Acura ILX may be too close to its cousin

Honda and its premium brand, Acura, share several attractive qualities. They’re among the most reliable cars built today, they tend to be nicely albeit conservatively styled, and they handle crisply and predictably.

Still, Honda products, even Acura models, tend to be less plush/refined than their Infiniti and Lexus competitors. That was the first thing we noticed when we took our Catalina Blue Pearl 2017 Acura ILX sedan on the highway.

The ILX, the ubiquitous Honda Civic’s uptown cousin, is a 4-door compact sedan with an extra helping of horsepower, luxury and style. Built in Marysville, Ohio, it was refreshed for the 2016 model year and continues with little change for 2017.

The ILX’s ride is firm but composed. Road noise is noticeable but not obtrusive. The ILX has soft, compliant bucket seats that add significantly to the cabin’s comfort level.

Powering the ILX is a 4-cylinder, 201-horsepower engine that delivers up to 35 mpg. Acura suggests, but does not require, premium unleaded gasoline.

Transmitting the engine’s considerable power to the front wheels is the only dual-clutch automatic we’ve ever liked. Unlike other versions of this transmission we’ve tested, Acura’s shifts smoothly, predictably and without drama. Dual-clutch automated transmissions deliver better fuel economy than conventional gearboxes.

Well-equipped, even at base level, the ILX has a high level of standard or optional technology, including the versatile AcuraLink connectivity and navigation system. Enhancing the car’s safety – and greatly diminishing the likelihood of an accident – are a multi-view rear-view camera, blind-spot warning system, rear cross-traffic monitor, adaptive cruise control, collision-mitigation braking, road-departure mitigation, forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist system and lane-departure warning. These desirable features are standard in Tech Plus trim. With no options, the ILX Tech Plus had a sticker price of $33,930 – about $15,000 more than the base model.

The ILX’s weak spot is its family resemblance, in terms of form and function, to the freshly redesigned Civic. The Civic may lack the Acura cachet, but it offers similar passenger and cargo room, road manners and amenities when dressed up with options. The base Civic, featuring a bigger trunk and better fuel economy (on regular unleaded gasoline) to go with its less powerful engine, is about $9,000 cheaper than the base ILX. Some shoppers may not be able to resist the opportunity to step up to the Honda Accord, a bigger, roomier car, for Acura money.

Like the economical Hyundai Elantra we test-drove recently, the ILX isn’t a big seller this year, as low gasoline prices nudge drivers into bigger sedans and SUVs. ILX sales are down 4.2 percent through July, compared with the previous period in 2015, according to Acura. Civic sales are bucking the trend, rising 17.6 during the same period.

The 2016 ILX was rated a Top Safety Pick Plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and received five-star overall scores in government crash tests.

 Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

2017 Acura ILX Tech Plus

Price: $33,930

Engine: 2.4-liter inline Four, 201 horsepower, 180 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic

Drive: Front-wheel

Weight: 3,115 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 17×7-in. alloy

Tires: 215/45R17 all-season

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 12.3 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 13.2 gal.

Fuel economy: 25 mpg city, 35 mpg highway

Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline (recommended)

 

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