Could This Be Acura's Most Engaging Car?
We enjoyed spending a year with our long-term 2013 Acura ILX and its sprightly six-speed manual. But those days are long gone, and so are most traces of the original ILX.
Acura has made things a bit simpler. Three engine options from the original model have since been reduced to just one, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 201 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. And there’s a single transmission, an eight-speed dual-clutch. The 2016 Acura ILX seems more focused, which means either it will hit the target right on the mark or miss its opportunity completely.
One thing is certain: The ILX feels more athletic. Even before you turn on the ignition, the seats are noticeably firmer. During spirited driving, the generous thigh support holds you tightly in place, and the stiff suspension and sharp brakes enhance the sensation. Steering has tightened, and corners come pleasurably and effortlessly. It isn’t the fastest beast around, but it’s still quite fun listening to the engine growl as the sedan slips past other cars on the highway. All 201 hp is routed seamlessly through an eight-speed dual clutch that really had us surprised. This butter-smooth transmission is always eager to move up to a higher gear even if you only lightly press on the gas, and once you hit 25 mph, you’re already in fifth. When slowing down, the gearbox downshifts so effortlessly you’d never think it’s a dual clutch.
Without its manual gearbox, however, the ILX performed a bit slower on the test track than we are used to. Our long-term 2013 Acura ILX, which had a 201-hp, 2.4-liter engine just like the new ILX, managed the 0-60 run in 6.4 seconds. Our 2016 ILX took 6.8 seconds to accomplish the same task. With this finish, the 2016 ILX comes in slower than the Audi A3 2.0T we clocked running 5.4 seconds but matches the A3 paired with the smaller 1.8-liter engine. The ILX is also slower than the Mercedes-Benz CLA250 we recorded at 6.2 seconds.
Fuel economy came up a bit short, too. The EPA rates the ILX at an impressive 25/36/29 mpg city/highway/combined. Unfortunately, we recorded much lower numbers in our Real MPG tests, especially on the highway. Our model achieved just 23.6/31.3/26.6 mpg, which we found surprising. But can the sedan’s interior refinement make up for disappointing fuel economy?
Entry-level luxury sedans are the hot new thing, but discussions about these cars quickly become jejune, mostly because buyers have high expectations that often aren’t met. Not only does a car in this segment have to offer a low price point, but buyers also expect high-quality materials, the best features, and, of course, an engaging drive. And customers too often find the value just isn’t there. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case with the ILX, which masters that value proposition. Although the interior has styling vestiges from the Civic, the ILX offers standard features such as a rearview camera, keyless entry, push-button start, Jewel Eye LEDs, heated front seats, a power moonroof, dual-zone climate control, and Siri Eyes Free smartphone integration.
Our particular tester was the top ILX model you can get, equipped with the A-Spec and Technology Plus packages. The A-Spec package brings a body kit with side sill extensions, a unique rear decklid spoiler, 18-inch alloy wheels, aluminum pedals, and those supportive seats with Lux Suede inserts. The Technology Plus package adds navigation with 3-D view, Acura Watch Plus, GPS-linked climate control, an upgraded 10-speaker sound system, and more. For just under $36,000, that’s not a bad deal considering it also comes with a responsive touchscreen, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, Aha and email compatibility, and satellite radio and HD Radio.
We only had a few gripes. One of my taller colleagues pointed out the ILX affords little headroom for the long-limbed. Even at my height of 5’3″, I felt like the ceiling was a little too close for comfort if I happened to look up. Rear seats are roomy, but we lamented the inability to fold in a 60/40 configuration, instead acting as a bench seat that folds up or down in one piece. On another note, the center stack feels a bit busy and complicated. From top to bottom, there are just too many layers of controls and two redundant screens.
Perhaps the ILX’s biggest accomplishment when it comes to refinement is its sound insulation. For 2016, Acura installed thicker front-door side glass and more insulation for the body panels for a quieter ride. We tested the car’s active noise control on some of the roughest and noisiest highways in Los Angeles, and although it’s not perfectly soundproofed, it keeps the cabin pretty quiet, especially compared to other cars in its class. Overall, expect a smooth ride that won’t succumb to road imperfections, but also expect the ILX to feel a bit like a sports car thanks to its firm suspension.
We expect the refreshed ILX would be more mature for 2016. But who knew maturity could also be so much fun? Gone are the days of that optional six-speed manual, but so is that underpowered 150-pony, 2.0-liter four-cylinder for the base model. A fresh new design, buttery dual-clutch transmission, plentiful standard features, and engaging driving dynamics make a strong case for this entry-level luxer.
|2016 Acura ILX Tech Plus A-Spec|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$35,810|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.4L/201-hp/180-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed twin-clutch auto.|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,112 lb (63/37%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||181.9 x 70.6 x 55.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.8 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.2 sec @ 92.8 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||127 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.84 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.2 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||25/36/29 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||135/94 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.67 lb/mile|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||23.6/31.3/26.6 mpg|