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Most 2011 TSX Sport Wagons Should Be Equipped with Manual Transmissions

  • Posted: 03-11-2011 02:37 PM
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Most 2011 TSX Sport Wagons Should Be Equipped with Manual Transmissions

I have been pushed over the edge. Acura’s latest television ad, of the very attractive TSX Sports Wagon doing a drift around what looks to be a closed, race-track inspired skidpad, virtually smoking at all four wheels is just a slap in the face. The ad’s computer graphics skillfully dismantle a TSX sedan, down to the frame while doing a donut, then is visually re-assembled while in motion as a wagon. While the stunt performed in the ad MIGHT be able to be pulled off if the sedan had a manual transmission, it would be horrendously difficult to pull off in real life with a front-wheel drive layout. Alas, the TSX Sport Wagon presented in the ad insults our collective automotive enthusiasm by offering neither such driving assets to buyers.

 

“We began with a sports car and ended with one?” Does Acura really expect TSX Sport Wagon buyers to envision themselves doing performance driving stunts? Do they expect them to write-off criticism from people who would poke fun at station wagons with false expectation that the car is actually a performance machine? As it is, it would have been somewhat of a stretch depicting the TSX Sport Wagon doing canyon work in a remote forest or on a seaside cliff. A stretch because, let’s face it, any of the mentioned driving scenarios would be much more enjoyable with a transmission one could row on their own, working three pedals with delight.

Sport Wagons of all marques sold in America are the product of floundering efforts to appease a dwindling demographic of buyers who like not only to drive cars, but use them as well. It seems that without fail sport wagons get pushed aside by manufacturers and dealers as liabilities; cars that take up valuable production line and dealer lot space from automatics. Automatics are what people want, really. Well, I don’t prefer an automatic (even taking into consideration my Southern California 80-mile round-trip commute). I have a few acquaintances who wouldn’t either. Come to think of it, in the circles I run, a dual-clutch transmission is the absolute closest we’d ever consider getting to an automatic, and even at that a manual is just more fun. This despite the fact that manufacturers have continually sedated the manual-transmission driving experience with such backwards advances as clutch-delay valves and self-adjusting clutches.

Another disturbing trend I see is that people are settling for automatic-transmission’ed versions of cars that actually could be had in manuals, simply for a lack of desire to hunt for them. On the used car market, as well as in the new car market. Dealers just don’t want manuals on the lot. I have been to numerous BMW dealers countless times and ask to see a 3-series, any 3-series, in a manual and frequently come up with a goose egg. This from a maker well known for offering a manual in nearly every car they make. You are forced to jump through hoops and special order your car so equipped, usually bringing along with it a lack of negotiation ability. I am fairly certain that even though buying a new BMW is a financially poor move, I would probably have impulsively pulled the trigger on more than one occasion if I could walk onto the lot and find a manual sport wagon waiting for me to fall in love.

Which gets me back on point; what’s the deal with offering Sport Wagons in any configuration other than a stick-shift? When I think about who actually buys a sport wagon, the thought of a conservative soccer mom looking to step up her image or a financial yuppie who had a fresh commission check burning a hole in their pocket isn’t who pops into my mind. I think…practical person. A Sport Wagon is not and will not ever be an image car. No soccer mom would forgo the 3rd row and commanding view over other moms waiting in the pickup-line at elementary schools across the nation that an SUV or crossover offers. No pink-tie wearing yuppie is going to pass up a classy sedan or sports car for their high-dollar dinners or night at the club, especially when there is a valet involved. No. The sport wagon is for a man or woman of a different breed.

The sport wagon is a car for the frugal, practical, and adventurous. It is a family car that does it all. It holds the enviable “stuff” is the unintended bonus of having a hobby or two (or dare I say, child or two whom compliment said hobbies). It enjoyably carries four in comfort to adventurous locations in the mountains or near large bodies of water (where twisty roads are typically encountered). It is considerably better on gas than an SUV for daily use, especially when motivated by a four-cylinder engine. Wagonists don’t need to tow much, if anything; a roof box or rack will do. A sport wagon is the perfect medicine for mediocrity. You work hard, so play hard. Drive it every day of your life.

I know I am not too far off base here. Acura does seem to realize the target buyer for a TSX Sport Wagon is an adventuresome person, as evidenced by the “Compete like a pro” competition where participants are volleying for a free TSX Sport Wagon of their own:

Are you a serious action sports athlete who’s willing to go the distance to win? If so, a brand-new Acura TSX Sport Wagon could be yours. All you have to do is work your social network as hard as your quads to earn the most votes. Spread the word on your wall, send friends an email – do whatever it takes to let people know how serious you are about your action sport. The person who scores the most votes will compete like a pro in an all-new TSX Sport Wagon.

Is it just me or do the thrill seekers that Acura is targeting with this promotion really strike you as the sort of people who, if they were going to buy a car over a truck, would prefer the car with an automatic? Maybe a lot of them would, but I am betting most of them, given the option, might have some consternation over the choice. Acura’s numbers might cite most buyers of their brand as slushbox-choosers. But, most Acura buyers are getting much more luxurious models that are intended for the afore-mentioned well to do soccer mom and financial guy. Likewise, I’d argue that most Acura buyers choose automatics because, frankly, that is all they can get their hands on.

Bringing together the sort of person who’d buy a manual and the sort of person who’d buy a wagon are two very similar sets of traits. Wagon people are (stabbing in the dark a bit, but justifiably so) frugal and practical. Manuals are cheaper up front, cheaper to maintain, and allow drivers to get better gas mileage (21-speed automatic not-withstanding). Wagon people are adventurous and generally enjoy the efficiency and performance offered over SUVs. Manuals provide the ability to have more fun while driving, and extract more speed out of the car both in accelerating and cornering. Wagon owners do their homework, know that they want, and don’t give credence to what others say. Manual transmissions allow drivers to explore their impulsive tendencies when sharing their car with others (ie, it is a bold move in this day and age to take on the “burden” of a clutch pedal.

Let’s entertain the possibility for just a moment that the reason that so few manual transmission cars and so few wagons are sold in America that the companies making cars seem to have no focus on the customers who buy either car? The two attributes go hand-in-hand. The TSX didn’t need to get FATTER. It needed to get a wagon version and more manuals!

I suppose the bottom line is this: If you are going to come out with a car that has the word “sport” anywhere in it, and depict it in ads displaying gross displays of power and driver talent, it might be a good idea to equip the car such that it could live up to the hopes and dreams of us car enthusiasts.

-By Marcus di Sabella, whom Acura lost me on two occasions on the TSX Sport Wagon. Once when I had a chance to trade in my 2004 TSX Manual, and once when my wife needed a car and we snapped up a 2001 BMW 525iT with a Manual instead.



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