Odometer (Legend): 534,140
Odometer (2013 ILX): 135,215
Odometer (2016 ILX): 6,399
Trip Distance: 306 Miles
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.
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.
My test model was equipped with three different package options, including (but not limited to!) the following:
- Leather Sport Seats
- XM Satellite Radio
- Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror
- Blind Spot Information
- Rear Cross-Traffic Monitor
- 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My favorite thing about the outside of the car is the LED turn signals.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
402 combined horses at my command!
Sunset in Scottsdale, Arizona
Pre-roadtrip with staging at Chevron
Arrest-me-red Scion definitely was a crowd pleaser
Midpoint on the drive – Picacho Peak, at the Shell station
A few scenes from around Tucson
ILXs at a stoplight side-by-side
Brunch bunch at Viv’s Cafe off Catalina Highway in Tucson, Arizona
Kyle’s GTO getting ready to lead the pack upward from Windy Point rest area
Enjoying cooler temperatures at higher elevations north of Tucson
Matt’s 370Z NISMO getting surrounded by ILXs
Can I please have these LED taillights for my car? I wonder if they’re plug & play.
Descending from Summerhaven
Back to Tucson we go
Following Peter who was at the helm of the 6-speed 2013 ILX
Rounding up the gang for lunch post-drive
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.