2016 Acura ILX Tech Plus Review
By Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman
Acura describes the ILX as a “Gateway” product that allows a customer to enter the world of Acura at a lower price point, in the hopes that more expensive move-up models will be in their future. Perhaps that will prove true, but there is a lot of competition in the “Near Luxury” segment, loosely defined by sticker prices in the low to mid $30,000 range, and cars like the Buick Verano, or Audi A3 might be better choices, among others.
The 2016 ILX is a mid-cycle updated vehicle, with the engine being the biggest upgrade. Gone is the old 2-liter 150-hp base engine with 5-speed automatic transmission, in favor of a direct injected 2.4 liter four cylinder that makes a jaunty 201-hp, and 180 lb-ft of torque at a very usable 3,600 rpm. The engine feels strong and our seat of the pants Zero to 60 times should be a tick or two under 7 seconds.
There is no manual gearbox for the 2016 ILX, which is now mated to a new, very smooth shifting dual clutch 8-speed tranny with torque converter. While in many ways it’s a great improvement over the old 5-speed, in other ways maybe not. There is a definite gain in fuel economy with 25 City and 36 Highway (on Premium fuel). But to achieve that economy, you lose some drivability points.
You see, 8-speed transmissions are designed to upshift quickly to get the car into the highest gear with the lowest rpm, to conserve gas consumption. But the result is that the car is seldom in a rev range and gear for quick acceleration. So it can feel sluggish and balky, when you wish to move out and pass, or fill a hole in traffic. The remedy is to either use the paddle shifters, (which are surprisingly quick shifting) or use the Sport button to make the gear shifts at higher revs, and give up some fuel economy.
The ILX is a pleasant car to drive. Acura says a 12 percent increase in torsional rigidity, updated shocks and springs, and a thicker rear anti-roll bar makes for a firmer ride. We found the suspension actually is a bit firmer than most other cars in this class, which makes the handling feel a bit more athletic than most. The chassis, however does a decent job keeping the ride quality comfortable on good pavement, and you can tip the car into a turn at speed knowing there won’t be too much body lean, and you’ll get good grip from the low profile 17” tires. But there is a significant amount of understeer to contend with, so you’ve got to saw at the steering wheel a bit. Also, if the pavement is broken and rough, the chassis is upset and it will send some shock waves into the cabin. The Audi A-3 will handle this type of road better. The brakes are another area that can stand some improvement. They are too grabby when you first press the pedal, then feels too squishy, and then at mid-point of travel, grabs again.
Acura has made it a point to quiet the noise in the cabin, and they have done a great job of it. It is quiet, with little wind noise. Overall, the quality of the cabin is very good, with nice soft touch materials where they should be. There is ample room for four adults, but taller ones may be a bit cramped for headroom, with the moonroof intruding into the front seat headroom, and a sloping roofline into the rear. Leg room is good for front seats, and depending upon how far they’re pushed back, will determine rear passenger legroom comfort. Truck space is good, and the rear seats fold down, but the opening pass through isn’t full width.
The 6-way, heated leather seats, with suede cloth inserts, were quite comfortable, even without lumbar support. There’s a handsome dash with a 2-gauge pod in front of driver. It’s easy to see and has a nice info screen. Speaking of info screens, this ILX has several. The materials and switches are quite nice, and nothing feels cheap or flimsy.
The center stack has a large Navigation screen sticking out of the top of it and if you’re not using the map, it also shows audio station and other features. And beneath that screen is another one for phone and radio and other setting and controls, which uses a round dial to operate. It’s way too fussy. Acura should have just made a larger touch screen and incorporated all the functions on one unit. And don’t get me started on the multi-function steering wheel. It has more buttons and switches than a Formula 1 race car.
Our car was the Tech Plus trim level, so it had some good tech and safety features included. However, I was disappointed with some of them in practice.
The Lane Departure Warning system, often didn’t work on 2-lane, 55 mph roads. I would purposely cross the centerline and shoulder line, and the car often didn’t sound the alarm. It wasn’t as bad on the highway, but lane departure has to work all the time, not just once in a while. And to be fair, I tested this on the same roads I always travel on and never had any problems with other cars. Also the departure warning comes in the form of a very subtle side to side shake and vibration of the steering wheel, which can feel like running over rough pavement, so that too needs sorting out.
Next to the dash mounted button for the Lane Departure, was the front end Warning Collision button. However, unlike the lane departure button, it had no light on it, so you didn’t know if it was on or not. I had to look in the settings menu to confirm it was switched on, but it was still disconcerting. It should have had a lighted switch. One could turn it off by mistake and not know it. The first time it came on, it braked way too hard for the situation, but at least I knew it was on.
The Radar Cruise Control needs sorting out as well. When you set your following distance, even at a long interval, it would apply the brakes much too hard and abruptly, as the car approached a slower car in the lane. It should be a more gradual slow down. It thrust my body forward almost like a panic stopping maneuver.
The ILX is better looking than most others in the class. It has a sleek profile and low roofline. Those of us of average height (OK, short!) can even wax the roof without a step stool. The horizontal lines just above the rocker panels, and another one on the beltline that sweeps up at the rear, give the ILX depth and character. I also liked the 5 horizontally stacked headlights. This car will stand out in a parking lot.
The ILX starts at 27,900. Oddly, Acura doesn’t break out the option package costs individually. The test car added the Premium Package, the Tech Package, and the Acurawatch Plus Package, which brought the price up to $32,900. With the Destination charge, the bottom line was $33,820.
I liked the car, but as I pointed out, there are many things that need to be sorted before giving it a rousing endorsement. And I’m not sure whether it is worth the extra money over a well optioned Honda Civic. And compared to other cars in the same space, like the Hyundai Sonata, or Chevy Malibu, Buick Verano, and the Audi A3, I think I’d shop elsewhere.
2016 Acura ILX Review
By Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman
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