The premium sub-brand of Honda, Acura, always occupied a peculiar position in the automotive industry. It was an improvement over Honda’s mainstream models but fell short of Lexus or Infiniti in terms of performance and refinement. Except for the renowned NSX sports car, every Acura model throughout history has been a front-wheel drive (FWD) vehicle built on a Honda basis.
All-wheel drive is available on a few models, but these are primarily FWD vehicles. This gets me to the topic of today’s post: the 2016 ILX, which Acura provided for techradar’s evaluation.
For the first time since the Integra sedan was discontinued in 2001, Acura finally has a compact vehicle in the US with the launching of the ILX for the 2013 model year. The compact that is based on the Civic received mixed reviews at first. I drove the 2013 ILX for a while but wasn’t impressed. Although it cost more, the inside was made of low-quality materials and didn’t give much more than a Honda Civic with all the options.
The 2016 ILX was significantly redesigned by Acura with additional high-end inside materials, driver assistance technologies, and LED lights after going back to the drawing board. The top-of-the-line Technology Plus and A-SPEC package configuration of the ILX Acura that was provided to techradar for assessment has an MSRP of $35,830 (the vehicle isn’t sold outside of North America).
Even though they are very insignificant in the broad scheme of things, the external modifications for the 2016 refresh improve the appearance. Acura’s Jewel Eye LED headlights, which use three brilliant LEDs for the low beam and two for the high beam, have taken the place of the previous projector beam headlights. Also using LEDs are the taillights.
The exterior is well crafted, with delicate creases and curves, which impresses me. The wheels have a sleek design with black highlights and a silver face; they have a fan-blade-like appearance. The outward upgrades give the car a posh appearance when combined, but that’s the extent of its endearing features.
As soon as you enter, you are greeted by a cozy pair of sport seats with superb side bolster support. My 195-pound, 5-foot-7-inch body fits snugly in the seats, and the adjustable lumbar supports my lower back.
A wide band of silver trim from Acura divides the dashboard, bringing brightness to the otherwise all-black cabin. The soft-touch surfaces above the silver trim feel softer than those of an average economy automobile. The excellent quality stops there. Unfortunately, everything below the silver trim is made of hard plastic appropriate for an inexpensive automobile.
Given the Acura brand’s premium heritage and the regularly touched surfaces, it is not surprising to see higher quality materials. Given the interior’s lower cost, the car still has a dressed-up Honda vibe rather than that of a true luxury automobile.
It seems absurd that the leather steering wheel isn’t heated when the popular Kia Optima has it as standard equipment on the mid-level EX grade for $10,000 less.
You may see the analog gauge cluster with an LCD wedged between it if you look forward. The LCD offers journey details, access to the car’s settings, turn-by-turn directions, audio information, and a visual depiction of the driving assistance features that are available.
Overall, the interior of the Acura ILX is well-designed, with frequently used amenities like the climate control and various infotainment capabilities using buttons and knobs. Sadly, that is precisely when things start to go south.
The infotainment system in the Acura ILX tops my list of the worst ones ever put in a contemporary vehicle. It is a dual display system with a 7-inch On-Demand Multi-use Display (ODMD) installed below for control purposes and an 8-inch LCD mounted high and center as the main display.
Even though the ODMD uses capacitive multi-touch technology and haptic feedback, it still performs poorly. It has a horribly overly convoluted user interface that combines a physical control knob that controls the top screen with a touchscreen that has dynamic functionality based on what you’re doing.
The updated Acura ILX did not receive the better infotainment system improvement, in contrast to the Honda Accord, which boasts a dual screen system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability.
As is standard in all new cars, the system has HD Radio, SiriusXM, one USB connection, Aha radio and Pandora connectivity, Siri Eyes-Free, and navigation with real-time traffic information. It’s unclear how the user interface passed usability testing or who gave the go-ahead for production, but getting used to the system won’t be simple.
I simply gave up trying to utilize the system for anything other than music towards the end of my time with the Acura ILX. My issue with the ILX infotainment system isn’t specific to any one feature; rather, using it is excruciatingly unpleasant.
While the bottom ODMD switches between functions depending on the music source and occasionally shows an onscreen keypad for navigation input, the top display can display navigation, music information, and phone information. The ODMD displays six music presets and the option to tune to any station when I’m listening to SiriusXM. However, I have to click the physical audio button beneath the ODMD and use the control knob and top display if I want to swiftly cycle between the stations or view them by category.
Additionally, things become more challenging when you attempt to input navigational instructions. To use the navigation features on the top display, you must first click the NAV button below the ODMD. The touch screen will then display music controls as you use the control knob to traverse the menus.
You have two options for input while looking for an address or point of interest: an on-screen keyboard or the control knob. Naturally, neither approach is feasible if the car is moving.
I never experienced an epiphany where the infotainment system made sense while I was driving the ILX. I thought it was more like a terrible joke by evil Acura engineers. The entire infotainment system should be scrapped due to how difficult it is to use, unless you prefer using technology to torture yourself.
Daily self-punishment is not something I particularly enjoy, especially not for 36 grand.
The terrible problem is that the updated 2016 edition of the ILX makes the infotainment system less user-friendly than the older one with a single screen and control knob. It seems as though Xzibit gave Acura engineers tips on how to make the ILX more appealing, saying, “Yo, I heard dudes like screens, so…”
Acura and Panasonic collaborate to create the ILX ELS Studio Premium audio system. Elliot Scheiner, a Grammy Award winner, calibrated the high-end audio system with his golden ears. The ELS Studio Premium audio system makes the claim that it can reproduce music exactly as it would sound in a recording studio.
Ten discrete channels and six speakers are used in the ILX implementation. Mid-range speakers are installed in each door, tweeters are installed in the front doors, a mid-range center-channel speaker is installed in the dash, and the back deck houses two surround speakers and an 8-inch subwoofer.
The ELS sound system is completed by DTS Neural Surround, which produces surround sound from all audio sources. The overall tone of the ELS Studio Premium audio system is neutral. The mid-range is smooth, and the highs are clear. There isn’t much bottom thud, but that is to be expected from studio sound.
The full AcuraWatch Plus driver assistance package, which includes automated emergency braking, lane keeping assistance, and adaptive cruise control, is offered with the ILX by Acura (AEB). The ILX’s ACC system only operates at speeds of 19 mph or higher; unlike the new Honda Civic’s system, which operates at all speeds, or the Hyundai Elantra’s system, which operates at speeds of 5 mph or higher.
I don’t like how limited the ACC is in a vehicle that is intended to be premium, especially when its mainstream cousin has a better system. It’s difficult to sell the Acura ILX since it costs more than Honda’s Civic and has less advanced technology in a market that prioritizes cutting-edge technology.
Despite its drawbacks, driving an ACC on a highway with traffic signals is downright terrifying. Many times when traffic was stopped in front of me, the system proceeded to maintain speed or aggressively accelerate to reach the predetermined speed, only to forcefully brake to slow the car down at the last second. All of the distance parameters result in this.
Because I’ve had the same experience in other Acura models, including the RLX and MDX, I can’t say that it was an isolated incident with the ILX. Unfortunately, driving in traffic is not the best use for the ILX’s ACC; highway cruising is much better.
The Acura ILX’s LKAS system aids in steering the vehicle to maintain compliance with lane markings on straight and gently curved roadways. Every time you start the automobile, the system must be turned on and only operates at speeds greater than 40 mph. On the other hand, the Mercedes-Benz Distronic Plus system always activates.
I have found the LKAS to be far more promising than the ACC. On the highway, the automobile has no issue maintaining in its lane, but if it senses no steering input from the driver, it becomes irate. LKAS automatically disables after three visual and auditory alerts until you turn off and restart the vehicle.
In the event that someone tries to completely rely on the technology and has an accident, I suppose the warnings are a safety measure to keep Acura out of legal problems.
After using the ILX ACC and LKAS system, I can see why George Hotz’s self-driving, hacked ILX is primarily intended for highway cruising. No amount of hacking will be able to make the system autonomous in stop-and-go traffic, where it is most needed because the technology isn’t capable of operating at speeds below 40 mph.
The collision mitigation braking system (CMBS) is Acura’s moniker for its AEB system, but it functions the same way. If the ILX determines that you ought to be braking, it will flash a huge “BRAKE” warning in the gauge cluster LCD and sound accompanying beeps. I was able to activate the warning a few times, but since I have to look down at the gauge cluster, I found it to be more distracting than helpful.
In order to attract my attention, I prefer solutions that have a bright flashing LED on top of the dash that displays bright warning flashes onto the windshield. Now, the technology can automatically apply the brakes to slow down or even stop the vehicle if it notices that you don’t react. Since it would have been negligent of me to let AEB fully take over on public roadways, I can only believe it operates as promised.
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