2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon Long Term Road Test - Technology Audio

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon Long Term Road Test

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2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: Because I'm Not Always Awesome

January 11, 2012


Here's the thing...I'm not always awesome. I know some of you will find that hard to believe. For those who aren't sure, here's some proof.

It's possible I've been an idiot in exactly the same way twice. It's possible I've managed to kill the battery on an airport-parked long-term car twice in 18 months.

Fortunately, because of my former stupidity, I've become an expert in finding fellow airport patrons who pack jumper cables. It took about 20 seconds of loaned electrons from a Cadillac Escalade to bring the TSX back to life.

All of it, that is -- and here comes the point, I promise -- except the radio. As you can see it requires a code. So I called Acura's customer care number. Took about ten minutes of talking to Steve to sort out the confusion about who actually owns the car (Acura, it's on loan to us) and prove to him that I didn't steal it so he'd give me the code. That part would likely be much easier if you owned the car yourself.

Or you could just remember to turn off the interior lights before you fly to Detroit for three days.

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2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: Okay, Is this My Fault?

December 27, 2011


Last week you'll remember I had an odd electrical issue with our Chevy Volt; the fan-speed control simply refused to allow me to turn it down. Not one person I spoke with in our office had a remotely similar experience.

Then, just a few days later, I hopped into our Acura TSX Sportwagon and the nav screen wouldn't work. Not just the nav, NOTHING worked. I pressed Audio and nothing happened -- not even the annoying "You just pressed a button in an Acura" beep. I pressed enter, map, menu, info/phone, the day/ night button, all 24 buttons up there. Even the ones that made no sense to press to turn on a screen. Nothing worked.

So, like with the Volt, I pulled over and restarted the car. Everything worked fine. Both of these cars worked fine when I drove them home and only went crazy after I parked them in my garage (the same place the Mini Countryman fixed itself). Am I just unlucky?

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Inside Line

(You'll note I used a photo taken by Kurt Niebuhr instead of a picture of a blank screen taken by me. Chalk that up to the glare problem as reported by Mrs Riches.)

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2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: Still Don't Have the Hang of It

December 19, 2011


So we've had our TSX wagon for awhile now and although I generally enjoy driving it, I still don't like the control layout on the center stack. I can deal with a multitude of buttons, but I can't get the hang of numerous buttons that are so haphazardly placed.

Sure, there's some method to this madness -- the radio controls across the top, the nav controls clustered in the center -- but it never becomes second nature. More than a few times this past weekend, I would look down to make one change or the other and not find what I was looking for at first glance. That, and there's no tuning knob. Unforgivable.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line

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2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: Bluetooth. Why Doesn't It Work?

December 01, 2011


My iPhone 4 doesn't get along with the TSX's Bluetooth. Or, perhaps, vice-versa. Either way, it drives me crazy

Here's the problem:

With the phone paired to the car, any call I place defaults to the handset, which is illegal to place to your ear while driving in California. The iPhone offers the option to switch manually while paired to a Bluetooth source but even selecting the Acura's "HandsfreeLink" doesn't send the call through the car.

After multiple awkward conversations which ended with me pulling over to talk on the handset, I realized that I could manually switch between the handset and the "HandsFreeLink" using the car's "phone" menu. It requires a few button pushes before it eventually switches.

But it shouldn't work that way.

It's a problem. And it's a problem that's well documented here by owners of the 2011 TSX using the iPhone 4 and 4S -- one of whom claims to have run the issue all the way up the Acura food chain with no resolution.

I've contacted Acura's HandFreeLink customer service myself about the issue. I'll share the response -- when I get one -- in another post.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: 1,800 Miles in the Passenger Seat

November 29, 2011


Hey, there's Mt. Shasta!

For Thanksgiving we drove the 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon up to Corvallis, Oregon, and back. Editor JayKav said a one-way trip could be done in one day (about 11-14 hours) so the plan was to spend all day driving on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and all day for the return trip on Sunday.

I was supposed to take over some of the driving but JayKav pushed through. His Lemons experience really paid off, building up his endurance and his skills at getting around the herds of holiday drivers aka left-lane squatters. In any case, I spent the entire trip playing navigator, DJ, entertainment director and trip photographer.

For navigation, I stuck to using my iPhone 4S since the search function on the TSX's nav is too clunky and you can't specify the area ahead of you. While on my iPhone, I could just pull up restaurant options in remote towns on my Yelp app and upcoming gas stations/pit stops in Google Maps.

For music, we had to connect Jay's iPhone to the car's Bluetooth while it was stopped. Once connected it worked just fine. We also had the additional option of hooking up my iPhone via aux so we could switch back and forth from our playlists and I could also still play Spotify. The only issue is that Jay likes to play the music at low volumes and since the road noise is pretty significant in the cabin and I could barely get my groove on.

I would have fallen asleep a lot more but, frankly, the side bolsters of the seat and the angle of the headrest weren't all that comfortable, pressing my shoulders and head forward. I ended up sleeping with my head at a weird angle to the side and would wake up with killer neck pain. But I guess good co-pilots shouldn't sleep anyway.

At least the seat heater was effective, keeping things nice and cozy. I kept it on high throughout the whole trip just because as you know by now I'm always cold.

But I enjoyed my time in the TSX. I may not have found the passenger seat all that comfortable but I appreciated all its space and audio technology options. And that since it's a sport wagon, Jay was able to take it on some fun roads on the return trip home. (Highway 58 to the 14 to Angeles Crest Highway was the way to go to avoid the holiday gridlock on the Grapevine.) Can't do something like that with usual road trip options like a crossover or SUV.

As for the trip's fuel numbers, Jay will have that and all that other good stuff like driving impressions when he gets back from the Tokyo auto show.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 17,955 miles

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2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: Buttons Are Best

October 11, 2011


Some people like the touchscreen. Some like the big control knob. I think buttons are best.

When you press a button, you know what you’re going to get. No pop-up menu. No guessing about where something might be filed. It just happens.

I wish I could tell you that the whole subject of information interfaces is built on science, but after watching road-test editors and three-year-old children play with dashboard controls in exactly the same way (and while making identical sounds of delight), I believe that higher-order thinking is not involved.

It just depends on what you like.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 13,831 miles

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2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: Sunshine

August 02, 2011


You can't escape the sun in southern California. The unwanted freckles on my arms are proof. Fortunately, the recessed design of this screen keeps it readable in bright sunlight. I gotta know what I'm listening to.

On a side note, Jo Stafford was my father's favorite singer.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: Five Discoveries

August 01, 2011


Yesterday I discovered five things about our long-term 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon. Three good. Two bad.

I made these discoveries during a single day run from Los Angeles to Big Bear Lake, CA and back, in the rain, with my entire family packed inside the TSX, including my 65 lb. doggie Bandit.

1) It's solid in the wet. Locked in. The run to Big Bear is about 75 miles of freeway and another fifty miles of state roads 330 and 18, which are essentially twisty two-lane mountain roads that climb from San Bernardino at 1,500 ft. elevation up to Big Bear at about 8,000 ft. The TSX felt great in these conditions on its Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 rubber (225/50R17). Not once did I have "a moment".

2) It needs more motor. Pesonally I find the TSX Wagon a little on the slow side down at sea level in Santa Monica. Get it up in the mountains at elevations over 4000 ft. and it is slooooooooow.

3) Push a few buttons and it'll show you a radar weather report on its nav screen (see photo). Cool.

4) It's kinda loud on the highway. For my taste the Acura lets a little too much road roar into its interior. It really does hum down the hightway.

5) There's plenty of room in the cargo area for my 65 lb. pooch. I can't say that about our Mini Countryman or Nissan Juke.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 10,435 miles

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2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: This Car Talks

June 06, 2011


Our long-term 2001 Acura TSX Sport Wagon talks to you. Literally. There's a video after the jump so you can see and hear what I'm talking about.

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2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: Audio Review

May 14, 2011


Wagons are not the kind of vehicles that come to mind when I think of high-performance OEM car audio systems. Wagons conjure up images of parents hauling kids around, not solo cruising on curvy back roads with the tunes cranked. But that's exactly what I wanted to do after sound-checking the ELS Surround system in our 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon.

I knew that music producer Elliot Scheiner (known to music biz big wigs simply as "Els") personally tunes his namesake systems for Acura, and the version in the 2009 TL won our high-end audio system shoot-out two years ago. But could he and his partners at Panasonic, the supplier of the gear behind the marquee name, pull off a similar feat in the TSX Sport Wagon?

The Setup
The ELS Surround system that's part of the Tech Package in the 2011 Acura Sport Wagon consists of 10 speakers powered by 460 watts. The speakers include a 3-inch center-channel in the dash, a 1.5-inch tweeter in the "sail panel" in each front door, a 6.5-inch midrange at the bottom of each of the four doors, another 6.5-inch mid in each D pillar at the back of the vehicle and a 7.5-inch subwoofer in the passenger-side wall of the cargo area.

The Sound
As with every system I evaluate, I listened to 10 musical tracks that I've heard in literally hundreds of vehicles to gauge clarity/lack of distortion, tonal balance, timbre, tonal accuracy, soundstaging, imaging and dynamics. The music ranges from jazz jams of Bluesiana Triangle and sparse folk of Luka Bloom to the full-on rock of Red House Painters and bass-heavy rap of Outkast. I also use several non-musical tracks to further test soundstaging, imaging, linearity and absence of noise. For more details on this testing process and the tracks used, check out the Edmunds.com article Sound Advice. And since the ELS system can play high-resolution, multichannel DVD-Audio disc, I listened to a few of those too.

The ELS system in the TSX wagon had the slight midbass thickness that's common in many car audio systems, although it's usually not so slight. But that's the system's only serious drawback sound-wise and it likely could be tweaked out with the tone controls (including ones for the level of the subwoofer and center channel). Otherwise, the system is top-notched and a sheer pleasure to listen to. It reproduced my test tunes with tangible, lifelike quality. Instruments and vocals not only sounded authentic, but the system gave the recordings a sense of space that so many others lack.

It also brought out subtle nuances most systems mask, and the level of detail on background instruments and vocals was remarkable. For example, the strings that swirl into the mix at 1:37 and then slowly build in the Joan Armatrading track "Everyday Boy" had a 3D-like quality. And the vigorously strummed acoustic guitar in the track not only sounded pristine (instead of with the typical high-end sheen), but was also perfectly placed in the soundstage. And I rarely get through even the brief 2:25 minutes of the instrumental "Blues Walk" from Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, since I can tell right off how well -- or how poorly -- a system can handle it. But in the TSX I was so impressed with the accurate dynamics of the drums, the width and depth of the soundstage and the pinpoint imaging that I let the track play all the way through.

And this was just with CD WAV files. The ELS system really shines with hi-res DVD-Audio discs. I cued up John Hiatt's Bring the Family and became completely immersed in the vivid, enveloping sound of the surround mix. Ry Cooder's sly guitar riffs were reproduced with an ideal balance of smoothness and bite, while Jim Keltner's drums had a palpable impact and precise attack and decay. And the rear surround information perfectly complimented the front stage rather than acting as a gimmicky distraction.

The Sources
Our Acura TSX has a single CD/DVD player in the dash with AM, FM and XM radio. It also has an aux-in jack and USB port in the center console. The latter has a wire that extends off of it and is used for plugging in an iPod or any other USB-based player or a thumb drive.

The iPod interface is somewhat convoluted thanks to the clunky controller in the center of the dash, but the car also has a voice-activated "iPod search mode" that worked well with easy to comprehend commands like "Play artist Bob Marley." But it was tripped up by commands like "Play song Icky Thump." The iPod menu also lacks extra items like audiobook and podcasts. Plugging in a USB drive offers a similar menu structure.

The system also includes a 15GB hard-drive music server that records music from CDs (but not from a USB drive). The default setting is set for the system to record a new CD each time one is inserted, which explains how Pearl Jam ended up being burned to the hard drive in our TSX. Bluetooth audio is also onboard, and it didn't require having to pair it separately via my iPhone, as with some vehicles. In Bluetooth audio mode, track-skip forward and back work from the dashboard controls (along with play/pause) as well as with those on the steering wheel.

What We Say
I found very few sonic faults with the ELS system in the 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon. Besides a couple of minor quibbles with iPod integration, my only real complaint is that it should be available as a separate option instead of as part of the $3,500-plus Tech Package trim option.

The system exceeded my expectations -- and not just for a wagon. but judged against OEM audio in any type of vehicle. And it accomplished what few systems can: It made me want to just hit the road and crank my music.

The Scores
Sound: A
Sources: A
iPod Integration: B-
Cost: B-

Doug Newcomb, Senior Editor, Technology

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2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: Not-So-HandsFreeLink

April 29, 2011


Bluetooth is supposed to allow making phone calls hands-free, but the only way the operation can be truly hands-free is if a vehicle has accurate voice-recognition. But how often do you talk to your car? And how often do you initiate a call on the phone itself? Be honest.

The call in the video after the jump was initiated via the phone -- and made while sitting still in the Acura TSX Sport Wagon. But the way Acura's HandFreeLink works with my iPhone 4, it's far from a hands-off operation.

Acura claims that the system is acting as designed and that if the call is initiated on the phone, the system restricts transferring the call to the car. Acura further explained that if drivers make calls from the phone while it's connected to the HandsFreeLink system, the assumption is that they don't want it going through the vehicle's speakers. "This is a privacy setting to keep the conversation on the phone," an Acura PR representative responded.

The PR rep also said that selecting the HandsFreeLink a second time allows the connection to be made to the system. And she added that the preferred method of transferring the conversation from the phone is through the nav system; you have to select the Phone/Info button, then "Phone" and then "Transfer."

While Acura claims this helps drivers keep their eyes on the road and off the phone -- and helps ensure that the driver "really wants his conversation going through the vehicle's speakers" --- I can't recall any other Bluetooth systems that operate this way.

So I call it way too many button pushes just to have a hands-free phone conversation. And a fail.

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2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: Bluetooth Audio vs. iPod USB

April 13, 2011


For tunes during the long road trip to San Francisco in our 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon, editor JayKav and I went back and forth from using my iPhone via the USB port (because I am addicted to being online and need to charge my phone) to his via Bluetooth Audio.

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2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: When My Hand's on Your Greasegun

March 31, 2011


It's like a disease, son.

Six points for the TSX Wagon's ELS Surround audio system. It's one of my only chances to spin coasters from my staggering four-disc DVD-Audio collection, one of them - Queen's "A Night at the Opera" - re-mixed for 5.1 by uber-engineer Elliot Scheiner himself, sonic architect of the Acura system.

Talk about a doomed format. DVD-Audio and its Super Audio CD (SACD) rival came on about the same time file sharing and MP3s took over. Overpricing didn't help the high-def format cause, as most folks viewed it as gouging to support a new novelty format. Today it really only survives among music and hi-fi nerds, which is a shame. Listening to something like Pet Sounds on the ELS system is a real pleasure: loud, present, enveloping, with percussion, horns, and voices sweeping around from the rear pillar speakers.

Hotel California is nice too, but Don Henley is a choad and kinda ruins it for me.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: Awake at the Wheel

March 24, 2011

TSX-center stack-web.jpg

I capped on the Crosstour awhile back about redundancies in its thin strip display and the nav screen. Our TSX wagon has the same layout, with one difference: its thin display hovers over the audio source buttons, not over the vents as in the Crosstour. A small change, but the cluster seems to make more sense in the TSX, perhaps because it's framed by the vents on both sides. The climate controls are also are grouped together lower in the stack. It's definitely a cleaner setup than our TMI Odyssey.

Maybe a minor and inconsequential detail, but demonstrates that maybe - just maybe - voices of reason are resonating in Acura's design centers.

The exterior is sharp and flowing, and the beak is tame. It's not a stretch to call it the best-looking Acura in years - ironic since it's basically just an Accord Euro badge job.

But an interior win isn't special. Interiors have rarely been one of Acura's liabilities. Some of us have remarked about the cheap feel of the trim and switchgear, a legitimate complaint in a car priced at $35,000 for our testing. I'm not really bothered by it, but I didn't buy the car nor do I live with it every day. Your mileage may vary. For the record, nothing about Audi, BMW or Buick buttons, bulbs and rocker switches strikes me as particularly memorable. Nor is this anything on which to waste much concern. It's like complaining about the color of your kitchen trash bags.

And I could live with TSX Sport Wag every day and be pretty content, dull buttons and handles regardless. We're accused by some readers of waving most imports - Honda specifically - through the door with the lightest of criticisms. These same readers probably haven't read about our year with the Crosstour and the Insight, nor the Outlander Sport.

But the TSX doesn't need a pass. It's simply a good car. Great interior, great electronics interface (dead easy to move between phone, nav and audio functions), and engaging attitude. It's easy to scoff at the "sport" in its name, but not once you've felt its chassis hang deep in the grooves through a highway transition sweeper in swift moving traffic. If anything, it's a little too enthusiast-sprung for many daily commuters.

Debate all you like about its price. Acura has invited the criticism. Optioned up like ours, you're only a grand away from a base A4 Avant, and a couple bills shy of a base 3-Series wagon. It's a tough sell for someone shopping a wagon, or someone not necessarily a driving enthusiast. All that shopper sees is a round badge and a final score.

Through February, Acura has moved nearly 600 wagons. That sounds off pace for the 4,000 it has projected to sell in 2011, but summer gas and SUV abandonment still loom. And like several readers have noted, the addition of a V6, 6-speed manual and Acura's all-wheel-drive system makes that $35k sticker less shocking. But another automaker recently offered a 220-hp V6 wagon with a 6-speed stick and nearly the same cargo volume as the TSX, and that car disappeared after three years. Now, just try to find a Mazda6 Sport Wagon in your area.

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2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: Writers Heart Wagons

March 08, 2011

TSX Wag-nav traffic_02-web.jpg

The TSX Sport Wagon's nav-traffic update is pleasantly easy to use. Coming up on some slowing this morning, I hit the Info button, rotated the dial to Traffic Incidents, and saw that I'd be loping along at 45 mph for about the next mile. And it was surprisingly accurate, at least on the distance. It reported several other incidents ahead that turned out to be nothing. I rarely bother with nav-traffic features anymore as they're often buried in multiple menu layers and never seem as accurate as a basic Google traffic app.

Common perception among readers is that all automotive writers love wagons. That we're somehow affecting some European preference for extended hatchbacks. But that hasn't been my experience.

At least around the Edmunds and Inside Line desks, only muscle cars, rally cars, Mustangs, Porsches, Ducatis and mountain bikes inspire the sort of bickering that ends in hurt feelings and vague threats of reprisal during performance reviews. Wagons just don't get us all that pumped.

We like 'em well enough, sure. We praised the A4 Avant. No one was gonna go to blows over it, but it always had a driver. The TSX wagon will earn a similar fanbase around the office, guaranteed. It's no Avant. But it is comfortable. It's techy and firmly sprung, giving some life to expansion joints, road stubble and transition sweepers. It's got more cargo capacity (60.5 cu ft) than our departed Crosstour (51.3) or Avant (50.5), and it's geared to wring the most out of its 201 horsepower.

In our long-term intro, some readers pinned it as a torque-less, low-power bore. On paper, sure. But on the road, especially when bubbling in its sweet spot (about 70 mph @ 2,500 rpm), it's got plenty of step. Passing maneuvers are especially enjoyable. Set up your move, check your lanes, and click off a paddle downshift. Instant VTEC and a slingshot around the obstacle.

If you can stomach the price -- and at $35,470 for our long-termer, many can't -- it's not a bad way to spend a lengthy commute, especially if the route features clockwork congestion and regular collisions.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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