Posted in New Cars
Walking around the new 2013 Acura ILX, there’s little to tip off the casual observer that this car shares its platform with the Honda Civic. This is a very good thing, as nobody who’s shopping the entry-level premium segment wants their vehicle to look like a mainstream compact. By now, you’ve surely developed an opinion on the sharp creases and bold look of modern Acura products, so we’re not going to dwell on its beak-like fascia other than to say it’s been downsized on the ILX and that it mostly blends in with its overall design ethos. We wouldn’t expect the face of the ILX to deter many buyers if they are happy with what the rest of the car offers, which is not something we could say of some recent Acura designs. A look at the ILX in profile tells you that Acura isn’t backing all the way down from its somewhat controversial styling theme, known at the automaker as Keen Edge Dynamics. The ILX is a bit softer overall than the TSX and TL sedans while retaining plenty of familial ties. New to Acura are the ILX’s upswept rear haunches and ersatz fastback roofline. Despite that flowing rear window, this car is not a hatchback. In front of the driver sits a pair of gauges flanking an electronic multi-information display that can show upcoming maintenance requirements, average speed, instant and average fuel consumption or estimated range with the current fuel load. Acura says this cluster is designed to help the driver concentrate on the task of driving, while the passenger enjoys a deeply carved dash that gives the impression of space and roominess. All the interior bits and pieces are well integrated into an overall look, and are all crafted from upscale materials. The upper dash pad is soft to the touch and offers a pleasant contrast to the metallic look of the lower dash and center stack. The steering wheel is nicely styled, with a thick rim that feels good in the hand. We were a bit put off by the sheer number of buttons on either side of the wheel, but managed to figure them all out in time. The steering wheel is also home to a pair of paddle shifters on models equipped with an automatic transmission, which shamefully still has only five forward ratios. We didn’t get a chance to sample the standard cloth interior, but the optional leather hides were plenty comfortable and are available in either ebony or parchment. The red anodized start/stop button is a nice, sophisticated touch. There are three interior packages offered in the 2013 ILX, including an unnamed base model that offers a CD player with six speakers and a USB port, Bluetooth connectivity that includes an SMS text messaging feature and a Pandora Internet Radio interface. A five-inch color LCD screen in the center of the dash comes standard with the base and the middle-rung Premium package, and we didn’t care for the large plastic housing required to fill the void left by not splurging for the Tech pack’s eight-inch screen, as it cheapens the feel of an otherwise well-done interior. All models deserve the larger screen if its placement is going to be made so prominent.
As we mentioned before, Acura won’t let you order an ILX with the 2.4-liter engine if you want the Technology package. That means the enthusiast buyer will have to go without navigation or the high-output stereo system. If you can live without those bits, an ILX 2.4 with the Premium package will cost $29,200 and delivers estimated fuel mileage of 22 city and 31 highway. That leaves us with the standard ILX configuration – a 2.0-liter four cylinder with an automatic transmission. Starting at $25,900 in base trim with 16-inch wheels and pegging the fully loaded meter at $31,400 with the Technology kit and its 17-inch alloys, this is the ILX we think will suit the majority of shoppers. At least those shoppers who don’t think Acura is charging too much for its smallest product… We, on the other hand, do think Acura is charging too much for the 2013 ILX. The car itself, while not terribly exciting to drive, is a pretty nice way to get from point A to point B, but so is the Buick Verano, which, with a starting price of $23,470, is several thousand dollars cheaper. If you want a sportier option, we suggest you wait for the upcoming turbocharged Verano that will be available with a six-speed manual – we predict that car will come pretty well equipped for about the same price as the ILX 2.4, except that it will have navigation, a big LCD screen in the dash and considerably more than the ILX’s maximum of 201 horsepower. If you don’t care about driving a car wearing a “premium” badge, the Ford Focus Titanium can be had with all the goodies you can get in an ILX – plus a bunch of technology, such as Active Park Assist, that you can’t get at all in the Acura – for the same price as the base ILX. And if you do care about having that badge (and the expected reliability and high resale value that goes along with it), the larger and more entertaining TSX sedan can be had for $30,010 – and it includes the bigger 2.4-liter engine and leather as standard equipment. Acura hopes to find 35,000 buyers for the ILX sedan per year, and they very well may hit that figure. If you’re in the market for an entry-level vehicle from a premium automaker, by all means have a look at the ILX… just be sure to check out its competition before signing on the dotted line. As much as we’d like to tell you that the ILX heralds a return to Acura’s roots – innovation, value and technology – we can’t, because it simply doesn’t.
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