2010 Acura ZDX Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
October 13, 2009

The 2010 Acura ZDX leaves no doubt the company can build a high-quality, high-performance vehicle of any kind-but this particular blend of SUV and coupe just won't make sense for most shoppers.

TheCarConnection.com drove the new 2010 Acura ZDX to bring you this hands-on road test review. Editors at TheCarConnection.com also compared the ZDX with other crossovers and researched reviews from a wide range of reputable sources to bring you a comprehensive look at the new 2010 Acura crossover.

High Gear Media accepted travel expenses to be among the first to drive the 2010 Acura ZDX.

What is it? You might ask the same thing at first sight of the 2010 Acura ZDX, another of the recent rash of coupelike crossover vehicles. Acura calls the 2010 ZDX "one of a kind," but it's reaching the market a year or so after the BMW X6, the vehicle that pioneered this late, odd turn in SUV history. Like the BMW X6 and the new BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo before it, the 2010 ZDX attempts to blend the all-weather capability of an SUV with the gentler ride and handling of a crossover and the sexed-up fender swells of a coupe. On sale this winter for about $42,500 base, the new ZDX slots between the Acura RL sedan and its big seven-passenger MDX crossover.

Inspired by a "passionate getaway," the ZDX shares some mechanicals with the big MDX crossover, but gets a coupelike body more suited to its seductive mission. There are bits and pieces that work well-the rear end has a muscular appeal, and the side view does all it can to convince you it's a coupe. Up front, the big, controversial Acura shield grille gets its most attractive installation yet. But there's something about this class of vehicles that just doesn't work; the sides stand too tall to be a real coupe, and the roofline crashes too quickly to be a true SUV. On top of that, the ZDX has lots of cutlines on its side that disappear with dark paint colors, along with bumps in its fenders that disrupt the visual flow to the tapered rear end. The cabin has a more dramatic flair inspired by destination hotels, with alternating concave and convex surfaces in plastic and real leather-but also a stark, monolithic center stack of black keys that "come to life" with white lighting when the car starts. It's like waking an angry LED god; when it's lit, the ZDX's dash goes gonzo with functions, screens, and a big center knob that make a recording studio look a Playskool toy. There's lovely French stitching and touches of wood as well as some compelling exoskeletal surfaces, but by and large the ZDX ditches function for form to the point of distraction.

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There's more distraction in the ZDX's drivetrain and suspension, but it can be avoided. The basics are strong and powerful; a 3.7-liter V-6 with 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque finds a home under the hood, same as it does in the Acura RL. Here it's mated to a six-speed paddle-shifted automatic gearbox, and the duo's pretty dynamic. There's enough grunt to pull the ZDX to 60 mph in under 8 seconds, and the transmission's S mode allows you to choose and hold a gear up to the rev limiter. Acura claims best-in-class fuel economy of 16/23 mpg-though the 5-Series GT will get a more efficient turbo-six next year. The power's routed through Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system for better handling and all-weather capability. The SH-AWD system can shuffle power from a 90/10 percent split to the front, to 30/70 to the back, lending the ZDX a whiff of rear-wheel-drive feel. It also can shift power side to side, which helps mitigate the big-SUV sensation behind the wheel and gives the ZDX some lightness at the helm, aided by a strut and multilink independent suspension. Base cars have a single suspension and steering setup, which TheCarConnection.com's editors feel is superior to the Comfort and Sport settings in the optional Integrated Dynamics System (IDS). The ZDX has conventional suspension and steering components (not electronic or fully active, as with some competitors), and adding dynamic control to those systems doesn't do much to improve the ride or handling. The IDS' Comfort mode can come across as too loose on city streets, and Sport makes a country ride seem jittery and caffeinated; the base setup strikes the best compromise.

For all its crossover heritage, the 2010 Acura ZDX loses passenger and cargo room in its gene-pooling experiment. The leather-trimmed front seats are superbly supportive, but the backseats are difficult to access and lack the room to truck adults for more than crosstown drives. The ZDX's rear door openings are nearly vertical and not very wide, so passengers will have to fold their feet sideways to step in. Once those traveling companions are in, there's not much headroom for them, and the lack of knee room will force front passengers to move forward a bit. Acura explains the ZDX is really meant to be used in two-seater mode, with occasional backseat passengers, but the sacrifice seems too much compared to the vast, spacious MDX or even the BMW X6. Behind the seats, there's a shallow under-floor cargo area and a shallow above-floor cargo area that don't give much room for luggage and for visibility. Stack two bags, and the rear view is gone. The cargo area is flat and cleanly styled when those rear seats are folded down, effectively making the ZDX a two-seat wagon. On the test cars sampled by TheCarConnection.com, fit and finish seem superb, with a bit of wrinkling on the classy, handcrafted leather trim panels. Yet there's still lots going on in the ZDX cabin, with plenty of plastics, switches, and LCDs that defy the traditional meaning of luxury. Also, Acura says it's paid special attention to noise quality, but like a lot of new vehicles, the ZDX has an unnecessarily loud engine. It's not unrefined, but it's almost always present, probably because the wagon back turns the cargo area into a big Helmholtz resonator.

TheCarConnection.com expects the 2010 Acura ZDX to score top safety ratings from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), though neither agency has crash-tested the crossover as of this writing. The ZDX sports standard side and curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, and its technically advanced all-wheel drive. It also offers options like a multiview camera for a 180-degree perspective when reversing. It's almost a necessity; with cargo, the view directly back can disappear, though the half-moon window and glass panel on the tailgate offer better visibility than expected. The rear three-quarter view is almost nonexistent. Other advanced safety options include a blind-spot alert system, a collision mitigating braking system, and adaptive cruise control.

Befitting its place in the Acura lineup, the 2010 ZDX comes with a long list of standard features, including 19-inch wheels and tires, USB audio connections, Bluetooth, XM Satellite Radio, a panoramic glass roof, and a power tailgate. The Technology Package adds a navigation system with voice recognition, a premium audio system with DVD-Audio and 10 speakers, a reversing camera, real-time traffic and weather information, and keyless access. The Advance Package, meanwhile, boasts additional goodies such as IDS, ventilated seats, and a sport steering wheel. While the features list is long, the ZDX lacks the BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo's innovative multiposition cargo divider; the panorama sunroof cuts into headroom in back, and the GPS doesn't offer a bird's-eye view for its maps like navigation systems from other luxury brands.

7

2010 Acura ZDX

Styling

The 2010 Acura ZDX misses the mark with its exterior styling but finds redemption in its striking interior layout.

What is it? You might ask the same question at first sight of the 2010 Acura ZDX, another of the recent rash of coupelike crossover vehicles. On sale this winter for about $42,500 base, the new ZDX slots between the Acura RL sedan and its big seven-passenger MDX crossover.

The 2010 ZDX shares some mechanicals with the big MDX crossover, but gets a coupelike body more suited to its seductive mission. The rear end has a muscular appeal, and the side view does all it can to convince you it's a coupe. Up front, the big, controversial Acura shield grille gets its most attractive installation yet. But there's something about this class of vehicles that just doesn't work in TheCarConnection.com's eyes. Some reviewers have moderate praise for the ZDX's styling. CNET calls Acura's latest MDX derivative "a mash-up of sedan, SUV, and sports coupe," while USA Today points out "a tucked and tailored roof covered in black glass panels and...rear-wheel bulges that would be striking even if the roof's taper did not accentuate them." Car and Driver considers the Acura "endearingly weird, the sort of vehicle you might expect Citroen to produce," though whether you find that charming or off-putting is a matter of personal preference. On the positive side, most reviewers agree with CNET's assessment that "the grille, which stands out like a beak on the smaller Acura sedans, seems to have found its medium" on the 2010 Acura ZDX.

The ZDX's cabin has a more dramatic flair inspired by destination hotels, with alternating concave and convex surfaces in plastic and real leather-but also a stark, monolithic center stack of black keys that "come to life" with white lighting when the car starts. USA Today deems it "the most elegant cabin in a luxury Honda to date." Jalopnik drools over the cockpit, calling the ZDX's driving environment "one of the nicest we've seen, period," thanks to a design that "puts the driver and passenger in comfortable and attractive ‘pods.'" Popular Mechanics appreciates that "the central multifunction knob intuitively navigates through menu functions" on the Acura's onboard computer. CNET describes the monolithic center stack that "looks black when the car is off, but backlighting highlights button labels when the audio system and climate control are turned on." The design is so striking that CNET reviewers "hope this feature finds its way into other Acura models, as it works well to hide the mass of buttons scattered over current Acura dashboards."

7

2010 Acura ZDX

Performance

The 2010 Acura ZDX's performance doesn't connect to its sports car appearance, but it's amply quick and comfortable-especially without the electronic add-ons.

The 2010 Acura ZDX is pleasant enough in its role as a daily driver or long-distance conveyance, but the promise of the sharp exterior lines and "sports coupe" design are a little overstated.

The basics are strong and powerful; a 3.7-liter V-6 with 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque finds a home under the hood, same as it does in the Acura RL. Here it's mated to a six-speed paddle-shifted automatic gearbox, and the duo's pretty dynamic. There's enough grunt to pull the ZDX to 60 mph in under 8 seconds, and the transmission's "S" mode allows you to choose and hold a gear up to the rev limiter. Jalopnik reports "adequate if not exactly stirring power." Motor Trend finds that "zero to 60 takes just 6.5 seconds," but CNET still feels that "the drive train doesn't exactly rocket the car forward." The reason for that might be the engine's VTEC design, which Popular Mechanics says makes the engine "more forceful when the V6 stretches past the 5000 rpm mark." As for the six-speed gearbox, Popular Mechanics reviewers report that it "demands some planning on the driver's part, as a lengthy pause between depressing the paddle shifter and actual gear engagement can hamper power delivery."

CNET estimates fuel economy at "16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway, numbers which probably mean never passing 20 mpg in normal use." Acura has since released final fuel economy of 16/23 mpg. While that figure wouldn't be bad for an SUV, crossovers routinely offer mid-20-mpg fuel economy.

The ZDX's power is routed through Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system for better handling and all-weather capability. The SH-AWD system can shuffle power from a 90/10 percent split to the front, to 30/70 to the back, lending the ZDX a whiff of rear-wheel-drive feel. It also can shift power side to side, which helps mitigate the big-SUV feel behind the wheel and gives the ZDX some lightness at the helm, aided by a strut and multilink independent suspension. Popular Mechanics says that the SH-AWD typically "diverts between 10 and 70 percent of the torque to either the front or rear, and up to 100 percent of torque between the right and left wheels."

Base cars have a single suspension and steering setup, which TheCarConnection.com's editors find to be superior to the Comfort and Sport settings in the optional Integrated Dynamics System (IDS). The ZDX has conventional suspension and steering components (not electronic or fully active, as with some competitors), and adding dynamic control to those systems doesn't do much to improve the ride or handling. The IDS' Comfort mode can come across as too loose on city streets, and Sport makes a country ride seem jittery and caffeinated; the base setup strikes the best compromise. Popular Mechanics reports that the ZDX feels "lighter than its base curb weight of 4424 pounds," which endows the ZDX with a "sensation of relative nimbleness." Car and Driver agrees, pointing out that "the ZDX starts to make sense once you drive it, especially in its element," which they say are winding coastal roads and snowy passes. They add that the "brakes are easy to predict," bringing an element of security and safety to the driving experience.

7

2010 Acura ZDX

Comfort & Quality

A cramped rear seat and less cargo room than expected dampen the appeal of the 2010 Acura ZDX's luxurious front-seat accommodations.

For all its crossover heritage, the 2010 Acura ZDX loses passenger and cargo room in its gene-pooling experiment. The leather-trimmed front seats are superbly supportive, but the backseats are difficult to access and lack the room to truck adults for more than crosstown drives.

The 2010 Acura ZDX offers seatbelts for five, but good luck trying to fit even four adults inside. Popular Mechanics says that "the ZDX's layout lends more space to the front passengers," while USA Today asserts that the "ZDX is meant not as a family vehicle," but rather "more for a couple with no kids at home." Popular Mechanics finds that "rear headroom and legroom are...limited," and Motor Trend lists other complaints with the backseats as "challenging ingress/egress" and generally "a cramped back seat." Jalopnik reports that, "as odd-looking as it is outside, it's actually an extremely pleasant car for two people to be inside," with "two" being the operative term. TheCarConnection.com's editors observe the ZDX's rear door openings are nearly vertical and not very wide, so passengers will have to fold their feet sideways to step in. Once those traveling companions are in, there's not much headroom for them, and the lack of knee room means front passengers must move forward a bit.

Along with its cramped rear quarters, the 2010 Acura ZDX offers somewhat compromised overall cargo space. Motor Trend points out that the trunk area "is stubbier and narrower [than an] Audi Q5's," but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com are quick to point out the ease with which that capacity can be expanded. Jalopnik states that the rear seats "seem built specifically to fold down, which they do, nice and flat, giving you plenty of room." USA Today calculates the seats-down cargo space at "55.8 cu. ft.," and Popular Mechanics is impressed with the "standard power liftgate" that makes accessing the space easier than ever. There is also "a hatch covering a compartment under that cargo space [that] rises on pneumatic struts," according to CNET reviewers.

On the test cars sampled by TheCarConnection.com, fit and finish seem superb, with a bit of wrinkling on the classy, handcrafted leather trim panels. Yet there's still lots going on in the ZDX cabin, with plenty of plastics, switches, and LCDs that defy the traditional meaning of luxury. CNET feels that the Acura ZDX provides "a level of luxury greater than previous models from the company," manifested in the "soft-touch leather armrest and door-grab surfaces," says Popular Mechanics. Car and Driver loves that the interior is "filled with high-quality touches-loop carpet, a strut-equipped cargo-bin lid, and leather that feels like it slid off a side of Wagyu beef." Jalopnik is also obsessed with the "high quality" leather that's "a tactile delight."

While driving the new 2010 Acura ZDX, you'll be able to admire the luxurious interior appointments without being distracted by outside noises, thanks to what Popular Mechanics calls Acura's "active noise cancellation that eliminates low frequency booms." Jalopnik also reports that the 2010 Acura ZDX "can give you isolation in spades."

9

2010 Acura ZDX

Safety

The 2010 Acura ZDX has lots of standard safety gear, but no crash-test scores as of yet-and needs all the rearview help it can get.

TheCarConnection.com expects the 2010 Acura ZDX to score top safety ratings from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), though neither agency has crash-tested the crossover as of this writing.

Cars.com reports that, "along with the required frontal airbags, the ZDX includes two-chamber side-impact airbags for the front seats" and side curtain airbags that offer significant rollover protection. As is the norm on most models sold in the United States, anti-lock brakes will come standard on every 2010 Acura ZDX. In addition, Cars.com states that "an electronic stability system with traction control" and "active head restraints for the front seats" will be standard on the Acura ZDX.

The ZDX also offers options like a multiview camera for a 180-degree span when reversing. Other advanced safety options include a blind-spot alert system, a collision-mitigating braking system, and adaptive cruise control. The visual aids are almost a necessity; with cargo, the view directly back can disappear, though the half-moon window and glass panel on the tailgate offer better visibility than expected. The rear three-quarter view is almost nonexistent, as TheCarConnection.com's editors observe. Popular Mechanics observes that the "restrictive C-pillars...block rearward visibility," while USA Today says that "fat rear roof pillars and a horizontal crossbar partway down the tailgate's glass panel" also limit the view out the back of the ZDX. These criticisms lead Popular Mechanics to argue that "blind-spot detection should come standard at every trim level," but unfortunately only those ZDXes equipped with the Advanced Package will get the blind spot monitoring and "rear camera with selectable views," according to USA Today.

9

2010 Acura ZDX

Features

The 2010 Acura ZDX has outstanding audio on call, but expensive packages and few stand-alone options can drive its prices wild.

Befitting its place in the Acura lineup, the 2010 ZDX comes with a long list of standard features, including 19-inch wheels and tires, USB audio connections, Bluetooth, XM Satellite Radio, a panoramic glass roof, and a power tailgate.
Motor Trend reviewers state that the base ZDX "should start in the neighborhood of $44,000," which compares favorably with the Infiniti FX and the BMW X6.

Although the base Acura ZDX abounds with luxury and high-end features, most buyers will likely opt for what Car and Driver says is "a roughly $3500 Technology package [that] adds nav, an eight-inch display screen...and ELS audio." Jalopnik reviewers in particular recommend the upgraded sound system, which they call "legendary." The Technology Package also adds the rearview camera, real-time traffic and weather information, and keyless access.

The ZDX's Advance Package, meanwhile, boasts additional goodies such as the Integrated Dynamics System (IDS), ventilated seats, and a sport steering wheel. Popular Mechanics reports that this top-level upgrade, which costs about $2,000, adds the IDS "adaptive magneto-rheological suspension (the same type of system found on many Corvettes) and variable assist steering," along with the safety-enhancing blind-spot detector.

While the features list is long, TheCarConnection.com's editors have a few gripes with the 2010 Acura ZDX. It lacks the BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo's innovative multiposition cargo divider, the panorama sunroof cuts into headroom in back, and the GPS doesn't offer a bird's-eye view for its maps like navigation systems from other luxury brands. Most of all, the ZDX's options are bundled into added-cost packages that may leave buyers wanting more choice and a lower sticker price.

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April 25, 2015
2010 Acura ZDX AWD 4-Door

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Probably the best vehicle we have owned. Sporty and performs well.
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