Less-is-more for the entry-level Acura sedan
Giving a nod backward towards its roots, Acura, Honda’s luxury division, again offers a less-is-more entry luxury compact car. A step below the TSX, the 2016 Acura ILX reminds me of the 1986-2001 Integra, but appointed with more luxury.
Following the Integra before it, the ILX borrows its platform from the Honda Civic. However, don’t spurn the ILX as just a gussied up Civic with an Acura nameplate; there are notable engineering upgrades and interior enhancements.
Clean Fleet Report usually selects cars for review with an EPA rated highway fuel economy of 40-miles per gallon. The 2016 ILX falls four-mpg short, but, with a light right foot, I found the number 40 is achievable. That’s noteworthy for an entry-level luxury automobile.
What’s New For 2016–Pricing
Even though 2016 brought a mid-cycle makeover, not an all-new car, the ILX is significantly improved compared to the outgoing model, making it sportier looking and a better car to drive.
Exterior design changes were made front and rear while inside, upgraded materials were a necessity for the car to be considered in the luxury class. There are several new safety features available, but the biggest news is an improved standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine connected to a new eight-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
Missing from the 2016 Acura ILX lineup is the 2.0-liter engine, a manual transmission and the ILX Hybrid, which was dropped last year.
For 2016, the Acura ILX is offered in just one trim that buyers can upgrade with option packages. The base model is priced at $27,900, plus $940 destination charges; with the AcuraWatch Plus package it’s $29,200; with the Premium Package is $29,900: and with the Technology Plus package the ILX has a sticker price of $32,900.
A $1,990 “A-Spec” package can be added to the top two trim levels. It offers 18-inch wheels and bundles fog lights, sill extensions and a spoiler on the exterior, as well as suede-trimmed seats and sport pedals inside.
Styling, Cabin and Features
Previously, styling didn’t ignite a strong desire to rush to the nearest Acura dealer. For 2016, the Acura ILX is neither over-styled nor overly luxurious. However, unlike the Integra, the ILX is only offered in a four-door sedan body style. Sorry, no sexy two-door coupe.
Exterior changes include new multi-projector jeweled LED headlights that match the look and style of Acura’s flagship RLX sedan. The entire front fascia and grille have been redesigned, giving a sharper appearance. Newly designed taillights are now LED.
Distinctive hood creases, articulated side character lines and prominent rear wheel arches project a sculpted appearance that subtly says luxury and offers an attractive street look.
In typical Acura fashion, the ILX cabin coddles its passengers, meaning it’s comfortable and well-equipped. The curved dash design gives the interior a well-crafted appearance of understated luxury. White-on-black analog gauges are well-lighted and easily readable.
The 2016 Acura ILX has a comfortable, easily tailored driving position, clear sightlines all around and well-placed intuitive controls. Leg and knee room are more than adequate, as is front headroom, though six-footers in the back seat will find their heads brushing the roof. This is a compact car so no grown-up will be comfortable for very long in the rear seat middle position.
Acura has picked up the trend of visible stitching, giving the impression of a tailored and custom look. While the cabin’s materials have been upgraded, they are a half-step behind competitors Audi, Lexus and Mercedes.
Trunk space of 12.3 cubic feet is on par with the class—enough room for a weekend trip or a run to the supermarket. The rear seat folds down for carrying longer items, but it is not split, essentially
making the car a two seater when folded down.
Following Acura’s tradition, the base ILX is quite well equipped and the automaker understands the technology equation. The base model starts out with standard Bluetooth, SMS messaging and a Pandora interface. Upgrade to Premium, and you get HD Radio, Aha Internet radio and an HDMI port so you can use your cell phone for tethered navigation. Choose Tech Plus, and you get AcuraLink and Siri Eyes Free.
Luxury vehicles are noted for their available safety features. The AcuraWatch Plus Package includes adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist.
The most significant changes for 2016 are a new four-cylinder engine and new transmission.
Replacing the two engines previously available is a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. It’s the sole powerplant and is the same engine in the new base Acura TLX.
It uses direct-injection technology, which allows for a higher compression ratio that benefits both power and efficiency. Plus, the individual injectors more precisely meter fuel, further improving efficiency.
Producing 201 horsepower at 6800 rpm and 180 pounds-feet of torque at 3600 rpm, the 2016 Acura ILX does not want for power. Scooting from stop to 60 mph takes a satisfactory 6.9 seconds.
Managing the power is an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with manual shift capabilities. Thanks to a torque converter—not usually found in dual-clutch transmissions—it avoids the cumbersome low-speed operation of German dual clutches.
Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and rev-matched downshifts provide a lively driving experience for those who are interested.
The Honda Civic has earned a reputation of being among the very best in class when it comes to ride and handling. That gave engineers a leg up when tweaking chassis components to maintain
Acura’s tradition of overall driving fun and a refined feel in ride and handling.
Acura recalibrated the electric-assist power steering for crisper steering response and increased body tensional rigidity for added control during cornering. The result is refined ride comfort while delivering agile and responsive handling. The steering is nicely weighted and executes sharp cornering in an effortless manner.
Front and rear brake rotors are larger for 2016. This provides brakes that bite harder with a firmer pedal that is easy to modulate.
The new powertrain gives it the character of a sedan in the near-luxury segment. Put pressure on the accelerator and increased speed is prompt, absolving itself well enough for the ILX to become
a solid highway performer.
When a road becomes curvy, selecting the transmission’s Sport mode will keep the revs higher and shifts become quicker. Downshift with the paddle shifter and the gear will hold to redline.
Ride comfort mimics the Civic. Around town things are smooth and well damped while on the highway, the ride firms up a bit, but is controlled and pleasant, not harsh. Bumps and rough surfaces have a negligible impact.
There is one thing that sets the 2016 Acura ILX apart from the Civic and places it firmly in the luxury class—the quiet ride. This comes by way of enhanced glass, added sound insulation and active noise control, which uses the audio system to cancel out some of the unwanted noise that accompanies driving.
When it comes to fuel economy, there’s no penalty no matter how you choose to drive the ILX. Our travels during a week with the top-end Technology Plus A-Spec version racked up 312 miles. Freeway driving accounted for 168 miles; the balance was mixed in-town, some two-lane highway miles and 43 miles on a very nice back road test loop.
Results? On a 102-mile stretch of freeway driving we averaged 40.1 mpg. Our overall fuel economy came in at 32.3 mpg, besting the EPA’s rating by 3 mpg.
In the Marketplace
There is attractiveness to the 2016 Acura ILX that might appeal to buyers who want luxury amenities and are intrigued by fuel savings.
Acura considers Audi’s A3, the Lexus CT and the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class as the target competition.
The 2016 ILX starts at just under $28,000, a couple thousand below the starting price of these competitors. Even our fully loaded ILX with the A-Spec package and all the available tech features topped out at $35,810, which is well below a comparably equipped Audi A3 or Mercedes CLA 250 that can easily top $50,000.
Yes, the Acura ILX is front-wheel drive only, so buyers looking for a back road-sizzling luxury sport sedan will have to look elsewhere. But for buyers who want a premium car without a premium price, the ILX is in line with the rest of its premium-brand rivals with a nice bonus—really good fuel economy.
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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