Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Premium persona in a small sedan.
Acura ILX is a premium compact sedan introduced as a 2013 model. For 2014, Acura ILX gets more standard features, including upgraded 17-inch alloy wheels, new leather seating surfaces and leatherette door liners. An eight-way power driver's seat is now standard, along with heated front seats, a Multi-Angle rear-view camera and a new subwoofer. Active Noise Cancellation is another new standard feature, promising a quieter cabin. Most of these features were previously part of the optional Premium Package.
The Acura ILX is reasonably roomy by compact car standards. Two average-size adults can ride comfortably in the rear, with only minimal cooperation from front seat occupants. Like almost all sedans in this premium compact class, the ILX is rated for five passengers, but that center rear position is only suitable for someone of diminutive stature, or someone you don't like.
Acura ILX shares its the basic structure and powertrains with the Honda Civic though there are as many hardware distinctions as there are similarities: The styling is different and exterior dimensions are different. Inside, the Acura cabin benefits from premium materials. The Acura gets more powerful engines and a more advanced front suspension. So they are hardly the same.
The ILX rides a shorter wheelbase (105.1 inches versus 106.3), and is longer, lower, and wider than the Civic sedan: The ILX measures 179.1 inches overall, 70.6 inches wide, and 55.6 inches tall. Also, the ILX is distinguished by its more sophisticated double-wishbone front suspension.
There is no shared sheetmetal between the Honda and the Acura. The Acura ILX cabin is furnished with high-grade materials, with no sign of the interior cost-cutting that diminishes the latest Civics, and the ILX benefits from more sound-deadening measures. Acura also claims higher rigidity for the ILX's unibody, which results in a smoother ride and better handling.
The entry-level Acura ILX 2.0L comes with a 150-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a 5-speed automatic with Sequential SportShift and Grade Logic Control.
Stepping up a notch, the Acura ILX 2.4L is motivated by a 201-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a 6-speed manual gearbox (no automatic option).
There's also a gasoline-electric ILX Hybrid, a first for Acura. In the hybrid, a 111-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine is augmented by a 23-horsepower electric motor, sandwiched between the engine and the continuously variable automatic transmission. The basic combination is identical to the one used in the Civic Hybrid, but with an intriguing distinction. In the ILX, computer management is programmed for a little more punch when tramping hard on the throttle. That extra punch, which is all but intangible, comes at the expense of fuel economy. The Civic Hybrid carries EPA ratings of 44/44 mpg City/Highway. The ILX is EPA-estimated at 39/38 mpg. Like the Civic, the ILX Hybrid includes a little dashboard button marked Eco. Punch the button, and the system computer adjusts its mapping to make the hybrid more miserly.
Acura ILX competes with the Audi A3, Buick Verano, and Volkswagen CC.
The 2014 Acura ILX lineup offers a choice of three powertrains. The ILX 2.0L ($26,900) comes with a 150-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The ILX now comes standard with leather seating surfaces and leatherette door liners, as well as automatic climate control and a 160-watt audio system with six speakers and a subwoofer, AM/FM/CD with RDS readout and MP3 and WMA compatibility. Also standard are a USB interface for iPod, auxiliary input jack, Pandora internet radio interface, Bluetooth HandsFreeLink, and SMS text messaging. The Keyless Access System includes smart entry and pushbutton start. Each ILX also has a tilt/telescope steering column, 8-way power driver's seat, heated front seats, rear-view camera, Active Noise Cancellation, power moonroof, and 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
The Premium Package ($2,300 extra) upgrades the ILX with a premium 360-watt stereo system that includes satelllite radio, Pandora and Bluetooth connectivity, and SMS text messaging. HID headlights and foglights are available. (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include $895 destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
The ILX 2.4L ($29,200) comes with a 201-hp 2.4-liter engine and includes the Premium Package with all the other features listed above.
An optional Technology Package ($2,400) upgrades the 2.0-liter ILX with the premium 360-watt audio system including AcuraLink Satellite Communication System, Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition, AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic with Traffic Rerouting, AcuraLink Real-Time Weather with radar image maps and HomeLink garage door opener. The navigation system makes use of a hard disk drive (HDD) with 60 gigabytes of storage capacity, including 15 gigabytes that can be specifically allocated for music storage.
The ILX Hybrid ($28,900 in 2013) features the gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The Hybrid comes with cloth upholstery and the standard 2.0L features. A Technology Package ($5,500) for the ILX Hybrid adds all of the Premium Package and Technology Package features listed above except that the Hybrid comes only with 16-inch aluminum wheels that hold 205/55HR16 Continental ContiProContact M+S tires.
Safety features include driver- and front-passenger dual-stage front airbags, front side-impact airbags, active head restraints, three-point seatbelts for five passengers, front seatbelts with automatic tensioning and load limiters, LATCH Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, Vehicle Stability Assist with Traction Control System, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, rearview camera, tire-pressure monitor.
As noted, there is no sheetmetal commonality between the ILX and Honda's Civic. The Acura ILX looks like an Acura. The beaky chrome strip that tops the main grille opening is familiar, and Acura diminished the size and serpent's tooth appearance that has marred other recent offerings.
Overall, the look is subdued. There's too much front overhang and not enough at the rear, making the proportions seem awkward when viewed from the side. But the design is otherwise quietly conservative and inoffensive, though it remains to be seen whether it will measure up to target market research. Acura's goal for the ILX is to attract Gen Y buyers, professionals in their early to mid-20s, and the sum of the research indicates that these prospects prioritize value and cool styling. Whether the ILX is perceived as cool will be in the eyes of the beholders.
Inside, the Acura ILX contains nothing that's likely to remind anyone of the Honda Civic. Materials are high quality and the dashboard design has a distinct Acura flavor, strongly reminiscent, in particular, of the layout in the TSX. While many carmakers are moving to touch-screen controls, a variety of buttons and knobs govern many of the secondary controls in the ILX's center stack, with a good many duplicates appended to the steering wheel hub.
The front seats are moderately supportive, less so than those in a BMW, but comfortable, and adjustable enough to fit a wide range of body types and physical dimensions. A tilt/telescope steering column ensures a good driving position. Seating surfaces are now leather, even in the base ILX 2.0.
The Premium Package includes a seven-speaker 360-watt premium audio system with a USB port, Bluetooth audio, Pandora internet radio interface, and SMS text messaging. Acura's navigation system, which is baked into the Technology Package, includes voice recognition, real-time traffic info, real-time weather, and a satellite communications function that will keep track of your appointments. Other elements of the package include the upgrade audio features that are also part of the Premium Package.
Acura has drifted a long way from the days when its Integra coupes were performance pacesetters in the compact class. Though the division would like the ILX to be perceived as sporty, that character trait is present only in the hotter ILX 2.4L version, with its 201-horsepower engine and slick 6-speed manual transmission.
Acceleration in the basic ILX 2.0L version is tepid. Forward progress is not enhanced by its 5-speed automatic, which seems a bit outdated compared to competitors with 6-speed automatics and 6-speed manuals. The ILX 2.0L automatic has a Select Shift manual mode with paddle shifters, but it adds little if anything to the car's fun-to-drive index. Up- and downshifts are relaxed compared to the snappy responses of Volkswagen's dual-clutch DSG automatic, and only slightly quicker than simply leaving the shift lever in Drive.
Fuel economy from the ILX 2.0L is an EPA-estimated 24/35 mpg City/Highway. With the 2.4-liter engine, the gas-mileage estimate dips to 22/31 mpg City/Highway. The ILX Hybrid is EPA-rated at 39/38 mpg. Acura recommends Premium gasoline for all three powertrains.
Steering is another soft point in the dynamic resume of the ILX. Electric-assist power steering is far from new to Honda and Acura, and in some applications, such as the Honda S2000 sports car, it has delivered exemplary precision. But in the ILX, the steering feels numb on center and vague when the driver turns the wheel. The electric assist system adds weight to steering effort as speed increases, but road feel is essentially absent.
However, there are redeeming traits. The combination of a stiffened body shell and firm suspension tuning gives the ILX a sense of character that's totally absent in the standard Civic. Handling responses are reasonably prompt and wholly predictable, with no sacrifice in ride comfort. Quite the contrary; the ILX feels much like cars with autobahn pedigrees, such as Volkswagen's CC sedan. This is particularly true of the ILX 2.4L version.
Beyond that, Acura invested considerable time and money in sound deadening, which pays off in an exceptionally low interior noise levels. In this area, the ILX can go toe to toe with anything in its class, a plus for automotive audiophiles.
Quiet, smooth, and nicely appointed, the ILX offers good road manners. Suspension tuning feels pleasantly firm, but still irons out all but the biggest bumps. The ILX lacks the responsive handling of the Audi A3. Acura ILX pricing is competitive in this rarefied segment, however. Acura has solid durability/reliability credentials, and standard content is respectable, giving the car a good value quotient. There are more exciting cars in this price range, but if excitement isn't a high priority, the ILX has its appeals.
Acura ILX 2.0L ($26,900); ILX 2.4L ($29,200); ILX 1.5L Hybrid ($28,900).
Options As Tested
Premium Package ($3300) included leather seats, heated front seats, power-adjustable driver's seat, 7-speaker 360-watt AM/FM/CD upgrade audio, satellite radio, HID headlights, fog lights, multi-view rear view camers, 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels; Technology Package ($2200) included Premium Package features plus Acura navigation system with 60-gigabyte hard disk drive, voice recognition, real-time traffic info, real time weather, and satellite communications system including automated appointments calendar.
Acura ILX 2.0L ($25,900).
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