The 2011 Acura TSX Sports Vagon Is The Bomb

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The Bottom Line

What exactly do the Guide Rating stars mean?

I’ve never really loved the TSX, Acura’s smallest and least-expensive sedan, although i love station wagons. So, what happens once the two meet? Will my love for wagons win over my distaste to the TSX? Please read on.

Pros

Beautiful styling

Big, well-shaped cargo bay

Powertrain provides nice balance of power and economy

Reasonable prices

Cons

Unrefined ride

Doesn’t feel as luxurious as a premium-brand car should

Description

New wagon version of Acura’s European-engineered TSX

Price range: $31,820 – $35,470

Powertrain: 2.4 liter inline 4, 201 hp, 170 lb-ft; 5-speed automatic; front-wheel-drive

EPA fuel economy estimates: 22 MPG city/30 MPG highway

Best rivals: Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen, Saab 9-3 SportCombi, Audi A4 Avant

Larger photos: Front – rear – interior – more photos

Guide Review – 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon

Most of the time, Acura is doing an excellent job turning the TSX right into a station wagon. (No big surprise; the TSX is in fact the European version in the Honda Accord — Acura is a division of Honda — and Europeans take their wagons seriously.) The TSX Sport Wagon delivers 25.8 cubic feet of cargo space, not far behind the Volvo V50 (27.5) and Saab 9-3 SportCombi (29.4) and well past the Audi A4 Avant (17.3), though it still trails the boxy Volkswagen Jetta (32.8). Frumpy it ain’t; at the risk of sounding crude, the TSX Sport Wagon includes a great-looking rear end, although spacious it can be.

The wide cargo bay (link goes to photo) includes a hard floor and thick, durable carpets, along with tie-down hooks and a bit of under-floor storage. There’s even an (optional) power-operated tailgate, a fantastic touch. Regarding the only glaring omission is the lack of a scuff plate to cover the painted rear bumper.

Putting the “sport” in Sport Wagon

Acura has chosen a single powertrain for the TSX: The 201 hp 2.4 liter four-cylinder using a 5-speed automatic. (I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who had been disappointed that neither the 6-speed stick nor the 280 hp V6 from the TSX sedan made it for the wagon, but Honda only plans to build about 4,000 TSX wagons for 2011, so multiple powertrains didn’t make financial sense.) The 2.4/automatic gets decent fuel economy and accelerates strongly, although passing power is marginal, especially with huge load.

Handling is quite good; the wagon weighs only 130 lbs greater than the sedan, and its springs are slightly stiffer to improve carrying capacity. The result is wonderful grip and minimal body roll combined with excellent steering feel. But the ride is nothing to write home about: It’s too busy on bumpy roads and also the TSX leaps and wallows over big bumps.

Near luxury — although not near enough

The rest of the TSX Sport Wagon is pretty much just like the TSX sedan, for better or perhaps for worse. Better: Comfortable seats, good visibility, and a quality feel. Worse: Too many buttons on the center stack as well as a cabin that’s not quite up to proper luxury car standards. The trim bits are nice, but the black plastic around the dash looks a bit cheap. I blame the TSX’s Euro-Honda roots, although there’s no excuse for your cheap-o LCD display in TSXs without navigation. (Scotty, beam me back to 1982! ) Overall, the TSX’s interior just doesn’t have the ambiance of a Lexus or an Infiniti.

That said, the TSX isn’t priced such as a Lexus or an Infiniti, either: $31,820 gets you heated leather power-adjustable seats with driver’s memory, dual-zone climate control, a sunroof, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, HID headlights, even an auto-dimming rear view mirror. That’s a lot of stuff for the money. The $3,650 Technology Package adds navigation with real-time traffic and weather (and a big, bright color screen in place of that stupid LCD Speak-N-Spell display), an upgraded stereo with voice-recognition (similar to Ford’s SYNC), a rear-view camera and the aforementioned power tailgate.

How the TSX Sport Wagon stacks up

So in case you buy a TSX Sport Wagon? That’s a difficult call. Beautiful as it is, the TSX isn’t the sexiest wagon available; that title goes to the Audi A4 Avant, that is fantastic to drive but doesn’t carry anywhere near all the cargo as being the TSX. It’s also much more expensive, as they are the Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon, that offers similar capacity and amenities. The Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen is more and cheaper practical than the TSX; it also features a 5-cylinder engine that copes better with heavy loads. Then again, the VW’s construction can’t touch the TSX’s. As with the Jetta, the build quality can’t match Acura, even though i love the Saab 9-3 SportCombi, which happens to be both capacious, good looking, and fun to drive. Buy a TSX Sport Wagon to haul your infant’s stroller, and chances are you’ll be teaching her to operate in it 16 years later.

As a luxury car the TSX falls down a bit, but as a wagon, it does the job exceptionally well. You know, seeing that I think about it, maybe this isn’t this kind of tough call. The TSX has its foibles, but most are minor and easily overlooked. If a station wagon is what you require, then the TSX is the anyone to buy.