New Car Review: 2012 Acura TSX

Front three-quarters view of red 2012 Acura TSX on rooftop garage in front of skylight
The 2012 Acura TSX.
If your age begins with the numbers "3", "2" or "1", you might wonder why people whose ages begin with "4", "5" or "6" seem to think so highly of Honda. And you probably wonder just what the heck Acura is supposed to be.

It was not always thus.

As we noted in our review of the CR-V, Honda's not building bad cars, they're just not meeting the incredibly high expectations of people whose first Honda experiences were in the 80s and early 90s, when just about everything they did was a revelation in terms of engineering, efficiency and ergonomics.

So...wanna know what all the fuss was about, Milennials and late-Gen Xers?

Rear three-quarters view of red 2012 Acura TSX on rooftop garage at dusk with downtown Los Angeles skyline
The 2012 Acura TSX.
This is the car you need to drive. The one Honda or Acura product that embodies what the good old days were all about. It's not a throwback...it's a thoroughly modern vehicle...it just holds to the principles that made Hondas and Acuras special cars back in the day...intelligent size, fun to drive and properly engineered.

This is what the Honda Accord should be. In fact, in Europe and other lands, this car is sold as the Honda Accord. Market research apparently said we in the states wanted something larger and softer.

Market research also said the Edsel and New Coke would be huge.

No, it's the rest of the world that's getting the good stuff with an Accord badge on it...but we can have it with a trip to the Acura dealer. The TSX comes standard with a 201 horsepower 2.4 liter four-cylinder DOHC 16-valve engine. There's an optional V6 that makes 280, but the four didn't leave us wanting more. Mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, the EPA estimates 22 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway. What we saw in a week at the wheel makes those numbers believable.

Base price is $30,010, but ours was the Technology Package model...$3,100 goes onto the pricetag and a 415-watt 10-speaker surround sound audio system with 15 gigabyte hard drive, CD, DVD, mp3, WMA and DTS appears inside the car, with Dolby ProLogic II, Bluetooth, USB, iPod connection, and XM Satellite Radio.

Going with the Tech spec also gets you the navigation system including a rearview camera, automated appointments, Zagat survey restaurant reviews, and AcuraLink with real-time weather and traffic, which includes traffic re-routing. Voice recognition controls audio and climate control, and said climate control is GPS-linked and solar sensing, adjusting not only for ambient temperature, but for angle of the sun and your perceived heat or lack thereof.

Given that nav systems alone were 2 grand all by themselves just a couple of years ago, the Tech package is good value. And Acura manages to include it all in a way that isn't obtrusive and drowning the car in gadgetry. A good thing, because driving the TSX is where the fun is. It's a handling machine...eager to go find and conquer the nearest winding road. Vehicle stability assist, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake distribution, brake assist...all standard, as are 17 inch alloy wheels, 50-series all-season tires and fog lamps.

Interior of the 2012 Acura TSX
The 2012 Acura TSX interior.
Inside...intelligent ergonomics...a toning down (somewhat) of Honda/Acura's recent dashboard button fetish and more standard goodies, including a full complement of airbags, driver recognition memory, 8-way power driver's seat with lumbar support (a 4-way power seat for the passenger...both are heated), power windows and locks, and a moonroof.

And that's just how our tester came. Standard. Not a single option. $885 for delivery and handling brings the bottom line to $33,995. You can spend a lot more on cars that are a lot less fun.

If you wonder where the good old days from Honda went...or if you never knew...a test drive in a TSX will answer a lot of questions.