2016 Acura ILX Review: Change Comes From Within
The once-maligned Acura ILX has undergone a spiritual awakening.
Has Acura replaced its engineers with televangelists, life coaches, and self-help authors? Because the changes made to the 2016 ILX don't so much add up to an update as a spiritual awakening.
The 2016 Acura ILX (starting MSRP $27,900, as tested $34,890) is now freed of the vices that afflicted its predecessor. Gone are the outgoing model's sins: a slothful engine, prideful entry-level luxury accoutrements, and unwarranted lust for a luxury-level badge—not to mention the greed that Acura showed by charging $30k for what amounted to a barely disguised Civic—a great car that tops out around $25,000.
In order to save the ILX's soul, however, Acura had to find it first. And that's what makes this car so special.
On paper, the differences between the outgoing 2015 ILX and new 2016 ILX are minor: A few suspension and steering tweaks, stiffer structure, new front and rear fascia, and new powertrain choices—all pretty standard for a refresh. The 2.0L engine and slow-selling hybrid are gone (sadly, so is the stick shift) and now the only powertrain option is a 2.4-liter direct injection engine, paired with an all-new 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
But put all those updates together, and you get a car that's not only changed—it just might have been saved!
Aside from its new look—featuring Acura's now-signature Jewel Eye headlamps—the first thing I noticed about the new ILX was its brisk acceleration, thanks to quick, smooth shifts from the new gearbox.
The reprogrammed power steering felt crisp, and the firmed-up suspension proved responsive in curves but remained unruffled on uneven pavement. Yes, the front-wheel drive ILX felt a bit nose-heavy, but overall, the littlest Acura was eager to please.
The car I drove was outfitted in A-SPEC trim, which added attractive suede seat inserts to restrained interior surfaces. If there was a Civic hiding under there, it was well-concealed.
A sub-$30,000 car that's tenacious, yet comfortable? Sign me up. Somehow, engineers had breathed life into a once-dormant car, and I found myself wondering if it was atoning for the misdeeds of its predecessor.
Well, except for one place: The AcuraLink infotainment system, with its two screens and clunky clickwheel, is almost identical to what Honda has on offer. It lags far behind the competition, with confusing menus, frustratingly sluggish input, and some of the worst voice recognition I've ever encountered. In an era where nearly every other car on the road offers one-shot address recognition—just say, "123 Sesame Street, New York," and the nav system will send you on your way—AcuraLink still forces you to enter city, street, and number separately. Even then, there's a good chance it won't understand what you said.
That's a shame, because the ILX is otherwise the perfect car for its price range. And—dashboard aside—it has some pretty cool tech. For instance, the optional Lane Keep Assist System works just the way it should, hiding in the background and only stepping in to steer the car back to safety when it drifts out of a lane.
But toys aren't going to move the ILX off dealer lots. For the majority of entry-luxury buyers, I suspect the Acura's relatively low price will be the deciding factor. The ILX starts at $27,900 and tops out at $34,890, for a fully-loaded car with both the Technology Plus and A-SPEC packages. The entry-level car is well-equipped, and costs thousands less than a comparably equipped Audi A3 or BMW 2-series. No other upscale brand—Lexus, Infiniti, Mercedes—sells a car that comes close to the ILX's base price, and lease deals are even more attractive.
As you move up the line, however, things get a little murkier: The excellent A3 adds all-wheel drive and the option for a diesel. The 2-series is truly a blast to drive. And if you compare all three cars' infotainment systems, the Acura is sorely outclassed.
If you don't want to spend more than $30,000, though, the entry-level ILX is truly something special—and not just because of its price.
Get Our Newsletter
Real advice from real experts. Sign up for our newsletter
Thanks for signing up!