2013 Acura ILX

2013 Acura ILX 2013 Acura ILX
First Drive Review

Battered Acura realizes that if it wants more up-and-comers to climb aboard, it needs to drop a longer ladder. And, possibly, design better-looking cars. Hence, the 2013 ILX, a Civic-based price leader built in Greensburg, Indiana, and hitting showrooms now, starting at about $27,500, or $3000 less than a base TSX. Acura will also sell versions in Canada, ­Mexico, and China.

The three ILX models debuting at launch intend to cover a broad waterfront. Perhaps 80 percent of the hoped-for 40,000-unit annual volume will be a 150-hp 2.0-liter with a five-speed automatic. Clutch-jammers will be enticed by a 201-hp 2.4-liter with a six-speed manual for roughly $30,000; eco wonks will be drawn to the also roughly $30K hybrid, which uses the Civic hybrid’s powertrain but with a jumpier throttle. Its EPA figures are 39 mpg city and 38 highway.

The suspension and floor are Civic hard points.  Acura thought that the Civic’s cab-forward shape was too plebeian, preferring instead a longer hood to match the ILX’s premium aspirations. Stylists working on the rather conservative (for Acura) design used visual sleights such as moving back the A-pillars 7.9 inches but the windshield base only  3.9 inches, necessitating deeply curved glass.

The Civic’s front overhang has been stretched slightly while the rear was chopped, creating somewhat odd proportions when the car is viewed from the side. The interior is compact-car cozy but not tight, and a familiar constellation of  buttons adorns the console—the audio and climate controls are from the TL.

The 2.0-liter is bigger than the Civic’s engine and the 2.4 is the same as the Si’s, but the ILX’s approximate 3000-pound curb weight, augmented by extra sound insulation, should split the same, with 60 percent up front. The Civic’s strut/multilink chassis is improved, with reduced suspension friction, a quicker steering ratio in a stiffened rack, and Honda’s new “amplitude reactive damper,” which is a two-stage shock absorber with two concentric pistons. The more softly valved piston cushions the shallow-stroke impacts of bumps while the firmer one is activated only by deep-stroke events such as cornering.

The ILX achieves its targets by being quieter and feeling more substantial, especially with its deluxe Acura interior, though some road noise and “be-blunk!” from the all-season tires smacking pavement irregularities are audible. The electric-assist steering is tuned typically Honda light but doesn’t feel mortally numb, and it places the nose on the line you desire while the tires and suspension hold it there firmly. It’s the steering that all Civics should have.

The five-speed automatic seems outdated when a $17K  Kia Forte has a six-speed, but it works compatibly if not thrillingly. Those still mourning the loss of the original TSX—or indeed, the Integra—will want the 2.4-liter. With the extra power and the manual, the ILX wakes up, becoming the frisky sports sedan it aspires to be. Maybe this is a sign that  Acura is also finally stirring.