• Dec 15, 2010
A Wagon With Genuine Swagger

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon - Click above for high-res image gallery

Brush your long, grungy mop from your eyes, turn down the Nirvana and take a look around. It's the early '90s and an army of sport utility vehicles are flooding the streets. The newest four-wheeled object of America's affection has quickly become the default mode of transportation for everyone from inner city professionals to suburban soccer moms.

Fast forward a couple of decades and although sport utes are still around, they've largely been displaced by the crossover – the SUV's easier-to-maneuver, more fuel efficient and more comfortable unibody progeny. But even after years of refinement, the CUV is still a basketcase of compromises. Which begs the question: Did we have it right back in the day? Is a wagon still the best compromise of size, functionality and driving dynamics? We snagged the keys to a 2011 Acura TSX Sports Wagon to find out.



Photos copyright ©2010 Jeff Glucker / AOL

Needless to say, the TSX Sport Wagon is based on its sedan counterpart, but in addition to its two-box shape, Acura has set it off with a redesigned grille. The new piece looks far less hawk-nosed than the one worn by the four-door, as its been broken up by a thinner frame that creates a slimming effect. The lower bumper also improves front-end styling with a much wider and more aggressive appearance. Seeing the TSX Sport Wagon for the first time is a bit like running into that formerly plain-looking girl from high school who got some work done and now dates a pro baseball player; she looks nearly the same, but somehow better. And she knows it. All of which suggests that Acura's stylists may have been listening to at least some of the criticism they've received over the company's controversial front fascia.

The Sport Wagon's updated nose gives way to that long wagon body, which also benefits from a handful of well-placed styling elements. Noticeable fender bulges wrap around the 17-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels and serve to bookend a razor sharp shoulder crease. A strong character line takes over and works its way around the perimeter of the car. It's a neat visual trick that keeps your eyes moving along the bodywork, and it also helps to hide the extra length the wagon wears – a grand total of about 3.6 inches. The overall appearance, however, is somewhat sportier than the sedan because of how the rotund rear end sets off the car's stance.

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon side view2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon front view2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon rear view

The driver's perch gives you the chance to enjoy the TSX's dark trim and subtle contrast stitching on its seats. The heated leather front chairs wrap around your body like a mold and while the Audi A4 Avant, BMW 328i Sport Wagon and Volvo V50 might have nice seats, none of them offer standard heating and few are as comfortable. Rear seat passengers are well taken care of, too, as the wagon loses just 0.1-inch of headroom compared to the sedan, while leg, hip and shoulder room all remain the same.

Better still, the rear seats fold down nearly flat with the touch of a switch. The side pockets and lower panels can be removed to reveal even more storage options and the 28-inch height of the rear opening allows for some sizable objects to catch a lift. The 60.5 cubic-feet of rear cargo space is downright cavernous compared to the 50.5, 48.9 and 44.2 found in the Audi, BMW and Volvo, respectively. The closest you'll get to equaling the TSX's cargo hold is the Cadillac CTS Wagon which comes in at 58 cubes with the seats folded flat.

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon interior2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon front seats2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon rear seats2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon rear cargo area

It's not just comfort and utility that makes the TSX Sport Wagon a near ideal place to log trips over the hills and through the woods. All of the knobs and switches are easy to reach, and the available infotainment system hits the moving target of today's technological standards. With the exception of the bulbous multi-directional controller blighting the center stack, the controls are logically laid out, providing an easy learning curve. Dual-zone climate controls keep more than just the driver happy and even the base seven-speaker sound system provides an enjoyable audio experience. The navigation system and rearview camera, however, only show up on the dashboard if you opt for the Technology Package, but Bluetooth and USB audio come standard.

The base model starts at $30,960 plus $860 for destination and handling, while the TSX Sport Wagon with Tech Package costs $34,610 plus D&H. When upgrading to the latter, buyers also receive a power-actuated tailgate, boosted ELS 460-watt 10-speaker audio system with voice recognition, navigation with real-time weather, traffic updates and dynamic re-routing, and the rearview camera. A loaded Acura TSX Sport Wagon with Tech Package still comes in under the base price of the A4 ($35,940), 328i ($36,200) and comparably-equipped V50 ($35,650). The Caddy? Just over $38,000 in base spec.

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon gauges2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon navigation system2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon climate controls2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon shifter

Comparing pricing and amenities never paints a complete picture, though, and that's where driving dynamics come into play. "Sport" is the TSX Sport Wagon's middle name, and after hauling around Southern California for a couple of days, the moniker is well-deserved. If just. The suspension is firm – almost surprisingly so – making this five-door a joy to push hard, at least on SoCal's smooth roads. The rack-and-pinion steering is also tight and responsive, combining neatly with the TSX's stiff suspenders to make for an engaging driving experience.

When the road turns even slightly rough, however, the TSX Sport Wagon transforms into something of a child's moonbounce. While never unsettled, on certain course surfaces we found the Acura to be not unlike navigating a Boston whaler across a choppy harbor. Suspension for this front-wheel drive wagon is composed of double wishbones up front and multi-link setup in the rear, and we suspect the issue lies with the constant-rate coil springs. Perhaps a set of progressive units would help smooth things out, but prospective buyers who live in areas blessed with four distinctly separate seasons should keep the TSX Sport Wagon's stiff nature in mind.

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon headlights2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon grille2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon grille2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon taillight

Under the hood of the TSX Sport Wagon lies a 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing 201 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 172 pound-feet of torque at 4,300 rpm. That doesn't sound like much, but the powertrain actually provides a surprising amount of motivation for this 3,599-pound premium utility sled and sounds pretty good while doing it.

Power is routed to the front wheels courtesy of a five-speed automatic transmission, while a pair of paddles mounted to the steering wheel allow for manual gear selection. When left alone, the automatic shifts smoothly, though sometimes it plays a game of hide-and-seek when pressing on with authority. If you're not in the mood for the cogbox's automated games, you can always switch the transmission into Sport and use the paddleshifters. Fortunately, whatever speed you build is just as easy to shed thanks to the TSX's well-sorted 11.8-inch ventilated front and 11.1-inch solid rear discs.

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon engine

A six-speed manual transmission would offer even more engagement, but sadly Acura can't build a business case for one. When pressed why we can't get a row-our-own version, Acura officials indicated that the company expects to sell around 4,000 units per year, or 10 percent of all TSX models sold. The take rate for manual transmissions amongst current TSX buyers is only around two to three percent, and with the wagon already making up a minority of TSX sales, it doesn't make financial sense to offer a three-pedal model.

So where is the V6 that's offered in the sedan? The four-cylinder does a surprisingly credible job, but the 280-hp, 3.5-liter unit available in the four-door would be a welcome addition. Just as Acura was listening to its customers with regards to the front-end design, it's also evidently deferred to market research regarding what engine to plunk in the TSX Wagon's beaky nose. As the theory goes, the average wagon buyer doesn't need 280 hp when 201 hp works just fine, and prospective buyers Acura spoke with placed a higher priority on fuel economy than power. The 2.4-liter is rated at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 30 miles per gallon on the highway, while the V6-powered sedan achieves 18/27 – numbers that would no doubt fall in the heavier wagon.

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon rear 3/4 view

That all said, why is the TSX Sport Wagon finally available in the U.S.? Because Acura says it wants to provide an SUV alternative for its entry-level customers. The wagon is aimed squarely at those successful members of Generation-Y for whom owning an SUV has become a stigma. Priced below the competition and boasting better fuel economy, the 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon is not yet the near-luxury estate of our dreams, but it's a welcome step in the continued resurrection of the premium wagon.



Photos copyright ©2010 Jeff Glucker / AOL


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 104 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      I went to test drive it and bought it right away! I got Tech Package and I'm glad I did! I have been driving it around and found, that this car is best wagon I ever had! I did have many in my life! Seats and steering wheel are very sporty and comfy! Makes the driving really enjoyable! I suspect that suggested sales numbers will be very much bigger. This car is that cool!
      Logan Wild
      • 3 Years Ago
      I WANT
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Acura advantage is price, $ 31,820 (including freight) for the entry model, $ 35,470 for the upscale model with the must-have Tech Package. In comparison, BMW’s 328i Sports Wagon starts at $ 37,075 and continues on, thanks to its wealth of options packages, to $ 53,165. The Volvo (base $ 29,875) is more in line with Acura’s pricing; the VW ($ 20,765 base) is a more Spartan vehicle but with similar dimensions.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Won't buy it; wouldn't consider it. BUT, it does look better as a wagon. It might be the best looking model in Acura's current lineup.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Acura did a great job with this car. i wish it came with a 6 speed maual but, thats o.k. To make it a perfect wagon, they should make the back glass open up like on most suvs. im going to wait for about 2 years and buy a used one, finally, i get to say good buy to suvs/ cuvs for ever. thank you acura for bringing back nice wagons.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Not with a 4 cylinder Honda Engine! That won't whet the appetite of those who wants the "Sport" moniker to live up to it. Unfortuantely, with a V6, EPA drops belowcompetitors like the A4. So that begs the question - why is Honda not keeping up with technology? Why doesn't it have any direct fuel injection engines in their stable? Mr. Ito had implied that there is not a chance that this going to happen, they have got other "better" things to do. Being a Hondaphile, this saddens me - after having owned a string of Hondas, I have had to jump ship and hope over into an Audi (I was ready for an Acura). Someone, please makeHonda change it's mind over this issue.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Thanks for the link. It's lost a lot of it's 'interesting' initial design features, but looks somewhat more practical!
      I wonder if the Nissan Town Pod is their version of this? If so, a lot of folk here are going to want one very badly!
      Nice to see the Twizy has lost those stupid wheel covers too!
      http://www.usavehiclehub.com/trucks/
      • 4 Years Ago
      stop complaining about how CUVs have compromises

      my wife loves here and will never switch to a car again
      she finds it more comfy, easier to drive around than her earlier car
      they are a compromise to those of us that want to dive a sports car, not anyone else

      and even though i love my G35, wen it comes time to get the home depot stuff home, i borrow her ride. I'm glad she likes CUVs cause if she was like me then with two cars I would always have to pay the $20 to home depot to get my stuff home form there

      this year alone I have borrowed her car ~30 times to get stuff transported, and she gets about 1mpg better than me (I average ~20 and she does about 21)

      My earlier car sucked as far as comfort (a Geo Prizm) and because I have a lead foot I averaged about 26mpg on that car and I would never trade ever no matter the cost for the Geo or anything with FWD and no power
        • 4 Years Ago
        Les gas mileage due to higher air resistance, less usable interior and cargo space due to overexaggerated wheel wells and a higher load floor, less safe emergency handling due to higher ride height.

        Those are a few of the compromises that are inherent to CUV's that I can think of off the top of my head.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Do people actually look at that grill and then still empty $31,000 out of their bank account?
      • 4 Years Ago
      No manual? Then I'm not interested. Yes, I realize just how small a minority of the buyers that I represent.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I dunno, a wagon is itself a niche product, and I have a feeling those few folks interested in a wagon are the same few folks interested in a manual. We call those folks autoblog readers.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Honda, make it AWD and I am sure that you'll be getting visits from folks looking to replace their Legacy GT wagons and outbacks because they don't want to have to carry a stepping stoll around to reach the roof of the new OB!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Yet another fugly creation from Honda. Sad to see a good car maker totally lose it.
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