Sedan sales have been taking a plunge all over the car business, yet half of Acura’s six-vehicle lineup are four-door sedans. But Acura needed a better gateway car, something that (might) capture those oh-so-coveted millennials. Enter the updated 2019 Acura ILX, which looks much better now and has the drive to match.
(Full Disclosure: Acura needed us to check out their new ILX so badly they flew me up to Columbus, Ohio, gave me a fine room in a swanky art deco hotel, fed me well, and had me drive the full lineup in a single day, with an emphasis on the new ILX.)
In crafting an all new design language in recent years, the ILX was Acura’s only car still sporting the old beak front end, and for 2019 it was due for a refresh. Back in September, Acura announced the ILX was getting cleaned up for the 2019 model.
This updated ILX may just be the injection the Acura lineup needed. To see for myself, I headed up to Ohio to check out what Acura has been up to.
The Acura ILX is the company’s entry-level sedan, pitted against the likes of the Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz CLA and A Class, and BMW 320i. It’s based on the already-good Honda Civic platform—albeit the last-gen one—and is a smart-sized package aimed at buyers who want a practical, sporty, and well-equipped smaller sedan that isn’t another cliché 3 Series purchase.
Acura’s been working to overhaul its lineup in the last few years, and this really shows on updates to its trio of sedans. Last year Acura gave the TLX a big refresh to reflect that new design language while bringing back the performance-focused A-Spec package it had in the 2000s. With the up-market TLX and RLX sedans renewed and improved, the ILX was due.
The tried-and-true 2.4-liter naturally aspirated inline four is thrown under the hood, and it produces 201 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. In its class, only the Mercedes-Benz CLA has more power, with 7 more horses. Weighing in at 3,095 pounds in base trim, my ILX test car had a curb weight of 3,145 pounds. Its overall length is 182.2 inches, is 70.6 inches wide, stands 55.6 inches tall, and offers a 105.1-inch wheelbase.
ILXs have a $25,900 starting MSRP, and my A-Spec and Technology Package-equipped tester rang up at $31,950. But that’s still less money than the base MSRP for the BMW 320i, Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz’s CLA and A220, representing good value (in my mind) over the competition.
You’re going to be very comfortable in the ILX. The base trim level now comes stacked with a ton standard features, including a moonroof, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, smart entry and push start, Bluetooth with streaming audio, and Siri Eyes Free. It also includes Acura’s AcuraWatch system, which incorporates a lane-keeping assist function, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control, among other features. Options offer more tech and comfort amenities, like new-to-ILX Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, and a navigation system with real-time traffic updates.
When you’re on the road, the ILX is nimble, quiet, and refined. I didn’t hear any unnecessary road noise, and the car is nicely connected to the road. For only stating 201 HP, the ILX’s 2.4-liter 4-banger gets along nicely, and its 180 lb-ft of torque peak comes at a low 3,600 RPMs, so you’ve got a nice plateau of pull all the way up to the 7,100 RPM redline. The ILX’s new 8-speed DCT has good ratios in every gear, and is super smooth between shifts. Steering is somewhat light, but it’s direct and crisp when you turn into any bend.
My A-Spec tester came with the leather sport seats with Acura’s Ultrasuede inserts, and the red and black combination looks dope. There’s a decent amount of legroom in the back seat for the average adult, and while I didn’t spend a ton of time back there on my brief test, my 5'11" frame didn’t feel too cramped. All ILX trim levels sport flash new Jewel Eye LED headlights that are becoming the norm for all Acura models.
I’m not going to say the ILX will be knocking off the 3 Series as the best handling or the most fun sedan in this segment, but it is good. For a front-wheel-drive car, with a hint of electric steering assist, the ILX is really balanced, and carries its weight nicely in the corners. Our route included plenty of windy country back roads, and the ILX was more enjoyable than the A3 and CLA 250 I recently drove.
The i-VTEC engine has some truly buttery torque, which was great at pushing out of and between the twisty stuff. I played with the steering-wheel mounted paddles a little bit, but I’d prefer an actual manual transmission if I wanted to change gears myself. Most ILX buyers didn’t opt for the three-pedal setup, so Acura axed that option for the 2019 model. I don’t love when manufacturers ditch the stick, but I get it.
The ILX delivers what I think is the second best looking car in this lineup, just behind the 2019 NSX. Don’t let the A-Spec package name trick you though. Aside from the upgrade from 17- to 18-inch wheels with performance all-season tires, the package’s changes to the ILX are purely aesthetic, but I do dig the updated underbody treatments, rear lip spoiler, and rear diffuser.
The interior is also great, with spot-on proportions. The placement of every touch point is right where you’d instinctively reach, as I’ve grown accustomed to in Honda and Acura, having owned 10 different Honda and Acura offerings over my time.
Infotainment systems in luxury manufacturers are getting more and more complicated as features increase, but Acura has kept theirs simple, while working Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into the mix helps any buyer easily use the car’s screen.
There are 19 buttons, switches, and paddles on the steering wheel. NINETEEN. There’s nothing intuitive about that, though the audio and cruise control options are where you’d expect them.
Also, Acura is no longer slapping its infamous beak on its cars, like it did for a decade, but the new front end sports a badge that’s far too large for the proportions of the grill. This is unnecessary, since the ILX looks great otherwise, and it is distinctly an Acura when you look at every other angle of the car. I have no idea why the company opted to go so massive for the lineup’s front badging.
I want more time in the car to give a more thorough assessment, but I can tell you that what you get in the updated ILX is impressive, and the price point’s advantage over the competition is clear.
Acura already had a decent car in the outgoing ILX, and this refreshed 2019 model is better. The looks are great, the overall style and proportions are fantastic, and it’s loaded an extraordinary amount of standard features.
Will people go for it in the sedanocalypse? Who knows, but if you’re looking at the 3 Series, A3, or the smaller Mercedes offerings, this is worth checking out more than ever.