Join Date: Nov 2004
2014 Acura ILX Hybrid: The Hybrid That Wasn't
The ILX Hybrid has all the ingredients of a great car: it's an Acura, and Acuras are generally great. It's Acura's shot at a hybrid, which you'd think at the very least would be interesting. And it's compact and maneuverable, making it ideal for city driving. So, how badly then could Acura, of all brands, bungle up a cute, compact, luxy little jewel box of a hybrid? As its short life has played out, the ILX Hybrid is a cautionary tale, a maudlin portrait of opportunity missed. Want to know why Acura is canceling its production for the 2015 model year? Let's find out...
The ILX Hybrid is incoherent right out of the gate: it's hard to tell exactly what is even "hybrid" about it. It sure doesn't get the mileage of one, with only an EPA estimate 38 mpg combined (and actually closer to 35 or 36 real-world combined because of all the lead-footing you have to do to overcome the lack of power), and an electric motor that never actually powers the wheels, but instead only provides occasional backup "boost" to the aenemic 111-hp 1.5L 4-cylinder. (I don't think ours ever even did this, since the power output of that motor never once felt adequate). Intrusive regenerative brakes—the kind that feel like they're dragging any time you have your foot off the gas—help charge this questionably-useful electric motor, but again you have to wonder, in the words of Lil' Jon: turn down for what?
Setting aside the electrified aspects for a moment, the ILX's remaining claim to the hybrid title is its stop/start technology. Ah, there's a recognizeable indicator of ultra fuel efficiency, right? Problem is, the stop/start is atrocious. Taking off from a stop, after a hair-raising pause, the motor rumbles to life like a diesel tractor. The transition actually shakes the interior, and feels decidedly unrefined for a car marketed as "upscale" with a price tag north of $35K. Not that it's any more smooth at speed: cabin noise permeates on the highway, with the struggling engine being the predominant soundtrack during surface-road driving. What few mpg's the stop/start gives back are more than cancelled out by how unnerving it is to live with. But wait, hasn't Honda had like a decade to figure this out? Haven't they had stop/start in first-gen Insights and Civics and first-gen Insights going back to nearly the turn of the century? The sluggish response and construction-equipment-level jarringness of this technology, at this stage, is something that's hard to find an excuse for.
All this is too bad, because it compromises what would otherwise be a perfectly pleasant (or at least innocuous) driving experience. Other than the added hybrid weight (3,000lbs total) that makes it slighly more wallowy than its sister Civic, suspension dynamics on this ILX are good, and steering feels tight and sound as any Honda product. It's an agreeable looking enough little ride, more attractively styled than the weirdo Civic and shows well as a pocket-sized luxo-pod. However, though the interior is roomy, the cockpit interface feels a little uncharacteristically coach-class for an Acura: your first thought is "oh, Acura tried to do an economy car" before a glance at the MSRP brings you back to reality. Nonetheless, it's loaded up with the expected goodies, including Acura's lovely nav and backup cam (no side-view monitor that many Honda models are equipped with, however), heated seats with proper switches, dual-zone climate control, and lots of techno-connectivity.
Still, all of this? It doesn't save this car. I normally favor Acuras--perhaps even unfairly--but even healthy bias failed to overcome the ILX Hybrid's shortcomings. Compact luxury, and a hybrid to boot? It seems like the kind of challenge that if anyone could be equal to, it would be Acura. But the poor thing falls flat on its beaky face. Especially with much grander competition around--hell, Honda's own Accord Hybrid postitively blows this ILX away--it's hard to see why anyone other than a die-hard Acura fan would take on the ILX Hybrid, and even that would be a stretch. It's a terrible eulogy that doesn't have at least one nice thing to say about the departed, but the best I can come up with is that I want to see Acura take a swing at this segment again. The bones are
The 2014 Acura ILX Hybrid
What's New: The ILX remained unchanged during its brief 2-year model run. It will be killed for 2015.
What's Hot: Nice looks, spacious cabin for its size (but little trunk space).
What's Not: General lack of power, mediocre fuel economy, intrusive regen braking, and godawful stop/start.
Get This Car If: You can still get one, probably even at a discount, as dealers try to blow through remaining 2014 inventory. Frankly, though, you probably shouldn't.