Pros: Distinctive styling; tall ride height; all-wheel-drive capability
Cons: Expensive; tiny interior space; poor fuel economy
What's New: Single trim level includes a range of previously optional features; revised interior and exterior details; lane departure warning and forward collision warning
The 2013 Acura ZDX is the final incarnation of the distinctively styled model. Designed in its Southern California design studio, Acura aimed to show off its forward-thinking design skills with the ZDX. But perhaps the public just wasn't ready for the future. Acura sold only 1,564 units of the slant-back crossover in 2011 compared to 43,271 units of its more conventional MDX.
But at least Acura is sending the ZDX out with a bang. The final model year ZDX gets revised styling inside and out and a handful of newly added features. The 2013 model also ditches the option packages and instead comes in one well-equipped version. Pricing is up considerably to $50,920, but the mono-spec 2013 ZDX comes with more equipment than the base 2012 vehicle.
Comfort and Utility
The ZDX interior is in tune with the premium feel of the rest of the Acura brand, featuring hand-stitched leather dashboard, door panels, and sculpted center console. A new trim finish on the center console is among the updates for 2013, and a contrasting interior color scheme is optional. The seats are covered in perforated Milano leather, and the front seats are both heated and cooled.
One neat feature of the dash/control center is that when the vehicle is off, the buttons go dark and become virtually invisible. Controls return to life when the push-button ignition is re-engaged.
Though good-looking and well built, the interior is the ZDX's Achilles heel. The Acura MDX SUV, the vehicle upon which the ZDX is based, has a massively useful interior. The bigger MDX can comfortably seat seven passengers with room to spare in the back for luggage or a labradoodle. The ZDX, on the other hand, has difficulty accommodating even five passengers. Anyone taller than five-foot eight-inches will find the backseat virtually inaccessible. Adding a neat looking sloping roof on top of a tall vehicle platform, though aesthetically daring, is impractical. The back seat is cramped and the cargo area is only big enough for one small suitcase or a few bags of groceries. The ZDX's lack of interior space might be more acceptable on a smaller or cheaper vehicle, but luxury buyers used to roomier vehicles will likely be disappointed.
Exterior styling is mildly revised in this final model year. Acura subtly changed the grille design and added dark accents to the wheels for a sportier look.
The 2013 Acura ZDX includes a robust suite of technology that increases both connectivity and comfort. The standard navigation with voice recognition uses a bright, high-resolution 8-inch color display. AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic with Traffic Rerouting and AcuraLink Real-Time Weather with weather radar image maps help ensure that the driver will never be caught off guard by a traffic jam or a surprise thunderstorm. Front and rear parking sensors are also standard for 2013, as is a 435-watt, 10-speaker audio system with a 15 GB hard drive.
Performance & Fuel Economy
Acura drivetrains are typically tight, peppy, and fun, and the ZDX is even more engaging than its siblings. The 3.7-liter V6 produces 300 horsepower and 270 pound feet of torque. While some Japanese V6 engines have a high-pitched whine, the ZDX's V6 has a deeper rumble that imitates the sound of a V8. The ZDX begs the driver to pin the accelerator to the floor whenever possible. Of course the luxury of having 300 horsepower at the driver's disposal comes at a price. Fuel economy in the ZDX is EPA-rated at 16 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway on Premium fuel.
The ZDX continues Acura's "Safety Through Innovation" initiative by providing excellent safety for its passengers. The effort begins with the vehicle's structure, which uses Acura's Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE).
ACE is an Acura-exclusive body design that enhances occupant protection especially in frontal crashes. ACE utilizes a network of connected, high-strength structures to more evenly distribute crash energy throughout the front of the vehicle. This enhanced frontal crash energy management reduces the forces transferred to the passenger compartment and can help to more evenly disperse the forces transferred to other vehicles in a crash. This means the ZDX is not only safer for its passengers but also for the passengers in other vehicles as well.
Two newly added features--lane departure warning and forward collision warning--further bolster safety. Lane departure warning alerts the driver if the ZDX begins to drift out of its lane without the turn signal on. Forward collision warning signals a potential crash ahead--if the ZDX is speeding toward a stopped car, for instance--and can even apply brakes if the driver does not correct course.
The spirited ZDX is a real kick to maneuver on the road. Behind the proud V6 is Acura's 6-speed automatic transmission with Sequential SportShift. From there, the power is put to the road through Acura's acclaimed Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD). The ZDX handles remarkably well and shifts smoothly and with competence. Though some drivers may question this Acura's styling, few will doubt its top-notch command of the road.
The short, stocky body, though visually interesting, does not allow for ideal visibility. Taller drivers that have to sit low in the ZDX--just to fit--will find it difficult to see the obstacles and other cars around them.
There is an upside, however. With a roaring motor, a quick-shifting and highly competent transmission, light, accurate steering, and a powerful stereo, it's easy to look past the ZDX's shortcomings and become enchanted with the driving experience. The ride height of an SUV coupled with the performance of a power wagon means that many driving enthusiasts may find the ZDX highly enjoyable.
Other Cars to Consider
BMW X6 - Although stylistically the only direct comparison in the market for the ZDX, the X6 is more expensive (starting at $59,800), less capable off road, and can only seat 4 passengers.
Volvo XC70 - Cheaper and more spacious inside, the Volvo XC70 doesn't quite have the same visual panache that the ZDX has. What it lacks in eye-catching looks, however, it makes up for in family-friendly ruggedness.
Audi A7 - Pricing for the Audi A7 starts around $59,000 and it's more car-like than the ZDX. Like the ZDX, the A7 has a capable all-wheel drive system and seating for five. It also has a slant-back design similar to that of the ZDX, with a rear hatch in place of a conventional trunk.
Customers infatuated with the ZDX won't find anything else quite like it. If you have your heart set on the ZDX, now's your final chance to buy a brand new one. You'll get a range of standard features that were extra-cost options on previous model years plus some equipment that wasn't offered before. And since it's an Acura, you can plan to keep it for a long time without worrying about reliability.