Quick Spin: 2015 Acura ILX

acura ilx 2015 front side
I try to write a review of every car I drive, but this is not always possible. In 2015 for many, mostly personal, reasons I missed a few. One of those was the modern interpretation of the classic Integra, the Acura ILX.
It’s quiet and it rides well. The interior is very nice and super comfortable, with all the latest bells and whistles can be expected from a modern premium car. It’s safe, too, with all kinds of traction systems, airbags, collision avoidance, it will even steer itself back onto the road if it detects that it is about to go off. Its dual-clutch transmission might the best one in the business, as it uses a torque converter for smoother take-offs, a common gripe of DCTs. With all that, it’s even reasonably priced and comes with Honda’s renowned reliability.
And yet I can’t seem to love it.

acura ilx 2015 engine
The disclaimer here should be that I am what some may call a Honda/Acura fanboy. I’ve owned probably close to a dozen Hondas. I drove them, sold them, raced them, fixed them, and I took long family road trips in them. As it’s been written about, I currently own a mint ’95 Acura Integra GS-R which I might just keep forever. And here I was driving the Integra’s younger cousin, wanting nothing to do with it.
The ILX, while doing so many things right, just did not seem to have any soul. The styling, even with Acura’s fancy Jewel-Eye LED headlights, is kind of generic. The new direct-injected i-VTEC engine might be one of the best naturally aspirated fours in the world. The new transmission shifted smooth and quickly with each flick of the paddle. But with all that, there isn’t much besides that great audio system that would put a smile on the driver’s face.
ilx interior
For the sake of comparison, I got my Integra out of storage. It felt small in every dimension; my head was touching the roof, the small seats seemed to have end well below my shoulders. The ride was rough and everything was loud. But when I got on it, the mighty B18C1 screamed, the shifter felt connected to something, and the steering wheel alerted me to the changing road surfaces. Most importantly, I was grinning.
Back at the computer I have noticed some interesting data. The 2015 ILX and the 1995 Integra GS-R were pretty much equally quick to 60MPH and through the quarter mile. Furthermore, both cars were rated for pretty much the same gas mileage. I won’t call this lack of progress, as that would be very wrong because the ILX is a much bigger, much safer, and much more comfortable car. Comparing these two cars is like comparing apples to oranges. But really, some extra ponies wouldn’t hurt the ILX.
acura ilx 2015 top front
Let’s agree that Acura did not intend this vehicle for enthusiasts, and there is nothing wrong with that. The issue here is that people who have bought Acuras in the past, non-enthusiasts, people such as my own mother, who had a 2005 TL, will not deny that the ILX is sort of… boring. Those people buying Acuras did not want just a nicer Honda, they wanted a nicer Honda that was more fun to drive, kind of like a front-wheel-drive, less expensive, more reliable, BMW. And that is what Acuras were.
But today, an Accord (yes, I know it’s a bigger car) can be optioned exactly the same as this ILX but with more power or with a manual transmission, for less money. Further questioning the judgement behind the ILX is the fact that Ford, Subaru, and few are capable of making similarly-priced, similarly sized, if less opulent, cars that are fun to drive, kind of like the Integra was twenty years ago, and they sell a lot more of them, too, probably to former Integra owners.
acura ilx 2015 rear side
Acura provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review. Images: ©2016 Hooniverse/Kamil Kaluski, except the interior shot, that’s an Acura stock image. All Rights Reserved

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  1. CraigSu Avatar

    “…the modern interpretation of the classic Integra…” See, this is where you’ve gone wrong from the start. It’s not a modern Integra, it’s more a luxury version of the Civic which was the basis for the original Integra.

    1. Rudy™ Avatar

      Integras weren’t loaded-up small luxury cars either. This one is. I do like Acuras overall but the ILX is just…meh.
      What I don’t buy is the complaints about it being based on the old Civic. Hundreds of car models are built on a common platform. It’s what is done *with* that platform that matters. This is not the Acura EL that was a stretched and rebadged Civic from the days of old.

      1. CraigSu Avatar

        As the original owner of a 1986 Integra RS 5-door I can tell you that I certainly enjoyed mine. So much so that I kept it for 11 years.

  2. bigredcavetroll Avatar

    I’ve never really understood the modern iteration of Acura. They just seem like slightly more expensive, slightly more bloated Hondas.

  3. I_Borgward Avatar

    old: The kids can’t wait to get into one.
    new: Dad Car!

  4. salguod Avatar

    I drove an ILX 6 speed (which, I think, means it was a 2014?) at the Mid Ohio school. It was lowered and had a massive brake package, but I think the drive train was stock. I liked it, it felt quite capable – until I got in the S2000.
    Still, maybe a suspension upgrade would wake it up. Or you could you could save money and have more fun and buy a Mazda3.

  5. Maymar Avatar

    I can only hope and assume that this is a stopgap until Acura develops something new based on the 10th gen Civic – the ILX really suffered from being based on a very dull Civic.
    On the other hand, I don’t think building more fun cars will necessarily help them. Mazda’s an also-ran, and BMW ain’t what they used to be.The enthusiast car market is sadly dwindling.

    1. Kamil K Avatar

      If the ILX was half the fun the Mazda3 is, as we will soon find out, this would have been a much different review.

  6. Fred Talmadge Avatar
    Fred Talmadge

    As a current TSX Sportwagon owner I’d really like this to have a hatch if not a full on wagon. I know this is a often repeated comment, but I just hope Acura reads these comments and think, well, just to make Fred happy….

  7. Mark Jordan Avatar
    Mark Jordan

    Spot on, Kamul. My dealer provided one of these while my ’95 Legend sedan was in for maintenance and I must agree with your assessment. No soul. The 8-speed was always shifting up to a higher gear (for mileage, I presume), and clicking the paddle three times to get into the torque became a chore. And while everything is put together in the Honda tradition, the sum seems lesser than the parts.