Review: 2013 Acura ILX Premium 6MT
Acura has had a tough run during the past decade– from working through a styling identity crisis to peddling an arguably uninspiring lineup of vehicles to dealing with the financial fallout precipitated by the latter. But that hasn’t stopped the company from taking a long, hard look at their performance and making a concerted effort to re-establish the brand, which has come on especially strong the past two years. The most recent example of these efforts can be clearly seen in the all new 2013 Acura ILX Premium.
We can’t help but call up memories of the Civic-derived Acura Integra when thinking about the ILX. In 2002, the exalted Integra was discontinued as Acura tried to switch the brand’s market perception from premium beer to elegant wine. And while models like the TSX attempted to fill the void, the sheer size and weight of that vehicle led to its instant disqualification as an enthusiast favorite.
After having had an opportunity to spend a week with the ILX Premium, we walked away with some really good vibes and the following takeaways…
5 Things to Know
1) There are three flavors of the ILX available including a 150-hp 2.0-liter ILX with 5-speed automatic, an eco-friendly 1.5 liter 111-hp Hybrid, and the ILX Premium (our test model) which features a 201-hp, 2.4-liter with 6-speed manual transmission. All engine variations are naturally aspirated i-VTEC four-bangers.
2) The ILX Premium is essentially a dressed-up Honda Civic Si with a fresh set of digs and a serious makeover. It is manufactured in Greensburg, Indiana in the same assembly plant as the Civic.
3) Acura expects that less than 10% of buyers will opt for the ILX Premium 6MT with the majority of folks picking up the mass-market 150-hp automatic version.
4) The ILX base price of $26,795 is actually $4,610 below the base price of the TSX, which is a notable difference. Our ILX Premium has a total price of $30,095, including the destination charge, and comes “fully loaded”.
5) The ILX 2.4L is set up more for performance than fuel efficiency which leads to an EPA rating of 22 MPG in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.
1) The Acura ILX Premium is downright fun to drive with a powertrain that is absolutely sublime. The gearbox is silky smooth with precise short throws and easy clutch takeup. Peak torque comes on at 4,400 rpms with a redline that tops out at 7,100.
2) The exhaust note is surprisingly throaty and provides a great soundtrack when rowing through the gears. Other sporty features include red instrument illumination, drilled aluminum pedals and a red anodized Start/Stop button.
3) In typical Acura fashion, the car comes extremely well-appointed with niceties such as a tire pressure monitoring system, backup camera, MP3/USB input jack, Bluetooth, power moonroof, heated door mirrors, remote keyless entry, a premium sound system with 7 speakers, XM satellite radio as well as heated front seats.
4) The interior has excellent fit and finish. It’s definitely not on par with the Germans but doesn’t look or feel anything like a Honda Civic. The nicely bolstered sport seats, steering wheel and handbrake are trimmed in quality rawhide with contrasting stitching. The rest of the interior has soft-touch materials and a high-tech, almost futuristic, look with faux brushed aluminum accents.
5) The assisted steering is responsive with a stiffened rack and provides an unexpected amount of feedback. There is still slightly too much overboost but not enough to take completely away from the feel, which is a welcome departure from Honda’s typically muted steering. The chassis is tight and well-tuned. The new “amplitude reactive damper” is an interesting engineering marvel which offers a two-stage shock absorber. Shallow impacts are handled by a softer valved piston while deep-stroke activities like cornering are handed off to a firmer piston.
1) The lack of a Technology Package available for the ILX Premium is a serious letdown. Not having the option of a navigation system is an unnecessary compromise.
2) The 5-inch i-MID multimedia-screen in the center console looks a bit puny by today’s standards.
3) The exterior styling is conservative and bland. It looks nothing like the Civic (which is a good thing) with sculpted sheet metal creating a more accentuated front overhang and trunk area to make it appear more sedan-like. But the effort nonetheless falls short of creating a noteworthy aesthetic appeal.
4) The combination of the tall dashboard, which requires raising up the seat, and the already limited amount of available headroom, makes getting in and out of the car a tad challenging at times.
5) The Bluetooth system offers hands-free calling with address book sync but without capability for automatic voice tagging and speech-to-text recognition. If you have a large social network to keep up with, manually adding voice tags can become a bit tiresome.
Okay, so the ILX Premium is basically a really really nice Honda Civic Si. It doesn’t win any awards in the styling department by playing it a bit too safe, and there is a glaring omission in the available options department with no navigation. But with a curb weight of less than 3,000 pounds, a solid and proven powertrain, agile handling, a wonderful list of standard features and some arguably luxurious interior appointments at a bargain price point of $30k, it finds itself occupying an otherwise rarified niche. It is almost the equivalent of an automotive unicorn. Competitors such as the BMW 323, Audi A3, Lexus IS250 offer vehicles with less standard features, way more weight and price points that shoot north incredibly quickly. And though I wasn’t expecting it to, the 2013 Acura ILX Premium ultimately wormed its way into our hearts.