Acura ILX Tech Plus A-Spec sport sedan steps it up for 2016

2016 Acura ILX Tech Plus A-spec top-of-the-line MSRP $34,890

The Acura ILX compact luxury premium sport sedan has stepped up its game and become a better competitor in the entry level segment for 2016.

Entry level (usually compact) vehicles in the luxury field are important to manufacturers as they are the ‘gateway’ to making that buyer a brand customer for life. Therefore it is very important that a luxury or premium brand get their entry level vehicle right – as failure to do so will likely result in their potential future customer going elsewhere for their next level luxury premium vehicle.

It also goes without saying that it is a big challenge for a manufacturer to design, engineer and build that compact (or small) entry level vehicle with the right balance of styling, features, amenities, premium materials and performance and keep it in a price range of $25,000 to $35,000. Before the 2016 model year, the Acura ILX was not meeting that challenge or measuring up to the competition.

For 2016, Acura did a number of things to make the Acura ILX a more competitive entry level compact sports sedan.

Acura started under the hood by adding a new power train to improve performance which was their weakest link. They replaced the earlier generation 150 horsepower 2.0L 4-cylinder and 5-speed automatic with a direct injected 2.4L 4-cylinder engine that produces 201 horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. of torque. It is mated to a new 8-speed dual clutch automatic transmission with torque converter and paddle shifters. This new power train delivers a much sportier drive with its added horsepower and torque. The new automatic transmission is nicely geared for performance and delivers well – automatic or manually sequenced through the paddle shifters.

Not only is the performance better, but so is fuel economy with the 2016 Acura ILX rated at 25/36 mpg city/highway and 29 mpg combined – that according to Acura – makes it a top rated fuel economy vehicle in its segment.

Other changes for 2016 include refreshing elements of the front and rear fasciae and adding a new front grille and rear combination LED lights; restyling the 17-inch 10-spoke aluminum alloy wheels (with larger sizes available) and adding the Acura Signature Jewel Eye LED headlamps.

The ride is much better with the suspension, steering and braking all receiving upgrades to make the vehicle handle better and provide a smoother ride. Inside the cabin is spacious with excellent room up front for driver and passenger. The ILX seats four and will take five reasonably well but note that both the headroom and legroom in the backseat will likely challenge some passengers over six-feet tall.

The Acura ILX also delivers a quieter and safer ride due to engineering changes, use of acoustic glass, high strength steel and special sound deadening materials plus Active Noise Cancelling technology. The stiffer and stronger body components have resulted in the 2016 Acura ILX receiving top safety ratings from both IIHS and NHTSA.

Though features, amenities and accents are better across the line with more use of premium materials throughout, we think the lower trim levels (under $30,000) are still a bit sparse in features and amenities compared to other competitors. However, at the top trim levels, the features and amenities from the packages make the Acura ILX very competitive in the compact luxury premium segment.

2016 ILX Tech Plus A-Spec

Acura delivered us a 2016 top-of-the-line ILX Tech Plus A-Spec model in a rich White Orchid Pearl with the A-Spec Premium Black interior for a week-long test drive a few weeks back. Decoding the vehicle name, our test car was the base ILX with Premium Package, Technology Package, AcuraWatch Plus Package and the new A-Spec Package – all included – with an MSRP of $34,890.

With delivery and prep, the delivered price was $35,810.

ILX Standard features included the new 2.4L engine mated to the 8-speed automatic transmission and Sequential Sport Shift Paddle Shifters, 4-wheel Disc Brakes, 4-wheel Independent Suspension, Electric Power-Assist Rack and Pinion Steering, Vehicle Stability Assist, Anti-lock Braking, Electronic Brake Distribution with Brake Assist, Tire Pressure Monitoring, LED Daytime Running Lights, Cruise Control and Hill Start Assist.

In addition to the refresh, the exterior features included Power Moon Roof with Tilt, Acoustic Glass Windshield, LED Tail Lights, Auto On/Off Headlamps, Jewel Eye LED Headlights, Heated Power Door Mirrors and Keyless Entry and Multi-view Rear Camera.

On the inside, the ILX features included Driver 8-way Power Seat, Heated Front Seats, Push Button Start and Driver Multi-Information Display. Infotainment features include Bluetooth HandsFree Smartphone interface, Acura Audio with six speakers, Bluetooth Streaming Audio, Pandora, USB Audio interface with iPod Integration, MP3/Auxiliary Input Jack and Speed-Sensitive Volume Compensation.

Other interior features included Dual Zone Automatic Climate Control with Air Filtration, Sport Seats, Fold-down Rear Seat, Tilt and Telescopic Leather-wrapped Steering Column with Mounted Controls, Active Sound Control, 12-volt Power Point and Ambient Lighting.

Premium Package added Driver Memory Seat system, 4-way Power Passenger Seating, SiriusXM Satellite and HD Radio, Blind Spot Information and Rear Cross Traffic Alert system.

Tech Package included the Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition and Multi-view Rear Camera; AcuraLink Communication System with Real-Time Traffic information; upgraded the audio to the Acura/ELS 10-speaker Sound System with AM/FM/CD and Dolby ProLogic II and Hard Disk Drive plus enhanced the Dual Zone Climate Control with Acura GPS-Linked Control.

AcuraWatch Plus Package includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Mitigation Braking, Road Departure Mitigation, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning and a Color Meter Display Screen.

A-Spec Package (new for 2016) upgrades the wheels to 18-inch Alloy Wheels mounted with P225/40R18 High Performance All-Season tires, adds Ebony Suede-Trim with contrast stitching to the Sport Seats, Black Headliner, Fog Lamps, Body-Color Side-Sill Garnish, Rear Deck Lid Spoiler and Aluminum Sport Pedals.

Safety Recognition

The 2016 Acura ILX has earned a IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) rating of Top Safety Pick+ which is their highest ranking available. The 2016 ILX features the Next-Generation Advanced Compatibility Engineering Body Structure along with multiple strength level use of High Strength Steel in over 50 percent of its body structure. With its Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning System and Collision Mitigation Braking, the Acura was ranked Superior in the IIHS Crash Avoidance and Mitigation testing.

The ILX also earned a top 5-Star Safety Rating from the National Highways Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

A Last Word

We noted the challenge for all entry-level compact sedan manufacturers is to be able to produce and deliver a luxury or premium level featured vehicle for the competitive entry-level price range of $25,000 to $35,000. As with several of the other luxury and premium level entry vehicles, we found the ILX – at the lower price point trim level – is entry level luxury or premium in name only.

To get the premium value and performance, you need to opt for the top or near top of the trim-line available in the ILX to differentiate it from other brands in the same segment. On that basis, if we were in that market and Acura was our preferred brand, then the top-of-the-line 2016 Acura ILX Tech Plus A-Spec would be our choice.

As we write this piece, the 2017 model year Acura ILX has arrived in dealerships. The 2017 model is essentially the same as 2016, but does include three new exterior colors.

For more information about the Acura line of luxury premium vehicles go to acura.com. To learn more about the Acura ILX – go to acura.com/ILX.

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