With the addition of Acura’s latest entry level car, it’s impossible to not think of when Acura got it’s start back in 1986. Today, it may be hard to believe, but in the 1980’s, the notion of a premium Japanese car was unheard of. But Honda decided to break new ground, but with fears American buyers would balk at a pricey Honda, they introduced Acura as their premium brand. Acura’s entry level car was the Integra, a sporty car built on a Civic chassis. The Integra is a distant memory, but history is repeating itself at Acura with the ILX, which is based on the current Civic.
I appreciated the tasteful styling of the ILX, and was grateful to see some restraint in Acura’s signature beak front end treatment. Yet, this is a car that makes no statement for itself. On the road, the ILX is featureless and forgettable. To be clear, there is not a single offensive line on the car, but for a premium car company I expect a little more personality, something the ILX’s exterior lacks.
Inside, build and material quality are without fault. Acura was fairly conservative in their styling of the ILX interior, but it is roomy and comfortable for its size. I was disappointed that the seats offered nothing in the way of lateral support-they were flat as a pancake. Yes, the ILX was a pleasant place to spend some time behind the wheel, is perfectly comfortable and offers plenty of amenities, but this is a car that is conflicted.
The ILX is available with a choice of three drivetrains. For starters, the base car has a 2.0L four cylinder rated at 150hp, paired to a five-speed automatic. There is also a hybrid version. Our test car was equipped with the top-spec engine, a 2.4L four rated at 201hp, mated to a six-speed manual. EPA fuel economy ratings are 22/31 MPG city/highway. This is the same drivetrain as the Honda Civic Si. The rev happy engine makes some fine music, and is typical Honda silky smooth, not to mention the brilliant six speed manual. Yet, there is a disconnect with the engine and car itself. The ILX looks and rides as a mild mannered entry level luxury car, but has the engine of a VW GTI rival. It makes no sense. Driving the ILX in anger is pointless, since the seats won’t hold you in place and the suspension seems more tuned to comfort, not sport.
Our 2.4L test car was an ILX Premium. Standard features included a leather interior, heated front seats, XM satellite radio, Bluetooth, xenon headlights, power moonroof, push button start and a rearview camera. Including delivery, MSRP rang in at $30,095 USD. With the Civic Si’s engine, Navigation is not even available to you. If you need it, you have to go with the base engine. Which makes no sense at all. I am just not seeing much value here.
When I saw the specs of the Acura ILX, I figured they had built an entry level luxury car for the guy who was a little too old to be seen cruising in a Civic Si. Sadly, that is not the case. What I found was a weak kneed sleeper of a car with a mismatched drivetrain, over priced and not even available with navigation. It’s unforgivable, and Acura has sent us a half baked product. When you are a premium car company, that is unacceptable. And I know Acura is capable of doing better.