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TSX69 09-14-10 10:55 PM

The Car Connection Review

A week with a ZDX still wasn't enough to help me make up my mind about a few key questions: Is this a good-looking vehicle? And does the whole package work?

Ask me at various points in the week, and depending on the angle I was viewing it from at the moment my responses could be very different.

It's a car that at one moment will seem ungainly, then the next moment seems like car porn. And it's one of the few vehicles in recent months that I caught myself snapping arty shots of.

Curves and surfaces to behold

From-a-distance shots don't always do the design justice; there's a lot going on with surfaces on the ZDX, and while there aren't a lot of creases and character lines, it's a curvy beast—accentuated by glossy, convex-mirror-like black paint on the test vehicle. Which makes the sharp, angular look of its front and rear details clash a bit when you see them together with the organic, flowing middle of the vehicle. Again, sometimes it's a good thing, sometimes it's not.

The ZDX shares its underpinnings with the MDX crossover, yet that more carlike profile might even lead some to think it's related to the Honda Accord Crosstour. To compare the 2, the ZDX is a few inches shorter, lower and wider than the Crosstour. The other vehicle that the ZDX compares most to is the BMW X6; it's about exactly as long and wide, but several inches taller than the Acura. Squint a little bit at the ZDX, and you might be able to filter out the 'hidden' back door and see a coupe—that's the affect designers were attempting.

Mostly, we're pretty thrilled with the way the ZDX drives. Under the hood, there's the same 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 as in the MDX, paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. You get steering-wheel paddle shifters. All is well with the way the ZDX steers and handles; for having MDX underpinnings, it's surprisingly sporty and composed, even when the road isn't.

Fun to drive fast, but busy ride

Ride quality, however, is the tradeoff; while the ZDX rides with sort of muted heft, the ride is still quite jiggly, even in the Comfort mode of the Integrated Dynamics System (IDS), which changes the steering calibration slightly and smoothes out the response of the active (magneto-rheological) damper system. Changing from comfort to sport didn't really affect ride quality that much, except over the largest heaves, such as speed bumps and in corners where the ZDX was really pushed to lean.

About the only other driving issue we dwelled on it that there's a little bit of a flat spot at moderate throttle; we couldn't tell if it was the engine or the transmission, but if you need just a little more power, going past that point invites drama and downshifting. But floor the gas from a standstill or pretty much anywhere, and the drivetrain is remarkably quick yet unobtrusive, with the transmission then shifting crisply but muted, right up at 6,700 rpm, and the SH-AWD system expertly finding traction without even a screech.

The ZDX gets an EPA-rated 16 mpg city, 23 highway—which isn't all that impressive, but if our driving experience was any indication, you're likely to see the upper end of that. We saw 19 mpg over a week and about 100 miles of short trips and around-town stop-and-go.

In our full review of the 2010 ZDX, editorial director Marty Padgett did a great job pointing out the obvious compromises of this vehicle, noting that it is "less practical than a real SUV," as well as "too tall to be a real coupe."

Try to fit more than two larger adults in the ZDX and you'll see what he means. While there's plenty of legroom, and a tall airy-ness to the cabin, front headroom was just barely adequate for this 6'-6" driver. In back, forget about trying to fit anyone approaching six feet tall; there's just not enough headroom, and the curvy shape makes the backseat a lot narrower than you might expect. The odd shape and short dimensions of the doors in back make getting in and out difficult, too. Visibility is tough, with huge blind spots, but straight back there's a smaller back window built into the hatch. It helps a little bit.

There are other alternatives, for those who like the idea of a hatch in back but need backseat room. BMW 5-Series GranTurismo gets some of the ZDX's fastback looks, yet the backseat in the GranTurismo is positively limo-like—an improvement over the 5-Series sedan or X5 and on par with the back of the 7-Series.

Shallow hatch is a compromise

Cargo space really isn't that bad in the ZDX. The cargo floor is surprisingly high, but you'll find a deep, additional storage area under the regular cargo floor at the back. But then again, be aware that nearly anything that you put back there will infringe on your rearview.

Yet with all the tradeoffs, the ZDX's 2 front perches offer top-notch luxury. Interior trims and materials (including soft leather with accented stitching) are remarkably good; the instrument panel has a stunning, wrap-around design that really does combine the utility (with all sorts of cubbies and bins) of a utility vehicle with the wrap-around cockpit feel of a coupe. The surround-sound system in the ZDX was bassy and rich yet clear at higher volumes, and it has DVD-Audio capability Bluetooth Audio streaming, as well as USB and aux inputs. We weren't as wowed by the navigation system, though we liked the display.

Ultimately, the ZDX is a limited-appeal vehicle. We can see urbanite antiquing types or gallery owners considering it; or empty nesters with a larger vehicle.

But for the majority of us, up close or from afar, perhaps the ZDX is best left just admired.

TSX69 09-14-10 10:58 PM

4 Seasons Update

2010 Acura ZDX
Months in fleet: 4
Current miles: 11,835

Our 2010 Acura ZDX continues its year-long moon-rover mission to find out if its polarizing style can be overcome with fabulous driving dynamics -- or utility. This month's logbook comments focus almost exclusively on its utility.

Associate web editor Jeff Jablansky was happy that someone folded the rear seats, giving the driver (slightly) better rearward visibility, but what most impressed him was the center console. "This might be the most functional center stack/console ever. Compartments in all the right places for cups, keys, a handy Blackberry slot by the driver's right knee, and a power outlet exactly where it needs to be. For what it's worth, I now deem the ZDX a functional driver's car."

Deputy Editor Joe DeMatio agreed, praising "all the nooks and bins for stashing stuff. Even the interior driver's door handle provides a cavity in which to stash a cell phone. And the little retracting lid for the 2nd cupholder, integrated into the center console bin lid, is a nice touch. As is the shallow tray that resides at the top of the bin. These all might sound like minor concerns, but I thought fondly of these features shortly after, when I got into a BMW 7-series and struggled to find secure places for my two cell phones, my sunglasses, and other stuff I like to keep at hand when I'm driving."

Joe also stashed 5 adults into the ZDX, and didn't hear a single complaint from any of the guys. How so? Either it was because 2 of them were "skinny as eels" or he drowned them out with the ZDX's great stereo.

While on the subject of utility, senior web editor Phil Floraday and a couple other members of the staff took the ZDX off-roading -- yes, you read right, off-roading. He reports: "I was blown away by the ZDX's prowess on the obstacles we tackled during our quick run to St. Helen ORV route. Visibility is horrible, there's no low range, and it can be incredibly difficult to get in and out of the vehicle on the trail, but the ZDX is capable of far more than any sane owner would actually attempt to do with it. At least now we know there is some capability baked into this rather compromised utility vehicle."

Compromised, yes, but it seems our staff has gotten used to the ZDX's shape -- and is now discovering this Acura's surprising utility.

TSX69 09-21-10 02:09 PM


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 7-seater to 4-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:

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.

I'm 6 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.

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.

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.

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 4-seater.

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 2 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.

TSX69 09-21-10 11:04 PM


Acura crosses ZDX up in style

It’s a study in contrasts, this ZDX. The MDX-derived crossover ute is all about styling and it ladles up good looks and a squat, linebacker-esque stance that commands attention.

Flaring fenders and big wheels (19-inch alloy rims in the case of my Autonet tester) make it an imposing figure; with chrome-trimmed, narrow side windows beneath a relatively low roof (the ZDX is actually not as tall as its near-doppelganger from parent company Honda, the Accord Crosstour) and the squinting, angry headlamps that make it appear a formidable road warrior.

Riding on super-handling all-wheel drive (SH-AWD, for those who read the Acura-acronym cheat sheet before beginning this story) and powered by a larger engine than the Crosstour (3.7 litre V6), the vehicle brings a fair bit of horsepower and very good traction to the platform.

It needs it, mind you, as the ZDX is a fairly heavy carlike utility vehicle at over 2000 kilos; and might feel awfully sluggish if it came with less than the 300 ponies and 270 lb.-ft. of torque with which Acura has equipped it.

As it is, the engine gets the vehicle up to speed capably, if not with an exhilarating whoosh; but accelerator response is very good, with little lag. Handling is likewise very good in the low-slung, wide-bodied marque.

A power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering rig provides good feedback despite being something of a light-touch affair, and any steering input gets results (which is a long-winded way of saying there isn’t a lot of play in the wheel).

The ZDX uses a 6-speed automatic transmission, with the sport mode/paddle shift inclusion found on pretty much any current Acura vehicle I can think of; and while I’m not a big paddle-shift fan, I find it works well enough. For the most part, I am leaving it in straight-up ‘automatic’ mode, and it’s delivering smooth shifts that always seem pretty intuitive for the driving conditions.

The cabin is upholstered in stitched leather, and keeps the stylish motif going with a dash treatment of black-on-black (leather and plastic surfaces) highlighted with plastic that has a brushed aluminum look.

Acura has always loved to deck its product out in technology, and so it is with my test car. While mine is a base model, lacking a navigation system, it still brings a button covered steering wheel that allows operation of the hands-free communication system and cruise/stereo controls.

A 6-CD stereo (with XM satellite receiver) provides the entertainment and, in my tester’s case, the backup camera is displayed in the rearview mirror.

The driver’s seat is mighty comfortable indeed, and I’ve always said Acura makes one of the best driver’s seats available - full range of adjustment and well-bolstered to hold a driver upright in ‘sporty’ driving situations, but with the padding still compliant enough that the seat doesn’t put your legs to sleep on longer, more relaxed jaunts.

While the seat surfaces are comfortable throughout, the ZDX suffers from a lack of interior roominess, which is surprising for a car that is as bulky on the outside. It ain’t no Ford Taurus, put it that way, and taller people (including myself, and I’m not especially tall) are finding it lacking headroom in either row. It’s mitigated somewhat by the indent for the 2-panel panoramic moonroof, but its still a tight cabin.

That aside, my major disappointment with the ZDX thus far is that for its price point it lacks a couple features that I expect to see in a ute selling above the 50 grand mark: keyless start and a digital speedometer display.

It seems a bit of a glaring exclusion in this day and age, frankly. For me, if I’m paying this kind of money I don’t want to have to take the key out of my pocket.
2010 Acura ZDX
Price as tested
Trim level
Price range
EnerGuide fuel economy ratings
12.7 L/100km city; 8.8 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy
13.9 L/100km combined
Warranty (basic)
4 years/ 80,000 km
Warranty (powertrain)
5 years/ 100,000 km
BMW X6; Infiniti FX35

Strong Points
* - well finished interior
* - eye-catching exterior
* - quiet ride
Weak Points
* - poor visibility to sides and rear
* - high price
* - faux trim scratches easily
Editors Rating:
Fuel consumption: 1.5*, in a word, poor
Value for price: 2.5*, there's a hefty premium for style
Styling: 3.5*, somewhat unique exterior, nicely put together interior
Comfort: 3* tight cabin for larger passengers, good driver's seat
Performance: 3.5*, the engine moves it around competently, if not excitingly
Overall: 3*, a so-so exercise in style over substance that comes with a luxury-car price tag

TSX69 10-19-10 09:07 PM


Crossovers have become so commonplace as suburban accessories these days that it's easy to forget that they do have off-road capabilities. Or should. With that in mind, we gave our 4 Seasons Acura ZDX, Audi Q5, and Subaru Outback a break from their grocery runs and slung them through an off-road-vehicle route in northern Michigan. Our intent was not to conduct a torture test in which the winner would be the one that didn't need to be winched out, but rather to have an all-wheel-drive adventure that any crossover owner should be able to make without risking life and tailpipe. That said, we weren't sure at the outset of our journey if all three vehicles-on stock tires inflated to normal pressures-would come through with fenders and dignity intact.

The ride started simply enough, with a slow climb up a narrow trail. Senior web editor Phil Floraday, the off-road expert of the group, wryly advised us to use "as little power as possible but as much as is necessary." Easier said than done, especially in the Outback, which has a difficult-to-modulate throttle.

The 1st true challenge arrived about 15 minutes in, when the 3 crossovers met a murky puddle. After Floraday deemed it fordable, the 3 vehicles waded through 1 by 1. No problem for the Q5, which kept its mouth above the water. The Outback wasn't quite as comfortable. At the deepest point, water splashed up onto its hood, and the boxer engine sputtered briefly before the car chugged its way out of the muck. Clearly unhappy, the Subie belched some vile-smelling steam through its grille and flicked on a check-engine light that we can only assume means, "Don't drive me through any more deep puddles, you idiot." It was the low-slung Acura, though, that made us the most nervous. Enough water sloshed into its engine bay to momentarily cut power. It fought through and emerged with no assistance, but the air-conditioning blew hot air for the rest of the day.

The ZDX would regain a measure of confidence during our next obstacle-deep sand. Blessed with sophisticated torque-vectoring all-wheel drive and defeatable traction control, it practically danced through the soft terrain, kicking up a rooster tail of sand in its wake. After the sand was churned and loosened, the Q5 and the Outback had more trouble, mostly because the electronic nannies insisted on intervening even when we tried to disable them, cutting momentum and the wheel spin needed to keep the treads clean.

Our final hurdle was the most threatening: a steep slope covered in the same deep, soft sand and pitted with ruts and drop-offs large enough to thoroughly trap any of the three vehicles. We were growing weary of the squealing pebble caught under its front brake caliper, but the Q5 was still going strong, making it up the hill on the 1st try. The Subaru seemed to be doing fine as well until a slight steering error by our least experienced off-roader-me-sent it into 1 of the drop-offs. (Note: when your spotters cry, "No! No! Stop!" heed their advice.) With some careful reversing and a push from road test coordinator Mike Ofiara, the Outback was freed. A 2nd assault-with a new driver-made the route look easy. The ZDX made it up on its 1st attempt, but after we reran the climb and marred the trail, the Acura struggled the most. The heaviest of the group at nearly 4,500 pounds -- about a half ton more than the Outback -- it needed a running start and a firm foot on the throttle to conquer the sandy step at the top.

All of this may sound excessive, but our trio of crossovers did everything we asked of them, and none required more than a thorough cleaning before reporting back for daily duty (the Q5's pebble popped out, the Outback's check-engine light cleared, and the Acura's air-conditioning returned, all on their own accord). We also have greater appreciation for how and why these vehicles differ from more carlike offerings. We better understand why someone might pick a high-riding Q5 over an A4 Avant. The Subaru's soft ride, a constant complaint among editors, was a godsend for the way it damped the constant crashing of the rough trail. And the Acura...well, it still doesn't make all that much sense to us, but it performed bravely for being so clearly out of its element. It also might look a bit better when covered in mud. Most important, we can now confirm that any one of these vehicles is capable of soft-road heroics with no modifications -- but do try to stay out of deep puddles.
Techtonics: All-Wheel Drive

Acura ZDX
Acura uses 2 clutches in the rear differential to manage the front-to-rear torque bias. Each clutch, controlled by an electromagnetic coil, is responsible for sending torque to 1 of the rear wheels. With an electronically controlled system, the vehicle has to detect slip and actuate the clutches before torque is rerouted. It's a slower response than Audi's purely mechanical system, but with modern sensors and control systems, you won't exactly catch the Acura napping. Plus, the ZDX can vary torque between the left and right rear wheels better than any other vehicle here.

Audi Q5
Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive is based on a torque-sensing center differential, with the bias controlled by 2 sets of planetary gears and several friction discs. The system's weakness is the open differentials on the front and rear axles. To prevent the Q5 from spinning its wheels helplessly, Audi doesn't allow stability control to be switched off. Instead, an "off-road" mode that lowers the intervention threshold is engaged. To keep the Q5 moving forward if a wheel has no grip, the system applies the brake on that wheel to direct torque to the opposite side.

Subaru Outback
So-called Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive isn't necessarily symmetrical, as Subaru now has 4 all-wheel-drive systems, and only 1 has a base condition with a 50/50 split. Our Outback's arrangement typically sends 55% of torque to the rear wheels. Torque is divvied up by a compound planetary gearset; when slip is detected, an electronically controlled clutch increases or reduces the friction between the 2 ring gears to change the front-to-rear distribution. A viscous limited-slip rear differential reacts to differences in wheel speed. The front axle uses an open differential. - Eric Tingwall


Price: $56,855
Engine: 3.7L V-6, 300 hp, 270 lb-ft
Ground clearance: 7.9 in
Wheelbase: 108.3 in
Approach: 20°
Departure: 23°
Breakover: 17°
Normal torque split, f/r: 60/40%
Max torque split, f/r: 90/10 to 30/70%

Audi Q5
Price: $45,225
Engine: 3.2L V-6, 270 hp, 243 lb-ft
Ground clearance: 7.9 in
Wheelbase: 110.5 in
Approach: 25°
Departure: 25°
Breakover: 18°
Normal torque split, f/r: 40/60%
Max torque split, f/r: 65/35 to 15/85%

Subaru Outback 3.6R
Price: $35,541
Engine: 3.6L flat-6, 256 hp, 247 lb-ft
Ground clearance: 8.7 in
Wheelbase: 107.9 in
Approach: 19°
Departure: 22°
Breakover: 20°
Normal torque split, f/r: 45/55%
Max torque split, f/r: n/a

TSX69 10-30-10 01:46 PM


Digital integration director Mike Floyd had visitors in town recently, and used the ZDX to pick up his sister- and brother-in-law, their 1-year-old daughter, and all their luggage from LAX and take them about 75 miles north to Ventura. There was some skepticism about fitting all those people and gear in the coupelike ZDX sport/ute. Upon seeing the Acura at the airport, they asked, "Are we going to fit into that?"

As Floyd explains, "Surprisingly, once the baby seat was affixed in the rear-mid-seat area, the ladies ducked into the back seats, and the luggage was tossed in the cargo area, everything fit okay." After everyone had been dropped off, he took the ZDX to run some errands, loading plenty of items in the back. He realized it's a decent vehicle to use when getting groceries, but it isn't suited for runs to The Home Depot. "Yes, I get it -- the ZDX is for empty nesters who want to look spaceship cool and enjoy extra utility."
PHP Code:

2010 Acura ZDX
/miles in service     5/9289
Avg econ
/CO2     18.2 mpg/1.07 lb/mi
Unresolved problems     None
Maintenance cost     
$92.30 (oil change/inspection/rotate tires)
Normal-wear cost     $

TSX69 11-08-10 10:10 PM

4 Seasons UpDate
Halfway through our year-long test of the ZDX, we finally looked in the rearview mirror. Managing Editor Amy Skogstrom sees the similarity between the Honda CR-Z and ZDX, and that they share "a big horizontal bar that runs right through the middle of the rear windows, meaning that rearward visibility is compromised -- not dangerously, but highly annoying nevertheless."

What about the view when looking forward? "I find the interior design to be entirely too busy for my taste," Skogstrom says. "The space in front of the front passenger has 4 layers of materials on it -- talk about design overkill. And the satellite radio interface continues to annoy me. Too many buttons, too many menus to toggle through to change stations, and just too confusing."

Senior web editor Phil Floraday agrees with others who have opined that the ZDX is comfortable on 4- or 5-hour road trips, but he still can't understand "why anyone would willingly choose this body style. Is an MDX going to be less comfortable or worse-handling on the Interstate? If you're looking for better handling, why not a TSX wagon? If you don't need a rear seat for adults, why not get a legitimate coupe? Why? Why? Why?"

To which west coast editor Jason Cammisa responded, "maybe just to annoy you, Phil?" Cammisa praised the thick-rimmed steering wheel, but despised the active cruise control, whose active feature he could not figure out how to turn off -- score another demerit point for the ZDX's overly complex interface. And the combination of long gearing (2250 rpm at 80 mph) and a V-6 that's relatively soft on the low end mean lots of throttle and lots of downshifts on the highway -- the exact opposite, says Cammisa, of what a grand touring coupe should feel like.

Halfway through our year with the ZDX, it's becoming clear that this vehicle is a particular blend of compromises that some of us just don't get.

TSX69 01-08-11 08:16 AM

4 Seasons
The Bridgestone Blizzak LM-60 winter tires we installed last month came just in time for Michigan’s white season -- and the logbook is unanimous: they’re great. Combined with Acura’s SH-AWD system, Copy editor Rusty Blackwell called the ZDX “a snowmobile,” adding, “The AWD system’s rear torque bias even allows some tail slides if you’re feeling playful.”

Road test coordinator Mike Ofiara praised the ZDX for being “1 of the few cars that made it up my unplowed uphill driveway during the latest blast of winter weather when I was too lazy to shovel. The SH-AWD system and the Blizzaks are quite the awesome duo.” Born in late October, it seems Ofiara is more of a Lazy Libra than a Snow-plowing Scorpio.

The ZDX’s horoscope, however, evidently called for some bodily abuse. Blackwell lamented that, due to the small rear door openings, he accidentally, and repeatedly, banged the heads and car seats of his 2 tots into the doorframe, as he lifted them into and out of the car over a couple of weeks. At least the dual sunroofs provide plenty of daylight, to lift the kids’ spirits as they nurse their bruises.

Web editor Phil Floraday had a look back there and was surprised by the premature wear in the ZDX’s back seat. “It looks like the cushion behind the driver is rather worn and the leather is getting wrinkly after fewer than 20,000 miles. I have to imagine most of those miles didn’t have a passenger in the rear seat.” We’d previously noted that some of the interior plastics are wearing. The ZDX’s luxurious interior materials have been highly praised, but is durability their Achilles heel? Stay tuned.

TSX69 01-11-11 08:05 PM


To classify the 2011 Acura ZDX as merely another SUV, crossover or luxury vehicle would be to sell this unquestionably unique automobile short. Much like the Sphinx in Egypt its design remains a mystery to both pundits and the public at large. Some people say it is utterly gorgeous, some are moved by its daring and still others run screaming in the other direction. But there’s 1 thing you can’t deny—this puppy gets a reaction wherever it goes.

Auto reviewers like to savage any new design that they don’t understand or that doesn’t fit with their preconceived notion of what a vehicle from a certain manufacturer should look like. When Acura unveiled the ZDX the comments from the proverbial peanut gallery were rife with cheap shots and the ever so easy “Acura has gone crazy” angle.

But then everyone complained about the last generation Chris Bangle BMW 5-series came out yet that sedan still looks fresh and daring even after that Bavarian automaker replaced it with a safer looking new model. So while not everyone might understand the new 2011 Acura ZDX, it is by its very nature a work of true art. How so?

Not all art is meant to be easily digested. In fact, the best art challenges that which is commonly understood and easily accepted. To my eyes and in the metal (especially in the Ionized Bronze metallic of my tester), the 2011 Acura ZDX is a gorgeous piece of sculptural artistry. This, however, is my view of this piece of art and might not be yours.

I love it when a new car challenges me visually and forces me to see the automotive form in a new way. Sure, a car like the Toyota Corolla sells in huge numbers but there is not one piece of inspiration, whimsy or beauty inherent to the exterior design of that car. The ZDX is an SUV for people who want to make a statement but also want occasional room for 2 back seat passengers or a couple of golf bags (yes they do fit).

Going beyond the 2011 ZDX’s exterior design, what is it like to live with this offbeat Acura? Read on to find out.

The 2011 Acura ZDX and Color

As I have already outlined how I feel about the appearance of the 2011 Acura ZDX, I will instead focus on how its looks are affected by color choice. My Ionized Bronze Metallic test unit was unique as it looked decidedly brown in direct sunlight and when it wasn’t it looked burgundy.

To my eyes the ZDX looks best in dark colors or even silver as the black door panel trim contrasts that hue nicely. White doesn’t really accentuate the ZDX’s muscular haunches or chiseled body panels as nicely so that color is probably not the best choice.

The interior of my ZDX featured the Umber colored Milano leather which covers the center console and half of the dash in a daringly contrasted display of color. Although Acura interiors always look terrific in black, if you are interested in a ZDX give serious consideration to Umber (read: brown for those of you who didn’t go to a design school).

Interior Design and Execution

There is a unique design element found in the 2011 Acura ZDX’s interior that you don’t find in other vehicles. At night when you turn off the audio system half of the lights for the buttons on the center of the dash also turn off leaving very odd looking rows of uniform blankness.

It is a cool effect and in conjunction with the ability to turn off the navigation screen entirely (a rarity) can turn the cockpit into a simply lit yet highly efficient driving space. If you like your drives to be calm and serene then only seeing the dials in front of you will feel like a godsend.

Sadly I am addicted to the supremely crisp high volume sound afforded by the Acura/ELS audio system so calm and serene was not high on my list of priorities. This audio system alone makes ordering the Tech Package entirely worthwhile although Acura’s in-dash navigation system (also part of the Tech Package) is 1 of the most user-friendly in the industry.

Otherwise the interior of the Acura ZDX is unfailingly ergonomic, the seats proved to be comfortable over the course of a few rather long road trips and the overall feeling inside is cozy without any untoward sense of crowding. I have even crammed 5 people into the ZDX before so I know it can be done without anyone losing a limb.

The ZDX has easily one of the richest feeling interiors you can find at this price thanks in part to its expansive panoramic sunroof which really gives the cabin an open and airy feel. The rest of the thanks goes to the unique dashboard design, high levels of fit and finish as well as the mind boggling array of hi-tech features on offer.

Pricing, Features and Fuel Economy

This fact may surprise you but the ZDX is only a few thousand dollars more than a comparably equipped MDX with my Tech Package equipped tester coming in at $50,145. The Tech Package includes an in-dash navigation system, upgraded Milano leather, a premium Acura/ELS audio system with Song By Voice Technology and multi-Gigabyte song storage, a multi-view back-up camera, USB/iPod integration, push button start and an easy entry system that unlocks the doors when you pull on the driver door handle with the key in your pocket. Base models start at just $45,645.

You can move further up the option food chain with the Advance Package ($56,195) which adds a collision mitigation braking system, blind-spot warning assistance, a brushed tri-cot headliner, ambient interior lighting, adaptive cruise control, 6-level heated/cooled front seats, a sportier steering wheel and the Integrated Dynamics System. This last feature gives drivers the choice of being in “Comfort” or “Sport” mode where the electromagnetic dampers firm up and steering assistance is reduced.

Having tested the electromagnetic dampers in an earlier Advance Package equipped MDX, I can verify that they almost totally eliminate body roll around hairpin curves and tight corners. So if you are looking for BMW X5-like handling from your ZDX the Advance Package is the best way to get there.

The 2011 Acura ZDX, much like the MDX, comes standard with SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive) that spins all 4 wheels at all times. Power can be apportioned to any wheel as necessary to improve handling and traction but this (along with a hefty SUV curb weight) do fuel economy no favors.

EPA estimates are 16 city/23 highway and I averaged a decent 17.4 miles per gallon. That’s about a gallon up on my average with an MDX the week before which might be attributable to the ZDX’s more sleek and aerodynamic exterior. A 21 gallon fuel tank does promise nice cruising distances between fill-ups, however.

Driving Impressions

It is amazing but from behind the wheel the 2011 Acura ZDX drives like a much smaller vehicle. Although the vehicle itself is surprisingly roomy I always felt like I was driving a small hatchback when I was behind the wheel. Make no mistake this is by no stretch of the imagination a SMALL hatchback.

But somehow once on the move the 2011 Acura ZDX hunkers down and you can almost feel the sheet metal shrink around you during spirited driving maneuvers. The ZDX drives a lot like a tall TL and while it is by no means a sports car it is very easy to have a good time on a twisting back road or zip in and out between slow moving traffic. Not that I ever did that.

The steering is quick, nicely weighted and offers up feedback that would seem familiar to a TL driver. Rarely do SUVs have steering systems that are this heavily weighted but I quite enjoyed the level of precision it offered me.

The 2011 Acura ZDX comes with a standard 3.7 liter 300 horsepower/270 lb. feet of torque naturally aspirated VTEC equipped V6 that works in perfectly timed harmony with Acura’s 6-speed automatic. The engine serves up prodigious amounts of power all without the aid of soul-less turbochargers and the 6-speed in this Acura proves that 8 gears truly is overkill. Yes BMW, Lexus, Mercedes and Audi owners. 8 gears is overkill.

Overall the 2011 Acura ZDX acquitted itself nicely as a serene and composed long distance cruiser that proved to be a lot of fun when I really pushed its limits. Its road manners were predictable and while it doesn’t handle like a rear drive roadster it should prove plenty capable of showing any driver a good time. What more can you ask of an SUV?

How Family and Dog Friendly Is It?

The back seat may be a little narrow for adults to enter and exit as easily as they would an MDX, there is enough rear headroom back there for 2 6-footers thanks to 2 cleverly scooped out sections of the headliner. Kids will have no problem (nor will dogs) and legroom is more than sufficient.

If you are a golfer or you need to haul a wide object there are 2 removable panels on the sides of the rear cargo area that widen the 27.5 cubic foot large space. Fold down the rear seats and storage space grows to a decent 57.3 cubic feet which is surprising given the ZDX’s non-utilitarian fastback greenhouse. This paucity of cargo room is the price you pay for driving an SUV that feels as maneuverable and compact as a hot hatchback. A tall 1 at the very least.

My test dog Daisy Mae had no trouble at all jumping in the back of the ZDX whose back bench I covered over with a blanket out of respect for other reviewers who have to test this car. Not that I think she would have done any damage to the leather or plastics back there given her gentle “I nap on car rides” demeanor and the quality of materials used.


I loved my week with the ZDX and that doesn’t happen to me very much when I am testing SUVs or crossovers. This rolling piece of sculpture is quick, more fun to drive than 95% of the SUVs out there and looks like nothing else on the road. It is also not as expensive as most people think with prices starting at just $45,645. Try finding a comparably equipped BMW X6 for that price.

Now you may not “get” the ZDX or understand why Acura chose to build it but isn’t the sweetest part of life found in the mind boggling variety you see in the universe? Why should it be any different in the luxury SUV realm? If you like the way the ZDX looks then by all means buy one. Not everyone wants to look like a soccer mom when they are driving their family SUV. The ZDX gets that. And I get it too.

TSX69 01-21-11 09:38 AM

2010 Acura ZDX:
Pushing the Boundaries of Vehicle Design
Outrageous looks and quality construction combine for entertaining urban ride
By Jim Redden
The Portland Tribune, Jan 21, 2011

When Acura engineers sat down to design the ZDX, they must have thought, “Let’s have some fun.”

The result is a refreshingly styled vehicle that defies easy classification. Bigger than a car but smaller than an SUV, it features a swooping roofline, broad rear end and large hatchback-like trunk. The high-back front seats feel like something out of a muscle car, but the suspension has a “comfort” setting. Our black-on-black test car looked sinister but had good manners in all driving situations.

The ZDX debuted in 2010, the same year as the similar-looking Honda Accord Crosstour. Both are powered by 3.7-liter V6 engines are can be ordered with all-wheel-drive. Because Honda owns Acura and the 2 vehicles are so much alike, it is tempting to think the ZDX is simply a fancier of the Crosstour. But the 2 have significant differences, too.

As the name suggests, the Crosstour is based on the Accord while the ZDX has an Acura chassis. All of the sheet metal is different. The same can be said for every external and internal dimension. The ZDX weighs a couple hundred pounds more than the Crosstour, too.

Still, because of the similarities, it is tempting to ask why anyone would buy the ZDX, which costs several thousands of dollars more than the Crosstour. There are a number of answers, including the fact that the ZDX has a more powerful engine — 300 horsepower compared to 271 horsepower in the Crosstour. The ZDX also comes standard with a 6-speed automatic transmission compared to 5five-speed version in the Crosstour. And Acura’s Super Handling All Wheel Drive system is more sophisticated than Honda’s version.

And then there’s Acura’s well-deserved reputation for quality. The interior materials in the ZDX are more upscale than those found in the Crosstour, from the quality of the plastics to the grades of leathers. The ZDX simply feels more solid driving down the road that the Crosstour, although the Honda is also a very well made car.

The transmission and suspension on the ZDX are both adjustable. The six-speed transmission includes a manual shift mode that allows drivers to use steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to move up and down through the gears. The suspension has both a "comfort" and "sport" setting. Although manually shifting the transmission improved performance, the differences between the suspension setting were harder to feel. The "comfort" setting is not overly soft, and the "sport" setting is not too firm. The truth is, the ZDX is too large to be thrown around like a sports car anyway, and the transmission shifts well enough in the automatic mode that most drivers probably won't use the manual mode very often.

Our test car came loaded with 2 option packages that added thousands to the base price. One was the Tech Package that included leather trimmed sports seats, a navigation system with a rear view camera, an upgraded stereo, links to real-time traffic and weather, and more. The other was an Advance Package that included a blind spot warning system, a collision mitigation braking system and more.

While we appreciated the various options, only 2 were really essential — the rear view camera and blind spot warning system. The aggressive rear end styling reduces visibility out the back and along the rear flanks. Rear views are also compromised by a wing that runs across the hatchback, a styling touch also found on the Crosstour.

The sloping roof also makes getting in and out of the rear seats a little tricky, especially for taller passengers. Rear headroom is also compromised, although the seats themselves are comfortable and have decent legroom.

Despite their unconventional looks, the ZDX and Crosstour are part of a relatively new but fast-growing automotive segment — urban-only crossovers. Despite the availability of all-wheel-drive, these vehicles are not intended to be taken off road, not even on logging roads. Among other things, they come standard with performance street tires and have low air dams that are easily damaged by deep ruts and even small rocks. Other examples include the Cadillac SRX, Ford Edge and Toyota Venza.

Of course, many crossover and SUV owners never take their vehicles off road anyway. But such vehicles have historically been designed with capability of leaving the pavement behind, an attribute that companies like Jeep, Land Rover and Subaru still advertise. The all-wheel-drive systems on the new generation of urban crossover are more designed for dealing with potholes, heavy rain and light snow, however — which is not a bad thing in the Pacific Northwest.

It’s easy to look at the ZDX as a design exercise that somehow made it into production with everything that Acura is known for still intact. The automotive world would be a more entertaining place if other manufacturers occasionally did the same thing.

TSX_Driver 01-31-11 10:38 AM

Just test drove thsi car over the weekend... its pretty amazing

TSX69 02-19-11 08:36 AM


WHEELER SPRINGS, Calif. -- Crank the volume on that 10-speaker audio kit but watch out because the cliff on our right in the Santa Ynez Mountains of California drops a thousand feet vertically and ahead awaits one hairpin kink after another as snaky route 33 descends through Wheeler Gorge.

That's okay, though, because we're cinched in the contoured driver's bucket and gripping a leather-bound steering wheel while playing the shifter paddles on a 6-speed electronic automatic and pushing the drive-by-wire throttle toward a rather tall redline to test the temper of the latest luxurious and sporty car in the mid-size class.

A trunk tag labels it as the ZDX by Acura, the line of performance and luxury vehicles derived from Honda of Japan.

Acura describes the ZDX as a "4-door coupe" because the silhouette resembles a rakish 2-door GT coupe with hatchback styling but a 4-door package with cleverly concealed rear door handles.

It looks like the car stylists at Acura worked a sleek and edgy hatchback treatment on Acura's boxy 5-door crossover utility vehicle (CUV), the MDX.

And so they did, as the front-wheel-drive (FWD) platform of MDX supports the slick aerodynamic structure of the ZDX which has 4 flank doors like a sedan and flexible seating in a plush leather-lined cabin plus 56 cubic feet of cargo space in the aft bay with access through a tail-side liftgate.

ZDX's body measures almost an inch longer but more than 5 inches lower at the roofline than MDX, although it shares the CUV's 108-inch wheelbase length.

Standing several inches higher off the pavement than the typical coupe or sedan for better clearance of bumpy-road obstacles, the ZDX lists as standard equipment the spry wheel control of Acura's SH-AWD (Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive) equipment.

The computer-managed SH-AWD system can disburse the powertrain's torque not only to wheels fore and aft but the left or right ones too. It's always engaged and enables the vehicle to maneuver on wet or dry pavement with uncanny agility.

Acura's AWD system normally channels most of the engine's power to the front wheels.

At highway cruise speed, about 70% of the torque is driving the front wheels, while the remaining 30% goes to turn the rear ones.

If you put your foot hard into the accelerator, however, the computer quickly inverts the power ratio. It shoots 70% of torque to rear wheels to help the acceleration effort, while still holding 30% on the front wheels.

The device goes further than AWD controls employed by other vehicles because it can automatically increase the rotation speed of an outboard rear wheel during quick and hard cornering maneuvers.

Boosting the rear wheel's rotation speed ends up decreasing the cornering load on the car's front wheels, which thwarts the tendency of an AWD system to understeer and ultimately enhances total tire grip through a turn.

Also working in favor of a dynamic vehicle is the fully independent suspension system -- tuned MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link design in back with solid-core stabilizer bars added front and rear to check lateral body sway when ZDX tackles a set of curves like route 33 through Wheeler Gorge.

And there's a computer-managed vehicle stability control (VSC) system aboard coupled to a traction control system (TCS), plus a 4-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA) units.

The 19-inch cast aluminum wheels on ZDX are wrapped in Michelin Latitude 255/50R19 all-season tires.

Acura maxes hardware for safety on ZDX, with the cabin surrounded by hidden air bags -- up-front inflators for front seats plus seat-mounted side air bags and curtain-style air bags concealed in headliners above side windows.

Also aboard is an active head restraint system (AHRS) for each front bucket.

Power flows freely from the 6-pack engine that drops into ZDX.

With single overhead camshaft and four valves in every cylinder, the plant with aluminum alloy block displaces 3.7 liters and employs Honda's remarkable VTEC (variable value timing and lift electronic control) valvetrain to precisely manage engine breathing and combustion in order to maximize horsepower and disperse the torque across a broad band.

It delivers strong muscle numbers -- 300 hp at 6300 rpm plus 270 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm.

Sole transaxle is a silky electronically controlled automatic with six forward speeds plus Acura's Sequential SportShift override for clutch-less manual shifts with those paddle tabs mounted behind the steering wheel's center spoke.

Federal EPA fuel consumption numbers for ZDX tally to 16 miles per gallon for city driving and 23 mpg on a highway.

The ZDX passenger compartment contains 2 broad bucket seats in front of a modest rear bench. Premium hand-stitched leather hides cover the dashboard, center console and door panels, while overhead a panoramic glass roof with integrated power moonroof stretches from windshield header to hatchback lip.

ZDX lists significant standard equipment such as automatic xenon headlamps and heated exterior mirrors, a dual-zone automatic climate system, a back-up camera with display in the rearview mirror, power tilting and telescoping steering column with a leather-wrapped 3-spoke steering wheel, leather seat upholstery, 8-way power controls for front seats with internal heat elements, a trip computer, power liftgate, Bluetooth and an audio kit with 8 speakers and 6x CD changer.

Acura adds 2 optional packages:
* Technology -- keyless ignition and entry, navigation system with real-time traffic/weather, a multiview back-up camera, and the 10-speaker Acura/ELS surround-sound stereo system with 15-gig hard drive.

* Advance -- Technology package equipment plus adaptive cruise control, a collision mitigation braking system, blind-spot warning device, heated and ventilated front seats, a sport steering wheel, and electronically adjustable suspension dampers.
Acura's price chart for the 2011 ZDX begins at $45,645.

TSX69 03-17-11 10:01 AM


The 1st question anyone asked me about the Acura ZDX I was driving was short and to the point — what the heck is it? The answer to this ticklish poser all depends upon who is responding. To Acura, it is a 4-door sports coupe-cum-crossover. Others suggest it’s a radically styled SUV. Between the 2 extremes is really where the ZDX lies. Its wind-swept roofline does lend some credence to the coupe thing, while its tall stance speaks to the SUV side. Either way, it is a little different.

The coupe side is borne out by the cabin’s layout — it is very much a 2+2. Up front, the format is all Acura, as the materials are top quality, there’s plenty of room and the layout says high-tech. It also features all the right toys — power everything, including a 10-way driver’s seat, a panoramic glass sunroof and a needed backup camera. There are also some neat features. For example, the ZDX uses active noise cancellation. It uses the audio speakers to counter cabin noise — it seems to work because there was very little extraneous noise evident, even at inflated speeds. It is such that the only real option is the $3,600 Technology package, which adds navigation, a better sound system and buttery Milano leather.

The coupe definition certainly holds water from a practical perspective — the rear door openings are small, which makes accessing the back seat an interesting proposition. The swoopy roofline mandates a deep duck if one is to miss the sheetmetal on the way in. That stated, if the ZDX is used as intended, the back seat should be something that’s rarely needed. As such, the noggin-knocking comment becomes a moot point. That aside, the seat did have enough legroom to accommodate my shorter legs and almost enough headroom for my tall torso — no, not for a long time, but it worked for a trip across town.

Beyond that, the ZDX features a power liftgate that gives easy access to 26.3 cubic feet of cargo space with the 60/40-split/folding seatbacks upright and 55.8 cu. ft. with them folded flat. There’s also a handy under-floor bin and 2 storage pockets built into the trunk’s sidewalls. In other words, there’s a lot of versatility, which satisfies the crossover side.

A brawny 3.7L V6 engine that employs Acura’s Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC) system powers the ZDX. The combination delivers 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm. The upside is that, unlike so many Honda engines, this one makes hay over a broad range — there is always enough power in reserve that the ZDX obeys throttle input with authority. 1 of the key reasons for the mid-range pop is the 6-speed automatic transmission. The wider array of ratios helps to keep the engine at its optimum for more of its working life.

The box also features paddle shifters — the advantage is that they work regardless of whether the shifter is in the drive (the everyday mode) or sport. When in drive, pulling back on the downshift paddle drops a cog quickly, which brings the desired engine braking. If the driver leaves the paddles alone, the box reverts to its automatic mode. Other manufacturers would do well to take this simple operational logic to heart. The sport mode changes the driving dynamics by holding each gear a little longer, which ramps up the sporty driving sensation.

From the transmission, the power is directed to the road through Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). This system not only splits the power front to rear, it also has the ability to overspeed the outside rear wheel in a corner. This action does 2 good things. 1st, it physically turns the ZDX into the corner, which reduces the onset of understeer and the likelihood of the electronic nanny stepping in prematurely. 2nd, it reduces the amount of steering that needs to be dialled in, which makes the turn-in response feel so much faster and crisper. The combination works such that the large ZDX feels much smaller and lighter in terms of the way it handles — lithe and alive is not a stretch. The ride is also surprisingly good for what is more or less a swept-back SUV. The suspension does a good job of controlling unwanted body motion without making the ride feel harsh, and this in spite of the large P255/50R19 tires.

Pigeonholing the ZDX is not an easy task. It is couple-like in many respects, and this in spite of having four doors. It is also very much a versatile crossover/SUV because of the space and flexibility. Driving it, however, taught the most valuable lesson — the ZDX has plenty of power, the handling is tight and precise and the all-wheel-drive system brings the sort of balance that’s not expected (or demanded) of a larger vehicle. The fact there’s a hefty rebate for those paying cash sweetens the ZDX’s appeal further.

TSX69 03-30-11 10:11 AM

4 Seasons


We’ve spent 11 months with our ZDX and, as controversial as this car is, no one has had any complaints about the way this Acura drives.

Senior Web editor Phil Floraday says it’s a “supremely comfortable cruiser.” Associate editor Eric Tingwall praised the navigation system, noting that while “the graphics look a bit dated, they do a brilliant job at showing smaller side streets and street names.”

Assistant editor David Zenlea is even warming slightly to the ZDX’s styling, even though he doesn’t seem to want to admit it. “I’d hesitate to say the ZDX’s styling has grown on me, but I will admit to appreciating a few of its nicer design elements as time passes. The roofline, for instance, is elegantly curved both length- and width-wise, which balances nicely with the chiseled lower half of the vehicle. The real design flaw in the ZDX is its size. I can readily imagine Acura stylists looking at a scale model of the vehicle and thinking they had quite a hit on their hands. Had it been made into small hatchback or even a large fastback in the vein of the new Audi A7, it might have looked ‘just right.’”

The praise for the ZDX never lasts long before we start complaining about its packaging. Floraday added that “The execution of the ZDX would be perfect if only it were a little more useful for moving people and stuff.”

And then Tingwall dropped the bomb: “The ZDX is intriguing and unique, but can you blame anybody for not buying one?”

As it turns out, at least 1 people have -- since both Copy editor Rusty Blackwell and West Coast editor Jason Cammisa finally spotted ZDXs on the streets, owned by real people. Of course, it’s actually more than 2. For the record, Acura moved 3,259 ZDXs in America in 2010– although BMW sold almost twice as many X6s in the same year.

And the complaints about the quick-wearing interior continue to fill the logbook. Floraday again: “As others have said in the past few months, the soft leather interior doesn’t seem to be holding up as well as I’d expect for a $56,800 vehicle. I’d guess the ZDX had about 45,000 miles on it based on the wear on the driver’s seat, not the 25,000 miles the odometer says. Perhaps the acrobatics of getting in and out of the vehicle make the leather age at a rate approaching dog years.“

At least the rest of the Acura is holding up well, as it’s experienced no mechanical problems. Road test coordinator Mike Ofiara took it into the dealer for the most expensive service yet, but “after 26,000 miles in 11 months, $460 is not a bad price to pay to keep this reliable crossover in tip-top shape.”

TSX69 04-14-11 10:41 AM

Acura Adds SleekNess to the CrossOver
2011 ZDX comes with lots of luxury, safety and optional high-tech gadgetry.

Introduced a year ago, the Acura ZDX has a design that takes the premium crossover utility vehicle in a new direction — low and sleek — in an attempt to cross SUV functionality with sport coupe styling and performance.

With the ZDX, the concept actually works, even though it does seem an unlikely combination. Other automakers are doing this as well, including BMW with its X6, Mercedes-Benz with the R-class, and Infiniti with the FX (which seems to have originated the idea).

What the success of this concept has shown is that there are consumers who want the utility of a crossover without the tall, boxy form of a sport utility vehicle.

These vehicles add the pleasure of sporty performance, too, while offering the SUV's traditional ability to haul bulky items that wouldn't fit into a sedan or coupe.

Driving the ZDX, you can quickly forget all about the SUV side of the equation. This feels like a sport coupe and is more like a 5-door hatchback with some serious attitude.

This car is the antithesis of boxy, so those who like that aspect of family haulers probably won't go for the ZDX. But if low and sleek coupes are your forte, and you'd rather have rear doors for your passengers and a big enough rear hatch and cargo area to accommodate your stuff (think skis and other sports equipment), the ZDX just might be what you're looking for.

The ZDX is derived from the Honda Pilot/Acura MDX crossovers, both of which are 7-passenger family vehicles. But the roof of the ZDX is so steeply sloped that there's no room in it for a 3rd seat.

There is a power liftgate just like that of an SUV, revealing a cargo compartment that can be expanded to more than 55 cubic feet by folding down the 2nd seat.

As with most coupes, there is less space for passengers than in a traditional SUV. The driver's seat was a bit cramped for me, and with the roof so low, I banged my hand into it a couple of times as I reached back to pull the seatbelt on.

The exterior styling is a surprise, breaking from the Honda tradition of bland designs. This vehicle is far from boring, with an interesting shape featuring lots of unusual angles. It's definitely an attention-getter, bringing questions and compliments almost everywhere I took it.

It was created in Acura's California design studio and assembled in Canada — and is a needed addition to an Acura lineup that has struggled to develop a real identity.

From the side, the ZDX looks like it has only front doors because the rear doors have no visible handles. The handles, positioned at the top rear of the doors, are initially hard to find because they are body-colored.

The rear seat accommodates 2 adults comfortably, and 3 if you must.

For 2011, ZDX prices range from $45,645 to $56,195 (plus $860 freight), and even the base model is well-equipped, including leather seats. Other interior features include a panoramic glass sunroof, along with a hand-stitched leather dash, center console and door panels.

Under the hood is a 3.7-liter V-6 engine rated at 300 horsepower and 270 foot-pounds of torque. It's connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission, and standard is Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. EPA fuel-economy ratings are 16 mpg city/23 highway.

The car accelerates and handles like a premium sports coupe, allowing the driver to forget that the ZDX is a car with a usable back seat and a rear hatch with decent cargo space.

Our tester, the top-of-the-line 2011 ZDX Advance model, listed for $56,195. In keeping with Honda's usual practice, no options were available beyond what already was included in the Technology and Advance packages, which were included in the base price.

The Technology Package brings the voice-activated navigation system with AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic, Traffic Rerouting and Real-Time Weather with radar maps; a VGA display screen; and a multiview rear camera.

Also included with the package is the Acura/ELS 415-watt premium audio system with a built-in 15-gigabyte hard drive; GPS-linked, solar-sensing, dual-zone automatic climate control system; and keyless entry with push-button start.

The Advance Package adds a blind-spot information system, radar cruise control, collision-mitigating braking system, Acura's Integrated Dynamics System, heated and ventilated front seats with perforated Milano premium leather, premium brushed-tricot headliner and a sport steering wheel.

With the Integrated Dynamics System, the driver can switch the suspension between Sport and Comfort modes. The Sport mode is for spirited driving, while the Comfort mode is designed to make the ride as smooth as possible.

The ZDX has the same 108.3-inch wheelbase as the MDX. It's 192.4 inches long, which is almost 2 inches longer than the MDX, but it has the same 67.7-inch track. It's 5.4 inches lower than the MDX at the highest point of its roof. Ground clearance is high enough to allow for limited off-road driving.

Among the coolest features is the double-paned panoramic roof. The front part opens just like a normal sunroof, while the rear panel, over the rear passenger area, is stationary. Both have electrically operated sunshades. With the expansive windshield and tailgate glass, it looks like the top of the car is almost all glass from the hood to the rear.

The ZDX comes with 19-inch, 7-spoke aluminum wheels, along with the same type of all-weather tires found on the MDX.

Standard safety features include Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure, as well as front seat-mounted side air bags, roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for both rows, antilock brakes with traction control, and electronic stability control.

Total price of our tester was $57,055, including freight.

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