2020 Acura ILX A-Spec

A modern take on the beloved Integra?

Words by: Adam Allen

Turbos? No. Is all-wheel drive on the menu? Negative. Surely there’s a performance bump in A-Spec trim? Sorry, but no. What about an option for a manual gearbox? Ha-ha, that’s cute. So…tell us why anyone would buy this?

It pains us to say it, but the Acura ILX is a bit of a wallflower- it’s there but also somehow isn’t. We’ve driven them over the years in various forms and admittedly approached this Road Test with low expectations- we too, wondered who has this car on their radar. Now, with the wisdom imparted from a week spent in the latest version of the ILX, we realize we were wrong. Nostalgia is big business these days, and it dawned on us that this first rung on Acura’s ladder taps into the feeling big time- as the title suggests, we slowly began to regard the ILX as a modern take on the extinct but dearly missed Integra, a car many of us in the Carpages Garage have owned at one point or another. Yet despite being a car that serves up warm memories by the bowlful, on paper it looks like a classic case of bringing a knife to a gunfight. Surely, despite what the sales figures would have you believe, there are better choices out there to be had…or is there?

It isn’t without stiff competition.

Look around on your next commute and you’re likely to see a healthy number of BMW 2-series, Lexus IS and Audi A3’s in your midst- all cars that compete directly with the ILX. These are the usual suspects which patrons of this segment typically flock to, and let it be said that each is, in its own way, a great car. There is a but, however- these are all powered by venerable 2.0 turbo inline fours and have a hard time establishing an intimate relationship with their drivers. They are simultaneously blessed and cursed with the modern day digital veneer that begets all modern cars. The ILX does pack many of the contemporary features one expects of the class, but it gets under your skin in a way that the others cannot- it has that analogue feeling that we so fondly remember from greats like the Itegra.

Are you going you saying the ILX’s interior can go toe-to-toe with say, A Mercedes Benz CLA? Beg your pardon?

The answer is no, and frankly, the cockpit in the ILX is not particularly competitive with anything from Germany or elsewhere. Because it is based on the last generation Civic, expectations must be tempered. It undoubtedly lacks the impeccable build quality and contemporary flash you get with competitors, but the ILX remains comfortable and refined despite itself. Our fully loaded tester had a healthy amount of kit: navigation, excellent LED headlights, an impressive sound system and every driver assistance technology including adaptive cruise. The backseat is on the smaller side and so is the trunk. Heck, a loaded Civic Touring brings a level of standard goodies that would make the ILX blush. Buyers won’t be sizing up an ILX because of the styling both inside and out- they’ll be drawn to the hardware beneath the skin.

That hardware looks positively retro when you consider what the other guys have on the menu.

That’s right, but it’s retro in the best possible way. Nowadays everything feels the same, especially where the engine room is concerned. 2.0 litre turbos are good for many things, but they all have that common power delivery characteristic you just don’t see in a naturally aspirated engines which demands that you to reach for the higher end of the tach to tap into the top end rush of power that Hondas are so beloved for. It’s interesting to note that the ILX’s 2.4 litre inline-four suffers from none of the low rpm limp wristed power you might remember from the VTEC screamers from the good ol’ days. What you will fondly recall is the sound that endears Honda engines to so many, and gosh darn it if you don’t find yourself taking an unnecessary trip to the redline just to revel in it. Helping that engine shine is an 8-speed dual clutch gearbox that trails Porsche’s brilliant PDK transmission for excellence but only just. It swaps ratios decisively but most impressive is the way it behaves the other 99% of the time you’re behind the wheel. Dynamically speaking, the ILX is mostly let down by its chassis, which underpinned the last generation Civic- a car not exactly known for being an apex stormer. Acura has done well enough playing the had it dealt the ILX, but remember that there’s only so much lipstick you can put on outdated bits before your smile fades as the car grudgingly scrubs its front tires into soul crushing understeer.

What might go wrong?

We know the ILX’s platform is out of date and so is the mildly dreadful two-tiered infotainment system. While Acura could have used a more up-to-date version- or merely a reskinned version of what you find in a current Civic-they chose not to. Let’s just say you’ll want to interact with it as little as possible. There is a bunch of goodies that people want but are not on the menu like cooled seats, a heated steering wheel and an option for all-wheel drive. Our last complaint continues to bemoan what he ILX lacks, specifically added performance or some meaningful chassis upgrades. The A-Spec badge used to mean something, not just denoting a higher trim level. While we grudgingly acknowledge that a Type R version is a pipe dream, could we please have an option for a manual? The ILX’s 2.4 litre gem used to be mated exclusively to a manual gearbox in the past generation Civic Si, and clearly Acura isn’t afraid to use parts off the shelf that may have collected a little dust…

Should I buy an Acura ILX A-Spec?

There are several buyers who will thumb their noses at the ILX simply because it’s a bit short on features and isn’t cutting edge, and that’s fine. But if you’re the type of person who spends hours deeply researching major purchases and sees past what lies on the surface to the goodness within- and insists on only the finest Canadian steaks for their backyard cookouts instead of so-called overpriced and underwhelming Kobe beef with the knowledge that the cheaper, domestic option delivers a similar flavor bomb for less money- then you really should check out the Acura ILX.

2020 Acura ILX A-Spec– Specifications

  • Price as tested: $38,596
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/Front-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
  • Engine:  2.4 litre inline-four, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower:  210 @ 6,800 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 180 @ 3,600 rpm
  • Curb weight: 1,430 kg (3,153 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 11.8L/100km (20 mpg)