Thumbs Up: Far more refined than its cousin, the Honda Civic Si
Thumbs Down: Navigation unavailable, average fuel economy
Buy This Car If: You’re looking for a commuter car that isn’t boring to drive
Had things gone according to plan, Acura’s ILX sedan would have been an instant success the moment it hit dealer showrooms, allowing Honda’s luxury brand to put the aging TSX sedan out to pasture. On paper, at least, the ILX delivers the goods: it’s available in models ranging from hybrid though sport-tuned, looks good and delivers a fair amount of content for the price. Acura even wrapped it in a slick ad campaign that said, effectively, dad would have bought this car if he hadn’t been burdened with the responsibility of a family first. We weren’t sure what it meant, either, but then again we’re not exactly in the ILX’s target demographic.
Now, a year into ILX sales, the volumes are finally starting to pick up. Honda’s learned a valuable lesson from the launch of the last Civic, and that lesson is this: always listen to your customers when they complain. Shoppers liked the ILX with the 2.4-liter engine (as used in the Acura TSX), but they hated the fact that they couldn’t get it with the navigation and infotainment system. They also weren’t fond of the fact that Acura built the higher-output model with a manual gearbox only.
Acura’s taken this feedback to heart, and is currently working on a revised ILX that will deliver the 2.4-liter engine, a five or six-speed automatic transmission and the same electronics package that’s available on the 2.0-liter and hybrid models. We’re not sure when these new models will hit the market, but we are sure that Acura is listening to what its customers want again, and that’s a very good thing.
The Acura ILX may be based on the Honda Civic, but its shape is completely different from that of its more pedestrian cousin. Up front, Acura’s trademark shield-shaped grille is the most noticeable feature, but it’s (mercifully) toned down from earlier cars. We like the angular cuts of the front fascia, too, since they work with the narrow headlights and character lines that sweep up from the grille to the A-pillar to give the car a presence.
In profile, we like the way the roof flows seamlessly into the short rear deck, giving the car an almost coupe-like appearance. The semi-pontoon rear fenders, a styling faux pas on the previous Mercedes-Benz E-Class, actually work on the ILX to give it a stronger and more defined shape. The wheels are a bit on the bland side, but we suppose that’s what the aftermarket is for.
Out back, we admire the ILX’s minimized taillights and total absence of chrome (except for the Acura logo). We’re glad the car doesn’t have a stick-on trunk-lid spoiler, either, as it would only serve to break up the sedan’s clean lines. In fact, we’d call the ILX the best-looking sedan in the company’s current lineup, and looks alone will likely help draw buyers into Acura showrooms.
Inside, the ILX is upscale without being pretentious. There isn’t a scrap of fake wood to be found, and there’s no chrome trim hiding in here, either. Instead, the dash relies on metallic gray and black trim for ornamentation, while it’s wrapped in soft-touch vinyl that carries a rich texture. The audio display sits atop the dash in its own sculpted pod, while the instruments ride in a curved enclosure that looks much more refined than other cars in the class.
We’re fond of the old-school analog instruments, too. Black-on-black with white numbers and metallic trim rings, they look fantastic and give the car a sportier feel than it would otherwise have. The numbers are clear and easy to acquire (though the information display that splits the tachometer and speedometer could be bigger), and we favor the less-is-more approach when it comes to gauges.If we had one minor complaint, it would be this: does the 2.4-liter Acura ILX really need a 160 mph speedometer?
Included in the Premium level trim are leather-surfaced sport seats, and these are better than most in the entry-level luxury segment. They don’t serve up a lot of lateral support and they don’t include any kind of adjustment for lumbar support, but they’re more than good enough for a spirited drive to the office or an extended weekend getaway. They’re heated for winter comfort, and deliver ample head room for average sized adults.
Even the rear seats serve up above average accommodations in terms of head and leg room. No, the ILX isn’t as spacious as a TL in the second row, but we’d definitely call it above average for the class, and six-foot passengers should be able to fit without complaint. Like the front row, seats are trimmed in perforated leather, though the rear seats aren’t heated.
Our Acura-supplied tester came with the 2.4-liter four cylinder engine, rated at 201 horsepower and 170 pound feet of torque and mated only to a six-speed manual gearbox. Acceleration wasn’t bad, but it stopped short of being impressive, with the run from 0-60 mph taking just a tick over seven seconds. The bigger engine has an impact on fuel economy, too, and the EPA says you can expect fuel economy of 25 mpg combined, 22 mpg city and 31 mph highway. In mostly-highway driving, we saw an indicated 29.3 mpg, which isn’t that impressive in the compact class.
While the 2013 Acura ILX 2.4 Premium is a much better car than the last Honda Civic Si we drove, that may be damning by faint praise. It still doesn’t feel quick enough to be consistently entertaining, although we’d stop short of calling it underpowered. We love the slick-shifting six-speed gearbox, but hate the way that the engine speed hangs when you put in the clutch (yes, we know this is an emission thing, but we still don’t like it). We like the taut feeling in corners, but don’t appreciate the semi-harsh ride over broken pavement. Even the tires seem to be a compromise, as the car would certainly have higher limits with stickier rubber in all four corners. As it is, though, the ILX exists in an odd no-mans land between sport and luxury. Add an automatic transmission (preferably with six gears instead of just five), make navigation an available option and soften the suspension a bit, and the entry-level luxury crowd will probably buy as many ILX sedans as Honda can build.
On the other hand, we see an opportunity here for an ILX Type S, too. Add a few more horsepower, find a way to shed 100 pounds or so, tighten the gear ratios a bit and add summer performance tires, and we also guarantee you’ll sell them by the boatload. Yes, both suggested versions are more narrow in focus than the car that exists today, but that’s the point: by trying to please everyone, you run the risk of pleasing no one.
And perhaps that’s the best way to sum up the 2013 Acura ILX. It’s a very good car with a solid build feel, and we’re positive it will deliver years of bullet-proof reliability. It just needs a little more focus and a little more personality to be the hit Acura needs in the segment.
Acura supplied the 2013 ILX 2.4 Premium for the purpose of our evaluation. The as-equipped price was $30,095, including a destination charge of $895. For comparison, a similarly-equipped Buick Verano Premium (which makes substantially more horsepower) would sticker at $30,900, while the upcoming Mercedes-Benz CLA is expected to be priced from $30,805 (in base trim).