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Road Test: Should the 2014 Acura ILX 2.0 remain an Auto Media whipping boy?

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2014 Acura ILX 2.0

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There are three different 2014 ILX compact luxury sedans being offered right now to tempt entry level luxury car shoppers into the Acura fold. So with three very different powertrains available, that gives this car its own very unique persona in the segment. Whether you will like your ILX’s personality depends on you and if you pick the hybrid, the ultra-luxurious stealth speed machine known as the ILX 2.4 (i.e. a sleeper Civic Si in designer clothes) or the more mainstream 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine equipped model..

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Yes, a new 2.0 liter 150 horsepower 4-cylinder and a well proven 5-speed automatic lifted more or less from last year’s Civic caused many an auto journalist to groan and moan about this car’s sporting luxury pretenses at its launch. But frankly, thanks to additional sound deadening efforts as well as a unique set of gear ratios the ILX with the 2.0 liter motor is noticeably smoother and quieter than a Civic. Really, though, shouldn’t you expect that from a luxury brand and we promise you that no matter what you have possibly heard from anyone else about the most unassuming model in the ILX line-up—this entry level, high value luxury sedan should not be seen as the second coming of the Cadillac Cimarron. That is if you are old enough to remember that car which GM so poorly based on the Chevy Cavalier.

But even if anyone could have come away from driving the ILX with the feeling that this car is just a watered down version of the Acura sporting ethos, worry not that Acura has dumbed down its inherent brand values to get younger, less wealthy buyers into the fold. Honestly, it can’t break down as much as old Mercedes 190E sedans did when that German brand decided to downsize initially. Ever see any old Mercedes 190E models driving around? Surely not as often as you see old Acura Legends from the 1980’s still cruising the streets looking nearly brand new. This, to our eyes, speaks volumes about Acura quality in the long term. And that in and of itself is a luxury.

Prices for the 2014 Acura ILX start at $26,900 for the most basic 2.0 liter variant which for 2014 has seen its standard feature count grow to include leather seats, an enhanced standard audio system with a sound cancelling subwoofer, heated front seats and upgraded 17-inch alloy wheels. Prices meet their zenith with the 2014 Acura ILX Hybrid with the technology package (navigation, Acura/ELS premium audio) that stickers for $34,600.

Exterior Styling

The 2014 Acura ILX does follow the brand’s design ethos laid down by the TSX and TL but in all honesty it lacks the wildly out there appearance of the new Mercedes CLA or the truly upscale and handsome Audi A3. The ILX serves a pleasant middle ground and while it might not scream out for attention like the aforementioned Mercedes, its rather innocuous appearance is handy when driving the ILX 2.4 with the 201 horsepower 4-cylinder from the Civic Si as cops don’t look twice at you no matter how you are driving. Or how fast.

Interior Design

Our test ILX 2.0 that we drove for a week came in our favorite exterior paint hue which Acura calls Red Garnet and it works best we think in conjunction with the sumptuous feeling tan leather interior. Acura also builds the ILX with a black interior but it was very odd how the tan interior gave the cabin an airy and open feel lacking when we drove an ILX 2.4 with the black leather interior.

Perhaps then that black leather interior color choice is best left for those who will choose to buy the 2.4 liter 201 horsepower performance variant as it’s the only color available. But the black leather sport seats have red stitching, sport alloy pedal covers and one of the coolest 6-speed manual shift knobs in creation. Oddly and annoyingly, Acura does not offer the ILX 2.4 with six-speed manual with the tech package that adds in-dash navigation and the mind blowing Acura/ELS premium audio system. Isn’t that the flagship? And the Civic Si on which that ILX is based offers navigation.

Value for Money and Features

When compared to the hybrid and 2.4 liter versions of the 2014 ILX, this is where the 2.0 liter engine really shines—overall value. The most basic 2.0 liter model starts at $26,900 and offers dual zone climate control, Bluetooth, USB/iPod integration, push button start, leather seating, heated front seats, a power moonroof, heated side mirrors, power windows and locks and power moonroof which all come standard with all ILX models.

Next up on ILX models with 2.0 liter and 2.4 liter 4-cylinder motor is the “Premium Package” which doesn’t add much of note besides HID (High Intensity Discharge) headlamps, day/night rear view mirror, fog lamps and Sirius/XM radio. Adding this to the ILX 2.0 as well as the ILXZ 2.4 with 6-speed manual brings the MSRP to $29,200. Given the performance capabilities of the 2.4 liter variant we think that it is this model that is the value buy of the line-up—that is if you can handle a clutch.

But as we say with every Acura product, it would be simply a waste not to order your ILX with the Tech Package at $31,400 on the 2.0 liter as it adds their idiot proof in-dash navigation system with built-in restaurant Zagat rating guide, real time traffic and weather reports, 15-gigabytes of built-in song storage as well as the aforementioned Acura/ELS 10-speaker surround sound audio system upgrade which is guaranteed to “rock you like a hurricane” in the immortal words of German 1980’s rock group “The Scorpions.

It is always wise when purchasing a new luxury car to opt for optional navigation as more and more it is becoming a required essential for used luxury car buyers when they are out car shopping. So in that sense you should get at least some of your initial monetary outlay back come resale time. That is unless, of course, you are one of the last 300 people in this country who still know how to read a map.

Fuel Economy

Fuel efficiency from the 2.0 liter 150 horsepower/140 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder engine is another differentiating factor working in favor of the ILX when compared to other entry level luxury cars as it has EPA estimates of 28 city/35 highway. And despite giving the velvety smooth engine routine workouts through its rev range, we managed to average 31.5 miles per gallon over the course of a week.

The ILX Hybrid boasts EPA estimates of 39 city/38 highway but as we only drove it for a few hours around Phoenix at its launch we can’t quote our real world results. We did, however, have a 2.4 liter 6-speed manual for a week that was EPA rated at 22 city/31 highway and our result was just over 26 miles per gallon. Our only complaint? Acura recommends premium unleaded be used and says that not using it may cause damage to the engine.

Safety and the Competition

As is true of every model in the Acura line-up, so goes it with the all-new 2014 Acura ILX which has followed in the footsteps of its bigger siblings by being named a “Top Safety Pick” by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). So if you are looking to downsize into a smaller, more efficient luxury car there is no reason to fear your personal safety will also be put in jeopardy.

As for models that compete with the ILX many say its biggest foe may be the slightly larger TSX sport sedan which is only about $2,000 more when equipped similarly with the Tech Package. The advantage of the TSX is the fact that it comes equipped with a more powerful 2.4 liter 201 horsepower 4-cylinder that, admittedly, is less fuel efficient. Really, we can’t say buying a TSX sedan would be a horrible idea because it’s an excellent luxury sedan at a reasonable price. That, however, cannot be said of many “entry level” luxury cars.

For a laugh we also swung by Mercedes only to find the cheapest similarly equipped C-Class would cost over $44,000. Come on Mercedes, $310 dollars for an “MP3 interface package?” Kia owners will recognize this as a USB/iPod integration port that comes free with every model that for the past several years has come standard on every car they sell. And don’t even ask how much the new GLA cost once equipped anywhere near even the entry level ILX. And at least the Acura has rear seat headroom and a decent sized 12.3 cubic foot trunk.

Driving Impressions

Although many gripe about Acura’s continued use of its proven and reliable 5-speed automatic in-lieu of a flashy new 7 or 8-speed automatic gearbox or something new like the Civic’s annoying CVT, the ILX’s 2.0 liter engine works smoothly and eagerly with this “ancient” gear changer. No buyer will ever notice the fact that their ILX has a two fewer gears than a Mercedes C-class as the 2.0 liter 4-cylinder imbues this nimble and light on its feet luxury sedan with plenty of get up and go for most average drivers.

The engine won’t light up the front tires when you accelerate away from each stop light but the 2.0 liter engine’s 150 horsepower/140 lb. feet of torque power readings actually feel lower than they should be given how perfectly judged the car’s power to weight ratio feels from behind the wheel. Ride quality is also excellent thanks to amplitude reactive dampers which were introduced on both the 2013 RDX and ILX and afford this sedan a smooth ride with no penalty in regards to Acura’s usually excellent handling ability.

Although parts of the ILX are based on the Civic, this Acura’s steering system is clearly based on a different design and engineering goal. The wheel offers plenty of driver feedback without any of the unduly artificial heaviness dialed in by so many “sporty” luxury automakers seeking to give the illusion that the driver really knows what the front wheels are doing.

In the ILX, you simply just point the wheel and the car shoots down the intended trajectory much like your favorite “point and shoot” idiot proof camera. So even the most hesitant or inexperienced driver can really enjoy what the ILX is capable of all the while appreciating the impressively quiet interior seemingly devoid of road, tire and wind noise which has in the past sometimes been a problem in Acura models.

Lastly, the simply delicious 2.4 liter 201 horsepower 4-cylinder liter is yet another historic gem in Acura’s crown as it is not only smooth and eager to rev to the meatiest points in the rev range but it also emits a sporty bark to remind you that you aren’t in a Lexus or some such sealed sarcophagus. We think even luxury cars should make a little bit of noise to help keep the driver feeling involved and on this count the 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 liter succeeds. And if you can’t have fun with the 6-speed manual whose creation must be accompanied by the song of 100 angels, we suggest you check your pulse.

Conclusion

Yes, the 2014 Acura ILX most people buy will have the 2.0 liter 150 horsepower engine but it is smooth, eager to rev nature and quick work from the standard 5-speed automatic makes it feel plenty quick when accelerating into traffic from a stop. We do think the ILX’s interior appears more upscale when equipped with the in-dash navigation screen and wish it was available with the sporty 2.4 liter version but if we had ou4r druthers we would pick the 2.4’s fun to drive spirit over a navigation system.

Still, the ILX is a very conservative compact luxury sedan choice and as Acura fanatics we get more excited by the RLX SH-AWD, upcoming TLX and even the latest MDX. But remember, not everyone wants or needs to show off their wealth via a flashy, overly done luxury car. For them, this ILX is a wisely understated choice.

For more information about the 2014 Acura ILX or any other Acura model plus the location of the car closest to you in your preferred color and specification, check out iSeeCars.com.

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