Acura opens the "gateway to luxury" to a young "20- and 30-something" target market with its new 2013 ILX sedan. Offered with a choice of three powertrains, including the automaker's first-ever hybrid, Acura says the ILX is built for consumers looking for high-value propositions in their purchases.
Since fuel economy is another draw for these buyers, the ILX Hybrid -- with a $28,900 starting price -- fills the bill. Upgrading to the ILX Hybrid with Technology Package raises the price tag to $34,400. A destination charge of $895 is added.
Of course, style strongly factors into the decision of Generation-X and Generation-Y car shoppers, and the ILX delivers with a swept form blending coolness and sophistication to attract Acura's targeted young professionals. A long hood slopes to an aggressive-looking front end with long, exotic-shaped wraparound headlamps and a boldly sculpted lower fascia that meets at a point in sync with the grille above.
The roof line, steeply sloping back to meet with a very short decklid, teams with pronounced rear-fender haunches to provide an athletic, coupe-like effect. Wheels are painted five-split-spoke 16-inch alloys, wrapped with 205/55R-16 tires.
A trim integrated spoiler, accented with a chrome strip, gives character to the rear. There are no special chrome exhaust-outlet trappings, and the pipe almost is out of sight -- but at the business end of the exhaust things get interesting.
Propelling the 2,987-pound sedan is a powertrain consisting of a 1.5-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder engine linked with an integrated electric motor and a Continuously Variable Transmission. Energy from the electric motor is stored in a Lithium-Ion battery pack. The gas engine and electric motor combine to deliver a total system output of 111 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 127 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,000-3,500 rpm.
Power is adequate for normal around-town and highway driving. In situations when added punch is needed, sliding the shifter down to Sport mode can, depending on the conditions, provide a significant acceleration boost. The driver also has the option of manually selecting programmed shift points via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Estimated fuel economy is 39 miles per gallon city and 38 mpg highway. Premium gasoline is recommended to fill the ILX Hybrid's 13.2-gallon tank. During a week spent mostly on the highway, my typical fuel economy was between 36 and 37 mpg. I generally didn't have the "ECON" button pushed. When activated, it helps improve fuel economy by optimally adjusting engine and transmission performance, climate control and cruise control.
Conservatively launching the sedan, the gas engine powers the vehicle, but go hard on the throttle and the electric motor may be summoned to assist. When cruising, any combination of engine and motor power can occur. Braking deactivates the gas engine and the electric motor assumes the duty of a generator to charge the battery pack. While stopping, the engine usually goes into idle-stop mode, and then reactivates when the brake pedal is released.
The driver can keep tabs on the degree to which the battery pack is being charged by a Motion Assist Gauge, with a needle that swings from "ASSIST" to "CHRG."
A Fuel Economy Indicator "trains" the driver to operate the vehicle in an eco-friendly manner, with a sphere icon that glows green and expands with fuel-efficient driving behavior, and fades and shrinks with bad driving habits.
Opting for the Technology Package gives the driver access to more information, as well as upgrades the sound system, and boosts comfort and luxury levels. Information and entertainment extras include: Acura Navigation System; AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic and Weather; 10-speaker Acura/ELS Surround Sound System; Voice Recognition System; 15 GB Media Storage; XM Radio; and Song By Voice.
The Technology Package upgrades comfort with perforated leather sport seats; eight-way driver and four-way front-passenger power seats; dual-level heated front seats; and GPS-linked, solar-sensing temperature control.
Sport seats are well-bolstered for excellent support of the torso. Headroom and legroom are generous up front, but may be tight in the rear compartment for taller adults. The Hybrid model loses a bit of trunk space -- with 10 cubic feet versus other ILX sedans' 12.3 cubic feet.
Importantly, the Hybrid trumps its ILX siblings when it comes to fuel economy, with an advantage of 10 mpg or more in city and highway driving. The ILX Hybrid also has the style, luxury and price tag to lure young -- and, for that matter, drivers of all ages -- into Acura dealerships.
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