Road Test

ROAD TEST: 2016 Acura ILX steps up its game

Acura plays the value card offering more for less than its competitors

2016 Acura ILX

Acura has released a mid-cycle makeover of its compact ILX in the face of fresh competition from Audi and Mercedes-Benz in the entry-luxury sedan segment.

The update has resulted in a more luxurious and powerful ILX priced several thousand dollars below the second generation A3 and CLA introduced this year. Acura is playing the value card by offering more for less – the fully loaded top trim level 2016 Acura ILX comes with a $34,980 price tag – about where the others start. 

Well aware that this segment is sought out by tech-savvy young buyers as well as more seasoned individuals well aware of what is on the market, Acura has further distanced the ILX from its Civic cousin with a list of new technologies and more upscale interior.

Less-aggressive styling

The new styling, especially up front, is more appealing to my eyes. The new grille is less aggressive than the shark-like proboscis that has identified the Acura line, including the outgoing ILX.

The front end also sports a set of LED headlights which are brilliant – literally and figuratively. Arrange your test drive at night if possible.

Critics of the interior of the outgoing ILX found too many hard surfaces whether plastic or metal – too Civic-like. They will be pleasantly surprised by this one with soft touch surfaces, contrasting shades and finishes and new materials throughout.

Vast array of information

The instrument panel features a pair of screens in the centre stack, displaying a vast array of information. Among the standard and luxury-level features of note: Siri Eyes Free navigation through an iPhone and AcuraLink which works with both Apple and Android phones.

A rear-view camera is standard equipment but strangely, heated seats are not. A heated steering wheel is not even available. Also missing is the neat camera in the passenger side mirror system that's available in Hondas to monitor the blind spot on that side. Apparently Honda has kept that feature as a brand exclusive.

Entry is effortless and the front seats are broad and supportive. There is reasonable space in the rear seat, more than most in this class but headroom suffers somewhat because of the sloping roofline. The trunk is deep and flat with a wide opening.

My A-Spec test vehicle had some neat stitching, suede seat surfaces and a black headliner.

Latest safety features standard

Honda and Acura have made it a point to offer the latest and in some cases the most standard safety features in their respective classes.

The 2016 ILX comes with one of the more effective and less intrusive adaptive cruise control systems on the market.

It also has AcuraWatch. A camera in front of the rear view mirror, combined with input from a radar system, reads lane markings and works with the steering system to keep the vehicle within the lane. It also detects objects to the front of the vehicle, warning the driver if a collision appears imminent, and applies the brakes should the driver fail to do so.

The aptly named Road Departure Mitigation System combines the input from the camera and radar to keep the car on the road should the driver fall asleep or otherwise lose awareness

Silky new engine

The new ILX also gets a new engine. It has the same 2.4 litres of displacement and the same 201-horsepower rating as the one available previously, but it features a new block, direct injection and a torque curve that's altered to peak earlier.

This is a Honda engine so it still loves its revs. Silky smooth and quiet at all times, it comes to life as the tach needle climbs. The end result is reasonable performance with good power, although it is far from class-leading in this respect.

The new eight-speed dual clutch automatic transmission has a torque converter to smooth out the rough patches often associated with dual shaft transmissions.

The combination offers excellent fuel economy. I averaged less than 8 L/100 km  over a week of mixed city/highway driving and it dipped into the six range on a couple of flat highway stretches.

Sporty demeanor

The engine’s willingness to rev is well suited to a suspension tuned for back road running. There is an obviously sporty demeanor if you chose to look for it.

But otherwise the ILX displays excellent road manners with a smooth and quiet ride, aided by additional chassis strength, thicker glass and upgraded anti roll bars and bushings compared to the outgoing model.

The development team did an excellent job of finding the balance between ride and handling.

The 2016 Acura ILX adds some style, technology and value to a list of assets that already includes reliability, resale value and safety.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Model: 2016 Acura ILX A-Spec

Price: $29,490 base; $34,980 A-Spec

Engine: 2.4-litre DOHC four-cylinder, 201horsepower, 180 lb-ft  of torque

Transmission: Eight-speed dual clutch automatic

Fuel Consumption (city/highway): 9.3 / 6.6 L/100 km

Length: 4,620 mm

Width: 1,794 mm

Wheelbase: 2,670 mm

Mass: 1,424 kg

Competitors:  Audi A3, Buick Verano, Cadillac ATS, Lexus CT200h, Mercedes-Benz CLA

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