Today I'd like to talk about Acura's ILX. Like the Audi A3, Mercedes (what an ugly face) CLA, BMW 2 series (sort of), and Buick Verano, the ILX is part of the entry level luxury group of cars that has been gaining popularity and promise to rake in more sales for luxury brands. But people have been mean to the little Acura. Nobody really understood why it existed and what it was. I on the other hand have always loved the thing, especially when equipped with the 2.4 liter and sweet shifting manual tranny. Being right smack in its 25-35 year-old customer target, I understand why this car exists and here is what I have to say about it.

Acura calls this car a "gateway" vehicle, some kind of marijuana effect of the car world. Get them hooked young and they'll keep coming for more. Acura has been going at it with this type of car for quite some time in other markets. The Canadian only EL, a luxed-up Honda Civic introduced in 1997, has been quite a sales success. We can safely say then that Acura is a pioneer in this entry-level luxury game.

For the 2016 model year, Acura has updated the car to make it more aggressive against its German competitors. Most importantly, Acura sharpened the model to further distinguish it from its Honda Civic roots by offering a more compelling drivetrain, a reworked design, stiffer chassis, and better interior.

What's Wrong With Driving A Pimped Up Civic?

"Why would I pay Audi money for a pimped up Honda Civic?" people tend to say. Well, my question to you is: "Why would you pay BMW money for a pimped up VW Golf?"

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There's absolutely nothing wrong with the Honda Civic, in fact it's one of the best automotive investments you can make. Honda/Acuras have tremendous resale value, greater in fact than any VW or Audi product. Plus, they're much more reliable. So what's wrong with paying a little premium to get a Civic with leather seats, beautiful "Jewel Eye" headlights, a kick ass blue paint job and a ton of creature comforts?

K24 Comes With VTEC (yo) And Dual Clutch Transmission

For the 2016 model year, the ILX is powered by a direct injection 2.4 liter VTEC engine, basically a pimped up version of the good old K24 unit; an indestructible and very easy to modify block. Cranking out 201 hp and 180 lbs-ft of torque, it sends its power to the front wheels thanks to a brand new and pretty sweet 8 speed dual clutch transmission; a first for Honda/Acura products. By the way, that's 20 more horsepower than a base model Audi A3 equipped with the 1.8 turbo engine.

But Will, There's No More Manual Tranny

I know that. A Honda product with no manual sucks. But I've tried Acura's new dual clutch transmission in the TLX and let me tell you, it's quite impressive. Actually, it's more impressive than the VW group's system. Thanks to its added torque converter, it's smooth, shifts quickly and, in Sport mode, really has a Gran Turismo-like brain of its own. Besides, both the CLA and A3, which are the ILX's direct competitors, don't offer a manual option either.

It's A Good Bargain

What really sets the Acura apart from the rest is its price. Where an Audi A3 starts at $31,000 and Merc CLA at around 34 grand, the base ILX, which comes pretty loaded to boot, complete with those sexy headlights, starts at just $28,000. If you want Xenon headlights on your Audi, you need to add a grand to your $31,000 (in Canada). Of course, Acura has to do this since it still hasn't gotten the German brands recognition in the luxury car segment. If it were priced and equipped like an Audi, it simply wouldn't sell. But Acura is getting there. They have some interesting perks of their own, such as the fact that the ILX is naturally aspirated, a rare breed nowadays.

So with that said, I think Acura did a great job with this little car. I predict it will sell well. Apart from the wheels, which look absolutely awful, the whole design looks pretty classy. They've done a great job at hiding the Civic. The proportions are spot on, it's got a great power to weight ratio, comes fully equipped and performance is quite decent. (0 to 60 in 6.1 seconds). I'm not ready to say this thing is a better car than its German rivals but it remains a very interesting proposition. Could this be the return of the Integra? Whatever it is, it's a good step in the right direction for a brand that's been looking for its mojo lately.

williamclavey@gmail.com