Calistoga, Calif. ? My mother always judged my success with a simple question, ?Are you happy.? She didn?t seem to care what I was doing or, how much I was making, success always boiled down to the answer of that three word question.
I suppose a similar test could be advanced when I drive a new car for the first time?does it make me happy?
The 2016 Acura ILX makes me happy.
I had a mixed happiness with the previous generation when it debuted in 2013 there were many things I liked about Acura?s entry-level sedan but there were some things I wasn?t crazy about, like performance and the feature mix. However, the more times I drove the ILX, the better I liked it.
Acura made an unprecedented mid-cycle update to the ILX for the 2016 model year. Rather than just a mild refreshing like would normally be done two or three years in the vehicle cycle, planners made significant changes including a new engine and transmission and a new front end along with an expansive safety and driver assist package.
Combined these changes shine a new light on the ILX and help move it into a stronger position in the Acura lineup. It?s interesting to note that Acura?s strength as a brand is from the light trucks, the MDX and RDX, which make up about two-thirds of the brands sales volume. With the changes to the ILX, I would expect to see the entry-level sedan take a stronger position and larger market share.
Acura says customer surveys have expressed a desire for better performance and the all-new standard 201 horsepower, 2.4-liter direct injection engine addresses that with the help of an Acura-designed eight-speed double clutch transmission. That?s 51 horsepower, 40-lb.ft. of torque and three gears more than the previous model?s standard drivetrain. One of the casualties of the changes is the six-speed manual transmission, which was dropped for 2016 because so few sold.
The previous ILX had two engine choices — the 2016 model has just the one. With the larger engine and manual transmission the previous model made a zero to 60 mph run in 6.7 seconds. I am estimating when the tests are run on this new model it will be a few tenths of second quicker. Even with more power the new ILX gets a better EPA fuel economy rating of 25 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined.
The new transmission offers drivers three shifting variations including a drive mode, Sport mode with more aggressive shifts and a Sport mode with manual shifting using the steering wheel mounted shift paddles — the gears are held when manually shifting from the Sport mode. It?s also possible to manually shift from the Drive mode with the transmission defaulting back to drive after a short period of inactivity.
The ILX is related to the Honda Civic is size and structure and it produces similar performance to the Si performance version. Obviously the ILX is significantly more upscale than the Civic in luxury and features, but I believe the upscale Acura brand should offer better performance too, perhaps with a turbocharged option.
There?s no way I could see the changes made to the rigidity of the 2016 Acura ILX, I had to feel that myself. To make that change come to life, Acura conveniently supplied me with a 2015 model year ILX to make a seat of the pants comparison, and the change is significant. The body feels much stiffer, and that translates in to better handling and a quieter interior.
On my drive through mountains from Calistoga to Clear Lake and back, the ILX handled very well with the suspension keeping the tires on the ground even when pushed hard through the corners. The steering has a slightly muted feel, but is precise in direction. Overall, it?s a very enjoyable car for a quick drive in the country balancing nicely on the line between handling and ride comfort.
Combined with the more rigid body structure, the quiet is amplified with other changes like thicker front door glass, innovative noise-attenuating wheels and a new Active Noise Control technology which electronically reduces exterior and engine sounds. Most of the roads on my drive route had fairly smooth surfaces which helped with noise abatement; it will be interesting to see how these measures cut road noises on the rough textured roads I test it on the southern Washington state roads near where I live.
The 2016 Acura ILX interior looks more luxurious and sporty. I especially like the changes to the dash which integrates two large screens stacked on top of each other in the center stack. The eight-inch screen on top displays the multi-rear view camera images, navigation and some of the other vehicle displays; it?s controlled by buttons and dials mid-level on the center stack. The lower seven-inch screen is a Multi-Use Display? touch screen controls audio, infotainment and communications functions. The climate controls are traditional buttons and knobs on the lower level of the stack.
The front seat is spacious and comfortable, but the rear seat is a little on the tight size and has limited headroom for taller passengers. At 12.3 cubic feet, the cargo space is about average for the category.
The two upper trim levels of the 2016 Acura ILX are offered with the new AcruaWatch? suite of safety and driver-assist technologies. The nine functions of the system include forward collision warnings, adaptive cruise, lane keep assist, a multi-view rear camera as well as collision and road departure mitigation. It also has blind spot information, cross traffic monitor and lane departure warning. The base model is available with an abbreviated AcuraWatch Plus which includes everything but the blind spot, lane departure and cross traffic monitor.
The 2016 Acura ILX pricing starts at $28,820, including the destination charge, and includes the LED headlights, power moonroof, multiview rear camera and Bluetooth. The AcuraWatch? Plus Package is a bargain for only $1,300 more. The ILX Premium package adds leather seating, Blind Spot, Cross Traffic, Sirius SM radio, Home link and several other enhancements for $30,820. The ILX with Tech Plus Package is the top model with a price of $33,820 ? it includes navigation, ELS audio, AcuraLink and the AcuraWatch Plus Package. The two higher level models also have an available ($1,990) A-Spec package which adds 18-inch sport wheels, Lux-Suede seating surfaces, fog lights, side garnish, decklid spoiler and sport pedals.
There?s a lot to like about the 2016 Acura ILX ? it?s a lot more car than the previous model and gives entry luxury buyers a good taste of what the Acura brand has to offer. It should make them happy, too.