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2016 Acura ILX A-SPEC sets benchmark in attainable performance

Acura has injected a bit of TLX performance DNA into its 2nd best selling premium gateway sports sedan. Showcasing a much improved engine and a proprietary state of the art dual clutch automated manual transmission, this Civic sized Acura ILX sets a new segment benchmark in attainable performance claiming the highest power to weight ratio in its class.


Last week we flew down to California’s Napa Valley to view and test drive Acura’s “substantially refreshed” 2016 ILX. Already a great car by quality and reliability measurements, and Acura’s 2nd best selling compact sports-sedan, buyers had responded positively through reflected sales. Yet once again, Acura engineering answers the call for a much improved, attainable and comfortable compact executive sports-sedan through a seriously upgraded ILX.

ILX is Acura’s second best selling sports sedan, with upstart TLX recording unprecedented sales. However, as shared with us by Acura division’s Vice President and General Manager Mike Accavitti, current owners of ILX, while satisfied with the style and comfort of Acura’s
compact performance sedan want more!

More power, greater handling and interior quiet. In late 2014, Acura ILX sales dropped proportionately to the rise in TLX sales. With that development, Acura engineering and design answers the call to improve ILX with the presentation of a car that will change the way consumers weigh affordable tech-rich performance and value.

We spent some seat time in 2015 ILX earlier in the year, and while we liked the visual eye candy that was ILX, found the Civic platformed Jr. executive sports sedan to be a bit rough around the edges. 2015 ILX while featuring much better than average seating, dashboard instrument layout, premium sound system options and Acura passive and active electronic safety features, lacked in “sportitude. ™ When comparing ILX to 2015 TLX, we found ILX to ride Civic harsh and interior noisy, while being more than a bit underpowered in normal drive mode. That’s all changed for 2016.

Acura’s 3 P’s

According to Acura, 2016 ILX is to feature “Performance, Proportion and Prestige,” and to do so, Acura engineering increases horsepower, torque and transmission performance without appreciably increasing the size or base MSRP of ILX. We experienced Honda’s “substantially refreshed” 2015 CR-V in Huntington Beach California, and knew what the buzz was all about. Acura Division would now take the “substantially refreshed” mantra to the next level through 2016 ILX.

Marketing genius or lean manufacturing practice?

For 2016 Acura ILX will offer but one engine and drive-train choice across the line while increasing trim options. To us, this reads like marketing genius. We asked Mike Accavitti about this chess move and the“ lean manufacturing” implications. Mike smiled and told us that the L-4 2.4 liter-direct -injected DOHC(dual overhead cam) i-VTEC, 8 speed DCT combination was simply the right choice for the ILX application. Looking to the weight , horsepower, torque yield and fuel economy of this engine, we agree, 2016 ILX will perform as touted by Acura!

2016 Acura ILX can now boast the highest power to weight ratio in the compact executive sports sedan segment. With a curb weight of 2900 + or- pounds, and a Civic Si- like engine producing greater horsepower(+51) and increased usable torque throughout the midrange(+ 40 ft-lb) ILX moves to the high ground of performance sedans costing tens of $ thousands more. Within hours of our arrival, we would drive 2016 ILX and ILX A-SPEC on the backroads of Napa and Lake County Wine Country. There would be little to no sleep tonight.

Exterior impressions

We like what Acura did with ILX for 2016, nothing radical. However, great strides have been made in the balancing of Acura’s historic look(grill) by reducing its mass and capitalizing on a 3 dimensional look. ILX is damn handsome without being brash, garish or obnoxious; 2016 ILX is pure understated Acura.

Looking to the front lower cowling we find shades of TLX in the low ground hugging front fog lamp integrated cowling and intake damn, ground hugging side profile, minor down force, air damned trunk lid and lower rear cowling. Acura ILX in the A-SPEC trim package gives Audi and BMW a visual run for the money. Also for 2016, ILX features some of the finest cut metal and alloy design rim options found on a production Euro inspired, proudly built in Marysville, Ohio metric runner today. Available body colors? Fantastic!

Side note: Yes, we love driving at night with Acura’s Jeweleye ™ headlights. We experienced Acura’s exceptional lighting option on 2015 RLX, TLX and 2016 MDX. You’ll now find these marvels proudly worn by 2016 ILX. They do turn dark into daylight with the flip of a switch. Add rain sensing windshield wipers, an exceptional climate control system, a backup camera that sees in the dark and L.E.D. tail and trim lighting; ILX may be the safest compact sports-sedan on the road today.

Interior impressions

For 2016 Acura takes ILX to the next level in premium driver and passenger accommodations. Sized proportionately to North American drivers and infinitely adjustable, this 6 ft 5 inch tall journalist fits comfortably in ILX, not often the case in compact sedan offerings. Yes, 2016 ILX will comfortably accommodate 4 adults and the baggage required for a two day stay in Wine Country. With a reasonably sized trunk and folding rear seat pass-through, ILX accommodates sports equipment and other long cargo.

New for 2016 is an optional power adjusted 8 way heated driver’s seat finished in perforated leather, or in the case of A-SPEC, a ballistic grade, custom stitched black fabric insert. We found the interior mix of high quality soft and hard molded surfaces to be visually pleasing while interfaced perfectly with the headliner and floor carpeting. Acura carries the line’s sweeping dash design and door moldings throughout ILX without fault. Accenting the cabins styling statement is a hint of strategically placed burnished metal trim. This works well for ILX, while injecting a look of spirited youthfulness.

For 2016 Acura expands trim choices, offers various degrees of technical wizardry, personal connectivity, passive and active safety systems. A five inch display (8 inch screen monitor in Premium A-SPEC or TECH + A-SPEC) and backup cam is found standard on ILX, with an all new “Audio/Navigation System” offered at various option levels throughout the ILX lineup. Acura incorporates a two screen dash,(one monitor, one static touch screen) in 2016 ILX, as found in 2015 TLX. We like the visual balance and easy hands-on utility offered to the driver and front passenger throughout ILX; well done Acura.

More Tech: Optional AcuraWatch ™ safety suite , 10 speaker ELS Studio Premium Audio option with surround sound, 4.2 inch TFT (between the gauges) full color Multi-Informational Display. Siri Eyes Free with “Talk Button.” optional IPhone Navi-Link, optional bi-directional Keyless Remote Engine Start, 2 position driver’s seat memory setting and 4 way power adjustable passenger seating, just to name a few.

We found all functions and control of ILX to be very intuitive and end-user friendly. For TXS, Civic Si and Type R fans, look to Acura A-SPEC for a race inspired interior theme featuring red lit gauges, custom interior fabrics, leather steering wheel cover and perforated racing-like brake and gas pedal. Mike likes it, so do we.

If we were to change anything on the interior of ILX it would be a reduction in the use and application of bulbose,(door pockets)copious amounts of injected molded plastic, found on the lower driver and passenger doors. For us, the use of this smooth surfaced plastic visually detracts from a rather exceptional product, a very short punch list for Acura’s newest offering.

First drive impressions

While you won’t find Acura’s P-AWS or SH-AWD as found on TLX, RLX and MDX offered as an option on ILX, due to its light weight, relatively wide track, staged dampening and four wheel independent suspension engineering, ILX doesn’t need it. We found this front wheel drive car to exhibit minimal under or oversteer handling characteristics, while maintaining a flat trajectory throughout our rather aggressive test drive. Braking was spot on but lacked any tendency to grab or chatter. We easily traversed country two lane sweepers at double the recommended(cautionary)speed limit. Get it? ILX is sticky. Note: we did experience some minor pulling to the left when engaged in aggressive up/down hill transitions. We attribute this to a 60 lb difference in weight between the driver and front passenger during testing. ILX, as with all front wheel drive offerings is inherently front end heavy. This condition is easily remedied.

We experienced zero brake fade under aggressive cornering and downhill trajectories. Note: The paddle shifting in sport mode is very effective when initiating engine braking. Zero to 60 mph sprint times have been improved by better than a second, with passing on grade effortless. ILX exhibits serious torque-tendencies.

Yet, as we take ILX out of sport mode and resumed normal driving, this compact executive took on the feel and attitude of a much larger car; thus the genius that is Acura engineering. ILX is at home racing down a country two lane, as it is doubling as a personal office on your morning commute. We like that!

Through active noise control, Acura engineering has much improved the ILX drive experience by measurably reducing cabin noise. Furthermore, frame and cage rigidity, passive improvements in dead space frame sound deadening, body mount vibration isolation, rim design and tire compound changes have further tamed the ILX driver and passenger experience, perhaps the best in class.

What’s it cost Parks?

Here’s the best part of the ILX affordability quotient: For 2016 Acura ILX will be offered in 6 trim groups with the base ILX starting at $27,900 + applicable destination charges, tax and fees. For the driving enthusiast purist, the base model may be the best ILX deal for you. Jeweleye LED headlights, power moonroof, power driver's seat, multi view rearview camera and Bluetooth handsfreelink standard. You can take it from there with the highest trim option(Tech+ A-SPEC) topping out at $34,390 + applicable destination charges, tax and fees. No other brand in North America can touch ILX for standard added value features and baseline performance.

Is 2016 ILX superior to the competition in the portal car premium compact sports-sedan class? We stand by Acura quality and performance, and will leave that very personal measurement up to you. 2016 ILX will be coming to a dealership near you in February. Drive it!


Parks McCants    February 11, 2015 - 7:01PM

In reply to by John Cross (not verified)

Welcome John Cross. Thanks for the thumbs up, much appreciated. I find that these days on the WWW, most long winded reviews end up as lining on the bottom of the birdcage. Great car, fun to drive and reasonably priced. Honda and Acura are on a roll. Take care, thanks for reading.

Tom Thomas (not verified)    March 20, 2015 - 11:31AM

I have been driving a 2016 ILX with premium package for about a month. It has just 400 miles. The ride is very bumpy and cabin is very noisy. The ride is so hard, I get back pain after driving 20 miles. It looks like I need to take it back to the dealership.

Bill Malcolm (not verified)    March 22, 2015 - 8:11PM

According to this review, the new ILX is the bee's knees.

"No other brand in North America can touch ILX for standard added value features and baseline performance."

Hyperbole or what?

"We stand by Acura quality and performance" . Do you indeed? That means you guarantee satisfaction, beyond what the manufacturer offers. Absolute BS.

I'd have to say this is quite the worst review of this wonder car. Me, the person actually shelling out the bucks to buy a new car, found an Audi A3 2.0 AWD is handily better than the TLX with it's godawful 9 speed auto. It drives far better in any way that matters. And that was less than 1/2 hour after subjecting myself to an SH-AWD test drive and its suite of weird electronics that went off for no apparent reason other than poor calibration - lack of development time.

This Honda/Acura fanboyism is starting to make me sick. It's as if they never drive anything else, have hands clapped over ears and eyes, and write utter rubbish based on little knowledge. This thing is a gussied up 2006 Civic with the new DI engine and suspect DCT that almost killed me on my I4 TLX test drive, when it decided to select no gear at all crossing left across traffic.

Even Consumer Reports says this thing is a load of rubbish compared to expectations, but to you people unfamiliar any with other vehicles, why it's the bestest, most wonderfullest, greatest tin can on wheels.

As if.

Parks McCants    March 23, 2015 - 11:35AM

Good morning Bill. Opinion is just that, opinion. The day that a manufacturer builds the "perfect" car for every ass, there will be no place or want for drive reviews. I've driven the Audi, and am absolutely giddy with delight that it pleases you. And I, an Acura fan, do believe that ILX is an exceptional automotive purchase value for the $ spent. We'll be receiving a 2016 ILX A-SPEC this week for week-long drive review. You may read our (LONG TERM) assessment of the car here.

Sam Daton (not verified)    June 9, 2015 - 9:52PM

I'm not as cynical as Bill, but I'd have to agree there's an awful lot of hyperbole here. "ILX is Acura’s second best selling sports sedan"...? Well, that's true if you define that as out of a field of two. But it's well known that the previous ILX was a major sales disappointment. Most reviews were basically, "Meh". One of the big problems was that the 2.4L was essentially a luxed- up Civic Si,

The Si is a fine car. The problem for the ILX was that you'd pay around $7K more than an Si for it, and you couldn't get navigation or limited slip. Granted, the target market didn't care about the latter (although they certainly did the former), but still it was there in the Si and wasn't in the ILX yet you paid a Heck of a lot more. That was the ILX's biggest problem; all models were too expensive for what you got compared to their competition.

Now, the new ILX intrigues me, but it's still pricey. Granted they're not going for the exact same market, but I have to decide whether Honda's legendary reliability is enough to offset the steep premium relative to the Golf or Mazda 3

Parks McCants    June 9, 2015 - 11:54PM

In reply to by Sam Daton (not verified)

Welcome Sam. Strap yourself into an ILX A-SPEC and drive it! What can I tell you. I bring to the column a long-past background in automotive service and sales. I call it the way I see it. While ILX is not for everyone, what car is? Why are you comparing this compact sedan to two performance hatchback models? Not the same animal. Thanks for dropping in. Best of luck on your purchase. ILX is not Civic Si...