2017 Acura ILX Tech Plus review: Made for millennials

2017 Acura ILX Tech Plus

2017 Acura ILX Tech Plus

Millennials, that generation begins with a 1980 or later birthdate, take a lot of heat from the older cohorts. They’re called entitled, lazy and whiney delicate flowers living in Mom’s basement, while they see themselves as put upon victims who need safe spaces, or something like that.

We’re not getting into the middle of that, and Acura isn’t likely to either. Not with the Acura ILX scoring highest since 2010 for the entry-luxury sedan segment under among 35 year olds. And they’re, as Acura notes, “gateway luxury vehicle customers.” That’s what gets them out of the basement and into dealer showrooms.

2017 Acura ILX Tech Plus headlights

The 2017 Acura ILX has bright LED headlights as standard equipment, with three “bulbs” for low beam, and all five for high. (click to enlarge)

It’s a good choice, a sleek four-door sedan easily identifiable as an Acura with, like it or not, its beak-shaped grille. Partly because we’ve gotten used to it and in part because Acura designers have been able to incorporate it with more subtlety, we’ve come to accept it.

Actually, for 2016, a major facelift of the first generation ILX (see our review of the 2013 Acura ILX here) integrated the grille into the slender headlight pods consisting of Acura’s “Jewel Eye” LED headlights, with five individual projector lamps on either side in one narrow sweep. It makes the front end more all-of-one-piece, and instead of a beak-like grille, the 2016 ILX got a V-shaped front end. And the lights are worth everything added to the base cost of the ILX, bright on low beams and rolling daytime on high.

As with most updates, the center of the body remains unchanged, and in the case of the 2016 ILX, the rear remains much the same as well, with the significant change being the new LED taillights. Beneath the visible alterations, however, the 2016 Acura ILX received major upgrades to the chassis. Acura lists stiffened B-pillars, an added floorpan tunnel brace and cross member, and stiffeners in the C-pillar, rear wheelhouse, side sills and rear parcel shelf, making the ILX safer in collisions while also providing a smoother and more controlled ride.

The 2017 Acura ILX Tech Plus has not one but two multi-information displays. (click to enlarge)

The 2017 Acura ILX Tech Plus has not one but two multi-information displays. (click to enlarge)

The 2016 Acura ILX has a full underbody paneling to reduce noise and improve aerodynamics by smoothing airflow under the car. The 2016 ILX also has new engine mounts improved to reduce vibration, plus noise reduction elements added to wheels and additional noise insulation, including thicker front door window glass. All Acura ILX models now have active noise control. Noise coming into the cabin is read and reverse-phase audio signal to cancel them is played through the speakers, reducing exhaust booming noise and road noise by a significant 10 dB.

The interior looks more like it was grown than designed, with the center console flowing up into the dash and outward. The instrument panel has two large white on black dials, flanked by engine temperature and fuel guage, with a compact but readable driver information center positioned between and above the speedometer and tach.

2017 Acura ILX Tech Plus instrument panel

The instrument panel 2017 Acura ILX Tech Plus is designed to look like a precision instrument. (click to enlarge)

We love the dual multi-information screens, making it possible, for example, to view the audio settings and the navigation system map at the same time. With no flipping between the two, there’s less distraction. Of course, in addition to the nav system, the lower screen can display a calendar, traffic updates and so on. Audio can be set by the touch screen or the steering wheel controls, with the nav and other data controlled by a knob and hard buttons on the center stack.

The steering wheel controls include a button for turning on and off the lane keeping assist. When on, the effect is subtle, with a “tugging” at the wheel rather than aggressively steering as some systems do.

The collision warning system flashes on the instrument panel. It’s not startling, which is good because it’s also sensitive and goes off earlier than some systems that wait until it’s almost too late.

2017 Acura ILX Tech Plus

2017 Acura ILX Tech Plus

The front seats are supportive while not aggressively bolstered, enough for how the Acura ILX will be driven most of the time. Rear seat passengers will find their gate to gateway luxury a little smaller than the front, however. Getting in means snaking adult-sized feet between the B-pillar and seat bottom, and the curve of the roof means grownups will have to mind their noggins, which combined with the foot gymnastics can be a challenge. Fortunately there’s toe room under the front seat and headroom is adequate for over-six footers. At least for a while. It is a compact sport sedan.

The 2016 Acura ILX is powered by a 2.4-liter double overhead cam direct-injection four-cylinder that replaced the standard 2.0 and optional 2.4-liter engines in the 2015 ILX. Rated 201 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque, the maximum horsepower is the same but peaks at 6800 rpm, 200 rpm earlier than its predecessor. Peak torque went up by 10 lb-ft, but more importantly comes at 3600 rpm compared to 4400 rpm, and with a wider torque curve that the last 2.4-liter.

The new engine, along with a new eight-speed twin-clutch transmission and the remarkably light weight of the ILX, gets better fuel-economy than either the 2.0-liter or the old 2.4, with an EPA rating of 25/36/29 mpg city/highway/combined. A new eight-speed twin-clutch transmission gets part of the credit. The transmission has a smart Shift Hold Control when the transmission is in automatic mode, preventing upshifts, for example, when the car is in mid-corner and at part throttle, as a driver would do if shifting manually.