Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – Acura’s new TSX Sport Wagon won’t hurt sales of other people-haulers in its premium-brand lineup, a Honda official says.

“There’s not too much concern over cannibalization with the wagon at all,” John Mendel, executive vice president-American Honda Motor Co. Inc., tells reporters in an interview on the sidelines of the New York auto show.

Acura already retails the RDX small cross/utility vehicle, and ZDX and MDX midsize CUVs. But Mendel says the ZDX has nothing to compare with the TSX Sport Wagon, which is much different from the RDX.

“Maybe (the wagon is) most similar to (the) MDX, but it’s really not that close,” he says. “I think they pretty much (target) separate buyers’ needs.”

Following the introduction of the TSX Sport Wagon at the show, Mendel muses over why Acura believes the wagon can succeed where other luxury wagons have failed.

Both the Cadillac and BMW brands acknowledge their midsize-wagon offerings, the CTS and 3-Series, respectively, don’t sell very well, he says. “The handling of this vehicle, with the utility, is what we think will set it apart.”

General Motors Co. introduced a high-performance Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon at the show this week, with a 556-hp, supercharged V-8 engine making 551 lb.-ft. (747 Nm) of torque.

The Acura TSX Sport Wagon’s suspension-tuning, resulting in lack of body roll, and a low center of gravity, adds to the car’s appeal and results in a similar driving experience to the TSX sedan, Mendel says.

“(Also), it’s very stylish,” he adds. “It’s not a quirky, clunky-looking kind of vehicle. It’s not something you have to grow to love. It’s not slab-sided.”

In addition to the 3-Series, Acura sees the Audi A4 wagon as competition for the TSX Sport Wagon. And Mendel predicts the wagon might woo buyers who now drive small CUVs, or even minivans.

“I think it’s a little bit of a jump-ball right now,” he says. “The market is in enough flux, people are looking for alternatives, and I think this could be an opportunity. We’ll see.”

Mendel expects the TSX Sport Wagon, going on sale in the U.S. this fall, to slot between the TSX 4-cyl. and V-6 sedan in price. The two models for ’10 begin at $29,310 and $34,850, respectively.

The TSX wagon mostly remains true to the European Honda Accord wagon, from which it is derived, he says. “A lot of the ‘European-ness’ is still there.”

However, changes were made to the interior and exterior to bring it in line with the Acura brand. For instance, the grille is Acura’s signature power-plenum design.

Honda sells the Accord wagon in Europe with a manual transmission and diesel engine. Mendel doesn’t discount either for the U.S., saying the auto maker is taking a wait-and-see approach on how well the TSX wagon is received.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com