Automakers are constantly challenged with coming up with fresh, new products to stay competitive, but it is even harder for luxury automakers to break into new markets. Instead of entering new segments, some automakers are beginning to form niche segments and, for Acura, this includes the all-new 2010 Acura ZDX. Instead of chasing a new segment (like Lexus and Lincoln moving closer to compact hatchbacks), Acura is augmenting its crossover lineup with a sleeker, athletic, coupe-like CUV.
Assembled in Ontario, Canada and designed in California, Acura is touting its new ZDX is its first model ever to be designed, engineered and built in North America. Being a mid-size luxury crossover, the Acura ZDX is not hurting for competition, but Acura's newest model is obviously gunning for the BMW X6 with its styling as well as its pricing. Undercutting the X6 by a full $9,000, the 2010 Acura ZDX has a starting MSRP of $45,995. The test model Acura dropped off for me to drive added the optional Tech Package raising the starting price up $49,995 with a total as-tested price of $50,855.
2010 Acura ZDX Exterior
Looking to appeal to new-car buyers shopping for something more than a traditional crossover, the Acura ZDX pulls off the whole four-door coupe styling much better than the BMW X6 or even the Honda Accord Crosstour (which doesn't share any components with the Acura). This is by far Acura's best application of its controversial shield-like front grille which fits the pointy, angular theme that is also used throughout the rest of the exterior design, but the highlight of the ZDX is its low-slung, rakish roofline. The strong, angular elements of the front end are accented by the widely flared front and rear fenders, and the sloped roofline gives the ZDX the popular coupe-like profile.
Adding to the true two-door image of a coupe, the rear door handles are blacked-out and integrated into the greenhouse making them practically invisible. The sharp lines are also carried over to the rear of the ZDX with taillights and exhaust outlets that mimic the front-end styling. This test model was finished off with Acura's Palladium Metallic silver exterior paint and the standard 19-inch, seven spoke wheels. Following the introduction of the car that started the 'four-door coupe'? design trend, the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class, the Acura ZDX has managed to pull off one of the best uses of this unique design language with the exception of the Volkswagen CC.
2010 Acura ZDX Interior
While the ZDX's coupe utility vehicle styling does help it stand out from the sea of crossover currently available, the sleek roofline leaves many aspects of the interior greatly affected. Like the exterior design and the drivetrain, the interior of the ZDX is similar to a sports car with an excellent driver's cockpit area and obvious concessions made in the name of styling - this is instantly obvious when checking out the back seat. Yes, there is a seat back there, but between the rear door openings and the space allocated for rear passengers, anyone even close to 6-feet tall might feel a little claustrophobic. For the driver, the design hampers rearward visibility which is magnified when passengers are in the back seat, but at least the rear-seat headrests are able to fold down flat out of the way when not in use. The ZDX actually offers less head, leg, shoulder room than the compact Acura RDX for the rear-seat passengers.
On top of the small rear passenger space, the design of the ZDX also limits its cargo volume. Despite sharing most of its components with the Acura MDX, the ZDX offers just 26.3 cubic feet of rear cargo volume and 55.8 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down - both figures are considerably less than the compact Acura RDX. Further reducing its utility, the ZDX is only rated to tow 1,500 pounds (same as the RDX) which is made even worse by one of the ugliest trailer hitches on the market. One plus side for the cargo area is that it offers three storage bins to keep items out of site, but the side compartments also help increase the available width of the cargo area to accommodate golf bags.
Now for the good news, the ZDX easily makes up for any of its shortcomings with a driver's cockpit that is one of the best on the market. The highlight of the ZDX's interior is definitely the instrument panel which not only features soft-touch materials and hand-stitched leather, it also houses the prominent center stack that houses all of the controls and displays for the HVAC, audio and navigation systems. The best part of the single-piece center stack is the buttons which are only labeled when the ignition is on - when the car is off, all of the buttons fade to black and appear blank. The sportiness of the exterior and drivetrain also carries over to the cockpit which features great instrument gauges, a sport steering wheel, excellent support from the seats and a large, red Start button. The cabin design is finished off with Ebony Black leather which is accented with light metallic trim.
Adding even more equipment to this test model, the optional Technology package upgrades the cabin to include navigation with the easy-to-use center dial, premium surround sound audio system and a multi-view rearview camera.
2010 Acura ZDX Performance & Handling
Similar to the Acura MDX with which it shares its platform, the Acura ZDX is powered solely by a 3.7-liter SOHC VTEC V-6 to produce 300 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. This engine comes paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system. These two components, along with the engine's VTEC technology, really help to give the ZDX a ride that matches its dynamic styling. Despite offering almost identical engine output and using a similar all-wheel drive system, the ZDX manages to offer improved fuel economy over the BMW X6 xDrive35i with EPA estimates of 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.
The ZDX may fall a little short on comfort and space for those expecting a conventional utility vehicle, but Acura made sure to come through on performance. While the VTEC engine does a good job of getting the 4,431-pound crossover off the line, the transmission and SH-AWD help to give the ZDX its sporty ride and handling. The transmission features a Sport setting which can be shifted using the steering wheel paddles, but the torque-vectoring SH-AWD gives the ZDX which stands apart from other systems by allowing the rear axle to send all of its torque to one side during hard cornering maneuvers in an attempt to eliminate understeer - a gauge on the instrument cluster helps visualize the torque split front-to-back and side-to-side in real time.
2010 Acura ZDX Safety
Like the rest of Acura's current lineup, the new ZDX received five stars for front- and side-impact protection from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a four-star rollover rating. Acura is still the only automaker to boast this level of safety across the board. As of August 2010, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has only rated the ZDX a 'Good'? rating for frontal-impact protection and an 'Acceptable'? rating for rear-impact protection. Standard safety features for all 2010 Acura ZDX models include six airbags, active front head restraints, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock brake system, tire pressure monitoring system, Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control, daytime running lights and, to tow that 1,500 pounds, Trailer Stability Assist.
The Acura ZDX is one of the growing number of crossovers designed that are being designed with an emphasis on styling (even at the expense of utility), which is rather refreshing after years of bland crossovers flooding the market. With its sleek, expressive design that focuses on styling rather than utility, the Acura ZDX is a perfect car for someone who should really be in a sedan, but likes the size and ride height of a crossover. Regardless of whether or not you like it, the Acura ZDX definitely gets noticed.
- Great cabin technology
- Luxurious cabin
- Expressive styling
- Cramped rear seat
- Small cargo area
- Poor rearward visibility
Acura provided the vehicle this road test review.
Select photos by Jeffrey N. Ross