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Discussion Starter #1

The 2010 Acura ZDX is the third model we've tested that combines crossover characteristics with those of a coupe, which triples the surprise. First, I was surprised anyone at BMW thought its X6 would find buyers, which made it even more surprising when Honda introduced the Accord Crosstour. Now there's the ZDX, which enjoyed something those other two lacked during our test period: more fans than detractors. Soon we'll be testing the BMW 550i Gran Turismo, based on the 5 Series sedan, which proves BMW is bullish enough to double down on the coupe/crossover design, though its $63,900 base price puts it in a league of its own.

Styling matters in all cars, but aesthetic acceptance is especially critical in one like the ZDX, which sacrifices interior space and versatility for its daring design. If you don't like how it looks, there are many more usable and versatile options.

Exterior & Styling
Honda is Acura's parent company, but the ZDX isn't a dolled-up Accord Crosstour. It's 4.4 inches shorter from bumper to bumper and 3.8 inches wider, sharing its platform with the MDX, Acura's roomier but less expensive seven-seater. The table below shows how the ZDX fits into Acura's crossover lineup.

2010 Acura Crossovers
Base price $45,495 $42,230 $32,520
Seats 5 7 5
Length (in.) 192.4 191.6 182.5
Width (in.) 78.5 78.5 73.6
Height (in.) 62.8 68.2 65.2
Passenger volume (cu. ft.) 91 142 101
Cargo volume behind backseat (cu. ft.) 26.3 42.9* 27.8
Cargo volume, backseat folded (cu. ft.) 55.8 83.5 60.6
Front headroom (in.) 38.0 39.2 38.7
Front legroom (in.) 42.6 41.2 41.8
Backseat headroom (in.) 35.3 38.6 38.3
Backseat legroom (in.) 31.1 31.1 37.7
EPA-estimated mpg (city/highway) 16/23 16/21 19/24
*Volume behind second-row seat with third row folded; space behind third row is 15.0.
Source: Acura
The ZDX is almost an inch longer than the MDX and roughly 10 inches longer and 5 inches wider than the five-seat RDX, which is Acura's entry-level crossover. See a side-by-side comparison of all the features and specs here.

I haven't been wild about Acura's styling direction lately, especially its silver shield grilles, which look their most gaudy against dark paint. Yet somehow our black ZDX looked great. The grille isn't quite as dominant, and the matching trim around the fog lights offsets it nicely. Most important, with the exception of exhaust finishers low on the rear bumper, the rear end bears no other brightwork, which does the TL sedan no favors.

When we drove the other coupe/crossover crossbreeds, reactions to the X6 were mixed, with more emotion on the negative side. The Crosstour got some credit for uniqueness, but most people didn't "get it." The ZDX, on the other hand, practically emptied out the local coffee shop, which took me by surprise. Few new models do that — even when they're the first ones anybody has seen. The consensus was positive.

Robbing Peter
If Peter's the guy inside the ZDX, he's definitely been robbed to pay Paul, who's outside appreciating the car's sleek lines. To understand how much space you get inside, note that the ZDX has less passenger and cargo volume than the RDX, as well as less headroom in the front and rear seats. Front legroom is the only dimension that's greater in the ZDX, by 0.8 inch. Backseat passengers pay the highest price, with 6.6 inches less legroom than in the RDX. In most dimensions, the MDX beats the other two models by a wide margin.

In actual use, I found the front seats plenty accommodating, with supportive cushioning and relatively aggressive side bolsters that larger occupants might find too restrictive. The backseat is another matter entirely. The first obstacle is the roofline, which is low even at its highest point, so you have to duck and fold yourself just to get through the doorway. Once inside, I was surprised my head didn't touch the ceiling; the headliner is domed right where it needs to be, behind the standard rear skylight. The legroom is workable, too, but it's only because the floor is high, which raises the knees — a position that numbs your hindquarters and gets uncomfortable pretty quickly.

Out of curiosity, I compared the ZDX with the TSX, Acura's smallest passenger car, which gives occupants almost the same front-seat legroom as the crossover and substantially greater backseat legroom and headroom. The TSX also has 3 cubic feet more passenger volume overall. No matter how serviceable you might find it, you have to acknowledge the disconnect between the ZDX's interior and its large exterior.

The same is true of cargo capacity. At first glance, the cargo area looks too small for golf clubs when the backseat is raised, though opening doors on the side walls reveals indentations that allow two bags to fit crosswise. It's a reasonable workaround, but once again its necessity shows how limited the space is for a large vehicle. The low roofline also makes for a short cargo area, so large items might not fit even with the backseat folded flat. There's a storage bin under the floor, too, but it doesn't increase the overall height: You can't leave the cover raised because it blocks the already limited rear visibility. The ZDX clearly lacks the versatility we take for granted in crossovers. If you think a trailer would make up for the skimpy accommodations, know that the ZDX's limit is 1,500 pounds.

Obstructed Views

Huge D-pillars restrict rear visibility to a narrow, relatively high rear window, and the view over the driver's left shoulder is fully obstructed. A blind spot warning system is optional in the Advance Package, which costs $10,550 and adds many features you might not want. In this car, such a safety feature should be standard or at least a stand-alone option. A backup camera is standard, which at least helps with parking and such. The display is in the rearview mirror, unless you get the optional navigation system and its larger dashboard screen.

Sporty Character

The ZDX's styling suggests a sporty driving character, and it delivers. The 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic provide robust acceleration with a nice growl at full throttle. Standard Super Handling All-Wheel Drive makes sure the power gets to the road, and the low-riding body feels grounded. SH-AWD is designed to drive the outside rear wheel faster than the other wheels when cornering, which maintains balance and improves roadholding.

Though I like the system, it has a shortcoming: If you go barreling into a turn too light on the accelerator, the ZDX exhibits understeer — its nose pushes wide like that of a dog that wants to check out the grass at the side of the road. Giving it more gas is like yanking the leash: The outer rear wheel digs in, the weight shifts and the snout gets back in line. Unfortunately, this is more reactive than proactive. It compels you to charge into turns heavy on the gas — which it typically handles impressively, but probably isn't the safest way to drive.

Vehicles whose weight distribution is more balanced than the ZDX's 57.7/42.3 percent (front/rear) — and/or that send more torque to the rear wheels at any speed — tend to transition more seamlessly into and out of high-speed curves. To be clear, this stuff happens only when you drive really aggressively. You don't notice a thing during normal driving.

Some vehicles feel smaller or lighter on the road than they actually are. The ZDX isn't one of them. It doesn't feel larger or heavier, but the fact remains it is relatively large and heavy. The steering has a pretty good feel to it, but it definitely doesn't provide enough power assist at roughly 5 mph and below. Our 12-story parking garage provided quite a workout.

A Cabin of Monolithic Impact

The interior is a high point. The main innovation is the center control panel, which Acura calls the monolith. Its dark pillar is definitely monolithic, in the "2001: A Space Odyssey" sense, but the innovation comes in the form of buttons whose labels disappear completely when you turn off the stereo. The optional navigation system's screen is high and forward on the dashboard, close to your view of the road, so it employs a multifunction controller knob instead of a touch-screen. I'm now resigned to the proliferation of these things, but they need to be closer to where you rest your hand, as they are in German luxury cars. The ZDX's is at the base of the monolith, which becomes tiresome.

Our test car had upgraded materials from the Advance Package (which also includes the Technology Package), such as perforated premium leather seats, a brushed tricot ceiling liner and additional trim. The metallic accents are nicely done; the inside door handles won't be winning any awards, but the trim on the dashboard and doors looks authentic. I thought the center console and its covered cupholder weren't bad either, though one of our editors dissented. Acura says it uses a combination of real and faux metal. I've seen authentic materials that look fake, so I care mostly about results, which are good here.

The ZDX has the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's top rating, Good, in a frontal crash test. It hasn't been tested yet for side or rear impacts or for roof strength.

Standard safety features include dual-stage front airbags, front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags and curtain airbags that cover the side windows in a side impact or rollover. The front seats have active head restraints. Antilock brakes and an electronic stability system with traction control are also standard. For a full list of safety features, click here.

A notable safety option, Collision Mitigation Braking System, uses the adaptive cruise control's grille-mounted radar sensor to monitor the road ahead. If the ZDX is closing too quickly on another vehicle or obstacle, the system alerts the driver with visual, audible and tactile signals, and can also apply emergency braking automatically.

There's a downside to this and/or the optional blind spot warning system: They set off radar detectors. Though many vehicles now employ radar, Audi is the only other brand I've known to trigger low-level alerts. As in the Audis, turning off the ZDX's blind spot feature didn't stop the racket. If you like using a detector, you'll be maddened to find you're setting it off yourself. I felt like I was in a horror film: "The call is coming from inside the house!" (For the record, radar detectors are controversial, but they are legal in all states except Virginia and the District of Columbia.)

ZDX in the Market

I don't know if many people would cross-shop Acura and BMW, but the only car that compares philosophically to the ZDX is the X6. With a starting price of $45,495, the ZDX has an $11,000 advantage over the base X6 xDrive35i. Even so, it comes with some features that aren't standard on the base X6: HomeLink, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated front seats, a six-CD changer and Bluetooth. It also beats the X6's 15/21 mpg rating. Our test ZDX's $10,550 Advance Package closed the gap with the base X6, but it obviously adds even more features. If I have a complaint about the ZDX, it's that the options come only in packages, the cheaper of which is $4,500 — not very buyer-friendly.

I'm not alone in wondering if the coupe/crossover is the answer to a question nobody asked. I don't know if Acura, BMW or Honda will sell enough of these things to justify having built them in the first place, but that's their problem. If you like the ZDX's look and don't mind the sacrifices, by all means, make your move.


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #2

BETHANY BEACH, Del. (MarketWatch) -- Give the luxury division of Honda credit for one thing. They wanted the ZDX to look like nothing else on the road and they succeeded -- with the possible exception of the BMW X6.

Over the course of a better than 300-plus-mile trip over the breathtaking Chesapeake Bay Bridge, across lots of flat agricultural land and small towns that date back to the first settlers, the ZDX turned heads. But interestingly, never did I or Mrs. Evaluator see a thumbs up or thumbs down.

For those inside the new crossover based on the popular MDX, there was nothing but luxury, quiet and comfort. The leather-bound adjustable seats (10-ways on the driver's side) were a treat. The thick steering wheel was also electrically adjustable but when set just right I found it blocked the top of the instruments.

Up top was a "panoramic glass roof with power shade" that extended the sunshine to those sitting in back and with everything exposed the gap in the roof was bigger than an Arizona beach. It was not excessively noisy with the sunroof open.

The navigation system was easy to program, although it wanted to send me to the Rehoboth Beach Fire Department instead of the town itself. No big deal since the department was a scant four blocks from our hotel.

There was also real-time traffic and weather on the navi, an unused feature on our trip because the only thing blocking the road was an occasional giant-size farm tractor, and they probably don't show up as congestion. We quickly figured out how to stop the flow of outside air to the cabin, since the farmers are, shall we say gently, fertilizing their fields these days.

Certainly, people have a valid complaint with all the buttons on the center stack (26 of them plus two knobs), but in time they are not hard to figure out. There was an excellent sound system, and the ventilation package was quick to heat and cool.

Visibility, cargo can be problems

Visibility was excellent to the front, with the exception that you have no idea where the hood ends. And that brings us to the limitations of this design. Backing out of a diagonal parking slot the driver became quickly aware of the fact that there is no visibility to the right rear quarter (or left for that matter). Fortunately, the back-up camera in the navi screen fills in the space. Visibility straight back is not great with a big black bar crossing between the upper and lower panes of glass. It tends to partially obscure rapidly approaching emergency vehicles, for example.

While the ZDX stowed a couple of suitcases through the powered hatch without lowering the second row of seats, you will not stash anything that is very tall back there due to the sharp slope of the roof. Even with the second row folded down, storage space is at a premium. A total of 56 cubic feet compared to the 57 cubic feet in a Honda Fit, for example.

Those entering the rear will find it a bit of a task, again due to that rapidly downward sloping roof. Also the higher step up given the fact the ZDX has 7.9 inches of ground clearance. Not that anyone is ever going to take it off road. The rear seat is mounted rather low and anyone taller than about 5 foot 9 will find their head brushing the roof.

Under the hood is a very refined 3.7-liter V-6 tied to an excellent 6-speed automatic with fast acting paddle shifts. Look for zero to 60 in the 8-second range. On tap are 300 horsepower with 270 lb-ft of torque. Drivers will not be embarrassed on interstate on-ramps but neither will your head snap back into the sometimes obtrusive head rest.

EPA estimates are 16-23 miles per gallon of premium unleaded. With mostly highway driving "down the ocean" as it is known locally, I got 19 mpg. Handling is about one would except for a 4,431 pound, high-off-the-ground vehicle. Leave carving up the back roads to your weekend sports car even with the all-wheel system that varies the power to the rear wheels to keep the ZDX on track.

The "advance package" on the test vehicle allowed the driver to select comfort or sport modes, and I would recommend comfort for long trips.

With $810 in delivery fees, the well equipped test mode ZDX would go out the door for $56,855.

I will leave it to Mrs. Auto Evaluator to sum things up.

She found the ZDX comfortable and the dash panel "space age."

So what about the exterior?

"Well, (long pause), if you're on the inside you don't have to look at the outside."

* Length: 192.4 inches
* Wheelbase: 108.3 inches
* Curb weight: 4,431 lbs
* Engine: 3.7-liter V-6
* Horsepower: 300 @ 6,300 rpm
* Torque: 270 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
* Base price of tested model: $56,045
* As tested: $56,855
* Warranty: 4 years 50,000 miles​

On April 13, Honda announced the recall of about 1,850 ZDX models. It wants to check the inside of the dash surface material. On some, it said the passenger-side airbag will not deploy properly. Acura said no incidents have been reported.


Look for "Crash Course" by Paul Ingrassia at your local bookstore for the definitive story on what lead to the demise of the Detroit Big Three automakers. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author is the former Detroit bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, owned by Dow Jones, as MarketWatch, the publisher of this report. Ingrassia makes the case that the demise was the fault of both union and management -- two sides that almost never saw eye to eye. Elsewhere he notes that in the early stages of the Daimler-Chrysler "merger of equals" that wasn't, the two sides of the ocean actually battled over the size of their business cards.

And before the bloggers go crazy, I bought the book with my own money and am making a personal recommendation here, not the company. "Crash Course" is must reading not only for fans of the three Detroit brands, but imported cars as well.

Vehicles tested in this column are on loan from the auto companies through local distributors.

Ron Amadon is an auto writer and morning news anchor on the MarketWatch Radio Network, based in Washington.​


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
AutoBlog pt 1

Needless to say, the 2010 Acura ZDX is a peculiar beast. And after a week's worth of testing, we're still not sure what to make of it.

But just for some context, let's begin with the fact that despite a similar fastback, five-door body style, the ZDX is not related to the Honda Accord Crosstour. Honda's jacked-up hatch is substantially larger than the ZDX and far more useful. Instead, it's best to think of the ZDX as a rake-roofed version of the MDX – a high-riding four-door coupe (assuming you buy into the marketing spiel) akin to its closest competitor, the BMW X6. Both models share similar designs and purposes – although the ZDX maxes out in price and performance where the German starts off – and both possess some of the attributes of a two-door layout – compromises and all.

Before we get to the main course, here's a little "inside baseball" info that should be included: When an automaker starts the process of launching of a new vehicle, the business, marketing and engineering teams gather together to figure out what the Next Big Thing is. Product planners show a series of charts comparing attributes like price, performance and utility, and plot out various products from both themselves and the competition. With all of that knowledge in front of them, they find an empty slot in the chart – the so-called "white space" – and proclaim that this is where their next wonderwagon will reside.

While "white space" products can yield great results (the Ford Transit Connect, original Scion xB and Subaru Forester come to mind), there are times when there's a reason for leaving the space blank. Like the X6, the ZDX may well fall into the category of "Why bother?"

Obviously, the ZDX isn't going to sway the opinion of those unenthused about Acura's current styling direction. On the other hand, this might be Acura's most successful application of its new aesthetic. From the prominent can-opener grille to its pinched tail, the overall design is far more cohesive than some of Acura's recent efforts. But despite that, it's still polarizing.

Combined with its deeply drawn doors and an inboard greenhouse, the result is a husky appearance that would be far more attractive if it were riding at the same altitude as a sedan. As it is, the ZDX looks like a rally-raid buggy built for Dakar... on Mars.

Compared to the aforementioned other vehicles, the body comes in four inches shorter than the Crosstour and just slightly longer than the X6. But where the ZDX differs from the Crosstour, MDX and its BMW doppelganger is the position of its roof and floor.

The Crosstour has six inches of ground clearance with the ZDX at 7.9 inches and the MDX at 8.2 inches. However, the ZDX has the lowest roof height, standing at 62.8 inches with the Crosstour at 65.7, MDX at 68.2 and the BMW at 66.5 inches. The reason we mention this is when you open the door there's a typical SUV tall step in, but combined with the lower door opening, taller occupants may have to duck to clear their heads, particularly in back. The high floor means you get the tall hip-point that seems to attract people to SUVs and crossovers, but the limited roof clearance requires the seat to be mounted lower to the floor. Instead of the expected upright seating position, sitting in the ZDX is almost sports car-like, aside from the fact that your rear is further from the ground.

While the seating position is peculiar in the context of the ZDX's height, the rest of the interior will be familiar to those who have sampled Acura's recent products. The sweeping dual cockpit layout in the front is similar to what you'll find in a TL or TSX. However, the strip of aluminum that spans those sedans has been slimmed down in favor of a hand-wrapped and sewn leather covering. The combination of the seamless, soft-touch upper dash and the leather trim is attractive, but there's a very visible, if minor, problem. Where the leather-covered parts sweep down to the center console, there is a seam between the upper and lower portions. Because of the leather wrapping, the seam is more prominent than it should be and fails to keep with the upscale look Acura is after. However, redemption is found in the rest of the cockpit, including a reassuringly thick steering wheel and Acura's superlatively supportive seats. And then you get to the back.

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Autoblog pt 2

The sweeping greenhouse means that even with the seat cushions mounted low, headroom is at a premium for anyone hovering around six-feet tall. Worse than that is the rear door opening, which has shrunk both vertically and longitudinally, causing more than one instance of unintended head-banging when getting in and out. Acura admits that the ZDX is targeted more towards couples, but we have to question why you have rear seats when ingress, egress and overall comfort is so severely compromised in the first place.

Acura may have sacrificed rear passenger volume to style, but luggage capacity remains plentiful. With the rear seat up, the ZDX can swallow 26.3 cubic feet, a volume that grows to 56 cubic feet with the rear thrones folded flat. The tall rear deck and flat cargo sides make for a useful luggage area, and Acura has also included a trio of hidden storage areas below the rear load floor and in each rear corner.

Pressing the red start button yields a bit of a surprise with an engine note that's decidedly more aggressive than we've grown accustomed to from Acura – up to and including the six-speed manual-equipped TL. The aural entertainment proves pleasant, especially under hard acceleration. We've always been fond of Acura's V6, and this one is no exception thanks to its 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. It revs freely to its 6,600 rpm redline and never complains about having to work hard. Of course, with the ZDX's 4,452-pound curb weight, the V6 has its work cut out for it. To be fair, a decade ago, a 0-60 mph time in the low six-second range would have been nothing to sneeze at for a 300-hp vehicle, but in 2010 it's merely so-so.

Unfortunately, Honda's all-new six speed automatic transmission doesn't help the performance situation. The steering wheel-mounted paddles allow some manual control, although tapping the flippers up or down seems to be more of a suggestion rather than a control interface – ratios will only be switched when the electronics are good and ready. Running the 3.7-liter V6 up to the far end of the tach will still trigger automatic upshifts even in "manual" mode, but on the plus side, when the cogswaps arrive, they are quick and smooth.

Acura's torque-vectoring Super Handling-All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) was one of the first such systems to come to market and remains one of our favorites. The electronically controlled clutches in the rear axle actively send drive torque to the outside wheel to help push the ZDX around a corner and counteract understeer. Press the CUV into a series of corners and it tracks through neutrally, no muss, no fuss and decidedly un-crossover-like. While the ZDX is no off-roader, if your commute includes a brisk run down a gravel road, the SH-AWD is more than capable of dealing with lower grip situations.

Unlike the TL and TSX, the ZDX retains hydraulic power steering. However, Acura has added an electronic control system to vary the amount of boost according to speed and the position of the Integrated Dynamics System (IDS). IDS adjusts the settings of the active dampers along with the steering, and the hydraulic steering assist gives the ZDX a tighter feel devoid of dead spots. We tried the IDS in both Sport and Comfort modes and ended up deferring to Sport for the majority of our drives. The suspension does a good job of soaking up the worst that Michigan roads can offer, while keeping the body level with minimal vertical motion.

Aside from the lazy transmission response, the ZDX surprised us dynamically. Unfortunately, the design imposes some serious compromises in the name of style. Assuming you can live with something closer to a 2+2 and aren't put off by the deeper seating position, the ZDX has its attributes. However, the bigger sticking point is its price tag. Our ZDX was equipped with the Advance package (adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, etc.) and stickered for a steep $56,855. The price may seem high for an Acura, but even maxed-out, that's still about $500 less than the entry tariff for an X6. The BMW is roomier and ultimately more engaging, though, and if you need more than 300 hp (and who doesn't?) the X6 offers up three different V8 options, including a hybrid and the mighty X6 M.

Ultimately, the decision to buy any vehicle upmarket of the most basic commuter involves a significant emotional element, and there is no doubt that this Acura is capable of stirring up some major gut reactions. The ZDX has arguably the best implementation to date of Acura's design philosophy and generally very good driving dynamics despite its compromised package. In the end, though, the rumblings in our gut are closer to cramped discomfort than excited butterflies. The fundamental premise of a high riding and very heavy 2+2 strikes us as silly unless you are going to take the idea to its (il)logical zenith with some insane performance like the BMW X6 M. Barring that, we'd rather see Acura's product planners focus on the kind of smaller, lighter, white spaces that Soichiro Honda likely would have filled were he still kicking around the headquarters that bears his name.

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #5

I parked a borrowed 2010 Acura ZDX on the street near my house in Washington, D.C., and when I returned I found two young men standing on the sidewalk, debating what it was.

"It looks like a Jeep,"
said one. "But it also looks like a coupe."


The 2010 X6, BMW's entry in the growing coupe-SUV segment. BMW sells just a shade under 5,000 of them a year, but because they share hardware and engineering with other vehicles, it can keep them rolling.

Acura calls the ZDX a "four-door sports coupe." You can call it a "segment buster." That's car-industry-speak for a vehicle that doesn't fit into the mainstream categories most consumers recognize.

The cars most people drive are boxes on wheels. A sedan is three boxes (hood, passenger compartment, trunk); a minivan is a rectangular box with seating for seven or eight; a sport-utility vehicle is a small box (hood) joined to a big box (for passengers and cargo).

Coupes, by contrast, are swoopy and curvy.

The Acura ZDX and a small but growing flock of vehicles in the luxury-SUV segment represent attempts by auto designers to bust out of the tyranny of the boxes by creating sporty, distinctive vehicles that have some of the function and interior spaciousness of an SUV. Early-comers to this segment-busting segment include the Infiniti FX and the Porsche Cayenne. The BMW X6 is another. And now the ZDX.

The original look for the ZDX's exterior was sketched by a young Acura designer named Michelle Christensen, and is the first Acura to be styled entirely by the brand's California design studio. The ZDX looks like an SUV from the front, but viewed from the side, it has a sharply sloping roof and no visible rear door handles. The rear doors are there, but the handles are camouflaged to blend in with the roof pillar.

The Acura ZDX has features that are part sports car, part SUV. WSJ's Joseph B. White reports on the latest addition to what auto makers are calling "segment busters."

From the inside and on the road, the 300-horsepower ZDX looks and drives like a luxury sedan. The ZDX starts at $45,495, and is rated at 16 miles per gallon in the city, 23 on the highway.

The Advance model that I drove, sticker-priced at $56,855, came with a lengthy list of bells and whistles, including a voice-controllable navigation system, heated and cooled leather-clad front seats, and two safety systems that helped me avoid wrecking the car.

The first was a "collision mitigation braking system," which I now think of as the Virtual Mom. I unwisely dropped my eyes from the road in city traffic to fiddle with some unfamiliar knob on the ZDX's fairly button-happy dashboard. The car ahead suddenly braked—without my seeing it. My real mom would have gasped and jammed her foot on an imaginary brake pedal. The ZDX's Virtual Mom emits a sharp chirping cry and starts applying the real brakes, while tightening the seat belts in anticipation of impact. End result: I stopped in time.

The other dent-saving safety feature was a system that flashed a little warning light on a display in the windshield pillars to warn me of cars hiding in my blind spots. Good thing, because one compromise resulting from the ZDX's fastback roof line is limited rearward visibility. Sometimes style requires sacrifice.

Acura's early customers are, mainly, married professionals and in their early 50s with no kids living at home and six-figure incomes, says John Watts, senior manager for strategic planning and research for Honda and Acura in the U.S.

Herb Bornack
of Orlando, Fla., says he leased a ZDX after test-driving a Land Rover and checking out a Lexus IS convertible. He likes sports cars—he was trading in a Porsche Boxster with manual transmission—but he and his wife wanted a sporty vehicle that also had all-wheel drive, an automatic transmission and a higher, SUV-style seating position.

"This thing solves the convertible problem, the sports-car problem, the all-wheel-drive problem,"
says Mr. Bornack, 55 years old, who is chief technical officer for Orlando Business Telephone Systems and likes the tech gadgets that Acura features in the vehicle. "It was a mishmash all in one." The 6-foot-1 Mr. Bornack, says the head and legroom in the rear seats are a bit tight for someone his size. But he's not sitting back there.

It may come as a letdown for America's 30-somethings that car makers are still focused on the needs and desires of baby boomers, but so it goes. The auto industry's grinding, two-decade effort to move beyond high-volume mass production is paying off just in time to indulge boomers with low-volume niche vehicles designed for people who don't want to act their age.

"They like performance, they want to stand out, they don't want to drive what everyone else has," says Jeff Schuster, executive director of forecasting at the market-research firm J.D. Power & Associates.

The urge to blend sports-car styling with vehicles that can carry more than a Gucci gym bag is spreading. Mercedes-Benz previewed last week at the Beijing Motor Show what it calls a "Shooting Break" concept vehicle that provides "a further insight by Mercedes designers into the possible future development of the Coupe concept." In other words, please don't call it a big station wagon.

Could these coupe-SUVs be the next big automotive thing? Mr. Schuster guesses probably not, and Honda appears to agree.

Honda Motor Co., Acura's parent, expects to sell just 5,000 ZDXs a year, Mr. Watts says. It can afford to go ahead with such a low-selling vehicle because under the curvaceous exterior, the ZDX shares a lot of hardware and engineering with the more-conventional Acura MDX and Honda Pilot SUVs.

The BMW X6 is the No. 1 vehicle that shoppers viewed after checking out the ZDX. BMW sells just a shade under 5,000 X6s a year, but because it shares hardware and engineering with other vehicles, BMW can keep it rolling.

Segment busters such as the ZDX get a lot of attention from the motoring press and the auto-design community. But they're not for everyone. After all, the best-selling ice cream flavor in America is still vanilla.

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Colorado Wheels

If you were unencumbered by traditional realms of aesthetics, what would you design? Phillip Johnson imagined a glass house, Frank Lloyd Wright waded through Falling Water, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe brought Germany’s famed Bauhaus stateside. They pushed the boundaries and changed our perception of home and habitat. Great stylists like Gordon Buehrig, E.T. Gregorie, and Raymond Loewy did the same for automobiles, styling beautiful Duesenbergs, Cords, Lincolns, and Studebakers. Those cars were also engineering marvels ? like the Acura ZDX.

Get a load of that rump! Rear views are exotic wide, fabulously chunky, and look like something out of Demolition Man with its Hurst Olds-intimidating twin exhaust outlets and metrosexually body-smooth taillamps. From the front, ZDX looks like any other contemporary Acura with its satin silver shield grille design, cats-eye headlamps, and muscular fenders. The side profile is absolutely fab with a rear-sloping roofline, upturned rear side window, and doorhandles hidden in the window trim. I love the big fat rear fenders with subtle humps to accentuate the beefy 19″ alloy wheels.

Acura calls the ZDX a four-door sports coupe. Although the car rides crossover high, getting inside is much like crawling aboard a luxurious two-door. You kinda wedge yourself under the steering wheel, careful not to bump your head on the roof. Rear passengers will rehearse their contortionist routines as they shimmy up and behind the doorframe while ducking. Kids can do it better. If you want a big gaping crossover, go buy an RDX or MDX. There’s something intimate and special about riding in the ZDX. LED cabin lighting shines on a gallery of stitched leather dash and door coverings, ultra lovable leather-wrapped steering wheel, and cavernous sculpted center console.

Once inside, you’ll want for nothing. Supportive heated and cooled leather seats seemingly grip all of the way to your groin while treating your lower back brilliantly on long drives. Bluetooth hands-free calling, XM Satellite Radio, USB connectivity for full iPOD integration, and Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition confirm your arrival in the future. A panoramic glass roof, power tailgate, multi-view rear camera, blind spot warnings, adaptive cruise control, and Collision Mitigating Braking System align all of the electrons and photons for your driving pleasure. Everything feels and smells like a ten-star hotel with enough electronic toys to inspire Best Buy to better good.

If you need extra space for your Louis Vuittons, pop down the rear seats, open the glass dome of a rear hatch, and free up 55.8 cubic ft. Crafty little critters that they are, Acura’s designers created removable side panels in the rear compartment to fit golf bags even with four aboard. Under floor storage works great for smaller objects that you do not want spied.

Acura’s 3.7-litre V6 is a beauty in its own right. Producing 300 horsepower and 270 lb.-ft. of torque, the SOHC aluminum engine moves this fashion show along faster than a caffeine-strung Christian Siriano and hits its stride like Lance Armstrong humping through France. The six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters seems to read your wishes and shifts on-cue. Fuel economy ratings of 16/23-MPG aspire to V8-powered BMWs, requiring a 21-gallon fuel tank to make substantial progress. Acura might want to put the ZDX on a diet or crib sister Honda’s hybrid tech.

Some of the ZDX’ razzle-dazzle takes place under the drapery. Super Handling All-Wheel Drive? (SH-AWD), and ample ground clearance for snow and crud, provides excellent all-weather capability. However, Acura goes further by actively shifting torque for an active steering affect and sometimes a rear-power bias for spirited performance. Adding to the fun is the available Integrated Dynamics System (IDS), which connects the four-wheel-independent suspension system to active dampers and speed-sensitive steering for a relaxed demeanor in “Comfort” mode or ripped and ready when switched to “Sport” mode. With the switch, steering becomes more aggressive and the suspension becomes firmer.

Go ahead, deride the ZDX if you must. You might take a glance at Buehrig’s Cord 812 Beverly, Gregorie’s 1940 Lincoln Continental, or Loewy’s Studebaker Avanti before you do. All of those cars were thought of as odd or ugly in their day, were technically advanced, and are now considered works of art. None come close to the engineering barrage brought to bear against the BMW X5, Mercedes ML, or Cadillac SRX. Be prepared for the $56,855 as tested sum to melt your kryptonite card.

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
AskMen Canada

AskMen Canada
Acura ZDX Total ScoreA: 86

The AM Take

The ZDX is based on the MDX SUV platform, has an MDX-like 7.9 inches of ground clearance, four doors and a rear lift gate -- but don’t dare call it an SUV. Acura insists that the ZDX is a sports coupe designed for two.

Acura all but ignores talk of backseat occupants to focus on how the space aft of the front seats is right-sized for a couple’s vacation luggage. Acura is also quick to point out that the rear bench folds flat and flush to allow for even more cargo-swallowing capability.

But is the ZDX any good? Acura gave us a first drive so that we could find out for ourselves.

A measure of this car's ride and power, relative to its price score: 80

The Acura ZDX is a bit of a contradiction, and we’re not talking about its design or marketing team-created classification. It’s a sports coupe designed for two, but Acura also wants it to isolate occupants from the tedium of driving. Though Acura says the ZDX was tuned to deliver an exhilarating driving experience, we feel that the car is more of a cruiser.

Powering the ZDX is a 3.7-liter, 300-horsepower V6. This engine is mated to a six-speed Sequential SportShift automatic transmission and Acura’s Super Handling-All Wheel Drive system. It’s a solid powerplant that provides a good kick in the pants when it wants to; the challenge is convincing the ZDX to give you that kick. It’s like the e-throttle has been tuned for smoothness rather than response, meaning it seems to take forever to get the Acura to move with any sense of urgency.

The steering feels lighter and lazier than we’d like. Step up to the Advance Package and one can select a “sport” setting for the steering, which artificially makes the steering feel heavier, but otherwise doesn’t make much of a difference. However, the big Acura does turn in well and it can tackle a challenging twisty with relative ease. We credit this cornering capability to a robust chassis and a very stiff suspension.
Rated similarly
* BMW 128i 82
* 2010 Acura RDX SH-AWD 82
* 2010 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic 81
* Lexus IS F 80
* Infiniti FX50 80
* Aston Martin DB5 80​

A measure of this car's aesthetic appeal, relative to its price score: 91

We know that this Acura doesn’t look that great in pictures, but trust us when we say that it’s much more appealing in person. Acura says that the ZDX is the first vehicle to fully feature its “Keen Edge” design language, and design nerds will talk endlessly about the tension seen in the surfaces and how the lines seem to pull at one another.

The only thing we took away from the design lecture was the Acura ZDX features the deepest rear quarter panel in the company’s history. It’s massively flared, and it does look good. In fact, the ZDX is downright sexy when viewed from the rear or a rear three-quarter angle. From the front, well, let’s just say that the long nose has yet to grow on us.

Acura has definitely hit a homerun with the ZDX’s interior. The interior boasts a stunning design thanks to its dual “pod” layout, sculpted concave surfaces and angular, blacked-out “monolith” center stack. Many of the surfaces are wrapped in hand-selected full-hide premium leather, and to steal an idea from the Acura PR spiel, this interior really does remind one of a high-end luxury hotel. Everything inside the ZDX is pleasing to the eye and to the touch.

Acura equates “technology” with “luxury,” and the ZDX has just about every electronic gadget you can think of, including blind spot warning systems, wide view rear cameras, radar-guided cruise control, and a voice-activated sound system. One new technology seen in the ZDX is the active noise-canceling speaker system. Just like a pair of Bose headphones, the ZDX uses its speakers to cancel out unwanted noise-causing frequencies. This system is on at all times -- even when the stereo is off. Noise was never an issue in the ZDX’s cabin, so we guess that this system works rather well.

We probably should complain about the cheap-feeling exterior rear door handles, the lack of passenger room in the back or the horrid view out the rear, but our time in the car was short, so we’ll save the complaints for when we do a full review of the ZDX.
Rated similarly
* Ford F-150 Lariat 93
* BMW 128i 92
* Aston Martin DBS 92
* Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano 91
* Porsche 911 91
* Porsche Cayman S 91​

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #8

Well this was unexpected: we spent a week in the Acura ZDX and it was terrific. We hadn't given any thought to the quizzical SUV-meets-flying-saucer-looking ride, and that emptiness of mind continued right up to the moment we opened the front door and realized that the roof of the ZDX sits above the driver's seat almost like the roof on the Aston Martin DBS Carbon Black we were just in. Except for the cabin being about a foot higher off the ground, which completely screwed up our reference points. But even though we're still not exactly sure of what it is, we know we liked it, and that's what this thing called life is really all about, no?

Let's start by piecing the ZDX together from the inside, out, starting with its very well done cabin – perhaps Acura's finest cabin to date. The company has created a dual cockpit without gimmickry. There is no angled center console; rather, gunwales along the center tunnel run into twin arcs that curve across the dash and into the doors, embracing both the driver and passenger. In other instances this kind of thing is attempted with an angled center console, which actually creates a feeling of having a driver's cockpit and a place for some dead weight next to him. In the ZDX, there really is a sense of a cabin for two.

Acura went all the way on detailing for the effect as well: hand-stitched leather wraps multi-dimensional contours, so that both the leather colors and sheer relief stand out from the other panel elements. Lighter colors reveal the seams in the well bolstered seats, and with a fleeting glance the bucket area of the seats resembles the pocket of a baseball mitt, which is not a bad association.

Behind those front seats are two smaller chairs, best left to those who don't exceed 5' 11". It has 35.3 inches of rear headroom, about two inches less than the BMW X6 and an 1.5 inches less than the BMW 328i Coupe. We'll get to this later, but it's the latter number that's more important, because the Acura wants you to think of the ZDX as a sports coupe.

The ZDX has about 2.5 inches less legroom in the back than the 3 Coupe as well, but don't let the number deceive: we're 5' 11" and with the front seat in our preferred driving position, there was still a good couple of inches between our knees and the back of the front seat. Would we want to ride in the back of the ZDX to our Spring Break hotel in Daytona Beach? No. But we wouldn't want to do that in a 328 Coupe or an X6, either, if we could help it.

And Acura doesn't pitch the car that way, the same way BMW doesn't stress the 3 Coupe having seating for four. The ZDX is aimed at you "DINK"s – Dual Income No Kids – who don't need to carry extra people but want a decent spot of room when that duty calls. Although Acura says the ZDX is a five-seater, it can seat five, but with those deeply scalloped sides eating up three-wide shoulder room in back, if you can put that fifth person somewhere other than that middle seat you might want to think about it.

On another marketing note, the ZDX is for DINKs to go on "Passionate Getaways," which, in the words of Acura, is "the idea that the car is perfect for two people who want to get away for the weekend. Enough cargo space for their luggage and whatever they buy along the way." You'll want to save the passion for your hotel room, though – certain other frivolities are no-can-do in the ZDX.

While there might be no room for passion, there will be plenty of room for luggage: 26.3 cubic feet of swallow-space with the rear seats up, 56 cubic feet with them flat, both those numbers just slightly less than you'll find in the BMW X6.

In front of that cabin is a 3.7-liter, all-aluminum six-cylinder VTEC with 300 horsepower and 270 foot-pounds of torque. At 4,452 pounds those 300 horses won't snap your neck when you mash the gas, but they're certainly brisk enough to give you the right answer to "Can I squirt into that gap in traffic?" Those horses really need the spurs to get going, but once they know you mean it the six-speed transmission will drop as many gears as necessary to get you where you want to go.

Underneath that cabin is Acura's Super Handling-All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). There's a ton of science and engineering and physics involved, but we can spare that lecture here. All you need to know is that it sends torque to the proper outside wheel to counteract understeer, that it's fantastic, and that Acura should get a lot more credit and a lot more press for its achievement.

On top of that, our car had the Integrated Dynamic System with active dampers, which meant that as the ZDX was sharply steering its way through tight, fast corners it remained flat and level. It drives like a properly sorted, sporty sedan – not at all like a tall, heavy SUV.

Now to the main event: the item wrapped around that cabin. That would be the body, and that is what has caused people to look at the ZDX and Acura and wonder, "Uh... wut?"

First, there's Acura's design language. We have never heard anyone yet describe it as "meh." You dig it totally. Or you don't. At all. You can make your own decisions, but we do believe that this is the best application of the language that was introduced on the 2009 TSX. Given the size, space and complimentary curves to properly coalesce, the aesthetics have a clear voice and we understand those who dig it totally.

Second is the design itself, outside of the shield surfacing. It was penned by 25-year-old Michelle Christensen, an American, at the Acura Design Studio in Los Angeles, and her intent was to sketch out the combination of an SUV and a sports coupe. This kind of genetic recombination, still in its infancy, is of course going to produce something new to the eye, and the ZDX presents all kinds of new aspects from various angles.

From the front it's wide, cut up by numerous angles, and you can sense its intensely protruding curvature coming at you. From the side it's long in front, truncated in the rear. From the back it's narrow up top, sliding swiftly and decisively outward into width and strong haunches that anchor the base of the vehicle. It's half an inch longer and half an inch wider than an X6, but the X6 is four inches taller. The three-quarter view is probably the closest you'll get to anything "normal," but even then you need to turn your head and squint a bit.

If due to a sudden cataclysm it left some sort of fossil-like imprint on a rock, we could see archeologists in the distant future asking, "Was it some kind of dinosaur?" Nothing else looks like it, not only in the automotive world, but anywhere.

Acura's VP of sales said this about their creation: "The ZDX is truly a luxury performance coupe – plus." It's that "plus" part that's kept folks guessing. The floor of the ZDX sits high, but the driver's seat sits low. You get in expecting to hoist yourself up into an SUV-level throne, but then take a position somewhere between a sedan and an SUV. Meanwhile, the roof is pulled taut over the cabin, so close to your follicles that the first thing you'll think is, "Oh, hey, that's the roof... right there." With the high door sill, low seat and low roofline, it really is like climbing inside a jacked-up sports car – which, again, was the point. Imagine getting in a Porsche 911 with a ten-inch lift, that's what the cabin is like.

But what... is it?

As far as we're concerned, there's no guessing to be done with this vehicle. It is a ZDX, and we think any honest answer should stop there. Stories on Acura's latest always get around to the 'It's odd and we don't really know where it belongs or who buys it' issue. Some suggest it's not practical, that it doesn't have enough space, that rear headroom is dear, that it isn't... well, what is it again?

We think that's the wrong question. We could answer "It is a vehicle with solid pep, a hot cabin, great handling and plenty of room for two-plus and oodles of gear."

But beyond that, a categorical answer is irrelevant. Who cares what you want to call it or what category it might or might not fit into. It is the ZDX. It has enough headroom, space, and practicality for the ZDX. If you need more space, then you should check out the MDX or the TSX SportWagon.

But a blanket statement like "The ZDX isn't practical" is the same as saying "A Komodo Dragon isn't practical." Isn't practical for what? If you looking for cuddly company that might make a great excuse to meet your hot neighbor, then no, a Komodo Dragon isn't for you. If you're an Indonesian forest and you need something to get rid of rampant buffalo and deer, then a Komodo Dragon is exactly what you need. Practicality, space, headroom, and yes, Komodo Dragons, they're all relative.

What you like, on the other hand, isn't.

And once you know this is a ZDX, the only other question should be, "Do I like it?" If the answer is "Yes," then damn the torpedoes. And the Komodo Dragons. You know what to do.

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #9

I was prepared to dislike both the Honda Accord Crosstour, the chubby wagonish crossover based on the Accord, and its more upscale cousin, the Acura ZDX, the highly sculpted crossover based on the minivanish MDX.

Instead, I’ve come to some degree of understanding for these two highly niche products—with reservations. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised with some of what’s going on with these respective wagons—though you still can’t help but wonder what might’ve been in each case. What follows is a look at both, rather than a comparison, since cross-comparing these Honda/Acura products will happen very rarely in the real-world marketplace.

Meat + Potatoes

The Honda Crosstour is anything but cheap. My 4WD EX-L NAV tester ran $36,930; $30,380 is the sticker for the base model with FWD. And while this may be billed as a more useful car than the Accord sedan, the Honda Fit, a car that’s three feet shorter than the Accord Crosstour, and over 1,000 lbs. lighter, has more cubic feet of storage — 51.3 for the Crosstour vs. 57.3 for the Fit, rear seats folded flat in both.

And you could buy two Fits for the price of one Crosstour.

But numbers don’t always tell the whole story. The Crosstour buyer would be rewarded with far greater passenger room, especially for rear seat occupants, where shoulder, hip, and knee room are far more generous in the Crosstour than the Fit. Likewise, the longer Crosstour is a very comfortable highway cruiser; the Fit is jumpier, especially for passengers.

Also, because the Crosstour is so much longer than the Fit, long loads are more easily stowed inside; a trip to the lumber yard was no sweat, and I brought back several eight-foot two-by-fours (that stretched from tailgate to dash, front seat reclined all the way). Another trip to the garden center (see photo) and the Crosstour swallowed eight bags of pine bark mulch and several more of potting soil plus a few pots and assorted supplies. One nifty feature: beneath the cargo floor there’s a tilted, washable plastic bin. It’s big enough to swallow several grocery bags and is deep enough to keep them from shifting during driving.

Ah, yes, driving.

The Crosstour, happily, isn’t built on a truck chassis. While its six inches of ground clearance is decidedly un-SUV-like, especially vs. competition like the high-riding Subaru Outback (8.7 inches), and that might make it less of a snow plow come winter (Subaru buyers in Vermont will never switch), the all-wheel drive system is really more of a back-up plan anyway. If the front tires slip, power is sent to the rears, but otherwise this is a front driver and that makes it reasonably fuel efficient (17 city/25 highway); we got about 21 mpg on a mix of urban and rural motoring, which included some semi harrowing darting through stop-and-go gridlock in the Bronx.

Speaking of which, the Crosstour does even that sort of dance with reasonable alacrity; you can muscle around double-parked cars and mash the gas to dart into an opening in traffic and response from the 271hp V-6 is decently muscular. Incidentally, that motor has a cylinder deactivation system to save fuel, and during cruising can run on four or three cylinders. An “ECO” light in the console lets you know the system is working, but otherwise there’s zero sense of increased vibration or shuddering when you get back on the throttle.

Aggressive driving isn’t this big Honda’s forte. Steering feel is a tad sedated, and the tall, 225/60/R18 Michelin Latitude tires mush around corners, scrubbing and howling if you decide to play. The Crosstour is just agile enough, but no sports sedan.

There is a bit of the Teuton in this car though, in the interior, where function is king. The front seats are firm but totally comfortable; the nav system continues to be one of the best in the business, recalculating when the driver zigs instead of zags without delay; and iPod integration is likewise excellent, mirroring the menu organization of the Apple device so it's more intuitive to the owner of said player.

Would that Honda had also carried some of this form-following-function logic to the tail of the Crosstour, where the aft view is decidedly poor (big C pillars are the issue). Get the backup camera option or you’ll ding your Crosstour the first time you visit the supermarket.

Gawk or Gaze?

There’s an ad on TV that features the Acura ZDX and we see a stylish woman having her head turned by the crossover rolling by. We see the ZDX from the front very briefly, then from the side. Somehow, the woman is floored. But you have to wonder what’s she’s thinking, because the nose of this vehicle is decidedly odd. A friend said the visage of the ZDX reminded him of a Japanese cartoon character’s face, and he wasn’t referring to the endearing Hello Kitty! that little girls love.

Then again from behind the wheel the ZDX is fairly glorious. A tower of buttons wraps around a shield-like center console; dual eyebrows of leather curve off to the left and right, starting at the driver and passenger’s knees, bending around beneath the dash and back around toward the doors. This is a dramatically rendered space, with curves and arcs and intersections of metal and softer fabrics -- Frank Gehry would approve. And, from the outside, looking at the car side-angle on, you could say the same thing — there’s a lot of drama in the surface, and a tautness that looks exciting. You don’t have to love it, but it’s not boring no matter what you think.

But, like the BMW X6 and the Infiniti FX, there’s a question of who exactly needs a tall crossover shaped like a coupe. And with the ZDX that question continues to crop up regardless of what you think of the styling.

For one thing, second-row ingress and egress are egregiously restrictive -- you have to duck very carefully to climb aboard, and unless you’re under 5’ 10” there’s no way you’re riding back here. Unlike with the Crosstour, you can’t argue that this is a well packaged vehicle for utility: there’s less rear seat legroom than in the Honda Fit, a mere 31.1 inches, and the cargo hold, even with the rear seats down, is still two cubic feet short of what that tiny Fit offers. Now recall that the ZDX is based on the MDX, which offers nearly 30 cubic feet more cargo room than the ZDX and seats seven, and you just have to scratch your head in wonder.

On the plus side, again because like the Crosstour this is a long hatchback, you can make use of that length and carry home eight-foot pieces of lumber.

Not a Sports Sedan….but

The ZDX is styled as if it were a tall sports sedan. This isn’t quite what you’re getting, and unlike, say, the TL, this Acura rides high and is about 500 lbs. heavier.

The roughly 4,400 lb. (depending on the model) ZDX can feel somewhat agile, especially in sport mode — our ZDX came with the Advance package, which includes an adjustable suspension that uses a magnetic-fluid damper system to instantly firm the suspension as a computer senses increased yaw or pitch. It also comes with Super Handling all-wheel drive, one of the better adaptive all-wheel systems on the market, because it doesn’t just measure slip but understeer; if the car begins to “push” wide of an intended apex it sends more juice to the outside rear wheel, jamming that big butt around so you stay on your line.

But no amount of electronic hocus pocus can make a car this tall corner like a lighter vehicle that sits lower. Yes the six-speed, 300hp V-6 combo is impressive for its freely revving character, quick upshifting and willingness to hold a high revving gear for more chassis control -- or upshift to the point of lugging the engine if you’re driving on slippery surfaces.

But this only gets you so far. You can have a much sportier crossover in the muscular Infiniti FX50 or a more engaging overall package in the BMW X6, with superior legroom and cargo room in the BMW. And given that our tester Acura ran to $56,045, an Audi Q7 isn’t out of the question as competition, since that crossover at least offers more utility, all-wheel drive, and not especially horrendous fuel economy for a big vehicle (14 city/19 highway versus 16 city/ 23 highway for the Acura).

Honda vs. Acura

The Crosstour makes some sense.

There’s a Honda-only buyer who won’t buy a true crossover, like the CR-V or the quirky Element. So they’ll buy a Crosstour, a more traditional sedan with a bit more utility, a good ride that’s less numb than much of the competition.

The ZDX, meanwhile, is in a worse spot than the Crosstour, in part because Acura as a brand doesn’t have a firm fan base. Where BMW can build smash-roofed crossovers because it has built its brand on the perennially strong selling 3-series (BMW’s core product, mind you, is also very inexpensive relative to the rest of its offerings), Acura’s following is far softer.

For over a decade that’s been the way with Acura, ever since the Legend and, later, Integra marques were snuffed out. These were cars with passionate customers; these were cars built from a sporting, aggressive, playful mindset. Today, though, Acura can’t decide whether to chase pure luxury, a la Lexus, or performance, like BMW.

The game plan clearly exists, however.

Audi is following the BMW angle with increasing sales of its A3/A4, and even Infiniti, which through Q1 2010 matched Acura’s sales on the car side (with two, rather than three models) has the strong selling, purpose-built G series, probably still the best Infiniti there is.

But instead of an Acura built to foster future Acura sales, we get the rebadged European Honda Accord, the TSX. In what way does this car match the BMW 3-series? None, save the $30k-ish price.

Unless and until Acura commits to killing it with its base car it cannot expect great success with niche models like the ZDX. You have to start with the base of the pyramid before you can add small adornments.

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #10


* High commanding view high like an SUV
* Seriously comfortable seats
* Excellent handling ability
* Really fun to drive
* Roomy interior
* A place for everything and everything in its place
* Massive panoramic glass moonroof
* Gorgeous styling


* Back seats aren’t really geared for tall people
* Manual and automatic shifting from 1st to 2nd was sluggish (that could just be a tuning issue)
* I felt like the rear-view mirrors could have been a *bit* larger​

Wow. The ZDX is one gorgeous automobile. Whether you wan to call it a car, a crossover, or a luxury sports coupe, it’s really easy on the eyes. The ZDX has a few, unique distinctions: it was the first vehicle to be completely designed at Acura’s Southern California design studio. Also, it was engineered in Ohio, making the ZDX the most American made Acura.

Even though the ZDX is a 5-passenger vehicle, the emphasis was clearly geared more towards the driver and the front passenger. The front seating area had tons of room. Plenty of room to move around freely. The back seating area felt cramped to me – headroom wise. While I had no trouble getting my bicycle to fit, the human comfort component was lacking a bit. I felt like maybe the sloping of the roof contributed to feeling as though the rear-seating ceiling was really low.

Fuel Economy:
Advertised: 16 mpg in the city, and 23 mpg highway (19 mpg combined)
Actual: 19.6 mpg (had I driven more highway miles, it would have been better. The city driving really pulls the mileage down, down, down).

Driving Impressions:
The ZDX is an impressive ride. Even though it sits up higher like an SUV, the seating is low to the car floor, giving the distinct impression of sitting in a sports car. And it handles almost exactly like a sports car. Once you slip it into “sport” mode and drive with the paddle shifters (which are really nice in this car), you feel just like you’re in a hot little sports car. It was a blast to drive! The turning radius was pretty tight, given the size of the car. While it doesn’t have the turning radius of a true sports car, it’s better than a lot of cars, SUVs and crossover vehicles.

Even with the transmission in automatic mode, you can utilize the paddle shifters to drop the gear a bit when climbing, passing someone, or just getting yourself slowed a bit approaching a tight corner, traffic light or stopped traffic. The ZDX was zippy and fun in either manual (sport) or automatic mode.

The panoramic moonroof is simply stunning. It seems like nearly the entire top of the car is glass. While it isn’t the same as driving a convertible, it seems to be about as close as you can get to driving one — without the sunburn and bad hair.

Not a peep out of the ZDX which would indicate anything other than quality construction. Doors closed easily and felt solid, not heavy. Manually opening and closing the rear hatch required minimal effort and the power liftgate was a welcome luxury when your hands/arms are wrapped around multiple packages.

Everything on the interior was like “buttah” and slid open easily and then closed back in place nicely. Solid, quality construction is evident throughout the cabin. Interior and exterior door handles were easy to grasp and well-placed. As far as the exterior, I felt like every section of the ZDX was perfectly blended into the next piece, for a flawless, and sexy line. With the door handle for the rear doors positioned above the door, the flow of the rear beltline is smooth and uninterrupted.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics:

The good:
Very unique in that you feel like you’re climbing into an SUV (tall!), but when you sit down, you’d swear you’re in a sports car. The seats are low to the floor once you’re inside the car, so it really does feel like you’re sitting in a sports car! And the seats are really, really comfortable! Sitting in the driver’s seat, felt like sitting in your favorite chair at home, only way nicer leather!

LOVE the push-button ignition controls and proximity keys. Nice to not have to insert a key into the ignition, unless you really want to, or fumble for your keys when you approach the car to get in.

Everything in the interior area of the vehicle blended and matched perfectly. Compartments and cubbyholes all over the place, but none of them stood out as unsightly. I wasn’t sure if I’d like the two-tone leather interior, but it really grew on me. The coloring was nice and offset the vehicle color perfectly.

Acura ZDX center storage/armrestAcura ZDX front seatsAcura ZDX view of cockpit

The bad:

The back seats. While they were comfortable to sit in, I felt like my head was really close to touching the ceiling (it wasn’t). I’m not tall by any stretch of the imagination (5′6″), so if I felt cramped back there, anyone taller might feel more uncomfortable just trying to fit back there, or get in. I also nearly hit my head exiting the back seat. Had I been in a hurry, I’d have slammed the side of my head pretty good. One guess though: if you did it once, you’d probably not do it again. But given that, it’s safe to say that the back seat would be strictly for small adults or kids (or a bike).

With its 300 hp 3.7 liter SOHC 24-Valve VTEC V6 engine, it was tough to keep the ZDX at (or near) the speed limit. Pretty impressive performance for an AWD vehicle! Although, I shouldn’t be surprised, after testing the Acura TL SH-AWD car in 2009 – the ZDX was similarly impressive.

It was really fun to drive using the Sequential Sport Shift (manual mode) and paddle shifters! But even in automatic, the ZDX performed extremely well, accelerating more than adequately when asked to do so.

ZDX handling characteristics were impressive. While the ZDX is tall like an SUV, it never felt cumbersome, off-kilter or overweight. It handled like a very sporty car, which included the excellent turning radius and solid feel rounding a tight corner at speed. I even had a really positive experience parallel parking it in front of my building the first night. In the dark and rain, no less!

In a single word: HOT.

The ZDX is clearly one of the hottest, and best-designed cars to come out in 2010. From front to back, it’s one long, graceful arc. The outside rear door handles are integrated into the panel above the rear door and just aft of the rear door glass such that they’re scarcely noticeable. Not a piece of this car detracts from its beauty. Don’t believe me? Go drive one. People stopped and stared at the ZDX as I drove by.

Not only does the ZDX look good, it looks like it could pounce on you and kick your butt. It looks READY. Ready to go fast. Ready to go for a long drive. Ready to go drive in the mountains. Ready to show you that it’s not your average SUV, crossover, or even luxury car. Ready to take your breath away.

Being a luxury class vehicle, the ZDX is not really economically priced. The model we tested came in at around $50,000. But for that money, you get a seriously nice vehicle. Almost all of the standard and additional options are listed below, for quite the impressive array of features.

Safety features included: Driver and front-passenger dual-stage airbags, drivers and passenger side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags with rollover sensor, vehicle-stability assist, ABS, electronic brake distribution, 3-point seat belts (front ones with automatic tensioning), active front head restraints, tire pressure monitoring system, side-impact door beams, daytime running lights and the LATCH system for child seats.

The tested vehicle had the tech package which adds $4,500 over the base trim. The Technology Package includes the following standard features: XM® Satellite Radio, MP3/auxillary jack, USB Audio Interface, Radio Data System, Bluetooth® Audio, Driver Recognition Memory System, Driver’s 10-way Power Seat, Front Passenger 8-way Power Seat, Heated Front Seats, Homelink System, Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink, Front Auto Up/Down Windows, Acura Personalized Settings, Auto-dimming Rear-view Mirror, Power Tailgate, Panoramic Glass Roof with Sunshades, 19″ x 8.5″ Alloy Wheels, P255/50 R19 All-Season Tires, Xenon HID Headlights, Fog Lights and Heated Power Door Mirrors with Turn Indicators.

Acura Navigation system with voice recognition and multi-view rear camera, AcuraLink Communication system with real-time traffic and weather, sport seats with perforated premium leather trim, Acura ELS surround-sound system with 10 speakers and AM/FM/DVD-A, CD, DTS, Dolby ProLogic II, Hard Disk Drive, push-button ignition, GPS linked, dual-zone auto climate control with air-filtration system, and the Keyless Access System with Security System.

If having a head-turning, sporty, fun, luxury performance-oriented crossover is your cup of tea, get one! I had a heck of a good time driving it, and it served my needs rather well. I haven’t driven a car that turned so many heads in quite some time, and it was really entertaining to see how folks reacted to it.

RATING 	5.0 	4.75 	5.0 	5.0 	5.0 	4.5 	4.9/A-
Who should buy it?
The ZDX will cover you for pretty much every scenario, except a family greater than 2 adults and 3 small kids! It was almost too pretty to put my dog in and I’d be hard-pressed to put a dirty mountain bike in it without completely covering the interior with a sheet of plastic, but it was a great, all-around car. The ZDX drove great, hauled all my stuff around, and I even felt comfortable hiding my laptop in the secret compartment in the back while I was out bike riding (the word is out now!). It drives nice in the city, on the highway and with its awesome AWD, the Acura ZDX can carve up a mountain road better than Iron Chef Morimoto preparing a sushi dinner for six.


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
Driver's Log

EDITOR WES RAYNAL: This is a weird car. It’s a polarizing shape for sure: Some love it and some said it was ugly. It’s new enough in the market that it attracts some attention, but people don’t know what it is yet. Plenty thought it was an Infiniti. I think it looks kind of cool. I also think the interior is terrific, comfortable and well built. I did whack my head once getting in, but I learned to duck quickly.

The ZDX drives well. The six-cylinder is smooth and peppy. There is a lot of grip, and I’m a believer in this super-handling all-wheel-drive. It’s hard to get the car out of shape in corners. Generally, it was a pleasant conveyance on the weekend.

I’m not sure what the ZDX is for, exactly, and I don’t know why one wouldn’t just buy an MDX, which is so much less of a compromised vehicle. I suppose its Acura’s version of the BMW X6.

SENIOR EDITOR FOR NEWS BOB GRITZINGER: I’m not sure whether this is a squished MDX or a TL tall--either way, it’s an unusual design that draws a lot of double takes. And I think most of those second looks were of the approving variety. Oddly, as you approach the parked car from the front, it appears much smaller than it is; once you’re upon it, the entire height, width and length becomes apparent, and it’s no longer quite so small and sporty looking.

From behind the wheel, however, the ZDX is plenty sporty, with a lot of power and flexibility built into its various moving parts. The engine/transmission set up is particularly punchy, getting this nearly 4,500-pound trucklet moving in short order. Switching between the comfort and sport modes for the suspension produces noticeable results, with the sportier setting providing a seriously tauter ride.

Overall, I like the packaging and could even live with the compromised cargo space to get this unique look in my driveway. From my perspective, it’s the freshest, cleanest and more interesting take on the crossover that we’ve seen in quite a while. And it may be the first Acura wearing this giant-fanged front face where it actually fits.

SENIOR WEB REPORTER GREG MIGLIORE: The ZDX looks a like a real-life concept car stolen from the floor of an auto show. I really like the looks. They’re polarizing, different, angular and intriguing. I got plenty of stares in the car.

Acura makes an impressive effort here with the design. The wide hips and sharp angles of the roof really are striking, and the big wheels, bold grille and detailed headlights are very complementary to the silhouette. I like the concealed door handles in back and the way the doors themselves don’t intrude or diminish the shape of the ZDX.

The suspension is very comfortable and there’s not much body roll in turns and corners. It’s like a bulky sedan or well-manner ute, depending on how you choose to view it. The cargo hold in back is basically a hatch with trunk space, so Ford Explorer this is not.

I spent all of my commuting laps in sport mode, and the ZDX had a fairly athletic dynamic. The V6 engine is very strong and is excellently paired with this six-speed automatic. There’s plenty of power from launches, and it’s easy to find yourself over the speed limit on the expressway. There there’s a nice power level between 3,000 rpm and 5,500 rpm, though I didn’t feel the need to redline this beast. Downshifts are smooth and efficient.

I like the interior, too. It’s subtle but elegant, and I like our tester’s dark finishings which looked and felt nice. We had some very savvy tech features, with the backup camera--which is very clear; the blind-spot detection which was spot-on and a brake warning for when you are crowding the car in front of you. It all worked great for me. And satellite radio and a colorful nav screen are also pluses.

I like the character of this car. I think some consumers might too.

EXECUTIVE EDITOR ROGER HART: This thing got hit really hard by the ugly stick. Not sure who in the world was asking for a car like this--an MDX with a smaller cargo area. Maybe it’s supposed to look more like a car than a ute, but it drives like a ute. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the MDX handles pretty well for an SUV.

One nice thing about the ZDX is that the inside is really attractive and quite comfortable. And from behind the driver’s seat, you can’t see the exterior design at all--unless you drive by a building and see your reflection in the windows. In that case, just keep looking forward and enjoy the ride. It’s actually quite good, despite the exterior looks.

COPY EDITOR CYNTHIA L. OROSCO: The ZDX seems to evoke a love-hate relationship: I love the interior, but I’m not a fan of the hulky, bulbous sheetmetal. Inside, the materials are very nice, the seats are comfy, the nav/radio/info system is easy to use, and the big screen is easy to read. All of the controls are easy to use and are right at hand.

The ZDX is a tall ride, but it lacks headroom. After three or four times, I got sick of ducking/contorting to get in. The car appears tall from the outside, but that doesn’t translate to the interior. And Roger is right: If you want this type of vehicle to carry people and stuff, you lose space with the ZDX over the MDX. I really enjoyed the long-term MDX we had in the fleet.

That aside, the V6 does a good job of moving this CUV along. For as heavy as it is, the ZDX is pretty fleet on the expressway, even in passing. You definitely get a sporty vibe. There’s no lag in getting up to speed, and the solid brakes easily bring everything to a halt when needed.

While the ZDX is a fine ride, if I was looking for something in this segment, and specifically from Acura, to haul people and stuff, I’d go with the MDX.

2010 Acura ZDX Advance

Base Price: $56,905

As-Tested Price: $56,905

Drivetrain: 3.7-liter V6; AWD, six-speed automatic

Output: 305 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 290 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Curb Weight: 4,462 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 18/20.2 mpg

Options: None​


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
Risk Worth Taking

The 2010 Acura ZDX is not for everyone. It's not even a safe bet. It's for people reaching beyond the typical. It's for risk takers, people who define their vehicles instead of the other way around. Astronauts come to mind as potential ZDX drivers. They would appreciate the engineering finesse of Acura, and the ZDX could pass for a lunar rover. My test vehicle even arrived in NASA white. If not from another planet, the ZDX is definitely from something outside of Acura's wheelhouse. Honda's luxury brand has finally built a vehicle to that makes the giant bottle opener of a grille look tolerable.

Mixing things up is a good thing for Acura. The brand seems to have struggled in recent years with defining who it wants in its cars and crossovers.

There's nothing understated about the ZDX, which Acura refers to as a four-door sports coupe, a phrase I hate. Ray LaHood, the automotive kingpin and Secretary of Transportation, should ban any manufacturer from attaching the term "sports coupe" to a vehicle if it:

• Has more than two doors. (ZDX has five if you include the rear hatch.)


• Requires people step up to get inside. (ZDX does.)

• Is not a sporty coupe. (OK, the ZDX is sporty in a moon mission sort of way.)​

But marketing-based definition aside, the ZDX is an oddly great vehicle.

Impressionism in metal

First, there is that exterior. Somehow, Acura managed to stay true to the original concept. All of the great aspects about the vehicle shown at the 2009 New York Auto Show made it on the production model. The sloping roof line, which includes panoramic glass, and the body stretched out like angular taffy make the ZDX look like an unfinished Picasso. You're not always comfortable looking at it, but you like looking at it. There are even those hidden door handles on the second row, which make you look twice just to find them.

The ZDX performed like Picasso as well; the older, less agile 4,400 pound Pablo. But still, there's engineering artistry behind its performance.

The 3.7-liter V-6 provides plenty of power at 300 horsepower and 270-pound feet of torque. Acceleration is quick and the Sequential Sportshift six-speed automatic transmission clicks through the gears with precision.

The independent suspension provides an extremely smooth (and quiet) ride, gliding over Detroit's bumps. The ZDX is best on the highway, where its wedge-like design cuts through the air and powerful motor never misses a beat.

On hard curves, the ZDX loses some of its sports appeal. The Super Handling All Wheel Drive system manages the torque between axles and wheels, and improves handling dramatically. The Active Damper System, which can tune the ZDX's suspension on the fly, helps its performance.

If Acura wants to attach that sports coupe moniker, it needs to deliver sports coupe performance. "Really sporty crossover" would be more accurate. The real question is: How much does that matter to you? For most people, probably not much.

The speed-sensitive system steering feels nicely weighted at any speed. There were also some nice high-tech driving features that simply make driving easier.

The blind spot detection system worked nicely, catching your eye every time someone sneaks into that space right off your bulging rear fender. The intelligent cruise control takes all of the work out of long hauls, adjusting the vehicle's speed based on the car in front of it. The back-up camera is a necessity, as you can see almost nothing out the back because of the roof's angle.

Plush and Exquisite

While the vehicle's performance was good, its interior is absolutely fabulous. If this ZDX is a sign of Acura's future interior, look out Audi, there's some competition on the way.

Acura managed to provide the mirror image of the exterior on the inside. But all of the sharp edges are covered nicely in supple leather.

And while there are a lot of busy lines throughout the cabin, it remains calm and sedate. The center console, which on other Acuras becomes an alphabet soup of buttons and knobs, is nicely organized. The black-face stereo only lights up the buttons if the stereo is on. If the stereo is off, the buttons meld in a simple black finish.

The navigation system takes a little getting used to, but has an excellent 8-inch VGA display screen. Add the technology package includes a 435-watt, 10-speaker surround sound stereo, Bluetooth audio connectivity, a USB port and auxiliary jack to connect other devices to the system.

The advance package includes LED lighting in the cabin, as well as the blind spot detection system, adaptive cruise control and Acura's Collision Mitigation Braking System -- as well as ventilated front seats and a brushed tricot headliner.

Everything about the ZDX feels plush and exquisite.

There's also lots of storage space, including 26.3 cubic feet behind the second row. There's even a hidden compartment below the floor of the back big enough to hold 2.2 cubic feet of stuff -- a handy feature when people passing by can look into your trunk space.

Really, the ZDX is fascinating. Some people will love it and others will hate it. But it certainly leaves an impression. And if you don't reach for the stars now and again, you're stuck right where you are without a hope that anything will change. Go on, take a risk. Acura did.

This may be a reach for Acura, and it's not going to set many sales records, but the result was worth it.

[email protected] (313) 223-3217​


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #13

The ** 2010 Acura ZDX luxury crossover's arresting looks aren't enough to overcome a cramped interior and poor visibility. The ZDX's 4,400-pound-plus curb weight also hampers performance and handling, despite its 300 horsepower and all-wheel drive system.

The ZDX has a lovely, high-quality interior. Available features include radar-based adaptive cruise control and a collision sensor that applies the brakes automatically when a frontal crash is imminent.

ZDX is pretty but impractical

I have a love-hate relationship with the 2010 Acura ZDX. Mostly hate.

First, because I'm a romantic, the love. The radically styled luxury hatchback is eye-catching from every angle, and lovely from most. The interior is swathed in sumptuous materials. The sporty and expensive crossover SUV is nearly identical to a dramatic concept car Acura sprung on an unsuspecting public about 18 months ago.

Sadly, Acura forgot that while concept cars only have to look good at auto shows, production vehicles must do mundane things like carry people and their stuff.

Thus, the hate. The Acura ZDX may be the least space-efficient vehicle I've ever driven. It looks good on paper, with 5 seats and a practical hatchback layout.

At 192.4 inches long and a broad-hipped 78.5 wide, the ZDX eats up more garage space than roomy SUVs like the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4. It's also larger than sportier and more exciting cars and SUVs like the Audi A4 and Q5 and BMW 335i and X6.

The striking and powerful ZDX is not intended to be practical. It was designed to be Acura's flagship for style and performance. That does not excuse flagrant impracticality, however. The ZDX's shape badly compromises the driver's visibility, rear passenger space and cargo room.

As a fast and stylish luxury vehicle with one foot in the world of sport sedans and the other among SUVs, the ZDX has few direct competitors. The lovely BMW X6 and Infiniti FX 35 probably come closest, followed by sport-luxury crossovers like the Audi Q5 and Cadillac SRX turbo.

Prices for the ZDX start at $45,495. All ZDX models come with all-wheel drive, a 300-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 and six-speed automatic transmission. Adding the technology package, a suite of features including navigation, ELS sound system and sport seats, raises the price to $49,995. Layer on the Advance package -- adaptive cruise control, collision alert, blind-spot warning and more -- and the price rises to $56,045 for the top-of-the line model I tested.

The parking assist and blind-spot alert should be standard equipment. The ZDX's fancy shape creates a very limited field of vision, with large blind spots and poor visibility out the small rear window.

The coupe-like body's low roofline constricts rear headroom as if the backseat were shrink-wrapped. Small and oddly shaped openings for the rear doors make it difficult to get in and out.

The ZDX's SUV-like 8.2 inches of ground clearance and wide sills exacerbate its poor accessibility, making it hard to step into. The front seat offers good room, but the low roof leads to an odd sports car-like seating position in which your legs stick nearly straight out in front of the seat rather than down into a conventional footwell.

The seats are extremely comfortable. All the controls are legible and easy to reach.

The hatch offers 26.3 cubic feet of space behind the rear seat. That's less than the Q5 and SRX, but more than the FX 35 and X6. The cargo opening is small, narrow and has a high liftover. With the rear seat folded, ZDX's capacity increases to 55.8 cubic feet, smaller than all four.

The interior is beautiful. Acura used top-quality materials and arrayed them in a pleasant design marked by sweeping curves and pleasantly contrasting colors. The fits are excellent.

Acceleration and handling are adequate but unexciting. The ZDX I tested suffered from a 4,462-pound curb weight. The vehicle's nose-heavy weight distribution also works against sporty handling.

The ZDX scored an EPA fuel economy rating of 16 m.p.g. city/23 m.p.g. highway/19 m.p.g. combined. That trails the Audi Q5, but beats the SRX turbo, FX 35 and X6. All five require premium fuel.

As a perceptive woman friend of mine observed about a boorish patron at the Balcony Music Club in New Orleans: "You know the type: Patent-leather stilettos and a piercing voice. Thinks she's special, but she's not."

Looks alone aren't enough.

Contact MARK PHELAN: [email protected] or 313-222-6731.​


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
World Class Quality

When I drove the Canadian-built Acura ZDX briefly last fall at the press launch, my seat time was far too brief on which to base a driving impression.

It was, along with the BMX X6 and Infiniti FX 35, one of the 1st vehicles in what has been called the “four-door coupe” class, a segment that continues to grow especially in the “near luxury” group.

It has all the utility one would expect in a CUV along with all the curves and a steeply raked rear roofline to make it look very aggressive in a handsome way.

ZDX comes standard with a panoramic glass roof that tapers to the rear. It features 2 large glass panels (front that opens, rear fixed) designed to give the cabin an open feeling. The front panel is powered with a special wind deflector which helps minimize turbulence and noise. When the front moonroof panel is closed, dual power sunshades can be opened or closed to adjust the amount of light that enters the cabin.

The prominent Acura signature grille, xenon headlights and big 19-inch wheels are designed to catch the eye and it works. When you see this vehicle from any angle, especially from the rear, it makes you take a 2nd look.

Now in full production at Honda’s Alliston assembly complex, this is the 3rd Acura being built there, the others being the MDX SUV and the Canada-only CSX compact sedan.

Another reason I wanted to drive this CUV for a week was to judge the build quality.

My personal test for fit and finish is whether 2 credit cards fit snugly between the panels and slide easily up and down. If they don’t fit or they wobble, the door fit is mediocre. With the ZDX it was near perfect.

Another test is to roar across the main CN freight rail line near my home at 50 km/h. I don’t care who makes the car, if it shakes and rattles, it simply isn’t good enough.

The ZDX sailed through. In fact, it was supple which I credit to the Acura/Honda Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) which is described in more detail below.

Bottom line is the good men and women at the Alliston production plant are doing Canada proud.

Acura describes the ZDX as a “passionate getaway” that provides “a means of freedom and escape for 2 adults and their cargo, whether that’s luggage for a weekend, sporting equipment, antiques or gardening supplies.”

The ZDX has a cargo area of 745 litres (26.3 cu ft) behind the back seat and 1,580 litres (55.8 cu ft) with the seats flat. There is also a 25-litre bin hidden beneath the cargo floor in addition to a storage cubbie on each side sculpted into the side cargo bay walls.

A touch of class comes from the plated metal latches and full carpeting and power liftgate.

Both the rear and front seats are heated as standard.

To get you on that “getaway”, the ZDX is powered by a 3.7-litre DOHC V6 producing 300 hp and 270 lb/ft of torque with 6-speed automatic with shift paddles on the steering wheel for those who care about that sort of thing.

Transport Canada fuel consumption is rated at 12.7L/100 km city and 8.8L/100 km highway.

Fitted as standard is the Honda-developed Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system.

What SH-AWD does is actively vary the torque distribution firstly between front and rear axles, and secondly, between the left and right rear wheels providing the best possible grip depending on circumstances.

Called “torque vectoring,” the system functions seamlessly letting SH-AWD overdrive the outside rear wheel up to 1.7-per cent faster than the front wheels.

Sorry for the technospeak but this creates what is called a “yaw moment” that keeps the ZDX stable in a turn and lets it rotate better around a corner while quelling the tendency of the ZDX to keep wanting to go straight in what is called understeer.

While you can’t really feel it all that much unless you are really pushing it, you can see it.

Between the 2 main instruments on the dash, there is a small display showing the 4 wheels. As you turn left or right, bars come out for each wheel that increase with the level of torque being demanded.

Now you probably say this is all very entertaining, but what is the advantage for me?

In our climate, snow, slush and ice are villains. If you find the going getting rough, the display will tell you where the traction is, and isn’t. The same holds true for rocky or muddy paths off the main roads.

Aiding and abetting all this is a battery of driver assists like standard traction control with stability control not to mention ABS, brake assist and hill start assist.

The ZDX is available as the base model starting at $55,990 or, as tested here, as the toptrim Technology version with an asking and as-tested price of $59,590. The Technology comes with everything, and I mean everything.

I wish I could list them all but for “cool factor” how about Acura’s Active Sound Control (ASC) system that is linked to throttle position and engine rpm for quieter cockpit during normal cruising.

It is more than simple sound level linked to road speed.

The ASC system operates whenever the ZDX is running, whether the audio system is on or off. There are 2 microphones mounted in the roof, 1 above the front seats and the other just ahead of the overhead rear dome light. The microphones capture low-end drivetrain frequencies entering the cabin, and then send a signal to the Active Sound Control unit.

According to Acura, “the ASC then creates a precisely timed reverse phase audio signal that is sent to the door speakers and the subwoofer positioned under the cargo deck to dramatically reduce amount of booming sound from the exhaust. ASC also substantially reduces high- and middle-frequency noise during normal cruising.”

The 410-watt ELS surround sound system in the Technology model can run up to 6 iPods and its 15-gigabyte hard drive can store up to 3,500 songs.

And lastly, the backup camera has 3 views: normal, up to 180 degrees and pencil beam for tight spots.

1 thing you will have to watch out for is the blind spot due to the sloped rear hatch and the very high rear wheel well hunches. You will have to learn to use and trust your outside mirrors. Glancing over your shoulder is not good enough.

I suppose it is the price you pay for style, and the ZDX has plenty of that getting tons of looks from other motorists on the highway.

But when you look at the rationale behind the ZDX, it’s not so much about utility, which it possesses, but about making a statement which the ZDX does in spades.


BODY STYLE: Luxury 4-door coupe.

DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, all-wheel-drive.

ENGINE: 3.7-litre DOHC V6 (300 hp, 270 lb/ft).

FUEL ECONOMY: 12.7/8.8L/100 km (city/highway.

TOW RATING: 680 kg (1,500 lb).

PRICE: $59,590, as tested $59,590.


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #15

Sports Car SUV with Space-Race Styling
From the September, 2010 issue of Motor Trend
/ By Allyson Harwood
/ Photography by Jessica Germiller, William Walker

The 2010 Acura ZDX is in an elite subcategory of the SUV world. How many have basically abandoned off-road ability and instead shifted complete focus to on-road high performance? Two: the BMW X6 and the ZDX. How many have 4-door sport coupe/SUV styling? The same 2. It's the same combination of futuristic styling and impressive performance that makes this vehicle so intriguing.

At Motor Trend's 2010 Sport/Utility of the Year competition, the ZDX was hands-down the vehicle that generated most comments on styling. One tester said, "I'll admit it: I was taken aback -- no, shocked -- by my first sight of the ZDX in the metal. This thing is out there -- to my eye, way edgier and more futuristic-looking than the X6. But the more I looked, the more I found the ZDX...interesting. Even...stunning." Another: "Calling the ZDX distinctive is an understatement. It looks otherworldly." This doesn't even take into account the praise for the leather-wrapped cabin, excellent handling, and impressive straight-line performance. How could we not get 1 to try out for a year?

We recently got the keys to our long-term 2010 Acura ZDX. While there are three models available, we opted for the topline ZDX with Advance Package. This model comes with Super-Handling AWD, the 300-horse, 3.7-liter V-6, and 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters found in the rest of the line, but adds satellite radio, 10-speaker surround-sound audio with hard drive, auxiliary jack and USB interface, 10-way power-adjustable heated driver sport seat (8-way for the front passenger), panoramic glass roof, power tailgate, and 19-inch wheels. Further, the Advance tacks on an Integrated Dynamic System, Collision Mitigation Braking, blind-spot information system, ventilated front seats, and adaptive cruise control. All in, our long-term ZDX cost $56,905.

The test crew has already put our long-term tester through its paces at the track, where it hit 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, and its lateral grip was an impressive 0.83 g. It stopped from 60 mph in 129 feet. Many of our editors have also put the ZDX through its paces, and none has been left unimpressed. A few, though, have noted some shortcomings-namely, that the back seat is snug and that entrance and egress are tricky (it's easy to hit your head because of the sloping roofline). But this is not necessarily a vehicle for people with big families, so that shouldn't be too much of a problem; plus, the gorgeous interior, adjustable suspension, and excellent performance more than make up for it. We'll let you know how the ZDX fares over the next year.

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
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.


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
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.

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #18

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.

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #19

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


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #20

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

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