2016 Acura ILX Premium with A-Spec

When you buy a car, you are buying just that: An object made of metal and glass, rubber and plastic.

When you buy a car, you are buying just that: An object made of metal and glass, rubber and plastic. Stamped, welded, formed, assembled. A thing that lets you get from here to there. A device that transports you, entertains you and allows you, should you be so inclined, to make a statement about how you perceive yourself.

When you buy a car, yes, you are getting that individual thing, that one object, but you are buying something else.

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You are buying the statement that the model and the brand makes to the world at large. If you buy a Rolls-Royce, that says something. If you buy a Jeep, that says something else.

The ILX is a car. An individual model.

The ILX is an Acura. And there’s the rub. It seems. The question that some have is whether it is a relevant, competitive or otherwise purchase-worthy brand.

Is it become Sony in a world of Apple and Samsung?

From the point of view of metal and plastic, the ILX is well formed and assembled. It is a pleasantly designed premium compact car.

How do I know that it is a premium car and don’t designate it as “near-luxury” as some are wont to do (e.g., if you buy an Apple Nano it is still an Apple product as much as a iMac with Retina 5K display is; an Apple is an Apple is an Apple)? Because the direct-injected, 201-hp, 2.4-liter four requires premium fuel, and while you can have a premium car that doesn’t require premium unleaded, you are unlikely to have a non-premium car that does. (Buyer beware: while it once was that there was a 10-cent walk from regular unleaded to midgrade and then another dime to premium, I’ve found that the delta is not 20-cents but 50 or more.)

Oh. And then there’s the fact that you’re getting a car that has a trim level that is simply named “Premium.” (There is a higher trim level, too: “Tech Plus.” Which doesn’t sound a premium, but it is more so.)

So you buy the ILX Premium with A-Spec (which adds side-sill garnishes; a trunk spoiler; front fog lights; new 18-in., 10-spoke machined alloy wheels; and interior upgrades). The MSRP for a base ILX is $27,900. Add the Premium package and its $29,900. And then with the A-Spec addition you’re at $31,890.

To be sure, that is a more than reasonable price for a car with the aforementioned engine, an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission with a torque converter (many DCTs are choppy, but thanks to the torque converter, this is exceedingly smooth shifting), blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, rear camera, keyless access, pushbutton ignition, leather sport seats, aluminum sport pedals. . . .Whew! There is a lot of stuff and then some.

And while I may be off-put by the demands of the premium unleaded, the vehicle is EPA-stickered at 25/36/29 mpg city/highway/combined, and it didn’t take some sort of light-foot-accessories-off drive pattern to get numbers like that on a regular basis.

But actually, I knew more about the miles per gallon that I was getting than I really wanted to know.

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And here’s the rub with the ILX Premium, why I think Acura has a bit of a hiccough with the positioning of the brand that it really ought to rectify.

With the Premium package there are an 8-inch upper display and a 7-inch touch screen below it.

Good, right?

Nope.

Because the larger of the two screens allow me to select “Trip Computer” or “Clock/Wallpaper.”

The 7-inch screen was good for the infotainment and provided the HVAC temperature setting.

But that big blue screen on the top let me know how many miles per gallon I was getting and had gotten. I suppose I could have use the clock or wallpaper function, but I could see the time otherwise and wasn’t looking for some additional graphics.

Where was the navigation system that should have been there?

Oh, that’s a part of the Technology Package.

You pay for the screen, which is more expensive than what navigation software costs today. Yes, you can link your smartphone to the car and use that for purposes of navigation, but you can also do that in a Chevy Spark.

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Metal and glass, rubber and plastic. And silicon and software. That’s a car. And a premium car, a luxury car, a near-luxury car—it isn’t enough to get the first four right. Those last two can be deal-breakers.

If you want to distinguish yourself, then leaving out something as now-basic as navigation is a huge mistake, especially when someone has that giant screen sitting in the middle of the IP.

Selected specs

Engine: 2.4-liter DOHC I4

Material: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 201 @ 6,800 rpm

Torque: 180 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm

Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic

Steering: Electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion

Wheelbase: 105.1 in.

Length: 181.9 in.

Width 70.6 in.

Height: 55.6 in.

EPA passenger volume: 89.3-cu. ft.

EPA fuel economy: city/highway/combined: 25/36/29 mpg