After falling on hard times, Acura is set to rebound this year with two redesigned models and a positive attitude, no doubt pumped by the unveiling of the glorious NSX Concept. Within the next couple of years, the show car will become reality, as the NSX will once again reign as the luxury brand's halo supercar.
At the other end of the spectrum, on the other hand, was the compact Acura CSX. Based on the Honda Civic, it looked a lot like the Civic, which probably didn't help its justification as a more expensive, yet better-equipped, entry-level Acura. We auto journos didn't help either, constantly reminding consumers about the connection between the two cars (oops, we just did again).
The 2013 Acura ILX, presented at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto in February, seeks to distance itself from the Honda Civic, as long as the automotive press stops comparing the two (oops again). This time, the similarities are fewer and a lot less obvious.
Starting with the car's styling; the ILX appears to share no body panels or windows with the generic-looking Civic, and that's good. The ILX's shape is elegant, dynamic and carries much more Acura family resemblance and character.
Three powertrains will be offered in the 2013 Acura ILX. The base engine will be a 2.0L inline-4 that develops 150 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque, connected to a 5-speed automatic transmission with manual mode. Buyers will be able to step up to a 2.4L engine with 201 hp, 170 lb-ft of torque and a 6-speed manual.
The ILX will also get a hybrid powerplant consisting of a 1.5L engine, a 20-hp electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack, good for 111 combined horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque between 1,000 and 3,000 rpm. It also includes a continuously variable automatic transmission and, obviously, a stop-start system. This will be the first hybrid model sold under the Acura brand.
Mechanically, the ILX will also benefit from a four-wheel independent suspension with what the brand calls Amplitude Reactive Dampers, which are said to provide both good ride comfort and precision handling. The car also gets electric-assist power steering.
The standard-feature equipment list hasn't been sorted out yet, but we can expect the basic amenities such as premium cloth upholstery, climate control, Bluetooth connectivity with SMS text function, an intelligent key system, cruise control and six airbags.
A Premium Package will add leather upholstery, heated front seats, a 360-watt sound system, a rearview camera and Active Sound Cancellation. A Technology Package will also be available, which will include the Premium Package's features as well as a surround sound system and a navigation system with 15 gigabytes of music storage.
The 2013 Acura ILX will rival the Lexus CT 200h, the Lexus IS 250, the Buick Verano and, arguably, the Mazda3 GT-E and Volkswagen Jetta GLI.
In Canada, the ILX will be on sale this spring, and we think it will do well; better than the CSX, which should've been the volume seller for the brand, but failed to find more buyers than the bigger and more expensive TL and TSX sedans. By the way, the ILX will be assembled in Indiana, not in Ontario alongside the Civic.
Pricing has not yet been disclosed for the ILX, but we like guessing. We believe the base version of Acura's new compact sedan should start at between $26,000 and $27,000, or a couple grand higher than the outgoing CSX. Look for our first test of the 2013 Acura ILX in early April.