2009 Acura TSX Review

2009 Acura TSX - Still fun.


<a href='/usedcars/Acura/TSX/2009/'>2009 Acura TSX</a>PROS  Good fuel economy, Great ride/handling compromise, Lots of technology

CONS  Cramped rear seat, Too many buttons and knobs

Acura's first vehicle, the Legend, tempted midsize-car buyers with a bevy of first-class features at a business-class price.  In a way, Acura bridged the gap between mainstream and luxury automobiles to create the entry-luxury segment.

Previously, midsize-car buyers who wanted luxury features had to step up in price for vehicles from BMW, Cadillac, Lincoln, or Mercedes-Benz. But now, with the help of vehicles like the Legend and later TL, this new entry-level luxury segment exploded in popularity.

Gradually, Acura began to move its vehicles upmarket, making them larger and more expensive. Eventually, it was necessary for Acura to introduce a smaller and less expensive vehicle to the North American market. The original attempt was a five-cylinder sedan called the Vigor.

Vigor didn't last long but it paved the way for an even smaller vehicle called the TSX. It sported compact-car dimensions but was loaded with luxury features and a zippy four-cylinder engine. TSX sold well and gained a toe-hold with American buyers who wanted a sporty luxury sedan at an affordable price.

For 2009, Acura has redesigned the TSX, giving it new styling and additional features. The front-drive sedan is again Acura's smallest car and it shares its basic design with the European-market Honda Accord. Though interior dimensions are little changed, the 2009 TSX 2.5 inches longer and three inches wider than the model it replaces. It still seats five on front buckets and a three-place rear bench seat. TSX competes with vehicles like the Audi A4, BMW 1-Series, Lexus IS, Saab 9-3, and Volvo S40.

Two models of the TSX are offered, Base and Base with Technology package. Both are powered by a 201-horsepower four-cylinder engine. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic that includes a manual mode and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Standard safety features include antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, front-seat active head restraints, tire-pressure monitor, daytime running lights, and dual-front, front-side airbags, and curtain-side airbags.

Vehicle Tested

2009 Acura TSX with Technology Package
Base Price:
As-Tested Price: $32,820
Built in Japan. 



Engine: DOHC 2.4-liter four-cylinder
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive Wheels:
front-wheel drive

The Base model comes standard with dual-zone automatic control, tilt-telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, cruise control, leather upholstery, heated front bucket seats, eight-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustment, memory system, four-way power passenger seat, center console, split-folding rear seat, heated power mirrors with turn signals, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, sunroof, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with digital-media connection, satellite radio, Bluetooth cell-phone link, rear defogger, automatic-off headlights, floormats, theft-deterrent system, HID headlights, fog lights, 225/50VR17 tires, and alloy wheels.

Base with Technology Package adds navigation system with voice recognition, traffic and weather information, rearview camera, AM/FM radio with in-dash 6-disc CD/MP3/DVD Audio changer, and 415-watt sound system.

The Base TSX sells for $28,960. Technology Package models have a list price of $32,060. All models have a destination charge of $760 and are built in Japan. As per Acura practice, there are no factory-installed options available for the TSX.

Get Up and Go  Acura's TSX isn't the fastest entry-level luxury sedan on the market, but the 201-horsepower engine has more than enough power to keep up in traffic and safely pass on two-lane roads. Given an aggressive throttle foot and some slick shifting, it's easy to post sub-eight second zero to 60 mph times. The engine's high-strung nature--maximum horsepower is produced at a lofty 7000 rpm-forces drivers to probe a little deeper into the throttle before the engine rewards with a lusty boost in thrust.

Helping things along is a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission. Clutch action is surprisingly light and the throws are sports-car short.

Though premium-grade fuel is recommended for best economy and performance, the TSX will run fine on regular-grade fuel when necessary. EPA numbers are quite respectable. The manual-transmission model nets out at 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. Those numbers best any six-cylinder competitor and better than a few similarly sized four-cylinder midsize cars.

Most drivers will average 26 mpg in routine driving and 30-plus mpg is likely in straight highway driving.

2009 Acura TSXOn the Road  TSX successfully blends the composure of a luxury sedan with the firmness of a sport sedan. Some of that success can be attributed to the slightly longer wheelbase for '09, but the majority of the responsibility falls on a suspension that does an excellent job of softening harsh impacts without inducing too much wallow. Traditional luxury sedan buyers will no doubt balk at the ride's busyness on rough roads, but then again the TSX isn't aimed at them anyway.

From a driver's perspective the '09 TSX is slightly less agile than the previous model. It still carves through turns with the crispness of a sport sedan, but the harsh edge of the previous model has been softened. Steering is electronic this year and you wouldn't know it if I didn't tell you. It's nicely weighted, dead accurate, and has good on-center feel. Brakes are sure and strong, but the pedal has a dull feeling.

TSX isn't the quietest entry-level luxury sedan on the market. There's too much engine and road noise. However, improvements in sound insulation have made the '09 model significantly quieter than its predecessor.

Behind the Wheel  The interior artfully blends modern materials and control interfaces with traditional shapes and textures. Overall, there's a feeling of understated elegance that's appropriate for the TSX's $30,000 list price.  

Gauges are large and easy to read. All models get a center-stack-topping display screen that shows audio, climate and, when installed, navigation information. This setup leads to a cleaner look, but makes it somewhat confusing when tuning the radio or changing cabin temperature. Adding to the complexity is Acura's control pod for the navigation system. Most other manufacturers have adopted touch-screen designs and Acura would be wise to do the same from a driver-distraction standpoint.

The front seats are nicely bolstered, though traditional luxury fans might feel they are a touch too firm. Leg room is exceptional but headroom only adequate. The driving position is lower than you might expect, especially if you are moving over from a SUV or larger car. Outward visibility is great thanks to thin roof pillars and wide outside mirrors.

NHTSA Crash-Test Results, 2009 Acura TSX

Front Impact, Driver  5 Stars
Front Impact, Passenger 5 Stars
Side Impact, Driver 5 Stars
Side Impact, Rear Passenger 5 Stars
Rollover Resistance 5 Stars

Rear-seat occupants will be disappointed by a lack of knee room and the low roofline. Even vertically challenged adults will complain if the front seats are moved too far back. Thankfully the seats are comfortable and nicely appointed.

Trunk space is average for the class and the deck lid reaches all the way down to the bumper for easy loading. Sadly, the sickle-like hinges eat into cargo space. Interior storage is limited to a small glove box and center console bin.

Bottom Line  TSX was once a big fish in a small pond, today it's a significantly smaller fish in a much larger pond. Nearly every luxury automaker now offers an entry-level luxury sedan at the $30,000 threshold and there are a few mainstream automakers that offer midsize sedans at that price point.

These facts don't diminish the value of the TSX any, it just means shoppers have more alternatives. Acura has done an excellent job of keeping the TSX on task. It's still compact sized, fuel efficient, and a blast to drive, but now the ride is more refined and the interior more elegant.

Despite these significant improvements for '09, TSX still trails the field by offering only a four-cylinder engine while most competitors offer more refined V6 engines. TSX remains a strong value in the class because of its refined ride, reasonable prices, and good fuel economy.

Specifications, 2009 Acura TSX with Technology Package

4-door sedan



Wheelbase, in. 


Size, liters/cu. in. 

2.4 / 144

Length, in. 


Horsepower @ rpm 

201 @ 7000

Width, in. 


Torque (lb-ft) @ rpm 

172 @ 4400

Height, in.



6-speed manual

Weight, lbs. 


EPA Estimates, mpg

20 city / 28 highway

Cargo Capacity, cu. ft. 


Fuel Capacity, gals. 


Manufacturer's Warranty

Seating Capacity



4 years / 50,000 miles

Front Head Room, in. 



6 years / 70,000

Front Leg Room, in. 



5 years / Unlimited miles

Second-Row Head Room, in. 


Free Roadside Assistance 

4 years / 50,000 miles

Second-Row Leg Room, in. 


Free Scheduled Maintenance


Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.