2005 Acura TSX Review

2005 Acura TSX - Curb appeal.


Entry-level cars once were boring and cheesy, with little standard equipment. Then automakers came up with under-$35,000 "near luxury'' models for those who couldn't afford "pure'' luxury cars. Next came "entry'' versions of near-luxury models, as automakers filled more market niches for higher volumes.

The front-drive TSX sedan was introduced in early 2003 as a 2004 entry model by Honda's Acura luxury vehicle division, with prime rivals being the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

To keep the price below $29,000, Acura based the fun-to-drive TSX on a 6-inch-shorter and slightly narrower version of the more performance-oriented Honda Accord it sells in Europe. It "Americanized'' the car, making it more powerful and luxurious for the U.S. market.

Besides beefing up the rigidly constructed TSX to make it a genuine sports sedan, Acura loaded it with such a wealth of convenience and luxury equipment that a navigation system with a voice recognition feature is one of few options.

Standard items include heat- ed leather seats, power sunroof, air conditioning with dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, premium sound system with an in-dash six-disc CD changer and power windows, mirrors and locks with remote keyless entry.

Safety items include anti-lock brakes, traction control, anti-skid system, front side air bags and curtain side air bags.

New for 2005 are heated sideview mirrors, a front power passenger seat to accompany the power driver's seat and standard XM satellite radio.

Styling is crisp, but not striking. Honda generally likes conservative styling, as does Acura. However, prominent dual exhaust outlets show the TSX means business.

Colors are important to make the TSX stand out, such as the new Arctic Blue Metallic paint on my test car. An even better new color is the Milano Red. For 2005, an Ebony leather interior is offered on the TSX with that red paint.

The sticker price is $26,990 with either a six-speed manual or no-extra-cost five-speed automatic transmission.

The close-ratio manual gearbox shifts slickly and works with a long-throw, light-action clutch. The responsive automatic transmission has an easily used manual shift feature.

A navigation system raises the car's price to $28,990 with either manual or automatic transmissions. It takes some time to learn that system, which has a dashboard screen that displays information for the audio, climate control and navigation systems. My test car had the system, but most buyers probably could live without it and save a few thousand bucks.

The TSX is a hit, with or without the navigation system. It fits between the less practical Acura RSX coupe and larger TL sedan. Acura hopes TSX buyers eventually will move up to its costlier TL and RL sedans.

"Acura sold more than 30,000 TSX models last year, which is a high number for such a relatively new car,'' said Acura spokesman Mike Spencer. "The TSX is aimed at young, hip, technically astute buyers with a median age of 35. They have an emotional attachment to their cars, but require a rational base to support their purchases.''

While a blast to drive, the TSX is very "rational.'' It has everything from oversized outside door handles to room for five tall adults in the quiet, nicely designed interior -- although the firm middle of the rear seat makes it seem best to flip down the center armrest back there. Rear door openings also are rather narrow.

Front sport seats provide exceptional side support for spirited driving, and the backlit gauges are easy to scan quickly. The power driver's seat and tilt-telescopic steering wheel allow drivers of various sizes to easily get comfortable,

The large trunk has a wide, rather high opening. Flip-down split seatbacks with releases in the trunk enlarge the cargo area, although they don't sit perfectly flat when folded forward. And the opening from the trunk to the rear-seat area should be a little larger.

Powering the TSX is a sophisticated dual-overhead-camshaft 2.4-liter engine with 200 horsepower. The quiet four-cylinder, 16-valve engine has variable valve timing to provide a broad power band, but still calls for high revs to deliver the best punch. It whisks the TSX to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds.

While the engine revs smoothly and quickly, a V-6 would be nicer for better low-end torque and faster off-the-line acceleration. But don't hold your breath because cylinder-stingy Honda prefers four-cylinder engines except for its most expensive Acura vehicles, which get a V-6 while rivals offer V-8s.

However, four-cylinder engines often are more economical -- at least on highways -- even in high-performance TSX form. The car's estimated fuel economy with the manual is 21 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway, or 22 and 31 with the efficient automatic.

The high-spirited TSX always seems to want to go faster. It has exceptionally sharp handling with its sophisticated all-independent suspension and big 17-inch wheels and tires; it almost feels as if it has a more balanced rear-drive design like a BMW's. While quick, the power steering has a stiff, rather artificial feel. The ride is comfortably taut, and stopping distances are short, with nicely linear brake pedal action.

Quality of the TSX is illustrated by such things as its precise body panel fits, refined feel and classy interior materials. It won't visually impress neighbors who don't look closely at it, but provides envious driving kicks.



Persuasive mix of power, handling, luxury and practicality. High quality.

Conservative styling. Quick-but-stiff steering. Long-throw clutch.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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