By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 8.9
Acura is hitting the reset button with the 2016 Acura ILX. The first iteration of the compact luxury sedan stumbled out of the gate – while it was a good looking sedan, the driving experience was far too similar to its corporate cousin, the Honda Civic. So Acura went back to the drawing board, adding a new drivetrain, updating the exterior and interior styling, offering new technology, and making the car quieter on the road. The result is overwhelmingly positive: The 2016 Acura ILX is a substantially improved car, one that breaks the tie it had to the Honda Civic, and one that deserves consideration against competitors, not just the Buick Verano, but Mercedes-Benz CLA250 and Audi A3 as well.
The new Acura ILX makes a good case for itself among young up-and-comers looking for high-end features in a premium brand, but who can't quite make the swing to a larger car, or even one of the Acura's European competitors.
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The 2016 Acura ILX comes with a slew of upgrades compared to last year. All models get a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder and 8-speed automatic transmission. The chassis is 12-percent stiffer, the steering is sharper, there are more high-tech driver aids, and the nose and tail get refreshed, including Acura's Jewel-Eye headlights.
The powertrain in the new Acura ILX combines last year's best engine with the 8-speed automatic we've already enjoyed in the new Acura TLX. The most remarkable...
... thing about the new transmission's operation is how unremarkable it really is. Put it in Drive and go about your business, and you'll never notice it, and when in Sport – especially when you're shifting for yourself using the steering wheel-mounted paddles – the shifts are crisp and quick, but never jarring. The ILX sedan is just as quick as last year's sportiest model, and the improved steering and suspension make the ILX surprisingly fun on a mountain road, and equally comfortable just cruising around town. The new ILX is also notably quieter than last year's car. It's no Rolls-Royce, but it's a big improvement, and a quick back-to-back comparison showed just how noisy the old car was.
8-SPEED AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION
Dual-clutch automatic transmissions – which automate the function of a manual transmission for quicker shifting – are offered from several manufacturers, but the Acura version has a twist: There's an old-school torque converter also, providing a torque boost and smoother operation overall.
TETHERED NAVIGATION APP
For midgrade ILX models without the full navigation suite, Acura offers a smartphone-based solution. Incorporating an app ($60) and a special HDMI adapter cable ($99), iPhone owners can use their phone and data plan for navigation, rather than upgrade to a higher trim level.
The best improvement Acura made to the new ILX interior is the gift of silence. There's far less road and wind noise, and the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder's song is satisfyingly sporty, and heard at just the right time. Otherwise, it's fairly standard issue for this class of sedan. There's good use of materials, not too much hard plastic, comfortable seats in front and rear, and intuitive controls. Well, mostly – some griped that the 2-tier screen system could use another pass through the ergonomics department, but others use it just fine. A-Spec model seats get unique fabric and gray contrast stitching.
The ILX was already visually distinctive from the Honda Civic sedan, but Acura's tweaks to the 2016 ILX bring it in line with the current Acura aesthetic. First are the Jewel Eye headlights – the multi-lensed LEDs now found on all Acura vehicles – however these have a separate bar of LED running lights, and it looks pretty good. The new headlights flank a redesigned grille, and it's all above a reshaped bumper. Out back are new LED-accented taillights and a reshaped bumper. All models get new wheels, with A-Spec models getting the first 18-inch wheels fitted to the ILX.
In addition to the 2.4-liter engine and 8-speed automatic transmission, all new ILX sedans come packed with premium features. The 2016 Acura ILX comes standard with things like a rearview camera with multiple views, automatic headlights, dual-zone GPS-linked climate control, passive entry with push-button start, and an 8-way power driver's seat. Both front seats are heated, and keeping things quiet are noise-abating wheels and active noise cancellation. The ILX also comes standard with Siri Eyes Free, which allows access to the iPhone's digital assistant with the push of a button on the steering wheel.
Acura is breaking with tradition on the new ILX, offering its advanced AcuraWatch safety system suite as a standalone package on base and Premium models, rather than making it only available on the most expensive model. Otherwise, Premium models add leather seats, blind-spot warning with a cross-traffic monitor, the iPhone navigation connectivity mentioned earlier, and an audio upgrade. The top-line Technology Plus models get AcuraWatch standard, as well as an even better audio system and built-in navigation. An A-Spec package adds 18-inch wheels and sporty trim inside and out.
All 2016 Acura ILX models get the same engine this year: a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The 8-speed is a dual-clutch setup, meaning it's more like a computer-operated manual transmission than a traditional automatic. But Acura also uses a torque converter in the system for better power delivery and a more familiar feel. Technobabble aside, it's smooth and quick, especially when you use the steering wheel-mounted paddles to shift for yourself. The high-tech engine uses advanced fuel injection to deliver lots of power and good fuel economy. About the only downside is that it requires premium fuel, but with 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, at least you won't use a lot of it.
201 horsepower @ 6,800 rpm
180 lb-ft of torque @ 3,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/36 mpg
The base price on the 2016 Acura ILX is a little less than $29,000 when you include the $920 destination charge, about $850 more than last year. The Premium Package starts at a little more than $30,100, and the Technology Plus model is just under $34,000. The AcuraWatch Plus package adds about $1,300, while the A-Spec package adds about $2,000 to the price of a Premium or Technology Plus model. While the ILX is priced higher than the Buick Verano, it's better equipped than the Buick sedan, and it's also thousands less than the base model Audi A3 or Mercedes-Benz CLA250, especially when you start adding options. Be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new ILX. Projected resale value for the ILX is better than the Buick, but lags behind the Mercedes-Benz and Audi competition.