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TSX - The Newest Acura - 2003-09-10

Alphanumerics the use of letters and numbers instead of names is a widespread practice these days in the auto industry. For example, BMW has the 3, 5 and 7 series. Cadillac has the CTS and Ford the F-150. Honda's luxury brand Acura offers a whole line of "alphabet soup".

There is the NSX, the CL, the TL, the MDX, the RSX and now the TSX.

Let's take the latter, it being the newest in Acura's product line. We asked the product planner on the TSX, Jay Joseph, what the car is meant to be.

"TSX is meant to be a sport sedan for young, affluent customers looking for a little bit more from their cars. Fun to drive, stylish, modern-looking and actually represents kind of a new styling direction for Acura sedans," he said.

If the TSX bears a certain resemblance to the Honda Accord, that's not surprising since it began life as the Accord that Honda sells in Europe. Europeans tend to like their sedans a bit smaller, trimmer and more athletic than do American mainstream buyers. So, the U.S. gets one Accord, European markets another.

But, as it turns out, the "Euro-Accord" makes a very nice sports sedan for the Acura line. Give it a sleeker nose, more expensive interior trim and a few other luxury items and there's your TSX. This is not meant as faint praise, because the Acura TSX is one of the most enjoyable and responsive cars we've driven in 2003.

The only powerplant available in the TSX is a four-cylinder, 200 horsepower engine. We wondered whether some luxury brand shoppers might consider the "four" inadequate.

"We haven't seen that at all," said Jay Joseph. "In fact, in our early research, looking at the people who bought the car just in the first couple of months, we found that they're quite pleased with the power train."

We took the TSX on a long highway drive, carrying the driver and two passengers, plus a trunk full of luggage. The four-cylinder engine had plenty of power to handle the trip and was fuel efficient as well. It's also quieter and smoother than many other "fours" we've driven.

One further note: the car was equipped with the optional satellite navigation system shared by Acura and Honda. This one is, by far, the simplest "nav" system we've yet found in our testing. Other carmakers could benefit from studying its design.

And, by the way, what do the letters TSX stand for?

"It doesn't technically stand for anything," he said. "But if you really want to let it mean something, you could call it 'touring sport specialty.'"

Acura is Honda's luxury line but with a price tag for the TSX, complete with the navigation system, of just under $29,000, perhaps we could add a "V" to the TSX, "V" as in value for the money.