What's New for 2009
The Acura TSX is completely redesigned for 2009. Major changes include a larger size for enhanced interior room, revised exterior styling and new technology-oriented features.
"The last one was better."For some reason, car enthusiasts love throwing this out when it comes to a redesigned model. It's an unusual (and often faulty) way of showing off supposed automotive acumen; an offshoot of the "they don't build 'em like they used to" attitude. Having said that, the 2009 Acura TSX may not be worse than its predecessor, but we're not sure it's improved.
The TSX basics remain. Acura's entry-level model is a front-wheel-drive sedan with a high-revving four-cylinder engine, taut handling, a spacious cabin and class-leading feature content. Some thought Acura would use the turbocharged engine from its RDX, a small SUV, this time around, but instead it chose to just slightly revise the normally aspirated 2.4-liter inline-4 to produce a bit more low- and midrange power -- a decision that could prove to be a potential liability. With 201 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque, output is certainly adequate and now more useful in everyday driving, but shoppers keen on spicy acceleration will find more to like from turbocharged or V6-powered competitors. Given that the fuel economy is also only a hair better than the related (and heavier) Honda Accord's 268-hp V6, it seems Acura missed the opportunity to get a jump on competitor vehicles that provide similar power and fuel economy to the TSX.
There are a few areas where the TSX has gone backwards. The new electric steering isn't as communicative as the old hydraulic system. Styling, while subjective, is not as streamlined as the original "flying wedge" design -- the new TSX has bulges and creases and a chrome grille mustache, all of which try too hard to mask an otherwise mundane sedan. Inside, the TSX's previous touchscreen electronics interface (good) has been replaced with a multipurpose knob with a multitude of buttons (bad). Thankfully, the intuitive voice commands remain.
There are, of course, areas of improvement. The automatic transmission now features automanual control via steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Acura's trademark high-tech features are getting even more sophisticated; the new Technology Package adds weather forecasting, real-time traffic with rerouting and one of the industry's best sound systems. The 2009 TSX also has marginally more interior space.
This "give here, take there, stand pat all over" philosophy adds up to a car that's not particularly memorable. Acura could've saved itself a lot of effort by slapping some paddle shifters and a few additional high-tech doodads onto the old TSX. As it stands, the 2009 TSX isn't significantly better than the old model by comparison to entry-level luxury competitors like the Audi A4, Lexus IS 250, Volvo S40 or heavily optioned family sedans like the Nissan Altima or Honda's own Accord.
Still, while some of these models may be faster, more luxurious, more fuel-efficient, better-handling or less costly than the TSX, few (if any) offer such a solid mix of it all. The problem is, the '08 edition did that too, and car buyers were still looking elsewhere. The 2009 Acura TSX just doesn't raise the bar high enough. In fact, it barely budges it. In other words, "the last one was better."
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Acura TSX is a compact entry-level luxury sedan available in one well-loaded trim level. Standard equipment includes 17-inch wheels, xenon HID headlights, foglights, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt/telescoping steering column, an eight-way power driver seat with memory, a four-way power passenger seat, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a 60/40-split-folding rear seatback. Also standard are Bluetooth and a seven-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, auxiliary audio jack and a USB port. The optional Technology Package adds a rearview camera and a navigation system with voice recognition, real-time traffic and weather forecasting. In addition, that package includes a superb 10-speaker Acura/ELS surround-sound system with an in-dash six-CD/DVD-audio changer.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive TSX is available with one engine, a 2.4-liter inline-4 capable of 201 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque (172 lb-ft with the manual). Available transmissions are a six-speed manual and a five-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel shift paddles -- both are the same price. EPA fuel economy with the automatic is 21 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. The manual drops that to 21/28/23, respectively.
Standard safety equipment on the 2009 TSX includes antilock brakes with brake assist, stability control, traction control, front seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2009 Acura TSX is awash with dashboard buttons, with or without the optional Technology Package. Although the layout is logical, the sheer quantity of little black buttons (upwards of 40) would make a 747 pilot feel at home. Although the interface is a step backward (the old car's touchscreen controls were much simpler to use and more visually appealing), the tech pack's navigation system is the same found in Acura's higher-end products, and features voice commands, real-time traffic, weather forecasting and a large LCD screen with secondary control knob. The accompanying 10-speaker surround-sound system is one of the best factory stereos available and is a solid justification for the pricey tech pack.
Elsewhere inside the TSX, materials are consistent with the rest of Acura's well-built line. However, those looking for a Lexus-like level of opulence will be disappointed, since this Acura is only a smidgen nicer than its otherwise well-constructed Honda cousin and features a sportier, BMW-like aesthetic. Interior room inside this compact sedan is actually quite good, with only a shade less space than the larger TL. The TSX also has considerably more interior space than the Lexus IS 250 and a hair more than the Volvo S40. The trunk measures 12.6 cubic feet.
One of the main flaws of the previous TSX was excessive road noise. To the new car's credit, the 2009 TSX is equipped with additional sound-deadening materials and newfound structural rigidity, which quiets things down on the freeway. For manual-equipped models, a shorter-travel clutch and less aggressive throttle tip-in produce a car that's easier to drive smoothly around town. Less welcome is the new electric power steering system designed to perform better (read: be lighter) at low parking-lot speeds. The problem is, because the old car wasn't exactly arm-wrenching, the resulting change equates to a less communicative steering system. Still, the TSX is a very enjoyable car to drive on twisting roads, especially if it's equipped with the manual transmission. Body motions are well-controlled and the car stays relatively flat and attached to the tarmac in even the most aggressive turns. In other words, the 2009 Acura TSX is still one of the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars on sale.