2013 Acura ILX first drive
Acura re-enters the segment it invented
Scottsdale, Ariz. — Honda's premium Acura brand is in the midst of one of its largest product makeovers ever. And one of Acura's most important new vehicles for the Canadian market is the 2013 Acura ILX compact sedan, the brand's latest entry in a segment it virtually created almost two decades ago with the first EL in 1997.
Aside from the new front-wheel-drive, five-passenger ILX, Acura is launching two more freshly made-over models for 2013: the RDX compact crossover (which joins the ILX in showrooms this spring), and a new RLX flagship sedan, set to go on sale later this year. Not to be left out, the mid-size TL sedan and MDX crossover are due for their redos some time next year. And last but not least, the reborn NSX supercar arrives by the end of 2014.
The compact luxury sector is booming
With little competition, Acura moved almost 9,000 ELs in its first full year on sale, with the Honda Civic-based four-door making up just over half of all Canadian Acura sales. Since then, though, a sedan that's easy to park and less expensive, good on gas and yet stuffed with big-car features, has become more popular. The segment has suddenly become crowded, with the likes of the Buick Verano, Volkswagen Jetta, and Lexus CT hybrid — not to mention new models coming from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Infiniti — giving Acura competition it never had in the past.
The last Acura small sedan, the CSX, never came close to matching the popularity of the original EL. Knowing that much of the CSX's competition came from the Honda Civic it on which it was based, sales of Acura's small cars have continually petered out. The last model year the CSX was sold, 2010, saw sales drop to just over 2,000 per year. Trying to reverse that trend, Acura has gone out of its way to make its new luxo small sedan look and feel much different than the more mainstream four-door it's based upon.
Stylistically, unlike the CSX, the 2013 ILX is much more than a Civic with different front and rear fascias. Reverting to classic "long hood, short rear deck" proportions, Acura designers pushed the Civic's A-pillar and windshield base backwards to get an extra-long hood. Rebounding from criticisms that some of Acura's recent designs have been too aggressive or just plain weird (e.g. the ZDX coupe-SUV), the rest of the ILX's crisp sheet metal is tastefully upscale.
Acura's first hybrid arrives
Also dissimilar to the outgoing CSX, the new ILX will offer a gasoline-electric hybrid version as one of three engine choices. As Acura's first hybrid model, the $34,990 ILX Hybrid sits at the top of the range. Borrowing the Civic Hybrid's powertrain means a 1.5-litre gas engine is assisted by an electric motor. Together, they make 111 hp and 127 lb.-ft. of torque. And like the Honda version, the Acura hybrid's fuel economy is excellent, rated at 5.0 L/100 km in the city, 4.8 on the highway.
The polar opposite of the hybrid is the $29,990 ILX Dynamic, the model for driving enthusiasts. It uses the 201-hp, 170 lb.-ft. 2.4-litre four-cylinder and six-speed manual transmission from the Civic Si.
The least expensive model is the base $27,790 ILX. It's powered by a similar rendition of the old CSX's 2.0 L four-cylinder, making 150 hp and 140 lb-ft. With only a five-speed automatic transmission available, it scores 8.6 L/100 km in the city, and 5.6 on the highway.
For buyers looking to upgrade from the base model, the $29,990 ILX Premium adds leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, upgraded 365-watt stereo system, multi-view rear camera, and what Acura calls its Active Sound Cancellation system, which apparently quiets the cabin. And for an additional $2,300, the ILX Tech trim model gains Acura's ELS Surround audio system and navigation, among other niceties.