2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: More Coasting
March 11, 2011
So I have been blathering recently about the Chevy Cruzes transmission behavior to all who would listen (many ran away). So imagine my dismay to discover the same sort of things at work in the TSX Wagon.
The same sensation of coasting at cruising speed, as if the automatic transmission had backed off to reduce mechanical losses and thus enhance fuel efficiency. The same critical sensitivity of the throttle pedal and the same frequent cycling of the gear ratios. So much is going on in the transmission that the TSX always gives me the sense that Im not driving as smoothly as I should.
But after a while, I finally figured out its my fault, not Acuras.
You can imagine some eager-to-please Acura engineer confronted with a focus group of American drivers.
On the one hand, we ask for a strong sensation of performance from the TSX, even when its equipped with a four-cylinder engine thats intended largely for fuel economy and an automatic transmission thats intended largely for smooth uninterrupted drivetrain performance. On the other, we ask for the same kind of fuel efficiency you might get from a Honda Civic coupe, not a moderately heavy wagon.
So were pretty much asking for the suspension of the laws of physics. GM designer Harley Earl, the most important car stylist in America from 1930 to 1958, once asked his engineers if they could develop something that would be a strong as metal, only transparent. Were asking for that.
So what we get is a transmission full of ratios, plus programming that swaps eagerly between a handful of them whenever the throttle pedal senses the hint of enthusiasm. So the car is fast. And we also get a fly-by-wire throttle pedal calibrated for very aggressive tip in. So the car jumps ahead, which feels fast.
At the same time, the transmission will shift into the tallest gear possible under light throttle loads, so overall fuel efficiency is improved. And the torque converter wants to disengage and let the engine coast under light throttle loads, also helping to deliver a good mpg number.
So if youre wondering why you drive like a klutz in medium speed traffic, its because the transmission is trying to suspend the laws of physics and deliver both speed and fuel efficiency at the same time. It could shift less, but then you would complain that the car feels sluggish and you would whine about the fuel economy besides. And if you wonder why the guy in the car in front of you keeps tapping his brakes, its because the sensation of coasting is not what you want when the traffic is dense, so everyone rides the brake a little just to know what the car is doing.
So there I was, driving the TSX with a distinct lack of skill in commute traffic and I totally raised my hand to acknowledge, yes, I am the one to blame.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 3,076 miles