Undoubtedly, Acura is in the midst of a brand renaissance – with products like the all-new ILX, and redesigned RDX taking center stage. Will the ILX attract younger buyers? As long as those buyers are considering a premium vehicle, the answer is a resounding “yes.” The Gen-Y crowd has been a tough sell. We first saw the youth-oriented Scion brand try to get the biggest slice of the Gen-Y pie back in 2003 using guerrilla marketing tactics – including extensive merchandising, and even going as far as creating their own indie record label – to hawk inexpensive, yet high quality vehicles to a burgeoning demographic in an era wherein Facebook was relegated to Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room and nobody knew what a “Tweet” was. To make matters worse, not only did many members of Gen-Y apathetically procrastinate in getting their driver’s licenses, Gen-Y is the first generation in America with less disposable income (on average) than their parents.
Back when Scion was getting its mojo going, Acura commenced sale of the RSX sports coupe. The RSX was indeed sporty, having borrowed its powertrain from the Civic Si hatchback of the same era, and would also offer a sportier powertrain, packing 201 horsepower in Type-S guise. Gen-X was scooping up these sports coupes by the truckload because they were luxurious, sporty, and more affordable to own than everything else offered by other luxury brands at the time. A few lucky Gen-Yers also got in on the fun in the next couple years, with many kids’ first cars being an RSX, and the fortunate few among them (oftentimes with more money than sense) dumped thousands of dollars into their RSXs, making them an icon of the import tuning world for many years (even to this day).
With that in mind, the ILX has some pretty big shoes to fill. Now that the street racers of the last decade (well, the ones who survived suffering scene-related casualties or avoided prison time) are graduating college, starting careers, getting married, and having kids, Acura is back at them with a smaller, sportier, and relatively more affordable alternative to other vehicles offered by other luxury makes – luring Gen-Y buyers the same as they did with those in the late Gen-X pool a decade ago. The thing is, Acura is no longer baiting Millennials with high-revving horsepower combined with a plethora of JDM-aftermarket support. This time, it’s all about technology, comfort, fuel efficiency, and overall value.
With a starting MSRP of $25,900 (before destination), the 2013 Acura ILX is one of the most affordable luxury sedans on sale in America – and the most affordable from a premium Japanese automaker. The base ILX is anything but – besides having cloth seats, it features a 150-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline four cylinder motor, automatic dual-zone climate control with humidity control and air-filtration, a power sunroof, 5-speed Sequential SportShift automatic transmission with paddle shifters, Keyless Access System with pushbutton ignition, Bluetooth HandsFreeLink calling, a 160-watt, 8-speaker audio system, USB and iPod interface, and a 5” color audio display. Adding the $3,700 Premium Package adds leather seating and trim, 8-way power driver’s seat and 4-way power front passenger’s seat, dual-level heated front seats, Multi-view rear camera, auto-dimming rearview mirror, 7-speaker, 360-watt audio system with subwoofer, XM Radio, 17” alloy wheels, HID headlights, and fog lights. That’s a lot of kit for that kind of money, and keep in mind – you get all that for about $30,000. Spend an extra $2,200 and step up to the Technology Package, adding even more features, including the Acura Navigation System with HDD, AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic and Weather, a 10-Speaker, Acura/ELS Surround Sound System (by far, probably the best-sounding audio system in this segment), 15 GB of Media Storage and Song By Voice technology, Voice Recognition System (controls audio, climate, and navigation systems), and Acura’s exclusive GPS-linked, solar-sensing temperature control.
Keep in mind – the ILX also comes in a Hybrid model, too – it features a 1.5-liter four cylinder engine with electric motor (think Honda IMA), a CVT transmission, an “Econ” button, Eco Coaching display (that sounds like fun, doesn’t it?), fog lights, and decklid spoiler. What’s so remarkable about the ILX Hybrid is the fact that it achieves 39 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, with a combined figure of 38 mpg all around. That’s not bad at all for a luxury sports sedan.
For the more passionate commuters among us, there’s a version of the ILX Premium Package that replaces the base engine with the 2.4-liter, 201-horsepower motor and six-speed manual transmission – just like what’s in the TSX Special Edition. Even cooler is that Acura doesn’t charge any more money for that powertrain combination over the standard 5-AT.
Enough with the specs – how does the ILX drive? We had an opportunity to test-drive the ILX for ourselves, and what’s so strange about it (strange in a good way, mind you) is that the ILX literally feels like a more manageable version of the TL. It features all the same luxurious amenities, and even offers similar ride characteristics at low speeds. What’s even better is once you get the ILX up to speed and go around a corner or two… you realize that this is a true sports sedan. Think of the Civic Si sedan, sans the “boy racer” looks. It’s certainly worlds more upscale and sophisticated, but that’s just how it drives – beautifully. The suspension is nice and taut, and acceleration feels above average for the class (especially in Sport mode or when shifting your own gears).
For those not behind the wheel of the ILX, the interior is very luxurious. Those familiar with late-model Acuras will agree that Acura interiors are among the best in the auto industry, and the ILX is no exception. The seats are very comfortable, and the ILX offers plenty of head, shoulder, and knee, and leg room for all passengers. Acura also cleaned up the center stack on the ILX and RDX (as compared to, say the TL or ZDX) and the interface is very easy to use, especially for those of us who drive other Honda/Acura products. The menus are very easy to navigate, and if you’ve got a Technology Package equipped model, most of the menu options can be activated by voice command.
So, back to the original question – will today’s tech-savvy twenty-somethings flock to Acura dealerships and scoop up ILXs by the truckload? Only time will tell, but we’re certainly optimistic that those who are in the market to spend about $30,000 on their first grown-up car will see the value the ILX has to offer. To see the ILX for yourself, come down to Mungenast St. Louis Acura and test drive one for yourself – you’ll be glad you did!
Watch our YouTube video review of the ILX below: