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2006 Acura TSX is more sports car than family sedan

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | March 6th, 2006

You want to buy a nimble, good handling, high performance sports car like the Honda S2000, but what you really need is a family car. If you are stuck in this scenario, then the solution is the Acura TSX.

This is really an eager little sports car that just happens to wear a practical sedan's clothing. What the TSX is in reality is the revved-up version of the European Honda Accord, just repackaged for our own market. Honda is a very clever car company; instead of taking the risk of introducing the smaller European Accord into the North American market, they go with a larger North American version for the Honda showrooms, and introduce this sportier Accord under the Acura banner.

The thinking behind this car for North America is to give buyers who have grown up and moved on from their Integra or RSX into a similarly sporty vehicle, or as mentioned before, a practical vehicle for someone who really wants a sports car but has to think of the family too. I am here to tell you, you won't be sacrificing anything if you bought a TSX, because this car is just utterly fabulous.

I spent a week with it recently and whereas some cars take a few days to warm up to, this one had me smiling even before I left the parking lot. Yes, it literally takes just 15 seconds for you to feel good behind the wheel of this car.

What strikes you when you first get in it is how well it's made. Every material you touch feels good, the fit and finish is superb and it looks great. What came as a surprise was how practical the interior was, thanks to clever storage areas for you to throw your stuff. This was an easy car to live with.

More than that, it was an easy car to enjoy. The TSX is powered by a very finely tuned 2.4 litre, DOHC, four-cylinder engine that, thanks to Honda's clever i-VTEC system, produces 205hp and 164 lb/ft of torque. You can have that engine mated to either a five-speed automatic gearbox, or like my press car, a six-speed manual gearbox. If you can live with driving a manual then I strongly suggest you buy this car with a manual gearbox. I have not driven the automatic version and I am sure it must be just fine, but this manual is just such a joy. The feel of the clutch and gearbox is fantastic, just like the unit you get in a S2000. It really is one of those cars that would plant a smile on your face every time you make a gear change. Do it right, and you'll sprint from 0-100 km/h in seven seconds. Top speed should be in the 210 km/h range, if you so feel inclined to test out.

So the turn of speed is impressive, but that is nothing compared to its handling. This car has the best front-wheel drive chassis I have ever come across, including the Mini Cooper. The chassis is sometimes perhaps too good at times, as it hides the drama of what may have been a hair-raising moment. This car turns sharply and it rides well, so to put it in simple words, it does everything right.

However, we all know there is no such thing as a perfect car, so what are this car's flaws?

Well for starters, the fabulous dry weather handling does become a bit twitchy if snow is on the ground. Nothing too alarming, but it doesn't have the bite the CSX has in similar conditions. Then the legroom in the back is a bit too tight. If you have teenagers, look elsewhere because they won't be happy in the back. If you have young children however, they'll be fine.

I am not totally convinced with the exterior styling; it's not bad but it could have been more exciting. The biggest complaint I had, and I hope would be limited to my test car, was stereo-related. It made the most annoying sounds every few minutes. It sounded like a drop of water fizzing on a live wire; it just drove me mad. This is not the first time I have had such an issue with a Bose sound system, but I do hope it will be the last. That minor annoyance spoilt the otherwise perfect experience I had with this car.

I recommend this car to anyone who is looking to spend about $36,000 on a family car. The car I had was also equipped with a navigation system (one of the best navigation systems I have come across, might I add) and was thus worth $38,700. It is worth the money, every penny of it, however this brings it in the firing line of my favourite sedan of all, the Subaru Legacy GT.

So, which would I pick if I were spending my own hard earned cash? Well this is how I put it; if I were buying from the heart, I'd run to the Subaru in a heartbeat. As a total driving machine, it just can't be beaten thanks to its all-wheel drive system and that turbo-charged engine. However, if I was buying from the head, then the TSX makes more sense. It is better equipped, does pretty much everything just as well as the Legacy GT and it even gives great fuel economy (I averaged 11-literes/100km). So as a total package, it can't be beaten.

The Acura TSX is an intelligent choice, kind a like a nerd that is fun to play with. Now that must be a first!
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