The moment I turned the key on Acura’s ILX 2.4 Premium compact, I was surprised at the muscular exhaust rumble because I was expecting a miniature luxury car, not a ready-for-action sports sedan. I smiled.
By TOM STRONGMAN
The stubby gear lever for the six-speed manual gearbox, topped by a small but purposeful aluminum knob, was another tip off that the ILX was going to be different than I expected.
I shouldn’t have been surprised, because the original TSX was just such a car: fun, reasonably priced and relatively fuel-efficient. The current TSX is now grown up and that leaves room for the ILX to slot in beneath it. The gas-electric hybrid is Acura’s first.
Acura says the ILX is targeted at Gen X and Gen Y buyers that want to move into the luxury ranks. Acura says competitors include the Audi A3, Buick Verano and the Lexus CT200h hybrid.
The base ILX, with a 150-horsepower, 2.0-liter engine and a five-speed automatic transmission, starts at $25,900. The Premium model is $29,200 and the Technology package is $31,400. The Technology package has an impressive ELS surround-sound stereo, high-intensity headlights and a navigation system.
The performance-oriented 2.4-liter Premium has a 201-horsepower engine with a six-speed manual and it starts at $29,200. Prices for the hybrid, rated at 38 miles per gallon on the highway, range from $28,900 to $34,400.
The ILX is dimensionally similar to the Honda Civic sedan, and the 2.4-liter engine and manual transmission are like the ones in the Civic Si. While the 2.4-liter engine is not overly fast, the six-speed manual gearbox with tightly spaced ratios is a perfect dance partner for twisty roads. The clutch is light, and the stubby gear lever seems to slide from one gear to another intuitively. The combination is fun even on short jaunts, and making seamlessly smooth shifts quickly became my entertainment.
Pushed hard, this engine delivers nicely, and the suspension is tight enough to provide agile handling without a punishing ride, but the ILX is far from a hard-riding, no-compromise compact. The electric power steering is nicely weighted and responsive.
The cabin of the ILX is pretty much standard fare for Acura. The instrument panel curves into a center stack dominated by Acura’s media interface knob and manual controls for the dual-zone climate control. A small screen in the center of the dash is used for the back-up camera and audio displays. The Technology Package includes a navigation system with real-time traffic, real-time weather and voice recognition.
Features such as Pandora internet radio and SMS text messaging work in conjunction with the owner’s smartphone.
The Premium’s heated front seats have good lumbar support and a wide range of adjustability. Rear-seat legroom is a bit tight.
Standard safety equipment includes front, side and side-curtain airbags. Anti-lock brakes, traction control and vehicle stability control are standard, as are electronic brake force distribution, brake assist and hill-start assist.
The base price of the ILX Premium is $29,200. Destination charges brought the sticker price to $30,095.
Four years or 50,000 miles with a six-year, 70,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.