“Go ahead—tell them that it is an Acura Civic. I dare you!”
That was the challenge thrown down to me by the head of a brand that hopes to regain relevance lost in the premium, luxury, or whatever you want to call the segment of vehicles that are one up over a company’s main brand, as Acura is to Honda.
So I figured that I would look at the numbers for the Acura ILX and compare them with the Honda Civic.
And lo and behold, I discovered that there is a shared dimension: both cars have a 105.1-in. wheelbase.
I’ll pause so that you can get a cool compress to apply to your now-fevered forehead.
The ILX is longer, wider, lower, and has different tracks front and rear. And compared with the Civic EX-L with navigation, the high end of the Civic lineup, the ILX 2.0 liter weighs more.
Oh, and the Civic isn’t available with a 150-hp 2.0-liter engine. It has a 140-hp 1.8-liter. They both have five-speed automatic transmissions, but the gear ratios are all different. The Civic takes regular gas, not premium, and it gets better gas mileage. They both have electric power steering, but the steering ratios are different, the turning diameters are different, and the lock-to-lock turns are different.
But a major difference is that it is unlikely that the ILX will be to the Acura brand what the Civic is to the Accord brand because the Civic is arguably as synonymous with “Honda” as Accord is. It is sort of like someone makes the decision between buying a small one or a big one (yes, there are smaller and bigger vehicles in the Honda lineup, but those two are the dominant ones).
It is unlikely that this is going to be a “Do I buy a TL or an ILX?,” because smack in between is the TSX. And what’s interesting is the price walk that one takes: looking at the base MSRPs for each of the vehicles: $25,900 for ILX; $30,510 for TSX; $35,905 for TL. (There will be an RL returning which will be at the top, but for 2013, that’s how it adds up.) So there may be a question about spending an additional $5K or not.
Early sales indications seem to point in the direction that the ILX is going to get more people into Acura than would be the case without it, and that is undoubtedly the name of the game.
The ILX is an entry-luxury car, a compact that Acura says provides “value for money.” Arguably, the whole notion of Honda is predicated on value for money—it is hard to beat their value proposition on an Accord or Civic or Fit or whatever—and while I understand that there are fewer people who are profligate when they are buying a new car, I also wonder whether the point of buying a step-up brand is more about panache than practicality.
Even the entry-lux buyer wants her car to seem special, special beyond the badge on the front (and no, there is no protuberant beak on the ILX) and the cappuccino in the dealer’s waiting area. The car must telegraph something special, something different, something that the person who, say, bought an Accord isn’t going to get.
And it is there that I find the Acura ILX to be lacking. It is a perfectly competent, peppy, comfortable car. But there is nothing about it that tells me that I have something that the rest of the people in the parking lot don’t have.
If you buy a Civic you know that you have one of the best-damn compacts on the planet.
If you buy an ILX, what do you know?
Engine: 2.0-liter, SOHC, four cylinder with direct injection
Material: Aluminum block and head
Horsepower: 150 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 140 lb-ft @ 4,300 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 105.1 in.
Length: 179.1 in.
Width: 70.6 in.
Height: 55.6 in.
Curb weight: 2,970 lb.
MSRP : $31,400 (destination & handling: $895)
EPA: 24/35/28 mpg city/highway/combined