2016 Acura ILX Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 2, 2016

The 2016 Acura ILX has a sportier focus than other entry-luxury sedans, without sacrificing comfort and refinement.

Until now, the Acura ILX had been a bit of a muddled composition. That's because the luxury compact sedan's lineup included a bevy of powertrain options and interior features that could be a bit of a mishmash—not all the options were luxurious or sporty.

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.

The underwhelming ILX Hybrid model was dropped going into the 2015 model year. Now for 2016, the 2.0-liter base engine also has been dropped, and the ILX essentially gets the same 2.4-liter inline-4 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 horsepower, yet the engine is the latest direct-injection unit, making 180 pound-feet of torque (up 10 lb-ft over the previous 2.4-liter). The 8-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.

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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 lights 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 didn't need rehab. It’s comfortable and spacious—surprisingly so in the rear seats, with enough room even for taller adults to comfortably fit. Ergonomically, the cabin is 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 earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS, and a five-star overall rating from the NHTSA.

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 forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking. There’s also a blind-spot monitor with rear traffic alert 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 configurable display.

The 2016 ILX achieves EPA ratings of 25 mpg city, 36 highway, 29 combined with a single powertrain offering.

7

2016 Acura ILX

Styling

The 2016 Acura ILX looks lean and handsome—although it may not quite look, inside and out, the part of a luxury sport sedan.

The 2016 Acura ILX isn’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, 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.

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9

2016 Acura ILX

Performance

The 2016 Acura ILX is a very nice driving small sport sedan—and it has all the steering, suspension, and brakes to handle what the sharp new powertrain can give it.

For 2016, Acura replaces several models with lackluster performance with a single one that finally does what the ILX should have done in the first place: deliver strong, satisfying performance, in a fuel-efficient, otherwise pleasant-driving sedan.

What that means is that for 2016 the 2.0-liter base engine has been dropped, and the ILX essentially gets the same 2.4-liter inline-4 and dual-clutch setup as Acura’s next-larger model, the front-wheel-drive TLX. The power rating stays the same as the outgoing model, at 201 horsepower, yet the engine is the latest direct-injection unit, making 180 pound-feet of torque (up 10 lb-ft over the previous 2.4-liter).

The former 5-speed automatic has also been dropped (as has the 6-speed manual, sadly), and the 8-speed, dual-clutch gearbox that replaces it is the perfect companion to the new engine; it uses a torque converter for low-speed smoothness, yet its shifts are super-quick during high-performance driving. Click back to the Sport mode, and you get perfectly rev-matched downshifts and good driver control through steering-wheel shift paddles.

Previously, the ILX wasn’t quite as sharp as you might have expected, especially in its top-performance version, and thankfully Acura has made some major improvements in suspension and especially braking and steering feel to improve the driving experience.

All ILX models get new sleeved front lower control-arm bushings, as well as larger rear stabilizer bars and a stiffer front subframe. All versions now also get amplitude-reactive dampers in front, not just in back. Additionally, engineers applied a new control logic to the electric power steering system, and installed larger-diameter brake discs front and rear (ventilated in front).

What this adds up to is a much-improved driving experience—and a driving experience that’s more predictable, linear, and confidence-inspiring than what you’ll likely find from base versions of rival base models from Germany. The steering loads up nicely and is well-weighted, while brake-pedal feel is about the best it gets short of a full-fledged sport sedan. The ILX weighs only about 3,100 pounds—less than the A3, CLA, or any other direct rival—and that lightness carries into the driving experience.

A-Spec models include bigger and wider (18-by-7.5-inch) wheels with very low-profile tires, which tend to exaggerate the tendency of the rear suspension to bring out a little more road harshness and make sharp upward motions during cornering on rough road surfaces. Acura says that the available A-Spec Package allows you to make the most of this revised setup, but we came away from a drive in multiple cars thinking that the non A-Spec cars are the better bet unless you live around very smooth roads.

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8

2016 Acura ILX

Comfort & Quality

The 2016 Acura ILX has a quiet, composed ride and more usable space than rivals; but its materials and trims aren’t anything above the ordinary.

The 2016 Acura ILX does some impressive things with available space and, in general, provides a lot of comfort, a straightforward interface, and plenty of smaller cabin space to stow personal items. The only thing it’s lacking is a little more gloss and gleam, and the sort of "surprise-and-delight" materials and trims that arguably cause shoppers to fall in love with some luxury-brand models.

The interior layout of the ILX has been stellar all along, so it needed no rehab in terms of functionality. 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).

Front seats are supportive and very adjustable for the driver. Although what’s sorely missing is height adjustability for the passenger front seat. Head room is rather tight in front—due to the sunroof housing, which takes up an extra inch or two—while there’s probably a bit more rear head room than you’ll find in most models in this class. Leg room and knee room are quite good in back, too—enough to fit a couple of 6-footers.

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.

There are thoughtful bins and cubbies everywhere (if you’ve cross-shopped the Audi A3 you’ll understand how frustrating the lack of them can be), as well as very low liftover height. Acura says that the trunk can hold two large suitcases, a large cooler, or even a wheelchair. The rear seat backs are split and can be flipped forward for expanded space.

The ILX is already a surprisingly quiet-riding car; yet as of last year, 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.

Trunk space itself is even quite decent, with the standard models ranging between 12.3 and 12.4 cubic feet, depending on options.

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8

2016 Acura ILX

Safety

With a suite of optional active-safety features and an improved structure, the 2016 Acura ILX will likely be one of the safest picks in its class.

The 2016 Acura ILX doesn’t just have all the expected safety features for a small premium sedan, it also now piles on the active-safety features and driving aids.

Crash-test scores have carried over, with the addition of a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS. The ILX earned a "Good" score in the IIHS' tough small-overlap frontal crash test, which is still a relative milestone for many sedans. In federal testing by the NHTSA, the ILX has repeated last year's five-star overall rating, with four- and five-star ratings for frontal and side crash protection, respectively.

New to the ILX for 2016 is the so-called AcuraWatch suite of active-safety features. Altogether, it brings forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitors, and a multi-view rearview camera.

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8

2016 Acura ILX

Features

The range of choice is rather narrow compared to other compact luxury sedans; yet the 2016 Acura ILX packs in more features and value than rivals.

Acura doesn’t have anything like the seemingly unlimited, a la carte range of possibilities you’ll find on rival German sedans like the Mercedes-Benz CLA and Audi A3. Yet keeping the ILX’s options down to just a handful of packages and upgrades keeps prices down—and greatly improves value.

Acura now offers a total of six 2016 Acura ILX packages, including standard ILX, Premium, Technology Plus, A-Spec, A-Spec Premium, and A-Spec Technology Plus.

Base 2016 ILX models include a power moonroof, a power driver’s seat, a multi-view rearview camera, and Bluetooth connectivity. Stepping up to the ILX Premium gets you leather upholstery, a power passenger seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage-door opener, the dual-screen infotainment setup, satellite radio, blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alert. New with the Premium Package there’s Siri Eyes Free compatibility, plus an HDMI port, HD Radio compatibility, and Pandora and Aha internet radio compatibility.

All ILX models include an text-messaging feature that will read incoming texts over the stereo, allowing the driver to reply with one of six factory-preset messages. The ILX also now comes with the so-called SiriusXM Advanced Audio Feature Set, which allows a buffer-based instant replay, as well as enhanced traffic and weather features and something called Tune Mix, which lets users compile a single preset that combines their favorite satellite-radio channels.

At the Tech Plus level Acura adds a navigation system, the upgraded ELS Studio audio system, AcuraLink connectivity, and the full AcuraWatch Plus suite of active-safety features, which include automatic emergency braking systems, and even a lane-keep assist that will steer for short periods to keep within lane markings.

Separately, you can add that AcuraWatch Plus system to the base ILX, while an A-Spec package will add upgraded 18-inch sport wheels, two-texture suede seating surfaces, fog lamps, a decklid spoiler, sport pedals, and other trim extras.

Additionally, ILX models with the Tech Plus Package get the next generation of AcuraLink, which includes real-time traffic info and a feature guide, plus with a subscription, items such as stolen-vehicle tracking, local search, automatic crash notification, remote door locking/unlocking, and concierge services. A mobile app adds some of those features as well.

If you decide to skip the top-trim models, you can still get a navigation system. The Premium grade model offers, for the first time, a navigation system based on a connected iPhone, with the proper AcuraLink app (which costs $60), and Premium models and above get satellite radio and HD Radio. Tech models add the AcuraWatch suite plus embedded navigation and a configurable display.

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8

2016 Acura ILX

Fuel Economy

The ILX Hybrid model’s gone from the lineup, yet the powerful model remaining does surprisingly well in fuel efficiency.

Acura removed the Hybrid and smaller 2.0-liter version of the Acura ILX for 2016, but its fuel economy hasn't dramatically suffered.

Actually, it’s quite good. With the new 201-horsepower direct-injection inline-4 and new 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the 2016 ILX achieves EPA ratings of 25 mpg city, 36 highway, 29 combined.

In one car, on a very rapidly driven loop of twisty two-lane roads we saw 25 mpg—so we think this car will do even better than the EPA numbers in most real-world conditions.

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March 22, 2016
2016 Acura ILX 4-Door Sedan

My first Acura, and last Honda

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Acura succeeded in luring in a 30-something young professional looking for his first "luxury" car. But in the process, they destroyed a lifetime of brand loyalty to Honda. This car is that bad (as was the... + More »
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October 18, 2015
For 2016 Acura ILX

Good price for a great car

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so far we are really enjoying the ILX. It is slightly different from the TL.
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August 18, 2015
2016 Acura ILX 4-Door Sedan w/Technology Plus/A-SPEC Pkg

My business bought 2 new Ilx showroom floor cars LOVE THEM!

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I love the car so much we had to get 2! Packages were great options for the prices of the cars!
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June 25, 2015
2016 Acura ILX 4-Door Sedan w/Technology Plus Pkg

ILX review

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poor. i was so excited to get this car and having it for only a month I wish I never got it and got the Lexus IS250. The transmission glitches, the car is always shaking and my passengers have complained about... + More »
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May 14, 2015
2016 Acura ILX 4-Door Sedan w/Technology Plus Pkg

satisfaction

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i rent from acura brossard the 24 of april 2015,i have done 500km,and i am very satisfied,good car,it is my third acura ,the first one was acura csx 2010 good car,after the ilx 2013 but i think than this one... + More »
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May 11, 2015
2016 Acura ILX 4-Door Sedan w/Premium Pkg

Awesoem Acura

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A beautifully styled , appointed and handling vehicle , exceptional in all areas
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April 28, 2015
2016 Acura ILX 4-Door Sedan w/Technology Plus Pkg

Great updated car, with more go power, quieter ride, and much better styling.

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I've owned many cars over the years, including early models of the Acura Integra and the first year the MDX shipped. Since then, when it came time to buy a car I've stayed away as I found Lexus, BMW, Audi, and... + More »
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