Acura clearly set out to design something different with its coupe-like ZDX crossover, and what resulted just might have ended up a little too far out of boundsóa little too far-out for most deep-pocketed luxury customers yet too pricey, heavy, and thirsty for the hip urbanites it's appealing to.
The Acura ZDX has 1 of the most perplexing packages of any vehicle. It's gorgeous, thanks to all the voluptuous, curved sheetmetal, and the design complexity in its wavelike side crease that compliments the roofline. Its profile is handsome yet aggressive, and it looks great from most angles. Open the door and peer inside, however, and its limitations and compromises are suddenly apparent; there's only a little more versatile than a coupe.
The 2011 ZDX shares its underpinnings with the Acura MDX mid-size crossover, including the same 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 and a 6-speed automatic transmission. You get steering-wheel paddle-shifters, as well as the excellent SH-AWD (all-wheel drive) system. And altogether, for such a heavy, rather tall vehicle, the ZDX is remarkably sporty, responsive, and composed. We love the rev-happy engine, too, and the quick-to-downshift transmission.
What we don't like about the ZDX has, pretty much, everything to do with comfort and practicality. The ZDX rides with a sort of muted heft and jiggles busily, even in the comfort mode of its IDS active suspension system (with magnetic dampers). And the backseat is much narrower than you might expect, because the body tapers in width as well as height, so 2 adults will find it a tight fit. The cargo floor is also higher that expected.
The tradeoff is that interior trims and finishes are absolutely top-notch, including soft leather with accented stitching and a stunning wrap-around instrument panel that really does live up to the ZDX's promise of combining a coupe-like design with a little more utility.
Unfortunately there's not all that much more to get excited about. Fuel economy isn't really good enough to satisfy those with an eco-conscience: 16 mpg city and 23 highway, according to the EPA.
Price is an issue, too. The 2011 Acura ZDX appeals to younger stylistas, urban gallery owners, and the like, but its 60-grand price tag, well equipped, is just too high for the hipsters. And unlike other more conventional crossovers like the Lexus RX or Cadillac SRX, the ZDX doesn't have enough backseat space to meet the demands of realtorsóor even those looking to do a double-date out to dinner.
With the Tech Package, the ZDX gets an ELS Surround auto system; 15 gigabytes of hard-drive storage; dual-zone climate control; a navigation system with voice recognition, real-time traffic, and live rerouting; real-time weather info; and a multi-view rearview camera.
The ZDX has so far been an extremely slow seller, with various incentives and discounts applied already in its 1st year (counter-intuitively, Acura raised prices slightly for 2011). If you like it, though, step right up and you're likely to get a pretty good deal.
The sign of any good design is when it causes strong reactions, negative or positive. Our long-term ZDX certainly didn't leave our editors on middle ground. Even a full year and 25,000 miles later, opinions are still split on whether Acura hit the nail square on the head with its swoopy crossover or whacked its thumb in a painful blunder.
The seating position and forward visibility were 2 of the attributes universally praised in our ZDX. In contrast, the rear seats were universally despised. Associate online editor Benson Kong surmised the ZDX was designed for rear passengers no taller than 5 feet. While this fits fine with online production manager Kirill Ougarov's assertion that we should call the ZDX a 2+2, it doesn't jibe with the reality that it is in fact a large 4-door vehicle. The design, fit and finish, and interior quality caused consternation as well. Everyone seemed to appreciate the button labels, which disappear when inactive, but the sheer number of buttons caused some drivers to flash into a control-clicking overload. One editor actually took the time and counted 83 buttons, switches, and knobs, excluding window, mirror, or wiper controls, leading him to refer to the interior as "a button orgy."
The interior is a mix of materials and textures. Some look almost exotic, while others look straight out of Honda's entry-level offerings. On the dash alone there are 3 different materials that all look like leather. One of them certainly must be real leather, but that just illustrates that the others aren't. Senior editor Jonny Lieberman was so impressed with the carpet that he even compared it with that in an English car. The trunk area is also littered with cubbies and covered storage areas. It may cut down on overall space, but it makes for convenient spots to hide valuables and keeps the floor flat for easy loading. We were surprised by just how much cargo fits in the rear, especially with the seats folded down. Acura says the crossover's demographic is empty-nesters seeking something a little more stylish and sporty than a typical sedan. If that is the case, it might be the perfect vehicle for antiquing one weekend and hauling grandkids the next.
Performance probably is not the highest priority for those empty-nesters, either. While everyone on staff was impressed with the ZDX's handling, helped out by near-flawless all-wheel drive and a wide track, many of the drivers felt it disappoints in the power department. Ougarov and Truck Trend editor Allyson Harwood wanted more "oomph" and feel that "300 horsepower just doesn't cut it anymore." Executive editor Edward Loh logged, "The sensations of sound and vibration are probably the best part of the ZDX driving experience," but added, "Too bad the rate of acceleration just doesn't match that fantastic soundtrack." Our ZDX took 6.8 seconds to get from 0-60 mph and ran through the quarter mile in 15.3 seconds at 91.5. For a comparison, the last time we tested a BMW X6 xDrive35i, we recorded numbers of 5.9 seconds for 0-60 and 14.5 seconds at 95.2 for the quarter mile. To be fair, this was the X6 with the 6-speed transmission. We haven't retested since the SUV has been fitted with a newer, more advanced 8-speed transmission, which BMW claims has improved 0-60 by over 2-tenths. The numbers look big on paper, but will most owners care? In contrast to the other comments, associate editor Scott Evans wrote, "It isn't a sports car and it really doesn't look like one, so I don't find myself expecting more from it. It's got plenty of power for merging and passing on the freeway, and that's really all it needs."
What this vehicle also definitely needs is the Blind-Spot Information System in our Advance trim level. Visibility is compromised by the swooping rooflines and thick pillars, making lane changes a constant adventure. The same goes for the standard backup camera and proximity sensors. With the Tech package, the ZDX uses a camera with multiple viewing options and the center-mounted navigation screen instead of the tiny screen mounted in the rearview mirror. Both of these features make the big Acura livable in traffic and parking lots. We can't imagine the bumps and scrapes our ZDX would have had without the electronic help, so we urge potential customers to order the Tech package.
Aside from the few complaints, our Acura was near bulletproof over its year of living in the long-term fleet. It recorded no additional expenses on top of the $406.58 in scheduled maintenance. Dealership service was always fast and efficient, although on our last trip in we were made as "Motor Trend guys," so the extra-friendly service may have been a little bit over the top.
The ZDX served us as highway cruiser, light off-roader, and around-town commuter. While the 19 mpg average fuel economy might be a little low for some, overall we were pleased with the performance. But we got stuck on a few of its faults. Lieberman summed it up: "Strange days require a strange vehicle. There are some things about the ZDX I love, some I hate. As a driver, I found the whole car totally polarizing. As in I couldn't make up my mind mile to mile. In a lot of ways, the ZDX is like a cheaper BMW X6, only not all that much [$430] cheaper."
From the logbook
"The ZDX is attention-getting, with most admiring stares coming from the drivers of luxury sedans and coupes, plus several 'WTF??'-type glances from older folks."
"I dare anyone not armed with the owner's manual to switch from Trip A to Trip B in under 5 minutes. I don't think it's possible."
"There's some practicality in the ZDX, too. While the Acura's cargo area may not be the biggest around, the 4 closed compartments were helpful. The large enclosed compartment in the center of the cargo area is perfect for storing a tennis racket or a huge Acura "Thor" press kit while you're transporting plants above it."
We might be in the minority here, but we really like the Acura ZDX. In a world of sensible and sane crossovers and SUVs, the stylish ZDX stands out for being not so sensible Ė and Acuraís sanity has been questioned for bringing the vehicle to market.
Part of the problem is Acuraís MDX and all-new 2nd generation RDX; great vehicles with strong performance, and scoring highly in all that functional stuff that crossover- and SUV-lovers care about.
But the ZDX was never about utility. It was about style. Flash. Making an impression. And a bunch of performance too. Acura wasnít alone in this; BMW, with its X6, has run into the same criticism. And to the same extent, slow sales.
We donít care. The Acura ZDX speaks to us. It starts with the lines. This thing looks like it landed from outer space. Taking an MDX, the ZDX chops 5 inches out of its height, and gets an aggressive swept rear hatch. The rear door handles are cleverly hidden in the C-pillar, giving the ZDX a coupe-like persona. Being based on the MDX, itís a relatively large vehicle, and it has real presence. Our tester in Crystal Black Pearl looked especially mean.
It looks like a rocketship, and drives like one too. Under that pointed beak is a 3.7-liter V6 punching out 300 hp, and an equally impressive 270 lb-ft of torque. The ZDX moves out with authority Ė especially considering its size Ė made even more fun by firing off shifts from the 6-speed automaticís paddle shifters. In our combined city highway driving we averaged 18 mpg, not bad considering that the ZDX encourages you to push it.
More than a straight-line cruiser, the ZDX is surprisingly nimble, thanks to it Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive which helps it rotate into turns. Steering feel is also notably precise. Our tester also had the Advance Package, which includes the trick Integrated Dynamic System, which constantly adjusts the suspension for conditions. We found the system worked great for the daily commute in Comfort mode, and appreciated the more aggressive Sport mode setting when the hitting our favorite curvy roads.
Even if youíre not terrorizing the local terrestrials, the Acura is a nice place to spend time. Like all Acuras, there are lots of switches, but you quickly figure the ones you need most. Interior materials are first rate, and the wrap around dash feels personal and intimate.
Because of the exterior chop job, youíll lose about 1 3rd of the cargo area and 3 inches of rear headroom (plus the third row) compared to the MDX, but on the bright side, it creates a cool, snug ambience you just canít find in SUVs, but might in some high-end sporty coupes.
What price style? The well-equipped ZDX starts at $46,120. Our loaded-to-the-gills tester rang in at $56,670. Competition? The BMW X6 starts at just under $60,000 but can go way, way, up depending on options. In this comparo, the ZDX is the bargain.
At the time of writing, Acura has informed us that 2013 will be the last year for the ZDX. 1st they put the Space Shuttle away, and now this! It might not be a great time to be an Astronaut, but thereís still time to get down to your Acura dealer and get your own spacecraft.
NEWS EDITOR GREG MIGLIORE: I like the 2013 Acura ZDX. On a snowy, wet commute home, this elevated crossover with all-wheel drive performed in excellent fashion. I even opened the sunroof at times to let in some of the heavy snow, just for fresh air. I think the ZDX looks sharp, has strong exterior styling and carries excellent proportions. Acura took a risk with this thing, and I think it was executed well.
But there are 2 big problems: 1st, its styling, which I said that I like, but I know most people donít agree with me. 2nd, itís overpriced. Thus, Acura is killing the ZDX after the 2013 model year.
Thatís a shame, because Acura needs brand identity, and by having a crossover like this, it truly had a vehicle thatís unique in the segment. Itís a bit similar to the BMW X6, which is another vehicle I like that many others donít.
I donít care. The ZDX is different. It looks like a flying wedge with hidden door handles in back and a pointy grille. Thereís no reason not to have a segment-buster in your product lineup.
If I were to buy a crossover, I would look for one with edgy styling like this. One that also offered the elevated ride height of typical utes, with a car-like ride. The Infiniti FX is somewhat similar, with segment-defying looks, though a sportier drive character.
This particular example of the ZDX is dressed darkly inside and out, and that presents a well-tailored appearance. The cabin has mostly nice materials, including a soft-touch piece that bisects the glove box. The navigation system is impressive, displaying in detail everything from Detroitís downtown streets that shoot out like a spoked wheel, to small, man-made bodies of water in an apartment complex.
The engine is fine -- 300 hp is appropriate -- and the six-speed a capable partner. The chassis is mostly comfortable, though the driving is largely sedentary and relaxing; little athleticism is evidenced here.
Still, I think the ZDX looks cool. I canít say the same for the Honda Crosstour, and I think it makes more sense to have a premium model that can get-away with unconventional design, rather than try to appeal to a mainstream sect. I still argue thereís a place in the market for vehicles with the appearance and purpose of the Acura variant. I guess Iím in the minority.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR ANGIE FISHER: Acura can be frustrating. Just when I find myself totally excited about this ZDX, they decide to get rid of it. After spending time with the ILX, my fondness of Acura was fading because the compact sedans felt unrefined.
Move to the MDX-based ZDX and my attraction is renewed.
The ZDX offers a lot -- a sharply designed exterior, high-end interior and fun drive feel.
And the exterior is definitely unique. Opinions on the styling seem polarizing, but for me itís a winner. The sharp edges and contours make the ZDX look interesting, instead of the bland crossovers that flood our roads.
I needed the ZDX to hustle me home for an appointment, and its lower stance allowed me to juke around slower cars. The V6 felt strong, too.
Inside, the ZDX is dynamic, with many angles and materials. It doesnít look busy, but instead feels modern, luxurious and undoubtedly sexy, especially with the stretched leather that breaks up the dashboard. The interior is all black, but doesnít feel dark thanks to the panoramic sunroof that nearly opens up the entire roof.
The back seat is spacious, and the cargo area offers a low load-in height and plenty of room.
The rear window is small, and a horizontal bar that dissects it combines for not-so-great visibility. Blindspot detection is becoming a must-have on vehicles for me, and was especially helpful on the ZDX with the small back windows.
Retirees might consider the ZDX because of ease of ingress/egress, but grandkids might have a difficult time with the elevated slotted door handles on the rear doors.
Sadly, Acura is focusing on its ďcore products,Ē and leaving the ZDX behind. I would recommend searching the used car lots in a few years and snatching one of these up.
ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: I agree with Greg that the ZDX gives Acura a unique entry in the market. The rest of the lineup doesnít pack much visual punch. Until the NSX gets here, itís going to be hard to point to any of Acuraís current vehicles and say they stick out from the crowd. Sure, the ZDX is a standout for the wrong reasons because itís not exactly a great-looking car, but I give credit to Acura for trying to do something different.
In particular, the ZDX is difficult to look at from the rear-quarter view. The haunches and the shape of the rear hatch are just odd. Itís interesting that Acura has tried to upgrade the exterior for its last year of production with a new grille, bumpers, power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors and a darker wheel finish.
Besides that, thereís a lot of standard features packed into the ZDX including forward collision warning (more on that later), lane departure warning, a 10-speaker ELS audio system, navigation, Bluetooth and front seats that are both heated and cooled. Taking all that equipment into account with the $51,815 price tag our test car carries, it can be considered a bargain compared to the other weirdo crossover that comes to mind, the BMW X6 xDrive35i, which starts at $60,695.
What do I like about the ZDX? The 3.7-liter V6 and 6-speed automatic transmission combo is among the smoothest drivetrains out there. Power is respectable and when you put your foot into it, the exhaust note is surprising with a low growl. With the SH-AWD system, the ZDX feels athletic with a good amount of grip available through corners. Body motions are kept in line with little lean, and steering is fairly direct with decent weight tuned in. Brake performance is also strong.
And the handling reflexes donít come at the expense of ride quality with the suspension still capable of absorbing most bumps and ruts and thereís hardly any tire noise.
As I said, Iím not a big fan of the exterior, but I like the interior that features plenty of leather-wrapped panels throughout and comfortable and supportive front bucket seats. All the plastics are of high quality and the button-laden center stack is easy to get used to. I also like the driving position with seats that sit close to the floor. So itís like youíre driving a sporty coupe with a higher ride height, which I assume is what Acura was going for.
What drove me nuts about the car (besides the unattractive exterior) is the forward collision warning system that whacked out for no reason on numerous occasions. At night driving down the freeway with absolutely nothing in front of me, it would go off. Approaching traffic when I was already on the brakes to slow down, it would go off. Iím all for safety features, but I think Acura needs to refine the system a bit and make it not so sensitive.
EXECUTIVE EDITOR BOB GRITZINGER: Iím not sure I get the 2013 Acura ZDX styling any more than I get its competitors like the BMW X6 and Infiniti FX models, but itís hard to argue with the Acuraís ride, handling, performance and interior appointments. Honda, er, Acura, seems to get more from a V6 than you expect, in this case a solid 300 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque which does a nice job of shoving the ZDX down the road. Stability is good for the ride height, steering is responsive and road-sensitive and the brakes are stellar. At the same time, the cabin is kept reasonably hushed, with little engine-, road- or tire noise getting inside.
The biggest problem with the ZDX and its ilk is that while people might like the sleek and edgy fastback styling as a design exercise, when they see what that design does to interior headroom and cargo space the equation changes. If youíre spending roughly the same money, why give up an MDXís larger capacity and functionality for a polarizing appearance? Apparently the buying public saw it that way, too, and ZDX will end its run after just 4 years on the market.
2013 Acura ZDX
2013 Acura ZDX Test Drive & Review:
Love Knows No Logic
You donít have to be an experienced product planner to understand why 2013 is the final year for the Acura ZDX. All you have to do is look at the sales figures. In 2012, Acura sold a total of 775 ZDXs, down over 50% from 2011. Sales are down another 50% for the 1st quarter of 2013, with just 99 ZDXs sold through March 31. By comparison, Acura sold 9,159 RDXs in the 1st 3 months of 2013, and 8,728 MDXs. So, ZDX is a disappointment, to say the least.
But slow sales do not tell the whole story, not by a long shot. The 2013 Acura ZDX comes with a $50,920 base price ($51,815 as tested with $895 destination charge), a 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, a 6-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty and EPA estimates of 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway.
When I tested the 2010 Acura ZDX upon its launch in 2009, I gave it grudging approval. I liked its looks, I liked the way it drove, but I wasnít sure that enough people would find it useful. I worried that the very tight access to the 2nd row, and the compromised headroom for rear seat passengers, would keep buyers from plunking down 50 grand. Iím shocked when I look back at my review and realize how right I was ó I guess it happens. But this time, I got to spend a week behind the wheel of the ZDX instead of just a few hours, and I donít just like the ZDX; I love the ZDX.
1st and foremost, the ZDX is absolutely gorgeous. Itís 1 of those designs that looks different from almost every angle. The 2nd row doors are neatly camouflaged from view, so that the ZDX has the look and feel of a big coupe hatchback. Iím very impressed by the ZDXís sleek lines and muscular stance, sitting on 19″ alloy wheels that are in perfect proportion with the body. Acuraís excellent fit-and-finish compliments the design, making the big expanses of metal into canvases for luscious paintwork. Can you tell that I love this SUV?
Sitting down in the ZDX, I realized that the driving position is more sport sedan than traditional SUV. Comfortable and supportive leather seats get heat and ventilation. The dash is very driver-centric, with the feeling of a leather-wrapped cockpit. The center stack is properly arrayed, with the nav screen at the top, above the generous vents. There are probably too many buttons and knobs, but I liked the arrangement. Call me a Luddite, but even with all those buttons, I missed having a knob that gave me rotary access to the audio channels. Thatís controlled by a button that rocks left and right.
A few years ago, I wondered if Iíd ever use Bluetooth streaming audio, and now I canít live without it. ZDX has had that feature from the outset, along with bunch of other standard technology features like proximity key/pushbutton start, surround sound, DVD-audio, adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning and lane departure warning systems.
Sporty looks are a tease without sporty performance. ZDX delivers, with a taut suspension, low center of gravity and excellent steering feel. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel allow direct access to the 6-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive is standard. A 300 hp V6 engine lurks beneath the hood, capable of producing 270 lb-ft of torque. Honda/Acuraís variable valve timing scheme, VTEC, does a great impression of a turbocharger, even though the engine is naturally aspirated. When you demand power by stomping down on the accelerator, the electronic throttle sends a message to the engine that is answered with an immediate response. Thatís fun, and makes the ZDX feel faster than it actually is. At 4,431 lbs, ZDX is no lightweight, but it feels like it gets up on its toes when itís time to dance.
The more I drove ZDX, the more I liked it. After a few days, I was looking for excuses to drive. I even discovered the utility in this SUV. Folding down the 2nd row opens up 55.8 cubic feet of cargo space, while a healthy 26.3 cubic feet of space is available with the rear seats up. Thereís a big clever space beneath the load floor, and additional storage above each rear wheel well. Great packaging.
Normally, Iím a function over form kind of guy. I find beauty in capability, and I reject vehicles that look great without working great. I recognize that the ZDXís 2nd row is severely compromised, and that itís a bear to get in and out of. But I just didnít care. I was too in love with its other amenities, abilities and its looks. I even found myself searching online for a used ZDX ó just to see if I might stumble across a bargain. No such luck.
Thereís a short list of competitors for the ZDX. The BMW X6 is the big boy on the block. The Land Rover Evoque and MINI Paceman are the newcomers. The Infiniti FX is probably the most direct competitor in terms of price, performance and abilities.
Iím sorry that more buyers didnít line up for the ZDX, and that it will be looked back on as somewhat of an oddity and even a failure for Acura. In terms of pure sales numbers, perhaps ZDX is a failure. In aesthetic terms, and as an enthusiastís vehicle and possible future collector car, ZDX is a big success. Iím going to keep my eye on the used market, and as soon as I find a good used ZDX at a price I can afford, Iíll snap 1 up. It may be a while, but Iím in love, and love is forever.
What Is, What Could Have Been & What May Yet Be
History is largely unkind to losers. That's true in the world of politics and sports, and it follows on with a few caveats in the realm of automobiles.
In terms of cars, historic losers tend to be remembered in 1 of 2 broad ways. Every once in a while, unsuccessful or oddball models actually make reputational gains after some time away from the new-car marketplace. I consider the Saab 9-2X 1 of the recent poster children for this group; a car that moved like molasses on dealer lots in the mid-2000s but has morphed into a sort of hard-to-find, used gem in recent years. More often, though, that which was unloved when new remains unloved with tens or hundreds of thousands of miles on the odometer. Pontiac's seriously misunderstood Aztek has king status here (despite the wailings of oddball fan clubs across the nation), so much so that invoking "Aztek" as a pejorative stopped being pithy about a dozen years ago.
I just spent a week driving the 2013 Acura ZDX, a vehicle whose distinct charms cannot save it from placement somewhere on the continuum of failed automotive experiments. It remains to be seen if the crossover will ultimately land in the pillowy, judgment-free zone many reserve for Subaru BRATs and BMW M Coupes, or the wasteland occupied by the Yugo GV, Cadillac Cimarron and their disappointing ilk.
The fact is that in 2013, just a few years removed from its introduction and well into its triple-digit sales years, the ZDX remains 1 of the best crossovers on the market to drive overall. This Acura offers a reasonably sporty balance between ride comfort and handling, with enough driver involvement available to push it past more run-of-the-mill members of its competitive set.
The ZDX's steering wheel might be similarly filtered of road feel, but it offers quite a dose of heft and precision when compared to a Lexus RX, for instance. Turn-in response is a bit laggy along whimsically bent pieces of road for my tastes, but its wheel offers confident weighting for holding a line on a fast exit ramp, changing lanes at speed on curved stretches of highway, or other brief moments of dynamic joy found in everyday urban motoring.
I'll admit that when taken out for a spin on a country road, the ZDX has a nose-heaviness that more or less defines its character. But the Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) and its torque-vectoring magic counterbalances the car's understeering nature just enough that it's still possible to make a decent time out of a Sunday drive. Ask for a change of direction with some rapidity and the ZDX's nose hesitates a bit, but hold your line and keep your foot in it and the power to the rear will bring the crossover body around in relatively snappy fashion. That wouldn't be high praise if I were talking about a sports sedan, mind you, but it's just about as good as it gets where luxury-oriented crossovers are concerned (notable exceptions found below).
The 3.7-liter V6 motivating this slicked-back Acura outputs 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque Ė a respectable set of figures even in today's turbocharged landscape. Of course, in traditional Honda fashion, the V6 has got to be really hammered to get the most out of it. Peak power doesn't come on until 6,300 rpm, just 500 revs short of redline, with full torque available at 4,500 rpm. So, where force-fed 6-cylinder engines like those in the Audi Q5 or the Volvo XC60 will get up and git at lazy engine speeds, Acura requires that you really work its 6-speed automatic transmission to wring performance out of the happy-to-spin mill. And, of course, the point of a CUV, even a sporty sort of CUV, is that no one is going to expend a lot of effort to make it go fast.
This isn't a driver's segment. So, unfortunately, the incremental plusses that the ZDX offers versus a bog-standard, lux crossover don't do much to move the needle. Could a higher level of performance and even more money tacked onto its bottom line have better differentiated the ZDX from the herd to the tune of meaningful sales numbers over the last 4 years? Hard to say, really. But I do come away from driving the Acura (not just this one, but much of the current lineup) with the nagging sense that it is very close to being very good to drive without actually getting there.
Still, when the ZDX was introduced, something about its fast, hunkered shape Ė riding just higher than an AWD sedan but looking nothing at all like a station wagon Ė triggered instant polarization amongst interested onlookers. There's a rakish cut to the Acura's sheetmetal that, along with the rarity of the model, stirs up a lot of attention, both good and bad. My not-at-all-car-interested neighbor waved hello the 1st day I had the ZDX, enthusiastically pointing out, "That looks like a good 1!" where most cars would have caused no comment at all. I was stopped in the middle of photographing the CUV when a fiftyish-something couple amiably posed a dozen or more question about the car, not buying it at all when I tried to convince them that the ZDX wasn't "just the same as that Honda Crosstour." (By way of reminder, the ZDX rides on the same platform as the MDX while the Crosstour's bones are shared with the gen-8 Honda Accord.)
Hey, when you see a guy with a unicorn, you're probably going to ask him about it, even if you think it's weird looking. I get that.
In the 2012 model year, Acura sold fewer than 800 examples of the ZDX. In its 1st full year on sale, 2010, Acura dealers shifted around 3,200 units, which also represents the apogee of the soon-to-be-discontinued model's yearly sales figures. Even if we assume (boldly) that the automaker will repeat its sales figures from 2012 in the final 2013 run for the ZDX, we're still talking about roughly 6,200 specimens of this unicorn running around the US, in total.
Just as a point of reference: in MY 2010, when the Acura MDX was recently facelifted but otherwise in the middle of its 2nd-generation, it outsold its crossover coupe stablemate 47,210 to 3,259. And just because I know that a few of you will wonder, the inexorably linked (thanks to introduction timing and bodystyle) and more expensive BMW X6 was sold to Americans 6,257 times in the same model year.
Ultimately, I think the failure of the ZDX to sell comes down to packaging and pricing, despite the oft-derided styling. Hear me out. Acura put together a lovely, somewhat austere cabin for the model: supple leather covers the dash, center console and door inserts, heated and cooled seats are super comfortable and even the carpeting and floor mats feel of above-average quality. For 2013, Acura is only selling the ZDX in one trim level, basically including all of the equipment from all of the options packages from years past: Panoramic glass roof, 19-inch wheels, HID headlights, navigation with voice recognition and the ELS sound system. (The quiet-at-speed ZDX cabin is still amongst my very favorite listening booths with this excellent Elliot Scheiner-tuned hi-fi system.) The all-in cost including an $895 destination fee is $51,815. And, while not meaning to be glib, that's an awful lot of cash for a CUV that has an impractical hatch and really cramped rear seats.
Even older competitors with rakish styling like the X6 and Infiniti FX37 can boast of 2 or 3 inches more headroom than the ZDX for rear seat passengers, to say nothing of cargo space. Today, the smaller-footprint Range Rover Evoque 5-door has a lofty 4.3 inches of extra headroom when compared with the Acura, to say nothing of being a better realization of the personal AWD luxury vision, getting better gas mileage and having a lower MSRP. That's before we get into 4-place crossovers and SUVs that aren't penalized by having a "4-door coupe" silhouette.
So, there are any number of reasons why you and I didn't buy a ZDX over the last 4 years, and plenty of good ones for Acura to kill the model off after 2013. But I started this review by asking how history will judge it, and the optimist in me believes that it could still find love in the years to come.
Why? In the early going at least, the rarity of the ZDX combined with still-excellent Acura residual prices should mean that the relatively small number of buyers looking for a good used example will have to pay a premium. A cursory web search shows used prices hovering in the high $20k range for cars with over 50,000 miles and well into the $30k territory for cars with 40k miles and lower. Fast-forward a few decades, and it's not a stretch to imagine that the prescription of a quirky brand, an outsider design, the utterly unique cabin and increasing rarity could cause a car club or two to spring up. Who knows, it might even be the Saab 9-2X of the 2030s?
I'm sure that's not what Acura wants to hear. The truth is that car companies don't experiment in big splashy ways as often as they used to in years past, in part because the cost associated with the risk is just way too high. And that makes me a bit sad, and it makes me want to root for iconoclasts like the ZDX all the more. I can only hope that lessons learned with this model make Acura's next experiment more successful in the marketplace; not that it causes the company to give up trying altogether. Both outcomes are possible, even if the latter is more likely.
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