Driven: 2010 Acura TSX V6

September 17, 2010
Full confession: When I first heard Acura was putting a big, 3.5-liter V-6 into its TSX sport sedan, my response involved a shoulder shrug.

That's because the TSX didn't really need it; as we've said in previous drives, with the standard rev-happy 201-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine (especially with the six-speed manual gearbox), the TSX just feels right—light, nimble, and surprisingly responsive, as well as good on gas, and a great, lower-priced alternative to the base front-wheel-drive Audi A4.

That said, there's an ego thing, and while the allure of more cylinders and displacement is starting to fade, some luxury shoppers just have to have a V-6 with this type of sport sedan. For that, we found the TSX V6 a satisfying, well-rounded sport sedan that's just as much fun to drive as the four-banger—just in a different way.

At ease on the boulevard

As first impressions go, the V-6 is a smooth, torquey engine, with just a bit of baritone to reminding us there's no four-banger. Unlike the base car, which can get a little raucous when pressed, the V6 model comes with active noise cancellation, which further helps keep it feeling tight, quiet, and isolated from engine and road noise. As such, the TSX cruises around town effortlessly, with the transmission shifting smoothly and, in BMW style, not wasting revs when it doesn't have to use them. If you need more revs for the twisties, steering-wheel paddle shifters give you full command.

Overall, in nearly 400 miles of driving in the TSX V6—much of it on the Interstate—we averaged more than 23 mpg. Since about 50 of those miles were in dense city driving, it seems that the TSX V6's EPA rating of 18 mpg city, 27 highway is spot-on.

It's once you take to the twisties that the V-6 starts to lose some of its merit. It brings several hundred pounds to the TSX in all, and you can feel every bit of it as soon as you shift the weight around. The front tires don't turn in as precisely as we remember from the base TSX, and the car's added heft doesn't make it as much of a joy. The electric power steering is surprisingly good; it's tuned to be a bit on the firm side, but it still manages to impart a nice weighting and a little feel of the road. And we noticed no torque steer—a sign of some good front-end engineering.

More refined; not that much faster

Turns out, the TSX V-6 isn't really that much faster than the standard TSX. Car and Driver magazine, for instance, found that the V6 model gets to 60 in 6.1 seconds—only 0.6 seconds faster than the manual-transmission TSX four-cylinder.

We still really like the rest of the TSX's package. At just 186 inches long, it's shorter than most U.S. mid-size cars (it's related to the European Honda Accord) and is slightly longer and roomier than the BMW 3-Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The front seats are nice and well-bolstered, with plenty of legroom and just enough headroom, but there sure isn't much backseat space remaining if the front seats are toward the back of their travel. It proved difficult to accommodate a six-footer behind this 6'-6" driver, even when I scooted the seat forward a few inches.

Our test TSX V6 came with the Tech Package, which included a navigation system with real-time XM traffic and weather, voice commands, and a high-end Acura/ELS audio system with ten speakers and DVD Audio capability. An iPod-capable USB input is already included.

While the sound system was amazing we were extremely disappointed with the navigation system—quite possibly the poorest-performing nav unit we've experienced in recent memory. When navigating a traffic-bound Seattle, on unfamiliar streets, the system kept telling us to "take the second left," or "take the second right," only to find out that, when the system had told us that, we were already passing the intersection. When we stopped, the map was accurate, but as soon as we drove along, even at 30 mph on surface streets, it lagged a block or two behind and updated in a way that reminded us of a computer with an old processor that couldn't keep up with newer software. After trying several times, we gave up and used the CoPilot Live app on the iPhone instead.

V6 an alternative, but not a better value

Pricing is the major matter, though. Our TSX Tech V6 model totaled $38,760, which seemed like a pretty lofty sum—more than a BMW 328i or 328i xDrive, and just a couple grand short of the 335i. The 2010 Subaru Legacy GT and Nissan Maxima also come to mind and cost thousands less, but with them you don't get superior luxury-brand customer service.

Then there's Acura competing against itself. For less than a thousand dollars more than our TSX, you could get the roomier TL with the SH-AWD all-wheel drive system.

While the V6 model is a more refined, mature-feeling take on the TSX, it's the spirited Acura TSX four-cylinder model that makes sense. We'll say no more.

For additional takes on the TSX V6, along with specs, prices, related news, pictures, and more visit out full review of the 2010 Acura TSX.

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