Strengths and weaknesses:
- doesn’t look like a Civic
- no 6-spd. automatic
- 2.4L only with manual.
ILX gives Acura a true gateway sedan
"Has a fair amount going for it, not the least being the fact that it’s a from-the-ground-up design, and not just a Civic in fancy dress."
PHOENIX, Arizona - Back in 1996 Acura invented the entry luxury market (but only in Canada) when it introduced the 1.6 EL. It sold well even though it was basically a rebadged Civic. Then came CSX, which had some success. Being Canada-only vehicles, they couldn’t quite meet the needs of a luxury customer.
What Acura needed was a true luxury “gateway” vehicle and the company’s betting that ILX will fill the bill.
It has a fair amount going for it, not the least being the fact that it’s a from-the-ground-up design, and not just a Civic in fancy dress.
The four-door sedan lacks a “wow” factor, but the design uses a flat-bottom unit body to minimize drag. And, like it or hate it, there’s no mistaking that Acura face.
Motivation is provided by a 150-horsepower 2.0-litre four cylinder engine hooked up to a sport-shift five-speed automatic transmission.
At best, it’s an adequate powertrain. It won’t win any stoplight races and you should plan highway passing manoeuvres accordingly.
The ILX Hybrid – Acura’s first—uses a 1.5-L four-cylinder engine to sip at its gas tank. Shifting is through a CVT automatic with paddle-operated sport steps. Additional motivation is from Honda’s fifth-generation hybrid system with electric motor and lithium-ion battery technology. This one makes the 2.0L combination look really good. It might drink lightly at the gas pump, but there’s not much zoom available.
By far the best performer is a 2.4-litre four-banger in the ILX 2.4L. Its 201 horses are enthusiastic workers and the six-speed manual is a smooth operator. This is the class of the ILX act. In fact it so outclasses the 2.0, it should be the only engine available outside of the Hybrid.
There’s just one problem with the 2.4L—it only comes with that six-speed manual transmission. I prefer a manual, but there are many more people out there – especially in the luxo market—who want electronics to do their shift work. An automatic would certainly add to the potential sales of models.
Powertrain aside, the ILX is a likeable sedan with comfortable seating for four (Acura claims five but that, as in most cases, is optimistic). There’s plenty of headroom even with standard power moonroof.
The cabin is comfortable, fit and finish is what you’d expect to find in a luxury vehicle and there are a number of touches that set it apart from lesser brands.
Surfaces are soft-touch materials, gauges are easy to read and every essential switch is within easy reach.
The trunk’s 350 litre capacity will handle most luggage requirements but if you need more hauling space, the one-piece rear seatback folds down to expand the cargo room. Hybrid models do not have the folding seat feature (the battery has to go someplace).
Standards on the base car include power windows, mirrors and locks along with keyless entry, six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth hands-free cell phone and music interface; SMS texting feature and leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel. Premium adds leather seating with heat for the front seats and eight-way power adjustment for the driver seat, seven-speaker audio, multi-view rear camera and active noise control system.
Move to the technology package and you find 10-speaker premium audio system with 15 GB hard disk, navigation, HomeLink, and multi-view rear camera.
An expanded view side mirror on the driver’s door gives an additional 6.5 degrees of rearward visibility.
Premium and Technology models have a rearview camera that gives a choice of top view, normal view or wide view.
In Premium models, the view from the rear-mounted camera is displayed on a five-inch screen in the instrument panel. Technology models show the camera view on the navigation system’s 8-inch screen.
On the road, the ILX is quiet and the ride is smooth and refined. Steering is somewhat numb on-centre but the car goes where you point it without any fuss and there’s not a lot of understeer if you get enthusiastic in corners.
Welcome to the new world of Acura.