November 21, 2012
The gauge cluster and layout of switch gear on the centre console are derived from the Acura corporate interior treatment, which is a lot more traditional than the modern two-level gauge and info display found in a Civic. It is a matter of taste; the ILX will appeal to tastes that are more traditional, the Civic to those who prefer modern treatments. Personally, I prefer the latter.
2013 Acura ILX Dynamic. Click image to enlarge
Standard comfort and convenience features include a five-inch colour information display with integrated back-up camera, auto-off headlights, dual zone climate control, power windows with driver and passenger auto up and down, smart entry with push-button start, steering wheel–mounted audio and cruise controls and variable intermittent windshield wipers.
The ILX has a fold-down rear seat, but it is not split. There is a large pass through behind the seat for longer cargo, but the shape of the opening and the single-piece fold-down seat limit the ILX’s cargo and passenger carrying flexibility.
The 201-hp 2.4L engine and six-speed close ratio manual transmission is the same drivetrain found under the hood of the more expensive Acura TSX and the less expensive Honda Civic Si Sedan. The 2.4L engine replaces the high-revving 2.0L iVTEC that had gathered quite a following among four-cylinder enthusiasts.
While hardcore Si fans might view the new 2.4L as toned down, it still has a redline of 7,000 rpm. And getting the rpm up into that heady range releases a ton of power. Although entering a freeway can be a lot of fun—shifting into third at 80 km/h just below the redline then sliding the shift lever way over to sixth at 100—it isn’t very practical for everyday driving. The 2.4L iVTEC engine has the performance available to be very entertaining, but it’s just not in the right place for 60 km/h streets. The ILX can be fun on a freeway onramp, probably more fun on a track with some suspension tweaks, but around town it can be just a lot of work despite a light clutch and tight shifter.
The six-speed manual, which is geared to provide five acceleration gears and one overdriven gear, is part of the problem. To get the engine operating in the most fuel efficient gear requires more shifts than a five-speed manual or a six-speed with two overdrives. So you learn to take short cuts using a 1/3/5 or 2/4/6 pattern or some other more direct route to letting your left foot rest and taming the noise.
What may be the sound of engineering music in the Civic Si is just noise in the ILX: repeated higher rpm shifts, the drone of the engine at 3,000 rpm (110 km/h), the slap and rumble of the tires on the pavement. The ILX may well be quieter (and heavier) than the Civic Si, but the mechanical choir is only a bit muted and still quite aggravating after a while, and very un-luxury car-like.
Even though $28K and change is a lot of money, being the price leader in the luxury car market is risky. The ILX represents a quick and profitable way for Honda to bring a compact to its luxury Acura brand in the US, just as the CSX and EL had in Canada. Badge engineering is common in the car business, but one of the risks is lowered perceptions of a company’s brand. I have no doubt that Acura will sell ILXs by the trainload, but Acura will remain the luxury brand wannabe that it has always been.