Acura celebrated its 25th anniversary just over a year ago, and for the first 20 of those 25 years, there was always a "gateway model" in the offering. Acura dropped their gateway model (RSX) from the lineup following the 2006 model year, and a few years later announced their intentions of becoming a "Tier 1" luxury automobile maker. In the mean time, Acura's annual sales slid from 201,223 units in 2006 to 123,299 in 2011. Acura only sold around 17,000 RSXs in 2006, so this plunge can't all be blamed on the elimination of the "Near Premium" model, right?
Whatever the case, Acura has decided that now is a good time to re-introduce a so-called "near premium" product to their lineup. This is where the ILX comes in. Offered with three distinct powertrains, the ILX is the first ever Acura model to offer more than two choices of motivation. The ILX rides on Honda's Global Small Car platform, a platform which is shared with the Civic. The Civic and ILX also share powertrains - two of the ILX's three powertrains are lifted directly from the Civic line, and the third one is still a very close sibling to the Civic's 1.8L 4-cylinder.
The ILX eschews the Civic's cab forward packaging for a more conventional (more premium?) long-nose, short deck profile. The ILX is 1.8 in. longer, 1.6 in. wider, and 0.9 in. shorter in height than the Civic, so the dimensions are close, but it's hard to imagine anybody making any sort of visual connection with the Civic. The ILX has a more muscular presence and the stance almost suggests an FR (front-engine, rear wheel drive) layout. Overall, it's a handsome if not exactly memorable design, but it looks pretty good in motion and seems to achieve Acura's "near premium" target image.
As noted earlier, under the hood, there is not much to differentiate the ILX from the Civic. The only real powertrain differentiation is the R20 2.0L 4-cylinder engine found in the base ILX. At 150hp and 140lb-ft, the 2.0L adds 10hp and 12 lb-ft to the Civic's R18 1.8L totals. This is just enough to offset the ILX's roughly 175lb weight gain over the Civic; the power to weight ratio for both vehicles ends up right around 20lbs/hp. The 2.0L also gains a harmonic balancer shaft, for that added dose of "premium". The 2.4L and 1.5L IMA hybrid are exactly the same engines that are found in the Civic Si and Civic Hybrid, respectively, and they develop exactly the same power and torque figures. In the case of the Hybrid-powered ILX, however, Acura has retuned the engine computer and throttle mapping so it feels considerably more responsive than the Civic Hybrid's powertrain. Unfortunately, for the 2.4L model (only offered with a 6-speed manual transmission) Acura has eliminated the Civic Si's helical limited-slip differential.
Inside the ILX, one would again be hard pressed to connect the ILX to the Civic. The ILX employs a more formal, business-like cockpit layout than the Civic, with a conventional (single-tier) instrument panel design. Where the 2012 Civic has been vilified for its hard surfaces and downmarket materials, the ILX has no such shortcomings, or at least very few of them. While not quite reaching the standards of some of its (more expensive) competitors, there is little to fault about the ILX's interior and much to like.
Thankfully, Acura seems to be getting back towards more straightforward and clean gauge designs; the ILX's is blissfully free of gimmicky colors or superficial adornments. The ILX's center stack is another straightforward affair with a conventional layout, stacking the Navi LCD (or i-MID, depending upon trim level) on top of the audio system and HVAC controls. Perched atop the center stack is either a 5" LCD i-MID display (for base and Premium models), or an 8" WVGA LCD display for navi-equipped models (Technology package). Below the LCD level, you will find the controls for the audio system, with a general layout and interface dial that should be familiar to late-model Acura drivers (and perhaps a little bit confusing at first for those who are foreign to the brand). A simple set of HVAC controls is situated directly beneath the audio unit. On the passenger side resides quite possibly the largest (7.4 litres) glovebox ever found in a Honda or Acura model.
The standard feature count for the ILX is rather high. All models come equipped with a host of "near premium" items such as dual zone climate control, a powerful audio system (with Bluetooth, Pandora, SMS text messaging interface, USB/iPod interface), power moonroof, auto up/down windows for both driver and passenger side front windows, remote operation of windows and moonroof for "quick vent" of a broiling interior, keyless access with pushbutton start, Homelink&TM;, standard i-MID display, projector beam headlights, and heated exterior mirrors with auto tilt-down while reversing. At a starting price of $25,900 the base ILX is a fairly compelling package, though the absence of a manual transmission option for the 2.0L model is a source of some disappointment.
The Premium package adds $3200 to the cost of the base 2.0L model (bringing the sum to $29,200), and in return you get: HID headlights, foglights, an upgraded 17" wheel and tire package, perforated leather seating surfaces, an 8-way power adjustable driver's seat (unfortunately, it lacks a memory feature - and I have a big problem with that), heated front seats, auto-dimming interior mirror, a multi-view rear camera, Active Noise Cancellation system (Hybrid model excluded) as well as an upgraded Premium audio system which adds an 8" subwoofer, XM radio tuner, and an increased system output of 360-watts.
If you want a navigation system, you will have to forget about getting the 2.4L model, and spring for the Technology package (only available on 2.0L or 1.5L Hybrid models). This is where the ILX's pricing starts creating some discomfort: $31,400 for the 2.0 Tech (that's $5500 more than the base model), and a whopping $34,400 for the 1.5L Hybrid Tech. For the 111hp Hybrid, that works out to an eye-popping $310 per horsepower, which puts this vehicle in rarefied air. For reference, here are some figures for the most expensive versions of past and current Acura models: NSX: ~$230/hp, TL: $161, TSX: $174, RL: $187, MDX: $182. Yeah, it's a bogus metric but certainly some people will scratch their heads when they see a sticker nudging $35k for a hybrid that has 111hp and only delivers 38mpg on the combined EPA cycle.
Comfort levels inside the ILX are commendable. The seats are supportive and comfortable. Front seat cabin space is good for a compact car, and the rear seat accommodations are comfortable as well, though those who are tall and/or longer in the torso may find the rear seat headroom to be a little bit confining. Acura claims the tandem spacing (distance from front seat passenger to rear seat passenger) is in the same class as the TSX. The ILX interior is clearly narrower than the TSX, but it's still plenty roomy for a party of 4. The interior has a similar interior feel (in term of size, and in some ways it is very similar in design) as the first-generation TSX, but it's not quite as plushly upholstered as the TSX was.
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