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2016 Acura ILX Refreshed at Los Angeles Auto Show

Inviting a new crowd into the world of premium brands.

Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA - The premium way of thinking has been transforming even affordably priced compact cars and sport-utilities lately, and the 2016 Acura ILX shows that Honda's premium brand is getting serious.

Newly revealed at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show, the 2016 Acura ILX is meant to be the gateway into the world of premium brands for the set of younger buyers now finding their way into the category.

The look is familiar, as the basic building block remains the ILX sedan that was introduced for 2013, but the refreshed look for 2016 is complemented by not only more refinement but also more speed.

A bright new face for the future

The 2016 Acura ILX features the revised bodywork fascias that you'd expect from a freshened design, but this one sparkles unexpectedly, because the front end carries LED headlights as well as LED marker lights, both as standard equipment. The broader, horizontal styling gesture created by the new lights works with a new grille to make the ILX look more substantial.

There's also more to the 2016 ILX than just sparkle. The car is also available in high-performance A-Spec trim, which includes front foglights, rocker sill extensions, a spoiler on the trunk, and taller 18-inch wheels. The 17-inch wheels are standard for other trim levels.

Within the cabin, you'll find Euro-style color-contrast stitching on the leather-trimmed steering wheel and parking-brake handle, plus more silver brightwork on the dash. The A-Spec trim level gives the cabin a makeover with a black color scheme, red lighting for the instruments, aluminum pedal covers, and faux suede upholstery for the seating surfaces.

Exit the manual, enter the automatic

The Indiana-built Acura ILX has come a long way from the Honda Civic upon which it is based. The 2013 car featured special measures for quietness like acoustic-insulated glass as well as dedicated chassis tuning, such as high-tech dampers for better handling. The 2016 Acura ILX continues this emphasis on refinement complemented by performance.

To begin with, every trim level of the 2016 ILX now carries as standard equipment the direct-injected 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that was formerly available in the previous ILX only with the six-speed manual transmission. This engine is rated at 201 hp @ 6,800 rpm and 180 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm, which gives this lightweight car the performance of the first-generation Acura TSX of 2004-2008, a Euro-style sedan that Acura diehards still remember with fierce enthusiasm.

Sadly, the 2016 ILX will no longer be available with a manual transmission due to disappointing sales of this combination of engine and transmission. Instead this engine will come with Acura's new eight-speed automatic, which features both a torque converter for smooth power take-up from a stop and a dual-clutch gearbox for fast shifts and optimum fuel efficiency. Shift paddles on the steering wheel do your bidding, and quick, rev-matched downshifts are part of the programming.

We're a little disappointed at this news, but we have to say that the fuel-efficient gear ratios in the previous six-speed manual gearbox didn't do this engine any favors, while this same powertrain with its eight-speed automatic in the 2015 Acura TLX has proven to be a delight to drive in every circumstance.

More connectivity, more safety, more stuff

As you'd expect, the 2016 Acura ILX has some upgraded electronics, notably an 8-inch display screen for information high on the dash and a 7-inch touchscreen below it. We're particularly intrigued by a tethered navigation system that runs the user's smartphone-based navigation system through AcuraLink, an app developed by the company. Meanwhile, Acura's own navigation system is also available.

Just like so many other new-generation cars, the 2016 Acura ILX also offers a suite of safety-oriented electronic features, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, forward collision warning (scaled for pedestrians as well as vehicles), collision-avoidance braking, and road-departure mitigation.

Of course, the stuff you get depends on the trim level that you pick, and it's interesting that Acura makes the 2016 ILX available in six different configurations instead of just three as before, and each is available with the suite of electronic safety features, either as optional or standard equipment.

The 2016 Acura ILX is expected to go on sale in the first quarter of 2016.