2018 Acura ILX Technology Road Test Review
August 16 2019, North Shore Acura
Still the value leader in the entry-level luxury class
The Acura ILX has long been a luxury sector sport sedan for intelligent shoppers, as it combines sharp premium styling, superb performance, class-leading safety and loads of features for unbeatable pricing, which is reason enough for its continued popularity.
The ILX flanks its aluminum-tone "Dynamic Power Plenum" grille with standard "Jewel-Eye" full LED headlamps, all hovering above a lower apron that's suitably sporty thanks to a narrow centre air slit and assertive set of corner vents. An upswept shoulder line, shapely waste line, and yet more sculpting along the rocker panels adds depth to its side profile, while an angular set of slim LED taillights has always been an elegant addition to its backside, these topping off a rear bumper cap that nearly mirrors the car's frontal design when it comes to corner vents. It's a smart looking ride, rounded out by silver-painted multi-spoke 17-inch alloys on my Technology trimmed tester.
A surprising load of standard features for less than $30k
At just $29,990 for a base 2018 ILX, it undercuts its closest German competitors by 10 to 20 percent, depending on the challenger in question, while its impressive load of features makes it an even bigger bargain. Standard with the ILX yet optional on its entry-level sport sedan rivals are those full LED headlamps mentioned a moment ago, plus remote engine start, proximity-sensing keyless access, SMS text message reading capability, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, and more.
It shares many features with its closest competitors too, including auto on/off headlights, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, ambient interior lighting, pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, a rearview camera with guidelines, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity with streaming audio, tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist, all the usual active and passive safety features, etcetera.
Of note, both the ILX and its Stuttgart challenger include standard shift paddles, forward collision warning, and autonomous collision mitigation braking, whereas the ILX and its Ingolstadt opponent boast standard dual-zone automatic climate control and glass sunroofs.
Well-equipped optional trims remain excellent value
Of course, Acura offers plenty more to spruce up your ILX, and doesn't ask for much in the process. At $32,490, the ILX Premium is still less expensive than either of its German competitors yet adds perforated Milano leather upholstery, powered heatable front seats with two-way driver-side memory, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a larger 8.0-inch backlit colour VGA upper infotainment display controlled by a rotating knob and various buttons on the centre stack, plus 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 blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
My third-rung $33,990 Technology trimmed test car, which is priced very close to where the others start out, added rain-sensing wipers, accurate navigation with detailed mapping, voice recognition, an excellent 10-speaker ELS surround sound audio system with Dolby Pro Logic, enhanced AcuraLink smartphone connectivity, and a HomeLink garage door remote.
Lastly, if you want to spice up the ILX styling, the $35,390 A-Spec gets everything noted above as well as an aerodynamic body kit featuring side skirts and a rear spoiler, plus fog lamps, sportier machine-finished 18-inch alloys with black painted pockets, metal sport pedals, Lux-Suede upholstery, and a black headliner. I tested this model last year and quite liked its upgraded styling and interior enhancements, while its mere $1,400 bump up from the Tech model is once again easy to budget for.
Strong performance and superb fuel economy come standard
All of this value would be moot if the ILX wasn't a well-built car with the kind of performance expected in the premium sector, and to that end it really does measure up to its European competition. At its heart is a naturally aspirated 2.4-litre four-cylinder that makes wonderful mechanical noises, including some brilliantly raspy highlights when revs near the 6,900 rpm limiter and a suitably sensational exhaust note when pushed hard too. Output is 201 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque, making it an engine that loves to be pushed higher into its rev range, yet still delivers strong pull when driven more modestly. The ILX also adds an additional forward gear over its Teutonic challengers, its eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox wonderfully responsive yet extremely smooth too.
As for fuel economy, the ILX achieves a claimed rating of 9.4 L/100km in the city, 6.8 on the highway and 8.2 combined, while the Germans are such a close match there's no advantage to either.
At the limit handling is a toss-up too, with all three delivering great handling dynamics. The ILX truly impresses when pushed aggressively, but it can also be driven comfortably all day long, whether in the confines of the city, enjoying the wide openness of the highway, or winding along a tight, twisting seashore drive. Your choice will come down to personal preference in the end, but no one competitor is necessarily better than the other in this respect.
Expect to be pampered
On that note this class isn't only about performance, as most luxury buyers would probably want quiet refinement more often than not. I have to say all of the entry-level luxury sedans on offer do a good job of coddling their occupants, thanks to generous insulation and high-quality soft-touch synthetic surfaces above the waste, not to mention effective electronic noise canceling systems, while all stand up to this segment's expected quality. All are roomy and comfortable up front too, but the ILX delivers more rear seat room.
In summary, the ILX delivers one of the best value propositions in the luxury car market, thanks to sharp styling, a quality interior, best-in-class standard safety, good economy, and excellent driving dynamics, all for a price that's thousands less than key competitors.