May 8, 2011

Scott Wasser: Going back to the future in Acura TSX wagon

You'd think that after reaping the harvest of cool new station wagons cultivated over the past few years, an auto writer could begin looking to the future instead of thinking about the past.

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Acura’s TSX Sport Wagon is one of the latest attempts by automakers to convince American car buyers that station wagons can be cool. The TSX wagon is as sleek and stylish inside and outside.

Photos courtesy Acura

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Even the base Acura TSX wagon comes with leather upholstery, satellite radio with USB audio input, heated power front seats, hands-free cell phone link, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a power moonroof.

Photo courtesy Acura

Additional Photos Below


WHAT IS IT? 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon, a stylish, sporty and luxurious alternative to small SUVs and crossovers.

WHAT’S IT COST? Starting price is $30,960, and the only option/upgrade is the $3,650 Technology Package included on the test car. As-tested MSRP was $35,470.

WHAT I LIKED BEST: Styling, utility, performance, fuel economy.

WHAT I LIKED LEAST: Not a lot of low-end thrust, no AWD option.

WHO’S IT FOR? Anyone in the market for a compact touring sedan who can appreciate the extra cargo carrying capacity and flexibility of a wagon.

IMPORTANT NUMBERS: 2.4-liter, 16-valve, iVTEC in-line four cylinder produces 201 horsepower, 170 pounds-feet of torque. Five-speed automatic. 106.4-inch wheelbase. 3,599-pound curb weight. Zero to 60 in 8.0 sec. (stopwatch). 22 city/30 highway mpg (EPA). Cargo space: 25.8/60.5 cubic feet with rear seatbacks up/folded.


Not this one.

Every time I get a new wagon to evaluate, I can't help but think back to when station wagons were a common sight on the nation's roads.

Seeing Acura's new-for-2011 TSX Sport Wagon for the first time launched me again on one of those metaphysical trips back in time. For some reason, my brain started digging through its collection of videotapes and began playing back one of a road trip from Pennsylvania to Florida.

We were traveling in separate vehicles with another family, mine in a minivan and the other family in an early-1980s Chevrolet Caprice Estate station wagon.

That thing was so big its rear bumper was still in Pennsylvania when the front end crossed the North Carolina border.

And it was as ugly as it was big, a bloated blob of sheet metal, glass and that self-stick vinyl stuff that actually looks a tiny bit like wood until the sun starts to fade it. (Which happened about six minutes after the vehicle left the dealer showroom.)

I have no clue how my brain works, but in this case I'm pretty sure the TSX Sport Wagon's stunning styling triggered my memories. Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon fans might disagree, but I think the TSX is the first vehicle that looks better as a wagon than a sedan.

If I were Ralph Lauren or Frank Lloyd Wright, I might be able to explain why the TSX Sport Wagon's lines and curves and creases work so well together. But I'm just a schlub who looks at the TSX Sport Wagon and sees cool ... elegant ... sporty.

I see that inside the TSX as well as out. At the risk of getting all Frank O. Gehry-ish on you, I love the way metallic accents swoop up from the console and center stack to a sensuously curved dashboard, creating the imagery of a seagull effortlessly gliding through the air.

Acura doesn't allow form to trump function. The TSX's instruments are legible at a glance, its switches and controls easy to reach and operate. Even its multifunction dial -- one of those features nobody needed that nevertheless became nearly ubiquitous in luxury vehicles -- is in a great spot and works intuitively.

So does the rest of the TSX Sport Wagon. Honda has always been known for building well-mannered and smartly engineered and equipped vehicles, and it created the Acura brand to push handling and luxury a bit further. Those qualities are all reflected in the TSX Sport Wagon.

For example, the Sport Wagon is available in only two configurations: Well-equipped and really well-equipped. For its $31,000 base price, the Sport Wagon delivers a slew of goodies. These include leather upholstery, satellite radio with USB audio input, heated power front seats, hands-free cell phone link, heated door mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, fog lights, xenon headlights and a power moonroof.

The only upgrade available is a $3,650 Technology Package. The package consists of a power tailgate, rearview camera, navigation system with 8-inch display and real-time traffic and weather, and an audiophile-caliber surround-sound system. The 10-speaker system includes a DVD-Audio player and a 15-Gb hard drive capable of storing more than 3,500 songs, according to Acura.

A different type of storage is likely to be of more interest to Sport Wagon buyers: The TSX has 25.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind its rear seat and 60.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity with its 60/40 split rear seatbacks folded.

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Additional Photos

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The Acura TSX Sport Wagon has the equally great lines from both the front and the rear.

Photo courtesy Acura

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The Sport Wagon has 25.8 cubic feet of storage space with the rear seats up, and 60.5 feet when they are down.

Photo courtesy Acura


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