Cars can mean many different things to people. They can serve as a source of freedom, an extension of your personality, or — as is often the case with luxury nameplates – signify your “status” in this crazy mixed up world. But whatever a car may mean to you, ultimately we all want the same thing: to buy the best one possible for the money we’re spending.
Enter Acura. The Japanese luxury automaker is looking to draw in first-time luxury shoppers with its entry-level offerings, and it begins with the 2012 TSX. And while the Acura nameplate may carry the distinction of being the first luxury Japanese automotive brand, it has seen its popularity wax and wane throughout the years, with fellow Japanese brands like Infiniti and Lexus enjoying more influence in the luxury sphere. That being said, the image of Acura as a serious luxury brand is slowly starting to revive and evolve once again, and what better way to draw consumers in than with an eye-catching, entry-level luxury sedan?
With luxury rivals from Europe and Japan vying for dominance, how does the 2012 Acura TSX stack up? Let’s find out.
Less sharp design, but in a good way
There is something about the recent Acura design language that has truly failed to resonate with us. We’re not exactly sure what it is — well that’s not true. In fact, many of the recent Acura designs refuse to utilize a look that is even remotely curvaceous, preferring the harsh lines and rakish angles found in a geometry diagram. Which is why we were pleasantly surprised at the 2012 TSX’s lessened triangular tone.
Don’t get us wrong: there are more angles to work here than a politician at a town hall meeting, but the 2012 TSX is much more bearable, dare we say likeable, than other designs past, current, and we’re guessing future.
A beginner’s guide to luxury
When it comes to the interior of the 2012 TSX, there isn’t much to complain about. From a design perspective Acura have done an excellent job putting together a cabin that encompasses varying degrees of comfort, luxury, and space. While it might not espouse the same feelings of luxury you would find from a comparable Lexus, Audi, or BMW, the Acura TSX features a smartly designed cabin with a great deal of amenities one would expect. Honda, and by extension Acura, have garnered a reputation based on build quality for years now and the 2012 TSX happily carries on that tradition. The material quality in the TSX looks and feels great; rich leathers and firm plastics never drag the interior’s luxurious atmosphere down.
And while there’s no doubt the 2012 TSX earns a lot of style points, we do have to call out Acura is with its execution. Both the three-spoke steering wheel and center console are filled with an excessive amount of buttons, more so the center console. It’s not necessarily a deal breaker, and after out week-long loan we had gotten accustomed to it, but the buttons for controlling the Bluetooth calling features and for selecting the different audio sources are either too thinly positioned or at an awkward angle that simply make placing a call more of chore than it needs to be. We also found the shifter in our review model to be on the dainty side, which isn’t a huge deal but again takes some getting used to. Standard interior features in the 2012 Acura TSX include leather upholstery, eight-way power driver seat with memory, four-way power passenger seat, heated front seats, a tilt and telescoping steering column, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and 60/40-split-folding rear seat, to name a few. Our TSX Special Edition included little touches like aluminum pedals and red interior stitching that helps lend a greater degree of sportiness and personality to an already excellent cabin.
Despite the fact that the 2012 TSX is Acura’s entry-level model, we should be willing to cut it a little slack when it comes to its in-car tech. But with an MSRP of $32,310 we’re simply not. Standard features include a USB audio input for connecting and charging your smartphone, an AUX output for MP3 playback, Bluetooth audio and HandsFreeLink for wireless calling, as well as Acura’s seven-speaker premium sound system and XM Satellite radio with three month’s free subscription. An option tech package adds a rearview camera, hard drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic and weather forecasting, in addition to an upgraded 10-speaker Acura/ELS surround sound system.
Sadly our review unit excluded the tech package, and what the TSX is packing isn’t remarkable in any way. In fact, if we are going to be honest –and we are — while the 2012 TSX sports a decent amount of standard tech features, we were left pretty disappointed by them. Pairing your smartphone with HandsFreeLink’s voice feature is dreadfully slow, and only after six voice tutorials were we able to figure out how to actually pair our phone. When we did finally get our phone paired, making calls was easy, but again the voice recognition software suffered under our non-regional diction (really!?).
Once paired streaming music via various apps like Pandora and Spotify is easy, but Acura’s interface is rather limited in the standard TSX model, with no cover art or detailed title information given in the digital display above the instrument panel.
Adequate power, disappointing fuel economy
The 2012 Acura TSX is available in two different engine choices: A 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing 201 horsepower 201 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque when mated to a six-speed manual (as opposed to 170 with a five-speed automatic transmission), and a 3.5-liter V6 capable of spitting out 280 horsepower and 245 pound-feet of torque.
Our review unit consisted of the former and offered up a respectable amount of power when pressed out of the gate. Truth be told though, the 2012 Acura TSX offers up nowhere near as thrilling a ride as you’d expect from some of its European counterparts, namely the BMW 3-Series or Audi A4. Instead, the 2012 TSX prefers to operate in a more subdued and calculated manner. It’s not going to excite you like a German sport sedan, and it’s not the most engaging luxury sedan, but it won’t make you regret your decision for choosing Japanese poise over German power… too much. Still, those yearning for more gas-guzzling gravitas will want to opt for the V6.
Unfortunately, where the Acura fails to meet our expectations comes by way of its fuel economy. For the size of the TSX’s engine the EPA-awarded fuel economy is disappointingly low at 21 mpg in city, 29 on the highway, and 24 combined. Factor that this is with premium gasoline and a six-speed manual and the 2012 TSX ultimately drops the ball. For comparison, a 2012 Audi A4 with quattro all-wheel-drive and a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder with six-speed manual transmission is capable of pumping out 211 hp, 258 lb-ft of torque, and returning an EPA estimated 21/31/25.
A true street sweeper
While power, or lack thereof, might restrict the 2012 TSX on the track, out on the road it’s a different story. For all its faults the TSX exhibits excellent road manners and cornering, maintaining excellent grip on the road when tasked with keeping ready and rigid. Entering corners at higher than recommended speeds doesn’t pose too much of a problem and the TSX manages to get the most out of its double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear. Enthusiasts will argue that it lacks a certain dynamism other entry-level luxury sedan’s possess, but for the vast majority the TSX provides plenty of pavement pounding pizazz.
When it comes down to it, the 2012 Acura TSX is a four-star vehicle living in a five-star world. Overall it’s a very solid choice for people wanting to enter the luxury sphere, but not exactly enamored or impressed with the power and prestige on offer from some of the more established brands like BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz. At the same time, the 2012 TSX exhibits a calm, distinguished ride character all of its own, and possesses one of the most buttery smooth and forgiving clutches we have ever dealt with – period.
Ultimately it comes down to what you value most. If you value your tech and smart features, and want them done right, the TSX has trouble delivering. While we certainly appreciate the amount of standard features packed in, the exclusion of navigation, the convoluted button layout, and the glitchy Bluetooth streaming system remind us that Acura still has a ways to go before it can truly be mentioned in the same breath as Lexus, Infiniti, and the like. However, if an upscale Honda, with improved driving dynamics, more comfort, and increased social recognition is what you’re after then we see no reason why you shouldn’t seriously consider the 2012 Acura TSX.
- Impressive list of standard tech features
- Spacious and comfortable interior
- Top-shelf build and material quality
- Poor tech execution
- Some questionable design choices
- Slightly anemic powertrain
- Fuel economy is less than stellar