Acura ZDX: The Difficulty in Getting In, And Other Fatal Flaws

September 20, 2010

If you're shopping the 2010 Acura ZDX, you already know it's a curvaceous companion to the bigger, more user-friendly MDX crossover. But exactly how much gets lost in translation from seven-seater to four-seater?

This week, I've been driving the ZDX--and by coincidence, so has our senior editor Bengt Halvorson. And yet, pooling our 35 years of automotive experience, and a week with a ZDX, neither of us could answer some fundamental questions about the ZDX. As Bengt posed them, "Is this a good-looking vehicle? And does the whole package work?"

In our eyes, the ZDX's mission to be all things to all luxury buyers--swoopy, stylish, compact, expressive, and upscale--ends up being its downfall. Those keywords cause trouble. So much function lost to form, it's tough to find a single thing the ZDX does very well.

We've let our full review of the 2010 ZDX stand--with some more evidence here for you to weigh, complete with visuals:

2010 Acura ZDX

2010 Acura ZDX

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Here's a detail that works well, when it's de-selected from the rest of the ZDX's body. That's a lovely cat's-eye of chrome banding, isn't it? The sacrifice for that roofline all comes in headroom, as the ZDX has much less vertical space than the MDX that shares its running gear. How much more? You need to step inside to find out.

2011 Acura ZDX

2011 Acura ZDX

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I'm six feet tall, and am taller in torso and shorter of legs. Even so, I'm close to the barrel-shaped, middle-aged-male demographic Acura wants to hit--and I don't fit. Forcing myself into the ZDX's driver's seat, which is actually very well-shaped, I'm rubbing my head constantly against the headliner and the standard sunroof's mounting frame.  Sitting without contact means I have to adopt the lean-back driving position you'd have seen me perfecting in high school in a Friendly's parking lot. This is not high school, this is not Friendly's, and this is not headroom in the traditional sense.

2011 Acura ZDX

2011 Acura ZDX

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The fast, swoopy roofline kills rear-seat headroom, too. What's worse, it destroys visibility to the rear quarters. Lean over your right shoulder, and this is what blocks your view of the road behind--and the view of anything approaching your blind spots. The massive sunroof lets in amazing amounts of light, but we'd trade it in a moment for thinner pillars front and back.

2011 Acura ZDX

2011 Acura ZDX

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To the rear view, the ZDX is a maze of cutlines. it doesn't matter that the mirror itself is large enough--the collection of pillars and frames leaves a spiderweb over your field of vision, making the standard-issue rearview camera your only defense against backup drama.

2011 Acura ZDX

2011 Acura ZDX

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The shortened MDX chassis also means the rear doors on the ZDX are abbreviated. That narrow slot at the bottom is meant to allow your feet to get in--but even my 5'9" partner had difficulty slipping human-sized feet in easily, or sliding into the rear seat without complaints. The door cutouts are so tapered and narrow at the bottom, it really cuts into the ZDX's use as even an occasional four-seater.

2011 Acura ZDX

2011 Acura ZDX

Enlarge Photo

Summing up all those hard points is a shallow cargo area that forbids much tall cargo. A case of wine, flaps up, blocks out even more of the rear view not already eaten up by the rear seats. Only two cases deep, and you're already making dangerous contact with the rear glass. All those weekends you planned for antiquing in the ZDX? Maybe stamp collecting would interest you instead?

Both Bengt and I enjoy Acura's smooth-revving, powerful V-6 and the transmission's sweet shifts. I've even grown more of a fan of the interior theme, with its monolithic stack of black buttons and white LED lighting.

But loving the ZDX is something only a few small drivers with light accoutrements will be able to do. And that counts me out.

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