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2005 Acura TSX Navi Test Drive

Five is more than six

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

By Philip Powell

Picture of 2005 Acura TSX

2005 Acura TSX

Philip Powell
Acura's 2.4 liter TSX sports sedan is actually a European Honda Accord, modified to satisfy the Acura image in North America. Which means luxury plus performance. It also means a more compact sedan than the Accord we get here, and that in turn translates to a car that is nimble and tossable. With 200 hp and a 6-speed manual it is very quick. The TSX Navi adds a GPS voice-activated map system and lists at $29,129 with a choice of 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic.

First Glance

Just as I was about to enter the TSX it spoke. "Drive me fast and hard, hit my rev-limiter in every gear, glory in the sound of my 200 hp engine, dive deep into every corner, and scare the bejeezus out of anyone who gets in our way." What could I do but obey? Except for that last order, though I may have come close on one or two occasions.

Let's face it, the TSX exists to be driven hard and fast. That it can also be used as a comfortable family car is a bonus. I'm revealing no secrets when I say the TSX is aimed at BMW 3-Series intenders who may be shopping for alternatives offering affordable prices and/or a roomier back seat. The Bimmer has the advantage of rear-wheel-drive whereas the TSX has the advantage of front-wheel-drive. Take your pick.

If I was still living in the snowbelt (every day I'm grateful that I'm not, having paid my dues many years over) I'd choose the TSX for its advantages in slippery going. I might even choose it because that same front-wheel-drive makes possible the roomier rear seat and deeper trunk space. On the other hand the TSX lacks the finesse of a BMW or even a Lexus IS. So while I eagerly responded to my test car's commands it wasn't always the fun it should have been.

In the Driver's Seat

Picture of 2005 Acura TSX

2005 Acura TSX Cockpit

Philip Powell
Once settled into the driver's seat you know you're in a performance sedan. Those deep bolsters hold you firmly in place and the seat wraps itself around your body, which is exactly what you want in a car that's meant to be driven hard. Next, you'll notice the elegant simplicity of the dashboard and instrument panel, distinguished by a metallic band that sweeps from the driver's door across the panel to the passenger's side.

Clear sightlines, which contribute to safety, are typical of Honda, or were until the arrival of America's oversized Accord. In a quick car like the TSX, it's a pleasure to be able to see more of the road and traffic. That's if you can avoid being distracted by the navigation system. While the easiest solution is too turn it off, GPS can certainly be helpful when navigating through unknown streets. Unlike in some cars, the TSX screen was still readable in the sun's glare, as I discovered when driving with the sunroof open.

A visit to the rear passenger area showed legroom to be quite adequate. I'm 6-feet tall and drive with the seat well-back and yet I could get comfortable enough in the rear provided I didn't need to stretch my legs. Two average-size passengers should have no trouble enjoying the ride.

On the Road

200 hp from a 2.4 liter 4-banger is impressive, as the TSX quickly demonstrates. But there's a catch to such performance. It only comes on song at very high revs, somewhere around 6000 rpm. I learned this early-on when attempting an acceleration run, as the rev-limiter cut in before I could shift to second, and again to third. Amusing for a brief period, especially on a race track, but the TSX is intended to be a family car.

After my initial attempt I rarely ran the revs that high, if only because doing so caused me to drive at unreasonably high speeds. How does the TSX perform when change-ups are made at more civilised rpms? Very well, but not good enough to set it apart from competing automobiles. Acura tries to compensate by making a 6-speed manual transmission standard equipment but again there are trade-offs involved. Though the throws are short, changes are notchy and selecting 6th requires a firm arm and a precise sense of where you're at in the gearbox. All too often I was swimming in neutral.

Happily, the TSX is fun in the corners with its precise steering, mild understeer, and excellent brakes. That, of course, is where the 6-speed box comes in handy, especially if the driver is handy with heel-and-toe.

Journey's End

Picture of 2005 Acura TSX

2005 TSX Reveals Shapely Rear

Philip Powell
I could be happy with a TSX, for I much prefer the compact dimensions over Acura's lovely TL and enjoy a sedan that can be hustled through the hills, making corners into a playground. But I would never buy it with the 6-speed manual, which turns the game into work. Acura's fine 5-speed automatic, offered at no extra cost, is far preferable, especially as it comes with a self-shifting feature.

Thus equipped, the transmission will keep you from over-revving and make it easier to find the sweet spot when rapid acceleration is needed. The Acura TSX would be a more civilised ride and I'd have no hesitation in recommending it, especially if driven in wintry conditions.

As a family sedan, it has all the qualities you're likely to demand, provided your rear seat passengers aren't long and leggy. You'll be happy with the contoured bucket seats, whose bolsters provide much-needed support, though climbing in and out is a bit awkward. If you make use of the tilt-wheel, beware of the adjuster handle. Released, it's a real knee-banger. I gave up and left the wheel full-down.

Quick, luxurious, and sized just right, the TSX can make everyday driving seem like a lap of the Nurburgring. Which, considering its genes, is to be expected.

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