Review: 2011 Acura TSX Wagon Tech
By Brendan Moore
The last of the 2011 models for me, and I’m going to sneak it in under the wire here. Late though it may be, we want to include it since there are not a lot of Acura Wagons around in terms of press loaners, and it is in a segment (actual station wagons) that doesn’t have a great many possibilities for the prospective buyer. It’s a niche product, but a niche that Autosavant readers are partial to, so here we go.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should lay my cards on the table right now and state that I am a fan of wagons. Call them what you will; wagons, combis, estates, breaks, familiales, touring models, whatever, I’m a fan. I wish their numbers had not decreased to the point of almost being extinct in America, but tastes change, and now people that want a vehicle with some carrying utility buy a truck, an SUV, a crossover, a minivan, an “activity vehicle” like a Kia Forte or a Toyota Venza that straddles a couple of different vehicle types, and it seems, if all else fails, then, a wagon.
I mean, when even the venerable Volvo Wagon is no longer sold in the U.S., you know things are bad in the wagon segment.
Regardless, we wagon aficionados soldier on. We in the know are the ones that are aware that a wagon is ever so much better than most of the other options out there if you want to carry both people and things at the same time, and do it in relative comfort with car-like handling while achieving respectable fuel economy. That’s right; we’re special and we have special knowledge about things (insert eye roll here).
The 2011 Acura TSX Wagon Tech went on sale in the States on December 21, 2010 and is new to these shores, but not new to European buyers, as it has been sold across the pond as the Honda Accord Wagon for sometime now. The Honda Accord Wagon sold in Europe is plainer inside than this Acura version; the standard version offered by Acura here is a completely-loaded Honda Accord wagon there.
People that are familiar with Honda’s recent lineups might be asking themselves why Honda has decided to bring the wagon here in the first place, considering how wagons have fallen out of favor with American buyers, and why they would choose the Acura brand for its home. That’s a fair question. Honda hasn’t offered a wagon since 1997, and Acura, the luxury brand of Honda, has never offered a wagon.
The best answer is that Acura (read: Honda) saw the potential to open up a small, profitable segment and decided to go for it. Acura’s sales goal for the 2011 model of the TSX Wagon was only 4000 units, and they figured they could put that many across the curb against the likes of the BMW 3-Series Sports Wagon, the now-close-to-death Saab 9-3 SportCombi, the Cadillac CTS Wagon, the Infiniti EX35, the Audi A4 Avant, and the occasional loaded-to-the-gills VW Jetta Wagon and Subaru Wagon. No word yet on whether they made that number.
The wagon that Acura sent over to Autosavant is a TSX Wagon with the Technology Package, which adds another $3650 to the wagon’s $30,960 price. Doing the math, this gives you an MSRP of $35,495 after adding in another (and obligatory) $885 for destination and handling charges.
As to what you get for that extra $3650, it’s a good portion of technology goodness:
Audio: Acura/ELS Surround®32 460-watt Premium 10-speaker Sound System with 15-gigabyte hard disk drive memory (HDD) media storage, in-dash CD, DVD-Audio, MP3, WMA6 and DTS® player, Dolby®5 Pro Logic® II, Bluetooth®11 Audio and AM/FM tuner,USB7 Audio Interface with iPod®8 integration, Song By Voice™, XM® Radio4 with Note function music reminder
Acura Navigation System: Rearview camera, available Traffic Rerouting™, and Zagat Survey® restaurant ratings and reviews, available AcuraLink® Real-Time Traffic and Weather, Automated Appointments™
Voice Recognition System: For navigation audio and climate control systems
Access: Remote-linked power-operated tailgate
And it all works, too. Which is always nice, right?
There are, however, beaucoup buttons everywhere in the dash, and those buttons are not arrayed and don’t always work in an intuitive manner.
The interior is a nice one in terms of materials, fit and finish, but it does fall down a little bit here and there. Overall, though, a very nice place to be.
Except…rear leg room is a little tight. Too tight for adults, just right for kids, but will you always have only kids in the back?
And now, what does a wagon do best? It carries stuff. Lift the hatch and get 25.8 cubic feet of storage space. Put the rear seats down after you lift the hatch, and get 60 cubic feet of storage space. Which, as any wagon devotee would hasten to point out, is more than many SUVs and most crossovers provide.
Let us step outside to the exterior sheet metal, an area where Acura has been a consistent under-achiever for sometime. I’m happy to say that Acura has finally started modifying the horrendous beak that has been disfiguring their vehicles for years. The TSX Wagon doesn’t look bad up front, and from any other angle, the car is sleek and sporty. It’s an attractive car from front to back.
Since this an Acura, it must drive pretty well, correct? Well, it does. It handles well, brakes well, soaks up the bumps, is good on uneven road surfaces, and it’s quiet.
Except…it’s not very fast. It’s fast enough, but the 2.4 liter four-cylinder puts out 201 HP at a very high 7000 RPM, pulls 170 pound-feet of torque at 4300 RPM, and is lugging around 3,599 pounds. The math doesn’t really work in the low end of the torque curve, but is wonderful when you’re singing along at the top of the rev band. Somewhat puzzlingly, Acura offers a V6 with 280 HP (and more lower-end grunt) in the sedan version of this car, but doesn’t offer it in the wagon version, even though the wagons might be carrying a lot more cargo here and there while knocking about. Interesting.
But, it’s fast enough, as previously stated, and four-cylinder does get good fuel economy. The EPA ratings for the car with the mandatory five-speed automatic transmission are 30 mpg in the highway cycle and 22 MPG in the city cycle. That is very good for a car that can carry so much.
By the way, antediluvian though it may be in this age of eight-speed and ten-speed automatic transmissions, the Acura (read: Honda) five-speed automatic is very creamy and so smooth in its operation. Just thought I’d mention that.
Here we are at the end of this review, and here is the summing up: The 2011 Acura has a few minor flaws, but overall, it is a very nice piece of work. I love the handling, I really like the crisp looks, I love the utility of the wagon layout, I think it represents good value for the money in terms of the content you get in the car, and I have to tell you, I’m a bit smitten with the car.
You should test drive this car if you need a vehicle with some carrying capacity; you are shorting yourself if you don’t. But, hey, I know you probably won’t.
The crying shame concerning this wagon is that it’s probably all the vehicle that 90% of crossover drivers and 80% of all SUV drivers would ever need, but that logic just doesn’t matter in this instance – they’re not even going to consider a wagon in their process around picking a new vehicle. Sigh.
Acura provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas for this review.
Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting, a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area, where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.