2013 Acura ILX TechnologyPosted on December 4th, 2012
Entry luxury sedan for tech-savvy buyers
By Nina Russin
This past spring, Acura introduced the ILX sedan, which replaces the more expensive TSX as the gateway for the brand. MSRP starts at $25,900, excluding the $895 delivery charge.
There are three powertrain choices: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with five-speed automatic transmission, 2.4-liter turbo with six-speed manual, and a gasoline-electric hybrid with continuously variable automatic.
The ILX shares chassis components with the Honda Civic. The strategy is similar to the early Lexus ES models based on the Toyota Camry. Despite the common running gear, styling is pure Acura: low stance, wide shoulders, long front end and short rear deck.
Geared towards Gen Y buyers
Acura has taken some heat for basing the ILX on the Civic, and veering away from the sporty focus of the TSX. Times have changed, and so has the audience of 20-30 year-old drivers the new model is targeted towards. Today’s young adults don’t share the enthusiasm former generations had for performance cars.
In a November, 2011 article for BBC News Washington, Brian Wheeler talked about the declining number of adolescents who are learning to drive. The number of licensed American drivers under age 19 dropped from a record high of 11,989,000 in 1978 to 9,932,441 in 2010. It seems that young adults would rather connect with each other online than reach under the hood of a car.
Just as the Acura Integra reflected the pulse of young adults in the early 1990s, the new ILX fills the same mission today. It is less a driver’s car than a cool transportation device, fitted with all of the accouterments its owners want to stay connected: USB, Bluetooth, SMS text messaging and Pandora.
The ILX comes as close as any car on the market to mimicking the Apple model: upscale, stylish and user-friendly. The engineers I know who like to diddle with computers don’t buy Macs, simply because most Apple product are purposely sealed at the factory to prevent that sort of thing. On a similar note, the target ILX buyer has no particular interest in tuning cars, and is more focused on the interior touch points.
Green is cool
In addition to connectivity, research by Honda marketing revealed a preference for environmentally friendly vehicles and a need for value. Acura expects sales of the performance-oriented 2.4-liter turbo model to comprise a small part of the pie. For that reason, the 2.4-liter car is not offered with the technology package. The 2.0-liter model will be the volume leader, with the hybrid coming in second place.
Acura expects primary competitors to be the Lexus CT 200h and Audi A3, the first of which is a hybrid and the second available as a clean diesel model. Although the ILX doesn’t have the edgy styling or interior versatility of the two hatchbacks, it can certainly compete on the fuel economy front, with a 38 mpg average according to the EPA.
At a time when car buyers are downsizing from larger, more expensive models, product planners focused on convenience features which car buyers are acutely aware of.
All models come with dual-zone climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant controls, tilt-and-slide moonroof, locking glovebox, heated side mirrors, keyless access and push button ignition.
The premium package on the test car adds leather upholstery, 17-inch alloy wheels, XM satellite radio, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, xenon, high-intensity discharge headlamps and fog lamps.
The technology package includes navigation with Acura Link, which provides real time weather and traffic updates, ten-speaker Dolby surround-sound audio system and a multi-view rear camera. The camera offers the driver three options when he shifts into reverse: normal 130 degree view, wide-angle 175 degree view, and a view from the top centered over the rear bumper.
Final MSRP on the 2.0-liter test car with premium and technology packages is $32,295.
Test drive in southern Arizona
I spent the past week driving the 2013 ILX around the Phoenix metro area as well as a road trip between Phoenix and Tucson. At the end of the day, Acura is to be commended for producing a stylish, comfortable sedan that easily fills all of the squares for its target audience.
With a driving range between 400 and 500 miles, I was able to go through the entire week, including several fifty-mile trips between my house and north Scottsdale as well as the trip to Tucson on a single tank of gasoline. Although Acura recommends premium unleaded fuel for optimal performance, it is not required.
The engine is a little short on torque, which is a typical problem for small naturally aspirated blocks. It has enough power for accelerating off the line and merging off of highway entrance ramps, and does quite well on the high end, easily passing slower vehicles at speed. The drive-by-wire throttle is as linear as a mechanical system, with the advantage of better fuel economy. Acura’s i-VTEC variable valve timing system is one of the best in the industry.
The five-speed automatic transmission can’t match the fuel economy of a six-speed unit with larger overdrive gears, but it works quite well with the engine. I noticed no shift shock during normal driving.
Almost 60 percent of the body is constructed of high strength steel, which saves weight and enhances steering response. The electric power steering system provides enough assist at low speeds for good maneuverability while maintaining a pleasantly heavy feel on the highway. A 36.1-foot turning circle is a little bigger than I expected, but drivers can perform U-turns on wider suburban roads.
The four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts in front and multi-link in back. Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the corners.
Four-wheel disc brakes give the ILX firm, linear stopping power on both wet and dry roads.
I really like Honda and Acura interiors, simply because their designers get right what so many other manufacturers don’t. For example, the steering wheel is small enough in diameter to be comfortable for women. Redundant controls are logically arranged and intuitive to operate.
A mouse device operates the navigation system, whose graphics are easy to read in bright daylight and at night. Center stack controls are easy to reach from either front seating position. The USB port is located in a covered bin at the base of the center stack, so the driver can conceal his portable device when he’s not in the car.
Access to the rear seats is quite good. I was surprised by the amount of head and legroom in the outboard positions. The center position has less legroom because of the center console bin, but it will work for short trips around town. My only criticisms are lack of rear vents and overhead reading lights, which I assume were cost cutting measures.
All passengers have access to cupholders that are big enough to stash 20-ounce water bottles. The glovebox is on the small side, but it can easily hold the owner’s manual and registration papers.
Release levers near the lip of the trunk fold the second row seats flat to extend the cargo floor for longer items. With the second-row seats in place, there is plenty of room for luggage, groceries and some small camping gear.
The Acura ILX comes with daytime running lamps, front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction and stability control.
Acura builds the ILX in Honda’s Greensburg, Indiana assembly plant.
Like: A stylish versatile sedan with a lot of standard connectivity and comfort features.
Dislike: Lack of low-end torque. No vents or overhead reading lamps in the second row.
Model: ILX Technology
Base price: $31,400
As tested: $32,295
Horsepower: 150 Hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 140 lbs.-ft @ 4300 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 24/35 mpg city/highway
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