""I'm digging the retro appeal of a big-displacement, high-revving, naturally aspirated four-cylinder.""
After deciding that the Honda Civic Si is a better sport-compact sedan than our hi-po Acura, we exiled the ILX to New York, where senior editor Joe Lorio got his first shot at our long-term Ack. Take it away, Joe.
"I had spent only a short time with the ILX last fall during All-Stars/AOY testing, so I'm coming at this pretty fresh. My first impression? What a superb shifter, what with its short throws and fluid action. The clutch feels springy, but the effort levels are friendly.
"Then there's the lively 2.4-liter engine, which is aided by the short gearing. In sixth gear at 70 mph, it turns 3000 rpm. In this day of turbocharged, direct-injected engines, I'm digging the retro appeal of a big-displacement, high-revving, naturally aspirated four-cylinder. It sounds good and has plenty of verve. I've been getting an indicated 32 mpg in a mix of suburban and expressway driving, which is not bad, but the small 13.2-gallon fuel tank and resultant short cruising range are wearisome.
"The steering is a big disappointment. It's overly light with no feel and no progressivity. There are lots of twisty, hilly, low-speed roads around here, but when your connection to the car is this lifeless wheel, you hardly want to try tackling them. It drains away any real enthusiast appeal. Previous small Acuras, the Integra and the original TSX, were much better in this regard.
"I have been shuttling teenagers around recently and so far have heard no complaints from the back seat (at least, none having to do with the car). When I checked out the back seat for myself, I found it to be almost really good. The cushion is comfortably up off the floor, legroom is good, and the armrests are nice. As a six-footer, I found headroom to be in short supply, something that you wouldn't guess from looking at the exterior.
"Speaking of the exterior, I can't help but feel that the styling is a snore. Acura should not take the failure of the ZDX as an excuse to beat a retreat in design. Handsome-not-bizarre should be achievable -- looking again at the Integra and the first TSX, one can see that Acura has achieved it in the past. And the new NSX proves that Acura does have the talent to make great-looking cars today."
Lorio neither loves nor dislikes the ILX, which means his feelings mirror ours back here in Ann Arbor. And thanks, Joe, for not whining about the "no-navigation" issue.