The , with its "hot" Firepepper Red Pearl paint, aptly showed up on a weekend that promised to be a scorcher. Its arrival gave me a perfect excuse to escape into Colorado's high country to cool off. A drive on a dirt road near the headwaters of the Colorado put the TSX's handling to task. The ride is responsive, surefooted, comfortable, and nonfatiguing, despite the rough road and occasional washboard.

The sedan's wide 105.1-in. stance and European styling cues give an aggressive, sporty look. Inspired by Audi and BMW, the TSX sports a highly rigid unit body that reportedly surpasses both the A4 and 3-Series in bending and torsional rigidity. The allaluminum 2.4-liter i-VTEC engine puts out 205 hp at 7,000 rpm and 164 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. The "intelligent" i-VTEC system provides continuously variable camshaft timing.

The TSX features electronic drive by wire that eliminates direct throttle cable connections to the engine. Instead the throttle pedal controls the butterfly in the intake tract. This matches engine response to driving conditions. The system monitors pedal and throttle positions, vehicle and engine speeds, calculated road slope, corner radius, and engine vacuum to determine throttle control sensitivity.

New for 2006, the TSX carries Electronic Brake Assist (EBA), which helps drivers apply full braking pressure while trying to avoid an accident. A microprocessor continually analyzes and "learns" the driver's normal braking habits, monitoring both the rate of pressure applied and the total pressure the driver normally applies to the brake. If the driver suddenly puts on the brakes, EBA actuates full ABS to stop the vehicle in the shortest distance possible.

I wasn't aware of EBA prior to my trip, but was extremely thankful for it when a fisherman barreling up a side road from the riverbank pulled in front of me without even looking. When I slammed on the brakes, the car felt solid and safe.

Creature comforts include an eight-way adjustable leather driver's seat, dual-zone climate controls, steering-wheel-mounted controls for the 360-W sound system, and six-disc indash CD changer. The optional navigation system with voice recognition and a $615 delivery charge brought the TSX sticker price to $30,000.