Acura ILX 2.4: Review by Tom Annino
Odometer (Legend): 526,959
Odometer (ILX): 54,148
This week, it’s been my pleasure to spend some time with a fellow Acura enthusiast and good friend of mine who’s visiting from Branford, Connecticut. Tom came to the Phoenix area for some training with his employer. I let him have some seat-time in the 2013 Acura ILX to find out his feedback on the car that I’ve been driving since June 2012.
Tom is a long-time Acura owner, having owned this 1992 Legend 5-speed coupe in the past.
He currently drives a 2006 TL 6-speed.
Below is his write-up.
My first extended drive in an ILX actually came as a completely unplanned event. I had some doubts about how much I would actually like driving the ILX at first, but those were quickly silenced after the first 100 feet or so of driving.
I should have never let myself discriminate against the newest entry level vehicle Acura offered so quickly without good reason to do so, what I got as a result was a “slap in the face” of sorts from the car itself for being so close minded and judgmental towards the newest “baby Acura.”
The ILX delivers on the one single most important quality that is shared by all Acuras: “as soon as you step foot in one and depart on your way (regardless if you have never driven the car before or you have driven the same car for over a decade) you instantly become right at home and totally one with the vehicle. Unlike other cars, you do not just get into an Acura and operate it like you would any other mechanical device (like your lawn mower for instance); Acuras have always had a strange way of feeling like you wear them as an extension of your own body or your favorite suit. They just feel “right” instantly when you drive them, and it makes for a far more connected driving experience.
Due to the almost instant acclimation into the ILX, I was able to quickly get a good gauge on how well the actual powertrain functioned as a whole as well as its driving dynamics. I have always been a fan of the K- series Honda/ Acura engines. They offer a powerband that pulls well from low rpm until redline and at the same time execute it without the slightest hint of high rpm rasp or harshness that would lead one to believe that you might throw a rod or have the valves jump out of the head if you got too close to redline. Fact: the K-series loves to rev, and the sound it makes doing so is also one of the best engine notes that you can get on the market from any 4-cyl manufacturer.
The icing on the cake is the addition of a slick shifting 6 speed manual gearbox that is buttery smooth and direct just like what one would come to expect from any Honda/Acura product. The gearing is perfectly matched to always keep the motor in the powerband under hard acceleration, and around town in stop and go traffic the clutch is light with great feedback, making it easy to master quickly for even the most novice stick-shift drivers.
Now down to the bread and butter of what the most important feature of a vehicle is for me: the handling. A car can have 2,000 horsepower and accelerate from 0-60 in something that would take about as long as it takes one to hit a preset button on the stereo, but if it can’t take a corner at speed without ending up wrapped around some stationary object on the side of the road then all that power and speed is just pointless. Again, my pre-opinionated mindset was quickly silenced after the first “higher” speed sweeping bend. The steering is not light, but perfectly weighted and offers excellent feedback from the front end. The suspension setup is slightly firm, but never was harsh or jarring over rough surfaces as the current trend of modern cars tends to be heading. In addition, body roll is kept to a minimum, which can be an absolute buzzkill. Finding out a car has a proper suspension that allows for a sporty feel without unneeded harshness, BUT as a result has such bad body roll that it feels like you’re in a canoe after someone in a power boat wakes you to see if you will fall over is one of the worst dampeners on a driving experience one will ever experience. Luckily the ILX gets good marks for keeping body roll to a controlled minimum, in addition the quick steering ratio becomes the cherry on top making low speed cornering and parking maneuvers an enjoyable experience on themselves.
However, no car is without its faults, and while the ILX didn’t have too many blemishes to report, it did still have a few that left me disappointed. The single biggest flaw in the ILX’s overall package is the complete LACK of ability to get a navigation, tech package, or fully equipped trim spec on the 2.4L 6-speed manual version. I mean seriously, who had the bright idea to make a fun and affordable entry level luxury vehicle and not allow the manual transmission buyers to get an optional navigation system. That is borderline automotive discrimination if I say so myself. The reason this was such a big flaw for me was due to the fact that without a tech pack or navigation option on the manual trans ILXs, it went from being a possible next vehicle purchase to just another eliminated vehicle on a long list of possible choices. My current vehicle (a 2006 Acura TL 6-speed with navigation) would only be replaced by a new car if it has the ability to be optioned out with the most powerful engine option, a manual gearbox, and the highest trim level (WITH NAVIGATION) available in all versions of the same vehicle. Sadly, navigation is only available on the auto ILX, which I would never consider purchasing. The only other major issue I found with the ILX was the loudness of the in-cabin exhaust note. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a nice healthy exhaust note from a car, and the ILX offers a great throaty sounding one from its 2.4 liter engine. HOWEVER, in an entry level luxury car I would expect the actual level of noise to be much less than what the ILX actually produces. This makes conversation between front and back seat passengers a bit of a challenge on highway trips due to the slight exhaust drone.
Overall, I really liked what the ILX had to offer and fully enjoyed the driving experience. I’m happy the newest baby Acura proved me wrong and ended up putting a nice smile on my face after a very tiring (and physically draining) morning of hiking a mountain… or 2. After driving back to my hotel to get cleaned up after the nice morning workout, I quickly found out that the drive in the ILX had actually recharged my batteries and I felt surprisingly energized, almost like I had about 3 cups of morning coffee. It’s definitely something I could get used to on a day to day basis; well done Acura, well done.
Thanks, Tom, for sharing your thoughts on the ILX with Drive to Five!
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