First Drive: Acura ILX

By Bill Schaffer


Scottsdale, AZ ? Every premium auto brand needs a place to start, and for Acura, that starting point had been the TSX for many years.? However, as the TSX grew, matured and got more expensive up to a range from $31,000 to $39,000, it became less obtainable for shoppers who wanted to make the move up to an Acura.

Acura?s answer is the ILX.? Based on the company?s Honda Civic, the ILX is aimed at Gen Y (roughly 18 to 34 years old).? Acura is hoping people who are settled in their job and starting to climb the corporate ladder will want to move into something with a bit more refinement and luxurious than their first car.

?The 2013 Acura ILX will serve as the gateway to the Acura brand,? said Jeff Conrad, vice president of Acura sales. ?At the leading edge of a new, sporty compact segment, the ILX delivers style, value, performance and connectivity to younger buyers looking to move into the luxury market.?

The ILX styling is distinctive with an interesting rear shoulder, but I would like to have seen something a little more innovative.? The little sedan looks good, but it?s not a head turner, and I think shoppers want to be ?wowed?.

?? The interior looks good and is very functional with well-organized and easy to use controls.? Studies show that younger drivers like wheel-mounted controls, so Acura engineers filled the ILX face of the steering wheel with a bunch.

The front-wheel drive ILX has three four-cylinder powertrain offerings: a 150 horsepower, 2.0-liter SOHC with a five-speed sequential shift automatic transmission, a 201 hp 2.4-liter DOHC with a six-speed manual transmission and the Hybrid which employs a 111 hp, 1l5-liter gasoline engine with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Although no performance figures are available yet, the 2.4-liter with the manual transmission should make a 0 to 60 mph run at about seven seconds.? I think they are missing the boat by not offering an automatic version of the larger engine for shoppers who what more power, but prefer an automatic.? The 2.0L engine is adequate for normal driving conditions but is a little weak and might be disappointing when the car is filled with friends or when you want to get around a slower moving vehicles.? I doubt that hybrid shoppers will expect much more performance, than the good fuel economy numbers.

Because fuel economy is paramount for most drivers these days, the ILXs are engineered to the maximum Acura levels.? The 2.0-liter has and EPA rating of 24 mpg city and 35 mpg highway.? The 2.4-liter is 22/31 mpg and the hybrid is 39/38 mpg.

The ILX has four-wheel independent suspension with double-wishbone in the front, multi-link rear suspension, stabilizer bars front and rear along with a precise electric assist power-assist rack-and-pinion steering.? The combination produces a supple ride with good control and precise handling.? The four-wheel disc brakes provide very good stopping power for everyday driving.

The ILX is not designed for hot rodding; it?s an everyday vehicle with the capability of a spirited run through the corners on occasion.? The flavor is more toward entry-level luxury than performance.? I would have preferred to see a little higher level of posh; it?s not a big enough step up from the Civic. ?However, the build quality and engineering advancements seem up to Acura?s usual high standard.

Acura has always been generous with features and the ILX follows the same pattern offering buyers a plethora of equipment like moonroof, aluminum wheels, heated mirrors, Bluetooth, Pandora? internet radio and pushbutton start.

The Premium Package adds leather-seating surfaces, Xenon lighting, heated front seats, premium audio with XM and multi-view rear camera for $3,300 more.? The Technology package includes the Acura/ELS surround sound system,? GPS-link solar-sensing climate control, HomeLink remote, premium audio, Acura?s excellent navigation system with voice recognition, real-time traffic and weather for $5,500 more.

I like the way Acura simplifies the buying process.? They have one car, with three powertrain choices and two available option packages.? Selecting your ILX is a simple matter of choosing a performance or fuel economy level and then selecting the features most important to you.? The only down side I found was that you couldn?t get the performance model with the Technology package, so you can?t get a built in navigation system in that model.

ILX pricing starts at $26,795, including the destination charge, for the 2.0L.? The 2.4L, which includes the Premium Package, is $30,095.? The Hybrid starts and $29,795 or is $35,295 with the Technology Package.

The ILX is being built at Honda?s Greenburg, Indiana plant alongside the Civic and is available at Acura dealers now.

Acura has planned ahead for shoppers that want their ILX to be a little different by offering an aftermarket line of spoilers and ground effects at the dealerships.

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