published Saturday, May 26th, 2012

TestDrive: New Acura ILX targets young, upscale drivers

Test drive Acura ILX
Test drive Acura ILX
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

FAST FACTS

• Model: 2013 Acura ILX (Tech)

• Exterior color: Crystal Black

• Interior color: Ebony

• Engine: 2.0 liter, four-cylinder

• Horsepower: 150

• Transmission: Five-speed automatic

• Fuel economy: 35 mpg highway, 24 mpg city

• Dealer: Pye Acura

• Price (as tested): $33,290

Here's a funny story.

As I was pulling into the Pye Acura dealership for this week's test drive, I accidentally ran over a parking lot curb in my Toyota Camry.

This piece of precision driving was so Mr. Magoo-like that my car actually got stuck on a little peninsula of concrete. There was no way forward, no way backward.

Three guys from the Pye service department -- biting their tongues, no doubt -- rushed out with a stout jack, like a pit crew at Talledega, and shoved me free me as I inched the car forward.

My car is OK, but my ears still are red.

Even with that stumblebum entrance, sales manager Greg Black still let me drive the new Acura ILX sedan. Sometimes in life you are grateful for small favors. Thanks, Greg.

Now, on to the ILX. Imagine taking a Honda Civic -- a fine compact car in its own right -- and giving it a sleek Acura body and luxury-level electronics and creature comforts. That pretty much sums up the new ILX, which Acura hopes will become a gateway car for young, premium-brand shoppers.

Black said the Pye Acura store has just gotten its first shipment of ILX sedans, and we picked out a Crystal Black model for testing.

STYLING

The ILX is an attractive car, with Acura's distinctive chrome smile on the front. A fluid roofline tapers into athletic shoulders. From some angles, the ILX looks remarkably like a BMW 3 series sedan. Our tester rested on five-spoke, 17-inch alloys that complete the upscale profile.

Inside, a black-on-black color scheme contributes to the overall sportiness of the car; I personally prefer a little color relief from the all-black interior and exterior. Brushed aluminum inlays accent a curving dash that adds to the premium feel of the cockpit.

Leather-covered seats are firm and supportive, and the leather-covered steering wheel is the best I've ever experienced in a sub-$40,000 vehicle.

Rear seat legroom and headroom are ample if not abundant.

Our test car came equipped with a tech package that includes a nifty navigation screen and 10-speaker audio. An added premium package includes the upgraded alloys, xenon headlights and a power, heated driver's seat.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

The ILX is powered by a 150-horsepower, four-cylinder engine which exhibits typical Honda-Acura excellence. Honda has been aptly described as an engine company that happens to make cars, and I marvel every time I experience the company's four-cylinder magic.

The ILX is not overpowering, but the little, 2.0-liter engine runs as smoothly as a sewing machine, and the five-speed automatic transmission is silky smooth, too. This is a car perpetually on its toes.

On a test drive in the Highway 58 area during a rainstorm, the ILX was sure-footed. The steering is well-balanced, and cornering is precise. Best of all, the ILX returns 35 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in stop-and-go, city driving.

BOTTOM LINE

The ILX presses all the right buttons for entry luxury buyers with sharp styling, fun driving dynamics and the cache of the Acura nameplate. The ILX can be configured at many price points. Our tester included almost every available option and stickered for $33,290.

If you buy one, though, try to keep it off the curb.

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