ROCHESTER, MI – American Honda Motor Co. Inc.’s Acura brand expects its just-released ’10 TSX sedan with a first-time optional 3.5L 280-hp V-6 to fill the void left by last year’s introduction of the pricier next-generation Acura TL.

With the TL priced at about $35,000 and the TSX 4-cyl. starting at $29,310, “there’s a pretty big gap,” Gary Robinson, assistant manager-Acura product planning, tells Ward’s at a recent media event here.

“There are a lot of TSX customers who really like the car but don’t want something bigger, like a TL,” he says. “But the 4-cyl. just didn’t cut it for them.”

Acura expects the new TSX V-6 model, which starts at $34,850, or $37,950 with the technology package, to account for 20% of total TSX sales. Through July, TSX deliveries were down 23.1% to 16,272 units, Ward’s data show.

The TSX V-6 is expected to appeal to male buyers who are slightly older and more-affluent than typical TSX 4-cyl. customers in their 20s and 30s, Robinson says.

In addition to the optional V-6, the ’10 TSX has a revised electric power-steering system, bigger master cylinder, revised pedal-stroke ratio, new brake booster and unique rear brake pads. Buyers choosing the V-6 model also can upgrade to an 18-in. wheel.

Active Sound Control is added for the TSX’s audio systems, reducing engine noise below 2,000 rpm, high-frequency noise of cruising speed and allowing for a throatier exhaust note while driving in the high-rpm range, Acura says.

Also tweaked is Acura’s largest model, the MDX cross/utility vehicle. The MDX perhaps is the most modified inside and out of the brand’s ’10 model year lineup, receiving Acura’s signature power plenum grille, as well as a new bumper air intake, for styling and better cooling, and additional chrome molding.

The MDX interior now offers brown wood trim, leather stitching, a black matte center stack and a meatier steering wheel. Also new for the CUV is the addition of paddle shifters across all trims, a console storage tray, power liftgate and hill-start assist.

The CUV also receives a multi-view backup camera offered with the optional technology and navigation packages. The camera boasts three view modes: normal, wide (180-degree view) for backing up in parking lots and a top view useful for trying to hitch to a trailer.

The camera joins a new blind-spot information system, adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation braking system as part of MDX’s Advance package, which replaces the ’09 model’s Sport package.

An upgraded navigation system is new, powered by a hard-disk drive for faster processing time, and featuring a screen that has a 400% increase in resolution, Acura says. The system also boasts a fuzzy logic point-of-interest search, new food categories and lane guidance, which now displays an arrow to indicate which freeway ramp to take.

New for the MDX’s audio system is a feature called “song by voice,” which Robinson says is similar to Microsoft Corp.’s Sync in that it allows for a stored song to be called up with an audible citation of the artist or title.

The MDX receives Acura’s first 6-speed automatic transmission, also due on the new ZDX CUV later this year. Paddle shifters on the MDX allow for double-gear kick-downs when the gear box is in S mode. There also is an active damper system, retuned for greater delineation between comfort and sport modes, Robinson says.

The ’10 MDX goes on sale in late fall or early winter. Acura expects 7% of buyers to opt for the new Advance package, compared with 4% for the outgoing ’09 MDX with Sport package.

MDX sales were down 43.2% through July, to 15,940 units, Ward’s data shows.

Also new for Acura in the ’10 lineup is the TL with the brand’s Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive and 6-speed manual transmission option, expected later this year. The TL was Acura’s best-selling model through July, with sales of 20,845 units, a 24.6% drop from like-2008.

Total Acura sales through the first seven months trailed year-ago by 34.2%, compared with the industry’s 32.0% decline, according to Ward’s data.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com