Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

Honda Motor Co. Ltd.’s Acura luxury brand continues its pursuit of utilitarian-minded buyers with the debut at the New York auto show of the ’11 Acura TSX Sport Wagon, slated to arrive in showrooms in late fall.

The front-wheel-drive 5-passenger wagon will join other slightly larger cross/utility vehicles recently added to the Acura stable, including the RDX and the more car-like ZDX, which is now the brand’s flagship.

The TSX Sport Wagon is similar to the Accord wagon that is popular in Europe. Honda loyalists in the U.S. have been calling for the vehicle on this side of the pond for years.

Motivation comes from a 2.4L, all-aluminum DOHC i-VTEC 4-cyl. paired with a Sequential SportShift 5-speed automatic transmission. Paddle shifters mounted to the steering wheel are standard.

The same engine in the TSX sedan sold in the U.S. is rated at 201 hp at 7,000 rpm and 170 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,300 rpm, with the 5-speed automatic. Although a 280-hp SOHC 3.5L V-6 now is available in the TSX sedan, the wagon will be offered only with the I-4.

In the TSX Sport Wagon, Acura says the 4-cyl. will deliver “quick off-the-line acceleration,” while achieving 30 mpg (7.8 L/100 km) on the highway, according to preliminary Environmental Protection Agency testing.

The auto maker also says the vehicle promises agile handling on twisty mountain roads or city streets.

The wagon is 3.3 ins. (8.4 cm) longer and 1.2 ins. (3 cm) taller than the TSX sedan, and the wheelbase of 106.5 ins. (270 cm) is 0.10 ins. (0.25 cm) longer. Golf clubs are supposed to fit in the cargo hold sideways.

The Acura TSX is the latest wagon to be offered in the U.S., following the Cadillac CTS, Volkswagen Jetta, Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series.

Although auto makers offer the compact functionality as a potential alternative to a larger cross/utility vehicle or SUV, the market reception has been lukewarm.

Both Cadillac and BMW have said their respective CTS and 3-Series wagons are not selling well, although Cadillac says its entry is outselling the 3-Series wagon 2-to-1.

“The TSX Sport Wagon represents a smart choice for those seeking a vehicle with utility,” says John Mendel, American Honda Motor Co. Inc.’s executive vice president-sales. “It’s practical, fun to drive, luxurious and technically advanced.”

Available technology includes a hard-disk-based navigation system with an all-new 8-in. (20-cm) high-resolution color display and AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic and Weather featuring radar image mapping.

Also offered will be the ELS Surround premium audio package and a hard-disk-drive for media storage. Standard features include a power-glass moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seats and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity.

Acura sold 28,650 TSX sedans in 2009, down 10.5% from 2008, according the Ward’s data. The sedan finished the year as the 9th-best selling vehicle in Ward’s Lower Luxury segment.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com