• 2015 Acura ILX 2.4L Premium - Driven

    Justin Cupler had a week with the 2015 Acura ILX 2.4L Premium; check out what he thinks of the Civic Si turned luxury rig.

The last time Acura made a compact luxury car based on the Civic we received the RSX, which had a cult-like following but ultimately didn’t fit what Acura was trying to be. After only five model years, Acura laid the RSX to rest and left the Civic alone for a few years. With the luxury compact sedan market as hot as it had ever been, Acura chose to meddle with the Civic again and released the 2013 ILX. Initially, the ILX had three drivetrains available: two gasoline drivetrains and one hybrid. As we head into the 2015 model year, Acura wisely cut the slow-selling hybrid model and left the two gasoline powertrains, which include a 150-horsepower 2.0-liter and a 201-horsepower 2.4-liter, to take on the likes of the Mercedes CLA250 and Buick Verano.

I got a crack at the ILX Premium with the 2.4-liter engine and six-speed manual transmission. Since I had already spent a week with the 2015 Honda Civic Si, I knew what the engine and transmission were all about. What I didn’t know was whether the throaty, high-revving i-VTEC engine was appropriate for a luxury car.

With my weeklong drive in the books, I was able to formulate an opinion on the ILX sedan. You can read all of my thoughts on it after the jump.

Click past the jump to read about my time with the 2015 Acura ILX 2.4L Premium.

  • 2015 Acura ILX 2.4L Premium - Driven
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Transmission:
    Six-Speed Manual
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    201 @ 7000
  • MPG(Cty):
    22
  • MPG(Hwy):
    31
  • Torque @ RPM:
    170 @ 4400
  • Displacement:
    2.4 L
  • 0-60 time:
    7 sec. (Est.)
  • car segment:
  • body style:

TopSpeed Garage

Exterior

2015 Acura ILX 2.4L Premium - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Acura ILX 2.4L Premium - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Acura ILX 2.4L Premium - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Around back, Acura looks to have almost squeezed everything together, and not in a bad way.

Call me crazy, but I think that the ILX is nicest-looking Acura available today. Like all Acuras, if you were to park it next to its Honda counterpart (the Civic for the ILX), the similarities are there, but separate from its Honda platform mate, the ILX is a sharp luxury sports sedan. This is also one of the few iterations where the Acura beak isn’t completely overwhelming.

The hood isn’t overly stylish, but the ridges are just enough to make it look good, and the air inlets on the lower apron add an extra touch of sportiness to the Acura. The small spoiler in the center of the apron is a nice touch too.

The side profile view is by far my favorite angle to take in the ILX. First of all, the bodyline that runs from fender to quarter panel is simply stunning, particularly where it kicks upward to make it over the rear-wheel arches. Additionally, the swooping roofline and the short trunk lid give the ILX almost a four-door coupè look, like the CLA-Class. The downside to this look is that the trunk lid is so shortened that it is hard to fit large items through it.

Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase 105.1 in (2670 mm)
Length 179.1 in (4550 mm)
Width 70.6 in (1794 mm)
Height (unladen) 55.6 in (1412 mm)
Front Track 59.4 in (1509 mm)
Rear Track 60.3 in (1532 mm)
Ground Clearance (Auto/Manual) 6.2 in (151 mm) / 5.9 in (157 mm): Manual
Curb Weight 2,955 LB (Auto); 2,959 LB (Auto w/ Prem. Pkg.); 2,970 LB (Auto w/ Tech Pkg.); 2,978 LB (Manual w/ Prem. Pkg.)
Weight Distribution (% front / rear) 61 / 39

Interior

2015 Acura ILX 2.4L Premium - Driven Interior
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2015 Acura ILX 2.4L Premium - Driven Interior
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2015 Acura ILX 2.4L Premium - Driven High Resolution Interior
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The first issue was that the outer seats are a little too contoured, making it tough to get my son's booster seat to sit flat.

The ILX’s cabin, much like its exterior, impressed me for the most part. Is it pure perfection? No way, but it is leaps and bounds above what I expected. Everywhere I expected to find leather I found it, save for some plastic on the door panels and the glove box, and that classic, Acura padded dash that I hate oh so much.

The leather seats were plenty comfy and they even came with heat in the Premium trim, though I had no use for them here in sunny Florida. The seats also had nice bolstering so I felt rather secure in the corners.

The back seat, while roomy, did take a hit on usefulness. The first issue was that the bucket cutouts on the outer seats are a little too deep, making it tough to get my son’s booster seat to sit flat. The second issue is that the center armrest, which also houses the rear cup holders, is way too wide and covers up the seatbelt buckles when it’s lowered, making strapping the booster seat in a four-letter-word-inducing struggle with drinks in the cup holder. The final issue is with the rear cup holders themselves; they are a whopping two inches deep, which means watch taking turns with any unsealed drinks in them.

Other than those few issues, the rear seats are just fine for a compact sedan. There is ample legroom for kids and teenagers; even an under-six-foot adult could fit back there with a like-sized person in the front seat with no issues. Additionally, the seats are fairly comfy and the contouring helps hold the kiddos in place.

Tech-wise, like most Acuras, the ILX felt dated. First and foremost, there was no navigation. I’m sorry, but if you are a $30k compact that doesn’t bear the name BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Audi, you damn-well better have navigation. Additionally, while the stereo system was fine, it didn’t sound like an upscale audio system, and the entire cabin had only one power port that was buried in the storage compartment under the front armrest. Lastly, the only real premium tech feature the ILX Premium had was a rearview camera, making it feel so much cheaper than its sticker price.

On a whole, the cabin of the ILX was very nice and looked upscale, but the lack of tech gadgets left me feeling cheated out of a few thousand dollars.

Interior Dimensions

EPA Passenger Volume 89.3 cu ft
EPA Cargo Volume (SAE) 12.3 cu ft:
Headroom (Front/Rear) 38.0 in / 35.9 in
Legroom (Front/Rear) 42.3 in / 34.0 in
Hiproom (Front/Rear) 50.2 in / 51.7 in
Shoulder Room (Front/Rear) 55.6 in / 53.5 in
Maximum Seating Capacity 5

Drivetrain

2015 Acura ILX 2.4L Premium - Driven Drivetrain
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What's even more impressive it that the ILX with the 2.4-liter engine comes with a six-cog manual.

Driving the ILX is a tale of two cars. On one hand you have the 2.0-liter engine that produces just 150 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of twist; on the other hand, you have a 2.4-liter engine borrowed from the Civic Si that delivers 201 horses and 170 pound-feet. The former has no business in a luxury car, whereas the latter is what makes the ILX feel like a luxury sports sedan. From the throaty exhaust note that resonates into the cabin to the outstanding passing performance of this rev-happy four-cylinder, it is the perfect engine for this car. Fortunately, my tester had the 2.4-liter engine under its hood.

What’s even more impressive it that the ILX with the 2.4-liter engine comes with a six-cog manual. That’s right; Acura offers a luxury sedan with a manual. What’s more, it has a well-weighted aluminum knob to make shifting an even more pleasant experience. Hat’s off to Acura for giving the row-your-own option. That said, I do wish Honda would develop a fast-shifting auto or dual-clutch to pair with this 2.4-liter engine; it is screaming for this option.

The downside is that the six-cog manual delivers power to the front wheels only and it doesn’t deliver stellar fuel economy. At 22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined, it isn’t what I would call an "economy car." I did manage to beat the combined average as the last time I checked the dash I was a tick under 27 mpg.

Drivetrain Specifications

Engine Type 4-cylinder
Displacement 2.4-liter
Valvetrain 16-valve, DOHC i-VTEC
Horsepower @ rpm (SAE net) 201 @ 7,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm) (SAE net) 170 @ 4,400
EPA Fuel Economy Rating (city / highway/ combined) 22 / 31 / 25
Recommended Fuel Premium unleaded 91 octane
CARB Emissions Rating ULEV-2

Driving Impressions

2015 Acura ILX 2.4L Premium - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The only real complaint I have from my week driving the ILX is that it needs several settings for steering response.

Having already had some seat time in the Civic Si, I was used to the feel of the ILX’s 2.4-liter engine and six-speed transmission. Much like the Si that it borrows the drivetrain from, there is a bit of a learning curve when hopping into the driver seat. There is an economy range in the rev band and there is a "VTEC just kicked in, yo" range. The latter is a whole hell of a lot of fun to bomb around in, but it is not easy on the wallet, while the former may be a little too timid for others. It’s all bout finding that sweet spot in the rev band.

But don’t think that driving the Civic Si means you know exactly how the ILX drives because you’d be mistaken. While its engine, clutch and gearbox all act and feel like the Civic Si, the driving experience is wholly different. The Civic Si is a bomber with a stiff suspension, plenty of road noise and a point-and-go steering system, whereas the ILX is a calmer ride that is more forgiving with less feedback and looser steering. The ILX can certainly handle itself in the twist, but it’s nowhere near as agile as the Si.

Inside the ILX, road noise is fairly low for the type of car it is. Is it as whisper quiet as the K900 I drove? No way, but it is respectable for a compact sedan. Additionally, the seats feel comfortable, though I would have appreciated cooled seats instead of heated, and the metal gear shift knob is weighted perfectly for fast shifts.

The only real complaint I have from my week driving the ILX is that it needs several settings for steering response. In a sports sedan like this, it is nice to be able to choose between loose and comfy or tight and sporty; the ILX is stuck somewhere in the middle and it feels kind of numb. I would also like to have the option of a fast-shifting auto transmission with the 2.4-liter engine, but I won’t hold my breath for that.

The ILX is slightly less powerful than the Si, which results in slightly lower performance. The ILX’s 0-to-60-mph time is around seven seconds, whereas the Civic Si Sedan does the same in around 6.5 seconds. The difference in acceleration times is mostly due to the slightly detuned version of the 2.4-liter engine the ILX has and the Civic Si’s stickier tires allowing for a better launch. I initially thought that maybe the slower time was because the Si was lighter, but a quick check on the spec sheets shows me that the ILX 2.4L Premium is actually 24 pounds lighter than the Civic Si Sedan. Odd...

Price

2015 Acura ILX 2.4L Premium - Driven Exterior
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The ILX sedan is one of the cheaper luxury cars on the market, as it bases out at $27,050. However, opting for the base model requires bumping down to the 150-horsepower engine and five-speed automatic transmission. Everything else essentially remains the same, except that the base model does not include SiriusXM radio or HID headlights and it has 18-mm smaller front rotors. Moving into the 2.4L Premium model I had runs $29,350 before delivery. Is the 2.4-liter engine, manual transmission, HID headlights, larger rotors and SiriusXM radio worth $2,300? That’s a decision for you to make, but I will say that the extra horsepower and six-speed manual make the ILX a much better car and the other add-on features are just gravy.

Competition

2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA250

2014 - 2015 Mercedes CLA-Class High Resolution Exterior
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Acura is in a bit of a predicament with the pricing of the ILX 2.4L Premium; it is just a tad south of the base $29,900 price for the Mercedes CLA250. The ILX 2.4L Premium does have some features that the base CLA250 does not, including real leather, a rearview camera, a moonroof, heated front seats, argon HID headlights and fog lights, plus it has Honda’s longevity and a much more useful back seat.

On the other hand, the CLA250 has 7 more horsepower, 88 pound-feet more torque, a fast-shifting auto transmission, a half-second faster 0-to-60 time, an eight-speaker audio system, memory settings for the mirrors, three well-positioned power outlets and the quietness that comes with a Mercedes cabin. On top of that, the CLA250 gets superior fuel economy (26 mpg city, 38 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined). This decision really depends on which car fits your needs the best.

2015 Buick Verano

2012 - 2015 Buick Verano High Resolution Exterior
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The Buick Verano is likely the best competitor for the ILX, but to match up with the 2.4L Premium we need to consider only the Verano Premium Turbo Group. The Verano easily trumps the ILX in power, as its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine delivers 250 horses and 250 pound-feet of torque. Unlike the ILX, the engine mates to either a six-speed manual or automatic. This powertrain allows the Verano to best both the CLA250 and the ILX to 60 mph, as it completes the sprint in just 6.2 seconds. The Verano does get 1 mpg less than the ILX across the board.

Feature-wise, the Verano does lack the ILX’s standard moonroof and HID headlights, but it does get a nine-speaker stereo system and more power ports. Additionally, the Verano’s cabin is roomier in all the areas that really matter, including front and rear headroom, rear legroom, and cargo room.

In the Premium Turbo Group Guise, the Verano starts at $29,215, plus delivery.

Conclusion

2015 Acura ILX 2.4L Premium - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The ILX has been subject to some up and down reviews, but despite my few issues with it, I found it an enjoyable luxury sports sedan. Yes, it may not fit the profile of a sports sedan as well as the 3 Series or Lexus IS, but it does a good job in this role. On top of that, you get Honda’s legendary build quality that assures this car will be on the road for 200,000-plus miles with minimal issues, given you maintain it properly. How many Mercedes and BMWs can you say that about?

Its six-speed manual transmission and lack of automatic option with the peppier 2.4-liter prevent it from appealing to everyone, but it certainly fills a gap in the segment with manuals quickly going the way of the dodo bird. If Honda manages to develop a fast-shifting auto to combine with the 2.4-liter it may be able to pull in some more buyers.

  • Leave it
    • * Lacked navigation, multiple power ports and adjustable steering feel
    • * Slow when compared to similarly priced compact luxury sedans
    • * Needs an optional automatic and NOT Honda’s ancient five-speed auto
    • * Competition is fierce and they offer everything the ILX lacks
What do you think?
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