Test Drive: 2013 Acura ILX Premium

2013 Acura ILXLittle car, big price tag.

The 2013 Acura ILX is the Honda Civic underneath. And just to make it immediately clear, critics have panned the new Civic virtually across the board. We automotive journalists have accused Honda of neutering the Civic, making it boring and cheap inside and out. Critics have derided Honda for all but eliminating all of the Civics distinctive features in order to appeal to a broader buying audience.

Having gotten that bit of unpleasantness out of the way, I?ll continue onto the ILX.

At first glance, the Acura ILX is a sporty-looking little thing. Its lines are sharp and a bit Germanic. It is able to ride that line between over and understated perfectly. You can see hints of the Civic underneath but Acura did an excellent job of giving the ILX its own looks and stance.

The 2013 ILX is available with three powertrains: a 2-liter inline four-cylinder, a hybrid with a 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder, and a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder. The 2-liter is the standard motor and the 2.4-liter is the sporty option and the hybrid is, well, the hybrid.

2013 Acura ILX - EngineI tested was the ILX Premium, which has been fitted with the 2.4-liter. Shared with the Civic Si (the ?sporty? Civic), the 2.4 produces 201 horsepower and has been mated with a six-speed manual transmission. This sporty combo has been rated by the EPA to achieve 22 MPG in the city and 31 MPG on the highway with a combined score of 25 MPG.

I didn?t really like the 2.4 in the Civic Si. I found it whiny and underpowered until just shy of the redline. But at high engine speeds, the exhaust tones were so obnoxious I didn?t dare let it near redline often for fear of having my brains droned out.

Add to the Civic Si?s monotonous exhaust note its tiny interior and frighteningly unsteady handling and Honda has the makings of a Honda Enthusiast-lead coup on its hands.

To my surprise, I found the ILX had little in common with its dreary Si cousin. Acura has beefed up the exhaust tones, making them far more muscular. The suspension and handling were far more confident and sporty.2013 Acura ILX - Dashboard/Controls The interior of the ILX was spacious and roomy with more than enough room for my 6-foot-5-inch frame. And with four doors, the ILX wasn?t prohibitively small but had short enough body to make city maneuvering and parking a snap.

The more I drove it, the more I realized the ILX is what the Civic should have been to begin with. It had a clean, well-designed interior that hadn?t been picked apart by a finance man. It had subtle but proud, sporty looks that appeal to both the millennial generation and the baby boomers.

During my week with the ILX I could actually imagine myself buying, owning, and proudly enjoying the ILX Premium. That was, until I inspected the Monroney window sticker.

All said and done, the ILX Premium that I tested had an MSRP of $30,095, which is pretty pricey for a compact sedan, luxury or not–especially if you consider the tech features the ILX didn?t have. The ILX has a Honda-like MID screen that displays the radio functions and such but it didn?t have Satnav. It did have Bluetooth but it didn?t have a backup camera. It also didn?t have blind spot monitors or lane departure warnings like many current, far less expensive vehicles include as standard.

When it came down to the bottom line, the ILX was a great looking, fun-to-drive, and (presumably) reliable entry-level luxury car–with virtually zero luxury features.? Popping an Acura badge and an Acura MSRP onto a Civic does not a luxury car make.2013 Acura ILX - Side

As much as I like the Acura brand and the ILX itself, the numbers (and features) just aren?t there for me to recommend it. If you?re looking for an entry-level luxury sedan, wait for the 2013 Buick Verano Turbo, which will do everything the ILX Premium can?t for around the same price.