2013 Acura ILX 2.4 Premium Review By Carey Russ


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2013 Acura ILX


DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2013 Acura ILX 2.4 Premium

Acura hasn't had an entry-level car since the demise of the RSX, offering small crossovers like the RDX instead. And, the late RSX being a coupe, there hasn't been a small Acura sedan since the last Integra before that. But time demands change, and sometimes that change is cyclical. Welcome the newest compact Acura, the ILX sedan.

Aimed at young upscale buyers who want a high-value luxury car (marketing-speak for "comfortable, prestigious, has all the amenities, but is actually affordable"), the ILX offers a very Acura take on the wants and needs of today's entry-luxury customer. There are three variations based on drivetrain -- 2.0-liter, 150-horsepower four-cylinder with five-speed automatic transmission that is the core model, 2.4-liter, 201-hp four with a six-speed manual for the performance-oriented, and Acura's first hybrid, with a 1.5-liter gasoline engine plus electric motor for a system maximum of 111 hp and an EPA rating of 38 mpg on the highway.

No, it's not the return of the Integra. Acura has changed more than a bit since then, and the ILX is a more upscale car in intent and appointment than the Integra. Or the RSX, for that matter. Sitting on a 105.1-inch wheelbase, compared to 103.1 for the Integra sedan and 101.2 for the coupe, with an overall length of 179.1 inches, the ILX is noticeably longer than the Integra, and roomier. Ditto the RSX, which shared the last Integra coupe's dimensions. The ILX is more well-equipped, especially with the interior upgrade Premium Package that is optional in the 2.0 and standard in the 2.4, or the nav-and-audio Tech Package available for the 2.0 and Hybrid.

The ILX 2.4 is not the reincarnation of the Integra GS-R. See above -- luxury comfort and electronic technology that were either yet to be developed or province of the high end of the luxury market when the Integra was current are expected in any upscale vehicle today, and those items add weight. Which dulls a car's reflexes, if only a bit. Such are the laws of physics. The Integra GS-R was a narrowly-focused performance car, and the Type R much more so. The ILX 2.4 is meant to appeal to a broader audience -- but since it comes only with the six-speed stick, it's assumed that the 2.4 buyer wants performance to go with all the comforts.

The ILX buyer will not be disappointed. But he or she will have to work a bit for it. The engine's maximum 201 horsepower is developed at 7000 rpm, just 100 shy of the redline and fuel cutoff. Torque peaks at 170 lb-ft at 4400 rpm, so there is actual low- and mid-range torque, something never seen in a GS-R or Type R. Performance is adequate when short-shifted, but keep it above 5500 rpm and, yes! someone at Acura does indeed remember the glory days of VTEC. Once I discovered that, my time in the ILX 2.4 became most pleasant. Add a suspension tuned for a proper mix of sporty performance and comfort in the finest Grand Touring tradition and little appetite for fuel in normal driving -- I saw nearly 40 mpg on one highway stint -- and the 2013 Acura ILX 2.4 is a worthy small performance-luxury car.

APPEARANCE: The Acura ILX 2.4 is the diametric opposite of an Integra Type R with a luridly huge rear wing. Rather than emulating a race car, it looks unassumingly like its lower-spec brethren. The exhaust is hidden behind the rear bumper, even! Stealth is good, and this car has it. Details: The newest Acura design language is here, with clean, simple lines. The toned-down pentagonal grille with wide horizontal crossbar and twin triangular lower intakes define the front, a bit of sculpting and a suggestion of rear fenders sharpen the sides, and a short, high trunk and traditional Acura taillights distinguish the rear. The greenhouse is pure sedan, with no attempt to play fastback coupe. All in all, it's pleasantly understated and mature in style.

COMFORT: Luxury, in a contemporary automotive sense, means not merely interior quiet and comfort and first-class build quality, but also convenience. And the expected convenience level is ever-increasing -- things like power windows, air conditioning, and keyless entry began as luxury appointment long ago and are now expected in inexpensive subcompacts. So the ILX builds on a well-designed and precisely-constructed interior with top-quality materials. An acoustic glass windshield, thick side glass, and copious amounts of soundproofing in the right places make for low interior noise levels. The 2.4's Premium trim means heated, leather-appointed front seats, driver's power-adjustable, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 360-watt audio system with AM, FM, and Sirius/XM radio, plus CD and USB/minijack interfaces and a rearview camera with multiple selectable angles of view. All models have a Pandora® internet radio interface (via your Bluetooth® phone and data program). Seat comfort is very good in front and surprising in the rear -- that formal roofline means headroom, with good space for two people. All of the expected amenities are there, and then some, and the ILX fits its niche as the entry Acura very well.

SAFETY: Standard passive safety equipment in the ILX includes its Advanced Compatibility Engineering designed unibody structure, which protects passengers with controlled deformation in a crash, front, front side, and side-curtain airbags, front seats designed for whiplash mitigation, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. Active safety equipment includes four-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution, and Vehicle Stability Assist(VSA) traction and stability control system.

RIDE AND HANDLING: If the ILX is more Grant Touring than supersports, that's a good thing. A rigid unibody structure and good geometry for the fully-independent MacPherson strut/multilink suspension provide a solid basis. But details are important, and Acura pays attention to the details. Amplitude-reactive dampers give minimal damping for small suspension displacements, for a smooth ride on good surfaces, and comfort when driving moderately. With travel over 10mm, damping is much firmer, meaning minimal body motion in high-performance driving and excellent road manners. The system is completely mechanical, with no complex electronics. Motion-adaptive electric power steering means road feel, and speed-sensitive assist so low-speed maneuvers are easy and steering effort is not too light at speed. It also works with the VSA stability-assistance system to help the driver maintain control in tricky situations.

PERFORMANCE: Be gentle with the throttle in the ILX, and you'll wonder what the car is all about. The 2.0-liter capacity does mean that there is actually low-end and midrange torque. Maximum torque, 170 lb-ft, is developed at 4400 rpm, explaining the midrange. But maximum horsepower, a healthy 201, is at 7000 rpm, essentially redline. Keep revs over 5500 and there's more than a little GS-R in the ILX's genetic makeup. Power increases quickly at that point, and the shift linkage is conducive to quick and smooth shifts, as often as needed. Use of the i-VTEC variable valve lift and timing system and VTC cam phasing ensures smooth power with low emissions. A high sixth gear means economical highway driving -- I saw almost 40 mpg at one point, albeit on fairly level ground. Figure low 20s when playing hard, low-to mid 30s on the highway, and around 25 mpg overall.

CONCLUSIONS: Acura has changed with the times, and the ILX is the perfect entry Acura sedan for today.

SPECIFICATIONS
2013 Acura ILX Premium

Base Price			$ 29,200
Price As Tested			$ 30,095
Engine Type			16-valve DOHC aluminum alloy inline
				 4-cylinder with i-VTEC® and VTC„ valve
				 timing and lift control
Engine Size			2.4 liters / 144 cu. in.
Horsepower			201 @ 7000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			170 @ 4400 rpm
Transmission			6-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length		105.1 in. / 179.1 in.
Curb Weight			2978 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		14.8
Fuel Capacity			13.2 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane premium unleaded gasoline
				 recommended
Tires				P215/45 R17 87V Michelin Pilot HX mxm4
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, BA, VSA, TCS standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		22 / 31 / 25
0 to 60 mph				est 6.8  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Destination and handling	$ 895

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