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Review: 2012 Acura TSX wagon [w/Video]

Jeff Glucker December 21, 2011 Acura Reviews, Featured, Reviews, Road Test Reviews 33 Comments

The Occupy Movement holds court in locations throughout the country. Protesters are trying to get their message heard by those they have serious issues with. Hoisting signs, talking with the media, and holding court in major metropolitan areas is the manner in which the angry 99 percent have chosen to air their ideals.

As an automotive enthusiast, I too have something to protest about. I want more wagons in my life.

Acura is listening to enthusiasts in this regard. The 2012 Acura TSX wagon is the result of our collective enthusiast bitching, moaning, crying (I get emotional sometimes), and general wailing that we all want more wagons. Acura heard the cries, and produced a wagon for our longroof consumption. Now, Acura gets to listen to the bitching, moaning, crying (it’s the little things), and general wailing from a large portion of those same enthusiasts and hand raisers, because the car doesn’t meet their requirements.

Who’s right here? Are self-proclaimed wagon lovers overlooking the TSX wagon simply because they have issues with the shiny schnozz, or are there greater problems at hand?

They may be right… they may be crazy. But this just might be the entry-level luxury longroof that they’re looking for.

Acura has taken a healthy heaping of hits the last few years due to questionable exterior styling elements. The TSX is the most subtle member of the A-badge family, yet it still suffers from a few perceived missteps. For the 2012 wagon, Acura has keep most of the lines stylishly sharp, which is the preferred flavor of understated luxury. Problems arise for most, however, when viewing the front end of the TSX wagon.

The shiny, sharp nose turns off many who look at it.

I may be looking at something different than the rest of you though, or perhaps it’s time for laser eye surgery, because this item is a non-issue for me. My eyes and brain don’t recoil in horror the way that others do, at least when spouting their opinions to those who will listen on the internet (Irony alert detected). The satiny beak serves to break up the flat nasal valley between the sharply cut headlamps, and it does so in a manner toned down from prior, more aggressive versions of the same front end. If you really hate it that much, simply paint it and move on… otherwise you’re missing out on a pretty damn good wagon.

The rest of the exterior lines flow wonderfully from the face to the delightfully fat rear end. The stance is sporty, and the TSX wagon rests with muted aggression on its 17-inch alloy wheels. Everything moves rearward like a linebacker that happens to be a trained ballet dancer. Visually, the TSX wagon is strong, yet graceful.

If Acura still has folks raising pitch forks over its exterior aesthetics, they should have them spend a moment in the cabin. One thing Acura has always done well is to produce a seating area that is not just comfortable, but inviting as well. The seats of the TSX wagon are no exception, and if I had a long haul in front of me, I would opt for the driver’s seat found in any Acura product. Support and comfort come together in a way that other automakers are still trying to figure out.

Alongside comfort, technology also has its grasp upon the TSX wagon cabin space. It should, considering the model presented before is called the 2012 Acura TSX wagon Tech. Voice recognition, real-time traffic and weather, and an integrated Zagat guide are all welcome company alongside the 10 speaker ELS surround-sound audio system. Thanks to the available Bluetooth system, I don’t just leave my phone in my pocket for calls, I also leave it there for my music choices. Bluetooth audio connects to my phone and plays the music I have stored on there. It connects as soon as I twist the key, and the picks up the track where I left it off should I exit and re-enter the car.

There are a few tech elements missing, however, especially considering this TSX wagon has TECH in its name. Keyless entry and a push-button start system should have my leaving the key in my pocket, alongside my phone. This isn’t the stuff of luxury cars anymore, as even entry-level offerings from all automakers are beginning to offer such gear. If I am paying $35,695 for the wagon you see here, I certainly would hope Acura could fit it with technology found in your average Nissan, Kia, or Ford.

The sort of tech we prefer talking about at Hooniverse lies under the hood. On paper, the 201-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder sounds like it’s in over its head as the appropriate powerplant for the TSX wagon. Paper occasionally lies. The mighty four-banger pushes this 3,599-pound wagon down the road with a surprising amount of get-up-and-go. The listed 0-60 times see the wagon running in the mid eight-second range, which means we feel faster than we actually are. Still, it’s a convincing trick, and the TSX wagon gets out of its own way more than easily enough.

Acura has paired the four-cylinder mill with a five-speed automatic transmission. Paddle shifters located behind the steering wheel help kick things up (or down) a notch when needed. Shifts are smooth when the computer is doing the work, and happen quick enough when I’m making the decisions. There’s clearly no twin-clutch wizardry at work, but I was never left waiting for gear changes to occur.

Still, I’ve driven the TSX sedan with it’s available manual transmission. It would do wonders to woo the enthusiast crowd. Problem is that enthusiasts make up but a tiny fraction of the car-buying public. The take rate on the manual-equipped sedan? About three percent. Acura needs to make money, and producing a manual-transmission-equipped wagon would mean seeing dealers with inventory gathering dust in the showroom.

We can understand the lack of the manual gearbox. One item we can’t understand, however, is the lack of an optional V6 engine. Acura already stuffs its 3.5-liter V6 under the hood of the TSX sedan, and we think that 280-horsepower mill would prove to be a perfect match for the wagon.

If all Acura can offer up is the four-banger, I can live with that. It feels quicker than expected, is rated at 30 miles per gallon the highway, and is coupled with a car that provides an enjoyable driving experience. Just like the TSX sedan, the wagon is a pleasure to drive. The steering is responsive, tight, and direct. There is no sense of artificiality felt through the tiller, just honest feedback, and body roll is kept to a comfortable minimum.

To compliment the sporty handling, I would have to upgrade the brakes a bit. The pedal feel and braking force is consistent, but stopping power could be upped a few notches. Additionally, the nose does it’s best Greg Louganis impression under heavy braking.  You won’t hit the diving board and bloody your face, but you will be pushing a bit harder than you expected.

The 2012 Acura TSX wagon blends a touch of sportiness with a dash of luxury. As enthusiasts, we welcome wagons into the new-car arena. There’s not a lot to choose from unfortunately, but the options are growing. BMW still brings its 328 Touring to the stateside market, and Cadillac has us cooing over the CTS wagon. Still, both of those options start nearly six and eight thousand dollars higher than a base TSX wagon. The German and the American longroof have more power, but the Acura can keep up on twisty roads.

It’s not just about performance when discussing wagons, of course. Part of the appeal of such a vehicle is the cargo area. The total cargo area of the BMW is 48.9 cubic-feet, while the Cadillac comes in with 58 cu-ft. The Acura crushes them both with 66.2 cubic-feet of grocery, golf club, surfboard, dog, bratty kid cargo space.

Enthusiast friends, lend me your ears. We all want more wagons in our world, right? It’s time we start an Occupy Movement of our own. We need our new-car buying friends to ditch their SUVs and crossovers, and they often turn to us for help. Steer them in the direction of a wagon. It’s useful, good looking, and fun to drive. Plus, it’s better on gas than the average super soccer mom mobile. Put a wagon on your friends shopping list.

Should the TSX wagon be on that list? There’s no question that it should. It does everything one could want in the entry-level luxury segment, but it also does more by offering up all that extra space in the back.

Now think of all the years you tried to, find a wagon to satisfy you.
It might be as crazy as you say.
If it’s crazy then it’s true, that you truly love longroofs.
Then it’s all because of you, and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hooniverse.com Quick Look:

[Disclosure: Acura handed over the keys to this TSX wagon, and threw in a tank of gas. A trunk full of groceries was expected, but was not included unfortunately.]

  • Van_Sarockin

    Nice mini-SAAB. Must be a tribute edition.

  • Man, I did not realize the CTS Sport Wagon started at $40k.

    Personally, I have no problem with this TSX wagon. Sure, it would be awesome with a stick. Sure, it would be radical with the V6. Sure, it would be gnarly with SH-AWD. Sure, sure, sure, but those things, apparently, are not what the masses want.

  • Scandinavian Flick

    The nose isn't the detracting factor. What kills it for me is the same thing that kills all modern wagons in my eyes: That severe upward swoop of the window frame. In my opinion, it not only looks bad, but it severely cuts down on visibility, which is really important, especially since I, at 6'4", notice a serious loss in rearward vision. Unless auto manufacturers can find a way to live up to side impact safety standards without raising the belt line beyond reason, I have no interest in a newer wagon… Sadly…

    Also; seriously? No V6 for the wagon? Really?

  • PotbellyJoe

    My biggest issue with the TSX Wagon is the same issue i have with the TSX. The First Gen was crisp and tidy High School athlete. And Instead of going College Athlete with the second gen, they went freshman 15.

  • pj134

    It looks like a sad, pointy hippo.

  • I_Borgward

    Hm. Too angry-face-beaky in the front, too much whiz-bang frippery to break up the road and, to put it mildly, not what I would call affordable. That all said, any new station wagon is a good one in my book… a pox on SUVs and crossovers, the majority of which are really just wagon-wannabes in fat suits.

  • JayP2112

    Bah- who needs a V6 when everyone else is going turbo?

  • facelvega

    TSX wagon is underpowered and hasn't got a stick. Great car for someone who only kind of likes cars.
    CTS wagon is porky and ponderous. Looks good though. Great car for someone who wants a big new luxo-cruiser. Too bad the V is so much pricier.

    Guess for hoons it has to be the 328i wagon. Pity there's so much less room in the back than the other two, but I suppose you could make do. Wish we could get the 325d engine here, it would make up for the price difference with the Acura without sacrificing too much straight-line performance.

    Personally, I don't do new cars. But I do like the looks of the E46 wagons that park on the few blocks between my brownstone and my work, and I could imagine grabbing one within the next few years, if I can resist the urge to get the cleanest E30 or E28 I can find instead.

  • topdeadcentre

    Holy intruding wheel wells, Batman!

    My Volvo V70R can haul a bureau or a nifty 1950's cabinet bar in the back. No way could this thing fit that kind of cargo. It looks like it's optimally set up for golf clubs, soccer gear, a dog crate, or the occasional extra-large grocery run. It looks like they slapped on a wagon back to the sedan body design where the shock towers are tucked in neatly behind the rear seat.

    The measure of usefulness in the American wagon market used to be the ability to haul 4'x8' sheets of plywood in the back. How the mighty wagon has fallen…

  • I just sold my 2004 TSX sedan with a 6 speed manual after 7 years and 110,000 problem free miles. It was comfortable, quick, semi-luxurious, and fun for a FWD. I would definitely have bought a first gen TSX wagon with a stick if it was offered.

    I seriously looked into this wagon recently. They've made the nose less prominent. But the deal breaker was the lack of a stick. I understand the economics of it for Honda, but my 4 banger TSX with a stick was almost perfect.

    But then again, I replaced the TSX with a Phaeton, so I am definitely an outlier.

    • It's a great manual gearbox too… I understand WHY they have to leave it off the options list, but I wish it were there.

    • Van_Sarockin

      How many sacks of fertilizer can you get into the Phaeton?

      • It's the LWB version so the back seat area probably holds more than the TSX wagon. It even comes with two carpeted footrests!

        And with 25 servomotors to regulate the air in the cabin, I won't ever have to smell it.

        • 8 or 12 cylinders?

          • 8.

            • facelvega

              Pish! Why are you being so doggedly practical?

              Because of course the V8 makes the Phaeton such a sensible choice.

              • Ha! You're actually right on. The W12 has 140 buttons in the cabin and 18 way seats. That makes the V8 version the economical/sensible choice.

  • That's not the wheel wells in the photo above… that is part of the rear that doesn't fold flat.

    • topdeadcentre

      The visible parts are the the shock towers (and I assume the back seat halves lean against them when folded up), but I assume they don't stand separate from the wheel wells.

  • Black chrome that nose and i have found my next wagon.

    • Van_Sarockin

      If that's all that makes the difference, I'll bet you can find a replacement, or someone to rechrome it for you. And there's always a Sharpie or a little spritz of Krylon.

  • Stu_Rock

    What's the width between those shock towers?

    I'm surprised the steering came across as responsive and direct. The TSX sedan I drove about a year ago did not feel that way. To me, it felt like the EPS on the '04-'08 Chevy Malibu–disconnected and unpredictable.

  • mnm4ever

    Sorry, no, I dont get it… WHY do they have to leave the stick off the options list?? Ditto the V6… the engineering is already there, its available in the sedan already. Its not as if we are asking for something that doesnt exist, like a v6/stick combo, we just want access to all the powertrains the TSX already has in sedan form. No one says dealers have to stock them, and honestly,most dealers dont stock too many sticks of any kind these days. You generally have to request one and the dealer has to search or special order it. I see no reason at all why Acura cannot offer the stick and the V6 as special order items, so at least we have a chance to get the right combination.

    When they do this, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Granted, the enthusiast market for brand new cars is small, I get it. But most of the target audience for a sports wagon are enthusiasts, so the take-rate of a manual wagon would be higher than the take rate of the manual sedan. I would bet Acura would be better off offering the stick ONLY on the wagon! By not even offering the stick, buyers simply go elsewhere. How can you count lost sales of something you dont even offer??

  • facelvega

    I wonder what percentage of stick takers are also wagon takers with the 3-series, Audi avants, Jetta, etc.–something tells me it's way higher than with the sedans. Maybe the car makers could economize and make the stick available only with the wagon version instead. I imagine most of us here could live with that.

    • SSurfer321

      Audi A4 Avant is not available with stick. I checked, and then I wept.

      Subaru Outbacks are sold in a high percentage of manuals though.

      • facelvega

        Holy moly I didn't realize that about the Audi. But I did know that about the outback, I drive an old one as a beater, and I got it precisely for the stick. 15 year old Outback with a stick and a 2.2: fast? No. Surprisingly nice to drive, and actually nicer than new Outbacks? Oh yes.

        • SSurfer321

          A Subaru Legacy Wagon MT is on my wish list. When I'm ready to replace the truck or the current Impreza, we're going wagon. And the Mrs. refuses to drive an car with an auto.

          • facelvega

            A sound plan. You can pretty much use an outback as a truck once it's had the soccer mom newness worn off, and they're very cheap used for what they are. They'll also cost you less than half as much to keep running than an avant and drive about as well depending on vintage. But if you go older than say 2004, just make sure that it's had the head gaskets done. Or do what I did and go way older to get around the teething pains of the otherwise fine first and second series 2.5.

            On the other hand if you're going new, why not try the new Impreza hatch/wagon? They say they've significantly expanded the cargo capacity, and the stick should be okay. The 2.0 is supposedly underwhelming but the mileage is nothing to shake a stick at. My last beater, a 92 Lesabre, got almost exactly the same fuel economy as my friend's 2009 Impreza, so the 2.0 should be a quantum leap at least in that regard.

            • SSurfer321

              Currently own 2008 Impreza Wagon 2.5i 5MT and if/when the family expands I'm afraid we'll have outgrown it.

              • facelvega

                Ah yes, I sometimes forget that people who already have children need real interior space and can't afford to tinker with decrepit junkers as daily drivers so as to maximize their summer car budget. I wonder how long it will take me to stop reflexively looking for coolant drips once I join your ranks.

        • FuzzyPlushroom

          I drove an '00 Outback 560 miles over the weekend and found that my only complaints pertained to the automatic gearbox (clunky and unnatural after 115k easy miles) and seats (they hold up well, but I couldn't find a comfortable seatback angle). It otherwise proved to be an excellent highway companion, and I'd not hesitate to find a nice five-speed example.

          <img src="http://i.imgur.com/2nVjIl.jpg&quot; width=600>

  • Michael Belanger

    I have a 95 Accord wagon which does have a 5 speed manual. It's remarkable how little the over-all design has changed in almost 20 years. While the 95 Accord wagon can not accept a 4' by 8', my previous 86 Accord Hatchback could.

  • TDI_FTW

    The front seat doesn't slide far enough back to accomodate my long legs properly. Even my old '98 Golf had more space in the front.

    The uropeeans get this car with a tremendous diesel engine. Perfect combo, if only the seats would slide back more.