In a step back toward its roots, Acura, Honda’s luxury division, is once again offering a less-is-more entry level luxury compact car. Slotted below the TSX, the 2013 Acura ILX is somewhat reminiscent of the 1986-2001 Integra, but outfitted with more luxury.
And, like the Integra before it, the ILX shares its platform with the latest generation Honda Civic. However, don’et dismiss the ILX as just a dressed up Civic with an Acura nameplate; there are noteworthy engineering changes and interior refinements.
Non-hybrid models are available in four trim levels and two hybrid ILX trim levels are available. These six possible iterations are made up of base, Premium, Technology trim packages.
More specifically, the base non-hybrid ILX is equipped with a 150-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed automatic transmission and starts at $25,900. For lots of wahoos, the ILX Premium non-hybrid is powered by a 2.4-liter, 201 horsepower four connected to a close-ratio six speed manual shifter and is priced at $29,200. Alternately a five-speed automatic transmission version of this 2.4-liter Premium trim level is available for the same price. And as a third 2.4-liter option, the non hybrid ILX is available with a Technology package, five-speed auto, and MSRP of $31,400.
The green version is the ILX Hybrid, Acura’s first ever hybrid offering. This is ironic considering Honda was the first carmaker to introduce a hybrid, the Honda Insight in 2000. Borrowing the hybrid system from the Civic Hybrid, the ILX Hybrid has a base price of $28,900; add the Technology Package and the price jumps to $34,400.
Honda’s IMA Hybrid System
The 2013 ILX Hybrid employs Honda’s fifth generation hybrid powertrain system that the automaker calls Integrated Motor Assist (IMA). It’s a descriptive name in that an ultra-thin, 17.2-kilowatt brushless electric motor/generator is “integrated” between the engine and transmission and only “assists” the gasoline engine during acceleration, which saves gas. This compares to other hybrid systems where the electric motor can assist the gas engine plus, propel the vehicle on electric power alone. In certain instances, the ILX Hybrid engine does cut off fuel and the car operates briefly on electric power only, but the engine’s parts still move.
Like other hybrid vehicles, the ILX has an idle-stop operation, which shuts off the engine when the car comes to a stop, and then fires up again when the brake pedal is released.
When the car is coasting or brakes are applied, the motor performs as a generator and charges the 20-kilowtt lithium-ion battery pack located in the trunk.
The 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine features Honda’s i-VTEC intake and exhaust valve control system. The engine produces 90 horsepower and 97 pounds-feet of torque. Powered by the lithium-ion battery, the electric motor makes 23 horsepower and 78 pounds-feet of torque for a combined system output of 111 horsepower and 127 pounds-feet.
Completing the IMA system is a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that directs power to the front wheels. The CVT consists of a drive pulley and driven pulley that are linked by a steel belt, and operates somewhat like a 10-speed bicycle. It combines the fuel economy of a high-gear ratio manual transmission, the performance of a low-gear manual and the stepless shifting of a conventional geared automatic transmission.
Unlike the Civic, the ILX Hybrid has paddle shifters on the steering wheel, which lets the driver manually choose seven fixed shift points for the CVT. Manual shifting can be used in either the Drive mode – ideal for most driving situations, or Sport mode – for more performance-oriented driving. For maximum fuel economy, an ECON mode provides increased battery assistance.
Surprising, and puzzling, the ILX Hybrid’s fuel economy rating is 39 mpg city/38 highway and 38 combined while the Civic Hybrid bests those numbers with 44/44/44. The ILX does weight around 100 pounds more than the Civic but we’ve not learned what accounts for the discrepancy.