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Acura TSX gets power boost with V6 transplant

Rafay Ansar

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The formula for making a muscle car was established 46 years ago, when John Z. DeLorean dropped a 389 where a 326 had been and created the first GTO. That simple Frankenstinian act has been followed ever since by a parade of great brutes. We have loved them all.

So when Acura set out to expand its TSX line, it did just what DeLorean did 46 years before. In this case, engineers took the 3.5-liter V6 from the TL and wedged it into the smaller, lighter TSX. You can still get a 2.0-liter four-cylinder TSX, but you now have the choice of a bigger, badder powertrain.

The power output rises from 201 hp to 280 hp, while weight goes up by 210 pounds. Acura claims the new setup will lower 0-to-60-mph times by two seconds to 7.0 seconds, a figure Acura called "conservative." Your performance may vary.

There are drawbacks. Fuel economy drops to 21 mpg combined, something you might not expect for the smallest car in the Acura line. While the four-cylinder gets a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic, the TSX V6 comes with just the slushbox.

The cost will reel you back a few feet too, at $35,660, compared with $30,120 for the four-cylinder TSX. But the power may be worth the five and a half grand.

We drove a TSX V6 through the best roads of the Santa Monica mountains and did enjoy the extra horses. Though there was nowhere on our drive to test the 0-to-60 figure, it seemed highly plausible--indeed, conservative.

The five-speed automatic has the requisite shifter paddles behind the wheel for that boy-racer feel. Shifts came as quickly as any touring-car champion is ever going to want, and if you drop the console-mounted shift lever down all the way to S, the engine stays in gear no matter what, bouncing off the 6,800-rpm rev limiter all day if you so choose. On the best of the twisties, we flipped the paddles with glee and no complaints.

Whatever shortcomings we noted on our short drive might have been a result of our higher expectations. The electric steering was quick but not as communicative as we'd have liked and didn't deliver the same feel offered by, say, a 3-series. Springs are revised, but only enough to hold the extra 200 pounds. The front antiroll bar is also tuned for the added weight. The V6 model comes with 18-inch wheels instead of the 17s found on the four. Tires are 235/45 Michelin Pilot HX MXM4s.

The brakes feature the same diameter discs but get a new master cylinder and new rear pads. They, too, lacked the same feel we would have liked on a performance sedan. Going into fast corners, they didn't feel like they were grabbing those discs like a sport sedan should. Stopping distances felt longer than we might have expected.

This might not matter except that Acura compares its TSX V6 with the best performance sedans of this size on the market. If we were to put the car into a performance comparison with the Lexus IS 350 and an appropriate BMW 3-series, we'd have to place the TSX third. The TSX does start life out as a European Accord, remember. So maybe we were expecting too much.

And will any of that matter to the TSX V6's buyers? Maybe not. There are electronics galore on the features list, everything from navigation with real-time traffic (which Acura pioneered, by the way) to a whopping-good 415-watt, 10-speaker audio system with active sound control. The V6 buyer is expected to be seven years older than the four-cylinder buyer, so maybe this car is just right for them. Even Acura ultimately calls the V6 model a "performance-oriented sports sedan" and not a touring-car championship racer.

As always, the market will decide what it is when the car arrives in showrooms. This one comes in July.

SPECS

2010 Acura TSX V6

On sale: July

Base price: $35,660

Drivetrain: 3.5-liter, 280-hp, 254-lb-ft V6; FWD, five-speed automatic

Curb weight: 3,680 lb

0-60 MPH: 7 sec (mfr)

Fuel economy (EPA): 21 mpg
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