Maiden Voyage in the 2013 ILX
Odometer (Legend): 514,200
Odometer (ILX): 1,275
She’s broken in! The ILX has made its first trip to my homeland in Utah. I traveled north from Phoenix, Arizona to visit my family for the Father’s Day weekend and fully enjoyed getting acquainted with my new car. Here’s my trip report along with some driving impressions of the new ride.
Roadways were pretty empty during my departure early on Saturday. Highway 74, the Carefree Highway, winds through the Arizona desert lined with Joshua trees that made for a nice backdrop as I pulled over for some sunrise pictures.
It wasn’t long until I passed a milestone at 500 miles on the odometer.
Much of the drive to Utah consists of two lane divided highways that climb through the desert. There was little traffic.
And XM Radio to keep me company. This quality song gave me a good chance to blast the 7-speaker Premium Audio System.
As I did with my Legend, I’ll track which states the ILX gets to roll through. I’ve already crossed Arizona, Nevada, and Utah off the list thanks to this weekend’s trip. Just before getting to the Nevada state line from Arizona, Highway 93 crosses through the Lake Mead Recreation Area.
Below is the Nevada state line, as Highway 93 in Arizona curves up and over the Colorado River just downstream of Hoover Dam via the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge which was completed in 2010. This bridge looms a whopping 900 feet above the river below and spans the canyon over 1,000 feet wide. It is an engineering wonder for sure and worth checking out if you’re ever in the area.
Arizona state line, as Interstate 15 crosses back over the northwestern corner of the state. I’ve taken pictures in this area before.
And finally on into southwestern Utah, also known as “Utah’s Dixie” due to the area’s heritage as a cotton-growing community for the Mormon pioneers who settled here in the 1800’s.
The landscape here in southern Utah, unlike that of the northern part of the state, consists of desert vistas much like Arizona.
There’s a curvy one-lane loop in Pioneer Park in St. George, Utah that offers a prime place to evaluate handling performance of a sport minded car like the ILX. This spot has been one of my favorites to visit since I bought my Legend almost a decade ago and put together a little video on this stretch of road with the assistance of a Sticky Pod camera mount. I figured it was fitting that I take the new ILX there to give it a proper induction.
Even my little nephew Beckam can appreciate those leather seats. He’ll be driving a 6-speed as soon as he can reach those pedals, I’m sure.
My brother and niece were checking out the car, too. They gave approval! Here’s a taste of OCD that some might appreciate: You’ll notice I actually left the plastic on the sun visors that came with the car from the Indiana factory. I’ve since pulled the covers off but it was a fun way to show my family just how “fresh” this car really is.
I paid a visit to my friend Buck who drives a 2002 Acura RSX 6-speed a color that’s not unlike my Silver Moon. We decided that our cars definitely share a brotherly resemblance and sporty demeanor.
Today’s drive back to Phoenix after the weekend’s family activities was fairly adventurous. My friend Greg and his son Cody needed a ride to Phoenix so that they could pick up a couple of vehicles that Greg had purchased at auction. I was happy to provide shuttle service so the 3 of us piled into the ILX and headed for the hills.
Rather than back-track through Las Vegas, we decided to take the scenic route through Flagstaff, Arizona. So on the following map from point “B” to point “C” – we were on the right hand side of the circle this time. My entire weekend was a giant loop circling the Grand Canyon as illustrated:
Highway 89A climbs from 722 feet in elevation to about 8,000 feet in a matter of about 20 miles to the summit at Jacob Lake. This is the kind of road where true driving experience can be enjoyed. I blasted up the side of mountain mostly in 4th and 5th gears. For most of the drive we opened the moonroof and enjoyed the temperatures which were quite a bit cooler than at the valley floor.
Quick photo-op among the fresh smelling pines. It made us all wish we’d brought tents and had a couple of days to camp!
And yet another milestone comes to pass.
Back seat must’ve been comfy – Cody was able to catch some Z’s.
After descending 89A, we got back into the red rock country called Vermillion Cliffs, a spectacular “suburb” of the Grand Canyon with very little traffic and the type of landscape you’d expect to see in an old Western movie. Greg and I posed for a quick picture.
Just a little bit down the road we encountered the Lee’s Canyon Ferry, named after John D. Lee who first operated this river crossing in the 1800’s. The ferry became obsolete in 1928 when the bridge that I’m standing on in the following picture was completed. And that bridge has now been bypassed by yet another bridge to the south which is much wider to accommodate today’s automobile traffic.
Standing in the middle of the bridge and looking northward, it’s truly an inspiring sight. This location is the official start of the Grand Canyon.
Saddled back up in in the ILX we finished our trek through the wild west and had lunch in historic downtown Flagstaff, Arizona.
From there it was a straight shot home to Phoenix via I-17.
So what’s the verdict on this new ride after spending a weekend in the driver’s seat?
Bottom line: This car is a worthy road tripper.
The ILX handling is very tight. Even slight input to the steering wheel is quickly transferred to the road. The car felt “grippy” – almost like it had AWD. There was little to no body roll on some of the curves at Jacob Lake including a banked hairpin at the base of the mountain that’s posted at 15 mph (presumably for high profile vehicles and camp trailers) and I was able to take at nearly 45 comfortably – just testing the limits of the car. But even with sporty handling, I got home today after 7 hours in the car and did not feel exhausted.
First impressions left me with remarkably few things about the ILX that I “didn’t” like, and most of these are more related to my unfamiliarity with the car and will likely not be as much of an issue as I spend more time with it. To keep this blog an objective view for anyone who’s considering looking at this car, I thought these were worthwhile things to bring up.
- During a long drive, I like to rest my hand while holding the bottom of the steering wheel, but this only works on a 4-spoke steering wheel and not a 3-spoke like the ILX has. Another thing on my wish list might be cruise control buttons that are lower on the wheel.
- As a safety measure, the car continually tries to lock its doors when I’m driving. I’d like to keep doors unlocked the whole time so that when I exit the car and need to get something out of the back seat, I don’t have to hit the unlock button again.
- I wish the driver’s door had a pocket long enough for my day planner (yes, I’m old fashioned and still use one), and I’m still trying to decide the best place to stow my sunglasses.
- The chrome trim around the center console (surrounding the shift knob as well as the 2 cupholders) looks great from a design perspective but when caught at just the right angle with the sun (which happened a few times) reflects sunlight directly into the driver’s face. Something small that could probably be overcome by a different type of finish on the trim pieces.
ILX strong points that I loved, which by far outweighed any negatives – in random order:
- Power. This car is a 4 cylinder and has 29 hp fewer than I’m used to having at my command. However, it revs quite a bit higher than my Legend did. 80 mph means the engine is turning about 3,400 RPM. On some steep grades between Wickenburg and Wikieup on northbound Highway 93, I didn’t have to downshift. The car held speed in 6th with cruise control activated which was impressive. I also exposed the ILX to some highway speed passing situations today on Hwy 89 north of Flagstaff and it quickly got up to speed and allowed me to maneuver easily around the slow pokes.
- Cupholders! Two of them in the center console, and one in each of the front doors. Why I never! First car I’ve ever owned with a cupholder. Sounds silly but coming from someone who’s missed out on this luxury, it’s a welcome feature.
- XM Radio. I never thought I’d be a believer, but between the 4 or 5 stations which quickly became my favorites, I was able to stay entertained for the entire drive without even needing to plug in my iPod. For any who are wondering, I highly recommend “80’s on 8” and “Blue Collar Comedy” (channel 97).
- Tilt Moonroof. Super nice for getting some ventilation without having to slide the roof open.
- Turn Signal Feature. Discovery I made: When you “blip” the lever just slightly and release, it’ll signal 3 times without having to hold the lever in place. Very handy for lane changes.
- Smart Key Access. I can walk up to the locked car with just the fob in my pocket, it unlocks for me. What I’m still struggling with is where to keep the key. I find myself so used to taking the key OUT of my pocket that most of the time I still do. I’ve been storing it in the cup holder area while I drive.
- Gas Mileage. The ILX has averaged 30.6 mpg in its 1275 miles of life. I’d say this car’s had mostly highway exposure. The gauge is way more accurate than the one in my Legend (which would hover around “full” forever, and then dump speedily toward empty as soon as it hit ½ tank). I like how the information center in the ILX gauge cluster tells me at a glance my average as well as instantaneous MPG.
- Accessory Power Outlet. It’s inside the center console – a lot easier place to run the cord for a cell phone charger than if it had been mounted to the dash.
- Space – Leg and Head. One complaint I had about the Legend was how “shallow” the footwells were. I’m 5’11” and found myself with plenty of space to stretch legs in the ILX.
- Visibility. The driver’s point of view in the car is high and blind spots are fairly easily overcome.
- Auto Up/Down Windows. Both front windows are automatic up/down. My Legend had only the driver’s side. Though, I haven’t yet rolled around much with windows down for a couple of reasons: (1) It’s too dang hot outside, and (2) Why would I want to let my “new car smell” escape?
- Back-Up Camera. I don’t think I’ve ever aced a reverse parking job quite as well as I did last night with the assistance of the guidelines on the camera screen.
- Foot Pedals. I love driving barefoot in a stick shift! The race inspired sport pedals on the ILX actually feel like they’re giving my feet a massage as I’m rowing through the gears.
- Exhaust Note. I’ve had 3 friends this week ask me if I’d had some special tuning done with the exhaust system to give it a little more “growl.” I’ve explained to them that the car is in fact stock and it left the Indiana factory just as-is.
You’ll remember that I had the privilege of meeting Chief Acura Designer, Jon Ikeda, a couple of months ago to talk to him about the ILX design language. I followed up with Jon via email and included some pictures to let him know that I’m now the proud driver of an ILX. Jon’s response to my email included some sound advice. Following is his reply (pasted verbatim):
Car pics look great. Only one thing left…..Enjoy!
Couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m without a doubt following his counsel as I have a blast with this new ride. Until next time!