2010 Acura ZDX – The Acura ZDX is the brand’s all-new four-door sports coupe, blending spectacular coupe-like fashioning with the functionality of a sedan and the versatility of a sport utility vehicle. Along with a bold street occurrence and cutting edge technologies, it offers a luxurious central, with hand-stitched cowhide on the dash, center console and doorway panels.
The 5-passenger ZDX is powered by a 300-hp 3.7-liter V6 engine, mated to a six-speed self-acting transmission with Sequential SportShift manual mode and paddle shifters; Acura’s exclusive Super Handling All-Wheel propel (SH-AWD) scheme enhances all-weather command. A panoramic glass top covering, power tailgate, 19-inch alloy wheels, warmed front chairs, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic weather control, satellite radio and HandsFreeLink (Bluetooth) wireless connectivity are discovered on every ZDX. The accessible Technology bundle adds keyless get access to, a voice-activated navigation system and upgraded audio, with 15 gigabytes of dedicated hard drive newspapers storage and a USB port. The accelerate bundle includes the expertise package content, as well as ventilated front seats and an active damper scheme with driver-selectable games and Comfort suspension modes. benchmark safety-enhancing features include anti-lock computer computer computer disc brakes with brake aid, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with traction command, Xenon High-Intensity release (HID) headlights, six airbags, hardworking front head restraints and rearview camera parking aid.
2010 Acura ZDX picture
The expertise bundle adds a multi-view rear camera, while the accelerate bundle furthermore includes a unseeing location information scheme, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and a Collision Mitigation Braking scheme (CMBS).
Before we get to the main course, here’s a little “inside baseball” info that should be included: When an automaker starts the process of launching of a new vehicle, the business, marketing and engineering teams gather together to figure out what the Next Big Thing is. Product planners show a series of charts comparing attributes like price, performance and utility, and plot out various products from both themselves and the competition. With all of that knowledge in front of them, they find an empty slot in the chart – the so-called “white space” – and proclaim that this is where their next wonderwagon will reside.
While “white space” products can yield great results (the Ford Transit Connect, original Scion xB and Subaru Forester come to mind), there are times when there’s a reason for leaving the space blank. Like the X6, the ZDX may well fall into the category of “Why bother?”
Obviously, the ZDX isn’t going to sway the opinion of those unenthused about Acura’s current styling direction. On the other hand, this might be Acura’s most successful application of its new aesthetic. From the prominent can-opener grille to its pinched tail, the overall design is far more cohesive than some of Acura’s recent efforts. But despite that, it’s still polarizing.
Combined with its deeply drawn doors and an inboard greenhouse, the result is a husky appearance that would be far more attractive if it were riding at the same altitude as a sedan. As it is, the ZDX looks like a rally-raid buggy built for Dakar… on Mars.
Compared to the aforementioned other vehicles, the body comes in four inches shorter than the Crosstour and just slightly longer than the X6. But where the ZDX differs from the Crosstour, MDX and its BMW doppelganger is the position of its roof and floor.
The Crosstour has six inches of ground clearance with the ZDX at 7.9 inches and the MDX at 8.2 inches. However, the ZDX has the lowest roof height, standing at 62.8 inches with the Crosstour at 65.7, MDX at 68.2 and the BMW at 66.5 inches. The reason we mention this is when you open the door there’s a typical SUV tall step in, but combined with the lower door opening, taller occupants may have to duck to clear their heads, particularly in back. The high floor means you get the tall hip-point that seems to attract people to SUVs and crossovers, but the limited roof clearance requires the seat to be mounted lower to the floor. Instead of the expected upright seating position, sitting in the ZDX is almost sports car-like, aside from the fact that your rear is further from the ground.
While the seating position is peculiar in the context of the ZDX’s height, the rest of the interior will be familiar to those who have sampled Acura’s recent products. The sweeping dual cockpit layout in the front is similar to what you’ll find in a TL or TSX. However, the strip of aluminum that spans those sedans has been slimmed down in favor of a hand-wrapped and sewn leather covering. The combination of the seamless, soft-touch upper dash and the leather trim is attractive, but there’s a very visible, if minor, problem. Where the leather-covered parts sweep down to the center console, there is a seam between the upper and lower portions. Because of the leather wrapping, the seam is more prominent than it should be and fails to keep with the upscale look Acura is after. However, redemption is found in the rest of the cockpit, including a reassuringly thick steering wheel and Acura’s superlatively supportive seats. And then you get to the back.
The sweeping greenhouse means that even with the seat cushions mounted low, headroom is at a premium for anyone hovering around six-feet tall. Worse than that is the rear door opening, which has shrunk both vertically and longitudinally, causing more than one instance of unintended head-banging when getting in and out. Acura admits that the ZDX is targeted more towards couples, but we have to question why you have rear seats when ingress, egress and overall comfort is so severely compromised in the first place.
Acura may have sacrificed rear passenger volume to style, but luggage capacity remains plentiful. With the rear seat up, the ZDX can swallow 26.3 cubic feet, a volume that grows to 56 cubic feet with the rear thrones folded flat. The tall rear deck and flat cargo sides make for a useful luggage area, and Acura has also included a trio of hidden storage areas below the rear load floor and in each rear corner.
Pressing the red start button yields a bit of a surprise with an engine note that’s decidedly more aggressive than we’ve grown accustomed to from Acura – up to and including the six-speed manual-equipped TL. The aural entertainment proves pleasant, especially under hard acceleration. We’ve always been fond of Acura’s V6, and this one is no exception thanks to its 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. It revs freely to its 6,600 rpm redline and never complains about having to work hard. Of course, with the ZDX’s 4,452-pound curb weight, the V6 has its work cut out for it. To be fair, a decade ago, a 0-60 mph time in the low six-second range would have been nothing to sneeze at for a 300-hp vehicle, but in 2010 it’s merely so-so.
Unfortunately, Honda’s all-new six speed automatic transmission doesn’t help the performance situation. The steering wheel-mounted paddles allow some manual control, although tapping the flippers up or down seems to be more of a suggestion rather than a control interface – ratios will only be switched when the electronics are good and ready. Running the 3.7-liter V6 up to the far end of the tach will still trigger automatic upshifts even in “manual” mode, but on the plus side, when the cogswaps arrive, they are quick and smooth.
Acura’s torque-vectoring Super Handling-All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) was one of the first such systems to come to market and remains one of our favorites. The electronically controlled clutches in the rear axle actively send drive torque to the outside wheel to help push the ZDX around a corner and counteract understeer. Press the CUV into a series of corners and it tracks through neutrally, no muss, no fuss and decidedly un-crossover-like. While the ZDX is no off-roader, if your commute includes a brisk run down a gravel road, the SH-AWD is more than capable of dealing with lower grip situations.
Unlike the TL and TSX, the ZDX retains hydraulic power steering. However, Acura has added an electronic control system to vary the amount of boost according to speed and the position of the Integrated Dynamics System (IDS). IDS adjusts the settings of the active dampers along with the steering, and the hydraulic steering assist gives the ZDX a tighter feel devoid of dead spots. We tried the IDS in both Sport and Comfort modes and ended up deferring to Sport for the majority of our drives. The suspension does a good job of soaking up the worst that Michigan roads can offer, while keeping the body level with minimal vertical motion.
Aside from the lazy transmission response, the ZDX surprised us dynamically. Unfortunately, the design imposes some serious compromises in the name of style. Assuming you can live with something closer to a 2+2 and aren’t put off by the deeper seating position, the ZDX has its attributes. However, the bigger sticking point is its price tag. Our ZDX was equipped with the Advance package (adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, etc.) and stickered for a steep $56,855. The price may seem high for an Acura, but even maxed-out, that’s still about $500 less than the entry tariff for an X6. The BMW is roomier and ultimately more engaging, though, and if you need more than 300 hp (and who doesn’t?) the X6 offers up three different V8 options, including a hybrid and the mighty X6 M.
Ultimately, the decision to buy any vehicle upmarket of the most basic commuter involves a significant emotional element, and there is no doubt that this Acura is capable of stirring up some major gut reactions. The ZDX has arguably the best implementation to date of Acura’s design philosophy and generally very good driving dynamics despite its compromised package. In the end, though, the rumblings in our gut are closer to cramped discomfort than excited butterflies. The fundamental premise of a high riding and very heavy 2+2 strikes us as silly unless you are going to take the idea to its (il)logical zenith with some insane performance like the BMW X6 M. Barring that, we’d rather see Acura’s product planners focus on the kind of smaller, lighter, white spaces that Soichiro Honda likely would have filled were he still kicking around the headquarters that bears his name.
Acura calls its all-new ZDX “a provocative luxury four-door sports coupe,” adding that it’s a “passionate getaway” vehicle designed for “a couple, their belongings, and more.” The proclamation is a twist on a pitch we’ve heard before, yet with an even narrower segment focus. While the marketplace has come to accept the stylishly squashed Mercedes-Benz CLS, Volkswagen CC and Jaguar XF into the non-sedan segment, this new niche – pioneered by the BMW X6 and accepted by consumers if only because the Bavarian delivers the goods – is still a substantial risk that could require a hard sell with pithy prose.
So to kick-off Acura’s all-new non-SUV, the automaker invited us to Southern California to drive the latest addition to its growing family. Constructed on the familiar MDX platform and sharing its powertrain, the ZDX pushes the automaker’s styling and innovation to the limit – it’s certainly not bland or boring. However, is there enough substance under the style to win buyers in this newly targeted segment? What game-winning cards, if any, does Acura really hold with its latest “sports coupe” SUV? Follow the jump to find out.
To understand the Acura ZDX, one needs to know a bit about the MDX, its incredibly close sibling. The MDX is a very competent, traditionally-designed, unibody crossover utility vehicle. Motivated by a 3.7-liter V6 and sending power through Acura’s rather brilliant torque-distributing Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system, the family-oriented MDX starts with a base price of just over $40,000. Now in its second-generation (last redesigned for the 2007 model year), the seven-passenger CUV delivers typical Acura innovation, utility, reliability and safety in a package that isn’t going to raise anyone’s pulse from behind the wheel. Regardless, its owners don’t seem to care as it does a great job of accomplishing its objective of being a luxurious crossover.
Mechanically, the MDX and ZDX are very much alike, right down to the shared unibody design, wheelbase and track (the ZDX is slightly longer overall). Both crossovers feature the identical 300 horsepower, 3.7-liter VTEC V6 sending power through a new six-speed automatic, and Acura’s SH-AWD powertrain is also standard fare on each. The curb weight of the ZDX is 4,431 pounds (with Tech package), undercutting the slightly heavier MDX by more than 100 pounds. While the sturdy MDX can tow a 5,000-pound trailer, the new ZDX is chassis-limited to just 1,500 pounds.
Although sharing much of the same DNA, these dizygotic twins are very different in physical appearance. Penned by the California-based Acura Design Studio, the sleek ZDX features bold fender flares that taper inward, hidden rear door handles, and an all-glass roof that stretches from front wipers to tailgate. The automaker accurately declares, “The ZDX is like nothing you have ever seen before from Acura.” That statement may be true, but the exterior design bears more than a striking resemblance to the BMW X6 – its primary identified competitor.
More so than the aggressively styled BMW, the ZDX errs on the side of femininity. A proud parent boasting about the vehicle’s edgy design, Acura repeatedly uses the word “sexy” to describe the skin of the ZDX. While we liked some of the touches (the sculpted rear quarter panels are pleasingly unique), we simply weren’t struck by any carnal urges.
On the other hand, we were impressed with the ZDX’s interior design. Instantly recognizable as an Acura family member, the cockpit is fresh and stylish. Driver and front passenger sit apart, separated by a sweeping dash with a tall center console. Overhead, the panoramic moonroof features two individual glass panels (not one large panel, as found with BMW). The front panel slides open, while the other is fixed. Rather than close them with an opaque shade, Acura utilizes a tight fabric mesh that allows visible light to permeate the cabin without transmitting heat or UV rays to the passengers. The primary instrument cluster features traditional round dials, while the center control panel (Acura calls it a “monolith” design) is coldly black until the audio system is switched on. From where we sit, Acura has done an amazing job within the cabin environment. Premium natural grain leathers and high quality plastics add a rich and warm feel to the cockpit. From the driver’s seat, it looks, feels, and smells expensive.
There is little arguing with Acura’s proclamation that the passenger compartment of the ZDX is designed primarily for the front two occupants (the automaker brazenly calls it a “two plus three” and points out that the front seats are the “primary passenger zone” while the rear is the “freedom” zone for gear… or three people). Thanks to that aforementioned styling, the sloping roof and tapered rear end cleanly remove the passenger space and utility enjoyed in the MDX. Shoehorned back there, we found the rear seats are small and cramped for anyone mildly claustrophobic or even a hair taller than Tom Cruise – we’ve heard that the Mazda RX-8 has more room in the second row. Just for confirmation, on the way home from driving the ZDX we hustled over to a local BMW dealer to sit in the rear seats of the X6 – they were generously cavernous by comparison.
Accessed through the standard power-operated tailgate, the rear cargo area is as nicely finished as the front passenger cabin. High-quality materials, metal-plated handles, and closed-loop carpet mean that golf bags, mountain bikes, or skis travel in their own first class compartment. While it would never be described as spacious, hidden panels line both sides for expansion, and there’s a generous storage area under the floor. The second-row seats also fold flat, in a standard split arrangement, for any oversize items.
Acura will offer the ZDX in three different flavors: ZDX, ZDX Technology and ZDX Advance. All share the same powerplant and driveline, panoramic roof, all-leather interior, Bluetooth connectivity, rearview camera, 19-inch wheels and a 266-watt audio system with eight speakers. The ZDX Technology adds navigation, multi-view camera, AcuraLink® Satellite communications, real-time weather and traffic, keyless access and an upgraded 435–watt audio package with ten speakers and a 15 GB HDD. The ZDX Advance adds icing to the Technology package with added active suspension, adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking system, blind spot information system, ventilated seats and a sport steering wheel.
Pricing has not been announced, but Acura says the MSRP will be higher than the MDX, yet undercut the RL sedan. We figure you’ll need about $45,000 to put one in your garage (in case you are wondering, the twin-turbo six-cylinder BMW X6 optioned equivalently will set you back about $70,000).
With the detailed product orientation behind us, we put the keyless entry/ignition fob in our pocket, hit the red start button, and pointed the ZDX towards the hills above Malibu.
Settled comfortably into the front seat, we immediately realize the styling has compromised the outward visibility (those are seriously thick C-pillars). Acura has attempted to increase sight lines with the additional tinted glass panel at the bottom of the tailgate. It works, but you must rely on the standard backup camera during reverse maneuvers. The seating position is coupe-like low, putting the front corners of the hood out of view from the driver’s seat, and over the course of an afternoon, we never became overly comfortable with its dimensions.
Driven like a gentleman, the Acura ZDX is as mundane as a Honda Accord and as quiet as a private library. Acura engineers were obsessed with isolating passengers from unnecessary noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). Acoustic noise-absorbing mats, wheel housing insulators and special tire tread and compound limit much of the common road and mechanical noise. Much more impressive is the innovative, and standard, Active Noise Canceling system – essentially white noise piped through the audio system – to limit unwanted frequencies. The result is an amazingly quiet cabin that makes conversation easier and travel much more relaxing.
Romp on the gas in a spirited manner and the 3.7-liter V6 wakes up immediately (it will run to 60 mph from a standstill in about 6.5 seconds). It’s an excellent powerplant, but not exactly engaging for the enthusiast with its unoriginal soundtrack mostly coming from under the hood (we were told the exhaust was tuned for duty in the ZDX, but you really can’t hear the rear silencers from within the cabin). The six-speed transmission shifts nearly imperceptibly and it responds well to the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
After being informed that Acura did suspension tuning at the famed Nürburgring, we took the opportunity to push the ZDX on some challenging canyon roads of our own. We sampled both models with and without Acura’s active suspension (IDS alters suspension damping and steering effort) and found both handled about the same at the limit. Regardless of electronic intervention, the steering is rather numb on each. However, with a rock-solid platform and the variable (front-to-back and side-to-side) torque distribution of the SH-AWD clawing at the pavement, it was tough to break the ZDX’s composure even when pushed beyond its limits.
The Achilles heel of this Acura’s handling is found on all four corners – the all-season Michelin tires. While their standard size is meaty (255/50R19), the compound is strictly M+S (all-season) meaning they sing like holiday carolers when pushed above 6/10ths and slide like teenage snowboarders above 7/10ths. With 58 percent of the ZDX’s mass over the front tires, we expected plenty of understeer at the limit. Surprisingly, it was rather balanced mid-drift and very controllable (credit goes to the SH-AWD, most likely). The ZDX will never be mistaken for a performance vehicle – it honestly isn’t enjoyable to drive hard – but rest assured the Acura can handle the mission if it’s ever called for duty.
We really don’t know what to think of the ZDX. Acura has hit a home run with the interior appointments, chassis tuning, and cabin isolation. However, they swung and missed with second-row comfort, outward visibility, and fun-to-drive quotient. Targeted at the BMW X6, and marketed as a “Passionate Getaway” coupe for couples, the ZDX has been positioned in an awkward and rather diminutive niche. While Acura loyalists and enthusiasts lament the loss of performance-oriented vehicles such as the Integra Type-R and exotic NSX, the plebian ZDX debuts without a compelling reason to join the team.