Review by Jacob Black, photos by Jonathan Yarkony

Luxury comes in many shapes and sizes these days. Some say the concept has been stretched too thin. Some say the gap between a “normal” car and a “luxury” car has closed naturally over time. Whichever way you approach it, what many consider “luxury” is now more accessible than ever.

Acura, Honda’s take on an upmarket sister brand, and GM’s equivalent Buick both have offerings priced to attract new aspirational buyers and fitted with the trappings that just a few years ago were limited to rarefied luxury cars at a much higher price point.

Why is Buick listed as GM’s Acura equivalent instead of Cadillac? Like Acura with Honda, Buick shares many of its underpinnings with the base Chevy platform. And while Cadillac positions itself in the true luxury market, both Buick and Acura exist in the middle ground between basic and upscale. You can consider them a mezzanine, giving access to the luxury trappings that mean the most without the lofty price point.

The ILX and Verano are also both on the small side of mid-size, both have “sporty” intentions, and are priced within a few hundred dollars of $36,000 for their respective top trims.

Ready? Begin.

First Impressions

Walking up to these two in the carpark it’s the Acura that makes the most impact. Its sharp lines, lower bonnet, roof, and trunk height and narrow headlights focus your attention, as do the intricate 18-inch alloys. Those are standard on the A-Spec trim we have here. The bulbous Buick looks taller, bulkier and plainer than the Acura, with less detail and flatter panels giving it a dated appearance. This might have a little to do with the fact the ILX is freshly updated, and the Buick was last redesigned in 2012.

Inside, the Acura keeps up appearances with quality materials and a more engaging dashboard layout. The gaudy silver plastic that dominates the centre stack of the Buick is shown up here, and the cloth inserts in the leather seats of the ILX are well enough executed to enhance, rather than detract from the sensation of quality. The thin leather of the Buick’s steering wheel is no match for the stitched leather on the ILX’s – though I do prefer the more elegant simplicity of the Verano tiller to the button-explosion that Acura littered the ILX wheel with.

Round One: Acura.

Motorvation (sic)

Both the Acura ILX and the Buick Verano come standard with a 2.4L naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. The one in the Acura ILX is good for 201 hp at 6,800 rpm and 180 lb-ft at 3,600; the one in the Buick is good for 180 hp at 6,700 rpm and 171 lb-ft at 4,900 – so in standard guise, the ILX wins. Here though, as always, there’s a catch. This Buick has a little red “T” next to the Verano badge on the bootlid, and that means we’ve got the $2,890 Premium Equipment Group upgrade. Its centrepiece? A 2.0L turbo shuffling 250 hp at 5,300 rpm and 260 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm into what is now a very stacked deck.

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