2016 Acura ILX

2016 Acura ILX Review

When is a luxury car not a luxury car?

By: David Merline

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: July 2nd, 2015

The Acura ILX is the entry-level vehicle in the Honda-owned luxury brand's lineup. The problem with entry-level luxury vehicles is that they're not really very luxurious, which is why they're less expensive. But in order to justify the luxury badge, they can't be too cheap, which is why they're not cheap.

The cognitive dissonance created by the very concept of an entry-level luxury vehicle is the stuff of long-winded psychiatric dissertations, so we shall leave that anomaly as it lay, and speak of more tangible things.

  • Exterior

    Even if you're a jaded cynic and you think the ILX is just a poor rich-man's Civic, you have to notice that the ILX is so much sharper in appearance (in both a literal and figurative way) that its looks alone may seduce you over to the expensive side of the Honda family of vehicles. Except ... the more pointed grille lines and more pronounced lower grille are not only part of Acura's design language, they're part of Honda's as well.

    Judged against the previous ILX, it looks sensational, judged against the current Accord and Civic, it looks ahead of the pack, but judged against the rest of market, particularly in the luxury/sport segment, and the ILX looks more than a tad generic.

    The optional "A-Spec" package toughens it up a little, adding bigger wheels (of course), sport pedals, and a spoiler. Overall the ILX is a car that says "Notice me, but only if you're paying attention, and you kind of know what you're looking for."

  • Interior

    One area in which Honda lags far behind its competition is in its cabins. A sensible minimalism has always been the hallmark of Honda's design ethos, but times are changing rather rapidly, and car buyers are demanding a much higher degree of luxury, even in base models.

    The result has been a general upmarketing of all mass-market brands. Well, almost. Honda remains Chevy-like in its determination to keep things cheap and cheap looking on its interiors.

    This Acura is, obviously, made of softer stuff than anything wearing an "H," but soft plastic is still plastic, and you'd better like yours black and with minimal adornments. Infotainment-wise, the setup is identical to Honda's, save for some color choices. The cabin is reasonably quiet, and the base sound system is passable, if not impressive. But this is supposed to be a luxury car, and even without expensive options, it's still a nearly $30,000 car.

    By not offering things that all competing brands offer, like premium sound systems and panoramic moonroofs, Acura finds itself looking much less like a luxury brand, and more like its mass-market brethren, which, lacking the same options, are themselves less luxurious than other mass-market brands.

  • On the Road

    The ILX shows its true mettle when being driven, as is only proper, luxury brand or not. The bad news for fans of analog driving is that there's no longer a manual transmission option. The good news is the dual-clutch automatic on the ILX is brilliant.

    Shifts are invisible, felt really only in the 1 - 2 transition. Otherwise it works seamlessly with the ILX's 200-hp 2.4-liter inline-four, making just enough power available for everyday accelerations; for more immediate speed, the paddle shifters are recommended above the rather unsubtle "Sport" mode.

    The ease with which the ILX transitions from dutiful daily driver to smooth-sailing speedster is the ILX's sweet spot. It's where it makes up for the things it lacks in luxurious comfort and cutting-edge style.

    Acura's new AcuraWatch safety suite makes the ILX nearly self-driving on the freeway (although the road-departure mitigation is not really up to robot-car snuff), but it, too, is nothing that isn't also available on cheaper Honda models (in which it is given the less boutiquey-sounding name Honda Sensing), if you're comparing brands.

    Like the Honda Accord, the ILX is capable of delivering driving experiences typical of cars costing twice as much. But unlike those cars, which both are expensive and seem expensive, the ILX neither is very expensive nor feels very expensive. Which would not be a problem at all, if it wasn't supposed to be a luxury car.

  • Conclusion

    While the ILX doesn't make the best argument for making the leap from mass-market to luxury brand, its superb driving and handling, and its low-key yet aggressive-ish look, making such a leap seems entirely beside the point.

  • Specs & Prices

    Engine: 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder

    Transmission:8-speed dual-clutch transmission with torque converter

    Drivetrain Layout: Front engine, front-wheel drive

    Power Output: 201 hp / 180 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 25 city / 36 highway

    Base Price: $29,200

    As Tested: $30,120 (incl. $920 destination)

    Available Features:

    AcuraWatch Plus: Adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking system, road-departure mitigation, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, color multi-information display

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