When the TSX made its entry into the Acura lineup, we really liked it. While it doesn't deliver particularly eye-popping objective figures, it manages to reward the driver with a superb combination of refinement, precision, balance, and sophistication. To be honest, I'm a bit of a power freak, so I was a little surprised by how much I really liked the car despite its modest thrust. Perhaps one of the most compelling things for me was knowing that the package is absolutely brimming with potential. The K-series motor has proven itself to be nothing short of phenomenal in that respect, as we've seen very healthy dyno sheets for the RSX Type-S' K20A2 motor, a very close cousin to the TSX's own K24A2. Out of the box, the TSX's chassis is brilliant, but we couldn't help but wonder how much better it would be once the typical tricks were employed. The TOV's conclusion was that the TSX was a great package, but at the same time we couldn't wait for the inevitable "Type-S" or similar variant to hit the scene. It turns out I didn't wait for a hotter version to appear - I bought my own TSX in June of '03.
2003 SEMA TSX A-Spec Concept
I'm very pleased that I didn't hesitate. The ownership experience with the car has been extremely satisfying, but the upgrade itch has been hard to ignore. To scratch that itch, the TSX has officially become a "TOV Project Car", so we'll be continuing to test various upgrades on the car as the opportunities arise. You may have already seen the first installment in our series of articles, where we tested AEM's Short Ram intake and Hondata's intake manifold heatshield gasket. This simple upgrade combo resulted in a reasonable bump (8+hp) in top-end power and a more assertive intake note. This first step was nice, but we'll definitely be seeking even more power down the road as the aftermarket options develop.
For this phase of our project, we turned our attention towards enhancing the TSX's chassis. Our goal was to sharpen the TSX's reflexes and improve its responsiveness during more spirited street driving, without severely compromising the TSX's excellent ride comfort. Based upon our past experiences with Acura's A-Spec and Honda's Factory Performance packages, we figured the TSX's A-Spec package would be a safe bet.
Acura first showed a concept of the TSX A-Spec package at the 2003 SEMA show in Las Vegas, and we certainly liked what we saw. It turns out the production kit differs quite a bit from the concept package, but to some extent that was to be expected. Unfortunately, one of the most intriguing parts of the concept - the upgraded brakes - didn't make the cut, but those 4-pistoned beauties would have certainly hung some digits on the MSRP. Other variances/deletions from the concept car's equipment list include Recaro seats, 18" road wheels, Modulo exhaust, new bumpers, and Momo steering wheel.
We convinced the nice folks at A-Spec to allow us to evaluate the A-Spec kit on our own TSX, and they arranged to have ours delivered to Baranco Acura here in Atlanta in early June. We only mention this date because it was slightly ahead of when the first production kits actually started shipping, and apparently some last minute marketing details weren't finalized. So for a few weeks there was some confusion concerning the tires, particularly whether or not they were supposed to have been included with the kit. As it turns out, in the interest of keeping the cost of the kit down, at the last minute it was decided that tires were not going to be a part of the package. In the end, this is probably a good thing, as the Yokohama AVS ES100s that they were considering are decent tires for the money, but I would go ahead and visit our friends at the Tire Rack and check out the many options there.
It seems that the A-Spec guys have heard some of the past grumblings about their "all or nothing" approach to marketing their kits. In this case, it turns out that the only pieces that are truly unique to the A-Spec kit are the 17" split 5-spoke wheels, and stiffer springs and dampers. The wheels are pretty sharp looking, sporting a fairly unique polished pewter finish. The TSX body pieces are all available independently from the kit, and have been available since the car's introduction. The really big new is that you can now purchase the suspension pieces independently as well, for the modest sum of $800. Interestingly, there are two distinct suspension packages for the TSX A-Spec, one being tuned for automatic transmission-equipped TSXs and the other for 6-speed cars. Obviously, we took delivery of the latter.