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The Acura TSX is a four-door, front-wheel-drive sports sedan with a superb chassis and a wonderfully tuned engine that loves to rev.
The TSX gets more power for 2006 and there are significant but subtle revisions to the exterior styling.
The 2.4-liter iVTEC four-cylinder engine boasts a broad torque curve and is rated at 205 horsepower for 2006. The result is immediate throttle response followed by a rapid acquisition of speed. That throttle is actually a drive-by-wire accelerator. The six-speed manual gearbox is notably sweet, smooth and quick. The alternative is a five-speed automatic with Sequential Sport Shift.
The TSX is front-wheel drive, but it's tight and fun to drive. The suspension dances to the tune of a European sports sedan. The brakes scrub off triple-digit speeds without drama and the pedals are set up well for effortless heel-and-toe braking and downshifting.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine boasts several improvements for 2006. Larger intake valves, increased valve timing and lift, increased intake and exhaust flow and reduced pumping losses combine for a healthy horsepower increase to 205 horsepower at 7000 rpm and 164 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. This is actually a larger horsepower increase than it looks like on paper, thanks to the Society of Automotive Engineer's new horsepower rating system. And despite the smaller number it's an increase in torque as well. Although this sounds like another high-strung four cylinder, the torque curve is broad and flat, so you don't need to constantly shift gears to get good acceleration performance. Third gear in the TSX is always there for you, which is saying something for a four-cylinder. Third gear feels good from 3600 rpm at 40 mph all the way up to about 75 mph. Even in sixth gear, cruising at 70 mph and 3000 rpm: put your foot down and the TSX will go, right away.
That's not to say that you won't want to use the gearbox. It's a sweet, slick-shifting six speed that makes shifting a pleasure, not a chore. And the engine sounds so sweet at higher revs that you won't mind winding it out to its 7400 rpm rev limiter whenever you get the chance.
The drive-by-wire throttle helps the torque curve out, by being so responsive. The acceleration is linear from the drop of the gas pedal, without strain or surge. But smooth power delivery comes mostly from the i-VTEC engine, using Honda's latest variable valve timing and lift system.
It's a wonderfully tuned engine. It doesn't feel as if 205 horsepower has been squeezed out of the four cylinders, more like it's been pumped out. That's what 2.4 liters and twin cams can do for a four. And it's fast. Downshift to third to accelerate to pass another car on a remote two-lane, open it up, and before you know it you're doing 90.
Automotive journalists used to complain that the U.S. never got the good cars. European drivers appreciated good handing more than we did, so they got the cars with the tightest suspensions, at the least. They got more powerful engines too, often because of lower environmental standards. But nowadays that's much less true. The TSX is a superb sports sedan. Double A-arms support the front, with a multi-link system in the rear. Tender loving care has been bestowed upon the shock tuning.
The TSX makes a dancer out of you, and the suspension is your partner. It's heavy for its size, but it's delicate to handle. It's sweet, but not touchy. It makes you a better driver, not because it requires you to be one, but because it enables you to be. If you can coordinate your hands and feet, and maintain a delicate touch, the TSX will pirouette on a dime for you. It's the same with the gearbox; it doesn't like to be speed shifted or otherwise abused, but it will perform beautifully if you let it.
The TSX stops as smoothly as it goes and shifts. Its brakes will bring you down from triple digits so smoothly and quickly you would never have believed you were up there.
Despite the attitude of the tailpipes, the exhaust note is decidedly civilized. We would have liked some aural attitude commensurate with the engine's capability and the tailpipes' promise.
The suspension says no sweat to patchy roads. It swallows the worst of it with no bouncing or tipping or jolting. It usually takes a softer suspension to deliver a comfortable ride on roads like this. The suspension's combination of firm for the curves and comfortable on the street is exceptional. It can get a little twitchy on uneven surfaces at very high speeds, though. We pushed the TSX through some curves, and it came out the other end flying its colors. Understeer is minimal. The broad range of third gear again was useful, tremendous, even. Braking and downshifting was idiot-proof, thanks again partly to the drive-by-wire
The Acura TSX is an amazingly refined and sporty four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive sedan with a powerful and responsive engine, flawless suspension, seductive shifting and a classy leather interior.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses filed the original report from Washington's Columbia River Valley; with Mitch McCullough reporting from Los Angeles.