Preview Drive: 2010 Acura Trio (TSX V-6, RDX, MDX)

TSX sedan gets V-6 engine option ... turbo RDX adds two-wheel-drive model ... 2010 MDX due later in year

by James M. Flammang

2010 Acura TSX V-6

ROCHESTER, Michigan - Later in 2009, Honda's luxury division will launch a brand-new ZDX "four-door sport coupe," following the lead of several other luxury brands. Meanwhile, three existing models have earned a selection of revisions, including a new engine choice for the smaller Acura sport sedan.

Acura TSX adds V-6 option

On sale since July, the new V-6 version of Acura's smaller sport sedan should attract buyers who are a little older: average age 38, rather than 30, with household income around $110,000. While the original four-cylinder engine continues to produced 201 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque, the 3.5-liter V-6 generates 280 horsepower and 6200 rpm, and 254 pound-feet at 5000 rpm.

A price has to be paid in fuel consumption, though. With an automatic transmission, the four-cylinder TSX gets an EPA fuel-economy estimate of 21 mpg in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway. Drop in the V-6, and each of those figures dips by three: to 18-mpg city and 27-mpg highway. A manual transmission is available with the four-cylinder engine, but the V-6 comes only with a Sequential SportShift automatic. Its paddle shifters may be used in Drive, to manually select a different gear without moving the gearshift lever. Sport (S) setting allows the transmission to hold a given gear longer.

New front coil springs have been installed, and damper settings modified. Electric power steering also has been revised, and a reworked front fascia aims to improve engine cooling. Michelin Pilot tires are mounted on standard 18x8-inch wheels.

Adding the V-6 lets Acura compete against two versions of its natural rivals: BMW's 328i and 335i, Audi's A4 2.8T and 3.2, plus the IS 250 and IS 350. Pricing for the V-6 version ranges from $34,850 to $37,950 (plus the $810 destination charge). That compares to $29,310 to $32,410 for a four-cylinder TSX. About one-fifth of TSX sedans are expected to hold the V-6 engine.

Except for an odd fluttery sound on one test sedan while moving slowly, the V-6 TSX proved to be satisfying all around. Acceleration isn't quite as brisk as expected, but it's smooth, with the automatic transmission producing curt, prompt downshifts. Following brief hesitation (which actually feels a bit long), the V-6 model demonstrates bountiful energy to pass and merge. Handling skills remain impressive, though the TSX does feel a bit heavy for a car of its size.

Yes, there's a difference in passing power between the two models, but the four-cylinder is no slouch by any means. No one with a four-cylinder TSX need feel deprived at all, and both versions are as agile as a smaller car.

Highly supportive seats are comfortable, with firm upholstery. Large, stylish gauges are quite easy to read. Rear-seat space falls short: headroom and legroom so-so, toe space snug, and the center rear position is simply awful. Long rear windows help visibility, though audio speakers can produce reflections in the rear window. Oddly-shaped mirrors might not be the best choice.

RDX gets facelift and adds two-wheel-drive model

Introduced for 2007, the turbocharged RDX adds a two-wheel-drive model for 2010, joining the original all-wheel-drive wagon. Exterior changes included a new "signature" grille, fresh foglamps and headlamps, revised exhaust finishers, and new 10-spoke aluminum wheels. With rear-wheel drive, the RDX gets an EPA fuel-economy estimate of 19 mpg in the city and 24 mpg in highway driving. Acura's SH-AWD system reduces the gas-mileage estimates by two: to 17/22 mpg (city/highway).

Close to one-third of RDX models are expected to be 2WD. With the RDX, Acura competes against the BMW X3, Land Rover LR2, and Infiniti EX, as well as recently-introduced models from Mercedes-Benz and Audi. All-wheel-drive models went on sale in July, priced from $34,520 to $37,620 (not including destination charge). The new 2WD models reached dealerships in early August, ranging from $32,520 to $35,620.

Nothing has changed in terms of the RDX road experience. Acura's turbo wagon behaves well enough, but certain surfaces produce unpleasant road noise and lumpiness. Acceleration is satisfactory, but there's not much evidence of turbocharging - though it can be felt when pushing the gas pedal to the floor. Large, easy gauges are a bonus, and the RDX is quite nimble around town, maneuvering easily.

Facelifted MDX arrives later in 2009

First launched in 2001, Acura's largest crossover SUV entered its second generation for the 2007 model year. Since then, it's become the top-selling seven-passenger SUV in its league. A lengthy list of modifications for 2010 starts with a new "signature" grille, a bumper air intake, new front skid garnish, and revised exhaust finishers. Inside is new wood trim, accompanied by modified stitching and a matte black center stack.

All MDX wagons now have paddle shifters, and a power trailgate has become standard. Newly available features include a multi-view backup camera; Blind Spot Information System; Collision Mitigation Braking; and Adaptive Cruise Control. The multi-view camera has three views: Normal, Wide (to 180-degree "fisheye"), and Top (useful for tight parking spaces and towing). Acura's available navigation system gets a new hard-disk platform; 8-inch full VGA screen, and wallpaper function. Available Rear Entertainment earns a 400 percent increase in resolution. Hill Start Assist is new, and an Advance Package replaces the prior Sport Package option.

Developing 300 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 270 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm, the MDX's 3.7-liter V-6 engine works with a new six-speed Sequential SportShift automatic transmission. Paddle shifters work in two modes (D and S), and can now do double-kickdowns. Underneath, the Active Damper System has been retuned, promising a refined Comfort mode and more natural Sport mode. New 18-inch 5-spoke wheels are mounted, too.

More substantial and refined in overall feel than the RDX, the larger MDX also is quieter. Expect extra-refined response, with automatic-transmission shifts that are quicker and smoother than many vehicles in this class. Obviously, the MDX aims at a more upscale audience, yielding a softer, more cushiony ride with just a little loss of taut sure-footedness. Getting inside requires a step up, but this Acura presents comfort and serious; subtle luxury once you're there.

Pricing has not yet been established. The 2010 MDX goes on sale in late fall/early winter. Rivals include the Infiniti FX35, Lexus RX 350 and GX 470, BMW 3.0 X6, and Audi Q7.

In other Acura news, the TL sedan soon will be available with a six-speed manual transmission to accompany its SH-AWD system. Acura says it's the only brand with all five-star safety ratings from NHTSA, as well as "Top Safety Pick" rankings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Resale values are the highest in the class, too, according to Acura - as based on data from Automotive Lease Guide. "We believe buyers are going to be practical in future," said Gary Robinson, assistant manager, product planning, "in contrast to the flashiness of the early 2000s."

Attention Editors: This complete 2010 Acura TSX/RDX/MDX review is available now for your publication. Please contact us at for details. (August 8, 2009)

© All contents copyright 2009 by Tirekicking Today
Text and photos by James M. Flammang