Since the brand's inception some 25 years ago, Acura has always offered an entry-level luxury model to draw young buyers to the brand for the very first time. Models like the Integra, RSX, and TSX have essentially served as gateway cars to the Acura lineup, but there's soon to be yet another model name on that list. The 2013 ILX, previewed by the so-called concept shown at the 2012 Detroit auto show, will soon serve as Acura's least-expensive offering.
The Civic's New Clothes
As we've previously reported, the ILX shares its foundation with Honda's latest compact offering, the 2012 Civic. But, unlike the Canadian-market CSX, this is a bit more sophisticated than a Civic with an Acura grille insert and emblems.
As can be seen, the ILX shares no exterior sheetmetal with its Civic sibling. Instead, it blends a TSX-like nose with a taut body that's both chiseled yet smoothed at the same time. Character lines on the front door panels give way to a ZDX-like kink in the rear fenders. That kink, in combination with a sharp upward bend in the daylight opening, lends the car a bit of a coupe-like look. The combination appears a bit ungainly in photography, but looks surprisingly good when viewed in person.
The interior follows Acura convention not only in terms of look, but available technology. ILX models will be available with keyless entry and ignition, Pandora internet radio connectivity, and a SMS text message interface. We're told a Technology Package - which typically bundles navigation with an upgraded audio system and a few other goodies - is also in the cards, but officials have yet to precisely describe content levels.
We do know Acura plans on offering the ILX in one body style, but in three different flavors. The "base" car will utilize a 2.0-liter I-4, which is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Want a sportier feel? The ILX can also be ordered with the 2.4-liter DOHC I-4 used in the Honda Civic Si family, which is only available with a six-speed manual transmission. Exact specifications have yet to be released, but expect an ILX so equipped to pack about 201 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque.
The ILX's third variant is a first for the Acura brand: a hybrid. The ILX Hybrid will crib the gas-electric driveline from its Civic sibling, meaning it will utilize a 1.5-liter I-4 paired with Honda's Integrated Motor Assist system. The Civic Hybrid earns a 44-mpg city/highway rating from the EPA, but Acura hints the ILX's driveline may be tuned to deliver a bit more performance instead of identical fuel economy figures.
Something's Got To Give
The ILX is an attractive package, and the idea behind it - a car whose design is driven and controlled by the North American market it's being sold in - isn't a bad one. Nor is the idea of offering a premium small car under $30,000, considering Acura's current entry-level offering, the TSX, is priced from $31,000, just out of reach of the millennial generation Acura longs to attract.
But something - perhaps elsewhere in Acura's lineup - has to give. The ILX effectively undercuts the TSX, and officials concede it may eat into the TSX's volumes. Meanwhile, after a growth spurt designed to appease the European market, the second-generation TSX is large enough to begin encroaching upon the TL. We wouldn't be surprised if either one of those nameplates is revised or eliminated in the next several years, but Acura reps aren't disclosing future plans for either at this point in time.
Expect more information on the production-ready 2013 ILX to emerge soon - perhaps even the 2012 Chicago Auto Show in February - seeing as production will begin this spring at Honda's plant in Greensburg, Indiana.