2012 Acura TSX Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 18, 2012

With attractive designs and a light, efficient driving feel, the 2012 Acura TSX lineup strikes an ideal balance for a front-wheel-drive sport sedan or sport wagon.

Acura's TSX models are sporty compacts, just short of mid-size, and aimed toward those who want a premium look and feel with a little more comfort and practicality compared to traditional sport sedans like the BMW 3-Series or Infiniti G37.

The TSX is sized in the same range as those models, but its interior is roomier than most--in back-seat space, especially. The majority of the TSX lineup comes in sedan form, though last year Acura brought the wagon back, albeit only in four-cylinder form, as the TSX Sport Wagon. 

Based on the European-market Honda Accord, the TSX has a attractive styling inside and out—particularly in wagon form--though it does have its low points. The latest, much-maligned Acura grille that's ingloriously been dubbed a "bionic beaver" was very slightly softened last year, but otherwise these are nicely proportioned vehicles on the outside. The cabin's more overtly handsome, with a gentle arc that spans the dash, plus cleanly designed, high-quality materials and easy-to-use controls.

The base engine on the TSX sedan (and the only one in the Sport Wagon) remains a 201-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, and it's spunky and more than adequate with either the six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission (Sport Wagon shoppers also have to stick with the automatic). The available 280-hp V-6 adds some serious punch--and the capable chassis makes the most of its power and torque, despite front-wheel drive--but the four is plenty strong for these models' size and weight. Steering and ride are very European in feel, tuned to be on the taut side though not punishing. Gas mileage is pretty good for the four, at up to 22 mpg city, 31 highway, with the V-6 achieving 19/28.

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As the smallest sedan in the Acura range, the TSX has less interior space than the larger TL and RL models; but the difference isn't as significant as you might think. Front seats are impressive, with multi-adjustments and good comfort for a wide range of sizes; back seats are contoured for adults, but legroom and headroom could be tight for six-footers. Sedans get a surprisingly roomy trunk, while Sport Wagon models for this year get 5.7 cubic feet more space. How so? Acura's done away with the spare tire completely, replacing it with a repair kit.

The 2012 Acura TSX is an IIHS Top Safety Pick--reassuring if you're choosing it as a family vehicle--although we've found outboard visibility to be a little tough. Its features set is impressive, too, but it's missing some of the leading safety-tech options like blind-spot warning or active cruise control. A USB port, Bluetooth, XM, and leather seating with heated, powered front buckets are all on the standard-feature list. And while we see the available power tailgate as silly here, we'd definitely stand behind the available Tech Package, which brings upgraded audio and a hard-drive navigation system.

This year, Acura has also added a TSX Special Edition that adds to the four-cylinder model a more aggressive front-end appearance, side sills, and five-spoke polished-finish alloys.

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2012 Acura TSX

Styling

For the most part, the 2012 Acura TSX is smartly styled and cleanly designed as a sedan or wagon.

Based on the European-market Honda Accord, the TSX has a attractive styling inside and out—particularly in wagon form--though it does have its low points.

The latest, much-maligned Acura grille that's ingloriously been dubbed a "bionic beaver" was very slightly softened last year, but otherwise these are nicely proportioned vehicles on the outside. The crisp-edged flanks, and generally modern, high-tech look of the TSX sedan is aimed right at younger professionals who don't cling to European brands—but still want a clean, conservative look.

The cabin's more overtly handsome, with a gentle arc that spans the dash, plus cleanly designed, high-quality materials and easy-to-use controls. An arcade of silvery plastic hones some of the visual weight from the dash, and the touchy bits never let on any lower-rent vibes. Wood trim is available, if you really want it, but in our opinion it doesn't really fit the character of the car. 

This year, Acura has also added a TSX Special Edition that adds to the four-cylinder model a more aggressive front-end appearance, side sills, and five-spoke polished-finish alloys.

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2012 Acura TSX

Performance

The Acura TSX handles well for a front-wheel-drive sedan, and while the four-cylinder has enough gusto the V-6 adds some extra punch.

The 2012 Acura TSX isn't quite as performance-focused as some finely honed sport sedans like the Infiniti G37 or BMW 3-Series, but it does offer a sportier personality, as well as a more engaging experience behind the wheel, compared to most other luxury sedans its size.

A 201-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine remains the base offering on the TSX sedan (and the only one in the Sport Wagon). And we think most shoppers will be happy with it; the four is spunky and more than adequate with either the six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission (Sport Wagon shoppers also have to stick with the automatic).

The available 280-hp V-6 adds some serious punch, and the capable chassis makes the most of its power and torque, despite front-wheel drive--but the four is plenty strong for these models' size and weight. What's more, the TSX V-6 weighs more in front, which means its handling response isn't quite as crisp.

Steering and ride are very European in feel, tuned to be on the taut side though not punishing. The four-cylinder TSX sedan and wagon are fitted with electric power steering, but the sensations coming from the long-telescope steering wheel create one of the better driving simulations out there. Ride comfort is swell, a fine mix of taut control through the suspension and a good amount of give and take from the passive all-season tires.

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2012 Acura TSX

Comfort & Quality

The 2012 Acura TSX impresses with its cabin appointments and great front seats--and the wagon's utility is impressive--but a tight back seat could be a limiting factor.

The TSX is the smallest sedan in the Acura range; and while it definitely has less interior space than the larger TL and RL sedans, the difference isn't as significant as you might think. Excellent seats, a good driving position, reasonable cargo space, and good ride comfort all make the TSX a little more useful, altogether, than many other sedans that have a sporty edge.

Front seats are impressive, with multi-adjustments and good comfort for a wide range of sizes--although some won't be happy with their almost overly firm feel. Back seats are contoured for adults, but legroom and headroom could be tight for six-footers.

Sedans get a surprisingly roomy trunk, while Sport Wagon models for this year get 5.7 cubic feet more space. How so? Acura's done away with the spare tire completely, replacing it with a repair kit. Across all the models, there are plenty of in-cabin pockets and compartments, And if it isn't obvious from a first glance, we think that the Sport Wagon is far roomier than the larger, heavier, less useful and mostly ridiculous Acura ZDX crossover.

Comfort and quality of the TSX are just shy of top-notch, but they're right on par for the mid-size luxury sedan segment. Ride quality is on the firm side, yet compliant enough for most rough roads; and the only issue some might find is that road noise can be obtrusive on some surfaces. Cabin materials are nothing special in themselves, but they're all well-coordinated, with good fit and finish.

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2012 Acura TSX

Safety

The 2012 Acura TSX doesn't boast any of the active-safety extras offered in some luxury-brand rivals, but its ratings are assuring.

The 2012 Acura TSX is an IIHS Top Safety Pick--reassuring if you're choosing it as a family vehicle--although we've found outboard visibility to be a little tough.

Its features set is impressive, with all the expected items, plus active headrests, but it's missing some of the leading safety-tech options like blind-spot warning or active cruise control; a rearview camera system is optional, though. 

The TSX keeps its "good" ratings from the IIHS in all categories, including the new-roof crush test; but it hasn't yet been rated in the revised federal NCAP tests.
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2012 Acura TSX

Features

The 2012 Acura TSX is richly equipped when you add the Tech Package, yet it's not at the tech forefront.

The 2012 Acura TSX comes with a good set of convenience and comfort features--including excellent audio and navigation systems. A USB port, Bluetooth, XM, and leather seating with heated, powered front buckets are all on the standard-feature list. And while we see the available power tailgate for the wagon as silly here, we'd definitely stand behind the available Tech Package, which brings upgraded audio (ten-speaker, 425-watt) and navigation, plus a rear camera system.

This year, Acura has also added a TSX Special Edition that adds to the four-cylinder model a more aggressive front-end appearance, side sills, and five-spoke polished-finish alloys.

As much as the TSX covers the bases, though, it's still missing some extras, like adaptive cruise control, active parking aids, rear seat heaters, or accident-avoidance features--the sorts of items that are slowly trickling down from flagship luxury models.
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2012 Acura TSX

Fuel Economy

The 2012 Acura TSX gets good mileage if you consider it a sport sedan, but unimpressive mileage if you see it as a luxury or mid-size one.

The 2012 Acura TSX does a good job in straddling several purposes, ranging from sensible family commuter to sport sedan; and considering its broad focus, it's a reasonably green choice.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the TSX Wagon at 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway; the sedan earns ratings of 21/29 mpg for the four-cylinder manual, while the automatic boasts 21/31 mpg.

Go for the V-6, and you won't end up paying much more for gas sedan still is rated at a fairly strong 22/30 mpg. It’s an especially good showing, considering the extra 79 horsepower on tap.

And that leads us back to the four. While we've seen better real-world numbers with the four than with the V-6, it's worth pointing out that a wide range of (larger) mid-size sedans now get better ratings than the TSX--so some shoppers might be a bit disappointed. The diesel version of the TSX that had been in the works was canceled, and there's no hybrid option.

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