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The 2013 ILX is based off the Civic but Acura has worked hard to separate the two. (Source: Acura)

PHOENIX, AZ – Calling it the “new gateway vehicle for the Acura brand,” Jerry Chenkin, vice-president of Honda Canada, unveiled the 2013 Acura ILX here. Like its predecessor, the Acura CSX, it is a clone of the Honda Civic, but this time much more effort has been made to separate the smallest Acura from its Honda sibling.

Although it shares its drivetrain, brakes, suspension and chassis with the Civic, the ILX gets many unique exterior panels and a completely different interior. Extensive work throughout in everything from materials to suspension settings ensure there will be little chance of confusing the two visually.

This year marks the 25th anniversary for Acura in Canada and Honda’s upscale division is marking the occasion by embarking on what Chenkin calls “a new future for the division.”, In addition to the ILX a new RDX is being introduced here (we’ll tell you about that one soon). Next month the company will show off a “concept” of an all-new big sedan to replace the flagship RL. We’ve already shown the exotic NSX sports car to come in a couple of years.

“The entire lineup will be refreshed in the next 36 months, with heavy emphasis on cars,” Chenkin said. “Until now we have been relying on our trucks, 56 per cent of Acura sales last year came from SUVs. It’s great we have the SUVs for volume but it is cars that provide an emotional connection to a brand, cars that create prestige.”

He said that when Acura lost the NSX and Integra it lost a sporting image. “From this point on we are going to start imposing more emotion on the brand. The emphasis will be on style, prestige and a strong fun to-drive quotient as we go forward in our drive to achieve Tier 1 status for Acura. We will rely on performance, technology and luxury to deliver the emotion and passion necessary to lure new customers to our brand,” he said.



Although it shares its drivetrain, brakes, suspension and chassis with the Civic, the ILX gets many unique exterior panels and a completely different interior. Extensive work throughout in everything from materials to suspension settings ensure there will be little chance of confusing the two visually.
— Richard Russell
The first component in that drive to reach new and younger buyers is the ILX. Unlike the EL introduced in 1996 and the CSX in 2005, the new entry-level Acura is not a Canadian exclusive. Where the R&D budgets and resources to develop those small Acuras were limited by the Canadian-only market, the ILX has the full support and efforts of the much larger American company behind it because it will be built in Indiana and sold throughout North America.
This allowed the development team to delve much deeper into the design and engineering of the new car. Rather than merely gussying up a Civic, they were able to design and develop more specifically for the new vehicle.

The 2013 Acura ILX will come in five trim levels, starting at less than $30,000 (exact pricing to be set just before the May 25 on-sale date). The base model will carry the 2.0 designation, followed by a 2.0 Premium with additional features and equipment, a 2.4 model with a larger and more powerful engine will carry the “sports” image and be available only with a manual transmission. There will also be a 2.4 Tech model, also only with a manual gearbox and Acura’s first hybrid will top the ILX range.

I’m prevented by an embargo from telling you about my driving impressions, but can describe detail about the new ILX. The front end carries the trademark shiny bar seen in all Acura products. The rear end is much more attractive with subtle lines and changes that make the car stand apart. Inside, the ILX dispatches the Civic’s two-layer layout for a more conventional one with twin analogue instruments in front of the driver flanking a multi-stage digital readout. A large, clear and well shaded colour screen rests stop the center stack and a rear-view camera is standard on all trim levels, as is a sliding glass sunroof, SMS texting, a USB port, air condition, power windows, locks and mirrors, tilt & telescope steering wheel and keyless access with push-button start.

High quality soft touch materials cover the upper portions of the dash with a dark metallic-look below. The rear seat back folds-down in a single piece for added cargo capacity not split, keyless access with push-button start/stop

Transmissions are shared with the Acura TSX — a five-speed automatic — surprising in this age of seven and eight-speed automatics and a six-speed manual. Considerable effort has gone into upgrading both boxes for more refinement. The hybrid gets the Civic hybrid’s CVT automatic.

The engines consists of a 2.0-litre four producing 150-horsepower, a 201-horsepower four and for the hybrid a 1.5-litre, 91 horsepower four paired with a 20-horsepower electric motor. The hybrid uses a lithium-ion battery pack where that in the Civic uses the older nickel-metal-hydride design. The hybrid also boasts a new idle-stop feature and reworked throttle mapping.

The suspension has been tweaked at both ends. The MacPherson struts up front have new friction-reducing bushings and the multi-link rear setup has new “amplitude reactive” shock absorbers. The electric steering system has been upgraded from that used in the Civic with a quicker ratio and stiffer shaft for increase rigidity and improved feel.

At the end of the first quarter of 2012 Honda (and thus Acura) have the consequences of the disastrous earthquake and tsunami in the rear mirror. Suppliers and production facilities are back to full operation.

“We’re ready, back in business ND re-launching Acura with a new direction,” Chenkin says. “Our goal is to get sales back above the 20,000 mark, compared to 16,000 last year.”

Canadian acceptance of the ILX will play a major role in those efforts.

First Drive: Acura ILX redesigned inside and out for introduction to a North American audience | The Chronicle Herald
 
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