I’ve loved cars my whole life, and my dream is to one day have owned a diverse selection like many of our other authors. However, as someone just shy of 22 years of age, my ownership of cars has been limited to only two. I wrote about my first car, a 2004 Toyota Highlander, a while back, and have been meaning to do a detailed review of my current car, my 2010 Acura TSX V6. After two and a half years of ownership, I think it’s safe to say that I have a clear verdict on the Acura.
The Highlander was a great car. It may not have been exciting, but for the nine years it was in my family, it fulfilled all our needs with a dose of luxury and a good reliability record. Besides some issues with the sound system early on that were ultimately resolved, for the most part anything that went wrong was largely routine for a car with its age and mileage.
In August of 2011, my mom and I moved about 45 minutes away from our old town, and two weeks later I left for my freshman year of college at the University of Connecticut. Still working in our old town, my mom switched off between her 2007 BMW X3 and the Highlander for her daily commute, so as to not put too many miles on her BMW. She often did the same on the weekends when I’d come home, as the round trip to Storrs, CT and back was about four hours. From then until I finished my freshman year in May and she retired in June 2012, about 30,000 miles were put on each car.
I was never happy at UConn, and after sticking it out for a year, transferred to a school closer to home and in the city. Upon being accepted to Suffolk University in Boston, I received an academic scholarship that covered half of my tuition each semester. This translated to saving upwards of $20,000 each year over UConn, meaning there would be more than enough to cover my remaining six semesters (which I’m happy to say only needed to be five) in my college fund account that Mom had been putting money into since my infancy.
With me back at home, commuting to school and my job, my mom said she would feel better with me driving a newer, lower mileage car. Of course, I had no objections. I had saved up a little money working that summer and my mom offered to give me a very generous down payment. Combined with the trade-in on the Highlander, we set a strict budget. As part of the agreement, if I chose a used car, it could not be older than three years old or have more than 50,000 miles on the odometer.
I began looking at the pre-owned inventory of the several large dealer networks in eastern Massachusetts. I didn’t really know what I wanted, so I kept an open mind about body style and brand. Through all this, there was one car that stuck out in my mind: the Volkswagen CC. In its favor were a semi-luxurious interior, very sexy coupe-like styling which I loved, and an image that was more premium than your average Toyota’s without being as brash as a BMW’s.
I took a test-drive in a 2.0T 2010 model, and although I liked the way it drove and the pleasant hum of its turbo, there were several demerits. Upon reading into it more, I discovered that CCs were very prone to costly mechanical issues, even in their first couple of years. There was also another unfortunate fact that stood in my way. The overwhelming majority of pre-owned CCs (which weren’t that many) were all silver with black interiors–the only color combination I refused to get in my new car.
Among other cars I was leaning towards were the Lexus IS, Acura TL, Volvo S60, and Saab 9-5. Unfortunately, any newer models of these cars with low mileage were out of my price range. Still, though, there was something about Acura I really liked. It offered a lot of car for the money, and I liked its interior the best. Of course I thought about the slightly smaller and less expensive TSX, as it boasted a similar interior and I actually preferred its tamer exterior styling. However the power produced by its 2.4L inline-4 was a big turn off for me, and many reviews I read backed this perception. I’d say about 50% of my driveway is highway driving, and the rest is largely on winding back roads where I sometimes drive close to typical interstate speed limits.
Then by chance, while on break at work one day, I came across a car that caught my attention. It was a 2010 TSX with a V6! I hadn’t followed the TSX much since its second generation introduction in 2009 and had forgotten that beginning in 2010 you could get it with the same 3.5L V6 that was in front-wheel drive versions of the TL.
This particular TSX was a Grigio Metallic over taupe leather 2010 model coming off of a lease with just under 40,000 miles on it. It was also wearing the same set of 18-inch split 5-spoke alloys that caught my eye on a TSX (that must have been a V6) I saw out on the road a few months back.
I came across the listing on a Sunday, and emailed the dealer, scheduling a test drive for Friday. Driving out to Prime Acura in Walpole with my mom was an exciting but bittersweet moment. Although I was technically still “looking” at this car, I knew that my relationship with my Highlander, the car that had been a huge part of my life for almost a decade was nearing its end.
When we arrived at the dealer, the gray TSX V6 was already parked right out front waiting. Needless to say, the test drive won me over. The minute I got behind the wheel, something just felt right. Its thick rimmed leather wrapped steering wheel, heavily bolstered driver’s seat with Acura’s signature “pointy shoulders,” and cockpit-style dash gave me the aura of a driver’s car that I was looking for.
I purposely took a detour during the test drive, extending it so I could really get a true feel of how this car handled on a variety of road surfaces. It was easily the most exciting test drive I’ve ever taken. This included exiting the highway from 80 mph, using no brake on the 270º offramp at the salesman’s order. This was something I never would have done without an Acura expert’s assurance, but it was a good way to demonstrate this car’s remarkable poise when pushed to its limits.
I liked the styling, I liked the interior, I liked the level of equipment, and now I loved how this car drove. And just like that my car search was over. We put a $500 deposit down to hold the car until Monday, so we could get a bank check for the downpayment, and get the insurance all straightened out. My mom and I then went for lunch at Legal C Bar in Dedham, which has become a tradition whenever one of us gets a new car.
We returned Monday morning to work out the final details. Due to her better credit score (mine was virtually nonexistent at that point), we decided to finance the remaining portion in my mom’s name. For the time being, it also makes insurance rates lower. After giving us the “internet price”, which I think is a load of B.S., the dealer would not budge on the price any more. My mom and I saw right through the weak stereotypical one-liners the salesman and finance guy were throwing at us, but ultimately there was no more haggling that could be done. The final sales price was pretty much in line with what CPO 4-cylinder TSXs were going for anyway. After a few stressful hours, the TSX was mine. At least they put a bow on it for me.
I was overjoyed to own this car then, and the feeling hasn’t gone away two and a half years later. This car, whom I’ve affectionally named “Gisele,” after Patriot’s QB Tom Brady’s wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, has proved to be a great fit for me. I like the exclusivity that comes with owning a low production model. Although I have no definitive numbers, TSX V6 production can’t have been more than ten percent of overall TSX production. I’ll also be totally honest when I say that I appreciate the added hedonic value that comes with owning a car from a luxury make, even if this car is sold as a regular Honda elsewhere.
One of the things about Acura is that they give you a far greater amount of standard equipment, for considerably less money, than makes like BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Infiniti, and Volvo. Mine lacks the Technology Package, which includes navigation, back-up camera, and GPS climate control, but other than that, the TSX is pretty much loaded for its time. After having them in my Highlander, heated leather seats were a must on my list. These standard perforated leather seats offer a nice balance between softness and support, and I should add that I found the leather more supple than that in the X3. The heavy bolstering is not only attractive, but it comes in handy on those twisty back roads. The excellent seat heaters are something I find myself using at least 50 percent of the year–it’s nice being toasty.
It’s been really easy for me to find a comfortable seating position. I’ve driven late-model 3-Series and C-Classes, and have not had the same luck. Even adjusting the seat height, I still feel like I’m sitting on the floor in those cars. The TSX’s front-wheel drive layout also benefits in noticeably better front leg room than these two cars. Rear visibility is excellent, with minimal blind spots. The chrome door handles also come in handy, as they stand out well in my rear view mirror sight lines. A feature I’ve come to appreciate is that the passenger’s side mirror tilts downward when you shift into reverse, for improved visibility when backing up.
Among other features I’ve come to love is the Bluetooth audio and phone. I simply get in the car with my iPhone, and my own music starts playing through the speakers. Considering how much I hate the regular radio, with its endless commercials and repeat of the same old music, I’m thankful for this feature every day. Although I don’t talk on the phone much, using Bluetooth is safer and a lot more convenient than holding a phone up to my ear.
Unlike some luxury makes who still charge you extra for projector-beam xenon HID headlights, Acura was making them standard fare back in 2010. They provide excellent nighttime illumination, and look pretty classy too.
When I was a kid, I used to dream of becoming a car designer. Although I’ve decided to pursue other career paths (several at the moment), car design and styling are still a huge source of interest for me, and a major attribute in determining whether I like a car or not. Although I wouldn’t describe the TSX’s design as in-your-face aggressive, it exhibits a number of styling elements characteristic of sports sedans, such as long hood, fast roofline, flared wheel arches, and a sharp character line.
Its upscale look is enhanced by tasteful chrome window surrounds and elegantly styled chrome door handles. Along with the aforementioned 18-inch wheels, probably among my favorite wheel designs ever, they make for a really dynamic silhouette. The side profile view is definitely my favorite to look at. I could just gaze at it for hours, still in disbelief that I own a car this beautiful.
Likewise, the interior is aesthetically pleasing. Almost a decade ago, before this car came out, I actually sketched an interior design similar to this for my own fictitious luxury car. I named my center stack design “arching podium,” and I think it’s a fitting name for the TSX’s. It’s a very eye-catching design that seems to be jumping forward. The “Titan Silver” faux metal trim adds a techy vibe, although I wouldn’t be opposed to some attractive woodgrain accents.
I couldn’t talk about the styling of this car without mentioning the grille. Acura’s “Power Plenum” grille, which was introduced in 2009, has been the source of much controversy. While I too was not a fan when it first came out, I’ve grown to like it as a bold and daring design.
Another added benefit of owning a Honda-built product is the stellar reliability. In my two and a half years of ownership, nothing has gone wrong, and the only money I’ve had to put into it has come in the form of basic maintenance and a new set of tires around 47,000 miles. I had to downgrade to Goodyears from the original Michelins, which were simply too expensive for my budget, but I haven’t really noticed much of a difference.
As far as handling is concerned, the TSX V6 is a joy to drive. The V6’s 280 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque can be felt right away in quick acceleration and effortless pickup to over 80 on the highway. Due to its front-wheel drive and 62/38 weight distribution, the car exhibits some expected light front tire squeal on hard acceleration in first gear, but luckily, torque steer is barely detectable in my TSX, something one would expect much more of in a front-wheel driver. Don’t get me wrong, Acura’s excellent Super-Handling all-wheel drive would be a welcomed addition. But for my daily driving, even if I like to toss it around a bit, front-wheel drive is perfectly competent.
Where my car really shines is on twisty back roads. Steering has a tight feel and the car eats up the turns in the roads. Acura retuned the suspension, electric power steering, and four-wheel disc brakes in the six-cylinder to better suit the larger engine’s manners. The suspension certainly is on the firm side, and along with the larger 18-inch wheels, it did take some getting used to from the soft Highlander. Although it’s still a smooth, comfortable ride, I do live in fear of one day hitting a pot hole too hard and getting a flat and damaged rim.
In today’s world of 8-,9-,10-, and 87-speed transmissions, a 5-speed automatic may sound outdated, but it’s a truly a great transmission, one that even surprised me. It always exhibits crisp, predictable shifts, without the gear hunting of those newer gearboxes. The transmission finds its fifth overdrive gear at about 38 mph, which I call its “sweet spot,” and then its smooth cruising from there. Although I seldom use it, shifting past drive into sport mode and using the paddle shifters does make for a more engaging driving experience, and quicker starts when there’s open road ahead.
The highway is probably where the V6 exhibits the most improvement over the 4-cylinder. Merging into 70 mph traffic at full throttle is seamless, as is passing. The car feels confident at 90, and darts in and out of traffic with ease. Braking is excellent, with quick, smooth stops.
If I had any complaints about this car, one would be that it isn’t the best-handling car in the snow. Driving in the snow is no cake walk in any car, but the heavily front-biased TSX is especially prone to fishtailing during cornering on poorly plowed roads. Again, this would be an area where SH-AWD would make a difference. That said, when there’s a layer of slick stuff between the road and your tires, four-wheel drive won’t help you that much. I hate driving in the snow period–it doesn’t matter the car. It’s just a price I pay for living in a true four-season climate.
My biggest complaint about my Acura is that there’s no warning light for low washer fluid. Especially when the snow’s melting, and when the pollen comes out in the spring, constant windshield washing is a must and I’ve found myself bone dry in these conditions on more than one occasion. That being said, if this is my biggest complaint so far, it’s safe to say I made the right choice.
If there is one thing I can say about this car, it is that my TSX is well-rounded. Other cars may do certain things better, and there’s no doubt there are more expensive cars that can do everything better. However, in my experience, I have yet to encounter a car that strikes such a favorable balance in every aspect. I love my Acura, and I hope to enjoy it for a long time.