out. You never know -- maybe it'll move up a notch in a few years.
2010 Acura TSX
Base price $30,170
Price as Tested $30,170
Vehicle layout Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
Engine 2.4L/201-hp/172-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4
Transmission 6-speed manual
Curb weight (f/r dist) 3338 lb (59/41%)
Wheelbase 106.4 in
Length x width x height 186.1 x 72.4 x 56.7 in
0-60 mph 7.0 sec
Quarter mile 15.4 sec @ 90.3 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 130 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.81 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 27.5 sec
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 20/28 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.85 lb/mile