It has always been hard to fault the looks of the Acura ILX, the compact sedan that had the jump on Mercedes and Audi in the segment. Honda’s entry-level premium model is an attractive piece of machinery to park in the driveway. On the other hand, the performance of the ILX has been a perpetual source of discontent. With the debut of the 2016 model at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Acura hopes the power boost available brings out the athleticism of its sports sedan in what is now a crowded field.
Stemming the German tide
While the ILX has never been a superstar for Acura, the competition got a lot stiffer in the past few years as Audi and Mercedes-Benz entered their compact sedans on the market. In terms of cabin comfort (read: noise), performance, and brand superiority, the ILX and its lackluster 2.0-liter powertrain stood little chance against the Germans. Despite its low price point ($27,050), the ILX is being pummeled on the sales charts by nearly every Mercedes vehicle and most by BMW and Audi. There is no competition in the compact premium class where the CLA, A3, and smallest Bimmers rule.
To offer a more competitive vehicle, Acura brought a significantly more powerful and even prettier ILX to LA. The 2016 edition will come with the 2.4-liter engine (from the TLX) standard, bringing 51 more horses and 40 extra pounds-feet of torque. There will be no 2.0-liter engine option, so that weakling joins the hybrid model as exiting in 2016. Mike Accavitti, ?Senior Vice President and General Manager, Acura Division, told the LA Auto Show crowd that the sport was going back into the redesigned sports sedan.
Better performance, sharper style
“[H]onestly, the biggest changes to this ILX are the ones you can’t see, and that we can’t really show you today, and that’s the driving experience,” Accavitti told the audience at the LA press previews. “This new ILX responds to the will of the driver, like only an Acura can, with intuitive and intelligent performance.”
Accavitti stressed that consumer complaints about noise and overall driving experience were addressed in the new model, and that an upgrade in safety features was aiming for IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus designation. (More on that after the tests.) Style-wise, Acura made a good thing better with the ILX’s improved exterior. Jewel Eye LED headlamps, now standard in all Acuras, highlight the front fascia upgrades. Tech is improved throughout the vehicle as well.
German luxury brands rank about as high as possible these days, making the Audis and Bimmers of the world undeniable as status symbols. Cadillac and Acura are two brands being left behind, as least in the sedan categories. Honda hopes it will change some of that with the new Acura ILX. Ranked 156th in U.S. sales and down 16% in 2014, it can hardly do worse.