I’m not going to mince words.
The 2020 Acura ILX, particularly in top of the trot Tech A-Spec trim, is a very good car.
The Acura ILX is actually based on the previous generation Honda Civic, which means it has a shorter wheelbase than the current generation Civic and yesterday’s tech. Indeed, it does feel a little outdated and even less luxurious compared to the newer Civics in some ways.
However, this means that the ILX still has the old, 2.4-litre DOCH i-VTEC engine. This is a very, very good thing as it makes a very healthy 201 horsepower. And yes, that’s four less than you get in a current-generation Civic Si. But because the engine isn’t turbocharged and because the ILX has an 8-speed dual clutch transmission rather than a CVT or a 6-speed manual, it can consistently accelerate to 100 km/h in under 7 seconds.
Drop the shifter into “Sport” mode and the transmission does an excellent job holding the revs nice and high, making sure you’ve got all the power when you need it most. It’s really useful on the highway: drop the shifter down into “S”, blow past the fellow who has been texting for the last five minutes instead of doing the speed limit, then shift back into “D” for some easy cruising.
The best way to describe the ILX’s engine is that it’s “enthusiastic” — the 2.4-litre is like an excited puppy; jumping up and down and nipping at your heels.
Sport Mode is good fun, but for carving up the back roads, I actually recommend keeping it in normal drive mode as power delivery is more linear and predictable.
While athletic, the ILX has its limits in the corners. It doesn’t feel as pliable or confidence inspiring as say an Audi A3, BMW 2-Series or Honda Civic Si
. You can feel the tires and the computers constantly trying to manhandle the car into the line you want to take and fighting an epic struggle against the understeer line that the car so badly
wants to take. It will get you around a corner quickly, but the struggle is real and because it’s front-wheel-drive, it’s not a fun struggle.
If you find you’re having too much fun, a Collision Mitigation Braking System and Forward Collision Warning will do their best to stop you crashing into something. Likewise, a Lane Departure Warning will keep you from drifting out of your lane. However, Acura’s Lane Keeping Assist System feels like a driving instructor yanking the wheel out of your hands, where is should feel more like a gentle suggestion.
Vehicle Stability Assist with Traction Control is standard, although things do get much more fun when you turn the Traction Control off. You can even break the tires loose from a standstill (seriously, that 2.4-litre is a beauty of an engine).
Acura’s ultra-sharp lines might be ones to grow on for some, and certainly, they don’t do much for the big and bulky TLX. However, when compressed down to a smaller scale, I think they look fairly striking on the ILX and serve to distinguish it from its German competition.
The ILX’s short wheelbase is what really makes Acura’s design language work so well. Because the rear wheels are so close to the rear bumper, the ILX almost has the silhouette of a two-door coupe—short deck and a long nose. Then there’s the inside, where it was impossible to get away from the ILX’s Rocky Horror Picture Show
red interior. I’ll be honest, much like the protagonists in Rocky Horror,
I grew to love the sheer decadence of it. It’s fun, comfortable, sporty and different.
Like the exterior, the interior is just as fun. The user interface looks like it’s from a Blackberry, sure. But the gauges are analogue, so is the shifter, the e-brake and the volume and climate control. It’s actually refreshing to drive something so simple in the face of cars becoming iPhones with wheels. It feels like driving a car
, and I’m starting to miss that.
The seats are heated as standard, and in A-Spec trim, are Ultrasuede leather-trimmed. The steering wheel and shift knob are leather-wrapped as well. It all feels of quality and unlike the TLX, very sporty too. Notable in Acura models is the dual-screen set-up. It’s a little odd at first but having your navigation visible at the same time as your audio selection quickly becomes a no-brainer, and ultimately, less mentally taxing while driving.
The Tech A-Spec’s real party piece is the ELS Studio Premium Audio System with 10 speakers. It’s friendly with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay — and has zero trouble communicating For Whom The Bell Tolls
with perfect clarity, even at highway speeds with all the windows down.
Things I don’t like? I suppose it is a wee bit cramped to drive for someone who is taller than six-foot. I had a lot of difficulty finding a comfortable driving position where my head didn’t hit the roof.
At just under $35,500 the Acura ILX is simply a lot of car for the money. It delivers so much of what its German rivals do for a fraction of the price. Best of all, it does its job enthusiastically, joyfully.