By on June 26, 2012

Like Lexus and Infiniti, Acura launched with two models, a bespoke flagship sedan and a smaller car based on an existing mainstream model. Unlike the Lexus ES 250 and the Infiniti M30, though, the Acura Integra received rave reviews. The Integra was discontinued for 2002 as part of Acura’s failed upmarket push. The Civic-based Integra sedan’s slot was sort of filled with the larger, heavier European Accord-based TSX. The 2004 TSX was a good car, but it was no Integra, and the model gained additional inches and pounds with a 2009 redesign. For 2013 Acura returns to its original playbook with a Civic-based four-door model. They’re not yet ready to officially admit the stupidity of going alphanumeric, so the new car is unfortunately appellated the ILX.

Dimensionally, the ILX shares a 105.1-inch wheelbase with the 2004-2008 TSX, but is 4.3 inches shorter, 1.2 inches wider (surprise!), and 1.7 inches lower. Interior dimensions are very similar (including a couple of inches less rear legroom than the compact sedan norm) with the exception of rear headroom, which isn’t quite sufficient for six-foot passengers in the new car. Trunk volume is a passable 12.4 cubic feet with the regular ILX, but only 10.0 cubes with the Hybrid. Most significantly, the ILX is nearly 300 pounds lighter than the original TSX and over 400 pounds lighter than the current one.

Compared to other recent Acura sedans and the latest Honda Civic, the ILX’s exterior styling is a step in the right direction. The exterior’s most distinctive feature, a character line that S-curves up the body side just ahead of the rear fender, recalls the Dodge Avenger, which hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, but the whole is better executed here. Seventeen-inch wheels standard on the 2.4L and available on the 2.0L (but not the Hybrid) help lend the small sedan an athletic stance. Inside, the ILX resembles the TSX and TL, just with a less substantial feel to the doors and seats. Not quite premium, but far, far nicer than a Civic, and thankfully bereft of the Honda’s massive bi-level instrument panel.

The Acura ILX’s powertrain options are…curious. You can get a 150-horsepower 2.0-liter only with a five-speed automatic, a 201-horsepower 2.4-liter (shared with the TSX and Honda Civic Si) only with a six-speed manual, or a 111-horsepower 1.5-liter hybrid only with a CVT that can be manually shifted to mimic a seven-speed transmission. Oddly, premium unleaded is recommended with all three engines, even the Hybrid.

With nearly 3,000 pounds for its 111 horsepower to motivate, the Hybrid with Technology Package is perhaps the most sluggish car with a sticker price over $35,000. Even a Lexus CT feels considerably more energetic. In the EPA tests the hybrid manages 39 MPG city, 38 MPG highway, but you’ll only observe these numbers in the real world with a lethargic driving style much better suited to a Prius (with its much stronger electric motor) than an Acura.

Though the ILX 2.4L pairs nearly twice as much peak horsepower with a nearly identical curb weight, it will satisfy lazy drivers little more than the Hybrid will. Unlike Audi, Buick, and Volkswagen, which offer the most directly comparable cars, Acura continues to avoid turbocharging. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine has little going on south of 4,000 rpm and peaks just 100 rpm shy of a 7,100 rpm redline. Employ the solid, precise shifter typical of the brand to keep the engine on boil, though, and the car entertains. Few fours sound sweeter or feel smoother when revved.

But, spoiled by widely available big sixes and boosted fours, most driving enthusiasts now demand a solid shove at low rpm. If they can live with a not remotely premium interior, they’ll be happier in a Jetta GLI. If they can’t, Audi will soon offer a redesigned A3 as a sedan and Buick will soon offer the Verano with a 250-horspower turbocharged engine.

The ILX 2.4L is geared for performance, not fuel economy, so its EPA ratings are 22 MPG city, 31 highway. The Jetta GLI matches it in the city and manages another two miles-per-gallon on the highway. The 2.0L automatic does a little better, 24/35. Are a few MPG worth giving up 51 horsepower? Acura apparently thought most potential buyers would think so, or they’d have also paired the automatic with the larger four.

The ILX’s steering isn’t as lightning-quick as the TSX’s, while being equally uncommunicative. Nevertheless, the new car feels even lighter than its relatively low curb weight suggests it ought to. A Jetta GLI is only about three inches longer and 150 pounds heavier, but feels considerably larger and more massive. A Buick Verano feels even heavier than the VW, perhaps because it is. The ILX rides much more smoothly than the VW, if still not as smoothly or quietly as the Buick. Partly this is because its suspension simply wasn’t tuned as aggressively as the VW’s. A limited-slip front differential is standard on the Civic Si, but not offered here. But the ILX is also the first Acura to employ “amplitude reactive dampers” that provide limited damping for the first five centimeters of travel then firm up for suspension motions over ten centimeters in a mostly successful bid to pair a comfortable ride with athletic handling. The ILX might not drive like a hardcore sport sedan, but it has a lively yet precisely controllable character that makes it fun when pushed. Imagine a more powerful, more refined, slightly softer Mazda3, and you won’t be far off.

Unfortunately, the Acura ILX is also far more expensive than a mainstream compact like the Mazda3. Though based on the Civic rather than the European Accord, and with a corresponding less substantial feel, the ILX 2.4L is priced $6,920 higher than a Civic Si (about $3,000 of which is due to additional features) and nearly as high as the TSX: $30,095. Is the ILX too dear, or is the TSX a bargain? If you adjust for the ILX’s additional features (including leather upholstery, a power driver seat with memory, proximity key, and xenon headlights) using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, it’s only about $1,300 more than the Jetta GLI with Autobahn Package. But the adjustment is nearly $2,500, and many people might not look beyond the $3,780 MSRP gap. A Technology Package with nav and Elliot Scheiner surround sound audio isn’t available with the 2.4L. Get that package on the Hybrid and the sticker shocks: $35,295. But no more than it does for the Lexus CT 200h, which has a nearly identical base price and is nearly $3,000 more when both cars are loaded up.

While I found the Acura ILX Hybrid sluggish, I enjoyed driving the 2.4L. You can’t get a 200-horspower sedan with a curb weight under 3,000 pounds from any of the Germans, even VW. And while boost can’t be beat for its ability to pair midrange power with fuel efficiency, I continue to prefer the sound and feel of a high-winding, naturally aspirated engine when paired with a well-engineered stick shift. Overall, the ILX doesn’t make a strong statement in how it looks or how it performs, but neither did the Integra. Like the earlier car, the new one possesses the willing responses and light, almost delicate feel that has historically typified Hondas (with a nicer interior then you’ll find in a Honda). This character is increasingly hard to find as virtually the entire industry piles on turbos, gadgetry, sound deadening, and pounds. Ultimately, no one else offers a car like the ILX 2.4L. The main change I’d like to see: a price not so close to that of the TSX.

Suburban Acura of Farmington Hills, MI, provided the ILX 2.4L. They can be reached at (248) 427-5700.

Nick Pechilis at Acura of Memphis provided the ILX Hybrid. He can be reached at (901) 334-5525.

Michael Karesh operates, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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119 Comments on “Review: 2013 Acura ILX...”

  • avatar
    C P

    Just what we need, another car that looks like everything else. I’m getting old. Are they trying to confuse me?

  • avatar

    I foresee 3 or 4 grand on the hood to move these, until the TSX gets discontinued. It’s a nice car, but it’s not mid-30’s nice. Upper 20’s nice, for sure.

    • 0 avatar

      I have to agree.

      Clearly the Verano is targeting a different kind of customer than this ILX, but I can’t help but think you get more… everything (but sportiness) for less money in the Verano – quieter, nicer interior, more features, less money.

      These cars are tricky, though. A loaded Focus, Cruze or if you can stand the looks Civic would I would think come close to one of these sorts of vehicles, and for a lot of people I can’t help but think that would be enough.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    The 2.4 liter ILX with a manual seems like a fun car, and I like the conventional gauges compared with the Civic. I’d get one over a Jetta GLI – still not sold on VW reliability.

    That having been said, it’s awfully close to a base manual BMW 128i as far as price goes. I’d probably grab the 128i, as my experiences with a six-cylinder non turbo BMW have been very good.

  • avatar

    I haven’t driven one of these, but the price and the premium fuel would steer me away anyway. I got a Mazda3 instead… happy so far.

    • 0 avatar

      The car will run on low-octane fuel if needed. Out here the high octane only costs 5 or 6% more. No big deal for some spending $30k on a new car.

      That said, I suspect that a Speed3 would be much more fun.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve heard this argument before about premium fuel. My question is this: who wants to spend an extra $300-$400 a year on fuel when you’re getting nothing to show for it? If you were getting something in return for the extra cash, that would be one thing. You can make the argument that if you’re rich enough that $300-$400 is chump change to you, then why aren’t you driving a German supercar? I personally think it’s a shame that premium fuel is required for an entry level compact sedan, or any mainstream sedan for that matter.

    • 0 avatar

      Premium fuel is “recommended,” but not required.

      • 0 avatar

        Alf, what you “get to show for it” with premium fuel is slightly better performance than the same engine would deliver if detuned for regular.

        Most likely, the reason premium is “recommended” rather than “required” is that Honda, like most automakers who calibrate their performance models for premium, has simply modified the engine electronics to adapt to the octane it gets. A few tanks of premium, it advances the spark timing. A few tanks of regular, and the detonation sensor tells it to back off.

        In Acura’s case, this is how they usually eke out a few extra HP to distinguish their engines from the essentially identical ones in Honda models. Hondas never use premium.

  • avatar

    Nice review there Michael,

    Sadly, it’s just another sedan in my eyes. One of the reasons I loved the original first gen Integra especially, but other generations as well was it not being afraid of its more humble roots and yet, was quicker and more fun than the already fun Civic to drive.

    I agree, Acura needs to ditch the alphanumeric naming of its cars and simply call it the Integra again and bring back a version that’s an actual hatchback, even if both remain of the 4 door variety. I know, Acura has tried to move into more premium, luxury territory, but the Integra should be seen in much the same light as the old 318i etc BMW’s of yore by promoting a bit more luxurious interior than in a Civic, but with a more sporty character and they seem to be moving, kind of in the right direction, but with choices in body too would I think help this model along.

  • avatar

    There was reference made to the Mazda 3, but I’m curious how this vehicle compares to the likes of the Dart Limited or Focus Titanium (optioned similiarly of course).

    From what I’ve gathered an ILX with nav will run you 32K. Premium brand or not, I don’t see much value in that.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. The Dart or Focus seem like much more satisfying cars.

      • 0 avatar

        As a 25 year old male (Gen Y??), I can tell you one thing. However more satisfying a Dart or a Focus might be, they are nowhere as “prestigious” as an Acura. That is unfortunately what people around me seem to think.

        I was talking to my girlfriend last night about how Toyota miserably failed at creating a “youth brand” in Scion and how the median age of Tc buyer was around mid thirties (I guess I read it here on TTAC). And she just wasn’t ready to fathom the concept of a middle aged, grown man wanting to drive a 2 door, no frills, somewhat fun to drive car. She kept on saying how the Tc was a college kid, female car and how she would question a 35 year old man’s career and lifestyle choices if she saw him in a Scion Tc (!!!!!!).

        Unfortunately, a large percentage on younger, fresh out of college kids have strong product – personality associations. It escapes me, but it still happens. Trust me, the target demographic for this car (as evident from the split screen advertisement showing a young, successful professional) will choose a BMW, Audi, Acura anyday over a Ford or a Dodge. The only exception I can see are genuine car enthusiasts/car nuts who care more about rowing their own gears, handling, torque – horsepower-PSI numbers, compression ratios and the like.

        That might explain the high number of 3-series leases.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know anyone who would consider Acura in the same league as Audi or BMW. If anything Acura reads, “I really wanted to be able to afford a premium car but this is the closest I could get.”

        In LA Acura is box office poison.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, Acura is positioned as a premium brand, but outside of TL there isn’t much that I would consider premium about it. The ILX is a prime example of that. Anyone looking for prestige (or a label for that matter) will skip right over Acura, and dive right into an A4, 3 Series, IS or C Class.

        If this vehicle were priced under $30K (with options) I’d have few complaints about it. That said, as it currently sits (with nothing to offer over vehicles costing less), I fail to see why anyone but a Honda loyalist would come running.

    • 0 avatar

      As noted in the review, you can’t get nav with the 2.4L. The price you cite is for the 2.0L with Technology Package. Worth noting: the 2.0L and 2.4L are the same price, so they’re assentially charging the same for the automatic transmission and the larger engine. If offered, a 2.4L Tech would be the same price as a 2.0L Tech.

      I haven’t yet driven a Dart. The Focus has a heavier, more substantial feel, more European than Japanese. The performance model employs a turbo. I like the Focus a lot, but it’s a different sort of car. As noted in the review, there’s no other car quite like the ILX. The big question is whether there are good reasons everyone else takes a different approach.

      • 0 avatar

        Can I do the “This is just a Civic with leather” comment?

      • 0 avatar

        “As noted in the review, you can’t get nav with the 2.4L.”

        That was my understanding. My comment was aimed directly at the pricing of the 2.0L. That amount of money for a very modest powertrain does not sit well with me, especially when you have vehicles like the Focus (maybe the Dart) that offer more more for less.

      • 0 avatar

        As Lincoln and Buick have found out, it is hard to shake that ‘old fogie’ image. So Acura build a line of boring looking cars, with marginal differences over the competition and price it out of the reach of most college grads and what have you got, an old guys car image. Time was if you saw an Integra one saw a young person who had a pulse driving it.

    • 0 avatar

      This could be called the Acura Cimarron.

  • avatar

    The ILX is an all-round well-executed design, and the upcoming RLX flagship looks even better. Glad to see Acura returning to a more restrained, conservative design. Their attempt to stand out with grossly over-sized chrome beaks was a most unpleasant deviation.

    Premium gas in a 150-hp base engine in an entry-level luxury car is a little precious, though.

  • avatar

    How’s the NVH? That’s one area where the Civic has never been very good but the TSX is much better, and you didn’t really address it.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the ILX is a little quieter inside than the Civic, and is quiet enough for me personally, but in terms of NVH it isn’t on the same level as the TSX or other truly premium cars. I drove a TSX immediately after driving the ILX Hybrid. In the TSX the doors feel more substantial, the seats are cushier and more contoured, and the car simply feels a class higher in the way it drives. In suburban driving I personally more enjoy the friskier character of the ILX, but at the same time feel like a less substantial car should also cost substantially less.

      • 0 avatar

        Good to know. I bought a 2004 TSX new for $27k (and loved it), so paying $30k for a less substantial car (even eight years later) would be hard to swallow.

      • 0 avatar

        This is the fatal flaw with my TSX in my opinion. There’s just way too much road noise for a (near) luxury car, especially on concrete roads. Many blame the tires, but I’ve tried others (Primacy, etc.) and that’s not the problem.

        To me the TSX has too much road noise, so if the ILX is worse, it’s off my list. Honestly I don’t understand why Honda can’t do better in this area.

      • 0 avatar

        in short it would be perfect if only it was cheaper right?

  • avatar

    I am getting old – this doesn’t do a thing for me, as it looks like a de-chromed Optima in the first photo. At least they added bright window reveal, clumsy as it is – it needs to be very narrow to have proper effect.

    I give up – all these cars are pretty much interchangable: Impala/Optima/Camry/Accord/Fusion/Acura-anything/Sonata – take your pick. My Impala-love comes from personal history.

    Give me a Volvo C-70 for something just a bit different – and exciting.

    Driving excitement? In traffic? Give me a break – fuel economy and comfort at my age is paramount to me.

    I’m not spouting sour grapes or anything, for even as a young man, I was just a cruiser, not a hot-rodder. I care more for appearance and pride of ownership rather than brute power, although a little is certainly desirable.

  • avatar

    Were it not for the price, this would be a very comfortable commuter car. It’s very well done, and much like cars like the Matrix, which were initially targeted at younger people, this car has the hallmarks of following the Matrix into an older crowd. Gen-Y, maybe, but empty nesters… I think maybe yes.

    Were it not for the price… but as strange is it might sound, it’s more or less on pace with the outgoing Canadian CSX. The price is a bit more expensive, but the interior is much better. You knew what you were getting with the CSX, a Civic with a bigger engine and more sound suppression. Same thing here, but at least the body is visually different. And to be honest, even though spec shoppers will look at the Verano and GLI, it’s not the same buyer. As Jack pointed out in his Genesis coupe review, a whole generation has grown up on Civics and FWD compacts, so they’ll slot into cars that drive and feel like Japanese compacts.

    As I’ve said time and again, the base engine choice is frustrating. If Honda absolutely must keep its CAFE numbers down, then it sort of makes sense to go with the R20 engine (same as Civic, longer stroke), but this car doesn’t sell in enough volume to impact the CAFE number. They should have dumped the K24 from the Accord into it… highway mileage would be similar, city would suffer a wee bit more, but they would still reap the benefits of economies of scale with the Accord platform… same engine mounting points as the higher spec 200bhp version as well. If you define luxury as having more than you need, then a Civic with Accord torque fits the definition of ‘smart luxury’ for the urban environment.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Interesting drivetrain decisions on the part of Acura. I can’t imagine that a 150 hp engine coupled to an automatic is going to give this car much of a “premium” feel. The 2.4 is the obvious sweet combination, but tough luck if you want an automatic. How big is the market for manuals these days? As for comparables, the fatter torque curve of the boosted VW 2 liter probably will make both the GLI and GTI a little faster than this. (And, if you’re willing to void the warranty, you can chip the engine for another 50 hp.) But I don’t imagine either German car has as nicely finished an interior, leaving the open question as how important are reasonably accommodating rear seats. Of course, based on past records, there’s a huge gap in reliability between the VWs and the Honda/Acuras.

    I don’t see this as a competitor to the 1-series. For one thing, the 1-series rear seats are only slightly less of a joke than those in, say, a Mustang: fine for 10-year olds; torture for everyone else.

    The Focus, with 40 less hp and more weight, is going to be noticeably slower; and, with the nicer trim levels, you’re stuck with the weird DCT. The upcoming ST fixes the power/transmission problem, but it looks literally like a boy racer, inside and out. Some of us just can’t see ourselves in a car that looks like that. Pricewise, however, I think it’s just about comparable.

    But you have to wonder how many of these Acura is going to sell, offering only a manual with the potent engine. The other two powertrains seem like they would be pretty pokey to me, even for buyers whose performance expectations are modest.

    • 0 avatar

      The Focus Titanium is now available with a manual. But, as you note, the ILX 2.4L is still much quicker.

      • 0 avatar

        Fun 2012 Focus fact of the day – the intake is made up partially of carbon fiber (not sure which part, specifically). We killed Bambi on Sautrday night in my Focus, and although all she had was some light fender/windshield damage, the front end (specifically the top of the hood – Bambi was a jumper) was made a mess of – $12,000 repair bill.

        Apparently our fun, new compact cars are incredibly expensive to repair.

      • 0 avatar

        Michael, not sure where you can find one of those. I’ve searched from Des Moines to Kansas City to Denver and cannot find a Focus Titanium with a manual. Nor for that matter, an SEL that, according to Ford’s Build-It-Yerself website, states a 5 spd manual is available.

        Have to wonder why Ford chose not to have the Focus have the 6 spd tranny from the V6 Mustang?

    • 0 avatar

      I suspect that the auto-manual distinction was to avoid cannibalizing TSX sales. If you want an Auto and the 2.4, you probably want more room, and more comfort…so for short money, you’ll get the TSX. If you are young and want a quick car, you’ll want the manual. The omission of the tech package on the 2.4 ISX confirms this strategy in my view.

      2.0 Older folks who want a quieter civic and good MPG. Some younger women as well.

      2.4 Younger men, who want more fun.

      TSX professional types and dads who want something fun, but family friendly.

      For my needs, I’d take a one year old TSX every time.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll take the upcoming focus st over this piece of junk any day.

  • avatar

    Civic, civic, civic…VERANO turbo and be done.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      No Verano, not in the white shoes/white belt crowd

    • 0 avatar

      Try to buy or lease a Verano., and tell us how it goes. Good old General!

      • 0 avatar

        I actually cross shopped both for a zero down lease, the Verano is clearly superior for the money and the Acura Cimmaron really surprised me as I expected to hate the Buick and love the Acura. If the Buick stealership weren’t so obtuse with me I would be driving the Verano now (I decided to not lease anything and keep the cars I have).

        By the by in my research before test driving I discovered the ILX did unusually bad at the auction block while the Verano did surprisingly well. In April 2013 MY13 ILXs were doing 24s on loaded models, 21s on base (base msrp 26 and change + dest/30 + dest loaded), MY12 Veranos were doing low 20s on base models (msrp 23+dest). Past Buicks typically hit about 50% msrp in 3 years, while Acuras usually are a little bit better around 60, sometimes higher. Time will tell.

  • avatar

    The TSX price comparison will eventually go away – the TSX will disappear. The TSX is built in Japan and the conversion from yen to dollars is working very much against it being sold at the current price (and make a profit). The other problem with the TSX is that Acura made it into the TL-Junior (bigger, added V6, and a V6 TSX is very expensive – $35k). The whole Acura line needs to be re-focused – the TL was made into the RSX-Junior. Acura needs to quit making every line bigger with bigger engines.
    I vote for a 2.4l I4 and automatic with full selection of option packages.

  • avatar

    I used to own an Integra GS-R sedan and it’s a total shame what Acura did to replace it. The TSX is a bloated underpowered piece of Eurotrash. Integra was light, revved to 8100, was very tunable, economical and a great car all around. Basically everything that current TSX is NOT. At least previous gen TSX looked good, current gen looks awful. Another reason I will not touch another Honda after 12 straight years of owning one.

    As for this ILX it is still not nearly as good as the Integra. Too much weight, not enough power. And the ridiculous price! Imho, you have to be a complete moron to buy this over the WRX which can wipe the floor with this car anywhere for less money. I’m pretty sure it will fail like the current TSX. Or at least I hope it does so Honda gets some of its mojo back and stops building inferior junk piles.

  • avatar

    Acura continues a bizarre series of decisions about what engines come with what accessory packages. They should take a line from Burger King and let people have it their way.

  • avatar

    Acura might not want to admit it but I anticipate many of these will sell at a discount (as many Acuras already do), or will be leased at very low rates. Buyers aren’t stupid, they’ll see this car for what it really is, but at the right price they’ll consider. And the cachet of the Acura brand still surpasses say, Buick-people might feel more confident getting this over a Verano or something. I wouldn’t be surprised to see mostly middle-aged and elderly people driving these.

  • avatar

    I still go back and forth on this car, but I have to lean toward “too expensive for what you get.” I love the K24 engine, and given similar peak HP I’d take it over the GLI’s 2.0T for a host of reasons (not made by VW, no GDI, no turbo lag or whine, not made by VW, etc.) Interior is probably a lot nicer too. I get 27 MPG all-around in my 2006 TSX, and this car should do a little better. Probably quicker too. The current-gen TSX isn’t even in the running, so any price similarity doesn’t concern me.

    On the other hand, the GLI is a lot cheaper for a similar car. And the premium-compact market is starting to get pretty crowded. I’m going to have to check one out in the flesh, I think. Acura is offering .9% financing right now but maybe there will be more cash on the hood in the year or so before I have to decide.

    I am a little bothered that you can only get the Parchment interior with the slushbox. I park in direct sunlight all day and I do not want a “sporty” black-on-black interior. Of course the GLI has the same issue, with plastic seats to boot.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I trust that all of these engines are using double chains on the cams and not those nasty rubber bands Honda is so fond of. Of couse, I would overlook the rubber band if the engine was a non interference design.

  • avatar

    Sounds like a good car, but yet again it seems like Acura continues to cannibalize itself with products too close to one another in dimensions or price.

    I hope it does well, regardless.

  • avatar

    It sounds like a nice car and a near perfect commuter for those that want a more engaging and comfortable drive that an economy car offers. The part I don’t understand is the premium recommendation across all modes – that significantly increases running costs and is not really acceptable for basic SOHC engines such a the 2.0.

    Like with the Civic I would not be surprised if the transaction price fell below invoice. At that price point it will make a lot more sense.

  • avatar

    Former RSX-S owner chiming in here. I loved the car for what it was, but Acura made a whole slew of contenting errors on it that probably caused its death. The ILX car looks like a positive step for them except in a few areas.

    For those unfamiliar with some of the lingo further down my post, this will help you:
    DC2=last gen of US Integra
    DC5=RSX generation (Still Integra in Japan)
    JDM ITR=Japan Market DC5 Chassis Integra Type-R

    I had a few issues with the RSX’s content, and most other owners I knew would agree with me. As follows:
    No HIDs – Understandable in the 02-04 iteration, but not even an option after the 05-06 facelift was annoying. JDM ITR had them
    Dinosaur radio: AM/FM/CD/Tape – Again, OK for the first generation, but disappointing to have no iPod connector or aux input in a MY05+ car
    Navigation – Not even an option in the US. JDM ITR had it though
    Heated seats – Only available in Canada
    No limited slip differential – JDM ITR got one. Sentra SE-R and Cobalt SS did as well. They even put one in the MY06+ Civic Si, which had the same transmission internals but a different bell housing as the 05-06.
    Brembo Brakes – The TSX Type-S got them, and so did the JDM ITR. Hell, the Cobalt SS and Sentra SE-R got them too.
    I know the JDM ITR got a better cam profile and header for an extra 20HP, but that didn’t bother me over the other stuff I listed.

    They made the mistake of trying to go upmarket, but refusing to include any of the optional features that an upmarket customer might want on the luxury front. The Type-S was marketed as the sporty one but lacked sporting features that its competition had. To do a mid-cycle refresh and neglect any of the tech changes was blasphemy/seppuku.

    The worst part was that all or most of these missing features existed on the vehicle in its own domestic market but Honda refused to let them be sold here, in their largest market. The original TSX made most of these features available albeit at a bit of a price premium and at the cost of some of the sportiness however.

    The ILX looks promising to me as far as this all goes, or at least not de-contented. My only complaint is fuel economy actually. My 04 RSX-S got identical fuel economy, with a motor designed for originally for the 02 model. Honda has done nothing to make their performance motors suck less gas in over a decade if that’s the case, and that’s no way to sell advancement.

  • avatar

    My comment really isn’t about the car or the review. I’d read some of the comments on this car and it got me to thinking. It seems that every time a new car is released, there’s much complaining that it’s not like it’s predecessors; or other earlier models.

    It seems to me that we’re not going to unwind what has taken place, all newer cars seem to be heavier and more safety and electronic gadget laden than each previous generation. I don’t believe there’s a way back to the cars we all used to love.

    One of the guys my daughter dated owned a Chevy Cobalt XFE. I’ve seen dozens of them, never drove one. Upon getting into the car, I was taken back to the old economy cars, where everything was manual control, windows, seats, door locks, mirrors and transmission. Oddly, it really spoke to me to drive one of those stripper type cars again. But it would be far from the mainstream.

    It looks like we’re all doomed to these bland-mobiles. We’d better get used to it.

    • 0 avatar


      You’re right. The enthusiast community is fairly small – probably too small for the OEMs to be concerned about. It’s all about cost. The funny thing is; those who have the money to buy a sporty vehicle instead, go for luxury like M-B, Cadillac, Corvette, Lexus or even BMW – I mean, who is going to spend $50-$150 for a car to carve corners with in this country?

      Those who are enthusiasts are younger, without adequate resources to buy the car of their dreams. Look at me…I own a base Impala w/Sport Appearance package that I added and rearranged scripts and made it a unique car that no one else in the community has and I take pride in it. I drive 62-66 mph to and from work, too. Go figure…

  • avatar

    That car is usless. If one tries to take it up a mountain road, it will hyperventilate and die. So little power, so much weight.

  • avatar

    That car is useless. If one tries to take it up a mountain road, it will hyperventilate and die. So little power, so much weight.

  • avatar
    Dirk Wiggler

    “Like Lexus and Infiniti, Acura launched with two models, a bespoke flagship sedan and a smaller car based on an existing mainstream model…”

    Or more accurately “EVEN BEFORE Lexus and Infiniti, Acura launched with two models, a bespoke flagship sedan and a smaller car based on an existing mainstream model…”

  • avatar

    Looks like the car isn’t as bad as they nay sayers were hoping for. Then again I don’t see what advantages it has over my A3. Still I’ll go for a test drive in a couple of years when I’ll start to think about buying a new car.

  • avatar

    Drove one of these the other day and was greatly disappointed. None of the dealers near me had a stick to drive but they let me take a loaded 2.0 out for the longest test drive of my life. (the dealer was empty and judging by the daily calls from my salesman, nobody is beating his door down) Ride was decent, steering was forgettable and it felt very slow. I can’t imagine what the hybrid must feel like. I also can’t imagine why anyone would buy this over an Accord V6. Maybe they don’t want to drive a large car? The Accord may be bigger, but the extra 115hp is noticeable and appreciated in any driving situation. The ILX has a few more toys and a slightly nicer interior, but for an extra 3k I was expecting a lot more. Neither of them feel like a luxury/sports cars, but at least the Accord feels quick when you mash the gas pedal. None of my neighbors are going to be more impressed by an Acura than a Honda, though the 30k millionaire vibe of the ILX will at least show them I am trying to impress them.

  • avatar

    I’m always amazed about the resistance to premium fuel as compared to other items. In a car like this it adds less than $10/month to running costs. I guess because the owner is reminded at every filling, it seems like more.

    • 0 avatar

      Paying more for premium fuel where regular is already so expensive just doesn’t make sense. Just throwing money away for nothig. I’d rather buy some good beer or wine…

      Our 2007 MX5 Sport recommends premium. I put in regular and live with the sad, slow, chugging-along results… ;]

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Thanks for the review, I had requested one. I’m considering an ILX, a C30, or a Mustang V6 with performance pack for my next ride. I know, three completely different vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      My wife has a C30… unique little car, quicker then this ILX thing. Then I’m sure the V6 Mustang would be quicker still. The C30’s downfall: price and MPG, on the plus side its a turbo hatchback with a nearly perfect interior to go along with its sexy exterior.

      Before the C30 we considered the previous generation TSX, thought it was a fine car but compared to the V6 TL it suffered from the traditional torque-less 4-banger Honda engine drone. Also since we don’t have kids the extra doors served no purpose. For everyday errands the hatchback makes life super easy. In fact the wife has already stated that her next car MUST be another hatchback… maybe by then Acura will have a true Integra replacement available but given their current direction I doubt it.

  • avatar

    I suppose its too much to ask to get rid of that hideous, buck-toothed front-end that Acura is enamoured with?

  • avatar

    I wish Acura would return to its roots and come up with a simpler portfolio. Here’s how I’d revamp the car portion this poor brand:

    1. Bring back the Legend (price $35-50k). Make it exactly what it was before: a luxurious sports sedan. Go for athletic, tasteful exterior styling, a premium, airy interior, and build it off the Accord platform. Basically, bring the TL into focus.

    2. Bring back the Integra (price $25-35k). I loved both generations of this car, hatchbacks and all. I’d love to see a GS-R version again, plus a top-shelf Type-S. Make the car a technology and performance leader in the class. I’d have a strong look at what made the past Integras and RSXes (how do you pluralize this name?) successful and include it here. A Civic platform is just fine. Maybe consider the European Civic to be the basis, like the TSX-Euro Accord duo).

    3. Bring back the NSX (price $60-70k). Make it the halo car for the brand, showing off Honda’s immense technology leadership (it’s still hiding somewhere, right?)

    4. Create a flagship sedan above the Legend and give it a real name, not three capatalized letters, as a moniker (price $50-65k). As with NSX, make it showcase everything Honda has to offer, with a price well below A8, 7-Series et. al. Styling should be extremely emotional, yet still graceful, light, and not gimmicky. Style it so the world takes notice. Hell, make it an NSX sedan (or fastback a la Panamera). While this should offer no-compromises luxury, performance should be a priority. No repeats of the slushmobile RL, and don’t go the direction of Equus or Lexus LS. Perhaps think about the gap Infiniti abandoned when they repositioned their Q to be a Lexus-fighter.

    5. Since the US is a truck market, bring out an Acura badge-engineered version of the Ridgeline. Add some gold badges and a wood-trimmed interior, and charge $65k and above. OK, totally kidding with this one!!

    6. Create an affordable NSX (price $30-40k). Perhaps a coupe, perhaps a roadster, something with performance and styling as priorities, but more luxurious than a top Integra Type-S. A car marketed to be spohisticated, and sporty, but will in reality make baby boomers feel young again.

  • avatar

    So help me, but something about the second picture from the top (the 3/4 front shot) reminds me of the (awkwardly styled, to say the least) Chevy Cobalt sedan.

  • avatar

    this car is crap, much money did thet pay Michael to write this?

  • avatar

    Why not just get a loaded Civic?

  • avatar

    I think a lot of people are going to be asking this. They both have similar acceleration, and when you go from the EX-L spec Civic to the more expensive base ILX, you lose features like leather seating and navigation. You gain a more sophisticated chassis, but the value-oriented customers will probably ask exactly the same thing. For us here in Canada, the CSX, at least the pre-beak versions was a decent sales success, but it didn’t have to contend with a Civic as loaded as the current EX-L.

  • avatar

    Audi A3 MSRP $27,270 – $30,850
    Fun to drive? Yes
    Practical? Yes
    Optional Diesel Engine? Yes
    Available AWD? Yes
    More torque than the ILX? Yes
    Acura has a more cool image than Audi? Not so much

    Having said that the A3 is looking a little dated. Then theres the BMW 1 series to look at

  • avatar

    Seems really underwhelming for the price. If the model with the 2.4l/6 speed manual were priced between $24-$25k I could have been interested. I was interested until the numbers came out.

    I know they are two totally different products, with two different target demographics, but at roughly the same price why wouldn’t I buy the upcoming Ford Focus ST in the ST3 trim?

  • avatar

    Nice review Michael.

    Comparison to the Mazda3 is unavoidable. Fun to drive, the Mazda3 is more like the Honda/Acura of old more than Honda/Acura itself. And to top it off, Mazda did a better job of the bilevel dash than Honda did on the Civic.

    I’m glad you mentioned the Honda “je ne sai quois” driving quality of the naturally aspirated 2.4 ILX. It’s a small, but hopeful, sign that all is not lost.

  • avatar


    Sorry, but for that, and enough cheddar left over for probably 3 to 5 years of gasoline, and no premium fuel requirement, I’ll get a Buick Verano turbo with a 6-speed manual.

    $35K you’re just about to stripper BMW 3-series, or many other cars as noted above.

    Is Honda/Acura even trying anymore? Are they trying AT ALL???

    • 0 avatar
      Volts On Fire

      If only it weren’t for the undeniable mix of shame and dread that comes standard with owning a Buick-branded Opel/Daewoo cur that exists primarily to appeal to the ChiComs.

      This isn’t China… at least, not yet. No reason why anyone in the United States should be driving their cars.

    • 0 avatar

      No kidding… There’s no way I’d take the 2.4 ILX over a Civic Si. I can get nav, and for the money I’ll still save, I can buy my own leather seats and pay for 5 or 6 month’s worth of gas.

      Honda is its own worst enemy. Only badge snobbery will sell this car.

  • avatar

    That interior looks like it came straight out of a 1990’s-era Pontiac… with a slightly better center stack.

    It’s friggin’ hideous!

  • avatar

    I’m 26. I drive a 2012 GLI.

    Acura previewed the ILX before I bought my car. I was intrigued, given my past experiences with Honda and misgivings about VW reliability. The styling wasn’t even half bad. Still, I found the GLI much more appealing and pulled the trigger before the ILX’s final specs were even announced.

    I’m glad I did. The 2.0 car sounds like a bad joke. The 2.4/six-speed is a nice power train combo, but I can get that in a $23k Civic Si. For $30k, no thanks. Sure, you can rationalize the price gap between this and the GLI, but in the real world I think it’s a no-sale. The GLI seems more premium than its price tag to most people; The VW badge rides the coattails of the other German brands, the styling is suitably classy, the VTex upholstery fools most people, and everybody compliments the wheels and red brake calipers. Acura certainly carries some prestige appeal amongst my age group and in my region, but not an extra $3500 worth.

    I did not, however, consider the Verano when I was car shopping. I looked at used 3-Series, A4s, C-Classes and TSXs. Even looked at the Focus and Cruze. But the Verano? From my twenty something perspective, that’s a car for shameless GM sycophants and people who go to Golden Corral for 4:30 dinner. A Skylark for the 21st Century. Maybe there are some people that would cross-shop the Verano with the ILX (or anything else), and maybe the Verano turbo is a competitor to any number of cars on paper. In practice, nobody who wants to impress girls/inlaws/bosses with a prestige car or impress friends with a sporty car is going to look twice at a Verano.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, like it or not, the reality is that Honda or Acura still carry more prestige than Buick. Maybe that’s changing, but for now that’s the way it is. Look at resale values after 2 or 3 years and I think you’ll see that Honda/Acura holds value much better than the US makes.

      A few other comments:
      The commenter above who said the interior of the ILX looks like a ’90s Pontiac hasn’t sat in the ILX. I have, and it’s pretty nice. It’s much better than the current Civic.

      To everyone saying it’s too expensive: Yeah, well, you say almost every car on here is too expensive! Prices have gone up in the last few years, so get used to it or buy pre-owned. And realize that these won’t go for the asking price. The $30K sticker car will probably go out the door at $27K or something like that. Is it more than a loaded Civic? Yes. But to some people it will be worth it.

      This reminds me of when I was in my 20s in the 1990s and cross-shopped a loaded Civic against a base Integra. The Integra was $2K more, even back then, and the Civic had the VTEC engine that the base Integra didn’t get. I went for the Civic, but honestly I really wanted the Integra. I just didn’t want to pony up for it. For those who value a little something extra in their daily drive/image/etc., this car will fill the bill. For those who don’t, there’s the Civic (or Fit, or Mazda 3, or whatever.) There is room in the market for cars like this. Acura slots a bit higher than VW, but lower than BMW and the other high-end makes mentioned. And that’s OK. I’m not a big fan of this car, but I think it might find a niche, although I agree that the powertrain choices need to be expanded.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t think everything coming out is too expensive. The Focus ST, Veloster Turbo, Ford Mustang offer a lot for their prices. If I’m not mistaken the Cadillac ATS will be competitively priced. Don’t get me wrong, for what it is I’m sure it’s a great car, but I could only consider one that’s seriously depreciated considering what it offers.

    • 0 avatar

      It wouldn’t work for the Verano, but there are complete Opel conversion kits for the Regal. It’s like $560 for a nonGS and $760 for a GS to OPC conversion.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Styling wise it looks like an updated Dodge Avenger.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the great review. When I first saw Acura was creating a car in this space, I had some hope that it would be more akin to the Integra/RSX or even the last generation TSX, but it appears that isn’t the case.
    I’d also like a high-winding, responsive, naturally-aspirated car with decent horsepower and an engaging manual transmission (that a middle aged man wouldn’t look ridiculous in) , which is becoming increasingly rare. It’s a little too bad Acura evidently decided to make this car more for people like this:

  • avatar
    PJ McCombs

    A naturally aspirated, 7100rpm Four and a solid Honda shift sound like they’d make for a fun daily driver (after a couple years’ depreciation).

    Is the steering really that much worse than, say, a Mazda 3’s? I remember the Integra having some of the best steering of any FWD car I’d driven, so it would be a real shame if they missed the mark that badly.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I’m guessing that Michael didn’t drive the 2.0 liter version. I am curious if it is as slow as the weight and power suggest.

    The Hybrid seems a bit embarrassing; if there’s a reason to buy a Honda hybrid over a Toyota, it certainly doesn’t lie with the powertrain.

    So it’s a semi-premium sedan with road noise problems, torqueless engines that can all be found in a Civic, dead steering, all north of $27K? No thanks. At every ILX trim level there are several other choices in the small sedan market that I would much rather have.

  • avatar
    Albino Digits

    Thanks for the review, Mr.Karesh. You are the most (thoughtfully) critical and consistent of all the regular reviewers on TTAC, and I appreciate it.

    I owned a 1991 Integra and my current whip is a 2008 TSX. The ILX as a whole is just disappointing. I wanted so badly for it to bring some driving excitement back to the brand, but that clearly hasn’t happened. Acura has also fallen behind in technology, which they tout as one of their strengths. I can get the most exciting version of the ILX (2,4L manual), but if I like music, the ELS sound system isn’t even an option? That’s disappointing.

    While my TSX is much more practical and luxurious, I miss the Integra dearly. The shifter was smoother, the engine sounded better, and it just begged to go fast. I’ve found that I much prefer a hatchback/wagon format over sedans too. I will still consider the TSX wagon for a family ride because I love the form factor, sound system, reliability, and attention to detail, but right now I would look elsewhere for my next car.

    I’m still hoping to see an upscale, more exciting Fit or CR-Z retooled as an Acura. I’m not holding my breath.

    • 0 avatar

      >>I’m still hoping to see an upscale, more exciting Fit or CR-Z retooled as an Acura. I’m not holding my breath.

      The closest thing is, as you mentioned, the TSX wagon. TTAC recently did a review:

      And here’s a pretty good review from an owner ;)

  • avatar

    The 30 HP deficit with automatic, premium fuel recommendation, price, blah interior and Dodge Avenger styling would send me right to the Verano.

  • avatar

    Like the Verano, I don’t see the appeal of this car. To me, the reason to buy a premium small car is to get a car that feels high end (in terms of materials quality, driving experience) without having to pay a premium car fuel bill. Neither this nor the Verano is particularly efficient.

    It would seem to have many of the right factors to make an enthusiast happy (light weight, rev happy engine) but the poor fuel economy and performance combined with a thirst for premium fuel and the lack of a manual with the more efficient engine makes me wonder what happened to the magic that “powered by Honda” used to mean.

  • avatar

    Since it already looks like one, I’d just get an Avenger SE-V6, $21,495 MSRP. Pentastar V6 AND a six speed auto tranny. ILX has a “cutting edge” FIVE speed.

  • avatar

    At times, it seems to me that Acura’s product planning decisions are made for them by people planted into the Honda organization by their competitors. My theory is that these peoples’ sole purpose is to ensure that Acura never succeeds to the degree it should.

    We own and enjoy a current-generation MDX, but ever since the demise of the Legend, most other Acura products have left me scratching my head in puzzlement.

    Vigor?: Seriously? RL?: yougottabeekiddinme?! 1st-gen RDX?: WTF?

    ILX – where you can’t have the motor you want with the trans or equipment you want?: WTHIWWT? (What the heck is wrong with them?)


  • avatar

    I assume this is not a bad car. However, one word comes into my mind to summarize this one: overpriced.

    You get a compact car, a souped up Civic EX with an upscale interior and a few new toys. It’s hard to believe anyone will want to pay the announced MSRP price… except perhaps a lost idiot.

  • avatar

    Owner of a 2010 TSX here, and while I’m not thrilled with the ILX on paper, especially the 2.0, I agree with MK that it occupies its own space, at least in 2.4/6MT form. It’s a great engine, which gets better highway mileage than the EPA estimates. And all should bear in mind that these powertrain choices won’t last long, because the car will get the DI Earth Dreams engines when those are available. Expect more power in the base engine, and better fuel economy across the board.

  • avatar

    Had another look at the ILX…. the ‘premium recommend’ forthe 2.0 is infuriating. There is nothing about the engine architecture that suggest that you would need 91 octane for an engine that produces 0.75 bhp per litre. It just feels like a boneheaded move to make the car feel more ‘upscale’, because luxury cars use premium fuel.

    Digging back a few years, the equivalent Canada CSX ran on regular with the K20 engine, 10 more horsepower, slightly more oversquare engine. The ‘premium recommended’ for the ILX is galling, since it destroys a key virtue of what the car purports to be, a moderate dose of luxury at low running costs.

  • avatar

    I guess Acura isn’t using Honda’s “Earth Dreams” engines in the 2013 Acura? Direct Injection and Atkinson valve behavior when load is low? I’m very very, very excited about this and what MPG improvements will come to the Civic line. Hopefully this engine will come to the Civics for the 2013 refresh.

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