Introduced as a 2013 model, the Acura ILX is a premium compact sedan. For 2014, Acura ILX got more standard features, including upgraded 17-inch alloy wheels, new leather seating surfaces and leatherette door liners. An eight-way power driver's seat became standard, along with heated front seats and a Multi-Angle rear-view camera. Active Noise Cancellation was another new standard feature, promising a quieter cabin.
Apart from one new body-color choice, nothing changed for the 2015 model year. The hybrid gasoline/electric version of the ILX has been discontinued, after a short run in the marketplace, leaving only two powertrain choices. ILX will be further revised for the 2016 model year.
The Acura ILX is reasonably roomy by compact car standards. Two average-size adults can ride comfortably in the rear, with only minimal cooperation from front-seat occupants. Like almost all sedans in this premium compact class, the ILX is rated for five passengers, but that center rear position is only suitable for someone of diminutive stature, or someone you don't like.
Acura ILX shares its basic structure and powertrains with the Honda Civic, though there are as many hardware distinctions as there are similarities: Both the styling and the exterior dimensions are different. No sheetmetal is shared between the Honda and the Acura. The Acura ILX also gets more powerful engines and a more advanced front suspension. So, they are hardly the same.
Inside, the Acura ILX cabin is furnished with high-grade premium materials, with no sign of the interior cost-cutting that diminishes the latest Civics. In addition, the ILX benefits from more sound-deadening measures. Acura also claims higher rigidity for the ILX's unibody, which results in a smoother ride and better handling.
The Acura ILX rides a shorter wheelbase (105.1 inches versus 106.3), and is longer, lower, and wider than the Civic sedan: The ILX measures 179.1 inches overall, 70.6 inches wide, and 55.6 inches tall. Also, the ILX is distinguished by its more sophisticated double-wishbone front suspension.
The entry-level Acura ILX comes with a 150-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, driving a 5-speed automatic transmission with Sequential SportShift and Grade Logic Control. Stepping up a notch, the Acura ILX 2.4L is motivated by a 201-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, paired with a close-ratio 6-speed manual gearbox (no automatic option with the 2.4-liter).
Fuel economy is significantly better with the smaller engine, though both demand Premium gasoline. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the 2015 Acura ILX 2.0-liter at 24/35 mpg City/Highway. With the 2.4-liter engine, EPA-estimated mileage drops to 22/31 mpg City/Highway for the ILX.
Acura ILX competes against the Audi A3, Buick Verano, and Volkswagen CC.
As noted, there is no sheetmetal commonality between the ILX and Honda's Civic. Simply put, the Acura ILX looks like an Acura. The beaky chrome strip that tops the main grille opening is familiar, and Acura diminished the size and serpent's tooth appearance that has marred other recent offerings.
Overall, the look is subdued. There's too much front overhang and not enough at the rear, making the proportions seem awkward when viewed from the side. But the design is otherwise quietly conservative and inoffensive, though it remains to be seen whether it will measure up to target market research. Acura's goal for the ILX is to attract Gen Y buyers, professionals in their early to mid-20s, and the sum of the research indicates that these prospects prioritize value and cool styling. Whether the ILX is perceived as cool will be in the eyes of those particular beholders.
Inside, the Acura ILX contains nothing that's likely to remind anyone of the Honda Civic. Materials are high quality and the dashboard design has a distinct Acura flavor, strongly reminiscent, in particular, of the layout in the larger TSX sedan. While many carmakers are moving to touch-screen controls, a variety of buttons and knobs govern many of the secondary controls in the ILX's center stack, with a good many duplicates appended to the steering-wheel hub.
The front seats are moderately supportive; less so than those in a BMW, but comfortable, and adjustable enough to fit a wide range of body types and physical dimensions. A tilt/telescope steering column ensures a good driving position. Seating surfaces are leather, even in the base ILX 2.0-liter.
The Premium Package includes a seven-speaker 360-watt premium audio system with a USB port, Bluetooth audio, Pandora internet radio interface, and SMS text messaging. Acura's navigation system, which is baked into the Technology Package, includes voice recognition, real-time traffic info, real-time weather, and a satellite communications function that will keep track of your appointments. Other elements of the package include the upgrade audio features that are also part of the Premium Package.
Acura has drifted a long way from the days when its Integra coupes were performance pacesetters in the compact class. Though the division would like the ILX to be perceived as sporty, that character trait is present only in the hotter ILX 2.4L version, with its 201-horsepower engine and slick 6-speed manual transmission.
Acceleration in the basic ILX 2.0L version is tepid. Forward progress is not enhanced by its 5-speed automatic, which seems a bit outdated compared to competitors with 6-speed automatics and 6-speed manuals. The ILX 2.0L automatic has a Select Shift manual mode with paddle shifters, but it adds little if anything to the car's fun-to-drive index. Up- and downshifts are relaxed compared to the snappy responses of Volkswagen's dual-clutch DSG automatic, and only slightly quicker than simply leaving the shift lever in Drive.
Steering is another soft point in the dynamic behavior of the ILX. Electric-assist power steering is far from new to Honda and Acura, and in some applications, such as the Honda S2000 sports car, it has delivered exemplary precision. But in the ILX, the steering feels numb on-center and vague when the driver turns the wheel. The electric assist system adds weight to steering effort as speed increases, but road feel is essentially absent.
However, there are redeeming traits. The combination of a stiffened body shell and firm suspension tuning gives the ILX a sense of character that's totally absent in the standard Civic. Handling responses are reasonably prompt and wholly predictable, with no sacrifice in ride comfort. Quite the contrary; the ILX feels much like cars with autobahn pedigrees, such as Volkswagen's CC sedan. This is particularly true of the ILX 2.4L version.
Beyond that, Acura invested considerable time and money in sound deadening, which pays off in an exceptionally low interior noise levels. In this area, the ILX can go toe to toe with anything in its class, a plus for automotive audiophiles.
Quiet, smooth, and nicely appointed, the ILX offers good road manners. Suspension tuning feels pleasantly firm, but still irons out all but the biggest bumps. The ILX lacks the responsive handling of an Audi A3. Acura ILX pricing is competitive in this rarefied segment, however. Acura has solid durability/reliability credentials, and standard content is respectable, giving the car a good value quotient. There are more exciting cars in this price range, but if excitement isn't a high priority, the ILX has its appeals.