2013 Acura ZDX: A Few Changes, Identity Crisis Still Intact

October 10, 2012
A minor refresh plus a reconfigured feature set are headed to the 2013 Acura ZDX. And then it's history.

The slow-selling ZDX, which was never missing beauty and aesthetic charm but always missing a clear purpose, as we saw it, has been whittled down to a single configuration, and Acura announced that this will be its final model year.

On the outside, there's a redesigned front grille, a new front and rear bumper design with integrated parking sensors, power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors, and new dark accents for the wheels. Inside are new high-contrast interior option, and the center console gets a new trim finish.

A head-scratcher from the start

In our full review of the ZDX we called it “less practical than a real SUV” but “too tall to be a real coupe.” And in a follow-up drive with the ZDX back in 2010, we again struggled to grasp Acura's intent with it, and it seemed like a vehicle with a baked-in identity crisis. Beyond the gorgeous, coupe-like exterior was an interior with luxury appointments but readily apparent limitations and compromises. Although built on some of the same underpinnings as the Acura MDX and Honda Pilot utility vehicles, the ZDX's low roofline and tapering body made the tight backseat less usable than in some true coupes, while a higher-than-expected cargo floor didn't leave much space under the hatch.

On the other hand, we found the ZDX surprisingly fun to drive fast, with its eager 300-hp V-6 and paddle-shifters, and while it incorporated the SH-AWD system that gave it secure footing under power, we wouldn't exactly say it handled like a sports coupe.

According to Automotive News, Acura sold just 642 of them in the first nine months of 2012, and the ZDX's total sales since it went on sale in late 2009 totals just over 5,500 units.

2013 Acura ZDX

2013 Acura ZDX

The ZDX's rather steep sticker price (last year's Advance Package model totaled more than $57k) has been another major reason for its limited appeal, as we see it. And in this respect, there's no big change that will open the ZDX up to a new kind of shopper.

If it had been $15k less...

For 2013, the ZDX starts at $51,815. That's nearly $4,000 higher than the 2012 model, but that includes all the content from last year's Tech Package as well as some of the features from the former Advance Package. Perforated, heated-and-cooled Milano leather seats are now standard, as is the voice-recognition navigation system and the 435-watt Acura/ELS Surround audio system.

Notably, it looks like Acura has dropped the Integrated Dynamics System (IDS), which brought multiple modes of suspension firmness and response. That's no big loss; in previous drives of the ZDX, we didn't find much of a difference between modes, with the ride quite harsh even in Comfort mode.

The new equipment does now make a suite of active-safety features standard on the ZDX. Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) provide visual and audible alerts, and may help the driver avoid an accident.

Gas mileage was probably the nail in the coffin. The ZDX managed to achieve just 16 mpg in the EPA city cycle, and 23 mpg on the highway. Over several drives we saw figures in the middle of that range, but the highway number may have been a little optimistic.

Acura vice president and general manager Jeff Conrad said that the brand would “continue to advance the Acura lineup with a focus on new core models,” pointing to the new RDX and upcoming RLX flagship. Both are clearly models that don't try to push Acura into new segments, as with the ZDX.

Actually, the ZDX's failure may have been more of a matter of timing. It was an ostentatious luxury vehicle planned out during the real-estate boom and an era of conspicuous consumption, then launched to an intended buyer who'd moved on to more modest means. And for that, it'll probably go down in automotive history.

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