NOVI, Mich., – Be careful of what you ask for is what I thought about during the presentation by Acura’s head of marketing in America.
In a nutshell, after years of taking a beating from the automotive press because it had not followed other luxury and premium car competitors with bigger engines, more horsepower and super- and turbo-charges, industry conditions seem to have awarded the decision.
New fuel standards, higher fuel prices that might subside but will never return to three bucks a gallon levels seem to have rewarded Acura with its normally aspirated four and six cylinder engines.
But don’t get it twisted. Acura engines and the cars themselves have great quality reputations. Acura was the first Japanese luxury brand in this market. It was the first automaker with a variable valve timing system, a drive-by-wire throttle system, in-dash navigation, real time traffic alerts, torque vectoring all-wheel-drive and a three row luxury CUV.
Current owners love Acura, the brand has one of the highest customer retention rates in the industry.
That’s the good news. The bad news is to meet current industry conditions luxury automakers from Asia and Germany have targeted that small slice of the market where Acura resides with some pretty slick products and more are on their way.
Acura’s immediate response is the ILX sedan which is why we came to this western suburb of Detroit. This small sedan is intended to the gateway into the Acura brand. In other words, it is an all new entry level Acura.
Now, Acura is after first time premium car buyers although all sales are good sales. Still, the ILX is aimed at Gen Y buyers, they are adults 18-to-34, and according to Acura’s research three things top their “what makes a vehicle cool list.”
The first is styling. The ILX is a snappy looking small sedan. It’s got Acura’s seemingly solid grille, a wide rounded front end and its rump is low to the ground giving it a solid stance. The ILX really did look good.
The second avenue into Gen Y garages is affordability. The Acura ILX has a starting price of $25,900. That’s not bad for a premium branded vehicle with keyless entry, a power moonroof, USB with iPod compatibility, Bluetooth, Pandora internet radio interface, SMS text messaging and 16-inch aluminum wheels as standard equipment.
Environmentally friendly completes the top three choices of “what makes a vehicle cool” by Gen Y car buyers. To that end, the Acura ILX has a choice between two four cylinder engines and there is a hybrid.
The first engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 150 horsepower and 140 foot-pounds of torque. It’s mated to a five-speed automatic transmission and it has an EPA rating of 24 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the hwy.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder makes 201 horsepower and 170 foot-pounds of torque. It’s mated to a six-speed manual transmission and has an EPA rating of 22/31 in city and highway driving.
Acura’s ILX Hybrid has a 91 horsepower gasoline engine and a 20 horsepower electric motor. Effective torque is 127 pound-feet from 1,000 to 3,000 rpm. It has a continuously variable transmission and has a fuel economy rating of 39 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway.
We took am Acura ILX with a 2.4-liter four cylinder engine on a short test drive and found it to be a capable small car. The seats were comfortable, the interior was nicely done. My driving partner and I were able to chat normally. There wasn’t’ much wind noise or road noise.
My only quibble was I thought the band of silver satin (plastic) that split the dash forming a dual cockpit looked good but could have been of better quality.
The manual transmission was easy to shift and it gave the car a little spunkiness. I liked the car. Acura’s ILX went on sale in May.