While SUVs and Crossovers rule the American family hauler roost, sporty carmakers like BMW and Cadillac think there's still room for a station wagon. And the latest to join this mini trend is Acura with the TSX Sport Wagon. As the first wagon from the Honda/Acura stable in 13 years, Acura is being cautious, and will only import a few thousand this year. So let's see if they've under or overestimated the Sport Wagon's appeal.
If you're an Acura fan who's never warmed to an SUV's high center of gravity and often disconnected handling, the 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon could be exactly what you've been waiting for. Based on the same 106.4-inch wheelbase European Accord platform as the TSX sedan, the 189.2-inch Sport Wagon is almost 4-inches longer overall.
But that mere 4 inches of extra length only hints at the substantial increase in extra space revealed by our test car's optional power tailgate. The Sport Wagon's cargo area measures a respectable 25.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up, and a healthy 60.5 cubic feet with the seats folded. That's grocery-getter space almost identical to Acura's RDX crossover utility! But with a load floor that's only 24 inches high, Sport Wagon owners will do a lot less heavy lifting.
And under-floor storage areas to keep small valuables out of sight. Acura designers provided numerous tie-down points to keep big loads from shifting. The rear seat area was also a little on the tight side for tall passenger, failing to match the average compact utility in leg room. A notable disappointment was the 60/40 split rear seat that didn't fold completely flat, making it harder to carry long, bulky cargo.
On the other hand, front seating is a TSX highpoint. Perforated leather with power, heat, and driver's position memory are standard. Also driver-oriented is the gauge cluster with properly large, overlapping readouts. Like all Acuras, the TSX comes standard with a wealth of other features such as dual-zone automatic climate control. Our car's Technology Package adds surround sound audio with subwoofer, voice recognition navigation, and rear-view camera. This inviting combo of cockpit and cargo space is wrapped in clean, generic styling that features the same high, crisp shoulder lines as other high end wagon rivals.
The perhaps-too-prominent chrome grille has always made the TSX stand out from the pack, but we're happy to report that Acura stylists have toned it down a bit for 2011. The Wagon's beefed up chassis rides on standard 17-inch alloy wheels with tire pressure monitoring, though your local dealer will happily slap on a set of optional 18s. The Sport Wagon's front wheels pull it down the road thanks to a modest 201 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque produced by its variable timed 2.4-liter 4-cylinder.
It's coupled to a 5-speed automatic only. Fortunately, it's a Sequential Sportshift gearbox with manual mode paddles on the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Hardly the potent punch of the TSX sedan's available V6, but the Sport Wagon's inline-four delivered reasonably brisk acceleration - 0 to 60 in 8.1 seconds - and the transmission is silky-smooth in both manual and automatic modes.
And with only 129 pounds more weight than the sedan, the TSX Sport Wagon has sound Government Fuel Economy Ratings of 22 city and 30 highway on Premium. A well-rounded mix of work and family driving delivered 26.1 miles-per-gallon. Few utilities can top that! Ride quality is typically Acura, firm but smooth. It easily eats up even rough road surface, though with more road noise than we expect.
In corners, the Sport Wagon is quick and light on its feet, with less body roll than you would expect in a family car, thanks to the front double wishbone and rear multi-link suspension, which features dual-mode dampers. Acura's latest Electric Power Steering delivers much more feel than most electric systems. And standard electric traction and stability control minimize wheel slip on slick surfaces.
It doesn't have the sharp-edged feel of a pure sport sedan, but it's a lot more competent than any sport-ute, and should give luxury wagon competitors a good run for their money. On that score, the TSX Sport Wagon is also more affordable than other sport wagons. Base price is $31,820. Our test car with the optional Technology Package carries a final price of $35,470.
So combining Acura's typically high levels of features, technology, comfort, and sporty performance, with crossover level cargo flexibility, the 2011 TSX Sport Wagon is impressive. And if you can get past your anti-wagon phobia, you'll love it.
Engine: 2.4-liter 4-cylinder
Torque: 170 lb feet
0-60 mph: 8.1 seconds
EPA: 22 mpg city/ 30 mpg highway
Mixed Loop: 26.1 mpg