Drive to Five Review: 2016 Acura ILX Tech Plus

Odometer (Legend):  534,140

534140

Odometer (2013 ILX):  135,215

135215

Odometer (2016 ILX):  6,399

6399

Trip Distance:  306 Miles

lemmon

tyson_with_both_ILX

I’ve already had over 3 years of experience in road-testing Acura’s entry level model which debuted as a 2013 model in mid-2012.  I can say with a certainty that over the last 135,000 miles, my ILX has been a real peach to own and maintain:  Zero unscheduled maintenance, flawless performance and it still handles as nicely as the day I got it.  But, as can be expected, inevitably automakers have to go back to the drawing board every few years and make updates to their vehicles to keep them at the forefront of technology and design trends.

Enter the newly-refreshed 2016 ILX to join the TLX and RLX sedans in the Acura sedan family.  It was November 2014 when Acura first showed us the production-ready 2016 ILX at the Los Angeles International Auto Show which I attended with the Redline Reviews crew.  Unveiled in stunning Catalina Blue in A-Spec trim, the ILX was a sight to behold.

tyson_sofyan_with_ilx

Notable changes for the ’16 model year include both cosmetic and performance enhancements.  Gone is the base model’s weak 150-horsepower motor, and now standard across all ILX models is the 2.4 liter, 201-horsepower 4-cylinder engine.  It’s the same one that my ILX has, and which came standard on stick-shift-only models from 2013 through 2015.

The sad news is that the manual transmission, with its sheer perfection in its crispness and precision, is now eliminated as an option.  For 2016, all ILX models will have an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, carried over from the car’s larger TLX midsize sedan sibling, which I’ve already reviewed.  I’m a die-hard 3-pedal manual guy, but that new automatic left me impressed.  More on that later.

Before even seeing the refreshed ILX itself, it only takes one look at the key fob to know what great lengths Acura went to on improvements.  Gone is the “chrome” plated unit that gets chipped and ugly within months of normal use.  Now the fob is a hard black plastic that feels quality and looks like it will endure the test of time much better.

keys_old_new

My test model was equipped with three different package options, including (but not limited to!) the following:

Premium Package:

  • Leather Sport Seats
  • XM Satellite Radio
  • Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror
  • Blind Spot Information
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Monitor

Tech Package:

  • Navigation System with Voice Recognition
  • ELS 10-Speaker Sound System
  • GPS-Linked, Dual-Zone, Automatic Climate Control

AcuraWatch Plus Package:

  • Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Collision Mitigation Braking
  • Road Departure Warning
  • Lane Keeping Assist

All of the above brings the tally up to $33,820 including destination and handling.

Where to Today?

catalina_sign

To put this new ILX to the test along with my “old” ILX, a few friends and I (okay, 16 of us!) headed for the hills of the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, Arizona to a place where I’ve visited multiple times in the past – Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway.

In attendance were a wide variety of cars — ten of them, in fact:  Two ILXs, a Mini Cooper, a GTO, a 370Z, a TL, an FR-S, an RS5, a 300ZX, and… a Corolla to round things out nicely!  Brock’s orange Mini 6-speed was the cutest crowd pleaser of the bunch.  Did you know it’s powered by only a 3-cylinder motor?  If I’d taken my 1994 Acura Vigor on this drive, we would have had 3, 4, 5, 6, AND 8 cylinder motors all present on this 300-mile Saturday cruise.

lineup_at_breakfast

No road trip is complete without proper fuel, and for some reason my friend Peter has a tradition of buying these orange-flavored Hostess Cup Cakes every time we take a drive together.  He shared one with me.  Thanks, P!  Breakfast of champs.

cupcakes

Interior

Getting even more settled into the cabin with its “Graystone” colored leather appointments, I started to take note of the many things that were different from my personal car.  Sun visors are made from the same fabric as the headliner, rather than from vinyl.  There’s now a two-setting memory seat function with controls on the driver’s door panel.

ilx_interior

memory_seats

The instrument cluster has a higher resolution display between the gauges and a lot more available information.  The bezel around the cupholders on the center console are now a painted finish rather than chrome, keeping the reflective sunlight from beaming occasionally in the driver’s face as it sometimes does with my 2013 model.  Even the seat belt buckles are a new design that’s easier to grab!

Love that rear camera which uses a much larger screen and with higher resolution than the one I’m used to looking at.

screen

Overall fit & finish felt great, as is expected from a premium brand.  I do wish the plastic lower part of the door panels was more resistant to scuffing, as my ILX at 3 years old is showing fairly significant wear there from getting in & out of the car.

Exterior

You’ve already seen those brilliant “Jewel Eye” headlamps which I adore, but the whole front & rear ends of the ILX have been reworked to give it a more aggressive performance vibe.  The grille has been tweaked slightly and the ILX now has a new set of 17″ shoes.  An optional “A-Spec” package offers 18″ wheels and fog lamps which further heighten the curb appeal.

fronts

My favorite thing about the outside of the car is the LED turn signals.

Driving Experience

Amenities and handsome looks aside, the driving experience is really of greater importance to me.  Clearly the 201-horsepower, 2.4 liter 4-cylinder motor is a bulletproof powerplant, having logged well over 100,000 miles on mine without skipping a beat.  Direct-injection is a new addition to that motor for 2016.  For a lightweight car like the ILX, that kind of power is more than sufficient to get forward momentum at a brisk rate.  I didn’t get the chance to have a flat-out drag race between my ILX and the 2016, but they feel right on par with one another in terms of acceleration.

gauges

Right off the bat, it’s easy to tell just how civilized the 2016 ILX has become compared to its predecessor.  Where my ILX 6-speed revs at nearly 3,500 RPM at 80 miles per hour, the new ILX 8-speed only works the motor at a little over 2,000 RPM.  This translates into a substantially quieter cabin thanks to diminished engine and exhaust noise.  You can actually carry on a conversation in there!

Mount Lemmon was bustling with bicyclists and tourists as is typical on a Saturday, but the 26-mile stretch from Tanque Verde Road all the way to Summerhaven at 8,200 feet gave us dozens of curves to evaluate our diverse group of cars.  When you’ve got a lineup of sports cars in your rearview mirror and you’re in the lead, you feel the pressure of setting a pace that’s fast enough to be fun but conservative enough to be safe.  Both ILXs are well suited for canyon carving.

z_in_mirror

The 8-speed automatic transmission is a revolutionary dual-clutch unit, carried over from the Acura TLX model.  Shifts are lightning fast and to be honest, I couldn’t believe that it got into 5th or 6th gear by the time it got to the end of my residential street!  Eight gears sounds like a lot, but I was pleasantly surprised at how little “gear-hunting” the car had to do when commanded to accelerate.  A drop of the throttle beckons near-instantaneous response from the powertrain as it downshifts.

frs_ilx

The general consensus on the ILX was a hearty thumbs up in pretty much every regard.  Donald, who owns a 2009 TSX, said the car felt more nimble than his car.  Peter, who drives a 2004 TSX, said he was most impressed with the response from the transmission, especially in Sport mode.  I have to agree with him.  During descent from Summerhaven, the car would effectively hold its gear, avoiding the need to get on the brakes frequently.  We stopped briefly during our descent to enjoy the view of Tucson from “Windy Point” rest area.

tyson_cole

Safety Tech

The technology advancements in the new ILX are extensive, ranging from not only the “fun” stuff like the rocking, 10-speaker ELS stereo, to a full suite of safety features.  The lane departure warning does a really nice job of accurately reading the road, the adaptive cruise control is a convenient way to “set it and forget it” with regard to speed maintenance, and there are six airbags in the cabin.  All of Acura’s sedans are rated as top safety picks by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

both_ilxs

Final Take

While the ILX didn’t have the bloodthirsty growl of Kyle’s 400-horsepower GTO or the on-rails handling of the FR-S, in my mind it hits a bullseye in purpose and function.  It’s a comfortable cruiser on the highway – quieter, more refined, and better appointed than the prior iteration.  Yet it still has a thirst for a twisty mountain road and feels right at home with its Michelins gripping a tight hairpin on a mountain pass like the Catalina Highway.  For anyone in the market for a fun-to-drive sports sedan, I’d give this one a nod of approval.

Here are the rest of my photos and a very short walkaround video!

old_new

402 combined horses at my command!

tyson_with_ILX

Graystone interior

interior1

Driveway duo

driveway2

Sunset in Scottsdale, Arizona

driveway1

Pre-roadtrip with staging at Chevron

chevron3

Arrest-me-red Scion definitely was a crowd pleaser

chevron

Midpoint on the drive – Picacho Peak, at the Shell station

pitstop

A few scenes from around Tucson

mirror_sho

ILXs at a stoplight side-by-side

ilxs_at_stoplight

Brunch bunch at Viv’s Cafe off Catalina Highway in Tucson, Arizona

breakfast_bunch

Kyle’s GTO getting ready to lead the pack upward from Windy Point rest area

gto

Enjoying cooler temperatures at higher elevations north of Tucson

mini_ilxs

Matt’s 370Z NISMO getting surrounded by ILXs

tyson_with_ilxs

Can I please have these LED taillights for my car?  I wonder if they’re plug & play.

ilx_taillight

Rest area

rest_area

Descending from Summerhaven

driving_catalina

Photo-op!

ilx_front

Back to Tucson we go

mirror

Following Peter who was at the helm of the 6-speed 2013 ILX

25

Rounding up the gang for lunch post-drive

group_in_tucson

Still having fun with my “new” old Vigor, by the way!  This week it got a valve adjustment, new distributor cap, and a full detail.

vigor_legend

19 Responses to “Drive to Five Review: 2016 Acura ILX Tech Plus”

  1. Excellent read!

  2. bbimmer7 Says:

    Great review Tyson! I really like the refinements Acura has made, and the new front fascia is very striking. I hope that future Acuras get grilles that more resemble this!

    • Brendan, I think you’re in luck because I saw that the 2016 RDX now shares a “tweaked” front grille too. I predict that new face will make its way to the rest of the lineup in the next couple refresh cycles. Hope your weekend went well!

  3. Great review! Did you have a chance to compare the fuel economy of your ’13 ILX to the ’16? Now with direct injection and the 8-speed DCT, Acura claims 36 mpg on the highway. I’ve heard 36 is actually on the conservative side, so this should be especially attractive to those who drive a lot of miles. Know anybody like that? 😉

    • Brad, I think the ’16 has been driven by lead-footed journalists its whole 6,000-mile life – the poor thing! When I picked it up, average MPG on the MID said 29 mpg. I’m certain I’m achieving better than that. Let me check tonight and see what it’s gotten since last fill-up. 36 sounds really good! Hybrid territory!

  4. Lance a lot Says:

    It looks like all the cool kids were at Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway this past Saturday! Ha! Glad you guys had fun and great read as always, Hugie! Acura did a good job with the updates to the 2016 ILX but I prefer the lower bumper fascia on your ILX. Im a fog light kinda guy 🙂
    “Be quiet Taylor Swift” = Awesomeness

    • Fog lights are a must! If I did a 16+ ILX it would have to be in that bright blue color with A-Spec and the whole nine yards. Yeah, what’s up with T-Swizz trying to get in on my video? Sheesh. Happy Monday!

  5. Who taught you how to write and ride? A man with many talents! Nice review. You’re welcome to stay at our place this coming weekend.

  6. Do I sense a new ILX in your future? Nice write up Tyson.

    • Hi Dave, probably not! I’m too busy spending my time and money on classic Acuras, and my ILX still has lots of life left. Besides, I need a clutch pedal to kick at.

  7. How long do you get to keep the 2016 ILX during your review?

    • Most press loans are for 1 week. The 2016 will be going bye-bye sometime between 10:00 a.m. and noon this Wednesday. I’ll miss having it around! But I’m sure my neighbors won’t mind me getting rid of an extra car around the house!

  8. Zach Cross Says:

    Why do I want to get a key upgrade now? Is that even a thing? My key looks so beat in comparison to the new design.

  9. Dear Acura, please send me a blue ILX A Spec… lol

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