Test Drive:2020 Acura ILX

Ron Sessions | Nov 06, 2019

Introduction

2020 Acura ILX Rear MugshotPhoto: Ron Sessions

Functioning as a move-up product for compact 4-door owners seeking to upgrade to a luxury offering, the 2020 Acura ILX sedan is the brand’s least expensive product. The front-wheel-drive ILX shares much of its basic architecture with the previous-generation Honda Civic while adding more premium powertrain, comfort and convenience features not offered in the lower-cost Honda.

The test car for this review was a 2020 Acura ILX A-Spec model in Platinum White Pearl with the Technology Package. Including the $995 destination and transportation charges, the 2020 Acura ILX A-Spec with Technology totals at $32,545.

What Owners Say

2020 Acura ILX Front MugshotPhoto: Ron Sessions

Before discussing the results of our evaluation of the Acura ILX, it’s useful to understand who buys this compact premium sedan, and what they like most and least about their vehicles.

The ILX owner profile is very close to that of the small premium car owner as a whole with 54% of both being male and a median age of 52 years old vs 51 for the segment. Perhaps reflecting the ILX’s entry level mission for the luxury brand, the annual household income of the ILX owner is just $98,889 vs $119,757 for the small premium segment.

Despite the ILX’s performance image, just 27% of ILX owners consider themselves as performance buyers compared to 33% for the segment as a whole. ILX owners also have a decidedly practical side as well, with 66% agreeing mostly that they would avoid a car with high maintenance costs (vs 40% for the segment) and 64% agreeing mostly that their first consideration is reliability (vs 51% for the small premium segment as a whole).

Owners say their favorite things about the ILX (in descending order) include rear seat comfort, outward visbility, cupholders and feel of the seat material while their least favorite things are engine/transmission responsiveness, handling, the quality of hand’s free calls and cabin noise.

What Our Expert Says

2020 Acura ILX Front Side AnglePhoto: Ron Sessions

In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own perceptions about how the Acura ILX measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the 2019 APEAL Study.

Exterior

2020 Acura ILX Exterior PhotoPhoto: Ron Sessions

The 2020 Acura ILX is unchanged from the 2019 model, which received a freshening that year with new front fenders and fascia, a muscular power-bulge hood, the brand’s now signature Diamond Pentagon grille, 14-element Jewel-Eye LED headlamps and LED tail lamps. Acura’s premium small sedan was last updated before that for the 2016 model year.

The look is sporty without going over the top with surface excitement and exterior add-ons. From the front, there’s a definite family resemblance to the brand’s best-selling sedan, the midsize TLX.

Interior

2020 Acura ILX Interior PhotoPhoto: Ron Sessions

The cabin of the Acura ILX presents a tasteful blend of practical functionality and upscale accents. It’s upscale without being overly fancy. Standard fare includes a tilt-and-slide moonroof, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, keyless access, pushbutton start, a tilt and telescopic steering column, ambient interior lighting, an acoustic windshield and active sound control that works to cancel annoying low-frequency vibrations via the car’s audio speakers. One cool feature is the ability to open the front side windows and moonroof remotely. A-Spec trim adds a black headliner and stainless-steel trim for the accelerator and brake pedals.

Seats

2020 Acura ILX SeatsPhoto: Ron Sessions

The base ILX front seats blend comfort and support with attractive style. They are heated and the driver’s seat is power-operated and features adjustable lumbar support. Moving up to the Premium package replaces the standard black faux-leather base seats with perforated two-tone leather coverings with contrasting piping and stitching, plus a power front passenger seat with adjustable lumbar. The A-Spec package adds panels of baby-soft faux-suede trim to the leather seats, shown here in striking red and black trim.

ILX owners report that the small sedan’s back seat is one of the car’s strengths. They cite its comfort and roominess as plusses. A fold-down center rear armrest with a pair of cupholders converts the ILX into an impromptu 4-seater. Folding down the rear seat opens up trunk space for longer items. However, the rear seatback isn’t divided as with most SUVs, so it’s not possible to still carry a rear passenger or two on one side while expanding trunk space on the other. The rear seat is equipped with a LATCH system for anchoring child safety seats. 

Climate Control System

2020 Acura ILX Climate Control SystemPhoto: Ron Sessions

The ILX is equipped with a standard dual-zone GPS-linked automatic climate control system. It’s dirt simple to operate, with large buttons and a pair of meaty knobs on the lower dash to make adjustments.

Infotainment System

2020 Acura ILX Infotainment SystemPhoto: Ron Sessions

There are two infotainment systems for the Acura ILX. The base 6-speaker system has a single color display for the standard AM/FM/MP3 stereo and backup camera plus multiple analog buttons for audio presets and tuning and a rotary volume knob. Also included is Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming as well as Siri Eyes Free voice control and SMS/MMS text message capability. Switching between functions is enabled by an easy-to-reach dash-mounted control knob.

ILX models with the Premium package upgrade to brings a richer-sounding, subwoofer-enhanced 7-speaker premium audio system. This system brings Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration as well as SiriusXM and HD Radio. With this system comes a two-screen infotainment layout that uses a lower-mounted 7-inch touchscreen for audio controls, shortcuts and some climate control functions.

The Technology package adds navigation and real-time traffic information to the upper screen, well recessed to minimize glare. Included with the Tech package is the Acura/ELS Studio Premium system with 10 crystal-clear speakers. You may not be able to figure out the words to Louie, Louie by the King’s Men, but the system sure raises the fidelity bar.

Storage and Space

2020 Acura ILX Storage & SpacePhoto: Ron Sessions

Although ILX owners don’t rate the car’s storage highly compared to the premium small segment as a whole, they do like the spaciousness of the glovebox and the usefulness of both the front and rear cupholders. With 12.4 cubic feet of trunk space, the ILX offers average luggage room for the segment. Folding down the rear seat greatly expands that space and is made easy with a remote seatback release lever located just inside the side of the trunk opening.

Visibility and Safety

2020 Acura ILX Visibility & SafetyPhoto: Ron Sessions

Acura ILX owners list visibility when changing lanes and rear visibility from the driver’s seat as two of the sedan’s greatest strengths. A backup camera with changeable views is standard and one with trajectory guidelines as pictured above is included in the optional Technology package.

The AcuraWatch active safety and driver-assistive technology is standard in the 2020 ILX. The suite of systems includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and lane-departure warning with road-departure mitigation. And forward collision warning with auto emergency braking. Always a good bet to spot cars, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians you can’t see behind you, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring are offered as part of the optional Premium package.

Engine/Transmission

2020 Acura ILX Engine/TransmissionPhoto: Ron Sessions

The sole choice under the hood is a 201-hp 2.4-liter double-overhead-cam 4-cylinder. This same engine powers the base model of the larger, heavier midsize Acura TLX sedan, but in the 400-lb lighter ILX weighing some 400 pounds less, feels more engaging, capable of propelling the small sedan from rest to 60 mph in a little over 6 seconds. That said, a lack of engine responsiveness and passing power were listed by owners in the APEAL study as the ILX’s greatest weakness.

The ILX is also equipped with the same 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission as the TLX. It has a more direct feel and similar response to that offered by a manual gearbox. Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters that provide fingertip manual shift control are also standard. ILX owners noted a lack of smoothness when shifting as one of the car’s weaknesses, however.

Fuel Economy

2020 Acura ILX Fuel EconomyPhoto: Ron Sessions

During my week with the 2020 Acura ILX, I saw an observed 26.5 mpg in mostly around-town, residential driving. The 2020 ILX’s EPA fuel economy estimates of 24 mpg city/34 mpg highway/28 mpg combined are unchanged from the 2019 model. Acura does, however, recommend more expensive premium unleaded fuel for the ILX.

Driving Dynamics

2020 Acura ILX Driving DynamicsPhoto: Ron Sessions

Depending on your point of view, the Acura ILX either is a step up in driving sophistication and capability from the Honda Civic it’s based on or small premium sedan that’s less costly but doesn’t offer some of the pedigree hardware of its German-badged competitors. In the APEAL study, owners listed handling on curves and winding roads as one of the ILX’s greatest weaknesses.

My impression is the Acura ILX drives with the liveliness of a Honda Civic Si while maintaining its cool entry-lux demeanor. The ILX takes the same tight MacPherson strut front/multi-link rear suspension, amplitude-reactive shocks, precise, nicely weighted electrically boosted rack-and-pinion steering and powerfully reassuring 4-wheel disc brakes and melds those attributes into a light-on-its-feet, agile-in-the-turns, and stable-on-the-highway performer. The ILX’s standard 215/45R17 high-performance all-season tires provide satisfying levels of grip for this front-wheel-drive compact sedan. The A-Spec package takes that one step further with wider tire contact patches.

Final Impressions

2020 Acura ILX Final ImpressionsPhoto: Ron Sessions

The 2020 Acura ILX is a road-ready gem that packs a lot of performance and value into a compact 4-door sedan. It offers the same engaging driving dynamics as the popular Civic sedan, just upgraded with more upscale design as well as comfort and convenience features. The ILX value proposition becomes even stronger when you factor in the standard safety and technology content that is extra cost in many competing European models.

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