Anyone who believes the Acura ILX is merely a badge-engineered Honda Civic might want to rethink their point of view.
First off, since the 10th-generation Civic arrived for 2017 the two don’t even share underpinnings, with even this latest 2019 upgrade riding on the previous ninth-gen Civic platform architecture, not that this really matters to those behind the wheel, who no doubt will continue to enjoy rewarding driving dynamics and extremely good efficiency.
Despite getting a dramatic refresh that brings it inline with the rest of the Acura lineup, the 2019 ILX continues forward with a wonderfully rev-happy 201-horsepower, 16-valve, DOHC, i-VTEC-infused 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine borrowed from the previous Civic Si albeit refined for this car’s more luxury-oriented gateway-to-premium role. As part of its repurposed application the potent engine joins up to an automated dual-clutch eight-speed transmission with paddle-shifters, providing both smooth ease of use and quick-shifting performance, while its front-wheel drivetrain aids fuel economy. If it seems familiar, this formidable powertrain is also used in the base TLX.
The most notable update is the Japanese luxury brand’s new trademark Diamond Pentagon grille up front and centre, complemented by a new front bumper and lower fascia. The latter is made more dramatic in new A-Spec trim, while the rest of the car gets minor updates from front to rear. Truly, only the seven-element Jewel Eye LED headlamps look unchanged, although Acura points out the 2019 ILX is entirely new from the A-pillars forward, with even the hood more sharply sculpted.
The shape of the LED taillights appear totally new, while the rear bumper and apron are revised as well, once again more significantly in A-Spec guise. No doubt if you like the look of the new TLX you’ll also appreciate the changes made to the ILX, and no one should argue that the updated 2019 version is wholly more upscale looking than the car it replaces. Of course, no mid-cycle update would be complete without new wheel designs, which means lower end models get fresh sets of 17-inch split-five-spoke alloys with trim-specific finishes, and the new A-Spec sports exclusive 18-inch rims.
Changes inside are less noticeable at first glance, with many of the same high-quality finishings remaining for 2019, albeit Acura talks of “more luxurious and sporty cabin appointments” too, which we’ll report on in an upcoming road test. Acura also highlights new silver-finish dash trim featuring a new chrome insert, plus a machine-finished ignition button. Even more consequential to real-world comfort, the reworked ILX receives “more intricately styled and reshaped sport seats, front and rear, with available high-contrast piping and stitching.” Driver’s seat power-adjustable lumbar support is standard across the line as well, making comfort priority one.
Additionally, the dual-screen On Demand Multi-Use Display (ODMD 2.0) infotainment system gets a much-needed update with fresh graphics, new software, a faster responding operating system (by up to 30 percent), more intuitive menus and command structures, and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Acura says the 7.0-inch touchscreen portion of its dual-screen setup features a capacitive display that’s “more responsive to touch and is positioned within easy reach of the driver and front passenger,” so we look forward to testing this out in an upcoming review.
The new 2019 ILX gets five new exterior colours as well, including Platinum White Pearl, Majestic Black Pearl, Performance Red Pearl, Canyon Bronze Metallic and A-Spec-exclusive Apex Blue Pearl, while Lunar Silver Metallic and Modern Steel Metallic carryover. Likewise, Ebony and Graystone colourways continue forward inside, although take note new Espresso provides some upscale colour to the ILX cabin, while the sportier A-Spec model gets exclusive Ebony on Red or Red on Ebony combinations, mixed with soft, grippy Ultrasuede seat inserts.
Speaking of the A-Spec upgrade, along with the exterior enhancements mentioned earlier, which also include distinctive styling with more aggressive aero components, plus dark chrome grille and lower fascia trim, darker headlights and taillights, LED fog lamps, a gloss-black rear deck lid spoiler, and unique new 18-inch alloys in a Shark Gray finish, the A-Spec gets a special graphite-silver dash accent with chrome insert, an A-Spec badged steering wheel with contrast stitching, and aluminum sport pedals. The aforementioned sport seats feature high contrast stitching as well.
Additionally, the 2019 ILX joins every other model in the brand’s lineup in providing the AcuraWatch suite of active safety and driver-assistive technologies as standard equipment, including Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), and Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW).
Acura is the only premium brand to provide such standard advanced safety features to all of its models, and this focus has pushed it up the U.S. Insurance Institute of Highway Safety’s (IIHS) rankings, resulting in three of its recently updated models receiving Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick + scores. The 2019 ILX should benefit from the AcuraWatch upgrade too, as the 2018 model already earns 5 safety stars from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), plus zero complaints, zero investigations and zero recalls.
The current ILX’ high NHTSA score results from Acura’s Advance Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure as well as other standard safety and driver assistive features, such as Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with traction control, an Expanded View Driver’s Mirror, advanced front airbags, driver and front passenger side airbags, side curtain airbags, a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), not to mention pedestrian injury-mitigation exterior design elements, while the new 2019 ILX will also be available with blind spot information (BSI) and rear cross traffic monitoring.
Also notable, the outgoing 2018 ILX earned a top Initial Quality Study (IQS) ranking for its segment this year. In more detail, it received a Power Circle Rating of 5 out of 5 and a quality award in the Small Premium Car segment. The ILX also earned the top position in the entry-luxury car category of Kelley Blue Book’s 5-Year Cost to Own Luxury Brand Awards, while Acura was the top ranked brand for the third consecutive year.
Will the redesigned 2019 ILX continue to attract more millennial buyers than any of its compact luxury competitors? It’s been the class leader amongst young millennials every year since 2013, so only time will tell if the refreshed model continues this trend. Still, the new ILX’ more distinctive styling, continued strong performance, and high quality, comfortable interior should help it maintain a steady influx of new and repeat customers.
The new 2019 Acura ILX will go on sale later this month.