Engine: 2.4 L four-cylinder engine, 201 HP, 180 lb-ft.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy (US): 25 MPG city, 36 MPG highway
Fuel economy (CDN): TBA
Price (US): Starts at $28,820 after destination charges, $35,810 for ILX Technology Plus and A-Spec packages.
Price (CDN): TBA
The Acura Integra was a big deal for Acura.
Well loved by many, it became synonymous with Acura and elevated the young luxury brand’s image. But the ILX, Acura’s new take on a small premium sedans, has yet to catch on. Lacking an identity of its own, the ILX’s mundane styling, ho-hum powertrain and absence of a family resemblance meant most people forgot about it before it even had a chance to make an impression.
Acura is aware of the issues and is intent on fixing them for the 2016 model year. To start, the ILX receives new front and rear styling that mimics the larger TLX. In Acura’s quest to give everything “Jewel Eyes.” the ILX now wears the brand’s familiar multi-LED headlights. But it isn’t a full LED design because the inside two squares are actually hollow and house a traditional halogen high beam light behind them.
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Big Changes Under the Hood
But the biggest issue with the lackluster ILX is the mechanics. Let’s forget the slow selling, 201 HP manual model for a second. Over 95 percent of all ILXs sold came equipped with a 150 HP 2.0-liter engine and a five-speed automatic. Even if the engine was exclusive to the ILX, it barely had any more power than its corporate cousin, the Honda Civic. Worse still, compared to the standard engine in other premium compact sedans like the Audi A3 and Mercedes CLA 250, the original ILX is short a few gears and woefully underpowered.
Thankfully, the ILX may finally be equipped to compete. The direct injection 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that debuted in the TLX is standard on all six versions of the 2016 ILX. It may make the same 201 HP as the old engine that came exclusively with the manual, but torque has gone up to 180 lb-ft. The engine is now paired exclusively to Acura’s eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. For those keeping score at home, that’s an additional 51 HP and three more gears than the standard 2015 ILX. You might also notice that the manual transmission has been axed.
Death of a Manual, Birth of a Terrific Transmission
As much as I lament the death of another manual, at least Acura’s DCT is a great automatic. After driving the TLX last year, I decided that the front-wheel drive, four-cylinder, dual-clutch set-up was the car to have. Now you can have the same drivetrain in a smaller, lighter package. Weighing roughly 3,100 lbs., the 2016 ILX is heavier than the old car, but still 400 lbs. lighter than the TLX.
The weight gain has a negative effect on forward progress though. Despite that large power gain, the extra oomph in the car really isn’t obvious until high in the RPM range. That makes sense for a naturally aspirated engine but I was still hoping for a little more push-me-into-my-seat acceleration.
The eight-speed dual clutch on the other hand is terrific. Using a torque converter, it’s incredibly smooth at slow speeds and fires off near-seamless up-shifts at redline. Best of all, drive the car in sport mode and it will aggressively rev match downshift when hard on the brakes.
Fuel economy actually goes up one MPG all around compared to the old ILX thanks to the extra gearing and more advanced engine despite the considerable horsepower gain. For 2016 the ratings are now officially listed at 25 MPG in the city and 36 MPG on the highway.
Safer, Stronger, More Responsive
In a quest for greater safety, Acura’s engineers have improved the ILX’s body structure with the added benefit of increased chassis rigidity and better handling. That’s the one area where the ILX was always good, but I’ll gladly take a more responsive car. The 2016 ILX is indeed a fun car to drive that likes being pushed hard through the twisting mountain roads around Napa Valley, Calif. Further enhancing the car’s capabilities, Acura claims to have improved steering response and feel, but I didn’t notice much difference after a back-to-back drive with the 2015 ILX.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Acura ILX Hybrid Review
Where the big change can be felt though is ride refinement. It took me less than two minutes to notice just how much quieter the 2016 ILX compared to the old model. Similarly, the suspension is a great balance of comfort and agility.
Inside, the design and materials have been tweaked to give the ILX a more upscale look. Now included are the usual Honda/Acura dual screens that actually display song information on the lower screen unlike Honda’s system. Interior dimensions essentially remain unchanged, which means 34-inches of legroom for rear seat passengers and a cramped 38-inches of front seat headroom that will have anyone over six-feet tall brushing their hair against the headliner.
If you’re looking for a little more style, there’s also the “A-Spec” package. It adds a rear spoiler, body colored side sills, fog lights and a few interior trim enhancements. And, to keep up with the ILX’s competitors, features like adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation can be had.
The 2016 ILX begins at $28,820 after destination charges and is on sale now. That’s roughly a $850 increase over the 2015 model, which isn’t bad when you consider that this is a substantially improved car. But get crazy with the option boxes and the ILX can easily break the $35,000 mark.
Acura keeps stating that the 2016 ILX is more than just a mid-cycle refresh and after driving it, I have to agree. It took Acura two tries, but the ILX is finally ready to take the fight to other entry-level luxury cars.
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