2010 Acura ZDX
Base price: $45,495 – $56,045
As tested: $50,805
MPG: 16 city/ 23 highway
- Dramatic, nothing-else-like-it styling
- Gorgeous interior
- Loved the way it drove
- A big vehicle that’s only suitable for two
- Expensive for a non-luxury brand
- Can’t get over the goofy grille
By Jim Prueter
Dramatic Acura ZDX unusually likeable
As much as Acura wants to be a luxury brand, it never quite makes the grade, falling far short of Lexus (Toyota’s luxury division) and Infiniti (Nissan’s luxury brand). Acura has always been simply a “nicer” Honda.
And as much as I’ve tried to like Acuras, they’ve never had a single vehicle I’ve fallen in love with, or even had a crush on. Over the years, Acura has had some pretty forgettable vehicles: Vigor, CL, Legend, NSX and others.
However, the latest and best effort yet is the Acura ZDX, an out-of-the-box design prodigy that is the first Acura designed, engineered and built in North America. It’s also the first Acura I’ve been infatuated with. Oh, it isn’t without its flaws (look no further than the goofy grin on the grille), but the ZDX is so completely engaging, I’ve chosen the high road of forgiveness (even though major cosmetic surgery won’t correct the disfigurement).
ZDX is an all-wheel-drive car targeting a niche market of those who are evolving out of their mastodonic SUVs, but who like driving something sporty that sits higher than a sedan with a commanding view from behind the wheel, maintains roomy functionality like a crossover and conveys upscale coupe-like styling.
Acura says the ZDX is ideal for empty nesters and those who don’t have kids to haul. With third-row seats unavailable, we think it’s a perfect vehicle for two adults and their bags to get away for a long weekend or for hauling larger items and goodies from an antique-shopping trip.
ZDX is the fourth vehicle of this type we’ve tested in the last couple of months. We first drove the less expensive Toyota Venza and gave it an overall 9.5 out of 10. We followed the Venza with the BMW X6, which we thought was simply outstanding to drive. We thoroughly enjoyed the ride and handling, but never quite came around to the Pontiac Aztek-like styling.
Next up was the all-new Honda Crosstour, a sibling of the Acura ZDX, that we said was one of the best vehicles we’ve ever driven. As good as it is, we now put ZDX above it in just about every measurement, including styling. While most people were split on the looks of the Crosstour, those we came in contact with during our weeklong test of the ZDX liked the daring design, almost without exception. We also think the striking ionized bronze metallic exterior color (think root beer) and umber leather interior looked gorgeous and added to the appeal.
The entire vehicle is engaging inside and out, but unlike other Honda-Acura twinned vehicles, ZDX isn’t a gussied up Crosstour. ZDX, built on the Acura MDX platform, is 4.4 inches shorter from bumper to bumper and almost four inches wider than Crosstour.
ZDX looks long and sleek, like a performance sedan with a high beltline and low roof that angles so sharply to the power rear liftgate that back-seat headroom is compromised and any thought about a third row of seats is immediately dismissed.
Extra dark rear-seat privacy glass and cleverly concealed body-colored rear door handles located behind the windows further suggest the vehicle is a two-door sports coupe rather than a crossover utility vehicle. A huge panoramic glass roof with power sunshades is standard.
ZDX certainly is an attention getter and drivers actually sped up to us on the highway, and leaned out to snap pictures with their cell phones. There were lots of thumbs-up and unsolicited favorable comments on its looks.
Acura spent a tidy sum on the gorgeous interior, including elegant loop-style carpeting, perforated premium leather sport seats, push-button ignition, keyless access system with security system, brushed suede-like headliner material, French-stitched leather on the dash and door panels, and a new center control panel that Acura calls the “monolith.” The buttons on the control panel remain dark and disappear when you turn off the stereo. Metallic accents throughout the cabin are attractive and high quality — nothing fake or economy looking here.ZDX comes in three flavors: base ($45,495); Technology Package ($49,995) with perforated Milano leather seating, voice recognition navigation system, rearview backup camera and other niceties; and the Advanced Package ($56,045) which adds blind-spot information system (BSIS), collision mitigation braking system, adaptive cruise control, six-level heated and ventilated seats, ambient interior lighting and other upgraded equipment.
Because of the sloping sports roofline, we especially liked the BSIS warning system on the A-pillar of the front windshield, which flashes yellow to catch your attention when a car is approaching.
The ZDX is powered by a 300-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6, the same engine used in the MDX, and is mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission and the super handling (SH) all-wheel-drive.
Most drivers will find 300 horsepower to be adequate, but the ZDX is portly at best, weighing in at more than 4400 pounds. Acura says its zero to 60 time is less than seven seconds, and few will feel the need for more power. We surely didn’t.
All expected safety equipment is standard and ZDX earned the government’s highest possible five-star rating for all crash tests.
Critics of the ZDX will no doubt draw comparisons to the MDX and will fault it for being smaller, more expensive, with one row too few, but we remain smitten by its fashionably eccentric looks and outstanding driving characteristics. It’s not quite automotive nirvana, but not that far from it either.