2017 Acura ILX Of­fers Good Bang For Buck, Sporty De­meanor

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SCOREBOARD - Derek Price cargaz­ing.com

Buy­ing your first lux­ury car can’t be an easy de­ci­sion.

Older buy­ers, with ei­ther high in­comes or big nest eggs saved up, might not care about de­pre­ci­a­tion or the pricey cost of main­te­nance that can re­sult from driv­ing a full-blown lux­ury barge.

Younger buy­ers typ­i­cally don’t have the, well, lux­ury of not car­ing about those ex­penses, though. They’re more fo­cused on what they get for the money.

That’s got to be a ma­jor rea­son this car, the Acura ILX, is such a hit with buy­ers un­der age 35.

The ILX is the most pop­u­lar car in its seg­ment for mil­len­nial buy­ers, Acura says, which is no sur­prise when you think about it. Acura may not carry the same pres­tige and ca­chet of Mercedes-Benz, Audi or even Lexus, but it’s got a lock on bang-for-your-buck value.

When you need money left over for baby for­mula and fun va­ca­tions, that’s a big deal.

Acura is rack­ing up awards for it, too. Ac­cord­ing to KBB. com, Honda’s lux­ury di­vi­sion has the low­est five-year cost of own­er­ship of any lux­ury brand. Ad­di­tion­ally, Ed­munds. com re­cently awarded Acura for hav­ing the best re­tained value of any lux­ury mar­que.

What about sub­stance, though?

My ILX tester checked off the right boxes for cars in this class, in­clud­ing adap­tive cruise con­trol, a full-fea­ture dig­i­tal in­ter­face and a nicely re­fined lane-keep­ing as­sist sys­tem that makes the car nearly au­ton­o­mous for brief mo­ments. As long as the lanes are well marked, it can smoothly ap­ply steer­ing in­put to keep the car cen­tered on its own.

While I wouldn’t call it ex­hil­a­rat­ing, the ILX’s per­for­mance is very com­pe­tent with strong ac­cel­er­a­tion, crisp han­dling and good grip in cor­ners. Like most cars in this class, in­clud­ing the Lexus IS and Audi A3, the ILX em­pha­sizes sporti­ness over but­tery com­fort.

From the driver’s per­spec­tive, its stand­out fea­ture is a bril­liantly en­gi­neered dual-clutch au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. Its shifts feel in­de­scrib­ably beau­ti­ful — faster and more tac­tile than or­di­nary au­to­mat­ics, and smoother than the clunky dual-clutch units fit­ted to some of its Ger­man com­peti­tors. I’d al­most rec­om­mend this car on the strength of its trans­mis­sion alone, but I re­al­ize not every­one is so nerdy about such things.

The in­te­rior still ben­e­fits from a 2016 up­grade that em­pha­sized its sporty de­meanor. Alu­minum trim and eye-catch­ing, Euro­pean-style stitch­ing give it an ath­letic look in­side, a good match for its firm, sup­port­ive seats.

Out­side, the ILX is hand­some but not too flashy. While this car looked more com­par­a­tively ag­gres­sive when it was first in­tro­duced, re­cent outof-the-box styling over­hauls by Lexus and In­finiti make it seem con­ser­va­tive in com­par­i­son this year.

It looks nice, but it’s not the kind of car you’d buy if you’re beg­ging for at­ten­tion.

My tester came with the A-Spec trim pack­age, giv­ing it Acura’s most ag­gres­sive look on this car. Black seat trim, a black head­liner, con­trast­ing gray stitch­ing, red lights on the in­stru­ments and ped­als made of alu­minum help to set it apart.

I do hope Acura can come up with an even more eye-catch­ing ILX A-Spec look for the fu­ture, though, more akin to the one on the 2018 TLX I drove a few weeks ago. The new TLX’s A-Spec makes the ILX’s ver­sion look sub­tle.

To keep the in­te­rior qui­eter, ev­ery ILX comes stan­dard with Ac­tive Noise Con­trol. It “helps elim­i­nate low-deci­bel boom­ing noise en­ter­ing the cabin,” Acura claims, while al­low­ing the en­gine’s sound to res­onate nicely at higher RPMs when the driver wants to have some fun.

I thought the sys­tem did its job well. On the high­way, while it’s not the qui­etest car in this class, the ILX is per­fectly pleas­ant and more silent than any­thing I can re­call from its Honda cousins. And when you wind up the 2.4-liter en­gine, it lets out a pleas­ing wail as it ap­proaches its peak out­put of 201 horse­power.

Pric­ing starts at $27,990 and tops out at $34,980 when you opt for both the Tech­nol­ogy Plus and A-Spec ap­pear­ance pack­ages.

The Acura ILX has a sporty per­son­al­ity with good han­dling, min­i­mal body roll and firm seats. Its dual-clutch trans­mis­sion is in­cred­i­ble.

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