Who remembers the first Acura they fell in love with? Maybe it was ’86 when they opened its doors in North America with the Integra and Legend. Or was it the early ‘90s when every kid dreamt of owning an NSX? Then there was the Integra Type R in ’96…Oh yes, Acura knew how to give us a woody with its sporty yet classy character, and this summer we have a new Acura to look forward to with the ’13 ILX.
Now we must admit the ILX isn’t going to drop any panties, at least right away. It’s not a car that’ll grab everyone’s attention at a stoplight. The ILX is for the person who needs a good clean car with a balance of style, sophistication, performance and fuel economy.
Underneath the fancy badge, the ILX is basically a sexier Honda Civic (similar to how the TSX is to the Accord). The dimensions, chassis and drivetrain are all based from the Civic except with a more premium fit and finish from top to bottom. At $27k, the ILX doesn’t feel “economy” and uses quality components that you won’t find in most entry-level cars. So to see what all the hype was about, we hopped on a plane to Arizona last spring for an advanced preview of these big boy toys.
The moment we stepped inside the ILX, it felt spacious and we had plenty of room within our own personal space. You wouldn’t have to ask us twice to accommodate three friends for a drive across country (or the four hours to Vegas).
For the two up front, the seats are ergonomic yet supportive. During harsh cornering, it feels stable and you don’t slide from side-to-side. There are also individual climate controls for each side, meaning you won’t have to fight with your girlfriend about how nippy it is.
In the driver seat, everything is pretty intuitive. There aren’t any confusing buttons or controls and the displays are easy-to-read. And from the touch of the leather steering wheel to the look of the metal trim, you get a sense that you’re sitting in something classy, not something budget-built. We also can’t neglect features like the push button start, text messaging, Pandora radio and USB/auxiliary plugs that put the ILX above the norm.
We were quite surprised how quiet and comfortable this sedan was. Acura spent plenty time and dough adding sound insulation, revising the bushings and motor mounts, adding its active noise control and perfecting the aero and shocks for the smoothest and quietest ride possible. You could illegally talk on the phone for hours while driving, but we recommend the Bluetooth setup.
The exterior was also on the same page. Although we don’t think it’ll swipe you off your feet, the ILX is a large improvement over the Civic and has a sexier physique with a lower roof line and ride height.
So how does it drive? We put all three variants to the test—the base 2.0-liter, the eco-friendly hybrid and the beastly 2.4-liter.
Besides the motor and drivetrain, there isn’t much that separates each model. They share the same construction and suspension components. Improvements over the Civic include a quicker steering ratio, adaptive EPS system to help with under and oversteer, lighter construction with a 62% steel chassis, aluminum hood and bumper beams, plus reactive dampers. In our joy ride through the back roads of the |Arizona desert, the ILX handled tighter and sportier than we anticipated. While it can be driven like a grandma in the city, the car has a hidden fun side to it once you get it loose. It corners graciously with precise steering and reasonably low body roll.
As far as power goes, Acura tells us its reengineered 2.0-liter delivers performance on par with the 2.4-liter TSX, but we must admit it can be a little underwhelming with 150hp and 140lb-ft. However, it uses modified gearing and software to give it a smooth and quick shift with less shock. It falls a few mpgs short of the Civic but it’s easily compensated by the quality feel and added performance.
If you’re really into lowering gas bills, the hybrid will tickle your fancy. While a little pricier at $30k, it’s for the owner who doesn’t care about its 111hp powerplant. The beauty is its 38mpg combined fuel economy which features a ‘econo’ button that dumbs down the hybrid even more to conserve fuel. While sharing the same system from the Civic, it uses a modified ECU similar to sport mode on the CR-Z that gives it a little more life around the city.
And finally, there’s the 2.4-liter, known to us as the K24. Priced the same as the hybrid, this is the trim we’re most excited about and Acura knows it too, making the 2.4 only available in a six-speed manual. The motor is pretty much the same as the Civic Si and TSX with 201hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. We were caught off guard by the K-Series’ more pronounced sound and rev-happy feel. The gearing is a little better too (compared to the TSX) with a closer ratio in the first few gears to give it quicker acceleration while the sixth gear is higher for better mileage during highway cruising. The shift stroke is also shorter.
The K24 model lacks the limited-slip found in the Civic Si but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a complete bore. You could drive it restrained and steady on regular commutes to work but also let the dragon breathe when faced with empty roads in front of you. Unfortunately, there isn’t much physically that separates the 2.4 from the other models except the instrument cluster, silver-stitched seats and 17" wheels.
At the end of the day, the ILX offers a well-rounded package. It may not have all the bells and whistles of a full-on luxury car or high performance sedan, but it’s for the guy who is over the days of rolling a slammed Civic or 240 everyday. And although the K24 is available with a slew of parts available such as cams, headers, intake and a reflash, Acura didn’t intend it to be the next hot touring sedan (although we won’t hate if you try). It’s for the grown up kids and we all know someone who can appreciate a refined car like this.
While testing the ILX, we also put in work with new RDX. The ’13 model features new looks, engine, tranny and all-wheel drive system. The RDX goes up against the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3—which we got to drive as well.
While the Audi and BMW feel very European and have a little bit more elegance, the Acura was better balanced and performed above expectations. It uses a new 3.5-liter SOHC V6 that packs 273hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. This was a surprise coming from the fun-to-drive turbo four in the previous-gen RDX, but this SUV has 33hp more than the outgoing motor. It even boasts impressive fuel savings thanks to the VCM-II technology (engine can run on six, four or three cylinders to be more efficient, 22-23mpg combined). Finished off with a fluid exterior, plus more interior room, cargo space and a smoother ride, this entry-level SUV is winning.
That New Car Smell
2013 Acura ILX
The Sticker Pricing from MSRP est. $27,000
Engine 2.0L SOHC inline-4; 2.4L DOHC inline-4; 1.5L SOHC inline-4 with electric motor
The Power 150hp and 140 lb-ft (2.0L); 201hp and 170 lb-ft (2.4L); 111hp and 127 lb-ft (1.5L hybrid)
Layout Transverse-mounted front engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmission Five-speed automatic with Sequential SportShift (2.0L); six-speed manual (2.4L); seven-speed CVT (1.5L hybrid)
Footwork & Chassis MacPherson strut front suspension; multi-link rear with constant-rate coil springs; 20mm front/14mm rear stabilizer bars (2.0L/2.4L); 19mm front/14mm rear stabilizer bars (1.5L hybrid)
Wheels & Tires 16x6.5" cast wheels with 205/55R16 Continental ContiProContact tires (2.0L/1.5L hybrid); 17x7" cast wheels with Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 215/45R17 tires (2.4L, option on 2.0L)
At the Pump (city/highway/combined mpg) 24/35/28 (2.0L); 22/31/25 (2.4L); 39/38/38 (1.5L hybrid)
The Competition Buick Verano, Audi A3, Volvo C30
Deep Thoughts We wish for more differentiation with the K24 model—maybe some new aero, 18" wheels, bigger brakes or seats. But overall, the ILX is a step in the right direction for Acura with a new entry-level car. Plus, it’ll impress your mom or nagging girlfriend.