A quarter century after it became the first standalone Japanese luxury brand, Acura is looking for ways to pump some adrenaline into an expanded line-up. It came to the January 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit with an assortment of new offerings covering everything from supercars to sport-utes though, arguably, the low-key ILX sedan could be the most important new offering the brand has come up with in quite some time.
The 2013 Acura ILX goes on sale this April.
The challenge is to capitalize on the brand to conquest buyers who have been migrating to the competition, suggests Acura sales chief Jeff Conrad. Nowhere is a new offering more critical than in the entry-luxury, or compact luxury sedan, segment that has long been dominated by the BMW 3 Series.
If the overall look is familiar that's no surprise, as the new Acura ILX is based on the sibling Honda brand's familiar Civic, which itself was updated for the 2012 model year. Acura's approach is to deliver a more upscale and refined sedan than the Civic, but one that errs on the conservative side when it comes to styling.
Nonetheless, the look is handsome and modern, with a coupe-like roof and a sweeping character line that runs the length of the body, both echoing, if not breaking out from, current industry trends.
The most conservative element in the design is probably the change most welcome, Acura downsizing the shield grille that it adopted as its visual signature a few years back. That cartoon-like element resonated with some but alienated others. It is now more balanced and proportioned and will likely signal how Acura treats other models to follow.
Acura said it wants to position ILX as an entry-luxury sedan. The brand once had a well-respected model that used to do that quite well, the old Integra, which brought of lot of first-time buyers into Acura showrooms. That era ended. With the ILX, Acura hopes to regain that old magic.
The 2013 ILX will be loaded with technology, including Bluetooth hands-free calling and wireless audio, app-based infotainment, which can let such services as Pandora be played through the car's audio system, and voice-controlled text messaging. (However, it'll limit a driver to choosing from a handful of pre-set responses to incoming messages.)
The Acura ILX will serve as a platform for the Acura brand's first hybrid offering. The ILX hybrid will feature a specially tuned 1.5-liter gasoline engine and a compact electric motor, both linked through a continuously variable transmission, or CVT.
That's in addition to two traditional powertrain offerings, a base-level 2.0-liter inline-4, as well as a high-performance 2.4-liter I4 paired with a 6-speed manual.
The upcoming Acura ILX will enter a luxury market segment crowded with plenty of other, better-established products, never mind an array of mainstream products, including the new Dodge Dart, as well as the redesigned Civic. The high-tech features will certainly be a draw but final pricing could make all the difference between a hit and an also-ran. We've heard the ILX will be priced "well below" $30,000. We're hoping that means it will start for less than $29,900.