For 2016, Acura has essentially rebooted its entry ILX model—dropping the surplus of powertrain variants and focusing this small sedan under one sporty combination, with more of an underlying performance-car flavor throughout.
Up until now, it’s fair to say that the ILX has required the use of a lot of qualifiers. That’s because while this compact entry-luxury sedan was quite well designed—and it could be quite appealing—the lineup was a mishmash of models, not all of them all that luxurious or sporty.
The underwhelming ILX Hybrid model was already dropped going into the 2015 model year. Now for 2016, the 2.0-liter base engine is also dropped, and the ILX essentially gets the same four-cylinder and dual-clutch setup as Acura’s next-larger model, the front-wheel-drive TLX. The power rating stays the same as the current model, at 201 hp, yet the engine is the latest direct-injection i-VTEC unit, making 180 pound-feet of torque (up 10 lb-ft over the previous 2.4-liter). The eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox uses a torque converter for low-speed smoothness, yet its shifts are super-quick during high-performance driving, with rev-matched downshifts and good driver control through steering-wheel shift paddles. While the manual gearbox has been dropped completely from the ILX lineup, and we won’t applaud that, we will say that the dual-clutch transmission is superb and a near-perfect pairing of smoothness and responsiveness in the TLX.
There are plenty of chassis and tuning changes as well—including upgraded brakes—and what they add up to for 2016 is a stronger-performing, more pleasant-driving sporty sedan.
Visually, there’s not all that much changed. The 2016 Acura ILX gets a slight refresh in front and in back. Jewel Eye LED lamps have been subbed in, as well as some upgraded interior materials, larger wheels and tires, and improved connectivity features. Stylistically, we’ve found that the ILX has a nice balance between crisp and fluid, edgy and smooth—a more youthful take on a compact luxury car than you’ll find elsewhere in the segment, and handsome if not lust-inducing. Inside, it’s a pleasant place to travel, looking like a typical Acura: edgy curves, contoured surfaces, and easy-to-read gauges.
The interior layout of the ILX has been stellar all along, so that part of it needed no kind of rehab either. It’s comfortable and spacious—surprisingly so in the rear seats, with enough room even for taller adults to fit comfortably. Ergonomically, things are laid out very well, and it’s easy to figure out the controls without taking your eyes off the road (well, except for infotainment systems, which remain a sore point). There’s solid-feeling construction throughout, with quality materials, and fit and finish is very good. Acura says that cabin refinement and quietness has been improved for 2016, too, with thicker glass and noise-attenuating wheels; and that’s in addition to the smart active noise cancellation system Acura made standard for the lineup last year.
The ILX remains based on the Honda Civic, although the current Civic has an excellent reputation for safety and occupant protection. The 2016 ILX has achieved all ‘good’ ratings in the Acura notes that it’s targeted a ‘good’ result in the IIHS small overlap test and an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating, although no crash test results are yet available. The ILX gets the excellent LaneWatch system that shows a wide-angle camera view alongside and behind the vehicle, and a new AcuraWatch safety suite includes adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, and enhanced collision mitigation braking with pedestrian sensing. There’s also a blind-spot system with rear cross-traffic monitoring for much of the lineup.
There are now a total of six 2016 Acura ILX packages, including standard ILX, Premium, Technology Plus, A-Spec, A-Spec Premium, and A-Spec Technology Plus. A-Spec models are the sporty versions in the lineup, and at the Premium level, the ILX gets a two-position driver’s seat memory, plus a power passenger seat, universal garage-door opener, and the dual-screen setup. The Premium grade model has, for the first time, a navigation system based on a connected iPhone, with the proper AcuraLink app, and Premium models and above get satellite radio and HD Radio. Tech models add the AcuraWatch suite plus embedded navigation and a reconfigurable display.
The 2016 Acura ILX doesn’t particularly flashy; and outside of a few up-close details, like its new ‘Jewel Eye’ LED headlamps, there isn’t all that much about it that’s going to turn heads. Yet it’s a particularly handsome, well-proportioned take on the small-sedan form.
Visually, there’s not all that much changed from 2015 to 2016. The 2016 Acura ILX gets a slight refresh in front and in back, and it’s most apparent in front, where those distinctive headlamps have been subbed in. There’s also a new version of the Acura grille—one that actually seems to match part and parcel with the headlamps, in a visually pleasing way—and elsewhere outside some new wheel designs. A new side-mirror design helps keep it graceful from the side, where we still like the ILX’s side-body sculpting.
Inside, you’ll find improved interior materials and some changes at the center of the dash, where connectivity features have been given an upgrade, with the introduction of Acura’s dual-screen infotainment systems to the ILX. It’s a pleasant place to travel, looking like a typical Acura: edgy curves, contoured surfaces, and easy-to-read gauges.
We tend to think that it’s the dash styling that lets the 2016 ILX down a bit in its new role as a more focused sporty sedan. The ILX might be better served if there were more color or originality in textures and materials, and the dash manages to feel rather basic in the area just ahead of the passenger, with a spare look to the plastics and vents.