A charming new chapter in the station wagon revival.
BY TONY SWAN December 2010
At first glance, a traditional mid-size station wagon is unexpected from a company that’s scoring its best sales numbers with a crossover, the MDX. Considering there hasn’t been a conventional wagon in the U.S. Honda and Acura lineup since the fifth-generation Accord, which ended its run at the conclusion of the 1997 model year, the TSX wagon seems even more surprising.
But Acura knows not all the young, affluent small-family types out there are smitten with crossovers. There are at least a half-dozen traditional station wagons in the entry premium category—base prices range from about $30,000 to $40,000—and there’s potential for great growth if, well, if people would just realize how much better wagons are than SUVs.
Sport with a Small S
Acura didn’t create this car from scratch. Like the TSX sedan, the new wagon is a luxed-up version of the European Honda Accord. But there’s an asterisk. Unlike the sedan, which has charmed C/D staffers through two generations now, the wagon comes up a little short on the sporty score sheet. Agile: check. Competent: check. Quick, communicative steering: check. Excellent brake-pedal feel: check. No surprises: check. Comfort, quiet operation, and lots of standard features: check, check, and check.
Acceleration: not so fast. When it goes on sale December 21, the TSX wagon will offer a single powertrain—the base 201-hp, 2.4-liter four mated with a five-speed automatic. No manual transmission option. No V-6 option. With its modest torque, the 2.4-liter four isn’t an engine that’s likely to provoke acceleration brownouts or smoky burnouts. Paired in the sedan with the six-speed manual gearbox, a very slick unit in the best Honda tradition, it provides acceptable go amplified by the pleasure of engaging the right gear for the rather narrow power band.
Bolted to the automatic, though, the four-cylinder produces forward progress that’s distinctly more deliberate. And adding mass to the equation—Acura lists the wagon’s curb weight at 3599 pounds, 129 more than the four-cylinder automatic sedan’s and 199 more than the manual sedan’s—doesn’t make the going any quicker. Two-lane passing requires careful planning, and it’s hard to see the wagon as a weapon of choice for the free-for-all commuter.
If the absence of a manual transmission is disappointing, Acura’s rationale is hard to dispute. For one, even though most of the wagon’s major competitors offer do-it-yourself shifting, the take rate for the manual TSX sedan has dwindled to less than 3 percent, according to Acura. Second, Acura’s business case for the wagon is tentative—4000 units for 2011—making it important to keep the build orders simple. Four of the car’s prime competitors offer traction at both ends, but Acura has no plans to offer all-wheel drive on the TSX sedan or wagon.
The Good News
Although blistering performance may not be part of the deal, there is nevertheless a lot about the car to like. The wagon is 3.6 inches longer than the sedan and delivers far more cargo capacity. There are 26 cubic feet behind the rear seats, with a flat load floor, several tie-down points, and more storage under the floor. With the seats folded flat, the cargo well expands to 61 cubic feet, as good as anything in this class and bigger than most.
And, like other Acuras, the TSX wagon is well equipped. The base price of $31,820—that’s near the low end of the competitive spectrum and $1350 more than a sedan—includes a satisfying array of standard luxo features. There’s only one option, the Technology package, which adds $3650 to the sticker and navigation and ultra-high-end audio to the equipment list. The wagon is a tad thirstier than the four-cylinder sedan—22 mpg city and 30 highway, according to the EPA, versus 22/31—but is still near the top of the competitive charts.
The final plus: This is arguably the best-looking member of the TSX lineup and is close to the Audi A4 for visual leadership in the class. Acura has toned down the TSX’s lamentably beaky chrome grille for 2011, and the canted rear hatch adds a zoomy look to the package in addition to enhancing rear cargo access. A manual-transmission choice would make the station wagon more entertaining in our view, but the other TSX virtues are intact—and simply being a station wagon is a virtue unto itself.
Source (with a ton of pic's);