A mostly-handsome compact sedan trying to sneak up on the luxury segment.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2020 Acura ILX
Base price (Tech A-Spec trim): $35,890
Options: $500 Apex Blue Pearl paint
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $38,565
I was kind of 50/50 on the ILX’s styling. It looks pretty good from the front and the back, incorporating most of Acura’s current corporate styling touches – but the side profile has some issues. The rear end is too short, and because of that the proportions look all wrong. It’s actually quite weird, because it’s otherwise a pretty sweet-looking ride.
My review car’s deep blue colour was absolutely stunning and I really enjoyed the front and rear LED light signatures. The dark-finish 18-inch rims are shod with meaty 225/40-sized boots. The car certainly grabs its share of looks.
As has generally been the case until now, Acura’s A-Spec trims here are simply aesthetic – there’s nary a performance upgrade to be found, which is too bad. In this case, the trim nets you A-Spec-specific front and rear lower fascias and steering wheel, LED foglight, darkened lenses for the JewelEye LED headlights, side skirts and a trunk spoiler.
At first glance, it feels like the cabin is a very special place to be.
I really liked some the interior materials – lots of soft-touch plastics and lovely upholstered door panels with stitching – and that red leather interior with perforated suede inserts is stunning! Otherwise the dash’s styling is a bit last-generation and feels dated and the lower dash and entire centre console are hard plastic. So you know you’re in a mid-range vehicle.
I loved the feel of the steering wheel – behind it is a set of clear traditional gauges and a driver information screen. One thing I found strange and definitely an oversight was that I could not find a digital speedometer in that information screen. I haven’t driven a car that didn’t provide that option for a very long time and it’s odd that it isn’t in this one. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong about this.
The heated seats are very well bolstered and they were quite comfortable as well. Both front seats are power-adjustable, and there is a driver’s side memory as well. It’s not a huge car but front head-room is sufficient – there’s a standard sunroof overhead.
Speaking of being dated, the old Honda/Acura two-screen system lives on in this car and it really need to be put out to pasture. The bottom one is an 8-inch touchscreen while the upper one is controlled with the rotary dial and the combination is just not very intuitive.
I’m generally a fan of Acura’s high-end ELS sound systems, but this one left me wanting more – it’s just OK. There’s a dual-zone automatic climate control system to keep temperatures in check.
A fairly full suite of driver assistance technology comes with this top-trim ILX. There is a back-up camera, forward collision warning and collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
This is a small car, so rear space is somewhat limited – at 5’10”, I had less than an inch of head-room to spare. The middle seatback folds down to become an armrest, but that’s about it that’s happening for back passengers – no heated seats, no charging ports, no air vents. For nearly $40,000, I expect more.
There aren’t a ton of places to put your stuff. A reasonably-sized glove compartment, a couple of tiny door bins and a console-based pop-up lid with a tiny rubberized bin underneath – it’s not big enough for any current generation phone.
The armrest lid pops up to reveal a bin with several charging ports – a 12V, a USB and an old-school aux plug.
The 348L trunk is (and feels) small. The rear seatback folds down to create more cargo space if you need it.
Under the Hood
Here you’ll find a 2.4L 4-cylinder – against all current odds, an old-school normally-aspirated (not turbo) engine – that puts out 200 HP at a soaring 6,800 RPM and 180 lb.ft of torque. The front-wheel drive sedan’s power is managed by an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission.
It’s rated at 9.9/7 L/100 km (city/highway) and we averaged 9 L/100 km with mostly in-town driving. Premium fuel is recommended, but not required.
When it comes to power, the ILX has adequate amounts of it. You’re not going to win any races, but the normally-aspirated engine is strong enough and likes to rev enough that it can be fun to drive.
There is a Sport mode, which is enabled with the gear selector – which looks and feels awesome, by the way. It is very transformative in this car. It definitely makes things notably more responsive and fun, typical in a rev-happy car like this.
As sporty as this ILX tries to look, it will end up surprising you with how comfortably it rides. And even at highway speeds, it is very quiet. The one stand-out in the noise department is the engine – you definitely hear it when you step on it, and that’s a good thing. It’s not the most powerful lump, but it has a snarly note to it, and I loved it.
Handling is excellent and it tracks beautifully, but again in a surprise twist, it’s a bit soft. There was more body roll than I expected. I think Acura went down the comfort road more so than the sport road here. Probably what the majority wants from this car.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was pretty low. She did love the colour inside and out, but felt it was too small for her needs. She also didn’t like the size of the trunk for retail therapy days.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the ILX. It’s a mostly-handsome car, with luxurious touches inside, plenty of technology and safety kit, and adequate performance chops. But once you dig down, you realize there are plenty of hard plastics, not a lot of storage which impacts the practicality, and the sportiness factor is limited. And when you make your way up the trim levels, you will find a relatively pricey car. I liked it, but I’m not sure it would be where I’d spend my $40K if I was sedan shopping.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Acura Canada.
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