2017 Acura ILX Tech PlusPosted on August 11th, 2016
Compact sport sedan for driving enthusiasts
By Nina Russin
The ILX is Acura’s entry level sport sedan, appealing to young driving buyers who want luxury accouterments in an affordable package. Base price is $27,900: something of a bargain at a time when average transaction prices for new cars are close to $30,000.
The 2017 models are essentially carry-over from 2016 when the ILX received a major refresh that included new exterior styling and a more powerful engine, paired with an eight-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
The current powerplant delivers 201 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque, a fifty horsepower boost over the engine it replaces. The new transmission offers the precision of a manual gearbox thanks to friction couplings, plus excellent fuel economy: 29 miles-per-gallon according to the EPA.
Buyers can choose between three trim levels: Standard, Premium and the Tech Plus tested. Acura wisely includes the convenience features buyers are looking for in each trim level rather than expensive option packages. Base price for the Tech Plus is $32,990 excluding the $940 destination charge. Standard convenience features include navigation with a multi-view rear camera, premium audio system, leather upholstery, satellite radio, keyless entry and start, alloy wheels, power moonroof, Bluetooth interface and an eight-way power driver’s seat.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
I spent the past week behind the wheel of the newest ILX, driving around Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley through challenging weather conditions that included extreme heat and monsoonal rainstorms. Acura’s talent for precision handling and advanced active safety made both a non-issue, as the sport sedan met each of the above challenges with aplomb.
The new, more powerful engine was an important upgrade to the original ILX that many described as anemic, considering its performance mission. Direct injection gives the sedan excellent throttle response for robust acceleration off the line and in the 20-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic.
The eight-speed automatic transmission delivers crisp shifts, with large overdrive gears contributing to its 35 mile-per-gallon highway fuel economy. Because of its high compression ratio, Acura recommends but does not require 91 octane gasoline.
Engineers did an excellent job of tuning the electric power assist steering system to the chassis, with good assist on the low end and a pleasantly heavy feel at speed. A 36.8-foot turning circle makes the occasional U-turn a non-issue.
Testing any sport sedan should involve at least one twisting two lane road: in this case the thoroughfare over Usery Pass east of Phoenix and the Bush Highway through the foothills of the Superstition Mountains. The ILX felt completely at home prancing through the pitchy hills and sharp turns along the way, proving that a car practical for commuting can be equally pleasurable on the weekend.
A MacPherson front and multi-link rear suspension deliver a comfortable but not overly soft ride, with stabilizer bars on both axles to keep the chassis flat in the corners.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the sedan in firm, linear fashion.
Visibility around the perimeter is quite good. Acura and sibling company Honda have always made this a priority, with low cowls for good forward visibility and important active safety features such as blind spot monitoring and the rearview camera. The rearview camera offers the driver several views including an extreme wide angle that enables him to see cross traffic from quite a distance. In a city such as Phoenix where high-profile trucks rule the road, the additional visibility makes easier to back out of spaces in crowded parking lots.
Noise intrusion to the interior is minimal, so occupants in both rows can converse or enjoy the premium audio system. The ILX doesn’t have the tomb-like quiet of some competing models, but it also lacks the additional weight that extreme sound deadening adds. Curb weight for the Tech Plus model is a very reasonable 3115 pounds, contributing to the sedan’s agile character.
The sedan’s well-designed interior can comfortably accommodate four adults: five for shorter trips around town. I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust with ample lower lumbar support for trips several hours in duration.
The automatic climate control system passed the ironclad test of mid-day Phoenix heat, when temperatures inside the car can reach 140-degrees. Designers wisely resisted the temptation of chrome embellishments on key touchpoints. Even the shift lever was easy to use after the car had been sitting in the sun.
The ten-speaker audio system brought a concert hall feel to the sedan’s interior when I tuned into the local classical music station.
A spacious trunk easily holds the weekly groceries, multiple pieces of luggage, golf bags and smaller camping equipment. Cyclists will either need to add a hitch mount or opt for one of Acura’s two crossover vehicles that have taller, more expansive cargo bays.
The Acura ILX comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, hill start assist, daytime running lamps and tire pressure monitoring. The Tech Plus model adds adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation and lane keeping assist.
The Acura ILX received a five-star crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Acura builds the ILX at its Marysville, Ohio assembly plant.
Like: A stylish sport sedan with excellent power and fuel economy as well as a high level of standard safety features.
Model: ILX Tech Plus
Base price: $32,990
As tested: $33,930
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: 25/35 mpg city/highway