I'm heading to Arizona to drive a couple of new Acuras, including the ILX, their new compact sedan.
This is not the first small Acura sedan; we all remember the Civic-based Integra, which was integral to Acura's early success. In more recent years Acura has been selling the CSX (and before that, the EL) to our friends in Canada, but unlike the Integra, which featured unique styling and powertrains, the CSX and EL were little more than rebadged Honda Civics with leather seats. (Our Guide Emeritus, Philip Powell, tested a CSX in 2007. He didn't care for the Type S model he drove, saying the Civic Si-based mechanicals were out of place in an Acura.)
The compact-luxury market is starting to warm up again, and Acura is getting back in the game with the 2013 ILX. The ILX is more Integra than CSX; it shares its platform with the new 2012 Honda Civic, but gets unique styling, unique dimensions, and a different entry-level engine, a 150 hp 2-liter 4-cylinder. However, the 2.4 liter engine from the Civic Si will be offered, as well as the gas-electic powertrain from the Civic Hybrid.
Right now, the ILX doesn't face much competition. Buick recently introduced the Verano, although its mediocre fuel economy doesn't make it much of a breakthrough vehicle. Lexus has the CT200h hybrid, although it was designed for the European market and therefore only comes as a hatchback, just like the Audi A3, while the Volvo C30 and BMW 1-series are only available as two-doors. If the Acura ILX has the right features and gets good fuel economy, it has the potential to emerge as a segment leader. Then again, this segment is about to get more crowded -- Cadillac has their rear-drive ATS on the way, a new Audi A3 is in the wings, and Infiniti is planning their own entry-level car.
So what do you think -- is Acura going in the right direction with the ILX? Is there a market for small, fuel-efficient luxury cars? And would you be willing to pay a premium for a posh compact? Click the "Comments" link and tell us what you think. -- Aaron Gold