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2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: What it is and what it could be

May 26, 2011 Long Reviews 11 Comments
5478  350x300 2011 acura tsx sport wagon 7 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: What it is and what it could be

Car reviews, much like annual performance reviews, can be tricky to write. Love the car and you’ll be labeled a fan-boy. Hate the car and you’ll be labeled, well, a hater. Most writers find a few things they love, few things they hate, throw all into the mix and bam, a review. A writer whom I respect calls it “The Wobble” and chances are that at some point we all have all been guilty of doing it.

It’s easy to be a critic, but it’s tougher to be a constructive critic. I just spent a weekend with the Acura TSX Sport Wagon, and as a critic I’m tempted to write simply that I liked it – but I couldn’t love it. As a constructive critic, however, I’ve decided to offer a solution that would change my opinion, and perhaps the opinion of others as well, from “like” to “love”.

The idea stemmed from looking the TSX over and just realizing that it could look so much better with so little effort. Don’t get me wrong. This is a great car. It drives smoothly. It corners well. The engine and transmission combination is more than adequate. The interior is nice, and if it is not opulent it is at least high quality. The seats are very comfortable, and there is plenty of storage room. Frankly, there isn’t much wrong with the TSX wagon. Still, I couldn’t help imagine how much better it could look with some simple changes.

5483  660x400 side by side 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: What it is and what it could be

The fact that Acura launched a wagon version of its popular TSX sedan is a rather brave undertaking considering that wagons are typically not appreciated in the United States. This Sport Wagon comes with a four-cylinder engine matched to an automatic transmission and propelling the front wheels. Dig around the internet a little and you’ll find reviewers asking for a V6 engine, or a turbo engine, a manual transmission, and/or all-wheel-drive system. Forget it. It’s not going to happen.

Adding a V6 engine and/or the AWD system would drive the TSX Wagon’s price into the $40,000 range. Acura would need to replace their badge with four rings or a blue-and-white propeller in order to move more than a handful of them off the dealer lots. A manual transmission by contrast, would cost less than the automatic does – and it’s already available with the sedan. The question becomes: does it make financial sense to offer a low-volume model such as this wagon with two different transmissions?

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The simple answer is that it does not, due to costs of EPA testing and production, and that is why Acura is not offering it. However, after spending a long weekend with the TSX Sport Wagon, I am convinced that the Sport Wagon needs a manual transmission. In addition, the car could benefit from a whole sport treatment, not unlike that of the Audi’s S-Line or Acura’s own Type S version. The really good news is that this treatment does not have to cost a significant amount of money but it could lead to a significant increase in sales. It would also increase brand perception to people between thirty and forty years old.  Those buyers – the same people who owned Integras, Civics, and Preludes in the 1990s – have walked away from Acura/Honda in the past few years.

My idea of the more appealing and not much more expensive TSX Sport Wagon is this:

  • Remove all chrome/silver trim from door-handles, fog-light bezels, and around windows. Chrome, or this polished metallic trim, has been out of style for decades now, so why is it on a Sport Wagon? Replace with black, gray or body color (as applicable).
  • Remove the roof-rack and the visual weight that goes with it. I love the utility of a roof-rack but a vast majority of people will use it once a year to transport their Christmas tree. Make it an option or accessory. This would also reduce production and overall costs (one less part to make and install).
  • Paint the grill in body color, and paint the trim around it in deviating dark gray.

Having done all that, it would be rather simple to add a few more elements of sporty appearance:

  • Add larger, 18-inch (vs. 17-inch), wheels, also painted gray. I used ’07-’09 Acura TL Type S wheels in the graphic for the sake of simplicity and OEM appearance.
  • Lower the car. I could not find any information of payload limits of the wagon vs. sedan but it is fair to assume that they are similar; therefore there are no tricks in designing the suspension to be able to accept additional weight. BMW installs air-suspension on their 5-series Tourings but there is no need for that here. Adjust spring rating and shock valving, done.
  • Look carefully at the altered image and you will see the multi-piston calipers from the TL Type-S (and RL). Since those are already in the Honda parts bin, might as well throw them on our improved wagon. The three people who will actually autocross or track this wagon would appreciate them, while the rest would show them off on internet message boards and everyone would be happy, at a very low cost.

5482  640x500 new wagon 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: What it is and what it could be 5481  640x500 11tsx sport wagon front 2 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: What it is and what it could be

The above alternations can be accomplished with minimum research and development costs. While the result would lack the power and more secure handling  which a V6 engine and SH AWD, respectively, would provide, it would take a nice wagon and give it a more sporty character. My untrained eye sees the cost of this “package” (the whole treatment could be an option, such as the S-Line or M-Sport Package on German cars) at no more than $2000 added to the wagon’s base line of $30,960.

This brings us to the topic of price. At $31,820 base price (with “destination” charge) and the only option being the technology package at $3650, the TSX is a great value. Its nearest competitors start at $37,650 and $38,575 for the Audi A4 Avant and BMW 328iT, respectively. Start checking off option boxes and the Germans can swell into the $45,000 range. However, the most unlikely contender to the TSX could be Honda’s own Accord Crosstour, which stickers at $34,000 with a V6 engine and AWD system, albeit not Acura’s Super-Handling one.

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The TSX Technology Package includes a nav system, power tailgate, back-up camera, and an awesome sound system with a 15GB hard-drive. I am not fully convinced that it is worth the money; the car is small enough for anyone to manually operate the tailgate and the visibility is good enough to confidently maneuver in reverse. The nav system is nice, and in a typical Honda fashion overflowing with buttons but it’s nothing you can’t get used to. Did I mention how awesome the ELS Surround audio system is? It should be standard.

Knowing its limited market share, Acura played it safe with the TSX Sport Wagon and offered a car that would appeal to a majority of buyers. This created a car which lacks the ability to live up to the sporting image which was baked into the Acura brand from the moment the first Integra arrived on American shores. The TSX Sport Wagon, with the emphasis on “sport”, has the potential to call out to those lost sheep and bring them back into the fold. Acura needs those people if it wants to regain the credibility it once had.

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Big thanks to Dan Lee, a Communications student at Penn State University who is responsible for creating these photoshoped images. The  images are based on Acura’s stock photo and all changes correspond to the above bulleted list. Please see Dan’s amazing pictures at www.dleefoto.com. Also a big thank you to Michael, Jack, and Bradley for help with editing. -KK


Currently there are "11 comments" on this Article:

  1. bob knox says:

    Great article. I was actually looking at these on paper to replace the Matrix, but like you said, it needs a manual transmission and a little more aggression. What is that screwy shallow bin in the back (bottom middle jpeg)? I think I could fit a couple blue-prints in there but that’s about it. Love the look of those seats! Added to the rack delete, most of us 30/40 somethings already have a Yakima/Thule rack from our previous rigs that we will use anyway. Chuck that factory plastic junk.

    How does this compare to the Caddy wagon? Anyone out there drive one?

  2. [...] it's got too much chrome and not enough V6 AWD. CarGuyDad sees potential in the platform and even rendered his own version. Whaddya think? More » Acura, acura tsx, Acura TSX Sport Wagon, Blip, sport [...]

  3. HudiBlitz says:

    A few thoughts:

    - The Acura TSX is popular? Really? I hardly ever see them on the road. Kind of a shame, because it seems like something of a throwback to when cars in the sporty and near-luxury segments were less bloated.

    - De-chroming the grill doesn’t go far enough. Acura needs to ditch the bionic beak altogether.

    - Totally agree with ditching the roof rack.

    - Sorry, but the wheels you’ve rendered look totally douchey. Yes, yes, I realize I’m in the minority and that wheels can’t be big enough and tires can’t be low-profile enough for people born after 1980. But something’s wrong when dealers are offering special wheel insurance because cracking alloys in potholes is such a common occurrence. I’m all for less unsprung weight, but give me some sidewall on my tires too.

    - And while we’re at it, can we lower the beltline on all cars? I miss being able to see.

    - Also, bring back bumpers that actually function as such. I realize the root cause is Americans’ inability to parallel park, but I should be able to leave a car on the street without incurring hundreds or thousands of dollars in damage to the non-bumpers. (This is far less of an issue in Europe. My London boss only had street parking, yet his Audi TT never seemed to pick up any scratches. Would anyone in the US leave a TT parallel parked for days or weeks at a time?)

  4. Scuzzy says:

    No V-6, no buy. I had an ’05 Saab Aero Wagon which I loved but gave up because I didn’t want to pay for the upkeep. Along comes a good looking wagon from Acura, on a platform that has a V-6, and they don’t offer that as an option. I don’t want an econobox wagon – if I wanted that I would buy the Jetta or Hyundai or something along those lines. Sure, what’s proposed above makes it look sporty but it’s not for me. A sporty looking wagon that can be out run by my ’08 Highlander Sport? Forget it.

  5. Mike B says:

    All I care about is the manual transmission. With it,the TSX wagon would be at the top of my list. Without a stick, it’s not even a consideration. I’ll keep on looking for a low-mileage Legacy Turbo wagon with a 5-speed.

  6. msomi says:

    Why are we in the USA paying a premium for a Honda Accord? Why? Check out the Euro version of this which is the Accord Tourer. Much more sporty me thinks.

  7. sze says:

    Good thoughts, but for me, the changes you’ve proposed don’t quite go far enough. Us former Integra/Prelude/CivicSi owning CarGuyDads remember three standout traits about our favorite rides from our younger days. They are: 1. The VTEC kick-in on the way to a stratospheric redline, 2. the handling, and 3. the shifter/clutch combo. The TSX seems to retain item number 2, and I haven’t driven a manual one so can’t comment on 3. But the VTEC…this is what I miss. As it stands, the K24 is a little too refined. It needs another 1500rpm up top, and to find a little bit of the character that made the B18 such a legendary series of engines. My proposal – use the K20, maybe retuned a little bit from its Civic Si application. Yeah, you’ll have to drive it a little harder to find the power, but that’s why you have the manual transmission, right?

  8. NoGFX says:

    Almost 8 years ago Mazda had a Wagon with a V6 and manual transmission that could be had with AWD. Too bad Mazda was in bed with Ford and could not live up to their commercials.

    I love my MAZDA 6 Sport Wagon but I sure will not look at the Acura at replacement time.

  9. Redfive says:

    Good review and I agree with a lot of what you said. I have a A4 Avant because I like awd, manual shift, sporty wagons. The prospects for a decent replacement to my 2000 B5 model are slim. Why do manufacturer feel that there is no need to caterer to the enthuasist with their enthusasit brands? 10 years ago wagons like what we want were some what plentiful. Now they’re rare. The wagons they do offer are the lame versions.
    Why can’t Acura stuff the turbo 4 from the MDX and the SH-AWD and a stick and give us a car we’d want? Same with Audi and the S4. And BMW with the 335. Why is the CTS-V the only manual wagon on the market?
    The mods you did to the car are great, but if they all came from the factory like that, what would you do to distinguish your ride from the rest of the cars on the road?

  10. Dave Morin says:

    As it sits from Acura I think it’s practically perfect for my needs (though out of my real price range). Add a manual and it becomes even better.

    Your improvements certainly create a nice S-Line, which could be marketed right next to the one currently for sale. Seems like a win-win to me.

  11. Eric Green says:

    @ Mike B

    Exactly. This is the Euro Honda Accord Tourer (a great car), but without a proper transmission. So, no interest here, either.

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