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The ILX proves most fit as a hybrid, not as strong a challenger in non-hybrid form

The launch of a hybrid is always an exciting event and the launch of the 2013 Acura ILX is no exception [1][2][3].  In a week of driving I was able to test every variant of the ILX -- the base 2.0L model, the 2.4L manual, and the 1.5L hybrid variant.  I came in with relatively high expectations for the new luxury hybrid.  Which model, if any might appeal to you?  Read on for some first impressions.

I. Acura's Bid at Entry Level Luxury Buyers 

Acura, the luxury division of Honda Motor Comp. (TYO:7267), has created a brand new model with the ILX.  The ILX inherits the legacy of the CSX, a model that sold only to the Canadian market.  The compact sedan is very closely related the Civic, being built on the same platform.  Thus there's some resemblance in the overall body shape, though the styling has been made much more aggressive with swooping lines along the flanks.  

The hybrid variant inherits a bit extra from the Civic platform -- its hybrid internals.  Again, here we see a bit of tweaking, but as they say, the apple never falls too far from the tree.

2013 Acura ILX

Deciding exactly what the ILX is competing with is a bit tough -- tougher yet for the hybrid.  Acura wants to promote the vehicle as a competitor to Audi's (the luxury brand of Volkswagen Group (ETR:VOW3)) A3 or the Volvo’s (owned by Hong Kong's Geely Holdings Group (HKG:0175)) C30/V40.  These are favorable comparison in price, but not in features.

A more favorable (and practical) luxury comparison in terms of price and features is the Buick Verano, an entry-level luxury entrant from General Motors (GM).

2013 Acura ILX side

To conjure up a couple of non-luxury comparisons, the car is about the same size as a Ford Focus or Toyota Motor Comp.'s (TYO:7203base Prius.  However, both of those vehicles have a higher/more swooping roof and the ILX seemed a bit longer body-wise and a bit wider.

Probably the closest competitor to the hybrid model would be Lexus' (Toyota's luxury brand) CT 200h.  But again, the swooping roof and hatchback body style of the CT 200h makes for a decided visual difference from the more traditional styling for the ILX.

2013 Acura ILX in front of cliff

The swooping lines convey a sporty feel, the grill says "luxury", and the more traditional top is less visually offending to my eyes than the swooping roofs of the Prius, Focus, and CT 200h.  I'm relatively tall (~6 ft. 3 in.) but I did not have any trouble with the lower roof.  Honestly, having test driven the Prius and having a family member that owns a 2010 Prius, I can say that the Prius has a ridiculously high ceiling.

Perhaps the ILX will suffer aerodynamics-wise from its lower, less bulbous/tear-drop shaped design.  But it does look better to me.

Rear Seat

Inside you have the expected bare necessities of entry-level luxury, namely lots of leather.  The trim is largely hard molded plastic though, betraying the "entry" in entry-level luxury.  Overall the interior is modest, but does not wow, styling wise.  
I did appreciate the relatively large amount of legroom in the rear seat.  Sitting in the Prius (if you're tall like me) can be a painful experience.  There's definitely a bit more legroom in the Acura ILX, but it's kind of like moving up from economy class to business class -- there's a little extra leg room, but you're not exactly stretching out.

2013 Acura ILX looking at lake

The vehicle's standard features include keyless access, power moonroof, push-button start, and 16-inch aluminum wheels.  The car also carries Acura's MyFord Touch/SYNC challenger, Handsfreelink, which integrates Bluetooth handset syncing, SMS text messaging support, USB MP3 player support, and Pandora.

A premium package adds heated leather seats, fog lights, HID headlights, and larger 17-inch aluminum wheels into the mix.  It also adds a multiview rear camera.  This basically makes the plain of view behind the car much wider.  

As I said with the new RDX (which also features multiview), this is a terrific feature.  I still feel that the kind of narrow backup cameras found in Fords and many other vendors’ models create some safety hazards, even as they prevent other hazards.  Specifically, narrow-range cameras help to see things immediately behind and underneath the vehicle, but often distract/prevent the driver from looking to the sides to see oncoming people, pets, etc.  Multiview can pick of many of these peripheral objects and is hence much safer.

The premium package (which is not directly available in the hybrid variant) is finished off with a 360-watt sound system.

A technology package upgrades the center stack interface adding a HDD-based navigation system, Homelink remote control, 365-watt ELS surround sound audio, 15 GB of music storage, and Acuralink Traffic & Weather.  The technology package for the hybrid is more expensive adds all the premium package features except for the larger wheels.

2013 Acura ILX looking at lake 3/4s

The technology package is available on the base model and the hybrid, but not for the manual (2.4L).  Overall the features are decent, but there's some definite missing items such as rain-sensing wipers, Active Park Assist (APS)Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), dimming mirrors, adaptive cruise control.

The voice control on HandsFreeLink is actually surprisingly good, however, I do take issue with the fact that the system (unlike MyFord Touch) locks you out of inputting navigations while rolling.  This could easily be done with a voice command (as in MyFord Touch), but Acura just nixes it.  As a result the navigation is a lot less useful than Ford's as spur-of-the-moment destinations require you to pull over and stop somewhere and then input your new destination.

Also the system overall lacks the visual polish and cohesive menu structure of MyFord Touch.  I still feel Ford has the best infotainment system out there.  But the HandsFreeLink is a passable infotainment entry and gets the job done, adding value to the vehicle. 

2013 Acura ILX looking at lake 3/4s bit more turn

Oh, of course, the price.  Pricing starts at $25,900 USD for the inline-4 cylinder 2.0L base model and jumps up to $29,200 USD for the base model with the premium package.  For the latter price you can get the 2.4L inline-4 manual variant, which also comes with the premium package.  The hybrid starts at $28,900 USD.

A fully equipped 2.0L with the tech package will run an additional $2,200 USD for a total of $31,400 USD, while the fully equipped hybrid minus the larger wheels will cost an extra $5,500 USD, for a total of $34,300 USD.  Note, again the manual comes up a bit short in features, not having access to the tech package.

II. Scoping the Competition

So we mentioned the price, now how does that stack up to the competitors mentioned.  Let's look:

2013 Acura ILX

The 2013 Acura ILX does not stack up very favorable to the 2012 Buick Verano on paper.  Its only advantage is mpg, but will 150hp be enough?  Read on.  

As for the ILX hybrid, it's somewhat more competitive with the Lexus CT 200h.  The Lexus leads in the mpg and power dept., but the ILX has a more “mainstream” design and it leads in the price department.

Without further ado, let’s move on to the driving impressions.

III. On the Road -- Impressions for Each Variant

Handling is a perennial strength for Acura, and the ILX is no exception.  It features sporty handling.  Unfortunately the base model does not feel very sporty, due to the sluggish acceleration -- the model feels underpowered in "drive".  

Sport Mode, however, breathes some life into the otherwise boring 5-speed and accentuates the handling, which is very good, as seen in the shots taking below as the vehicle hurdled down dusty desert mountain highways.

Going Downhill

Acura seriously needs to to a six-speed to improve the ILX's performance and fuel economy.

Evidence of this can be found in the 6-speed manual, which is, in a word, "fun".  All the promises that fell short in the base model are mostly fulfilled in the manual.  While this variant sadly can't get the technology package, it does offer a much improved driving experienced.

Of course, Acura says that manuals only account for a tiny percentage of purchases -- 3 to 4 percent of purchases was one unofficial estimate I heard bandied about -- so that could explain why the manual (sadly) isn't getting the tech package.

2013 Acura ILX side

The hybrid variant lived up to the estimated fuel economy.  Driving it conservatively on a mix of highway/city, I averaged around 39 mpg.

At the end of the trip I decided to have a bit of fun and test the hybrid's power.  Unsurprisingly, the low horsepower motor struggled, but it didn't really feel that much more underpowered than base 2.0L non-hybrid version.  And given that I expect hybrids to feel somewhat underpowered, I didn't really have any complaints performance-wise.

While the Lexus 200h and third generation Prius beat the Civic/ILX hybrid in horsepower, I find that the Honda vehicles don't feel noticeably less powerful.  Perhaps this has something to do with the torque delivered at various RPMs, but whatever the reason, the ILX Hybrid and Lexus 200h feel roughly equivalent power-wise despite the on-paper spec favoring Toyota.

IV. Conclusions

The 2013 Acura ILX is an interesting duck.  

First, let's consider the base model.  It certainly fulfills a niche with tremendous potential -- entry-level luxury and offers a decent combined package.

The problem is that the competitors are bringing their A-game to this segment, so an otherwise nice vehicle may come up a bit short.  The ILX certainly looks terrific and gets good MPG, but the 2012 Buick Verano beats it in most key metrics, including power and price.  That beating is expected to get a whole lot worse when the 2013 Buick Verano Turbo -- rumored for a fall launch -- lands.  That Verano Turbo is expected to pack 250 hp -- ouch.

Perhaps, Acura deserves a bit more credit for allowing customers to choose between an underpowered, higher-MPG driving style, and a more-powerful, lower-MPG driving style.  For some this will be an attractive combo.

2013 Acura ILX cactus, side

I think the 2.4L manual ILX is a much more solid competitor to the 2012 Buick Verano.  However, the issue is that Acura thinks people don't necessarily want manuals.  Maybe this is true, maybe not, but the net result is that this superior model will be scarce, so I'm basing my non-hybrid ILX v. Verano comparisons on the base model.  

But ultimately the big question is why Honda is late to gasoline direct injection (GDI) or using low-displacement four-cylinder engines coupled with turbochargers like GM, Ford, and Hyundai.  Either improvement could have added to the power without subtracting from the fuel economy.  Likewise, a 6-speed could have allowed for better power delivery while also improving fuel economy.

I honestly expect these features to be adopted with next ILX model.  But Acura definitely suffers from being a latecomer to the GDI/turbocharging game.

As for the hybrid, I have warmer feelings about it, and feel that it could be somewhat of a winner.  I always thought the luxury market makes the best sense for hybrids, given the small premium.  Mass-market hybrids that aren't named "Prius" have struggled.  The luxury segment may prove a much more natural sales fit, given that the small cost impact is more easily absorbed in a higher sticker (of course some evidence points to the contrary).

The 2013 Acura ILX hybrid trades blows with the Lexus CT 200h in power.  It also
handles much better than the third generation Prius I drove, so I would expect it to handle better than the Lexus CT 200h.  I also personally vastly prefer the styling of the Acura to the more bloated, bulbous Prius-like look of the Lexus.

Are these advantages enough offset the ~2 mpg lead the Lexus holds?  Well, it depends.  If all you care about is mpg, you should be buying a Prius anyway.  But for the luxury buyer who cares about both mpg and looks, the Acura ILX hybrid at least doesn’t look like it stepped off the set of a sci-fi movie.

When it comes to entry-level, compact luxury sedans, the ILX doesn’t really make a strong case for itself, especially when compared to new competitors like the Buick Verano or even the existing Acura TSX. But the hybrid model is a worthy addition to the Acura lineup and a valiant competitor to Lexus’ CT 200h.

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ANOTHER Ugly, non luxury, terrible Hondacura
By Hal987654321 on 4/21/2012 12:51:07 AM , Rating: 3
You have to be practically braindead to pick the ILX over a Sonata, Elantra, Focus, Camry, Civic let alone Jetta, Verano etc. No one shops sedans vs hatchbacks and the CT drives very sporty something you have no idea about since you said you didn't drive it.

This is a terrible vehicle that is so below average even the worst Honda Fanboy can see past this thing. It would be average in 1999, let alone 2012.

Terrible car, terrible brand, terrible review

By yomamafor1 on 4/21/2012 4:03:53 AM , Rating: 4
> ...the CT drives very sporty something you have no idea about since you said you didn't drive it.

Absolutely agree with that one. I've driven the CT myself, and it drives nothing like a Prius. Actually CT is a lot closer to Mini-Cooper than a hatchback. The front wheel drive is somewhat an issue, but in sports mode, that car is pretty nippy and responsive.

By retrospooty on 4/21/2012 2:59:08 PM , Rating: 3
"even the worst Honda Fanboy can see past this thing."

Yup... I have always loved Honda/Acura from my First new 99 Integra... But they just dont seem to have any compelling models anymore. Every car has a "but" in it, if not several.

By Spuke on 4/21/2012 4:34:08 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. This car is an answer to a question no one asked.

By Pneumothorax on 4/22/2012 9:02:15 AM , Rating: 2
Even the "old" current TSX is a much better buy than this modern day Acura Cimmaron. With discounts a TSX can be had within a grand of this souped up civic.

RE: ANOTHER Ugly, non luxury, terrible Hondacura
By tng on 4/22/2012 11:39:06 AM , Rating: 2
worst Honda Fanboy can see past this thing.
Honda Fanboy here and yeah, your right. Why not just buy a Civic? It is the same with the Lexus entry level version, why not just buy a Corolla, after all it is better looking.

RE: ANOTHER Ugly, non luxury, terrible Hondacura
By nolisi on 4/23/2012 11:56:08 AM , Rating: 3
Why not just buy a Civic?

Because if I have $25-$30k to spend (plus a little extra for options), I'm stepping it up a little. It should be an embarrassment for any "luxury" label to drop a 4 cylinder engine on you and charge you extra for the marquee. But I don't want to undercut my own price point and step down to a Civic.

The sad part is- this thing will sell to people who want to be able to say "I bought an Acura" instead of "I bought a Honda". There's no better way to say "I overextended my finances on a loan for a mediocre step up in class status" than "I bought an Acura."

RE: ANOTHER Ugly, non luxury, terrible Hondacura
By Keeir on 4/23/2012 3:02:22 PM , Rating: 2
Somewhere either Honda stopped listening or started listening to everyone

Honda Flops:
Anything with IMA (No joke, the Prius outsells all IMA system hybrids in NA by a factor of 10:1 or more and now Lawsuits over 'early' IMA products)
Ridgeline, Element, and Crosstour
Anything Acura post 2006

Lets examine a case in point

The Acura ZDX: A unique car for a niche consumer right?

Well, there are 3 models with no major packages. 4 exterior colors and 3 interior colors. I counted, there are 29 combinations of exterior, interior and major options. Geesh, that's going to make me feel unique!

How bad is it? Well the closet direct compeditors, the BMW X6 offers hundreds of combinations.

At least the ZDX could make an effort to be a very unique product. It doesn't. That's one of the many reasons for failure, but it seems so basic.

By chripuck on 4/23/2012 3:00:51 PM , Rating: 2
And agreed, the current Acura lineup is rather pathetic. I prefer the cheese grater on my wife's 09 MDX over the current beak on all models.

Unless they come up with something compelling this decade long Acura fan will be buying something else next year.

RE: ANOTHER Ugly, non luxury, terrible Hondacura
By chripuck on 4/23/2012 2:58:54 PM , Rating: 2
I won't defend this new vehicle because I think it's crap, but to insinuate all Acura products are crap, wannabe upgrades is insulting. My 04 TSX at $25k was a hell of a lot better steal than that crappy DEMO BMW 3 series with fake leather seats and no sunroof for $30k.

There wasn't an SUV out that had the features of my wife's 2009 MDX I got for $35k. Don't forget to tell Edmund's about how crappy Acura is because the MDX was rated the highest in resell value for SUV's in it's class.

Get real.

RE: ANOTHER Ugly, non luxury, terrible Hondacura
By nolisi on 4/23/2012 5:37:14 PM , Rating: 2
Don't forget to tell Edmund's about how crappy Acura is because the MDX was rated the highest in resell value for SUV's in it's class.

If you bought that new, then you did well talking them down from MSRP. I considered it at the same time I was considering a CX-9 and a Ford Escape. I ended up going with the Escape Hybrid, paying ~$28 K (I get A plan pricing) new and fully loaded. I felt Sync was way more useable/functional (I couldn't issue voice commands to my G2/iPod/iPad in the MDX) and I really didn't like the interior of the MDX. I could've paid less to get the power of the CX-9, but the truth was, I don't need it- I do mostly city driving and as a result, I usually get a bit better than EPA estimates even when I drive aggressively.

And while it had a beefier engine, I didn't feel a big difference difference between the Acura and the Escape, certainly not a $5-$10k difference. The CX-9 definitely was the performance beast of the three.

I'm saying all this to point out features are what you make of them- to date, Ford has had the best infotainment systems hands down. I don't always drive fast, I don't always use my dual (or triple climate, in the case of the MDX), but I ALWAYS use sync. The MDX has features that others lack, but it also lacks features itself, and it's funny that a luxury marquee hasn't figured out complete Bluetooth/USB/Voice integration like a mass market marquee has. It just shows you that luxury is subjective.

They've got a great exterior + logo, but ultimately, no matter how well a car resales, overtime, the more you spend, the more room your vehicle has to depreciate to zero. There's very few cases where a car can become a real investment. My car is currently paid off and I don't have a big enough interest in any vehicle currently on the market to replace it. I'm waiting for another SUV that has a better blend of efficiency and functionality.

And THAT's real.

RE: ANOTHER Ugly, non luxury, terrible Hondacura
By chripuck on 4/24/2012 4:05:54 PM , Rating: 2
I don't buy vehicles as an investment, it's just a perk that it has a great resell value (and a testament to it's perceived value/luxury.)

The MDX and Escape aren't even in the same class, so comparisons are pointless. The Escape is significantly smaller. The bluetooth and mp3 playback in her vehicle is fine so I'm not sure what you're talking about here. If the new Explorer had been out I'd have probably seriously looked at that, but it wasn't.

And come on, you would have to drive hundreds of miles a week to make up the cost of the hybrid vs. non-hybrid. Talk about a "waste."

But back to the article, the ILX is fugly and so is the new RLX. I don't know where Acura thinks they're going to be successful with 5 sedans in their lineup (unless the RLX is a two door?)

By Keeir on 4/24/2012 5:35:20 PM , Rating: 2

No... I think that Acura is moving to a 4 sedan line-up with the RLX concept replacing the RL (hopefully without those strange wheels on the concept)

By Church of Dirac on 4/21/2012 3:20:41 AM , Rating: 1
It looks like a souped up Civic to me (which I'm pretty sure it actually is). I agree that it doesn't look worth more than a passing glance. The 2.0L is pathetic with 150hp. And at the 2.4L price, you could move into a nice midsized car such as VW CC. Why is the BWM 128i not in the comparison Excel chart? It's in the same category as the A3 or this Acura but it gets 230hp w/o forced induction, comes with your choice of auto or manual in all trims, and comes with the prestige of BMW (which I think Acura lacks).

CVT is the antichrist of fun driving. Nothing beats hearing the same engine sound at all speeds. Consider the A3 TDI if you are looking for great mileage around $30k. It gets 30 city/42 highway and the dual clutch transmission is a riot, with shift times in the milliseconds! Alternatively, you could get the Jetta TDI if you wanted to get the price between the Prius or Civic hybrid ($22K) and get the same mileage as the A3, with your choice of dual clutch or manual.

RE: Meh
By Spuke on 4/21/2012 4:44:47 PM , Rating: 2
I'd MUCH rather drive a Jetta than this 10 year "new" sedan. God, there are SOOOOO many better cars than this.

RE: Meh
By Lord 666 on 4/21/2012 5:21:35 PM , Rating: 2
Depends on what year Jetta. The current generation, hell no. Such PoS they make the previous gen look like luxury cars.

Did you put in an order for the M5 diesel?

RE: Meh
By Spuke on 4/21/2012 6:01:45 PM , Rating: 2
Did you put in an order for the M5 diesel?
Not I, said the duck. You have me mistaken. I'm in the under $40k car club.

RE: Meh
By Spuke on 4/21/2012 6:02:05 PM , Rating: 4
BTW, I think all VW's are junk.

2-door Acura
By hellokeith on 4/21/2012 12:13:19 AM , Rating: 2
Acura ever gonna come out again with a nice 2-door? And something that real men can drive without being metro?

RE: 2-door Acura
By rauelius on 4/21/2012 12:50:31 AM , Rating: 2
Honestly if this was available as a Two-Door, I'd go to my Acura dealership tomorrow and sign up for a 2.4l Manual. I LOVED my two-door Civic and this is a perfect mix of a Civic with a dash of luxury...A technology package+Coupe+6 Speed Manual+2.3l Turbo from the Old RDX would would make this an AMAZING vehicle.

RE: 2-door Acura
By lucyfek on 4/21/2012 10:54:54 AM , Rating: 2
3-door please (fun and practical)

RE: 2-door Acura
By tng on 4/22/2012 11:42:20 AM , Rating: 2
Agree. Seems really good 3 doors never get to the US, the Audi A3 comes to mind.

By Keeir on 4/21/2012 4:12:15 AM , Rating: 2
A Few things

1. For the Volvo V40, I believe you mean C30. I didn't think that Volvo had plans to bring their V40 Hatch to NA.

2. The Acura ILX Hybrid is like they got together and put the worst of Honda in the car. The lackluster hybrid system, the aweful Acura grill, the incomprehensible 4 door shape, the confusing and button-tastic interior, and decided to charge a -higher- price per feature than most Acuras.

Overall, I can see you trying to be fair Jason, but comon, the Acura ILX hybrid is simply aweful. Its soon to be demolished by the MKZ Hybrid and the A3 Sedan TDI. The A3 Sedan TDI (if similar to the A3 TDI) is going to be better styled inside and out, have a better feature set for the price, handle significantly better, actually have power and torque, and give up just ~2-3 MPGs.

The rest of the ILX doesn't make sense either. Acura is going to run with -4- sedans?!? 2 crossovers, 1 wagen, and 1 thingie (ZDX).

What is missing here? A Coupe? A Convertible? ILX should have been a successor to the RSX type 2 door coupe. That would have made much much much more sense than another medium sized sedan.

By Spuke on 4/21/2012 4:39:56 PM , Rating: 2
The Acura ILX Hybrid is like they got together and put the worst of Honda in the car.
...and 1 thingie (ZDX)

Hey Honda, don't bother trying to keep all the now grown ups that had modded Civics in the fold. I bet BMW and Infiniti are most grateful for your shortsightedness.

By tng on 4/22/2012 11:48:39 AM , Rating: 2
What is missing here? A Coupe?
Exactly, with a manual, a better engine and some better body styling.

By Mint on 4/20/2012 11:36:17 PM , Rating: 2
You're giving the fugly ILX a win over the CT200h on looks?

RE: Umm...
By Mathos on 4/21/2012 10:22:41 PM , Rating: 2
Vehicle styling when it comes down to exterior looks is a matter of personal tastes. I see a select few that always go nuts over certain cars, but then dog the likes of Acura or Chrysler, etc.

Hell I'd take a chrysler 200 with the 3.6 in it over that ILX, similar price, similar gas mileage, and a hell of a lot more power from the engine. From what I can remember with the Uconnect430/Garmin bundle, better infotainment system too.

And I agree, I'd like to see anyone the authors height sitting in the back seats of that car. I'm 6'2 and the back seats of my mothers impala LT can be pretty tight if they seat in front of me isn't pulled forward.

Rear seat leg room?
By SilthDraeth on 4/21/2012 9:59:29 AM , Rating: 2
I know you say it has leg room, but in the picture posted the leg room looks barely larger than the thickness of my calves.

You should post a pic of you sitting the the back seat.

Prius Price
By Jedi2155 on 4/22/2012 12:45:26 AM , Rating: 2
You listed the Prius to be much cheaper than it currently is.

A Prius is 24,000 right now. You're listing the Prius C price with the standard Prius power.

'Meh' styling
By JMC2000 on 4/22/2012 5:59:14 PM , Rating: 2
Looking at the pictures of the ILX, I just couldn't put my finger on what I thought was wrong with the styling, now I know, The ILX reminds me of the previous (non-fish style) Hyundai Elantra.

Also, I would like some Acuras more if they would get rid of that hideous bar in the grilles.

Sorry but
By FITCamaro on 4/23/2012 7:01:09 AM , Rating: 2
The grill Acura has been using for past few years says "Buck tooth redneck" in my opinion. I feel we need to hang a "DERP!" sign off the front of every single one.

Oh I get it now
By highlander2107 on 4/23/2012 12:00:03 PM , Rating: 2
Jason Mick writes hack-job, paranoid, biased articles, with the intent to cause a stir, no matter how baseless and silly. Now I see it's so he can get paid by Acura to write advertisements.

DT has gone into the crapper.

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