Quick Spin: 2016 Acura ILX Tech w/ A-Spec [Review]

We take another look at the refreshed ILX.

The Acura ILX, much like the Honda Civic on which it is based, has led a somewhat tumultuous life of late. With as many iterations as these cars have faced, it is sometimes difficult to keep track of what is new and what is simply a re-do.

While the 2016 Civic is all-new, Acura's first-generation ILX is about to enter its golden years. With the 2016 refresh, we are now seeing the mechanical underpinnings that should remain core to the car until its eventual replacement is announced. Triple-takeIf you're a regular reader of LLN, you may be thinking, "haven't we seen this car before?" Yes. In fact, we were invited to the media preview of the 2016 car and then given another for further evaluation.

Since most of the ILX's upgrades are old news at this point, we won't focus too much on the specifications, which you can find in the above articles. Instead, we're going to focus on a few stand-out experiences from our second extended look at the car.

Tech overloadWith a name like "Tech," you'd expect our test model to be equipped with all the bells and whistles, and you'd be right. But when it came to one of the safety gadgets, we found the bells a bit too loud and the whistles a bit to shrill.

Allow us to explain. When approaching a turn that can be taken from multiple lanes, the attentive driver often asks his or herself a series of questions. "Am I making another turn after this one?" "Do these lanes merge soon, or does one become a turn-only lane, making one more advantageous than the other?" "Can I get around this idiot if I get beside him?"

We propose an entirely new checklist, comprised of only two items: "Am I driving an Acura ILX Tech?" and "Do I feel like having a heart attack today?"

Answering "yes" to both of the above makes things simple: Choose any lane you want. If you answer "no" to the first, then it's also moot. But if you're driving an Acura ILX Tech and you're not particularly fond of having a cardiac incident, you have only one option: Take the inside-most lane to the direction you're turning.

Why? Simple. If you try to take a turn from the outside lane, and like any law-abiding citizen you feel inclined to use your turn signal, the ILX Tech's blind spot monitoring system will quite simply lose its freakin' mind. Flashing lights. Blaring warning beepers. The first half-dozen times, you'll think the driver in the next lane is about to kill you thoroughly and completely. Nope. The system is merely convinced that you are incompetent, and that you're about to drive directly into the path of the vehicle next to you, when all you wanted to do was make a right turn into a shopping center from the left-most turn lane.

Yes, the BSM system can be disabled, if you're at a complete stop with the car in "Park" and you have a minute to navigate the touchscreen menus to find the vehicle safety settings and toggle it. There's no button on the dash or knob on the console. These toggles exist for the lane departure warning system (dash) and the lane keeping assist system (wheel) but not for blind spot monitoring.

Built to a specGetting away from the crowded, multi-lane city streets and into the country, the ILX starts to click (beats beeping and flashing). Here, the 2.4L four cylinder's 201 horsepower seems more than sufficient and the eight-speed DCT truly seems up to the task. The powertrain's actions are delicate, precise and effortless. The whole package comes off lithe and graceful.

It's a sensation we didn't experience in the TLX, whose overboosted steering made the larger sedan feel unsubstantial, rather than unencumbered. With 3,600lbs to carry around, the four-cylinder couldn't run away from its own weight, conjuring mental images of a large, grey animal in a tiny, pink tutu.

But while the ILX may come alive on a back road, it's certainly not unique in doing so. Yes, its dynamics are sound and its engine peppy and crisp. With the A-Spec interior dress-up, it also makes for a rather nice place to be, all in all. In a vacuum, the ILX makes perfect sense, but this segment is far from empty. Even if the competition is limited strictly to the new crop of small entry-premium/luxury cars, the ILX swims in a crowded pond.

Bigger fishA quick glance at the compact premium segment is all it really takes to question the ILX's credentials. Its front-wheel-drive layout may make for better packaging, but that means dynamic compromises compared to some (BMW 2-Series) and winter-weather shortfalls compared to cars like the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA, both of which are available with all-wheel drive. There's no hatch like the upcoming Infiniti Q30, no coupe and certainly no convertible (BMW). Take your pick of gotta-have-it, "killer app" type offerings, and it seems like Acura is the only one shrugging its shoulders.

So maybe we don't quite "get it" when it comes to the compact Acura, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't. It's a good little car for somebody; we're just not quite sure who that somebody is.

Leftlane's bottom lineThe ILX is a fun-to-drive, efficient, and precision-engineered answer to a question we haven't heard anybody asking.

2016 Acura ILX Tech w/ A-Spec: base price, $34,890; destination, $920; price as-tested, $35,810

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