Acura developed the new compact ILX sedan to target first-time luxury car buyers—young people with luxury car intentions but without a luxury car budget. Starting at a seemingly affordable $26,795, the ILX has been given the same job once handled by the long-departed Integra.
ILX imparts a more luxury persona than the Integra, last sold in 2001, but the Integra in some guises had a sportier, harder edge. This time around, Acura has elected to go with a mainstream entry-level luxury sedan aimed at buyers more interested in luxury amenities, a quiet cabin, refined appointments, and stellar gas mileage rather than road-carving capabilities.
Although loosely based on the popular Honda Civic, sharing its platform architecture, the ILX is light years removed from the Civic in several areas including exterior design, which is conservatively handsome.
The Acura is loaded with the latest infotainment features, something that should appeal to younger buyers.
In designing the sedan, engineers lengthened the car’s nose and set the windshield farther back to neutralize the cab-forward feel of the current Civic. The ILX is 2 inches longer and 1.6 inches wider than the Civic, but the wheelbase remains the same. Although the specifications show that the ILX has two inches less rear-seat legroom than the Civic—despite the size parity—we were pleased with the room available for rear-seat passengers.
The ILX’s strong suit is the interior, which lives up to the luxury billing. It’s quiet, although we wished for a bit less road noise at highway speeds. Beyond that, we found the seats comfortable and the interior materials first class.
Acura has wisely done away with the controversial Civic digital speedometer in favor of very readable analog gauges. The center stack, which includes climate and audio controls, comes from the larger TL, and although there are a myriad of buttons we found the layout intuitive.
Such things that aren’t standard or aren’t even available in the Civic are standard equipment in the ILX such as dual-zone climate control, a backup camera and Bluetooth connectivity. And the Acura is loaded with the latest infotainment features, something that should appeal to younger buyers.
We were impressed with the car’s composed ride, decent handling, and accurate steering through an electric assist system.
Gas Mileage All-important
The ILX comes with a choice of three drivetrains—a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder making 150 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission; a hybrid system similar to the one found in the Civic making 111 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque; and 2.4-liter inline 4 that makes 201 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque mated to a 6-speed manual transmission.
Although all three are adequate, the ILX’s success may depend on how much emphasis prospective buyers put on gas mileage (rated at 24 city/35 highway in the 2.0), which is this lineup’s strong suit. If too many of these prospective customers feel luxury should translate into above-average performance, then the Acura is going to lose its bet with the ILX.
It’s the high-revving 2.4-liter engine that puts real life into the ILX, but unfortunately a vast majority of drivers who can’t or won’t use a manual transmission will be left out of the mix. No automatic is offered. We think had Acura elected to also mate the energetic four with a 6-speed automatic it would have produced a winner, an instant hit.
The most intriguing model is the hybrid, which we tested for a week on home turf and found it very suitable especially if 40 mpg is necessary for your well-being.
Performance is sluggish as you might expect, but when pushed to merge on freeways or pass a car on a two-lane road, it has enough motivation to get the job done. Like so many hybrids, gas mileage will have to be of supreme importance if you keep the car in “Eco” mode. Turn from the Eco setting to Sport and the hybrid has some decent response.
We figure the performance at around 10.5 seconds from 0 to 60 through a continuously variable transmission. The hybrid comes with paddle shifters, which simulate seven gears, imparting some unexpected performance on downshifts.
Most importantly for hybrid fanciers, gas mileage is measured at 39 mpg in the city, and 38 mpg out on the highway. That compares on relatively equal terms with the Lexus CT 200h hybrid, which is rated at 43/40.
The hybrid starts at $30,015. Our test car with the Tech Package carried a bottom line of $35,295. A 2.0-liter ILX with Tech Package is $32,295.
Acura has done a commendable job creating an entry-level luxury sedan with a handsome new design, a comfortable interior that can be loaded with cutting-edge infotainment features, a compliant ride, and decent handling attributes. Unfortunately Acura has missed the bull’s eye in the performance department.
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