2016 Acura ILXPosted on June 22nd, 2015
Entry luxury sedan becomes a better machine
By Nina Russin
The second-generation Acura ILX should quash rumblings by those who described the first-generation car as a dressed up Civic. Changes to the 2016 model include a more powerful engine and eight-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. Enhanced torsional rigidity and interior quiet make the new ILX a true Acura: a driving enthusiast’s car that can live in the real world.
Pricing for the base model starts at $27,900 excluding the $920 destination charge. The test car includes a technology option group that adds navigation, AcuraLink with real-time traffic, ten-speaker premium audio system, hard drive and GPS. The AcuraWatch safety package included in the test car’s $32,900 base price adds adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and forward collision warning. Final MSRP is $33,820.
Bring on the heat
I drove the new ILX during a week when daytime temperatures in Phoenix soared to 115 degrees. That kind of heat can do funky things to cars that normally work just fine. The fact that the ILX took the heat in stride is testament to good engineering and solid build quality. The air conditioner blew ice cubes, quickly dropping the interior temperatures in mid-day heat from north of 150 degrees to something a bit more habitable.
While the first ILX that debuted in 2012 for the 2013 model year had a solid mission- offering those stepping into the brand a more affordable option- it met with lukewarm response due to lackluster performance.
Engineers took this to heart in designing the 2016 model, adding 50 horsepower and 40 foot-pounds of peak torque to the engine. While the new ILX block has slightly less horsepower than the Civic Si engine of the same displacement, it has more torque. In our toll booth-to-toll booth society, torque rules the world.
The eight-speed dual clutch automatic transmission is equally important, enabling the new sedan to compete head-to-head with the Germans. It provides better fuel economy than the five-speed automatic on the first generation car. The dual friction clutch system is faster and crisper than a traditional fluid coupling, closely mimicking a manual gearbox.
Engineers made the body structure stiffer in order to tune the electric power steering system more accurately. The new system has a pleasantly heavy feel at speed with solid on-center response. Beefier stabilizer bars keep the chassis flat in the corners. The four-wheel independent suspension consisting of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in back should keep occupants in both rows of seating comfortable.
Active noise control, thicker window glass, new engine mounts and a noise-reducing wheel design have improved NVH for a quieter interior. The Acura ILX doesn’t have the tomblike quiet of some Lexus products, but this writer feels that would be out of character for the car. Most driving enthusiasts appreciate the occasional belch from the exhaust system.
Active safety for urban commandos
In the car-eat-car world of urban commuting, active safety features such as blind spot monitoring and collision mitigation can make the difference between a near miss and rumpled sheetmetal. In areas such as Phoenix that see a large influx of tourists during the winter, a high percentage of drivers are unfamiliar with the geography. They are more distracted and hence more likely to cause accidents.
The summer heat has a similar effect on locals. While there is no logical reason for this, people seem to drive faster in the heat. They do not, however, concentrate more on the act of driving. One has to assume that at least a third of the drivers are looking at their cell phones rather than the road ahead and drive accordingly.
Unlike some of its competitors, the Acura ILX has a generous greenhouse making it easy to monitor cars in adjacent lanes. The rearview camera records an extreme wide-angle view for monitoring cross traffic. Blind spot monitoring makes it easier to detect other vehicles that change lanes without signaling.
One safety feature missing from the new ILX is Honda’s LaneWatch system that projects a view to the right of the car in the center stack screen when the driver signals to turn right. This is one of my favorite new safety features. Hopefully Acura will consider adding this when it updates the model.
Changes to the interior include a new thin-film-transistor information display, Siri Eyes Free for hands-free phone operation, two-position driver’s seat memory, bi-directional remote engine start and a new tire pressure display that shows the pressures at each wheel.
Designers did a good job of maximizing interior space by keeping clutter to a minimum. This includes the use of a mouse-type control to eliminate a clutter of buttons on the instrument panel.
I found the driver’s seat comfortable with plenty of lower lumbar support for drives lasting over an hour. Small drivers will appreciate the car’s low cowl that makes it easier to have a clear forward view. I also like the small diameter of Acura’s steering wheels. They tend to be more ergonomic for women drivers.
The Acura ILX comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, daytime running lamps, tire pressure monitoring and remote start.
Acura builds the ILX at its Marysville, Ohio assembly plant.
Like: The new ILX is a huge leap forward from the outgoing model with a more powerful engine, better transmission, improved handling and steering response.
Model: ILX Tech Plus
Base price: $32,900
As tested: $33,820
Horsepower: 201 Hp @ 6800 rpm
Torque: 180 lbs.-ft. @ 3600 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 25/36 mpg city/highway