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2006 Acura TSX review

As the entry level sedan in Acura's line, the TSX looks like the typical Honda offspring. And that's not a bad thing. It has a conservative look outside that still manages to be classy. You notice it going down the road, but not in a freakish sort of way. More like in a James-Bond-in-a-tux sort of way. It presents itself (and you) very, very well.

Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING that you would expect in a luxury ride is standard - leather, moonroof, power everything, memory seats, xenon headlamps, Bluetooth phone compatibility, iPod plug-in, dual climate control, etc etc etc etc. Maybe they skimped on safety then? Nope. ABS, stability control, and enough airbags to make you feel like you're piloting a balloon are also standard. Ok then it must be put together poorly, right? Wrong again. A scan around the car shows tight body panel gaps, interior materials have an agreeable touch and look to them, the doors have a quality sounding *thunk* when closed, and a test drive showed no creaks or rattles. Your only choices are color, a manual or automatic transmission, and with or without a navigation system. No picking from 87 different option packages, half of them with junk you don't want just to get a sunroof. At $27k or $29k with navi ('06 MSRP pricing) this seems like it's too good to be true. Once you lift the hood though, it seems like they only put 2/3 of an engine in there because all you see is a 4 cylinder, V-TEC equipped motor staring back at you. Oh. Trust me I know what you're thinking. You're thinking this is how they pack so much in for so little. True, you generally you get a 6 cylinder engine at this price bracket. But bear with me and go deeper. It does put out 205hp. Redline sits at a lofty 7000rpm on the tach. Well, as said in the blog intro post, the real test is on the road........

In typical Honda fashion, the engine is smooth as silk. Even winding it all the way through its rev range doesn't show any harshness or grittiness, unlike the RSX (which contains the brother to this motor) when it's wound out. The six speed manual behind the engine is one of the slickest in the business. This shifter ranks right up there with the one from the S2000 - the standard by which all others should be judged. For only being a 4 cylinder engine, I was quite impressed with the pull. Generally a V-TEC engine with a high redline likes to be run HARD AT ALL times, and consequently suffers in the torque department at low RPM's. The result is fun on the track, but not on a commute. Not this one. It pulls adequately even below 3000 rpm. On the highway, from 75mph in sixth, it pulls stronger than you would expect. Downshifts were rarely required.

The double wishbone suspension strikes an amazing balance between compliance and above average handling. The car doesn't pull any surprises in its moves, and the way it communicates with you is almost telepathic. I guess the word I'm looking for here is "balanced". Everything feels in the right proportion - power, braking, and handling. No one quality overpowers the others. It's not quite at a 3-series level - but Acura doesn't ask for 3-series money either. It really makes you start to question if the roundel badge is worth the extra coin.

The icing on the cake is that this car makes you feel like you are in a luxury machine. It's the little details that really make that feeling stand out - the illuminated gauges on the dash, the nice tactile feedback from all controls, even the faint blue illumination that lights up part of the center console, and the quiet way it goes about its business.

This car is a steal. You can't touch the value that this car offers. It is a touch small, so it would probably work best for single professionals that want to make a good impression, but still want a comfortably sized car for commuting. A married couple would find this car the perfect size as well. A family with kids might fill up the seats and trunk quick, but if they're driving enthusiasts, well, toss out the Accord and Camry brochures and make the sacrifice. It's that good. Besides your kids will thank you when you slingshot them around a local on-ramp for a cheap thrill. Plus in this day and age of silly priced gasoline, having four cylinder economy that doesn't make you suffer in the performance department is a formula that works quite well.

If you're looking at ANYTHING in the mid-size sedan market, don't mark this one off your list without a test drive.

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