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2015 Acura ILX Driving Impressions

Acura has drifted a long way from the days when its Integra coupes were performance pacesetters in the compact class. Though the division would like the ILX to be perceived as sporty, that character trait is present only in the hotter ILX 2.4L version, with its 201-horsepower engine and slick 6-speed manual transmission.

Acceleration in the basic ILX 2.0L version is tepid. Forward progress is not enhanced by its 5-speed automatic, which seems a bit outdated compared to competitors with 6-speed automatics and 6-speed manuals. The ILX 2.0L automatic has a Select Shift manual mode with paddle shifters, but it adds little if anything to the car's fun-to-drive index. Up- and downshifts are relaxed compared to the snappy responses of Volkswagen's dual-clutch DSG automatic, and only slightly quicker than simply leaving the shift lever in Drive.

Steering is another soft point in the dynamic behavior of the ILX. Electric-assist power steering is far from new to Honda and Acura, and in some applications, such as the Honda S2000 sports car, it has delivered exemplary precision. But in the ILX, the steering feels numb on-center and vague when the driver turns the wheel. The electric assist system adds weight to steering effort as speed increases, but road feel is essentially absent.

However, there are redeeming traits. The combination of a stiffened body shell and firm suspension tuning gives the ILX a sense of character that's totally absent in the standard Civic. Handling responses are reasonably prompt and wholly predictable, with no sacrifice in ride comfort. Quite the contrary; the ILX feels much like cars with autobahn pedigrees, such as Volkswagen's CC sedan. This is particularly true of the ILX 2.4L version.

Beyond that, Acura invested considerable time and money in sound deadening, which pays off in an exceptionally low interior noise levels. In this area, the ILX can go toe to toe with anything in its class, a plus for automotive audiophiles.

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