2019 Acura ILX Review: The Best Sports Sedans Have the Heart and Soul of a World-Class Race Car

2019 Acura Ilx Best Sports Sedans

This might be the most-for-your-money sports sedan on the market.

Acura has always had a special place in my heart. The reliability and goodness of Honda elevated by luxury and performance. It adds up to the best of all worlds.

And when a car that offers all that at an affordable $25k, well, yay.

Honda started the Acura journey in the 1980’s, introducing the brand to appeal to a discerning buyer who wanted access to Honda’s top test track technology and a more luxurious in-car experience. It rolled out a line of sedans and hatchbacks, then capped the lineup with the NSX, a sports car designed to challenge Ferrari.

We recently took a tour of Acura’s NSX assembly plant in Ohio where each of these $160K sports cars are built. By hand! We also got to see how Acura’s developments for NSX make their way into all the models in the lineup, including the 2019 Acura ILX. A few weeks later, we took the ILX for an extended drive in California.

Further reading: Where Acura gets its spirit, and its DNA: The NSX

2019 Acura Ilx Best Sports Sedans

The Acura ILX is elegant, sporty and eye-catching, even when a dinosaur looms overhead. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Who This Car is For

  • Singles, couples or small families
  • Drivers who want a sporty ride, luxury touches and Honda reliability
  • Drivers who only occasionally have back seat passengers
  • Buyers who want a sports sedan at a very good price
  • Buyers in the market for a four-door sedan
  • Honda fans who want to make the transition to luxury

See our unboxing of the 2019 Acura ILX live on Facebook!

What This Car Costs

  • Starting price, which includes 201 horsepower 4-cylinder engine, moon roof, Jewel-eye LED headlights, heated seats, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, smart keyless entry, $25,900
  • Premium trim, which adds leather seats, $27,650
  • Technology trim, which adds navigation with real time traffic, voice recognition, and an 8” display $29,550
  • A-Spec, which adds design details including dark chrome, piano black body and interior accents, leather seats with ultra suede inserts, $29,650
  • A-Spec with technology package, $31,550

Further reading: Need a bit more room and AWD in your drive? Check out the Acura RDX SUV

2019 Acura Ilx Best Sports Sedans

The Acura’s diamond grille and jewel-eye headlights. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Greet Each Day with Diamonds and Jewels? Yes, Please! 

The big news from Acura this year has been its new look. Acura’s models greet you with a diamond pentagon grille, which to me is reminiscent of water droplets on a car’s hood being blown back by the air dryers in a car wash. It’s a sublime moment that visually captures the emotion of the velocity. As do diamonds and jewels. The glimmer, the sparkle, the intangible yet graspable way these elements capture our hearts and emotion. Every time I look at that grille, my heart races a little. Jewels have that effect on us.

The diamond grille and jewel headlights are a nice addition to the overall shape and look of the ILX, which fits right into the lineup of other small luxury sedans, including the Lexus IS, the Infiniti Q50 and the BMW 3 series. Like its competitors it has an aerodynamic flow to its silhouette, a spoiler on the trunk that adds an elegant air, and wide-set wheels that give a the look and feel of a performance sedan.

Further reading: Why upgrade to a premium sound system?  Because this one was designed by a Grammy winner and it will change your drive. Forever.

2019 Acura Ilx Best Sports Sedans

The Acura ILX A-Spec interior is notable for the red leather and black accents. Photo: Scotty Reiss

A Great Starting Point For Performance Driving

Probably the best thing about this car is what you get for the price. A 4-cylinder 201 horsepower engine with paddle shifters. Sport mode that feeds the engine sound back into the cabin so you can hear your accomplishments. Creature comforts like leatherette seating; technology such as Apple Car Play; smart drive and safety features like adaptive cruise control, lane departure assist and blind spot monitors. All for about $26,000.

From there you can add more, like leather seats, premium sound and more features. The price tops out at just under $32,000. Still quite well-priced.

2019 Acura Ilx Best Sports Sedans

The steering wheel on the Acura ILX A-Spec . Controls are on the wheel and within a short reach. Photo: Scotty Reiss

AcuraWatch Active Safety Systems: A Bundle of Great Assistance, All Standard

When manufacturers started introducing active safety features, we were at once happy and perplexed. These are great! A light that lets you know there’s a car in your blind spot, a pedestrian crossing behind you, a car slowing ahead. But they cost a bundle extra. Booo. But no longer. Many car companies, like Honda, have decided to get ahead of consumer demand (and government regulation) and just include them. So, with the base model, you get Acura Watch standard. This includes:

  • Collision warning and mitigation
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Lane departure mitigation and assist, which watches the road’s lines, then signals and nudges you back in the lane if you are about to cross the line
  • Rear cross traffic monitor
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Crash energy distribution, so in the event of a crash, energy is distributed throughout the car’s body and away from occupants

All this means you can focus on the drive, eyes on the road, and let technology assist you. That’s its job, after all.

2019 Acura Ilx Best Sports Sedans

The A-Spec interior is notable for sport red leather with black ultrasuede inserts. Photo: Scotty Reiss

But … Performance. That’s What This is All About!

Excellence in performance is how Acura gets all that reliability. Testing, refining, perfecting, testing again. Pushing the limits but maintaining reliability. And in the ILX, performance is front and center but so is reliability. This is a small sports sedan, so not overly powerful, but amply powered for its size. The drive experience is tight and centered, yet smooth, so you feel the road but not its bumps. And, it’s fun to drive. It was easy to hop in, hit the road and have fun right from the start.

Putting the car in sport mode made it a bit more responsive, the engine revved to a higher rate before changing gears, the steering felt a bit tighter. In the A-Spec this felt like the right place to be, even if Southern California roads said otherwise and I reluctantly dialed it back to normal drive mode to save gas.

But when the highway opened up in front of me, it was easy and tempting to pop it back into sport and click through the gears with the paddle shifters to get a feel of what the Acura brand is designed for: the joy of driving.

Acura Sports Car Has The Soul Of The Nsx Super Car

The center console of the Acura ILX, which offers Apple Car Play. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What We Loved

  • A small sports sedan, yet not tiny, with seating for 5
  • Its beautiful new look featuring the diamond grille and elegant proportions Apple Car Play and Android Auto —just plug and go!
  • Sport mode
  • Paddle shifters
  • AcuraWatch active safety features
  • Tune up interval is 100,000 miles; love this about Acura!
  • Really great features at the starting price of $25,900
Acura Sports Car Has The Soul Of The Nsx Super Car

The gear shifter with contrast stitching in the Acura ILX. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What You Need to Know

  • Front wheel drive (which old school performance enthusiasts may look down on)
  • Only 1 USB port—in the center arm rest console, which is where you need to plug in your phone to use Apple Car Play; there is also a 12V cigarette adapter stye power port. Acura assumes you’ll be enjoying this ride alone?
  • Seating for 5 but more comfortable for 4
  • Estimated 24 MPG city/34MPG City
  • 4 year/50,000 mile warranty
  • 6year/70,000 powertrain warranty
  • 4 year/50,000 roadside assistance
2019 Acura Ilx Best Sports Sedans

When you see a dinosaur you have to stop and take a photo, right? Photo: Scotty Reiss

What We Listened to in the Acura ILX

While we love the drive experience in this car, it was also a great place to chill and listen to great music, especially on the ELS sound system, which is specially engineered for Acura by Grammy winner Elliot Scheiner. This is what we thought sounded great on the ILX’s sound system.

Disclosure: The Acura ILX was provided for this review; all opinions are my own.

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss