2017 Acura ILX Premium Road Test Review
August 16 2019, North Shore Acura
Strong value from a great little luxury sedan
Acura has clearly played its compact cards right, as so far this year the ILX is the Canadian premium sector's best selling entry-level luxury sedan.
The ILX is near identical in size to its closest competitors yet uses advanced materials for less overall weight, which when combined with more standard power makes for excellent performance.
Strong power combines with most advanced transmission
The ILX' sole engine, a direct-injection 16-valve, DOHC 2.4-litre four-cylinder, makes a spirited 201 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque, while its advanced eight-speed automatic gives it more forward gears to play with than any competitor, which aids performance and efficiency.
The Acura eight-speed, first introduced in the larger TLX, is a dual-clutch automated gearbox that gives up nothing in the way of performance and even more so comes standard with steering wheel paddles, but unlike competitors it also incorporates a torque converter for much smoother shifts resulting in a more refined driving experience.
Standard features make it stand out
Additional standard features help the ILX stand out from key rivals, such as LED headlamps, Acura going even further with its trademark "Jewel Eye" design that adds unique character to the brand's lineup. Other standard kit you're not likely to see from direct competitors' base models includes remote start, proximity-sensing keyless access, a colour TFT multi-information display, adaptive cruise control, a multi-angle rearview camera with guidelines, and a slew of AcuraWatch active safety features such as Collision Mitigation Braking, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, and Road Departure Mitigation, such technology only available in much higher priced challengers.
Even base ILX is an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus winner
If the U.S.-based IIHS actually tested our base Canadian-spec ILX it would earn Top Safety Pick Plus status, but being that the U.S.-specification doesn't include AcuraWatch features in base "Standard" trim it doesn't get the kudos, but we need to give Acura Canada credit for putting safety first.
This well equipped base ILX starts at only $29,590 plus freight and dealer fees, whereas my mid-range ILX Premium tester hit the road running at $32,090. The upgrade added leather upholstery, powered heatable front seats with two-way driver-side memory, the driver's side getting eight-way adjustment and the passenger four-way, while additional upgrades include an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a larger 8.0-inch backlit colour VGA top display controlled by a rotating knob and various buttons on the centre stack, a second 7.0-inch multi-use colour touchscreen display below that, a higher-grade seven-speaker and subwoofer enhanced audio system with satellite radio, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
You get a lot for the money
I should also mention that along with the unique standard features noted above, the base ILX comes standard with a lot of the same types of features you'll find from most cars in this class, such as auto on/off control for those LED headlamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, ambient interior lighting, pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, filtered dual-zone automatic climate control, AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio with Bluetooth streaming and hands-free connectivity, Siri Eyes Free, a powered moonroof, and more, while tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist, and all the usual active and passive safety features help the ILX achieve a five-star crash test rating from the NHTSA.
Of course, you can add many more features including rain-sensing wipers, navigation, voice recognition, 10-speaker ELS surround-sound audio with Dolby Pro Logic, upgraded AcuraLink connectivity, and a HomeLink garage door remote with the Technology package, or all of the above plus 18-inch alloys, fog lamps, an aero body kit including side skirts and a rear spoiler, metal sport pedals, Lux-Suede upholstery, and a black headliner with the A-Spec package, but I must admit the ILX Premium tested came with everything I needed and more.
Nicely finished interior measures up to German rivals
It's all packaged within a car that easily meets this premium segment's expectations. The dash top and most of the instrument panel gets finished in a very high quality soft synthetic that continues across the tops of both front doors and into the back, while the padded leatherette door inserts are even plusher and feature a stylish French-stitched seam down the middle. The thick, padded sport steering wheel feels good in the fingers, as does the shift knob and leather-wrapped parking brake handle, this latter item particularly well made.
Great mix of comfort and sport
As important, the ILX drives really well. The aforementioned i-VTEC-enhanced four-cylinder is wonderfully free revving, yet there's plenty of torque on hand for the new autobox to manage. The transmission is a fabulous bit of advanced kit, its shifts very quick yet as smooth as any performance-oriented conventional automatic, while ILX' front strut and rear multi-link suspension is particularly well sorted. It delivers good compliant comfort around town and on the highway, yet open the car up on a fast-paced two-laner and it responds with sharp, precise agility and near unflappable composure over mid-corner dips and bumps, standard amplitude reactive dampers helping in this respect. Braking is strong as well, the ILX' amply powerful four-wheel discs capable of confident controlled stops no matter the speed attained or how fully they're engaged.
Roomy and accommodating cabin
The ILX is certainly a car I could live with day in and day out, its interior more accommodating than the majority of cars in this class. I had plenty of room up front, which is not unusual as I'm merely five-foot-eight and medium in build, but rear seating space isn't always optimal amongst the ILX' peers. Still, the little Acura managed four inches ahead of my knees when the driver's seat was set to my height, plus around three inches above my head and another four to five between my shoulder and the window. A flip-down armrest is included at centre, which capped off a really comfortable rear compartment. Additionally, the 348-litre trunk should be large enough for most peoples' needs, plus a folding rear seatback increases stowage capacity when required.
Highly efficient package is also extremely reliable
Also impressive is better than average fuel economy that's rated at 9.3 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 8.1 combined, while Acura enjoys an above average dependability rating from J.D. Power, the ILX actually tied for third in the 2016 VDS Compact Premium Car category with a larger, much more expensive four-door it doesn't compete with, both of which are one-upped by a two-door coupe and convertible in second, while the first-place model in this category is a mid- to full-size luxury car that once again doesn't compete with the ILX at all. This makes the ILX best amongst actual compact four-door luxury sedans in the J.D. Power study.
Yes, the ILX has a lot going for it, which is why so many compact luxury buyers choose it. Even if you opt for a full load 2017 ILX A-Spec it will only cost you $34,990 plus freight and fees, whereas any front-wheel drive luxury sedan competitor will be more than $40k, and they'd still be missing full LED headlamps.
The ILX delivers excellent value in a sporty looking, nicely finished, well made, strong performing premium package. It's hard not to appreciate that kind of logic.