2013 Acura ILX vs. Entry Level Luxury Competition
There are three different 2013 ILX compact luxury sedans being offered from the very moment they hit dealer lots with three very different powertrains that give this car its own unique persona. Whether you will like your ILX’s personality depends on you and if you pick the hybrid, the ultra-luxurious stealth speed machine known as the ILX 2.4 (i.e. a sleeper Civic Si in designer clothes) or the more mainstream 2.0 liter engine model tested here with the Technology Package.
Yes, a new 2.0 liter 150 horsepower 4-cylinder and a well proven 5-speed automatic lifted more or less from the Civic caused many an auto journalist to groan and moan about this car’s sporting luxury pretenses despite some well-judged gear ratios (and sound deadening) that make the ILX feel far more sprightly and refined than a Civic sedan. Really, though, shouldn’t you expect that from a luxury brand and we promise you that no matter what you have possibly heard from anyone else about the most unassuming model in the ILX line-up—this entry level, high value luxury sedan should not be seen as the second coming of the Cadillac Cimarron. That is if you are old enough to remember that car which GM so poorly based on the Chevy Cavalier.
But even if anyone could have come away from driving the ILX for a day with the feeling that the volume selling ILX model is a watered down version of the Acura sporting ethos, worry not that Acura has dumbed down its inherent brand values to get younger, less wealthy buyers into the fold. Honestly, it can’t break down as much as old Mercedes 190E sedans did when that German brand decided to downsize initially. Ever see any old Mercedes 190E models driving around? Surely not as often as you see old Acura Legends from the 1980’s still cruising the streets looking nearly brand new. This, to our eyes, speaks volumes about Acura quality in the long term.
Exterior Styling, Interior Design and Overall Luxury Feel
Our test ILX that we drove for a week came in our favorite exterior paint hue which Acura calls Red Garnet and it works best we think in conjunction with the sumptuous feeling tan leather interior. Acura also builds the ILX with a black interior but it was very odd how the tan interior feels so open and airy and the black interior color makes everything and everyone in the car seem closer to you.
Perhaps then that interior black leather interior color choice is best left for those few who will choose to buy the 2.4 liter 201 horsepower performance variant. That’s also most likely why that model is only available with the aforementioned black interior (and no in-dash navigation oddly) all replete with sportier red stitching on the leather, sport alloy pedal covers and one of the coolest 6-speed manual shift knobs in creation. When equipped with leather seats, there is very little about the ILX’s interior that screams “entry level model.” That is, unless you buy the very cheapest model which does in fact have cloth seats. We thought that having cloth seats broke a luxury automotive brand rule that was put into effect back when Ricardo Montalban so seductively introduced Chrysler fans to “fine, Corinthian leather” which was in fact an exotic sounding term he made up himself.
But having driven that ILX 2.4, we can easily see how that car would not scream out pure luxury during a business lunch quite as capably as an ILX 2.0 thanks to our tester’s less manic sounding engine, the inclusion of an in-dash navigation system and Acura’s always awe inspiring 10-speaker audio system developed with ELS that also comes with 15 GB of song storage and “Song by Voice” technology which allows you to essentially say to your ILX to rock a little Amy Winehouse and “play track Rehab” after which it will do just that. It’s a scarily effective little technology feature that is fun to use when acclimated to it and “Song By Voice” is also the perfect way to impress friends, business associates or in-laws.
Value for Money, Features and Fuel Economy
When compared to the hybrid and 2.4 liter versions of the 2013 ILX, this is where the Tech model with the 2.0 liter engine really shines—overall value. The most basic 2.0 liter model starts at $25,900 but we recommend you at least spring for the Premium Package which raises the price to $29,200 and adds leather seating surfaces with heated front sport seats, a back-up camera (not that a car this size needs one but it’s nice to have), 17-inch alloy wheels, XM, HID headlamps and an upgraded 360-watt 7-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with subwoofer. That is in addition to the dual zone climate control, Bluetooth, USB/iPod integration, push button start and power moonroof which all come standard with every ILX.
But as we say with every Acura product, it would be simply a waste not to order your ILX with the Tech Package at $31,400 as it adds their idiot proof in-dash navigation system with built-in restaurant Zagat rating guide, real time traffic and weather reports, 15-gigabytes of built-in song storage as well as the aforementioned Acura/ELS 10-speaker surround sound audio system upgrade which is guaranteed to “rock you like a hurricane” in the immortal words of German 1980’s rock group “The Scorpions.
It is always wise when purchasing a new luxury car to opt for optional navigation as more and more it is becoming a required essential for used luxury car buyers so you should get at least some of your initial monetary outlay back come resale time. That is unless, of course, you are one of the last 300 people in this country who still know how to read a map.
Fuel efficiency from the 2.0 liter 150 horsepower/140 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder engine is another differentiating factor working in favor of the ILX when compared to other entry level luxury cars as it has EPA estimates of 28 city/35 highway. And despite giving the velvety smooth engine routine workouts through its five speed gearbox, we managed to average 31.5 miles per gallon over the course of a week. Our only complaint? Acura recommends premium unleaded be used and claims not using may cause damage to the engine.
Safety and the Competition
As is true of every model in the Acura line-up, so goes it with the all-new 2013 Acura ILX which has followed in the footsteps of its bigger siblings by being named a “Top Safety Pick” by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). So if you are looking to downsize into a smaller, more efficient luxury car there is no reason to fear your personal safety will also be put in jeopardy.
As for models that compete with the ILX many say its biggest foe may be the slightly larger TSX sport sedan which is only about $2,000 more when equipped similarly with the Tech Package. The advantage of the TSX is the fact that it comes equipped with a more powerful 2.4 liter 201 horsepower 4-cylinder that, admittedly, is less fuel efficient. Really, we can’t say buying a TSX sedan would be a horrible idea because it’s an excellent luxury sedan at a reasonable price. That, however, cannot be said of many “entry level” luxury cars.
The 2013 BMW 128i coupe not only has two fewer doors than the Acura but when we equipped one identically to the ILX its MSRP came out to something well over $41,000. The base price is $31,200. At Lexus the IS sedan starts at over $35,000 whereas the molasses slow CT200h hybrid is priced starting at $31,850 which is comparable to our test ILX. But yet again once you add features like Bluetooth and navigation the price quickly escalates to a little over $39,000.
For a laugh we also swung by Mercedes only to find the cheapest similarly equipped C-Class would cost over $44,000. Come on Mercedes, $310 dollars for an “MP3 interface package?” Kia owners will recognize this as a USB/iPod integration port that comes free with every model that for the past several years has come standard on every car they sell. Tsk. Tsk.
Driving Impressions of the 2.0 Liter 2013 Acura ILX
Although many gripe about Acura’s continued use of its proven and reliable 5-speed automatic instead of a flashy new 7 or 8-speed automatic gearbox, the ILX’s 2.0 liter engine works smoothly and eagerly with this “ancient” gearbox. No buyer will ever notice the fact that their ILX has a two fewer gears than a Mercedes C-class as the 2.0 liter 4-cylinder imbues this nimble and light on its feet luxury sedan with plenty of get up and go.
The engine won’t light up the front tires when you accelerate away from each stop light but the 2.0 liter engine’s 150 horsepower/140 lb. feet of torque power readings actually feel like they are lower than they should be given how perfectly judged the car’s power to weight ratio feels from behind the wheel. Ride quality is also excellent thanks to amplitude reactive dampers which were introduced on both the 2013 RDX and ILX and afford this sedan a smooth ride with no penalty in regards to Acura’s usually excellent handling ability.
Although parts of the ILX are based on the Civic, this Acura’s steering system is a very impressive improvement over the system used in the less expensive Honda. The wheel offers plenty of driver feedback without any of the unduly artificial heaviness dialed in by so many “sporty” luxury automakers seeking to give the illusion that the driver really knows what the front wheels are doing.
In the ILX, you simply just point the wheel and the car shoots down the intended trajectory much like your favorite “point and shoot” idiot proof camera. So even the most hesitant or inexperienced driver can really enjoy what the ILX is capable of all the while appreciating the impressively quiet interior seemingly devoid of road, tire and wind noise which has in the past sometimes been a problem in Acura models.
Lastly, the new 2.0 liter 4-cylinder is yet another gem in Acura’s engine line-up as it is not only smooth and eager to rev to the meatiest points in the rev range but it also emits a sporty enough burble to remind you that you aren’t in a Lexus or a sealed sarcophagus. We think even luxury cars should make a little bit of noise to help keep the driver feeling involved and on this count the 2013 Acura ILX 2.0 liter succeeds. It may not be a sport sedan in the traditional sense but you can definitely have fun driving it.
Yes, this version of the 2013 Acura ILX may only have a 2.0 liter 150 horsepower engine but it is smooth, eager to rev and thanks to quick work from the standard 5-speed automatic, the car feels plenty quick when accelerating into traffic from a stop. We do think the ILX 2.0 liter’s interior appears more upscale when equipped with the in-dash navigation screen and leather upholstery but there are many ways to specify your new ILX based on your budget.What We Loved About the 2013 Acura ILX
- It proved to any doubters that Honda/Acura build high quality interiors as later shown in the Accord.
- This car is perfect for anyone who wants Acura luxury car features with 24 city/35 highway economy.
- The ILX 2.0 is a lot of car for the money with prices starting at just $25,900 rising to $31,400 loaded.
- The basic ILX 2.0 and the basic ILX hybrid have cloth seats which is, um, nothing but tacky.
- This has nothing to do with the ILX 2.0 but in Arizona a Hybrid tester turned itself on and off in the heat quicker than Lindsay Lohan no doubt does at an Oscar’s after party if there’s open bar.
- We wish Acura could figure out a way to make regular unleaded feasible with ILX motors.
(Note: All vehicles provided by manufacturers for comparison test purposes. Photos provided by Acura.)