"A better badge should mean better features."
We ended last month's update with a quote from executive editor Todd Lassa, who believes our 2.4-liter Acura ILX "would be a much better $26,000 Civic Si sedan, even without some of the 'premium' touches." That statement prompted a lot of discussion, and all of us were asking, "Would it really?" So we snagged a 2013 Honda Civic Si sedan for comparison. The Si we tested was fully loaded. Its 17-inch aluminum wheels were wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tires, a $200 option from the factory, and it had navigation, something that isn't available on our ILX. The Civic's price? $23,705. That's $6390 less than our ILX. Things weren't looking good for the ILX, and we hadn't even seen the Civic Si yet -- all we had was the window sticker.
Then the Civic arrived, and the ILX retook some points. The lipstick red Honda, with black-accented wheels and an ostentatious rear spoiler, wanted attention in the worst way. It absolutely preened next to the reserved Acura. The Civic's interior, too, felt much brasher. With heavily bolstered seats and colorful gauges -- and a lame VTEC meter -- it was a boy racer's dream. Some staffers noted the Honda's lack of leather, but we decided that its sport cloth seats were almost as nice as the Acura's leather and called it a wash.
Then we took the two out for a drive, and the Civic Si came roaring back. Summer rubber aside, the Civic Si had more direct steering feel and less body roll. It was remarkable what a few subtle changes to a platform can do. The Civic Si is an incredibly rewarding package when pushed, showing that Honda really knows how to make a normally aspirated performance car. "It's disappointing that, with this powertrain and platform, Honda put together a better package than Acura," says senior web editor Phil Floraday. "I can completely understand someone wanting a more grownup version of the Civic Si, but the ILX gets too watered down in the performance department without adding many luxury touches, and the price skyrockets when you slap the Acura badge on the hood."
A better badge should mean better features. Such as? "Electronically adjustable dampers, better tires, and an even nicer, better-equipped interior," says associate editor David Zenlea. (If that sounds unrealistic, consider that the upcoming Volkswagen GTI has all of those things.)
It seems, then, that Todd deserves a tip of the hat. He's right on target, and the ILX -- except for its styling -- just isn't as appealing as its Honda-badged brother.
Will a change of venue bring better news for the smallest Acura? We'll see next month as the ILX heads to the East Coast for a stay with senior editor Joe Lorio.