2010 Acura ZDX

2010 Acura ZDX 2010 Acura ZDX
First Drive Review

The Acura ZDX is endearingly weird, the sort of vehicle you might expect Citroën to produce, were it still doing business in America and hoping to slake our countrymen’s thirst for an all-in-one crossover/sports coupe/sedan/SUV. What the ZDX is not, philosophically, is a Honda. “This isn’t the old Acura way of ‘Honda Plus,’” says Acura’s executive vice-president John Mendel, and indeed, this thing is seriously out of compliance with the Honda ethos. The ZDX trades efficiency and rationality for a big ol’ bag of interesting.

It’s a five-door fastback that seats two to three fewer occupants than the MDX and Honda Pilot SUVs on which it’s based. It tows as little as a Honda CR-V (1500 pounds). It has less cargo space than the subcompact Honda Fit. Acura wanted to create a sporty coupe, so naturally it, um, gave it heavy running gear and lifted its center of gravity?

Maybe we’ve had our defenses broken down by the begrudgingly excellent BMW X6, but the ZDX starts to make sense once you drive it, especially in its element, i.e., the winding coastal roads of northern California or the snowy passes of Tahoe. This is a vehicle for those well-tanned, Cialis-addled boomers you see frittering away their early retirements on winery tours, decorator consults, and elective surgeries. In other words, the kind of people a maitre d’ seats us far away from.

It’s a low-stress machine. Though it feeds an ample 300 horsepower from its 3.7-liter V-6 through Acura’s new six-speed automatic transmission and its torque-shuffling SH-AWD system, the ZDX’s dials are angled toward luxury rather than sport. True, it does have an optional sport mode (part of the Advance package), which livens up steering effort and damper response. But there remains a tendency for the ZDX to worry itself around corners, not providing the steering feedback and off-center torque buildup you get in the MDX. The brakes are easy to predict, though, and the vehicle stays composed through hard bends and over broken roads, thanks to the Advance pack’s magneto­rheological adaptive dampers.

The ZDX’s exterior is deeply alluring and reconciles, finally, Acura’s new “shogun warrior” styling theme. Its long panoramic glass roof terminates in a transom window set between the ZDX’s ultra-wide, sculpted hips. The interior, though difficult to access through the rear doors, is roomy and filled with high-quality touches—loop carpet, a strut-equipped cargo-bin lid, and leather that feels like it slid off a side of Wagyu beef.

Coming to market nicely loaded—a roughly $3500 Technology package adds nav, an eight-inch display screen (a camera with rearview-mirror-integrated display is standard), and ELS audio; the Advance pack offers all that, plus stuff such as blind-spot warning and adaptive cruise for about another $2000—the ZDX will start around $44,000, sitting, pricewise, between the MDX and the RL. It will offer 15,000 or so empty-nester MDX buyers a way to stay in the Acura brand without having to resort to driving a sedan. Because that would be far too rational.