- Plush, high front seats
- Studio-quality audio system
- Capable engine/transmission combo
- Less practical than a real SUV
- Too tall to be a real coupe
- Rear-seat access and accommodations
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.
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.
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.