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Second-Hand: 2004-2006 Acura TSX

The TSX is the reincarnation of the much loved (and missed) Prelude.

“People who say that the TSX is `just a re-badged Accord’ or complain that it only has a four-cylinder engine just don’t get this car,” starts the blog of an Acura TSX owner. “The TSX is the reincarnation of the much loved (and missed) Prelude.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

The TSX channels the lamented Prelude and every other front-wheel-drive sporty car ever built, including the Alfa Romeo GTV, Lotus Elan, Volkswagen GTI and Corrado, and most any Saab.

Those who believe God drives a rear-drive V8 have never spent any quality seat time in a balanced and talented front-driver like the TSX.

“The handling is great, the steering feel is great,” reader Brandon Nadeau writes enthusiastically, describing his 2004 model. “This car does not need a V6.”

CONFIGURATION

Built on a modified Accord platform, the 2004 TSX brought to North America tidier dimensions and sharper steering and suspension settings that the bigger American Accord could only dream of.

Like the Accord, it used unequal-length control arms reinforced by a hollow anti-roll bar up front and a five-link independent suspension in back. Unlike the Accord, however, the TSX got a strut tower brace under the hood, a thicker anti-roll bar at the rear wheels and stiffer coil springs all around.

In an effort to reduce weight, Honda engineers used a magnesium case for the TSX’s six-speed manual gearbox.

It wasn’t enough, unfortunately, as the TSX weighed some 60 kg more than a four-cylinder American Accord, the weight gain attributed to the TSX’s full complement of luxury furnishings.

No kidding: there was a cornucopia of modern conveniences, including perforated leather upholstery, sunroof, automatic dual-zone climate control, front torso and curtain side airbags, xenon headlamps and an eight-speaker audio system. The only factory option was an expensive, but effective, nav system with voice recognition.

The cockpit was impeccably tailored with tight seams and first-rate materials, including a spray-formed urethane skin on the dashboard that could very well have had extraterrestrial origins. With 8 cm taken out of the wheelbase, however, the rear seat was noticeably tighter than our Accord’s, which made it a lesser family conveyance.

“Kids under five feet are fine and have enough legroom, but not for those over five feet,” read the online remarks of a TSX owner. The trunk was also a bit on the pinched side.

Buyers could choose between a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission and five-speed automatic with manual shift gate at no extra cost. Antilock four-wheel disc brakes, traction and antiskid control, and 17-inch alloy wheels were standard.

Under the hood was the Accord’s all-aluminum DOHC 2.4 L four cylinder upgraded with full i-VTEC variable-valve timing, good for 200 hp at 6800 r.p.m., and 166 lb.-ft. of torque at 4500 r.p.m.

Like other high-revving Honda fours, the TSX engine didn’t provide much pull below 3000 r.p.m., where most North American drivers spend their time. The cam profiles turned the mild-mannered engine into an evil Mr. Hyde at 6000 r.p.m. and it was a quick sprint to the 7100 r.p.m. red line, though it never lost its smooth, turbine-like composure.

In subsequent model years, Acura added luxury touches, such as a power-assisted passenger seat, to what was already a sumptuous package.

The TSX received minor tweaks to the car’s fascia and five more horses in 2006.

ON THE ROAD

The TSX generated 0.85 g of grip on a skid pad with all-season Michelins, considerably better than the Accord at 0.77. Only a rear-drive BMW 325i scored higher (0.86 g) in a test of lateral acceleration.

Push the TSX to its adhesion limits and its handling is very predictable. Understeer is evident, but it’s easy to ease up on the throttle and let the tires scrub off the speed around the corner before squeezing the electronic throttle again.

The car’s four-wheel disc brakes provided middling performance, however, taking 57 m to slow from 112 km/h to a standstill.

In terms of straight-ahead acceleration, the TSX is no ‘bahn-burner, taking 7.2 seconds to reach 100 km/h with the manual transmission, but it does everything precisely and with unbridled enthusiasm.

Owners uniformly praise the TSX for its taut handling and zesty engine; if they have to gripe, they most often mention the car’s need for premium gas.

WHAT OWNERS REPORTED

“The TSX made ownership fun again after a disastrous and trouble-plagued two years with a 2002 Audi A4,” read the online remarks of a TSX pilot.

Owners raved about the TSX’s road manners, luxury features, slick transmission, well-crafted cabin and durability – especially in a segment dominated by German imports that don’t always age well.

Still, TSX owners did reveal some minor shortcomings. A few owners noted that the clutch wore more quickly than normal, which may be related to a faulty clutch master cylinder that squeaks and wears poorly itself.

The machinery is so smooth, any irritation in the clutch feel should be noted.

Warped brake rotors are more commonplace.

Other complaints include interior squeaks and rattles, a dark radio display, a driver’s seat that rocks from side to side, and more road noise than befits an entry luxury vehicle.

Beyond that, it’s a gem of a find in the used-car market. Unlike the other TSX, this one makes for a wise investment.

WHAT’S BEST:

Eager engine, athletic moves, Teflon-assisted shifter.

WHAT’S WORST:

Not so quick, drinks premium, squeaky clutch pedal.

TYPICAL GTA PRICES: 2004 -$19,500 2006 -$22,000

We would like to know about your ownership experience with these models: Saab 9-5, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Porsche Cayenne. Email: toljagic@ca.inter.net.

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