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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

The Daily Drivers: 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon has surprises inside

Why did the term "station wagon" fall out favor? Wasn't it hip enough? Did it carry too much "family car" baggage? ("Minivan," you're next.) We say "Bravo!" to the fact that Acura calls its new TSX a wagon.

Appearance: The TSX has a new, smaller version of the Acura "beak" (or shield) grille that has been much-maligned. The slender HID headlights sweep upward from the grille, making for a more elegant front end. The body avoids any dramatic lines, with only slight fender flares and some subtle sheet-metal creases that run from the grille along the side to the rear and its wraparound taillights. The roof slopes down to the rear hatch for a sporty, European look, with a contrasting metallic finish that accentuates the roof line.

Performance: Acura calls the TSX a Sport Wagon. Peter thinks that's a stretch. Lyra found the 201-horsepower (170 pound-feet of torque) 4-cylinder peppy. We usually gripe about a 5-speed transmission when many others have gone to six as their standard, but this gearbox shifted quickly and precisely. The TSX handles well, taking corners with confidence, and is not prone to body roll like some SUVs. The steering is responsive and the ride a bit on the firm side.

Interior: To Peter, the quiet cabin screams "Honda," and not Acura. There seems to be little difference between it and your average Accord. (Maybe that's because this car is sold as a Honda Accord wagon in Europe. That's not a bad thing; remember when Honda made those great Accord station wagons?) Still, the TSX seems to be an example of Acura's identity crisis: Is it an entry-level luxury brand? Please decide. (Lyra cites the fact that there's no push-button start.) But there are simple and intuitive controls in a nicely curved dash; comfortable, heated and well-bolstered leather seats; and a handy center armrest that contains the USB, auxiliary port and 12-volt power source. That bin also acts as a little cooler/heater if you open a little vent inside. But you might want to remove your iPod when that's being used. Other features that make this wagon practical: a power tailgate, a rearview camera with easy-to-follow guides and lots of storage space. There are cup holders, bins and spaces under the cargo-area floor and inside the back walls. The 60/40 rear seats fold down for 60.5 cubic feet of cargo space.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Plus size: The car has all the room of the TSX sedan, plus cargo space.

Flashback: It reminds me of Honda's Civic and Accord wagons, which is a good thing.

Grille: Its beak is toned down compared to other Acuras.

Lyra Solochek

Minimalism: Simple design, uncluttered console, easy to drive.

Utility: Plenty of space to haul, yet drives like a car.

Fits like a glove: Maybe it's because I have a Honda and an Acura in my family. It just felt right.

The bottom line: As long as you don't buy into the sport label, you'll get a reliable, practical and fun-to-drive station wagon. We kind of like the ring to that.

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon

Price: $30,960 start, $31,820 as tested

Powertrain: 2.4-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder, 5-speed automatic with Sequential SportShift, FWD

Horsepower: 201 at 7,000 rpm

Torque: 170 pound-

feet at 4,300 rpm

Curb weight: 3,599-3,623 pounds

Seats: 5

Dimensions

in inches:

Wheelbase, 106.4

Length, 189.2

Width, 72.4

Fuel economy:

22 miles per gallon city, 30 mpg highway

Safety features: airbags and side curtains, vehicle stability assist, ABS, electronic brake distribution, brake assist, ACE body structure, side-impact door beams, daytime running lights

Website:

acura.com/

tsxsportwagon

The Daily Drivers: 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon has surprises inside 06/17/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 17, 2011 4:31am]
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