When baby boomers no longer need minivans and SUVs after their kids have grown up and moved away, what do they look for?
First, they need something new and different — something that tells others that they carve a unique spot in life despite “getting older.” Second, they want something practical, just in case they need to haul some sports equipment or just want extra space for carrying friends and family members. Finally, they want something that does not cry “family-oriented.”
BMW has successfully launched such a product in the form of the X6, and Acura hopes to capture the same kind of customers but with a much lower price point. Infiniti has done something similar with its FX series and others are following the same footsteps too.
Built on its MDX utility platform, Acura created a sleek four-door coupe body that challenges traditional thinking of what’s a coupe, a sports sedan or a utility vehicle.
Being based on a utility vehicle, the ZDX can easily handle the rough road trip to the cottage or any “off-the-beaten-path” destination. Yet, it also offers a sporty drive when unleashed on a paved road.
Powering the ZDX is a responsive 300-horsepower, 3.7-litre VTEC V-6 engine that’s mated to six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters at the steering wheel. Selecting the transmission’s “S” mode provides a more dynamic shift pattern and double-shifts can be made with the paddles.
The normal torque bias for Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system is to the rear wheels, which gives it a sportier handling feel. Up to 90 per cent of torque can instantly be transferred to the front wheels when needed. A torque-vectoring feature kicks in while cornering or accelerating and can re-direct up to 100 per cent of axle torque to either rear wheel, which further enhances the ZDX’s handling dynamics.
Some changes have been incorporated for 2012, such as the Technology Package which is now standard. This adds perforated Milano leather upholstery, a navigation system with voice recognition, eight-inch LED colour display, a rear-view camera, headlamp washers, a 10-speaker audio system, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth hands-free phone service and keyless access plus push-button ignition.
The unique styling of the ZDX was created by Acura’s Design Studio in California and based on original sketches by Michelle Christensen.
The coupe-like appearance of the ZDX is pulled off by enlarging the front doors and concealing the rear door handles in the window frame. The styling lines are the sharpest of any Acura and a unique stamping process called “deep-draw” was necessary to fabricate the rear quarter panels.
The upper cabin is tapered to the rear (from an overhead view) and the all-glass, sharply raked roof tops a curvaceous body with boldly flared fenders that give the back-end a wide, muscular look. Acura’s signature “floating” grille is surrounded by a honeycomb-design air opening.
Unfortunately, access to the back seats is extremely limited and going in-out of the rear may cost you a bump on your head.
Despite being a MDX-based car, the ZDX handles well — even better than the already acclaimed MDX itself. Slightly sharper, firmer, and more focused than the MDX, the car tracks straight and brings decent road feel throughout the different driving range.
The ZDX is a fairly heavy vehicle that weighs in at 2,007 kilograms (4,427 pounds) and comes with a superb and appropriately named Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system. This allows the ZDX to almost magically find grip in treacherous corners and was most impressive in the extremely wet weather conditions experienced during our time at the wheel. The 3.7-litre V-6 engine is a silky smooth power provider that has very good torque in the mid to upper end of its speed range. It can propel the ZDX to 100 kilometres per hour in about seven seconds. On the down side, city fuel consumption numbers are on the high side and it likes premium fuel.
The ZDX achieved top five-star ratings in crash tests performed by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a four-star rollover rating. An electronic stability system called Vehicle Stability Assist is standard and it also comes with airbag rollover protection, hill start assist and active front seat head restraints.
The interior is sporty and luxurious, while retaining a unique look distinct from the MDX model. “Futuristic” comes to my mind. The instrument panel is completely blank until the ignition is switched on and then the electroluminescent gauges appear in an impressive choreographed display.
A power-operated tilt and telescopic steering wheel is another bit of standard luxury and it also has an easy entry/exit feature. Those drivers who like to see the end of the hood while driving, however, may be disappointed and driver rear vision, even with the secondary lower back window, is also somewhat restricted. While seating is provided for up to five, the ZDX was conceived as a personal escape vehicle for two adults. It’s a design that’s clearly focused on pampering the front seat occupants and it also allows them to bring along considerably more cargo than a conventional coupe allows.
A power operated (open/close) rear liftgate is standard. The cargo area is fully carpeted and additional storage can be found in a large under-floor compartment. Removable side panels also allow golf bags to fit crosswise.
The only challenge is that the ZDX is not well appreciated in the marketplace (just look at their sales figures on this model), making this model a truly niche vehicle. The main issue is that people don’t exactly know what this car stands for: is it a sporty SUV, a five-door cross-over, or just fancy looking five-door luxury hatchback? The ZDX is none of these, of course, but people are not aware of that in the first glance at the car or even after a brief test drive. Once buyers understand the real intent of this car — it is a sporty, trendy alternative to today’s boring SUVs — they might appreciate the car much more. With pricing changes and added standard equipment, we might even say that the ZDX is a good value, which wasn’t the case when it first came out a few years back.