By: Autoweek Editors on 5/21/2013
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: Are customers crying out for an entry-level luxury hybrid? Is there great demand? Time will tell I guess. For now I'll say this 2013 Acura ILX Hybrid Tech is a pleasant enough driver, though I am not sure I see its purpose. Seems to me having what is clearly a straight up Honda Civic in the Acura line diminishes Acura, and for Honda's sake Acura is a nameplate that could use a homerun or three. This car ain't that. On the other hand, if it gets new and younger customers into Acura showrooms, who am I to argue with that?
The good news is it's not a bad Civic. I like this interior much better than the Honda -- it's comfortable, well built and nicely laid out. Acura center consoles have too many buttons, but at least in this car you don't get the origami-looking, multilevel dash made from cheap materials, as in the Civic.
When it came to driving it, there's a decent amount of power here, though often times I felt like the engine was making more noise while the car wasn't really accelerating on par. Cruising along it is fine, and the ride felt good. It's nice and quiet in there, too. Steering is typical Honda: Light but communicative.
The regenerative braking is tricky almost to annoyance. Tricky isn't really the word I'm looking for here, but you can feel that there's a lot going on underneath when you want the car to slow down. I get that with Toyota hybrids, too, though I'll say the Honda is a better-feeling hybrid. Say you're cruising along and the light a couple blocks ahead turns red. You remove your foot from the accelerator and you can feel the herky-jerky regen begin to charge the battery. It takes some getting used to. And I do like the stop/start. I think all cars could use it.
At this base price what we have here is the ILX hybrid with technology package, which starts at $34,400 and comes with about everything. A Volkswagen Golf diesel starts at about $27k and $28k with a dual-clutch gearbox. Or a Jetta wagon starts at about $28k loaded.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: Let's start with the good: the wrapper. The packaging on the ILX is slick. Ten times better than the Civic that it's based on. They've toned down the beak look, and its overall shape is much more pleasing than the spaceship-like Honda.
The interior is comfortable as well. It didn't seem cheap to me. I like the perforated leather seats, the heaters worked well and all the radio, navigation and climate functions are easy to reach. Also, when you randomize your music player, it lists the songs -- in random order -- on the screen, allowing you to scroll and select by name. Found a few old classics that I haven't heard in a while.
The main problem with the ILX is that it doesn't feel like a near-luxury car. The CVT gives it a whiny, buzzy sound on acceleration, suspension noise penetrates the cabin and any sort of smooth braking is demolished by the regen brakes.
These brakes are really bad. They don't just have the annoying regen feeling, they feel spongy, like there's air in the brake line. If you've ever felt that feeling before, it's extremely unsettling.
Power was adequate to not feel slow. The gearbox would adjust ratios quickly when you needed some more power, particularly in sport mode. On the expressway, it'll cruise at about 3,700 rpm at 75-80 mph. Sure that gives good torque when you need it, but it never settles down, unless you put it back in normal. As it is, I was dropping down to S to pass, and then going back to D.
I didn't get a chance to drive the nonhybrid ILX yet, but I'd bet that it would eliminate many of my complaints.
2013 Acura ILX Hybrid Tech
Base Price: $35,295
As-Tested Price: $35,295
Drivetrain: 1.5-liter I4 hybrid; FWD, continuously variable transmission
Output: 111 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 127 lb-ft @ 1,000-3,500 rpm
Curb Weight: 2,987 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 39/38/38 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 35.3 mpg
Read more: 2013 Acura ILX Hybrid Tech photos, pricing and specs - Autoweek
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