2013 Acura ILX Premium review:

2013 Acura ILX Premium

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Starting at $25,900
  • Engine 4 Cylinder Engine
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • MPG 28 MPG
  • Passenger Capacity 5
  • Body Type Sedans

Roadshow Editors' Rating

6.0 Overall
  • Cabin tech 5
  • Performance tech 7
  • Design 6

The Good The 2013 Acura ILX Premium's cabin features comfortable heated leather seats with power adjustment and a full array of digital audio sources. The 2.4-liter's performance is everything we'd expect from a car based on the Civic Si.

The Bad The ILX lacks the Civic Si's limited-slip differential. Its seats don't offer much lateral support. The tall dashboard is difficult to see over. The Bluetooth hands-free system features poor voice command. It's pricey for what's basically a Civic. There's no navigation available on the 2.4-liter model.

The Bottom Line The 2013 Acura ILX offers everything that's great about the Honda Civic in a more luxurious form, but it doesn't really fix any of its tech shortcomings and is probably a bit too expensive.

Not too long ago, Acura decided to ax a sweet little sport compact called the RSX because it was simply too close to the Honda Civic, with which it shared its underpinnings. I was sad to see the RSX go, but even I had to admit that there was some logic there. Aside from having a radically different body style than its contemporary Civic cousin, the last iteration of the top-of-the-line RSX Type-S was basically just a Civic Si without a limited-slip differential. So, just five years after its introduction, the RSX was no more.

That was back in 2006. Now, fast forward six years to the launch of the 2013 ILX, a new entry-level Acura model that shares the underpinnings of its contemporary Honda Civic. Like the RSX, the high-performance trim level is basically just a Civic Si without a limited-slip differential. What gives? Is history repeating itself here?

Well, the RSX was designed to be a higher-performance version of the Civic. The ILX, on the other hand, heads in the opposite direction, justifying its higher price tag with more creature comforts, softer seats, and sharper styling. Essentially, it's the more luxurious, more expensive version of the Civic. When one of the Civic's major selling points is its sticker price, I'm not sure that more expensive is the right direction to head and can't help but wonder if we'll see the ILX meet the same fate as the RSX that came before it.

It's just like a Civic...

Let's start beneath the sheet metal. The ILX is available with the same power train as the Honda Civic. Prospective buyers are also given the choice of a 2.0-liter engine and a 1.5-liter Hybrid engine, but our ILX was powered by the 2.4-liter engine from the Civic Si. A typical, high-revving Honda mill, the 2.4-liter's maximum rated at 201-horsepower comes at a lofty 7,000rpm, but the full 170 pound-feet of available torque comes on at a more reasonable 4,400rpm. The optional six-speed manual gearbox is the same and features the same effortless, snappy throw as the Si. Fuel economy is rated at 22 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 25 mpg combined.

The ILX's 2.4-liter engine comes straight out of the Civic Si. Its LSD, however, is curiously absent. Josh Miller/CNET

The ILX's 105.1 wheelbase is identical to the Civic's, and the rest of its exterior dimensions are within millimeters of the Honda's (the variation coming primarily in from the differences in the sheet metal). The Acura sits on the same MacPherson strut front suspension and multilink independent rear suspension. Spec the 2.4-liter engine and the ILX 17-inch wheels are of a different design from the Civic Si's, but the P215/45-R17 all-season tires wrapped around those wheels are the same.

The throttle is the same drive-by-wire system, and the front wheels are steered by the same electronic power-steering system, but the steering ratio has been quickened to 15.11:1 versus 16.08:1. The ILX's steering is a precise point and shoot affair -- a rarity in front-wheel-drive cars these days -- but it lacks feel, feedback, and weightiness. Interestingly, the ILX's turning radius is about 8.4 inches wider than the Civic Si's. Despite its cushier cabin, the ILX only gains 83 pounds of curb weight over its H-badged cousin.

...but it doesn't look like a Civic...

Like the Acura RSX that came before it, the ILX is, of course, a bit more than just a rebadged Civic. There are a number of differences between the two models.

The primary difference is an aesthetic one. The ILX is wrapped in sheet metal that's slightly more curvaceous than its wedge-shaped cousin; its rump is rounded ever-so-slightly and its shoulders emphasized with a dramatic crease that rises over the rear wheel well and plunges to join the high beltline that runs the length of the vehicle. The side windows have been reshaped into something a bit more BMW-esque, and the overall vehicle length increased slightly with body work.

The ILX's sharp tail lamps tie together the sedan's round rump. Josh Miller/CNET

The upgraded lighting is a welcome addition to the ILX's spec sheet, casting crisp HID illumination on the road ahead without blinding oncoming drivers. The lights feature automatic illumination, but don't feature any sort of lateral steering or automatic high-beam technology. I found the shape of the lights at both ends of the vehicle to be very handsome. The fronts complement the Acura corporate beak fantastically, and the rear tie together what could easily be a badonkadonk rear end.

From certain angles, the ILX looks downright classy, an improvement over the space cadet looks of the Civic. However, from other angles, the Acura seems a bit goofy. Most notably, the lower intakes of the angular, boat prow front bumper add an odd bulbous look to what is otherwise a sharply designed face. Overall, the ILX's design is decidedly "meh." It's generally inoffensive, but the styling takes so few chances that the result is rather anonymous.

As I already stated, beneath the sheet metal, most Acura ILX models are identical to their Honda Civic analogs. However, our 2.4-liter model differs from the Civic Si in two critical ways. For starters, it lacks a helical limited-slip differential (LSD) and the option for stickier summer tires isn't available -- both indicators that the ILX 2.4's primary goal isn't outright performance. A revival of the Acura RSX Type-S this is not, but I doubt most ILX drivers will even notice the omission.

...and it's more luxurious than a Civic...

Inside the cabin, the ILX receives a number of substantial "upgrades" over the Honda Civic as well. I put "upgrades" in quotes because whether many of these changes should be considered improvements is a bit subjective.

For starters, there's the plushier leather upholstery that wraps the new eight-way power adjustable driver's seat that comes as part of the Premium package. There's the new curvaceous, soft-touch dashboard that rises before you. Keyless entry and push-button start are my favorite new features. The Civic's bi-level digital gauges have been replaced with a more traditional dual analog, speedometer and tachometer gauge setup. Automatic climate controls do most of the HVAC fiddling for you and heated seating surfaces on the front buckets keep your rear end toasty in the wintertime.

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