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Acura ILX: Acura’s near-luxury compact charts new course for 2016

This year, Acura charts a simple but significant course correction for its compact ILX sedan.

The near-luxury ILX has grown more refined in each of its first four years, but this year’s updates are the most significant by far.

This year, Acura charts a simple but significant course correction for its compact ILX sedan.

The near-luxury ILX has grown more refined in each of its first four years, but this year’s updates are the most significant by far.

A new powertrain and a suite of newly available technologies redress a pair of obvious shortcomings. New noise-suppression measures and improved materials enhance cabin comfort. A stiffened chassis cuts noise, vibration and harshness. Steering and suspension revisions enhance steering feel and initial turn-in.
  
On the outside, front and rear fascias are freshened and the most recent — and most attractive — iteration of Acura’s “shield” grille debuts.

Every 2016 ILX comes loaded with standard comfort, convenience and safety gear. But the real action lies in a set of options packages. My tester was outfitted with Tech, AcuraWatch Plus and A-Spec packages, endowing it with every imaginable bell and whistle — including 18-inch wheels, foglamps, a decklid spoiler and the superb Acura/ELS surround-sound audio system — and elevating the price tag to a still-modest $35,000.

Included was Acura’s eye-opening AcuraWatch package of safety and driver-assistive systems. Working in concert, an array of electronic aids — including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic braking, lane-keeping assist and road-departure mitigation — these systems foreshadow the self-driving car. Lane-keeping assist can automatically keep the ILX in its own its lane for up to 15 seconds before instructing the driver to resume steering, 

The road-departure mitigation system can’t be so easily tested; it’s meant to prevent the ILX from bashing into trees or other roadside objects. Automatic braking brings the ILX to a near-complete stop.

Acura originally equipped the ILX with an underachieving, 150-horsepower base engine and an optional 201-horsepower 2.4-liter port-injection four. This year, the base engine is deleted and a new direct-injected 2.4-liter four becomes the only engine choice. Its horsepower rating equals last year’s, but torque is up 10 lb-ft to 180.

The new engine is paired with a new eight-speed automated manual transmission that replaces the previous six-speed manual. The loss of the stick will cause heartburn for performance geeks (who only comprise five percent of ILX buyers), but the new gearbox proves to be a satisfying swap one. Left to its own devices, it favors economy over quickness, but paddle shifters and a seriously on-point Sport mode allow the driver to extract maximum pull from the engine. 

With the gearbox knocking off split-second shifts, the ILX blows quickly through the lower ratios, while the upper gears allow the engine to settle in at speed to produce a calmer, less rev-happy highway experience. 

Underway, the ILX feels solid and responsive; it’s not a big-car feel as much as a small-car-with-luxury-performance-aspirations feel. Others in the segment are more luxurious and some more sporty, but the ILX strikes a neat balance at an attractive price point.

A few hard plastics betray its Honda roots and the fixed second-row seatback limits cargo capacity. For most buyers, those will be small hiccups in an otherwise compelling package.

Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at don@dadair.com.

2016 Acura ILX Tech Plus A-Spec
Vehicle base price: $27,900
Trim level base price: $34,890
As tested: $35,810
Options: The ILX Tech Plus A-Spec is a fully equipped trim; our test vehicle came with no options.
EPA rating: 29 combined/25 city/36 highway
Premium unleaded fuel required




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Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.