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2012 Acura ZDX: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Nick Jaynes March 2012

Pros: distinctive styling; tall ride height; all-wheel-drive capability

Cons: expensive; tiny interior space; poor fuel economy

The first vehicle designed solely in its Southern California design studio, Acura aimed to show off its forward-thinking design skills with the ZDX.

Although never intended to be a high-volume model, the ZDX has likely been a sales disappointment for Acura, with only 1,564 units sold in 2011. To put that number in context, Acura's best-selling model, the MDX, accounted for 43,271 units in the same year.

The ZDX is amongst a new breed of luxury vehicles akin to the BMW X6. Built on the same platform as the much larger MDX SUV, the ZDX has high ground clearance and a short, sleek body. This is in stark contrast to the similarly shaped X6, which was built on a car platform. By comparison of the underpinnings alone, the ZDX is more rugged and capable than its competitors.

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. What we really like about the dash/control center is that when the vehicle is off, the buttons go dark and become virtually invisible and then return to life when the push-button ignition is engaged.

Though good-looking and well built, the interior is the ZDX's Achilles heel. The MDX, the vehicle platform upon which the ZDX is based, has a massively useful interior. The MDX can comfortably seat seven passengers with room to spare in the back for luggage or a labradoodle. The ZDX, on the other hand, will have difficulty seating five. Anyone above five-foot eight-inches will find the backseat entirely inaccessible. Adding a neat looking sloping roof on top of a tall vehicle platform, though daring, is inadvisable as demonstrated in the ZDX. 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 if it were smaller or cheaper, but luxury buyers used to roomier vehicles will likely be disappointed.

Technology

The ZDX has an available Technology Package that increases both connectivity and comfort. Surprisingly, the package starts with luxurious full-grain Perforated Milano Premium Leather for the seating surfaces. From there, Acura adds a keyless-entry remote with push-button start and navigation with voice recognition. The navigation screen is a bright, high-resolution 8-inch color display. The Technology Package also includes AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic with Traffic Rerouting along with the AcuraLink Real-Time Weather with weather radar image maps, meaning the driver will never be caught off guard by a traffic jam or a surprise thunderstorm.

Performance & Fuel Economy

Acura drivetrains are always tight, peppy, and a lot of fun. The ZDX is even more fun than its siblings. The 3.7-liter V6 produces 300 horsepower and 270 pound feet of torque. Where some Japanese V6 engines have a high-pitched whine, the ZDX's V6 has a deep rumble that sounds like it's impersonating 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. The ZDX is EPA rated at 16 MPG in the city and 23 on the highway on Premium fuel.

Safety

The ZDX continues Acura's "Safety Through Innovation" initiative by providing excellent safety for its passengers. Safety in the ZDX begins with its construction. The ZDX is constructed with Acura's new Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure.

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 for the passengers in other vehicles as well.

Driving Impressions

Like we mentioned above, the bellowing ZDX is a real kick to maneuver on the roadways. 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 the outward bits of the Acura might be unconventional, its command of the road is anything but.

The short, stocky body, though visually interesting, doesn't make for ideal road visibility. Taller drivers have to sit so low in the ZDX - just to be able to fit - will find it difficult to see the obstacles and other cars on the road around them.

On the 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. With the ride height of an SUV coupled with the performance of a power wagon, many driving enthusiasts will find the ZDX highly pleasurable.

Other Cars to Consider

BMW X6: Although technically the only direct comparison in the market for the ZDX, the X6 is more expensive (starting at $59,6000), less capable off road (as its built on a car platform), and can only has seats for 4 passengers (compared to 5 in the ZDX).

Volvo XC70: Cheaper and more spacious on the interior, 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: The Audi A7 starts at $59,250 and is more car-like than the ZDX. Like the ZDX, however, the A7 has a strong all-wheel drive system, seating for five, and a rear hatch for improved utility.

AutoTrader Recommends

Customers infatuated with the ZDX won't find anything else quite like it. If you have your heart set on the ZDX, go full boar and get the loaded version with all the technological toys. Studies show that fully loaded vehicles hold their value better than lower-range versions do. And since it's an Acura, you can plan to keep it for a long time because it probably won't breakdown.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2012 Acura ZDX: New Car Review - Autotrader