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2016 Acura ILX pushes attainable premium performance to the edge

7 days driving Acura’s newest sports-sedan underlined our first impression of 2016 Acura ILX. The latest rendition of ILX gives Audi, BMW and Mercedes a run for the money. ILX pushes attainable premium performance to the edge.

Automotive journalism and subsequent car review is full of pitfalls. We spend much time reading responses from our readers, mostly positive. However, there's more than a few that believe we as journalist, go easy on the manufacturers that enable us to ply our trade. Such is the case with Honda’s Acura Division.

Admittedly, we’re die-hard auto enthusiast with a commitment to providing a good, informative read for our viewers. And, frankly, as enthusiast, rarely find a product on today’s market that would fall into the category of sub-par, or awful! Build a bad car and your out of business! It’s that simple.

The day “they” build the perfect car…

Outside of price consideration and possible color choices, there would be no call for automotive review. Last week Torque News-Acura reviewed quite possible the finest mid size 3 row SUV built today. It bares the Acura moniker as does the “portal vehicle,” 2016 Acura ILX. One’s a SUV of substantial accommodation, ride comfort and out-worldly tech-driven personal connect-ability, entertainment and active safety features.

The second, a compact Honda Civic based sports-sedan, featuring exceptional power to weight ratio and (reasonable) comfort, sits on the other end of Acura’s lineup; and yet to the driver that is familiar with the operation and temperament of the Acura line-up feels right at home while driving ILX. Acura engineering and interior design is to be congratulated on carrying the essence of the Acura mark forward. Not always an easy task while preserving the bottom $ line.

2016 Acura ILX A-SPEC: From where we sit, the most performance bang for the $ in the entry-premium-sports-sedan-class

Price point is a peculiar measurement in the automotive game. We’ll have readers plow through this article and comment back as to what can be purchased “for just a few thousand dollars more!” Yes, we know you can bounce up and down the sedan performance spectrum; entertain Audi Quattro, BMW 3&5 series, Lexus and Mercedes Benz. But that’s not what Acura ILX is all about.

2016 Acura ILX is a niche vehicle, and like its larger sibling TLX, brings something to the market that no other manufacturer offers: Great looks, exceptional standard featured value, reasonable comfort, unquestionable construction quality and measurable sports-handling and fuel efficient engine performance.

2016 ILX is Acura’s “portal” vehicle on the road to “customer for life”

Acura marketing is targeting the “substantially refreshed” ILX at young upcoming Millennials. You know, those movers and shakers aged between 25 and 35-ish. ILX is configured, color coded, sized and powered appropriately for the “Y” generation. Nothing overly “Bling” will be found in the ILX interior. While handsome enough, dressed in premium leathers, premium hard and soft textured surfaces and a hint of burnished metal, the ILX interior is more about good tastes through thoughtful restraint than “I made it big” opulence.

Priced from $27,900 to $34,890, 2016 ILX takes us back to the fundamentals of razor-sharp Acura precision. Or, at the least a sense of it without Acura’s historically correct harsh ride.

This 4 door sports-sedan will accommodate a child’s safety seat or two if and when called for. But for the rest of us, performs best with a driver, shot-gun companion and a day’s worth of travel and picnic supplies in the backseat or spacious trunk.

Torque News found the rear seat confines of ILX to be a bit stifling. Comfortable enough but lacking in headroom. Passengers of tall stature( 6 ft +) will wish to avoid the backseat of ILX. As to the interior fit and finish, pure Acura!

Our test mule is the 2016 Acura ILX A-SPEC

While attending Acura’s reveal of 2016 ILX in Calistoga, California, Torque News had the opportunity to drive most if not all trim variants of ILX, finding the performance “difference” between trim levels to be very subtle. Acura presents a well appointed base ILX featuring the same engine, transmission, driveline suspension and braking components throughout the lineup. You’ll also discover standard electronic engine noise cancellation, rear view backup camera, Bluetooth connect-ability, USB port and iPOD interface and much more. You may take a look at full ILX specification here.

Fuel economy’s pretty close to EPA

We pushed our ILX A-SPEC to the edge of legal-speed limits and road manners civility. Acura’s taken a 2.4 Liter direct injected 201 horsepower, 181 lb-ft torque 4 cylinder i-VTEC gasoline engine and married it to arguably the best (and only) dual clutched 8 speed, torque converted automated manual transmission in the automotive industry; while preserving decent fuel economy.( 25 City/36 Hwy) ILX has “peddle” when called on, and can handle the “twisties” with the best of them.

Although ILX is offered in FWD, limited slip differential only, Acura’s “rigid” body cage structure and exceptional staged dampened suspension add up to a very controlled, drive-ride experience. We experienced negligible torque-steer and nose dive when pushing ILX through its paces.

Even when pushing handling limitations to the possible traction-breaking point, ILX responded with surprising ride-refinement and handling prowess, generally reserved for rear-drive sports-sedans costing 10 s of thousands $ more.

Handling, suspension and brake-fade

2016 Acura ILX as presented is a multiple purpose, premium compact 4 door sports-sedan featuring “reasonable” interior quiet and comfort; while harboring serious performance tendencies. Acura’s done a commendable job here in balancing the need for a daily commuter with the want for a weekend “car club” sports-sedan. However, we find ILX in the A-SPEC addition to be more at home on a back-road twisty 2 lane, or taking surface city streets than it is as a long-haul-freeway cruiser.

ILX does feature an exceptional “ride” for a compact sedan. In-fact, we would be hard pressed to improve on Acura’s current suspension and braking technologies. However, it is small, the seats tend to be pre-set to “firm” and, due to the 4 cylinder high performance engine, runs a bit on the “noisy” side when cruising in drive; at or slightly below 60 mph.

We also found the A-SPEC low profile high-speed Continental tires to be more than a bit “road surface sensitive” as to transmitting road-noise to the interior of the car; all, sports-sedan characteristics. Those looking for a bit more civility from ILX may wish to look at the “Premium or Tech-Plus” trim variants; featuring leather covered perforated seats and a less aggressive taller sidewall 17 inch rim and tire.

On the tech side

For 2016, Acura packs ILX with state of the art personal connectivity, convenience electronic interface and a premium ELS stereo option with surround sound; all accessed through a dual screen glass-dash(one static touch screen) and intuitive manual and voice recognition commands.

When equipped with speed adjusted automatic volume-increase and standard electronic engine noise cancellation, under most road surface conditions the ILX audio visual experience is exemplary. Note: Voice command worked refreshingly well in our test car as did the satellite navigation.

Also for 2016, a rear-view backup monitor with “view adjustment” and guidelines is found standard on ILX. Our A-SPEC was equipped(MSRP $34,890) with the optional AcuraLInk ™ and Navigation with voice command, braking stability and full driver assist active safety and accident mitigation features.

A few final thoughts

While not our personal favorite Acura, 2016 ILX offers exceptional tech-rich performance features in a precision, quality crafted compact performance sedan. We found that after 5 days in the driver’s seat of ILX, Acura’s latest offering “grew on us.” Economical to operate, exceptional in road-handling and near instantaneous throttle response and brake, traction control, we found ILX to be entertaining as well as practical in a premium Acura sort of way.

Although not designed for every driver, 2016 ILX merits serious consideration for those buyers wishing for an easy to handle, intuitive, compact portal Acura exuding some serious “sportitude.” Looking to the competition, we find nothing on today’s market that over-values ILX (in the compact premium sedan segment) as to standard performance, connectivity, passive and active safety features.

What we like:

Engine, styling, transmission, paddle shifters, braking and suspension.

What we’d like to see:

A more effective lower-decibel electronic noise cancellation, less aggressive seat bolstering with automatic lower lumbar support adjustment.