2012 Acura ZDX

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2010 Acura ZDX — Review

This 2010 review is representative of model years 2010 to 2013.
By James Tate of MSN Autos
Rating: 7.6

Bottom Line:

The 2010 ZDX brings the Acura experience to the luxury crossover market — the good and the bad. Unique styling and a great drivetrain will likely spur sales, but vague steering and the styling could limit appeal.
Pros:
  • Unique styling
  • Cool torque-vectoring all-wheel drive
  • Great engine and transmission
Cons:
  • Unattractive familial nose
  • Confusing dashboard arrangement
  • Detached steering, especially in the Tech Package

The luxury crossover segment is growing like a California wildfire, but Acura's new ZDX competes in a very specific niche of that segment, also occupied by the BMW X6. Acura is actually calling the 2010 ZDX a 4-door sports coupe, not a crossover.

Regardless, it's a crossover designed to fall between the company's MDX and RL in both size and price.

As we've come to expect from Acura, the uniquely styled ZDX brings plenty of technology to the table, as well as an excellent Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system. But shoppers might be a bit perplexed by the 5-door's looks at first.

Model Lineup
Like most luxury crossovers, the ZDX — built on the MDX platform — comes in a 5-door configuration. The rear doors open up into a reasonably sized seating area, and a large hatch allows for easy access to the cargo area. Storage space is noticeably compromised compared to the MDX, but Acura figures buyers won't need the MDX's hatch room.

Standard amenities include a leather interior, power-adjustable front seats and dual-zone climate control. Acura is sticking with the standard 2-tier option package on the ZDX, and as a result you can have a Technology Package that adds features such as keyless entry, push-button start and a sweet navigation system with voice recognition. If that's not enough luxo-tech for you, there's an Advanced Package as well. The top-of-the-line ZDX adds adaptive cruise control, an adaptive damper system and speed-sensitive steering.

Under the Hood
Acura has done a great job with the drivetrain in the ZDX. Power comes from a 3.7-liter V6 engine. Variable valve timing and lightweight aluminum construction help the engine turn out 300 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. Those are pretty smart numbers, even in a full-time all-wheel-drive crossover. Even more surprising is the fuel economy — according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the ZDX returns 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway. Not bad, but not stellar either.

Acura's 6-speed automatic transmission adopts gear ratios specifically designed for the ZDX, and the smooth-shifting unit's efficiency helps return those decent fuel economy numbers. The company calls the manual actuation SportShift, and while it yields quick enough shifts, we don't foresee many buyers clicking off gears on their way to the local Pottery Barn.

Mated to that transmission is the company's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, or SH-AWD. The system uses torque vectoring to put power where it's needed most, meaning you get zero wheel spin and a neutral driving experience. Torque is shuffled between the rear wheels to negate understeer and help with turn-in. A display on the dash shows you exactly where your engine's power is going, too. While the display is about as useful as pumping up your sneaks, it's still cool to watch.

Inner Space
The ZDX seats five, though the second row is best left for just two passengers — two very small passengers. Fortunately, those seats fold flat to allow for a substantial amount of cargo room, given the inherent compromises mandated by styling. A large rear hatch does much to make loading and unloading easy.

The interior in the ZDX is one of Acura's best efforts so far. Real metal door pulls give the cabin a sense of quality, and Acura says the optional leather dash is clad in material straight from Italy. In the Advanced Package, the driver and front passenger get the most effective ventilated leather seats we've ever experienced, and LED lighting soaks the cabin at night.

Acura has carried over the dizzying array of center console and dashboard buttons from the MDX. Navigating the audio/climate/entertainment/navigation screen is perplexing enough while stopped and all but impossible while on the go. The one saving grace is voice recognition — but it's safe to expect the passenger will handle most of the controls.

On the Road
We had the good fortune to take a spin in both the ZDX Technology Package and the ZDX Advanced Package. While both cars offer plenty of horsepower and a sweet-shifting 6-speed automatic, the real difference between them is in the steering. In the Technology Package, expect a seriously detached tiller. With little feedback from the road, the ZDX Technology Package feels geared for a trip to the soccer field, not through the twisties.

Fortunately, the situation gets a little better in Advanced Package trim. Speed-sensitive power steering helps give a little feedback when you yank on the wheel, and offers a more planted experience all around. Though the Advanced Package delivers an adaptive damper system that allows the driver to choose between Sport and Comfort modes; both settings overcome variations in pavement extremely well and offer a comfortable ride at the expense of a sporting nature.

Truth be told, the vague steering and plush ride aren't bad things. Though the ZDX may be marketed as a sportier blend of sport utility and sedan, the crossover's MDX underpinnings and high ride height make it clear this vehicle is built more for touring wine country than cutting up your local canyon. And since that seems to be perfectly in line with the stereotypical CUV buyer, we don't see that as a problem.

Right for You?
Acura is keeping pricing details to itself for now, but says we can expect a price somewhere between the MDX, at around $41,000, and the RL, which runs approximately $47,000. We aren't math geniuses, but that would put the base price somewhere in the mid-$40Ks. If you're after a very comfortable cruiser with extra cargo room, the ZDX might be just the ticket — but don't expect to keep pace with the Bavarian competition.

James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side asSenior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.

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BB03 - 9/21/2014 11:35:35 PM