Instrumented Test From the August 2015 issue
Anyone who has ever taught middle school will tell you that only the troublemakers are remembered. The forgettable students with average grades are the ones who don’t attract attention to themselves, and Acura’s newly freshened ILX is a quiet pupil.
About 10 school years ago, the original TSX drew bad-boy attention rivaling the Honda Civic Si. Looks, handling, packaging; it had it all. Since 2013, the ILX has tried to fill that role in Acura’s catalog, but it doesn’t make the same waves. Frankly, it’s dull. For 2016, Acura has simplified the ILX lineup in one sense and complicated it in another. Buyers may no longer select 2.0-liter automatic or 2.4-liter manual versions. Now the only powertrain is an updated 2.4-liter inline-four, nearly identical to the Civic Si’s, making 201 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque coupled to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic driving the front wheels.
This isn’t your average dual-clutch automatic. The weakness of most such applications is the initial throttle tip-in response from a dead stop. Clutches can be jerky and/or slow engaging. The ILX is unusual in that has a torque converter, yielding yacht-rock smoothness off the line with quick, solid upshifts. From behind the leather-trimmed wheel, you’d never know this automatic has three times the coupling devices of a manual transmission. In other words, the new gearbox is forgettable, though in a good way.
The altered tranny adds time to the track-test numbers compared with the old manual 2.4. With a 6.6-second 60-mph time and a 15.2-second quarter, the ’16 model is 0.2 second off the mark of the last 2.4-liter ILX we tested. Adding the extra hardware also helped inflate the curb weight by 164 pounds over the old 2.4, but the 3134-pound sedan, here in A-Spec form, doesn’t feel any heavier. Steering is appropriately light for an entry-level luxury four-door.
The old TSX wasn’t a BMW, but it was hard-core Honda, with a balanced chassis and perfectly satisfying controls that spark happy memories even years later. As with so many Acuras of late, there’s no interaction with the jejune ILX that we think we’ll remember in a decade. On the road, it handles competently enough, the understeer gradually building well before the tires lose grip. There seems to be more real-world adhesion than the 0.83-g skidpad score suggests, and the ILX glides through corners with surprising confidence and body control, at least some credit belonging to the A-Spec’s slightly wider tires.
But there’s no passion in this car, and the rest of the A-Spec’s components are even less memorable. Fog lights and suede-and-leather seats are the highlights of an otherwise-cosmetic $1990 upgrade—more Meh-Spec than A-Spec.
At $32,810, the ILX A-Spec shadows the Audi A3, BMW 2-series, and Mercedes-Benz CLA250, though without their oomph. And the cabin isn’t quite as quiet as the Europeans’. While the Acura’s front seats feel roomy, the back row is a squeeze for adults. Plus, of the cars mentioned above, only the ILX doesn’t offer four-wheel drive, which will certainly keep it off many a northern buyer’s radar.
What we can’t forget is how fun the TSX was and how little of that has trickled into the ILX. Entry-level luxury is more university than junior high. All Cs may get degrees, but nobody brags about them.