Ask AutoGuide No. 26 – Acura ILX vs. Audi S4 vs. Cadillac CTS-V

Ask AutoGuide No. 26 – Acura ILX vs. Audi S4 vs. Cadillac CTS-V
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Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a lighthearted fairytale highlighting the adventures of a cute little girl and a trio of cuddly bears… or is it? A closer examination of this innocent-sounding narrative reveals that it’s actually a gloomy tale that glorifies breaking and entering, trespassing, vandalism and theft.

At first blush Goldilocks comes across as a naive if misguided protagonist, but things quickly take a turn for the worse. She breaks into the three bears’ home, defiles their morning gruel, smashes some furniture and then makes a mess of their bedding. She may sound like an angelic little girl but in reality Ms. ‘Locks was probably a troubled teenage miscreant looking for a place to crash and some junk to pawn.

Goldilocks-ArtToday Ask AutoGuide borrows a page from this nefarious children’s tale to compare three luxury sedans, though we’re skipping bears, blondes and felonies. One of these cars is small, another medium and the last quite large. Adding some interest to the feature, each one hails from a separate continent though they’re all equipped with manual transmissions. What’s the right choice for our hypothetical Goldilocks? Juvenile detention isn’t an option so let’s explore these sedans.

Baby Bear – 2014 Acura ILX Six-Speed Manual with Premium Package

Information Card -- Acura ILXAcura’s ILX is the smallest offering in this ursine trio. As it stands, baby bear is a compact four-door that’s built on the Honda Civic’s acclaimed if pedestrian architecture. It features four-cylinder power and a polished six-speed manual transmission.

The car’s gear selector is a fine piece of mechanical engineering; it feels like something that belongs in the breech of a high-dollar firearm, not the cabin of an entry-level luxury car.

The ILX is powered by a 2.4-liter VTEC banger that signs a check for 201 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. If that sounds familiar it should; those are identical to the numbers posted by a Honda Civic Si, a car ostensibly aimed at Spanish-speaking customers. “Si Señor!”

Overall, the car’s performance is completely satisfactory, though hardly stellar; it’s certainly outmuscled by the other two bears in this high-dollar trio. Still, the ILX should provide an entertaining on-road experience without sacrificing acceptable efficiency.

When it comes to economy this baby stickers at 22 miles per gallon in urban motoring and up to 31 on the interstate. Combined, the ILX should deliver 25 MPG. While hardly stellar, those figures are the best in this comparison by a margin wider than the Grand Canyon. Mama and papa bear are thirsty critters!

With the Premium Package, which is the only way you can get an Acura ILX with a stick, the car clocks in at $30,095 including $895 in shipping and handling fees. Still, at that price you get leather-trimmed sport seats, a power driver’s chair and Bluetooth connectivity, to say nothing of keyless entry with push-button start and a multi-view rear camera. Baby bear may be small, but he’s packing some luxury heat!

Mama Bear – 2014 Audi S4 Premium Plus

Information Card -- Audi S4Come to mama! The Audi S4 is one hot sedan! This middleweight luxury four-door trounces the Acura with a combination of attractive design, premium interior trimmings and outright performance. Sounds like a “just-right” combination to us.

However, like a high-end call girl the S4’s seduction comes at a price; it’s a lot more expensive and dramatically less efficient than the streetwalking Honda, er, sorry, ILX.

Base price for this tempting Audi is $48,995 including $895 in obligatory fees. That gets you an attractive and well-equipped vehicle, but be warned. There are several perils to ordering an S4.

Like other German automakers the four-ring brand likes to charge extra for stuff, like paint. Black or white are free but any of the other available colors are going to cost you an additional $500 or $1,075. Maybe Henry Ford was right about having any hue as long as it was black… Opting for fancy leather inside jacks up the price by nearly $1,300; ditto for upscale trim. Avoid Nappa cow hides and wood embellishments and you can drive off the lot for right around 50 grand.

Under the Auto Union’s hood rests a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine. Like a butter churn this powerplant delivers a creamy-smooth finished product. Horsepower clocks in at 333 while torque maxes out at 325 lb-ft.

Of course this entry-level Audi is equipped with a manual transmission featuring half-a-dozen forward gears. In addition to this nicety you get Audi’s trend-setting and industry-leading quattro all-wheel-drive system for maximum traction in all weather conditions.

What does all that supercharged V6 goodness result in? Well, the S4 is advertised as sprinting from zero to 60 miles an hour in a scant 4.9 seconds; she’s expected to deliver a terminal velocity of 155 miles an hour, though we don’t advocate exploring the upper end of this car’s capability on public thoroughfares.

Back to reality, not everything is perfect about this middle-of-the-road Audi. Aside from its steep base price the car also enjoys gasoline, and lots of it. According to the U.S. EPA this car should return 17 miles to a gallon of petroleum distillates in city driving and up to 26 on the open road. Its combined score clocks in at a wince-inducing 20 MPG.

Mama bear may offer an appealing blend of alluring attributes but watch out; she’ll rip your wallet to shreds if you’re not careful!

Papa Bear – 2014 Cadillac CTS-V Standard

Information Card -- Cadillac CTS-VThree furry critters and a blonde-haired chick? Things are getting kinky, especially when you throw a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine into the mix, which is exactly what lurks under the Cadillac CTS-V’s hood.

This car is powered by an advanced GM Small Block that cranks out 556 horsepower and 551 lb-ft of torque, probably more twist than provided by the battleship USS Iowa’s steam turbines.

Teamed to a six-speed shift-it-yourself gearbox as well as tried-and-true rear-wheel drive the V-Series makes even the fleet Audi seem glacial. This grizzly-grade Cadillac should be able to dash from zero to 60 miles an hour in just 3.9 seconds, a full second quicker than the S4.

There’s an old saying, “speed costs money, how fast do you want to go?” This quick Caddy upholds that idiom. Base price for an options-free model is $65,825, including $925 is destination charges. That’s A LOT higher than the Audi and more than double what the Acura ILX stickers for.

What do you get for that monumental outlay of cash? Aside from blistering acceleration passengers are treated to a 10-speaker audio system, 10-way power-adjustable front seats and some other ancillary junk that doesn’t really matter. What counts with this car has already been mentioned: 3.9 seconds.

Now, in addition to a steep base price there are a few other downsides to this fast four-door. Fuel consumption is a major issue. According to Uncle Sam, the best Cadillac’s CTS-V can muster is a paltry 19 miles per gallon on the highway. Its around-town figure is even grimmer; the car stickers at just 14 MPG. Its average is 16.

There are two other problems with this high-powered sports sedan. As a result of its frightful consumption the car gets dinged $1,300 for gas-guzzler taxes (included in the above-mentioned price). Additionally like Audi, Cadillac charges extra for deluxe paint colors, but they offer more hues for free than their German counterpart, twice as many in fact.

Lastly, Cadillac just introduced a brand-new CTS. It’s a sexy four-door with a seriously premium interior and up-market exterior styling. Unfortunately the 2014 V is not this car; it’s the previous generation CTS, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but newer is generally better. Wouldn’t you agree?

Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears we’ve presented a trio of different luxury sedans, each equipped with proper manual transmissions. The Acura ILX represents the baby; it’s affordable and efficient, though not all that much fun. Playing the role of papa bear is the Cadillac’s CTS-V, a bruiser of a car with 556 horsepower and frightful fuel economy. Splitting the difference is Audi’s elegant S4. It’s quick and pretty. Which one is right for you? Why not test drive them all? That’s half the fun of buying a new car.

If you need a little assistance shopping for your next vehicle feel free to do the same. Send a short message to ask@AutoGuide.com. Let us know the basics of what you’re looking for. How many seats do you need? What size of vehicle do you want? How much are you willing to spend? With some of those fundamentals out of the way we’ll get busy to come up with two or three must-see vehicles that you’ll have to put on your test-drive list.