Auto Review: The wagon as a sports car

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Thu., Jun. 9, 2011
- Contributed Photo

Auto analysts try to spot trends well in advance, and predict what cars are going to be popular with the public (not just in terms of specific models, but types of vehicles in general). Station wagons used to be the family cars of choice – used primarily to haul people and their belongings – and never even remotely considered “sporty.” Then, to the surprise of many, they were replaced by minivans and SUVs as the core vehicle for family duties.

Lately, though, we’re seeing the resurgence of the station wagon, both as a general-use vehicle (like the Subaru Outback or the now-defunct Ford Freestyle), but more interestingly as a car with sport-sedan underpinnings and a wagon body to increase versatility. Like the original station wagons, these cars are derived from existing sedans. But this time around, these wagons are far more focused towards performance as opposed to pure utility. One of the latest of these new arrivals is from Honda’s upscale Acura division, in the form of the TSX Sport Wagon.

Unlike the TSX sedan, which has both an Inline Four and V6 to choose from (with either a manual or automatic transmission available on the Four), the front-drive Sport Wagon has one drivetrain: a 2.4-liter Inline Four with 201 horsepower mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Despite the fact that this is the smaller of the two engines, it works quite well in this application and is acceptably punchy, with 60 mph arriving in just under 8 seconds. The transmission shifts briskly, and the manual mode lets you select gears using paddles on the steering wheel (common practice with sport-oriented transmissions). Also more common these days is a Grade Logic Control, which is especially valuable with smaller engines because it eliminates excessive “hunting” for the right gear when climbing a hill, as it maintains gear selection longer.

Like its sedan counterpart, the TSX wagon has a suspension tuned to deliver good control and stability, but it is still biased overall in the direction of a smooth ride. As has been the case in most Acuras, braking and stability systems are top-notch and help round out a very advanced chassis and collision-protection design philosophy.

Inside, the TSX is loaded with the latest in infotainment technology (our tester was the pricier Tech model) and has tight, solid build tolerances throughout the cabin. The front sport seats are pleasantly supportive, and the driver’s work area is a nice mix of classic analog instrumentation along with lots of traditional control buttons both on the steering wheel and in the center stack. Room is good, and generous adjustments allow fine-tuning the ergonomics to fit a broad variety of drivers. The rear seats are a bit tight in the foot room department, but are sufficient for most, and there’s 25.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind them. Fold down the seatbacks and this jumps to 60.5, which is quite generous for this class of vehicle.

The 2011 Acura TSX Wagon with Tech is EPA-rated 22 MPG city/30 highway and has a base price of $34,610. With options, our sticker came to $35,470.

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