First Drive – 2016 Acura ILX, Compact Future Sports Whip

by Tony West and Sommer Thornton
2016 Acura ILX
2016 Acura ILX

Acura’s ILX gem tries to roll on the compact segment with an edgy new design. The 2017 ILX boasts all new flair inside and out plus a super sporty performance. $33k is a little pricy for this lil devil, but outside design perks alone make it worth at least $25k-ish. The future-mobile has a sloped front fascia that jets out with cool LEDs all around. And the interior boasts a bangin sound system, dual screens, and paddle shifters. For 2016 three grades are available, the standard ILX, Premium Package, and the ILX Tech Plus Package, in addition to all-new A-Spec Package available with the Premium and Tech Plus models.

We reviewed the 2016 Acura ILX Tech Plus model on beautiful fall week in Chicago. The whip is sporty and cool with a fresh exterior design, efficient new 4 cylinder engine, and 8 speed transmission.

 

Sporty Futuristic Design

The 2016 Acura ILX was a pleasant surprise. A lover of the MDX, RDX, and the throwback RL, I didn’t know what to expect from an Acura compact car. The new ILX exterior combines luxury, performance and efficiency seamlessly. Catalina Blue Pearl is a new color for 2016 joining colors like White Orchid Pearl, Basque Read Pearl and Graphite Luster Metallic.

The whip doesn’t look super small from the outside. Instead the whip has all-new everything, low slung-back with an arrowhead sporty nose, making the whip look unlike any other compact on the road. ILX’s keen-edged design is simultaneously edgy and fluid with dynamic forms and expressive lines flowing from the front of the grille along the body sides to the short trunk. Broad front fenders and pronounced wheel arches give it a souped-up athletic look. The fenders are highlighted with crispy edge flares.

2016 Acura ILX
2016 Acura ILX
2016 Acura ILX
2016 Acura ILX

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dope are the Jewel-Eye LED headlights, a cluster of five LEDs that sweep outward from the edge of the grille and wrap into the fenders. Standard are LED daytime running lights, LED combination tail lamps and LED turn signals. The grille now has a satin finish. And the front fascia is lowered with a spoiler between two large air intakes.

The hood design converges to a point, with a muscle line running down the center. The front looks like an arrow ready to pierce the wind with enhanced aerodynamics and supreme handling. The whip also has high wheel arches around the standard 17 inch 10-spoke aluminum alloy wheels with brushed finish. The A-Spec Package adds fog lights, aluminum side sill garnish, a deck lid spoiler, and 18 inch machined aluminum wheels.

The most prominent character line on the ILX starts behind the front wheel arches and then rises as it flows rearward through the front door handle, over the rear door handle and rear wheel arches and towards the decklid, evoking muscularity and motion. Another character line at the bottom of the doors gives a 3D effect.

2016 Acura ILX
2016 Acura ILX

All ILX models feature body-color side mirrors with optional heating. The door windows are surrounded by satin trim that groups the windows together and visually elongates the cabin shape. The short rear end of the ILX has a decklid spoiler and wide fenders. The backup lights are on the decklid and center brake light at the top of the rear windshield.

The compact size and aerodynamic efficiency makes the 3,000 lb (approx.) curb weight unbelievable. The whip is efficient and bares down on the road with aggression. Its aerodynamic refinements enhance EPA, interior tranquility, handling stability and lowers emissions. A spoiler at the lower edge of the front fascia reduces aerodynamic drag and lift especially at high speeds. The front bumper cover’s corner shape along with the slimmer A-Pillars reduce drag and wind noise.

Also, special aero strakes ahead of the front and rear wheels help move air smoothly around the tires. And the rear deck lid spoiler, standard with the A-Spec package guides air over the back of the ILX for max high speed performance.

The 2016 Acura ILX is formed with 50% high strength steel for a rigid resilient body structure. The high-grade, high tensile steel improves steering and handling precision while also enhancing fuel economy. An aluminum hood and front bumper beam save additional weight.

The 2016 Acura ILX employs the next generation Advanced Capability Engineering body structure that uses high strength steel along with interconnected structural elements to absorb and distribute crash energy in the passenger compartment.

Additional ILX accessories for grabs include a rear and side underbody spoiler, door edge guards, engine block heater, remote start, and body side molding.

 

 Aggressive Powertrain with Few Drawbacks

The 2016 Acura ILX’s most notable feature is the super sporty efficient powertrain. The whip boasts a standard 2.0 liter 4 cylinder DOHC engine with direct injection and Intelligent Variable Valve Timing Control and Lift Electronic Control. The new 2.4 liter engine is featured with the Tech Plus model. Both models boasts 201 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 180 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm. The 2016 Acura ILX’s 16-valve engine has aluminum alloy components and a Drive-by-Wire throttle system.

Acura’s Drive-by-Wire throttle system establishes the current driving conditions by monitoring throttle pedal position, throttle valve position, engine speed, and road speed. This info is used to define throttle control sensitivity that gives the ILX’s throttle pedal a responsive feel.

To maximize power output, the engine has a dual-stage intake manifold with two different intake runner lengths that are selected based on operation conditions. An actuator and a set of four butterfly valves control the intake-runner switching process. At low engine speeds, the long runners are used to improved low-end torque. At higher engine speeds, the system switches to the short intake runners for greater high rpm power.

2016 Acura ILX
2016 Acura ILX

An 8 speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with Sequential SportShift is standard on all models. I’m a big fan of Sequential SportShift with its closely spaced ratios, ultra-quick shifts and automatic downshift rev-matching. The torque converter provides exceptionally smooth operation in stop-and-go traffic, plus offers off the line torque multiplication for improved launch power. The transmission also has paddle shifters, Grade Logic and Shift Hold Control. Grade Logic and Shift Hold Control System, and the Cornering G Shift Control system all reduce unwanted shifting and gear hunting to keep the whip in the best gear and improve efficiency. Shift Hold Control keeps the transmission in its lower gear in case of quick deceleration, such as with cornering. When the system detects sufficient cornering speed, it will suppress unwanted upshifts.

The FWD 2016 ILX’s fuel economy is great thanks to Direct Injection, a new combustion chamber design, offset cylinder bores and a range of friction-reducing technology. Acura’s ILX has an EPA fuel economy rating of 29 mpg combined (25 mpg city/ 36 mpg highway.) But this whip requires premium gas, which is preposterous for a 4 cylinder compact car.

The ILX attacks the road with torque thrusting through its veins at a tap of the gas. All 3,000 lbs of the whip stay planted on the road, running heavy and hot at times.

Torque delivery is awesome, but sometimes a bit harsh in stop-and-go traffic. The ILX rides smooth thanks to multi-link suspension, but braking, steering and handling is sometimes too tight. The ride is surely not the smooth luxurious tranquil cruise Acura owners are accustomed to. In Sport mode, the ride is hard but tough and very agile. I love how the little rocket can weave in and out of tight situations, and corner tight and easy. Braking is on a dime with 4-wheel disc brakes.

Sport mode is thrilling but sometimes overdoses on torque, revving up and shooting out like a bullet- all with little finesse. In sport mode, braking is tighter and steering more fluid. Suspension is more rigid and handling is more responsive.

Acura’s 2016 ILX is engineered to be a refined responsive premium sport sedan. All ILX models feature MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension. In addition, Amplitude Reactive Dampers, with separate Ride Zone and Handling Zones, provide a superior level of ride comfort together with agile handling.

The 2016 Acura ILX also has enhanced Motion-Adaptive Electric Power Steering, Vehicle Stability Assist, ABS, electronic brake distribution, Brake Assist, and Hill Start Assist. Motion- Adaptive Electric Power Steering works with Vehicle Stability Assist to offer a direct feeling and efficient steering performance. Motion-Adaptive EPS detects instability in low traction conditions and automatically initiates steering inputs aimed at prompting the driver to steer in the correct direction. The feature mitigates understeer and oversteering and stabilizes braking. Furthermore, new angular acceleration control logic is added to the EPS to deliver a natural steering feel in response to steering turn-in.

Acura’s innovative advanced capability engineering (ACE) body structure makes the whip resilient by absorbing and distributing crash energy in the passenger compartment. Additionally ACE helps minimize the potential for under-ride or over-ride situations that can happen during frontal impacts should the ILX collide with another vehicle bigger or smaller.

Other available safety feature include the multi-view rear camera with guidelines, blind spot information and cross traffic monitor with the Premium Package, and adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, lane keeping assist system, forward collision warning, and a collision mitigation braking system with the AcuraWatch Plus Package.

The collision mitigation braking system will alert the driver of a potential collision and brake the vehicle if needed. The road departure mitigation feature uses a monocular camera to identify road markers and uses the EPS, brakes and vehicle stability assist to gently push the whip back in its lane when swaying.

 

Modest Interior with Innovative Tech

The 2016 Acura ILX’s interior has much of the same technology of the Honda Accord and doesn’t look quite as luxurious as its $10k cheaper peer. The driver-focused cabin has leatherette seats with the Premium and Tech Plus Package. Dual-zone automatic climate control is standard as is a full-color multi information display in the dash. An air filtration system is also available.

The Jewel Gray color scheme is mundane for the smooth sexy Acura’s we’re used to, but contrast stitching adds some flair. Black and Ivory are two other color options for the ILX’s interior.

2016 Acura ILX interior front seat
2016 Acura ILX interior front seat

Instead of luxury, the ILX instead focuses on technology and performance perks for the driver to rip the road. Other interior features included a push button start, keyless entry, power sunroof, heated front seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, leather wrapped parking brake, and Active Noise Control. But there’s no wood, chrome, or aluminum trim.

Drivers have an 8-way power driver seat with available memory. I love the low sloped-back design of ILX, but it may be why headroom is lacking. Editor Sommer is only 5’5” but she scrapes her head on the ceiling of the ILX when she sits up. The rear seating is minimal with no ventilation and no vents in the center of the front seat that reach the rear. The rear seats also seem to angle forward about 20 degrees. And there is only one storage flap behind the front passenger seat. Legroom is abundant compared to headroom with 89.3 inches offered total.

The interior of the 2016 Acura ILX looks fun, but everything seems to be shrunk or narrowed. The driver’s seat is narrow and not comfortable, and the center console area is short and small. The rear console’s cup holders are uneven and lean all the cups. Even though it’s no surprise that that ILX interior space is scarce, the ILX’s fun tech and infotainment could be cumbersome when riding with a full car.

The aluminum pedal, brake and kick plate standard with the A-Spec Package are very cool. But there is a huge opening in the feet area of the driver’s side that pushes heat straight to the driver’s legs after about 30 minutes of driving. Intense engine bay heat emanates from the lower feet area, and even turning up the a/c completely to the leg area won’t cool it. It’s brutal in the summer months, especially because the whip doesn’t have enough vents.

2016 Acura ILX steering wheel and dash
2016 Acura ILX steering wheel and dash

The driver’s multi-information display is a monochromatic LCD on the standard and Premium models and a full color TFT on Tech Plus models and ILX models equipped with AcuraWatch. The standard monochromatic screen displays gear, temperature, odometer reading, trip mileage, and average fuel economy. The full color LCD shows additional info like turn-by-turn navigation, audio source, hands free phone information and the lane keeping assist system and Adaptive Cruise Control info. The steering wheel has controls audio, cruise control, and the driver’s multi info display.

The Acura ILX nails it when it comes to infotainment. The whip has two full-color LCD screens, one in the dash that displays the reverse camera and navigation, 5 inches standard, 8 inches with Premium and Tech Plus models. The lower touchscreen is used for audio, settings, and climate control settings. The new ILX also boasts a USB jack, 6 speaker Audio System, Bluetooth, Pandora, SMS text messaging and the multi rear view camera standard.

2016 Acura ILX interior rear
2016 Acura ILX interior rear

The A-Spec Package adds some interior swag like a premium black leather seats, black headliner, perforated black lux suede seat trim inserts, red instrument illumination, gray interior stitching, and aluminum brake and accelerator trim.

The Premium package adds driver seat memory, a 4-way front passenger seat, a 7 speaker audio system, Aha compatibility, HD Radio, an HDMI port, an 8 inch upper LCD display, a 7 inch lower LCD display Siri Eyes Free, and Homelink.

The Tech Plus package adds a 10 speaker Acura/ ELS Studio Premium Audio System, Sirius XM Satellite radio, Acura Navigation with Voice Recognition, and the next generation AcuraLink connected car system.

Acura’s Navigation system with Voice Recognition uses a 100 gig hard drive disk and can provide up to five routes for directions. And the AcuraLink Communication System uses smartphone integration to offer a range of convenience, media, and available security features like real-time traffic, vehicle finder, stolen vehicle tracking, remote lock/unlock, and a virtual dashboard. AcuraLink mobile apps include remote diagnostics, vehicle alarm notification, and parking meter assist.

For 2016 Active Noise Control is standard on all models and includes noise reduction features like a thicker front door, side glass, increased isolation for engine and transmission mounts, new noise-attenuating wheels, additional body stiffeners and body panel insulators that contribute to a peaceful cabin.

The 2016 Acura ILX is a smart little rocket with sports car chutzpa. With a tech advanced interior and brawny road character, the whip is a noteworthy compact car, far more sporty than most of its peers. Five grand cheaper would make this lil monster unstoppable in the segment.