"The gearbox we'd loved so much had turned on us."
A couple of hours on the highway, and we'd remembered why we haven't gone on a lot of road trips in our Acura ILX. Earlier that day, we couldn't quite recall why we were so scornful of the idea, so we packed the sport compact for a weekend in northern Michigan.
Before pushing off, we took care of one of our least favorite things about the Acura -- its lack of an in-car navigation system -- by hooking up our own handheld navigation system. After grabbing a few snacks, we headed toward the highway.
It was on the highway that we started damning our curiosity about the ILX's road-trip friendliness. 40 minutes into our four-hour drive, we wanted to smother the car's talkative four-cylinder. The engine never shuts up. At around 80 mph in sixth gear, the tachometer is well over 3000 rpm. You can calm the engine down by slowing down, but that's not really our thing. We turned up the 7-speaker audio system instead. Trying to sing over Alice Cooper is far more enjoyable than going slow.
It also muted the noises that were coming from the chassis. The suspension is pretty well damped, but, boy, does it yelp when the car goes over bumps. The highway would've quickly killed our weekend with the ILX if it hadn't been for the heavenly sunset we got to enjoy for a good portion of the 150-mile stint.
As the last bit of light faded, so did the last bit of highway. We exited and started on some smaller roads that went to Traverse City. There weren't a lot of other cars around, so we relied heavily on the ILX's HID headlights. They were so good that we never had to turn on the brights.
When another car did show up behind us, we wished the ILX had auto-dimming exterior mirrors. The rearview mirror dims itself, but the side mirrors don't. We finally arrived at the house we were staying at and were reminded of how useless the rearview camera's grainy display is at night.
We went inside, hung up the ILX keys, grabbed a beer, and enjoyed the next day off, but we were back in the ILX and back on the road the following morning. While our first trip had started on a less-than-satisfactory note, our return trip started off in a much better way. The roads around us were pretty smooth, pretty flat, and pretty empty. It was the perfect chance to try some zero-to-sixty mph acceleration runs in the ILX, using our VBox Sport to collect the data. The ILX managed a zero-to-sixty time of roughly seven seconds. With stability control off, the front wheels wanted to spin a lot, which lead to one amusing, smoky start.
Far more amusing were the one-two shifts we got to do during the runs. As we've said before, the ILX's gearbox is lovely. It's best when it's being challenged, and we definitely made it work. We thought we were shifting quickly, and that was confirmed when we looked at the data. On our best run, the one-two shift was barely noticeable.
The shifts we did during the acceleration runs were far more enjoyable than the shifts we did later in the day when we were trapped in stop-and-go traffic. The highway was packed with people like us who'd tried to escape the urban scrum for a day. Everyone was stuck in the same place, but we guessed we were the most miserable people out there.
The gearbox we'd loved so much earlier in the day had turned on us. Now we were going from first to second to third gear, slowing down, then going back to first gear every forty-five seconds. The four-hour drive up became a five-hour drive on the way back down.
When we finally got home, we were reminded of why don't want to drive long distances in the Acura ILX. The simple answer would be that the car is not great on the highway, but it's not horrible.
It's average, which is exactly how it is on short drives. It's an average car that really isn't entertaining unless it's being driven hard. So while we aren't put off by the idea of an ILX road trip, we remember why we aren't excited by the prospect of one either.