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Acura loads up entry-level ILX sedan with dynamic goodies

2013 Acura ILX

Bob English/The Globe and Mail

Overall Rating
This is a pleasant, competent, responsible and interesting-to-drive car. You’ll like this car if: you want a compact with a little more class.
Looks Rating
A look that reflects the stature expected of an Acura.
Interior Rating
It’s rich enough to be an Acura, and it’s quiet and well-equipped.
Ride Rating
Firmly supple in its response to bumps, it handles competently.
Safety Rating
Like the Civic it’s based on, it’s deemed a Top Safety Pick.
Green Rating
Decent mileage for a 201-hp car.

Parking a new Acura in the driveway got a little easier with the arrival of the new 2013 ILX sedan, and it's doing what the company hoped – that is, nudging up the division's sales numbers for the year.

With the ILX's $27,790 starting point, the stretch to an Acura is no longer quite as daunting for the younger buyers in their 20s and 30s it's aimed at. That number is just about where a loaded-to-the-beltline-with-options Civic – on which it is based – leaves off, and the upward price spiral from there doesn't reach dizzying heights.

For those who can afford a few more goodies and leather upholstery, the step up to the Premium is $29,990. If you want all that, plus help finding your way around the Tech, with nav and surround sound, is a step up at $32,290. And if you're keen on going green, there's the Hybrid at $34,990.

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Except for the Hybrid, each comes with a 2.0-litre, 150-hp, four-cylinder engine that delivers adequate performance, but will only elevate your adrenaline level if you attempt to pass without leaving yourself much margin for error.

Also included in the lineup is the $29,990 Dynamic package-equipped ILX we're looking at here, which is aimed at drivers who expect their Acura to be lively like small Acuras of the past, namely the quick Integra Type-R.

The Dynamic package adds just three extras to the equipment included in the Premium package, and only two impact the performance and sporting character of the car. They don't boost this car to Type-R standards, but raises it to a level that makes it interesting to drive, as opposed to merely pleasant to drive-around-in.

The first is a 2.4-litre engine that loves to rev and hits a power peak of 201 hp at 7,000 rpm, while producing 170 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. The second is a close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox, topped by a short, sturdy, leather- and alloy-topped lever that swaps gears quickly and accurately. Both are borrowed from the Civic Si.

Acceleration time from 0-100 km/h with this engine requires about seven seconds, compared to 10 seconds for the 2.0-litre unit. The Type-R managed it in a bit more than 6 seconds, incidentally, and was a not-very-civilized blast to drive.

The penalty applied for this performance gain is a modest reduction in fuel economy. The 2.4-litre ILX's fuel numbers are 9.8 litres/100 km city and 6.5 highway, while the 2.0-litre's are 8.6 city/5.6 highway. The average showing on the test car's readout after a week of highway, rural and town driving was a commendable 7.2 litres/100 km, and on the highway it managed a not-as-impressive average of 7.1.

The third item the Dynamic package provides is a set of "metal racing pedals," which you can admire if you look deep down in the footwell.

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Thanks to some bean-counter sleight of hand, the engine and transmission and, of course, those shiny pedals are yours for the same $29,990 Acura is asking for the Premium package, which includes an automatic transmission. And making that magic happen may be why the Dynamic package disappointingly doesn't include any additional performance-enhancing additives, such as better wheels, tires, brakes, quicker steering or suspension tweaks.

Not that the car isn't satisfying to drive. The engine fires up in the morning to an enthusiastic 1,500-rpm idle before settling down and it loves to rev.

There's enough torque in the mid-range to let you potter about without actually being required to shift too frequently, but gratuitous shifting is part of the fun it provides, and lets you take full advantage of the engine's output. Winding it out to 7,000 rpm, which unfortunately means just first and second if you don't want to exceed the speed limit, is neat and accompanied by a snarly exhaust note.

The suspension is tuned tautly enough and is well controlled, but not to the point of discomfort. The steering ratio is quicker than the Civic's, but effort could perhaps have been dialled up a bit to give it a sportier feel. The low profile P215/45R17 all-season tires respond readily.

The ILX's Civic sub-structure sets the general exterior and interior size parameters, but the sheetmetal has been shape-shifted to produce a longer hood and shorter tail-end that are Acura-unique.

The interior, which seats four comfortably, has been Acura-ized with high-quality materials and extra sound deadening. It comes with well-shaped seats, a red start button and dual zone climate control, plus all the normal comfort and convenience features.

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The Premium version adds the 17-inch wheels and tires, HID headlights, auto-dimming mirror, auto-on headlights, a rear-view camera, leather trim and heated seats, power-adjustable on the driver's side.

The Premium package will be the choice of most ILX buyers, but good on Acura for offering its customers the more driver-oriented Dynamic version.

Tech specs

2013 Acura ILX 2.4 Dynamic

Type: Compact sports sedan

Base Price: $29,990; as tested, $31,935

Engine: 2.4-litre, DOHC, inline-four

Horsepower/torque: 201 hp/170 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Drive: Front-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.8 city/6.5 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: Audi A3, BMW 1-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, MazdaSpeed3, Subaru WRX, Volkswagen Golf GTI

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