2012 Acura ZDX Road Test and Review
2012 Acura ZDX Review: What Is It
Honda has come under heavy criticism as of late for what is perceived to be conservative styling on new products (namely the Civic and CR-V), but on the opposite end of the spectrum, the Acura ZDX shows what can happen when designers are given a little too much rope. Since its debut in 2010, the ZDX has been extremely polarizing by putting its sporty, coupe-like styling above everything else. In Acura's defense, however, the luxury CUV market has gotten overly crowded in recent years and using a model like the ZDX to stand out a little probably isn't a bad thing. Nothing has changed for the ZDX since its introduction two years ago, but we were able to get behind the wheel of a 2012 Acura ZDX for this weeklong road test and review to see what sacrifices must be made to driving one of the most unique-looking SUVs on the market.
2012 Acura ZDX Review: Pricing and Trim Levels
Assembled at Honda of Canada Manufacturing in Alliston, Ontario, Canada, the 2012 Acura ZDX is essentially offered in three variations: ZDX, ZDX with Technology Package and ZDX with Advance Package. In base form, the ZDX has a starting price of $46,020, but the ZDX w/ Advance Package that we drove for this review comes with a much steeper as-tested price of $57,455 with destination. For all three trim levels, there is a considerable price premium that style-conscious buyers must pay when stepping up from the Acura MDX to the fashionable ZDX, and in the case of the ZDX with Advance Package it is $4,015. This added price does move buyers up from mainstream luxury crossovers up to a more exclusive and niche vehicle in which to flaunt your wealth.
2012 Acura ZDX Review: What It's Up Against
There is no shortage of luxury suvs and crossovers on the market, but the 2012 Acura ZDX primarily competes against luxury utility vehicles with more of a form-over-function design like the Infiniti FX, BMW X6 and maybe even the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque. With limited practicality comes limited sales, and the crossovers in this market don't rack up that many sales annually. More so than its competitors, this logic runs eve more true for Acura since only 1,564 ZDXs were sold in 2011 (surprisingly, it was still only the second-slowest seller in 2011 after the RL sedan), and this figure is down by 52.2 percent compared to the ZDX's inaugural 2010 model year. For comparison, the Infiniti FX sold almost 10,000 units with the BMW X6 right behind with 6,192 sales, but both of these crossovers benefit from added performance afforded by optional V-8 engines. This year isn't looking much better for the ZDX either as the 110 sales through February represent a decline of 68.9 percent over 2011.
2012 Acura ZDX Review: Exterior
What's New for 2012:
- carryover from 2011 model year
How It Looks:
With sales down so much in just two years, it is obviously tough for buyers to get behind the idea of using the Acura ZDX as a fashion statement since its sacrifices so much in practicality, but that doesn't mean it isn't one of the most captivating vehicles on the market. Looking to try its hand with the four-door coupe craze that has swept the sedan segment by storm and is now making its way to utility vehicles, Acura designed the ZDX at its Acura Design Studio in Torrance, Calif. with a striking profile that is highlighted by the sporty roofline and a tall, SUV-like stance. From there, Acura added what is arguably the best application of its current design language with the angular headlights and shield-shaped grille, and it also gave the ZDX unique styling cues such as the hidden rear door handles, Coke-bottle shape and wide, sculpted haunches. The rear of the ZDX mimics some of the same lines as the front of the crossover including the arrow-shaped taillights and the integrated exhaust outlets. All 2012 Acura ZDX models, regardless of trim level, come with 19-inch, seven-spoke alloy wheels, and our test car was finished in a dark grey Grigio Metallic hue which actually helped to accentuate all of the chrome and gloss black trim.
2012 Acura ZDX Review: Interior
What's New for 2012:
- carryover from 2011 model year
How It Looks and Feels:
The 2012 Acura ZDX is probably one of the few cars that has an exterior styling that can actually be felt inside. The high floor, narrow hips and the low roof line which all give the ZDX its distinct appearance also hinders passenger space as well as ingress and egress. We've all heard of a 2+2 seating configuration in sport and luxury cars, but the 2012 Acura ZDX has what Acura refers to as a "2+Freedom" interior that focuses on providing ample comfort and luxury for the front passengers and little room for the rear seats or cargo. Essentially, the ZDX is an oversized two-seater even though it's technically a five-passenger vehicle, but with less headroom, legroom and cargo space than a TSX Sport Wagon, space behind the front seats is severely limited. Although the sloped roofline hampers cargo space, Acura has come up with clever storage spaces below the cargo floor and behind the fender wells for additional capacity; with the rear seats up, the ZDX can hold 26.3 cubic feet of cargo and folding the seats flat just about doubles that volume to 55.3 cubic feet.
For front, passengers, it's really not that bad with some impressive cabin technology to go with comfortable and supportive bucket seats. 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 push-button Start. The driver-oriented cockpit is built around the angled center stack that is capped off with a massive display screen used for many of the vehicle's functions. One of the cooler features of this center stack is that when the car is off all of the buttons are blacked out, but they all light up when the ignition is on. Finally, the sloped roofline and fastback body shape gave Acura the perfect opportunity to give the ZDX its standard panoramic roof.
2012 Acura ZDX Review: The Extras
Stepping up from the base model, the 2012 Acura ZDX with Advance Package adds a hefty to the MSRP, but the added features really help to distinguish the ZDX from other luxury crossovers. The extra $11,000 in MSRP brings with it every option available in the ZDX including upgraded technology, luxury and driving performance. In terms of cabin tech, Advance Package comes standard with the ZDX's Technology Package that adds all of the electronic goodies like the Acura Navigation System with real-time weather and traffic all displayed on a massive eight-inch screen and a 10-speaker ELS Surround Sound system that can play music from Bluetooth streaming audio, DVD Audio, XM Radio or the 15-gigabyte hard drive. As for the "advanced" part of the Advance Package, it also adds high-tech features like Adaptive Cruise Control, Active Damper System and Blind spot information system as well as some added luxury from the ventilated from seats, sport steering wheel and LED ambient lighting.
2012 Acura ZDX Review: Powertrain and Fuel Economy
What's New for 2012:
- carryover from 2011 model year
How Does It Go:
Like its compromised interior space, the 2012 Acura ZDX leaves much to be desired despite using Acura's largest engine, a 3.7-liter VTEC V-6. With 300 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, this engine is comparable to the base X6 and has identical EPA fuel economy estimates with ratings of 16 miles per gallon in the city, 23 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg in combined driving. Weighing in at 4,462, this Acura just didn't feel as sporty as it looked, but fortunately, the crossover's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) gives it awesome handling for optimal performance and safety. The torque-vectoring SH-AWD system can actively split torque front-to-rear or side-to-side including 70 percent of the engine power to the rear axle of which 100 percent can be sent to a single rear wheel. This not only helps make the ZDX more stable when driving in slick road conditions, it also helps reduce understeer making it more agile and fun to drive. Also in the fun-to-drive category, the ZDX's six-speed automatic transmission features a manual shift mode with shift paddles mounted to the steering wheel. This ability to shift yourself helps the engine get into the higher rev range and stay there - both of which allows VTEC to kick in adding a much-needed boost of power.
2012 Acura ZDX Review: How It Drives
The 2012 Acura ZDX may fall a little short on passenger comfort and space for those expecting a conventional utility vehicle, but Acura made sure to give it a fun and engaging driving dynamic. Thanks to the fact that it weighs considerably less than a BMW X6 and its VTEC-equipped V-6, the ZDX can definitely put a smile on your face... as long as you're not stuck in the back seat. The ZDX with Advance Package stands out from other models thanks to its standard Active Damper System that allows drivers to choose between a comfort or sport mode and can adjust the electronically controlled shocks accordingly to give a softer or firmer ride. When pushed, the SH-AWD does a good job of keeping the ZDX on its intended path, and the speed-sensitive steering gives an extra bit of confidence regardless of driving style. Spend just a few minutes driving the ZDX and you'll notice how the sleek roofline kills rearward visibility for the driver (made even worse with the rear headrests in place), but the Advance Package's blind spot monitoring helps to somewhat alleviate this problem. The good news is that anyone willing to overlook the ZDX's unique styling and high price tag probably won't be too surprised at some of the lesser downfall's of this sporty, coupe-like crossover.
2012 Acura ZDX Review: Is It Safe
While the styling and overall theme of the 2012 Acura ZDX is anything but safe, passengers don't have to worry about sacrificing safety once inside. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the ZDX an overall five-star crash rating which includes a five-star side-impact rating and four-star frontal-crash and rollover ratings. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has still not run the Acura ZDX through its full battery of crash tests, but it still has a "Good" frontal-crash rating and it has improved its rear-crash protection rating from "Acceptable" to "Good" for 2012. All 2012 Acura ZDX models come standard with safety features that include six airbags, active front head restraints, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock disc brake system, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with traction control, Trailer Stability Assist, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).
2012 Acura ZDX Review: Final Thoughts
In an attempt to distinguish itself from other luxury automakers, the 2012 Acura ZDX might not make a lot of friends, but its concept-like styling and abundant cabin technology make it a great choice for buyers looking to stand out a little. The Acura ZDX would make a perfect car for empty nesters or a second family car thanks to its sleek, expressive design that focuses on styling rather than utility. Regardless of whether or not you like it, the Acura ZDX definitely gets noticed, and in a market chocked full of crossovers and SUVs, a little distinction goes a long way. For this much money, though, it might be hard to accept the fact that you're giving up utility, performance, passenger space and even towing capacity all in the name of fashion.
2012 Acura ZDX Review: Pros and Cons
- distinctive styling
- great cabin technology
- fun to drive
- cramped interior space including rear seat and cargo area
- polarizing design
- no upgraded performance model like competition
Acura provided the vehicle for this review
Original photos by Jeffrey N. Ross
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