PHOENIX, AZ. This past spring, when Acura rolled out its newest vehicle — in fact, the luxe Japanese marque’s first all-new vehicle since the RDX, in 2006 — the urban centre chosen for the event was the portentously named city of Phoenix. That’s well worth pointing out, because if the 2013 Acura ILX compact luxury sedan isn’t a 100% firebrand, it’s nonetheless one hot little number.
Initially known for its premium sporty products, like the multiple Car and Driver Top Ten-lister Integra and the NSX supercar, Acura put most of its post-millennial focus on sport utility and the strong, pillared shoulders of the admittedly popular MDX. But the ILX marks Acura’s very vocal return to form — really, putting the form back in “performance.” Acura has never missed a beat on luxury, technology and safety. (Having pro-active Honda as a parent company all but ensures being leading edge in that last category.) But retiring the NSX supercar in 2005 and aggressively (and, to be fair, successfully) chasing the SUV demographic, the brand has inadvertently left fans waiting years for a truly sporty new option.
The ILX hits most of the right points. It’s got a sporty exterior: angled headlights are a nice complement for the beak, while the wide, rounded front view and lowered rear body scream “sporty.” It’s got a premium interior: plush, contoured seats evoke a cockpit atmosphere (though the sunroof compromises the headroom just a dash) and, typical of Acura, a wealth of tech options in the cabin, including smart entry, push-button start, electric power-assist steering, active noise control, Bluetooth and SMS texting, rear-view camera and (not techically interior, but) an “expanded view” driver’s side mirror. And it’s available in three very different model choices: 6-speed manual, 5-speed automatic and, an Acura first, a hybrid.
Some pundits have grumbled that, pushing 30K, the ILX is a little pricey but, as with all automotive luxury, it’s really a question of what lifestyle statement the buyer’s looking for. Acura is billing this vehicle as its “gateway to luxury”; a less elegant way to say same, of course, is entry-level luxury — fair enough, because that is luxury. Plus, the core customer here is the first-time luxury automotive buyer: young, urban, professional, successful, stylish. Your textbook career climber. Ultimately, the 2013 Acura ILX is a performance sedan that walks the fine line between serious and sporty — not too-too much of either, but just enough that the vehicle both fits in with the downtown business types and turns their heads.
Speaking of which… back in Phoenix, driving the ILX through the business district (naturally), I notice “No Cruising” signs posted every two blocks. A hotel staffer later explains that, Phoenix being such a major pro sports hub (three teams, and all of them deep downtown), the streets get so jammed every weekend that police ticket any vehicle seen driving the strip twice. Of course, the vehicles that stand out are likelier to get caught. “Yeah, don’t take the ILX down there tonight,” she advises. “Or if you do, don’t tempt the po-po — just drive through and pick up once.” Pick up? I’m married.
Image by Gary Butler.