Special Coverage

Chicago Auto Show

CHICAGO – American Honda Motor Co. Inc. says availability of a V-6 engine in the new ’10 TSX V-6, unveiled at the city’s auto show here, puts the car on a more equal footing with the competition.

The sports sedan, which will hit dealerships this summer, will offer a 3.5L V-6 producing 280 hp and featuring VTEC valvetrain control and a dual-stage induction system.

The engine will be mated to Acura’s 5-speed automatic transmission, which can be operated manually via steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

For sportier handling, the V-6 model boasts exclusive suspension tuning and 18-in. split 5-spoke aluminum wheels with Michelin Pilot all-season tires. These along with a slightly revised front fascia and V-6 badge on the trunk will help distinguish this performance-minded TSX, Acura says.

The car will come standard with a leather interior, power moonroof, automatic-climate control, 7-speaker sound system with CD and AM/FM tuner, satellite radio, Bluetooth HandsFreeLink, USB port and auxiliary jack.

The TSX V-6 model fills a niche between the current 4-cyl. TSX and the upscale TL, says Jeff Conrad, vice president of Acura sales.

Acura has yet to announce volume projections for the new model, but Conrad says the brand as a whole has been holding up remarkably well given the ongoing economic malaise.

“In January, the TSX had an 11% increase in sales over the same month last year,” Conrad tells Ward’s. “So we’re counting on continued strong sales from this model. It’s been a strong player in this market.”

Acura sales fell 19% last year, still better than the overall luxury segment that saw deliveries plunge 25%-30%, he says.

The new TSX V-6 is aimed at “30-somethings” Conrad says, while admitting most buyers likely will be on the older side. “Probably closer to 35-40 when you talk about who has the money to spend on vehicles these days,” he says.

The addition of a V-6 will help Acura better compete with the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4 and Lexus IS, he says, noting launching a larger powertrain during this economic downturn and volatile fuel prices is not a concern for the auto maker.

“Although we haven’t published (Environmental Protection Agency) numbers, (the TSX V-6) is going to get good fuel economy,” Conrad says. “It represents incremental sales, because it’s still a vehicle that meets the needs of enthusiasts.”

While some auto makers have withered in the face of the sour economy, Acura has chosen to embrace it. “The market situation is affecting everyone, but we’ll continue to commit the necessary resources,” he says.

“We’ll use (the economic downturn) as an opportunity to learn and improve, and when the market comes back – and it will – we will be more strongly positioned.”

Pricing will be announced closer to the ’10 TSX V-6’s on-sale date this summer.

bpope@wardsauto.com