Honda aims to add power, style to small luxury segment with Acura ILX

Honda strategy for the new Acura: Inject power, refinement and style

Acura is taking a mulligan.

Honda’s luxury division is using the Los Angeles Auto Show to debut a heavily refreshed 2016 ILX compact sedan. The goal is to inject everything the current model is missing -- power, refinement, style -- now that the small luxury segment is heating up.

“The ILX was always a great idea,” Michael Accavitti, general manager of Acura, said ahead of the ILX debut. But he conceded people who did and did not buy the earlier model wanted more out of the car. “So we listened and we’re responding.”

The mid-life upgrades to this car are substantial. Acura tossed out all three earlier drivetrains: an anemic hybrid and 150-horsepower gas model, as well as the 200-horsepower model with a six-speed manual transmission.

In their place is a single model. It uses a 2.4-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder engine ripped out of Acura’s larger TLX sedan. In this new ILX it makes 201 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. This stout new engine is hooked up to the excellent eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, also borrowed from the TLX. The ILX remains front-wheel drive.

But the upgrades don’t stop with the car’s oily bits.

Acura revised the ILX interior and exterior. Outside, the car gets a much-needed dose of style and aggression. The sleeker headlights now come with Acura’s LED jewel-eye design, the front and rear bumpers have been redesigned, and the taillights are now LED units.

For the interior, Acura grafted in the same dual-screen setup it uses on the rest of its cars and SUVs (one touchscreen in the center of the dashboard controls a larger screen set deep into the top of the dash).

There’s also extra sound deadening, thicker glass, and more high-quality soft-touch materials throughout the cabin to lend an upscale feel the initial ILX didn’t have.

The changes couldn’t come soon enough for the ILX. The car was among the first to crack into the nascent compact luxury sedan world, but it was soon joined by more established rivals from Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

The ILX withered from the heat of its peers, and the fact that it felt too much like the Honda Civic it was based on didn’t help its popularity. Sales if the ILX are down more than 16% through October of this year.

Since the ILX serves as an entry point to its brand for younger and first-time luxury buyers, the company needed to take the mid-life update more seriously than most, Accavitti said.

“The ILX is now a true gateway to what it means to be an Acura performance luxury sedan.”

The 2016 ILX goes on sale in early 2015. Pricing will start around the $28,000 mark of the outgoing model.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times