Of all the companies to abandon the manual transmission, I never thought Acura would bow out this early.
Earlier this year I drove the 2015 Acura ILX in a base trim, and its greatest virtue was, in fact, its slick little six-speed manual transmission. Will that be the last Acura ever to be graced by a manual transmission? The way things are going, that is likely so.
When we reserved for ourselves a 2016 ILX for a Comparison with the Buick Verano, I spent some extra time in it to see if it captured the legacy of small, sporty Acuras of the past, and perhaps made the loss of the original TSX and the manual transmission a little easier to bear.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good little luxury car, but it neither recaptures the driving and shifting joy of the original TSX, nor does it quite offer the total package on offer in the Verano or pricier entry-level luxury offerings from Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
Okay, now that I’m done bitching about what it’s not, I guess I should tell you what it is and what it does well.
Based on Honda’s perennial sales leader Civic, the ILX was a far more thoroughly differentiated car than its CSX and EL predecessors, which were Canadian-only, barely-more-than-lipstick-on-pig models. The ILX is like a Civic with lipstick, mascara, foundation, Botox and Spanx. It looks a lot better for starters. A lot. Of course, my utter disdain for Civic sedan styling is part of that equation, so to some the design gap may not be quite so dramatic, but even so I find the ILX an attractive design, easily as nice as anything in this segment, A3 and CLA included.
It also looks and feels good on the inside, with a modern design proudly flying two screens and a big knob, with a more reasonable number of buttons than Acuras of the past. Oh wait, they simply seemed to have migrated to the steering wheel. Despite the proliferation of buttons on the steering wheel, it is the idiosyncrasies of the two screens that frustrate, while the buttons on the steering wheel become second nature easily enough. I won’t turn this into another bitchfest about the Honda/Acura infotainment system, but suffice to say it is not one of our favourites, although functions like navigation, satellite radio and other fancy-pants functions that seem completely superfluous.
On autoTRADER.ca: 2016 Acura ILX First Impressions
Okay, so Acura is not a leader in the interior technology game, but how does it stack up as a driver? While it’s not what we antiquated, manual-transmission enthusiasts are looking for, it might just nail the segment expectations: smooth, sophisticated transmission paired to an efficient but engaging engine that is also impressively refined.