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FIRST LOOK: 2013 Acura ILX luxury compact

The ILX is designed to act as a gateway, attracting new and younger buyers to the brand

2013 Acura ILX - Rear

PHOENIX, AZ – A new and much-needed gateway vehicle is on the way for the Acura brand. Honda’s upscale division has high hopes for the 2013 ILX, due to go on sale across the land May 25.
 
Acura sales have been lagging recently, partially due to the disastrous earthquake and tsunami last year that wreaked havoc with the supply chain and production facilities around the world.

Acura NSX Concept.jpgEverything is back to normal now and the brand is celebrating its 25th year in Canada with the introduction of two high-volume vehicles and a sneak peek at two more that will bring attention to the brand. The 2013 Acura ILX and RDX come this spring, the exotic NSX sports car in a couple of years and a new flagship big sedan before then.

Acura’s entire lineup will get a fresh look in the next 36 months, according to Jerry Chenkin, vice-president, Honda Canada. “Recently we have been relying on the trucks in the Acura line for volume, with SUVs accounting for 56%of sales last year. Now sedans will be the primary focus,” Chenkin said here, while unveiling the 2013 ILX.

Like the CSX it replaces, the ILX is a kissing cousin of the Honda Civic. But where the CSX and its predecessor, the EL, were low-volume Canadian exclusives, the ILX will also be sold in the much larger American market. Accordingly, the extra resources of Honda’s American arm were available, allowing the development team to further differentiate the ILX from the Civic.

2013 Acura ILX - Front.jpgCivic roots 
The ILX and Civic share the same global small car platform, engines, transmissions, suspensions, steering and brakes, but the ILX gets significant visual separation inside and out and many of the mechanical and technical attributes have been heavily massaged as well.

The ILX will be available in five trim levels: 2.0L, 2.0L Premium, 2.4 MT, Tech and Hybrid. 

The base and Premium models will come with a 150-horsepower four-cylinder engine and five-speed automatic transmission. The 2.4 MT and Tech will have a 201-horsepower 2.4-litre four form the Civic Si and a six-speed manual; no automatic will be available.  

Acura’s first Hybrid will use the same 1.5-litre gasoline engine, 20-horsepower electric motor and CVT automatic transmission as the Honda, but will have lithium-ion instead of nickel-metal hydride batteries. 

Pricing for the ILX starts at $27,790 for the 2.0 and increases progressively with trim and equipment levels, as follows: ILX 2.0 Premium, $29,990; ILX 2.4 Dynamic, $29,990; ILX 2.0 Tech, $32,290; and ILX Hybrid, $34,990.

Beyond the Civic
The exterior appearance includes Acura’s pronounced proboscis with a big shiny bar across the grill. The rear-end is decidedly more attractive to these eyes with a fresh, contemporary look. Sixteen and 17-inch alloy wheels are used.

But it is inside where the ILX makes the greatest departure from the Civic. Instead of the Honda’s two-tier instrument panel the ILX uses a more conventional layout. Instruments consist of a pair of analog gauges flanking an adjustable digital readout. 

The centre stack is topped by a large colour screen that shows the rear view when reversing, on all models, and navigation features on those so-equipped. More legible and larger than most it, is situated nice and high so your eyes are not far from the job at hand.

Upper instrument panel and door surfaces are covered in soft-touch materials and there is a plentiful supply of dark, high-gloss finish elsewhere. The front seats are supportive and comfy while the rear, in what appears to be a cost-saving move, folds in one piece for added cargo space, rather than the more common 60/40 split.  

Standard equipment includes: air conditioning, power windows, locks and mirrors, tilt & telescope steering wheel, power sunroof, SMS texting, a USB jack, keyless access with push-button start/stop.

Compared to the Civic, torsional rigidity has been increased by18% at the front and 11% at the rear through the use of high-strength steel. The bumpers and hood are made of aluminum. The MacPherson struts at front have friction-reducing bushings while the multi-link rear suspension benefits from newly-developed pair of “amplitude reactive dampers”.

The steering shaft diameter has been increased as has the ratio for increased rigidity and a more precise feel. Extensive efforts have bene made to reduce NVH including a wide variety of materials and active sound cancellation. I can’t divulge whether any or all of these efforts work because of an embargo on driving impressions. 

Acura invented the entry-luxury segment in Canada with the EL in 1996 and followed it with the CX in 2005. In the interim, competitors have joined the fray and stolen much of Acura’s thunder – and sales. 

The ILX is designed to act as a gateway, attracting new and younger buyers to the brand. The company is looking for ILX sales to be 67% greater than the CSX, making this single model responsible for 20% of Acura sales. A tall order indeed for this Indiana-built product.  
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