2017 Acura ILX Technology Plus
A good car and a great value
Newest doesn’t necessarily mean best. In fact, sometimes cars that have been around the block a few more times than their immediate rivals can offer better reliability while still delivering strong performance, good functionality, plenty of creature comforts, and good all around value. Acura’s ILX slots right into this category.
The ILX is a derivative of Honda’s previous ninth-generation Civic that dates back to 2011, which means it doesn’t ride on the automaker’s new compact global platform that’s formed from higher grade steel in order to save weight while increasing rigidity, yet it nevertheless delivers a rigid body structure featuring plenty of sharp angles and complex curves, which arguably combine into a more conservatively acceptable design for those put off by the Civic’s somewhat polarizing styling.
Design in mind, the ILX remains one of two Acura models to carry forward without the new “Diamond Pentagon” signature grille, the Japanese brand’s bestselling RDX compact luxury SUV being the other holdout. Still, since receiving the brand’s distinctive full LED headlamps and revised front and rear fascias as part of its 2016 model year facelift, it remains plenty attractive if not as fresh as the rest of the lineup.
All said I think the ILX has aged pretty well. When it arrived in 2012 for the 2013 model year it became the first C-segment luxury sedan to be sold into the U.S. market since the much-loved Integra departed in 2001. That’s a long time without a car in this important entry-level luxury class, although compact Honda buyers with luxury leanings were probably satisfied enough with their top-line leather-lined Civics, plus the old TSX (which morphed together with the old TL to form the new TLX) wasn’t all that much larger than today’s ILX.
Like that original Integra, the ILX has less in common with the Civic than most realize. Even the very heart of this Acura is unique, its naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine no longer shared with the Civic Si, and its standard eight-speed dual-clutch transmission purely assigned to Acura’s lineup, although it’s so good that Honda should seriously consider adapting it to that new Si as a much-needed option.
Being that I reviewed a mid-range Premium trimmed model earlier this year, I decided to revisit the 2017 ILX in near top-line Technology guise. As a refresher, the 2017 ILX starts at a very reasonably $27,990, while four packages add safety, convenience and luxury.
As with all Acura models, the ILX balances strong performance with fuel-efficiency, while delivering big value for money. For instance, sub-$28k trim hits the road running with auto on/off LED headlamps (and particularly attractive ones at that), LED taillights, 17-inch alloys, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, remote engine start, proximity-sensing keyless access, ambient interior lighting, pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, a color TFT multi-information display, filtered dual-zone automatic climate control, a multi-angle rearview camera with guidelines, AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio with Bluetooth streaming and hands-free connectivity, Siri Eyes Free, a powered moonroof, tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist, all the usual active and passive safety features, and more.
The $1,300 AcuraWatch Plus package adds adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and road departure mitigation, this qualifying the ILX for best-possible IIHS Top Safety Pick + status, whereas even the base model achieves a 5-star NHTSA safety rating.
You can upgrade to the $2,000 Premium package with or without the AcuraWatch Plus package, and either way you’ll get perforated Milano leather upholstery, a powered front passenger seat with two-way driver-side memory, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a larger 8.0-inch backlit color VGA upper infotainment display controlled by a rotating knob and various buttons on the center stack, plus a second 7.0-inch multi-use color touchscreen display below that, a higher grade seven-speaker and subwoofer-enhanced audio system with satellite and HD radio plus Aha compatibility, enhanced AcuraLink smartphone connectivity, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and more.
My $1,700 Technology package equipped tester forced the addition of both the Premium and AcuraWatch Plus packages, while also adding much-appreciated rain-sensing wipers, very accurate navigation with detailed mapping, voice recognition, an impressive 10-speaker ELS surround-sound audio system with Dolby Pro Logic, a HomeLink garage door remote, and much more, while the $1,990 A-Spec package only necessitates adding the Premium package first, while it receives its own exclusive aero body kit including side skirts and a rear spoiler, fog lamps, sportier 18-inch alloys, metal sport pedals, Lux-Suede upholstery, a black headliner, etcetera.
Even without the A-Spec upgrade the ILX Tech is plenty sporty and good fun to drive, its exclusive 2.4-liter four-cylinder powertrain an absolutely wonderful engine that, as noted earlier, was recently discontinued from the Civic Si that now features a turbocharged 1.5-liter four, while the aforementioned eight-speed dual-clutch auto provides the kind of direct, positive response a continuously variable transmission (the only automatic offered in any 10th-generation Civic so far) couldn’t hope to match.
In my opinion, the eight-speed DCT is the biggest bonus for moving up from Civic to ILX, although I’m not going to compare a Civic Si to the ILX, per se, especially considering the Si doesn’t offer an automatic gearbox at all, but rather comes exclusively with one of the best six-speed manuals in the industry, whereas the outrageously quick and superb handling Civic Type-R that I tested since, completely redefines front-wheel drive performance. Let’s just say the ILX combines excellent straight-line acceleration with a performance-oriented dual-clutch gearbox that’s as smooth and refined as the majority of its premium buyers should want, while its fully independent suspension setup balances an ability to carve up canyon two-laners with ease yet provide the kind of comfortable ride quality required by the luxury set.
Truly, I’d be happy with the ILX as a daily driver, especially when factoring in its fairly stingy 25 mpg city, 35 highway and 29 combined EPA-rated fuel economy. It’s an extremely easy car to wind through congested city traffic too, yet it’s wonderfully stable at highway speeds and thoroughly engaging when pushing hard through a tight set of S-curves. Likewise the engine seems totally docile when merely puttering along, yet open the ILX up and its 201 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque launch it forward with a vengeance, the engine revving freely and sounding sensational when spinning up toward its 6,900 rpm redline. Paddles at the fingertips, each shift is quick yet smooth, the entire car feeling more hands-on and in control than some others in the class that seem as if they want to control you. Yes, Acura, and its Honda parent, are well steeped in building compact performance cars, the ILX closest to the previous Civic Si than anything else currently available, but as intimated earlier, a lot more grown up.
Slowing down enough to take a good look around, the cabin is nicely finished with the types of materials and details expected in the premium class. Most everything above the waist is finished in high-quality synthetics, with the soft-touch door uppers extending down to the midway point before making way for even plusher stitched leatherette, while the armrests are plenty nice too. The lower portions of the doors and dash are formed from a harder plastic, but it’s certainly high enough in quality and par for the course in this class.
Likewise, the rear quarters are finished to the same high level as those up front, with each window seat carved out like an individual bucket for extra lateral support. As expected, a sizable armrest folds down from center, integrating dual cupholders. As for roominess, I had about five inches ahead of my knees and plenty of space for my feet when sitting behind the driver’s seat, which was positioned for my five-foot-eight medium-build frame, plus ample room for my shoulders and hips, while the two inches remaining above my head made the ILX twice as airy as an Audi A3 Sedan I tested the day prior, which only provided about an inch from head to roofliner.
The A3 provides a lot more convenience for loads, however, with a back seat that divides 60/40 and includes a center pass-through for longer cargo such as skis, compared to a downright rudimentary single-piece folding seatback. I suppose ILX buyers should be glad it folds at all, but most of us require greater passenger/cargo flexibility. The ILX’ trunk is also 2.7 cubic feet smaller at just 12.3 cubic feet, and it’s not finished as nicely, with no protector plate over the sill, zero metal tie-down hooks, and lower-end carpeting.
That’s my only complaint about a car that otherwise remains very competitive in its entry-level luxury class, especially when factoring in pricing. Even this near top-line Technology trimmed ILX is only slightly more expensive than the most basic A3, which is also front-wheel drive and nowhere near as well equipped.
Of course, you’re going to purchase the car that best suits your personal style and preferences, so if the ILX does that you’re in for a treat in most every other respect.
*Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press *