Honda found out the hard way that just because it put a fancy suit and snooty logo on the working-class Civic didn’t make a luxury car. We’re talking about the ILX, which shares architecture and assembly space with the venerable compact Honda. Early ILXs were noisy, rode harsh, and wasn’t up to its price. In fact, many felt the Civic Si was a better all-around car for less coin. For 2016, the ILX trades sass for substance.
Granted, no ILX was exactly a remake of the Cimarron by Cadillac debacle, but that’s only because the ILX wasn’t a piece of junk. I mean, it was a pretty good car – just not a luxury car. It’s better.
Flowing styling with a peaked grille and sculpted rear haunches give the sedan a sleek profile, but designers polished it with strings of thin-profile LED headlights, more aggressive grille with chrome blade, and sportier facias. This fashion show rides on new 10-spoke 17” alloys. Or, step up to the A-SPEC Package to add a trunk spoiler, fog lights, and larger 18” rollers. Our car planted mere 17s, but did it with flair.
Throw more shade from the interior. It’s all very nice with heated leather seats, Euro-style stitching on the steering wheel, padded/stitched dash panels, and silver trim on the instrument panel. Rear passengers fit, but will want you to keep trips trivial. Quelling a big gripe, thicker door glass, improved engine insulation, and active noise cancellation finally make the ILX quieter than a Civic with a can hung out back.
Acura cast its best genies to stock the electronics department. Our ride had the new AcuraWatch™ system that includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist, Road Departure Mitigation (actively steers car back into lane), and Collision Mitigation Braking (warns you, then applies the brakes if you’re too distracted to respond). It also has a multi-view rear camera with guidelines and pedestrian sensing.
I despise, like a broken blister seeping pus, Acura’s two-screen infotainment system. Fortunately, our more sparsely-optioned model didn’t have it. Of course, it also didn’t have navigation or the available Acura/ELS Studio audio system. Bummer.
Put the toys away to discover a more spirited driving experience. The 2.4-liter direct-injected four-cylinder delivers 201 horsepower, an increase of 51 peppy ponies compared to the old 2.0-liter bomb. Better, the larger engine is mated to a new 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The powertrain is quick, crisp, and finally able to move the car with a sense of urgency. Lay off the urgency and you’ll see 25/36-MPG city/hwy.
Engineers didn’t stop there. Steering feels more direct, less like a video game. The suspension was also re-tuned for less chatter over bumps and quicker responses during cornering. No rough pavement could shake it – something that wasn’t true of the jitterbug it was. Front-drive or not, it’s a much more enjoyable car to drive.
There’s no question the ILX is much-improved and a slick swath of style, but it is still a pricey Honda working its way through a crowded club of debutantes. A base model, without navigation or premium audio, starts at $27,900 or a not-ridiculous $30,255 as tested. Go all in and you’ll be north of $35k. At that price, the ILX will have sass dished back to it in a silver chalice. Besides loaded Civics, the ILX gets checked by the Buick Verano, Mercedes-Benz CLA, Audi A3, Cadillac ATS, and Chrysler 200.
2016 Acura ILX
Five-passenger, FWD sedan
Powertrain: 201hp 2.4-liter I4, 8-spd auto transmission
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels: 17”/17” alloy f/r
Brakes: disc/disc fr/rr with ABS
Must-have features: Style, handling
Fuel economy: 25/36 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Greensburg, IN
Base/as-tested price: $27,900/30,255