Acura ILX


Debut: 2012
Maker: Honda
Predecessor: No



 Published on 9 Jun 2012 All rights reserved. 

Strictly speaking this is not the first time Acura expand to compact car segment. As early as the 1980s and 1990s it sold a good number of Integra in the North America. However, as far as a dedicated product is concerned, i.e. not a rebadged Honda, the new ILX is its first C-segment car. Acura's marketing said the ILX targets at Generation Y – successful 20 and 30-somethings moving into the luxury car ranks. That means the same crowd as BMW 1-Series, Audi A3, Mercedes A-class, Volvo S40 / V40 and Lexus CT200h. Considering its less premium image and ingredient, I would say Buick Verano, Volkswagen Golf and Jetta are more likely to be its direct competitors.

An annual volume projection of 40,000 units means the car cannot afford a dedicated platform, so it utilizes the underpinnings of Honda Civic sedan and package it with all-new exterior and interior. The exterior restyle is quite successful considering its limitations. It looks not unlike an Infiniti G35, albeit in a smaller package. A longer bonnet, extended front overhang and a crease line rises over the rear fender give it a false impression of rear-wheel drive, which is what it needs to appear classy. Less remarkable is the detailed design at the nose and tail, which doesn't look as high-quality or tasteful as its European counterparts. Therefore the pursuit of premium image is only half accomplished.


Inside, the story is more or less the same. While the dashboard's twin-cowl layout, conventional gauges and materials are all an improvement from the Civic, it still looks cheap and outdated for a premium car. There aren't many high-end equipment on offer, just the usual Pandora internet radio, Bluetooth connectivity, voice-control infotainment system and rearview camera. Only the optional active noise cancellation system is worth mentioning. Cabin space is no better than Civic's, as the 2670 mm wheelbase is carried over intact. It offers just enough room for four 6-footers to travel comfortably.

The ILX offers 3 levels of powertrains. By far the biggest selling is the 2.0-liter SOHC 16V engine mated with 5-speed automatic. The former is the long-stroke version of Civic's 1.8-liter unit. It produces 150 horsepower and a peaky 140 pound-foot of torque, just enough to haul the heavier car. The 5-speed auto sounds outdated, fortunately its control is well tuned thus gearshift usually takes place at the right moment. Another powertrain combo is the Civic Hybrid's IMA system and CVT transmission. It consists of a fuel-sipping 1.5-liter engine and a small electric motor to generate a system output of 111 hp and 123 lbft. Predictably, the car is very slow, taking more than 10 seconds to go from 0-60 mph. The range-topping powertrain is also by far the most desirable to us: 201 hp 2.4-liter DOHC 16V and 6-speed manual gearbox. Yes, it comes from the sporty Civic Si and the larger Acura TSX. Plenty of power and slick gearshift make it the most enjoyable to exploit performance. The downside? It's an old-school rev-happy engine with little consideration for fuel economy. EPA figures of 22 / 31 mpg rest at the lower end of the segment. For comparison, a larger yet more powerful BMW 328i returns 24 / 36 mpg.


To qualify for an entry-level premium car, the ILX should have improved ride and handling over its Civic roots. It does. By retuning the strut and multi-link suspensions and fitting Amplitude Reactive Dampers (a kind of 2-stage mechanical adaptive dampers), the ride is more composed over undulations and body roll is better resisted in hard cornering. NVH is reduced by using more high-strength steel in the chassis to lift torsional rigidity (up 18% front and 11% rear). Extra insulation and laminated glass also contribute to a quieter cabin, if not completely shut away tire noise. The steering gets a slightly quicker ratio and a more rigid mounting to sharpen response. It is definitely better than the steering on Civic, but its electrical assistance is still overboosted for the like of keen drivers, and the feel is so-so. Overall, the ILX is better to drive and travel than its platform donor, but it is unlikely to worry the class best.

Considering its limited development budget, the ILX is not a bad effort. It is the company strategy that disappoints. After a quarter of a century Honda has yet to promote its Acura brand to the same premium status as BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Lexus. Its exposure is still limited to the North America, and its roots are further decoupled from Japan. This mean the ILX can only be a small-scale project and it has no hope to match the high-volume 1-Series, A3, A-class etc. on resources and the eventual outcome.

The low volume also results in unfavourable cost basis. The ILX is only a thousand dollars or so cheaper than a comparably equipped TSX, which is roomier and nicer looking in my eyes. That is perhaps its biggest problem.
Verdict:
 Published on 11 Feb 2015 All rights reserved. 
ILX facelift 2015


The Acura ILX has always been suffering from identity crisis. It is supposed to be a junior luxury car, but everybody knows it is built on the component set of Honda Civic. Before the birth of Mercedes CLA and Audi A3 sedan it might be able to shift reasonable amount in the USA market. After that, it is hopeless. A mid-life facelift this year attempts to reignite that hope.

The 2015 ILX has undergone some surgeries to improve NVH suppression. These include thicker side glass, a stiffer front subframe, reworked suspension bushings, more sound deadening materials and the fitment of Active Noise Cancellation system. Its chassis rigidity has been improved by 12 percent. Outside, the styling is refreshed with new grille design, bumper and slim LED headlamps. No, it’s still no CLA-sexy or A3-graceful, but what else would you expect for an Acura?

The biggest news is the powertrain. Because sales projection gets pessimistic, the powertrain choices are simplified to one. The 2.0-liter and Hybrid models are gone, leaving the 2.4-liter. Yet this 2.4-liter is a new engine. Chief differences include the use of direct injection and a different i-VTEC system, which consists of intake variable cam phasing and intake cam-switching VTEC mechanism. Besides, it gets a 2-stage variable intake manifold to optimize torque output across a wider band. (Note: this engine is derived the same displacement unit serving Accord, but it gains the variable intake manifold and has compression ratio lifted from 11.1:1 to 11.6:1, which requires to drink premium fuel) Maximum power remains unchanged at 201 hp, but peak torque is improved from 170 to 180 lbft. It won’t match its turbocharged rivals for low to mid-range torque, of course, but the free-revving Honda VTEC motor guarantees a more enjoyable experience if you intend to rev it hard, because it won’t surrender until 7000 rpm or produce a coarse soundtrack at the upper end.

Another novel change is the new 8-speed dual-clutch transmission, built by Honda itself and uniquely employs a torque converter to smoothen take off. Its operation is smooth and responsive – at least in Sport mode.

The handling is slightly improved by retuned suspension (stiffer rear anti-roll bar), bigger brakes and the aforementioned stiffer front subframe which offers a more rigid mounting for the steering rack. However, the improvement is slim thus it is still not exactly a driver’s car. The ride and acoustic refinement are noticeably improved, but then again no match with a Volkswagen Golf.

The biggest problem remains to be its low-rent interior. Honda said it added more high-quality materials but the outcome is not convincing. Even if it did, I suppose the seriously outdated interior design would not be compatible with classier materials. Ditto the new infotainment system. Like that you can find on TLX and RLX, the system splits functions into 2 LCD screens, which is unintuitive and even confusing to use. The response of its software is also far from perfect. Without a premium interior and modern electronic architecture, the baby Acura is hopeless to steal sales from its German rivals. It seems that its fate is already decided.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power


Max torque


Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
ILX Hybrid
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4550 / 1795 / 1410 mm
2670 mm
Inline-4 + electric motor
1497 cc
SOHC 8 valves, VVT+L
-
Cylinder deactivation
Engine: 90 hp
Motor: 23 hp
Combined: 111 hp
Engine: 97 lbft
Motor: 78 lbft
Combined: 127 lbft
CVT
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
205/55R16
1355 kg
112 mph (est)
10.8 (est)
-
ILX 2.0
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4550 / 1795 / 1410 mm
2670 mm
Inline-4
1997 cc
SOHC 16 valves, VVT
-
-
150 hp


140 lbft


5-speed automatic
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
215/45VR17
1320 kg
129 mph*
8.3*
25.1*
ILX 2.4
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4550 / 1795 / 1410 mm
2670 mm
Inline-4
2354 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
-
-
201 hp


170 lbft


6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
Amplitude reactive dampers
215/45VR17
1350 kg
143 mph (est)
6.9* / 6.4**
19.2* / 16.9**




Performance tested by: *C&D, **MT





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
ILX 2.4
2015
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4620 / 1794 / 1412 mm
2670 mm
Inline-4
2354 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT, VVL
VIM
DI
201 hp
180 lbft
8-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: multi-link
Amplitude reactive dampers
225/40R18
1421 kg
140 mph (est)
6.6*
17.2*


















































Performance tested by: *C&D





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