Inexplicably, the best-looking Acura sedan is based on the deeply odd Honda Civic.
Unimpeachable engine and transmission, Acura's best-looking current model.
Not-very-sticky tires, loud, needs more body and chassis tuning.
iming may not be everything, but it counts for a lot. If Honda hadn’t first dumbed down its compact mainstay, the Civic, we might have expected more from a little Acura based on it. And if Acura hadn’t built this car once before, we might not have expected another good little sedan.
To Acura’s credit, the ILX reminds us more of the brand’s arguably most successful downsizing venture, the first-generation TSX, than of the dowdified Civic. On paper, the similarities between the original 2004 TSX and this car are too hard to ignore.
Same wheelbase. Same basic tires. Same interior volume, give or take a cubic foot. And a similar feel as long as you’re not pushing it. Or turning.
The ILX tested here even uses the six-speed manual and VTEC-equipped 2.4-liter four-cylinder from TSX v1.0, albeit with gearing variations and a slight bump in the compression ratio that yields a skosh more output. (The base ILX’s 150-hp four and the hybrid model—are decidedly less TSX-y.)
The 2.4 is still offered in the now-larger TSX, a car that has us asking: If a sedan bloats in the forest, how long until another small car takes its place? And will anyone remember its alphanumeric designation? But we digress. The 2.4-liter is also used in the latest Civic Si, where it replaces a rev-happier 2.0-liter—not necessarily what the Civic faithful wanted, but its smoother power delivery suits the Acura nicely. The ILX, sadly, does not inherit the Si’s limited-slip differential.
Whereas the original TSX begged you to play, though, the ILX asks politely, then keeps quiet when you show no interest. Actually, it never quite keeps all that quiet. In sixth gear, the engine is buzzing like it’s in fourth. In fourth, it makes you want to hurry up and shift to sixth. The engine isn’t even halfway to its 7100-rpm redline at 80 mph, but the aural feedback suggests otherwise. It also suggests, inaccurately, that this engine has a turbo feeding it. Weirdness.
The ILX’s electric power steering gives a superb sense of straight-ahead, but there’s more oddity when you turn the wheel—everything goes light, then loads up unnaturally. A few sawing motions will send the slow steering, the front tires, and the rear end all out of phase, which only serves to highlight the comfort-oriented suspension’s disconnection from reality. And as with that original TSX, grip from a set of Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 tires falls off earlier than we’d like.
Dynamic malfeasance aside, we do have to thank Acura for thinking of real drivers when it came to configuring ILX variants. The 2.4-liter model is the only one that comes with a manual, and it comes only with a manual. The wonderful transmission borrowed from the Si is topped by that car’s beautifully precise little shifter, minus the red trim. There are no options here, either. You’ll get a nicely fitted cabin sans navigation and like it. Row your own gears and plan your own routes. Practically everything else in the cabin is powered and/or automatic, as it damn well should be in a car costing 30 large.
Ballooning mustn’t necessarily be followed by ballooning; this ILX weighs less than 3000 pounds while that first TSX was just shy of 3250. So, with the same basic engine, the ILX has an accelerative advantage—60 mph comes in 6.9 seconds instead of the 7.2 required of a 2004 TSX. Its braking distance from 70 mph is likewise better, by seven feet. No doubt some of the mass shed was in the form of sound deadening; the original TSX was much quieter in all of our sound-level measures.
The TSX was lauded when it came out, and for good reason: It was good. This almost-second coming follows its path, if not exactly its footsteps.
2013 Acura ILX 2.4 Instrumented Test - Review - Car and Driver