Acura intends for its new 2013 ILX to be the entry point for potential (young) buyers who want to drive a premium brand without paying a premium price. The compact sedan comes with three power plant choices; our tester was the 201-horsepower 4-cylinder with a six-speed manual transmission.
Appearance: Even though the ILX is based on the Honda Civic platform, Acura has taken pains to give the car its own personality. The design is more sophisticated than the bulbous Civic, with a shorter rear deck lid, longer hood and more textured sheet metal. It definitely looks like an Acura.
Performance: Both the 2.4-liter engine and gearbox are found in parent Honda's Civic Si. There is also a 2.0-liter engine with a 5-speed automatic and a hybrid model. We've driven the Civic Si with its spirited (and noisy) 2.4-liter engine and you get much the same performance with the ILX. The engine likes to rev and responds well when you do so. The gearbox has short throws and shifts smoothly and precisely — just as we found in the Si. The high-revving engine likes precise downshifts. Lyra found the clutch to be a bit too much on the light side. The ILX has a sportier exhaust note than in the Civic Si. The steering is light but responsive and contributes to making the car a fun experience. Torque steer is noticeable only under hard driving. The two-stage shock absorbers dampen regular bumps well, and make cornering a joy.
Interior: The fit and finish are first-rate, even if the design follows the Acura model that seems to go for a techie feel rather than a luxury one in its colors and materials. The front buckets are comfortable if a bit firm and well-bolstered. Peter found the headroom cramped and his forward visibility slightly compromised, especially with our tester's sunroof and the car's already sharply angled windshield. The room for the rear passengers is passable — not surprising for a small sedan. We both found the clutch pedal too far to the right in an already tight footwell, especially if you have big feet. You get 12.3 cubic feet of cargo space, plenty for a grocery run or a weekend trip. As you would expect of a car geared toward younger buyers, the ILX comes with a fair amount of standard goodies, such as push-button ignition (we like Acura's red start button), USB and iPod integration, and GPS-linked temperature control system. If you have a compatible phone, you can integrate SMS text message functions and have the message read to you, then respond via voice command with short, prepared texts.
Our 3 favorites
Design: The ILX is a sharp little sedan.
Engine: I like the racy 2.4-liter engine.
Choice: Acura doesn't ignore the driving enthusiast.
Flit like a butterfly: Light and nimble on the road.
Keyless engine start: DO press the red button.
SMS texting: ILX will read the message aloud, and you can reply with prepared messages: talk to you later, I'm driving; I'm on my way; I'm running late; okay; yes; and no.
The bottom line: If you covet the Acura badge, then the ILX deserves a look. But we can't imagine the other engines/drivetrain combinations providing the driving fun or engagement of our manual transmission tester.