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It’s hard to look at the giant blunderbuss that the Acura TSX has become without thinking back to the first-generation Acura TSX.

You remember, the smaller Euro-size version of the last generation Accord that carried a high-revving, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and was available with a six-speed manual transmission. The 2004-2008 TSX wasn’t really that much smaller or lighter than the TSX we’re driving now, but it sure felt smaller and lighter when you were behind the wheel.

And the 2013 Acura ILX 2.4L gives me the very same feeling.

The ILX in general has been tuned to deliver a controlled, European-style driving experience just like the first-gen TSX. This car has a suspension that’s trick (and expensive, the Acura guys tell me), with low-friction bushings for a supple ride over stutter bumps, rebound springs to quickly control body roll, and high quality dampers that make the suspension feel like it’s controlled by hydraulics rather than simply stiff springs.

When you choose the 2.4L and its 201-hp, 2.4-liter inline-4 engine, you get the six-speed manual transmission, and the light-effort, short–throw shift linkage makes it enjoyable to keep this typical light-flywheel Honda engine on the boil. The 2.4 has far more authority than the 150-hp 2.0-liter inline-4, which does business through an automatic transmission.

By good fortune I had the opportunity to thrash this car through the Santa Monica Mountains for a morning and had a great time. Sure, it’s a creased and folded Civic, but the 2.4L responds like something completely different. You can’t throw the car around (which always makes you slow anyway), but you can go very quickly in a sort of press-on European style, which is how I remember the original TSX.

Even Bill Visnic, our Detroit editor, likes this car, and tells me, “You know, you’re right. Maybe the manual-trans version of the car is the new interpretation of the TSX. Car’s pretty entertaining. Engine revs great, and sounds great, too. That shifter is pretty good. They needed some chassis tweaks, though, and could’ve called it the ILX Type R.”

Probably I just had a way better time here in California than Senior Editor Erin Riches had in Nevada when she went through all the ILX models for our First Drive. It’s hard for me to admit, but personally I even like the way this car looks. It’s the first interpretation of Acura design director Jon Ikeda’s “Keen Edge Dynamic” design language that doesn’t look like an overheated sketch from high-school study hall.

Sadly, the Acura ILX 2.4L is likely to remain pretty much a secret just like the first-gen TSX, as the manual transmission just about guarantees that the car will reach only 5 percent of ILX buyers, just as Acura predicts. Also, as Visnic (he’s the smart one) reminds me, “ILX 2.4L pricing starts at $30,095 and navigation isn’t even available. Hmmm. You could get a multitude of higher-performing cars at that price, never mind the used-car market.”

My only hope is that people will quickly discover that the secret version of the Acura ILX is the ILX 2.4L, the one with the manual transmission. I’m told that there’s a good chance that Acura will build up a couple of leftover ILX 2.4L prototype cars for the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill in December, and if the cars run at the sharp end of the field as HPD’s street-stock efforts generally do, then the right people will hear about it.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

2013 Acura ILX 2.4L: Welcome Back, TSX!
 

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Pricing starts at 30K? Mid 20s maybe. But I think they priced way too high. This is basically a premium Civic at its core. I would just get an SI for 8k less.
 

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Not sure if people would use the ILX for racing over the Civic Si. They are very much the same car, with the Civic being cheaper. Why is this article called welcome back tsx? They still make the TSX no?
Civic Si just seems better for racing to me. I'd imagine the ILX would be heavier, it's more than just a prettied up Civic, it's a whole different car. Rather than just being sporty with leather seats and a sunroof, it's a legit Luxury Sedan. You would probably spend more money on the ILX just to have it keep up with an Si.

Yes, TSX's are still being made, but I wouldn't say "welcome back TSX" more like "welcome baby TSX"
 
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