Quick Tests – Acura ILX, Cadillac ATS By Nauman Farooq
If you’re in the market for an entry-level luxury car, the cars featured this week will be of interest to you. They might not necessarily compete with each other, but they certainly do offer their customers a premium feel for a not-very -premium price-tag.
I’ll start with the Acura ILX. This is the new entry-level model in Acura’s line-up and replaces the aging CSX model.
While the CSX was nothing more than a Honda Civic with minor cosmetic changes (this model was exclusive to Canada, as even the American’s didn’t get it), the ILX is an all-new car. Since it is a new model, it benefits from unique looks, and it has to be said, this is a handsome-looking car.
Open the door and you’ll likely be very impressed with the interior. The fit and finish is very good, and the interior design and layout is also very good. There are plenty of gadgets to keep you occupied (especially if you opt for the ‘Tech’ package), and despite being a small-ish car, it has lots of space. I could fit comfortably in both the front and back seats. I really have nothing to gripe about with this car’s interior.
For those interested in how it performs, well that depends on which model you choose.
The ILX is offered with three drivetrain options, all with four-cylinders. There is a 1.5-liter Hybrid, a 2.0-liter gas engine and a 2.4-liter, high-output gas motor. I haven’t driven the hybrid version, but with just 111-hp, I bet it won’t be very exciting.
I did spend a week with the 2.0 and 2.4 liter versions and found both these models to be quite different in character. First of all, the 2.0 model comes only with a five-speed automatic gearbox, while the 2.4 model comes only with a six-speed manual gearbox. The 2.0 has 150-hp to play with, and I must say this motor does an admirable job of moving this vehicle. It is not fast, but it doesn’t feel sluggishly slow either. The 2.4 however gets Honda/Acura’s famous VTEC system and hence produces 201-hp. This is a fast and exciting car that you will enjoy every time you go out for a drive. However, like all manuals, you will not enjoy it in a traffic jam.
While I think the 2.4 model is quick, I do wish it was even quicker. Honda after all made a 2.0-liter engine that produced 240-hp (in the old Honda S2000), so I’m sure they could squeeze more ponies from their current 2.4. Maybe they’ll come out with a sportier version in the future. Let’s hope so.
From a ride and handling point of view, I found both models that I drove to be quite excellent and since they are well insulated, both were great on long drives.
If you’re interested, the 2.0 ILX starts at $27,790 while the 2.4 is yours from $29,990. If you want to travel slowly and save some money on gas, then the Hybrid version will suit your needs and that starts at $34,990.
The second car I want to bring to your attention today is the new Cadillac ATS. This model doesn’t replace an existing model in Cadillac’s line-up, this is just a new entry-level model, and it was designed for just one purpose in life, to take sales away from the BMW 3-series.
So, the ATS is roughly the same size as the 3-series, and in Canada will be available with three engine options, just like the 3-series. The three engines in question are: a base 2.5-liter, four-cylinder motor that produces 202 hp, a 2.0-liter, turbo charged four cylinder that produces 272 hp, and a 3.6-liter, V6 that produces 321 hp.
At a recent press event that took us from the lovely new Four Season’s hotel in downtown Toronto to the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (formerly known as Mosport) in Bowmanville, On., I got to drive all three models and I was most surprised by the base car. 202 hp felt enough to move this 1503-kg car, and this motor has plenty of low-end torque, so you do have plenty of get-up and go from the traffic lights. Even on the highway, the base motor felt smooth and responsive. I loved it. However, the base motor is only available in rear-wheel drive. If you want all-wheel drive, you have to jump to either the 2.0-liter Turbo or the V6 motor.
It’s also worth pointing out that the Turbo model is also the only model that can be had with a six-speed manual gearbox (only with rear wheel drive though), while all others get a six-speed automatic. The automatic transmission has been reworked from previous Cadillac models and now offers much faster and crisper shifts, especially in Sport mode. However, BMW is offering a very quick shifting eight-speed automatic, which does give them an edge in this department for the time being.
For most people however, it would make no difference how many gears their transmission has, as long as the car feels smooth and quick. The ATS accomplishes that very efficiently. It proved to be an exceptionally comfortable car on the road, and blew me away with its handling on the race track.
In the past, GM has missed their mark on many occasions. They would come out with a new car that is not as good as a competitor’s existing cars. With the ATS, they got their thinking caps on the right way and have produced a product that is worth buying.
I will get into more details about the ATS on a later date, after I spend a week with one, but for now, I will say, this product is worth your consideration. It has just gone on sale and pricing starts at $35,195 for the 2.5, $35,490 for the Turbo (with manual) and $43,935 for the V6 model.
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