April 27, 2012Read the introduction of this vehicle to our long-term fleet.
See all of the blog posts on this vehicle.
There were plenty of questions on the table when our long-term 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon arrived. There was the typical, "Is it better than a small SUV?" Then there was the size issue. Is it too small of a wagon to be truly useful? And finally, we were curious if a 3,600-pound, 201-horsepower wagon could really be considered sporty.
We knew there would be baggage attached to any wagon that entered the fleet. Sure, we like the idea of a wagon and all, but we're well aware that most consumers don't, at least in the U.S. Time to see if times have changed at all.
Keep It Simple
The pricing structure for Acura products is simple. There are no options. Rather, the cars are grouped by trim level. In the case of the 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon, there are two.
Standard equipment on the TSX Base was a 201-hp, 2.4-liter iVTEC four-cylinder engine, paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. Leather seating, numerous airbags, a moonroof and Bluetooth capability were among its notable features. Step up to the TSX Tech to add navigation, a back-up camera, AcuraLink real-time traffic and weather, ELS surround-sound system, dual-zone climate control and a power liftgate.
We selected a 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon Tech to make sure it was a little more road-trip-worthy. It carried an MSRP of $35,470 including destination charges. If a wagon was ever going to have a chance, this was it.
Looks and Feels
Within the confines of its cabin our TSX was visually impressive. Ebony leather, matte chrome trims and textured plastics gave a sense of refinement and taste to the Acura. Generally, the interior was well assembled and of high quality. The finger pointers on our staff were giddy over the button-laden center stack and steering wheel. But they were in the minority. The number of buttons bordered on excessive. Yet with practice, everyone found them easy to use.
There was decent cabin space, too. One editor complimented the TSX with, "There is much more space in the cargo area than I expected. I didn't need an SUV after all. The four of us fit our luggage in the back, although there was little room to spare." Those under 6 feet tall found this sense of spaciousness extended to passenger legroom in all positions. Anyone taller will complain of legroom limitations in the second row.
Short trips in the TSX were effortless. It was over the long haul that its driver seat left some wanting more. Engineering Editor Jason Kavanagh wrote, "The seat sucks. Scratch that — the part that sucks is that damned sitting-in-a-pregnant-lady's-lap aspect that comes courtesy of the stupid, stupid, balloony lumbar lump that's right in the middle of your back. Why this lump continues to exist in Honda products remains a seating mystery." Another driver added, "My back hurt for about half of my six-hour trip. The driver seatback cushion is a little squooshy — I wish it was firmer. Also, I wish the seat bottom cushion was extendable so I could have a little more thigh support."
Technology features set our 2011 Acura TSX apart from the Base model. The navigation system did not miss a beat. The car's ELS stereo was among the best we've tested, leading one editor to say, "The system exceeded my expectations — not just for a wagon, but judged against OEM audio in any type of vehicle. It accomplished what few systems can. It made me want to hit the road and crank my music."
The Bluetooth pairing process didn't receive the same level of praise. The combination of voice commands and button-pushing made the simple act of pairing a phone clumsy. Most folks will not have to link their phones every time they get into the car as we do, but it still shouldn't take as much time and effort as it does in the TSX.
Long-term test cars with any semblance of utility ascend the popularity pyramid quickly. Road-trip requests are commonplace. It was here on the road that we learned more about the dynamic character of this sport wagon.
Perhaps the biggest psychological hurdle working against the 2011 Acura TSX was its self-described status as a sport wagon. Senior Editor Erin Riches explained, "There's a lot more isolation built into the Acura, and while that keeps things comfortable, it's hard to get a read on what's happening through either the steering wheel or driver seat. Obviously, this isn't critical for safety or sanity, but the lack of feedback sure is boring. Add in a moderate helping of body roll and you're left with a family cruiser that could only be called a sport wagon by the loosest definition."
At freeway speeds the four-cylinder rarely felt underpowered. There's not much low-end torque, but its torque curve remains flat even as the engine revs climb. At the top end it even sounded nice, unlike the thrashy note of some competitive four-cylinders. We appreciated the TSX's manual shift mode and steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles, but the lack of rev-matching made for some awkward downshifts.
The appeal of our sport wagon over a standard TSX was, obviously, the easily accessible cargo space. A look at the numbers shows that the 2011 Acura TSX offers 25.8 cubic feet of space behind its rear seats, which was comparable to most CUVs. Fold the seatbacks flat and its 60.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity settled around the middle of the crossover pack. We found the amount of cargo space ample for most of our needs.
"There's plenty of room for the 65-pound pooch. I can't say that about our Mini Countryman or Nissan Juke," read one blog entry. Another added, "The second-row seats don't fold completely flat, but Acura makes up for it with three bins beneath the rear load floor."
Steel tie-downs for stowed gear were also welcomed. We loaded big-screen TVs, luggage and bicycles into the TSX with ease. If we had a critique it was regarding the lack of remote release handles for the second-row seats. Some of our staff are high maintenance and the need to fold the seats via levers on the seatbacks was too "old-school" for them.
As the mileage accumulated, our TSX required normal maintenance. Over the span of our 12-month test we spent roughly $230 on preventative items, namely oil changes and tire rotations. It was worth it, too, as the Acura didn't leave us stranded, ever.
Only once did we visit the dealer for anything beyond the routine check-ups at 10,000 and 15,000 miles. A windshield chip grew to a crack and needed replacement. Since we borrowed the TSX from Acura, aftermarket glass was not an option. We paid a hefty $1,300 for Santa Monica Acura to install our new windshield, fresh from the factory.
Cost To Own
Maintenance costs were reasonable for the 2011 Acura TSX during our test. We spent less than $20 a month for the routine items. Fuel costs would be higher if we ran the TSX strictly on the recommended premium gasoline, but we didn't. We noticed negligible differences in fuel economy based on our driving patterns. That said, our best single tank of fuel was nearly 33 mpg, which covered more than 500 miles. The EPA rates highway fuel economy at 30 mpg. We averaged 24.6 mpg over 20,000 miles of testing, matching EPA estimations.
Each test ends with a pass through Edmunds' TMV® Calculator. No exceptions here. The TSX Sport Wagon depreciated 21 percent from its original MSRP based on a private-party sale. In our experience, this is slightly better than average.
Where Does It Fit?
After 20,000 miles with the 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon we found ourselves still searching to find its personality. On some levels the TSX was competitive, whereas on others it was merely average. It was a solid choice, but struggled to develop enough character to distinguish itself.
The 2.4-liter engine was merely adequate, as was the five-speed transmission. Its handling was respectable, yet the steering lacked the feel and feedback of a car with sporting intentions. Early on we decided the Sport connotation did not belong on this wagon. We feel the same way now. Still, it made up for performance limitations with simple comfort items.
An excellent stereo and quiet, compliant ride made it a nice place to be on long trips, even if the driver seat did not conform to all tastes. Fuel economy showed moments of brilliance. Build quality was very good. And resale value measured up to the rest of the pack. A little more sport would be nice, but apart from that this TSX wagon is exactly what we expected it would be — an excellent SUV alternative for those who don't care to ride high and guzzle gas.
|Total Body Repair Costs:||None|
|Total Routine Maintenance Costs:||$227.72 (over 12 months)|
|Additional Maintenance Costs:||$1,323,62|
|Non-Warranty Repairs:||Replaced windshield with factory glass|
|Scheduled Dealer Visits:||2|
|Unscheduled Dealer Visits:||1|
|Days Out of Service:||None|
|Breakdowns Stranding Driver:||None|
|Best Fuel Economy:||32.5 mpg|
|Worst Fuel Economy:||18.9 mpg|
|Average Fuel Economy:||24.6 mpg|
|True Market Value at service end:||$27,880 (private party sale)|
|Depreciation:||$7,590 (or 21% of original MSRP)|
|Final Odometer Reading:||20,010 miles|
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.