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First Drive: 2013 Acura ILX & RDX

Acura’s new entry-level luxury sedan and refined compact utility vehicle.

Text By , Photography by Acura,

2013 Acura ILX

Generation Y—those between the ages of 18-34—attends music festivals, owns iPhones, uses Pinterest, and goes on road trips. If this sounds a bit like yourself, Acura’s created an entirely new luxury compact sedan catered just for people like you. It’s hard to imagine that the youth of today isn’t as into cars as they were only a decade ago, as research has shown, and the value of having a driver’s license has depreciated. Acura’s answer to this ongoing dilemma is the 2013 ILX—loaded with personality, value, and style.

Directly competing against the Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series, the ILX gives shoppers an additional option of luxury with a bonus of reliability and starts in the mid-$20,000 price range. Since it shares the same chassis as the Honda Civic, the ILX is the smallest in the lineup sitting beneath the TSX, and hopes to fill the void the late RSX had left behind.

Comfort For The Price

Although the ILX shares the same platform as the Honda Civic, it assuredly doesn’t share the same interior as the Civic (and what it was controversial for in the 2012 model year). Offered in optional leather and loaded with features, the interior craftsmanship shines with what you’d expect in a luxury sedan.

Standard features are aplenty and should make you quite happy if you’re like us and feel empty without your phone and/or Pandora. Acura has proved they know what’s up in today’s tech-savvy age by offering a plethora of standard features with the ILX including Pandora Radio, SMS Text Messaging, Bluetooth Handsfreelink, and USB with iPod compatibility.

Options expand even further with the two available trims—Premium Package and the Technology Package. For an extra $3,300, the ILX 2.0 liter with Premium Package comes packed with heated leather seats, 360W premium audio system, multi-view rear camera, 17-inch aluminum wheels, and HID headlights and foglights. For the consumer with deeper pockets, an extra $5,500 gets you the Technology Package that includes an HDD-based navigation system, traffic and weather updates, ELS Surround Sound, and Homelink.

Driveability

The entry-level luxury sedan is offered in three trims: 2.0L five-speed automatic, 2.4L six-speed manual, and 1.5L hybrid (the first hybrid for the Acura line). Having testdriven all three versions in the mountains of Arizona, the 2.0 liter pumping out 150 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque seems slightly lackluster in terms of zippiness but the 2.4 liter packed with 201 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque made up for it on our test run. The shifting in the manual transmission of the 2.4L model felt lighter than the TSX six-speed but left us yearning to experience an automatic version.

The introduction of a hybrid model for Acura was expected, as Honda has been recognized as an industry leader in the category. Though it added city driving amusement, the hybrid system seemed anything but smooth due to the engine feeling as if it kept stalling every time. One impressive feat was the estimated (and achieved) EPA 39/38 mpg (24/25 mpg for non-hybrid).

As we put Acura’s new Amplitude Reactive Damper design to the test by driving through the mountain roads, the car felt stable and planted through the hairpins. This new design allows for the main piston being used when small road vibrations occur and when more damping force is needed in hard cornering, the second valve assists.

Sleek and Classy

Sporting the signature front grille (and more subtle beak), the ILX is designed to maximize aerodynamics and fuel economy. The lines flow throughout the body and complement the low sitting stance. Built using mostly high-tensile steel, the ILX features a reasonably more rigid body for better ride comfort and precise handling than the Honda Civic. The aluminum hood and bumper beams provide for a lightweight body.

The 2013 ILX is at dealerships now, starting at $25,900.

2013 Acura RDX

The first-generation RDX was available as a 2007 model that offered SUV buyers a small, sporty vehicle that was smaller than its older brother, the MDX, and more performance oriented. The much-touted turbocharged 2.3L motor was rated at 240 hp with 260 lb-ft of torque and packed quite a serious punch. Featuring Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system, the RDX was everything the market just didn’t have. Much has changed with the 2013 model.

The second-generation RDX—available as a 2013 model—has dropped their exhilarating turbo motor and went with their naturally aspirated 3.5L V-6. Although it doesn’t feel like smile-inducing fun, the redesigned model has a rated 273 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque—a significant gain in horsepower but with an expected drop as well. Even their all-wheel-drive system has been toned down; in place is a more conventional—and cheaper—system. Some may say they have sold out and went to the dark and boring side, but the RDX is headed toward better pastures.

Like the ILX, the RDX is standard with Amplitude Reactive Dampers, offering great ride quality and handling. Interior space has been redesigned to make for a more fluid look and feel that offers more space for both driver and passengers. Overall, the redesign feels much more refined and is powerful in its class, all the while achieving top fuel economy, so the disappointment in lack of turbo thrust ends right about there.

The RDX carved up the snow-covered canyon road effortlessly with help from the ginormous 8-inch navigation screen. The new all-wheel-drive system seemed to be anything but cheapened; traction was no issue throughout the uphill climb to over 5,000 feet elevation. Throttle response and power delivery was much more instantaneous than its predecessor.

While on our trip, we were able to directly compare the RDX with its competitors—the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. Automatically, the RDX has a noticeably more intuitive layout than its German counterparts. With its eight-speed automatic transmission, the BMW felt as if it would never stop shifting. The Q5 just didn’t seem to be able to muster up the power to keep up with even the late-model RDX. And at a premium price for either Audi or BMW models, the RDX is clearly the winner in our book.

The 2013 RDX is at dealerships now starting at $34,320.

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