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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
Of course, like the Honda, the Acura ILX Hybrid feels sluggish if you're thinking about anything other than reducing your environmental footprint.
With only 114 hp to its name, the ILX Hybrid is predictably the slowest of the trio off the line. Even though Acura reprogrammed the throttle map to provide quicker throttle tip-in than its Civic sibling, the driveline quickly runs out of steam as speeds increase.
On a brighter note, the 2.4-liter powerplant, coupled to a sweet-shifting six-speed manual gearbox, has enough gumption to make the ILX legitimately entertaining when the road opens up a bit.
While Acura has beefed up the steering column support to provide better feel, we were left cold by the new electric power steering system, which was overboosted and numb at all speeds.
Also, responses of the Select Shift automatic could be a little more vigorous.
The 2014 Acura ILX spans a wide range of performance characteristics with its three different powertrains. And underlying each of them is a light, balanced chassis that helps make the most of it, whether you want the emphasis on comfort or sport. An all-out sport sedan, the ILX isn't, though.
The most affordable ILX is the 2.0L model. It's powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 150 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque, and only offered with a five-speed automatic transmission. It's powerful enough for daily duty, while returning a respectable 24 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. Steering-wheel paddle-shifters do add an element of fun, and perhaps better control on mountain roads, but the overall personality of this model is relaxed and comfy, not edgy or performance-themed.
As the sportiest variant, the ILX 2.4L packs the Civic Si's 2.4-liter, 201-horsepower four-cylinder engine under the hood, as well as a six-speed manual gearbox only (there's no automatic available, which to some will limit its appeal). While this engine makes its power and torque over a relatively broad range, it lacks much in the way of character, and its punchy driving feel seems a bit at odds with the ILX's driving character.
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.
There's also the ILX Hybrid, which gets a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and an integrated hybrid electric system routed through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). It's tuned more for responsiveness than the closely related Honda Civic Hybrid, so gas mileage ratings drop to 39 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. The combined power output of 111 horsepower can leave the ILX Hybrid feeling flat, although most of the time it's confident and comfortable. You just won't be having any fun if you engage the ultra-conservative Eco mode.
The 2014 ILX isn't all that peppy in Hybrid or 2.0L trims; 2.4L models are quick but don't have the suspension to back it all up.