Acura's tagline for its new ILX, "move forward, without settling down," speaks to a market of young professionals that wants its first taste of a luxury brand. The entry-level ILX can be had with either a 2.0-liter engine or a hybrid powertrain for under $30,000. Those two should satisfy a majority of buyers, but what about that rare breed of youthful enthusiasts who wear Pilotis with their suits and ties? Acura didn't forget about them and is also offering its handsome ILX with the engine and transmission from a Honda Civic Si. Sounds great, right? We agree, which is why we ordered a 2.4-liter ILX for a Four Seasons test.
Remember, this sedan is coming from one of the first companies to enter the compact luxury segment with the Integra, which was marketed as "sophisticated, sensuous, invigorating, and, most of all, fun to drive." It's not surprising, then, that the sportiest ILX derivative is in the same vein. It's certainly sophisticated. Our tester rings in at $30,095 and comes with a number of high-end standard features: automatic dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, a premium audio system, a power sunroof, leather-trimmed sport seats, SiriusXM satellite radio, a rearview camera, xenon headlights, fog lights, and keyless entry and ignition. One glaring absence from that list is navigation. It can be had with either of the other powertrains, but not the 2.4.
"Sensuous" is a stretch, as it was for the Integra, but the ILX certainly is more striking than the Civic on which it's based. The Acura doesn't wear any of the Honda's dated sheet metal. It pulls only from the Acura look book, complete with the omnipresent, signature beak grille and rear fender kicks similar to those on its slated-to-die stable mate, the ZDX. The interior is clean-cut and simple. The glut of buttons on the center stack and steering wheel are easy-to-read, and the dash is well organized and balanced. The 2.4-liter model also gets sport pedals and one, last, gorgeous touch: a leather-trimmed shift knob that looks like it was plucked out of a Type-R. Oh, did we not mention that the ILX 2.4 comes only with a 6-speed manual transmission? That's the universal signifier for "invigorating and fun to drive."
The transmission is forgiving and smooth, which is what we've come to expect from Honda manuals. A couple of editors say they can shift faster in this car than most other cars that come through our office. That's good, because quick shifts are required to get this engine boiling -- 201 hp isn't a lot of punch. That said, it's enough to surprise whoever's sitting next to you at a stoplight. This ILX can pull away smoothly and quietly, lightly chirp its tires at the start of quick sprint to 60 mph, or sit still and scream as bluish white tire smoke pours into the cabin.
Acura should keep using "move forward, without settling down" for the 2.0-liter and hybrid ILXs, but it should market the 2.4-liter as a resurrected Integra. From what we see, no new copywriting would have to be done. The Integra's tagline would work just fine. Looks like it's going to be an "invigorating and fun" year.