Acura has spent the past several years redefining its model range. The popular TL sedan was downsized and became the TLX, essentially taking the slot occupied by the now discontinued TSX. Acura's entry level sedan is now the compact ILX, based on the same platform as the Honda Civic.
For 2016, the ILX benefits from powertrain updates and Acura drops the ILX Hybrid model. The base ILX starts at $27,900 and ranges up to the ILX with the Technology Plus and A-SPEC Package ($34,890). Our test vehicle was an ILX with the Premium and A-Spec Packages ($31,890). Add the $920 destination and handling charge for a total of $32,810. Notable standard equipment includes 18-inch diameter alloy wheels, LED headlights, fog lights, rear spoiler, aluminum pedals, Lux Suede seating surfaces, power 8-way driver and 4-way passenger seats, moonroof, rearview camera, and 7-speaker audio system. Within the Acura lineup, ILX pricing overlaps with the larger TLX ($31,695). Comparisons with the less expensive Accord EX-L ($28,570) and EX-L V-6 ($30,645) are inevitable.
Acura has adopted LED lighting across its entire vehicle lineup. At night, the ILX's wide and uniform beam pattern of the LED headlamps was impressive. Both low and high beam settings illuminated the road ahead with exceptional clarity that exceeds of most conventional halogen headlight systems.
For 2016, Acura simplified the ILX powertrain with a new direct-injected 2.4L inline-4, replacing the previous 2.0L and 2.4L engines. The all-aluminum dual-overhead cam engine uses i-VTEC variable valve-timing to generate 201 bhp @ 6,800 RPM and maximum torque of 180 lb.-ft. @ 3,600 RPM. The 8-speed dual-clutch automatic adds a torque converter to reduce driveline "jerk" during gearshifts. With eight available ratios, Acura chose fifth (0.96:1) through eight (0.48:1) as overdrive gears, coupled to a final drive ratio of 3.94:1. According to Acura, the ILX is rated at 25/36 MPG (city/hwy.) using premium fuel. In our mixed urban and highway driving, we averaged around 25-26 MPG.
Like the Civic, the ILX chassis uses a MacPherson strut front suspension along with a stabilizer bar. At the rear is a multi-link setup with coil springs, dampers and a stabilizer bar. The dampers are tuned to absorb small bumps for a more stable ride. Disc brakes are at all four wheels with vented rotors in front and solid rotors in the rear. Standard 17-inch diameter alloys are mounted with P215/45R17 tires. The optional 18-inch alloy wheels are shod with P225/40R18 Continental ContiProContact M+S all-season tires. An electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system has a moderately quick 2.77 turns lock-to-lock. Standard and available active safety technologies include VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist), ABS, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, and Blind Spot Information System. Curb weight for the ILX with the A-Spec Package is 3,137 lbs. The base ILX Standard weighs in at 3,093 lbs.
The ILX interior is attractively designed, with predominantly dark gray hues and padded surfaces. Glossy gunmetal-hued trim spans the dashboard. The analog speedometer and tachometer are accompanied by coolant temperature and fuel level gauges on either side. A center multi-function display shows essential vehicle data. The leather-wrapped steering wheel includes integrated audio, cruise, and mobile phone controls. Shifter paddles are located behind the steering wheel. A satin red engine start/stop button on the dash fires up the engine. Acura mounts a dash display and a touchscreen on the center console for audio and climate control status. The dash display is intended for the navigation system (part of the optional Tech Plus package), but is configurable to show other vehicle data. A central knob and pushbuttons on the center stack enable direct access to frequently used infotainment functions. Seat heater buttons are conveniently located on the center console. Dual climate control settings for the driver and passenger are readily accessible via knobs on the center stack. Within the center console bin are HDMI, USB, and analog audio inputs to connect mobile phones and other portable media devices. Cupholders on the center console can contain medium-sized drinks.
The Lux Suede upholstered seats give adequate lateral support, but are not deeply bolstered. Eight-way power adjustments are available for the driver, but lack adjustable lumbar support. The front passenger benefits from a 4-way power seat. Rear accommodations are best suited for two passengers, as the folding armrest limits center occupant comfort. Rear legroom suffers if the front passenger slides the seat back a few inches. Front headroom is adequate for occupants less than 6-ft. tall, but the sloping roofline limits headroom to sub-6 ft. tall passengers.
Acura's new 2.4L inline-4 and 8-speed automatic accelerate the ILX rapidly for highway merging and from a standstill. Midrange throttle response is surprisingly robust. However, as revs rise above 4,000 RPM, engine boom intrudes into the cabin. Cruising at 70-80 MPH, the tall overdrive ratios keep revs below 3,000 RPM, so engine noise remains muted. Despite the addition of a torque converter, we still noticed some driveline "jerkiness" during part throttle shifts at low speeds. Unlike most conventional torque converter automatics, the dual-clutch transmission changes gears swiftly via the paddle shifters. In "D" mode, the transmission software shifts into the upper gears quickly maximize fuel economy. We opted for the "S" (Sport) mode when we wanted snappier throttle response and faster acceleration.
The ILX suspension is tuned with a priority on ride comfort. Initial turn-in is accompanied by moderate body roll as the outside tires are loaded up. The low profile Continentals and soft spring rates effectively absorb road imperfections on urban roads, but on the pitted and lumpy highways near Detroit the suspension is unable to isolate road impacts from the cabin. The electrically-assisted steering responds accurately, but road surface feedback via the steering wheel was minimal. Steering inputs are adjusted to reduce understeer and oversteer, along with variable power assist. Subjective braking performance was impressive, as the all-disc brakes shed speed quickly, but the softly sprung suspension allowed significant brake dive during deceleration.
Acura positions the ILX as a premium compact sport sedan, but its Civic-based roots are apparent. Acura priced the ILX between the midsize Honda Accord and the TLX sedans, essentially gambling that potential customers will overlook the Accord and opt for the ILX. So although the ILX has no significant flaws, its competition within the Acura and Honda lineup makes it difficult to recommend.