Acura was not only the very first Japanese luxury auto brand in this country but it also has managed to bring a number of other firsts to the U.S. market over the 25 years it has been in business. Acura was the first to introduce an in-dash navigation system, third row seating in a luxury suv, the first company to build a supercar (NSX) with an aluminum monocoque body. They also brought enthusiast performance to the common man and woman with the iconic and affordable Integra.
Fast forward to 2012 and the entry level luxury car is again a hot concept in the market as older baby boomers downsize and Gen-Y is expected to start coming into some money (though we doubt anyone with mountains of college loans to pay off could afford the ILX’s $25,900 starting price on a Starbucks Barista’s salary).
Still, Acura is wise to lower the point of entry into its brand as this so often leads to customers returning to buy TL’s and MDX’s or RDX’s as their needs and wants change over time. But with a hope for 40,000 sales a year, did Acura play it a little bit too safe with the styling of this new entry level luxury model based on the Civic platform? Part of the answer to that question will depend on what you look for in a new car and your perception of what an Acura should be. The only thing we are sure of is that the ILX, for better or worse, is not the rebirth of the Integra. Maybe someday.
Beauty is a subjective human construct that can only be perceived as truth by an individual person. In other words, some people find the new ILX to be a subtly classy and elegant looking compact luxury sedan while others see it as a bit boring with some awkward angles. While we do stand firmly in the camp that likes Acura’s more daring TL style designs, the ILX didn’t appear awkward to us at all with the kinked pillar around the rear door and the tail lamps adding welcome visual interest.
The 2013 ILX is longer and lower than the Civic that it is based on and the appearance of the car is definitely more substantial and upscale. The traditional Acura grille up front spruces up the headlamps which could be a bit more expressive. In other words, the 2013 Acura ILX’s exterior appearance won’t offend anyone nor will it get you running for you blood pressure medicine. It’s stylish and handsome but not sexy which admittedly is not a cardinal sin in this sector as the Audi A3, BMW 1-Series and Lexus IS sedan can attest to.Interior Design, Space and Detailing
If you have ever driven or been in an Acura of late you will recognize the interior design motif of the 2013 ILX as the dash design and layout is nearly identical to those found in models like the TL and TSX. We personally found that the addition of the Tech Package with the high resolution screen for the in-dash navigation added an upscale look to the dashboard that the standard version lacks.
Also, in luxury models navigation is a highly desired feature come resale time which should be considered at time of purchase. If you lease one then that really isn’t your problem, is it? But with a lease the Tech Package’s cost won’t add too much to your monthly payments so it’s something we would still consider to be a highly worthy option. Can you tell we think you should order the Tech Package?
While not suffering from an overabundance of interior room, long drives with two passengers up front you are sufficiently far apart to be at ease. Rear seat legroom is decent for six footers but those taller than that may get uncomfortable even though they will fit. While this is a five seater, four passengers will be most comfortable.
One place where Acura never fails to come through is with the inclusion of a plethora of clever cubbies and storage compartments for your junk. Their engineers also somehow manage to think about what people might actually use the aforementioned storage areas for (such as sunglasses, wallets, smart phones) and sizes them to suit. So there are no randomly sized storage compartments that can’t hold a pack a Doublemint gum. The trunk in the Hybrid version of the ILX is a still usable 9.4 cubic feet due to the need to store the lithium ion battery pack whereas all of the other ILX variants have 12.4 cubic feet which is about the same as a TSX.Pricing and Options
Pricing for each variant of the ILX is as follows:
ILX Base- $25,900
ILX with Premium Package-$29,200
ILX with Technology Package-$31,400
ILX 2.4 L with Premium Package-$29,200
ILX Hybrid with Technology Package-$34,400
All 2013 ILX models come standard with a power moonroof, USB/iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, 16-inch alloy wheels, a keyless access system, Pandora radio and all of the basic necessities one would expect. The base version has cloth seats, so we recommend at least going for the Premium Package which adds heated leather seats, 17-inch aluminum alloys, HID (High Intensity Discharge) headlamps, a 360 watt premium audio system and a multi-view back-up camera.
The final option choice is the Technology Package which includes Acura’s simple and reliable in-dash navigation system with Acura link traffic and weather. And for the audiophiles out there, the Technology Package also nets you a 365 watt Acura/ELS audio system with 15 Gb of song storage and stands as easily the finest standard sound system at anywhere near this price.
So why is the 2013 Acura ILX 2.4 not available with the Technology Package? Apparently the production matrix calls for about 80% 2.0 liter ILX models with only 5% of the Indiana factory which builds this model being devoted to the high performance version. We understand that that economies of scale mean building more versions of a certain vehicle complicates costs and profit margins but when we heard only 5% of ILX models would have the 2.4 liter engine we were a touch disappointed.
Driving Impressions and Fuel Economy
It is highly admirable in this day and age of gas guzzling German autobahn stormers that all versions of the 2013 ILX boast impressive fuel economy figures. The 2.4 liter model comes only with a slick six-speed manual while the Hybrid uses a CVT automatic. EPA estimates for the 2.0 liter engine are 24 city/35 highway, the 2.4 returns 22 city/31 highway with the king of the efficiency hill being the Hybrid which comes in at 39 city/38 highway.
And although the ILX is based on the Civic platform there are a number of key differences such as an increase in the use of high strength steel (to 60%) and a hood and bumper that are now made of aluminum to save weight. The steering ratio is also quicker in the ILX for better road feel and sportier handling and as in the 2013 RDX this new Acura also features amplitude reactive dampers which are self-adjusting for comfort or sporty handling based on changes in road conditions.
(2.0 Liter with 5-speed automatic)
This version of the 2013 ILX is equipped with the same 5-speed automatic found in the Civic but has a more powerful 2.0 liter 150 horsepower/140 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder engine which despite its relatively modest power output still impressed us thanks to its peppy and eager to rev nature. The engine makes a nicely sporty howl as it races to the redline much like every engine Acura makes but a number of sound deadening measures insure that the interior remains quiet and serene at cruising speeds.
Overall, refinement is impressive with only a bit of tire roar heard as you are driving with the stereo off. That would be, of course, a cardinal sin in our eyes if your ILX has the Acura/ELS audio system. The suspension tuning thanks to the aforementioned amplitude reactive dampers strikes a nice balance between offering a smooth and quiet ride all the while still proving capable of tackling tight apexes with the ease and grace of larger Acura models.
Additionally, the steering rack in the 2013 ILX offers up a nice heft and level of feel that affords this economical luxury compact the ability to tackle tricky corners with ease. This excellent steering was one of the highlights of driving all three versions of the ILX so no matter which one you choose you can at least rest assured that you won’t be subjected to a slushy, Lexus-like steering system seemingly injected with Novocain.
(2.4 Liter with 6-speed Manual)
Although our drive time with the 2.4 liter ILX with the 6-speed manual transmission was limited, we can fairly say that driving it was truly a hoot and a half. Yes, we just said that. By cramming the 2.4 liter 201 horsepower/170 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder engine from the TSX into the engine bay, Acura created what amounts to a baby luxury sedan with the heart of a graffiti tagging hooligan. This car makes you want to drive like a very naughty, naughty person.
The six-speed manual is truly a delight with quick, precise throws thanks to it being related to the unit also used in the Honda Civic Si. Although this version of the ILX will sadly only make up 5% of the production Matrix, it is an interesting fit between the aforementioned Si and the TSX sedan which is also available with a manual transmission. To be honest, for those who love to drive all three of these vehicles will keep you grinning each time you drive it for as long as you own the car. That much we can guarantee.
Again, our only disappointment with the ILX 2.4 liter which stood out as our personal favorite of the trio is the inability to order it with the Tech Package. To our eyes, this model should be the flagship of the ILX range and a model that Honda enthusiasts should aspire to buy one day. Sadly, the TSX isn’t available with the Tech Package and a manual transmission either yet the Civic Si can be ordered with navigation. We think that is one thing Acura should change if it hopes to start luring more driving enthusiasts back into showrooms.
(ILX Hybrid with CVT)
If fuel economy is your main concern in life then by all means feel free to choose this version of the 2013 Acura ILX although sadly this model was by no means anywhere near our favorite. First off, the 2.0 liter version is not that much less economical, has a larger trunk, is quite a bit less expensive and offers a far superior driving experience.
We aren’t sure if there was a problem with our particular tester or if the hot sun in Sedona, Arizona where this test took place adversely affected the Hybrid’s stop/start system but to say it was unrefined and annoying would be an understatement. At stop lights, a stop/start system should turn off the engine to save gas then quietly turn the engine back on as you hit the accelerator. This system works well in other Honda hybrids we have driven like the CR-Z but in the ILX the engine turned on and off incessantly as we sat at traffic signals. In addition, when the engine would spring to life it did so with a jolt that shook the car. This experience was not something that screams luxury to us.
On the move the Hybrid ILX is powerful enough with 91 horsepower coming from the 1.5 liter gas engine and 23 horsepower contributed by the electric batteries with 127 lb. feet of torque. Acura’s engineers claimed changes were made to the CVT transmission’s ECU to make the car easier to drive in the city. We aren’t sure if that caused the problem with our test ILX but no matter what the cause, we hope this issue with the stop/start system’s refinement is fixed soon or this model will be a tough sell to buyers.Conclusion
The 2013 Acura ILX is a very important addition to this luxury automaker’s lineup as it offers a more affordable entry point for those who aspire to own a car from a premium brand. Yes, the car is small and could be a bit less expensive to help separate it more clearly from the TSX but there are plenty of buyers out there who want a luxurious car that is smaller and more economical than that larger Acura.
For those looking for a frugal, affordable yet premium feeling small luxury sedan that will impress the neighbors, a 2013 Acura ILX with the surprisingly sprightly 2.0 liter engine will fit the bill just perfectly. At this time both the higher price and refinement levels of the Hybrid version hold us back from recommending it but if you want pure thrills on your morning commute go for the 2.4 liter version.
What We Loved About the 2012 Acura ILX
- The surprisingly peppy 2.0 liter engine and engaging handling and steering on all versions
- The Center Stack of Dashboard and Interior feels Suitably Upscale when Equipped with Navigation
- The ILX with the 2.4 liter is like a hooligan who steals car stereos while dressed in a tuxedo
What We Loathed About the 2012 Acura ILX
- The lack of refinement from the Hybrid Powertrain was inexcusable in a luxury car
- Lacks the exterior styling pizazz of models like the TL but to some that may be a good thing
- Acura needs to offer Tech Package with the 2.4 liter ILX