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Can Acura, as a luxury brand, extend downward into greater affordability and value? The 2014 Acura ILX is a test of exactly that. Aimed at up-and-coming professionals and hip retirees, it's a fuel-efficient, somewhat sporty small car that offers a little more comfort—and the superior service of an Acura dealership—for those who can afford to spend a little more.
Balancing between crisp and fluid, edgy and smooth, the ILX's exterior is a more youthful take on a compact luxury car than you'll find elsewhere in the segment. The fenders swell gently from the sides, there are character lines to accent its shape, and the greenhouse arches gracefully ove the passenger compartment. On the whole it's a handsome, if not lust-inducing, sedan. Inside, it's a pleasant place to travel, looking like a typical Acura: edgy curves, contoured surfaces, and easy-to-read gauges.
There are three versions of the ILX available, named for their drivetrains: the 2.0L, the 2.4L, and the Hybrid. The 2.0L offers a four-cylinder, 2.0-liter engine rated at 150 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic with paddle shifters is standard. It scores an EPA-estimated gas mileage rating of 24 mpg city and 35 mpg highway.
The 2.4L is the sporty model, with what is essentially the Civic Si's 201-horsepower, 170-pound-foot 2.4-liter four-cylinder mated to a six-speed manual transmission--no automatic is offered with this model. What's disappointing is that the suspension in the 2.4L is essentially the same as the rest of the ILX lineup, and it's not as sharp as we'd like in spirited driving. Across the lineup, you get handling that's crisp and responsive, but nothing approaching the driving experience of, say, Acura's half-size-larger TSX sport sedan.
Move to the ILX Hybrid and you get a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with an integrated hybrid drive system and continuously variable transmission (CVT). Total combined power is rated at 111 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque. The EPA estimates gas mileage at 39 mpg city and 38 mpg highway; but the downside is that is can feel sluggish at times.
Inside, the cabin is 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, with all controls easy to identify and use without taking one's eyes from the road. Fit and finish is also very good, with solid-feeling construction and quality materials (plastic, rubber, and leather) in all touch-points. Cabin noise is low, though not quite mausoleum-quiet like you'll find in some luxury cars a bit farther up the ladder, including Acura's own.
There's also a fairly roomy trunk, ample in-cabin storage in cubbies and door pockets, with well-placed cup holders. Cargo volume is a solid 12.4 cubic feet (10.0 cubic feet for the Hybrid, which places the battery pack behind the rear seats). The ILX is already a surprisingly quiet-riding car; yet for 2014 Acura has made Active Noise Cancellation standard on all models in this lineup. It can actively 'mop up' smaller but bothersome noises from the powertrain or road, using the sound system's speakers, a cabin microphone, and a sophisticated processing algorithm.
The 2014 Acura ILX is barely a luxury car if you go by its sticker price. And for that reason we don't hold it against the brand that they're not offering some of the higher-end items you'll find in slightly more expensive sedans, such as radar-adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and heads-up displays.
For 2014, leather upholstery and active noise cancellation are among the new features added to all models of the ILX. An eight-way power driver's seat, heated front seats, and a Multi-Angle Rearview Camera system have also all been added as standard. The catch is that this year it's also raised the base price of the ILX by $1,000, to $27,795, including destination.
Two primary packages are available to upgrade from the base specification, the Technology Package and the Premium Package. Add the Technology Package and you get premium audio with USB and Pandora integration, a navigation system with voice recognition, a rear-view camera system, and real-time traffic and weather info. With the Premium Package you get leather seating surfaces; eight-way power adjustable driver seat; two-way heated front seats; an auto-dimming rearview mirror; a multi-view rear camera; a premium sound system with Bluetooth, USB, and Pandora functionality.
- Compact and maneuverable
- Light and nimble
- Comfortable ride
- Affordable and well-equipped
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- Short on performance
- Lack of available high-tech features
- Hybrid lacks highway mpg luster