The 2010 Acura ZDX begins life as the MDX crossover, a vehicle we've long admired for bringing capable handling and three-row crossover functionality under one roof. Then things start getting weird. Due to its rakish exterior design, the ZDX has neither the third-row seat nor the roomy second-row seat of its family-minded sibling. Yet the ZDX doesn't get any additional sportiness in the bargain -- it has the same V6 and similar driving dynamics. Is this new Acura a savvy marketing decision, or an answer to a question nobody was asking?
Beyond its dramatic exterior, the ZDX offers some notable exclusive features, principally, its sumptuous interior layout. The dashboard features expansive swaths of soft hand-stitched leather -- a first for an Acura product -- and there is also a unique "Monolith" center stack that fades to black when powered off. The ZDX's standard six-speed automatic transmission further distinguishes it from other Acura models. Less impressive ZDX distinctions include just 56 cubic feet of cargo space (about the same as a Honda Fit), a meager 1,500-pound towing rating (the MDX can tow 5,000 pounds) and a cramped, coupelike backseat.
There's nothing particularly distinctive about the mandatory V6, either. It's the same 3.7-liter unit that powers the MDX and the TL SH-AWD sedan. There's a healthy 300 horsepower on tap, but the ZDX has 4,400 pounds to haul around. We've timed the MDX at an unremarkable 8.1 seconds from zero to 60 mph; we don't expect the ZDX's six-speed transmission to shave many tenths off that number. Nor does the ZDX raise the handling bar much, as it generally has the same underpinnings and all-wheel-drive system as the MDX.
Of course, much of the ZDX's appeal is going to be based on what your expectations are. If distinctive styling and a modicum of practicality are your only requirements, the 2010 Acura ZDX could be just the ticket. Plus, the ZDX undercuts the price of the similarly conceived BMW X6 xDrive35i by about $10,000. Yet we're not really fans of the X6, either. Meanwhile, regular crossovers like the MDX, BMW X5 and Land Rover LR4 all work better as daily-use vehicles. While the ZDX's existence proves it's possible to make a distinctively styled MDX with far less functionality, we're pretty sure no one was asking for that.
The 2010 Acura ZDX is a midsize five-passenger crossover SUV. Standard equipment includes 19-inch wheels, automatic xenon headlights, heated outside mirrors, a panoramic sunroof, ambient cabin lighting, a back-up camera with a rearview mirror display, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, heated eight-way power front seats, leather seat upholstery and interior trim, a trip computer, Bluetooth and a power liftgate. An eight-speaker stereo with an in-dash six-CD changer, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack is also standard.
There are two significant options packages for the ZDX. The Technology package adds keyless ignition and entry, a navigation system with real-time traffic and weather, a multiview back-up camera, and an upgraded Acura/ELS surround-sound stereo with a built-in 15-gigabyte hard drive. The Advance package includes these features plus electronically adjustable suspension dampers, a blind-spot warning system, adaptive cruise control, heated and ventilated front seats and a sport steering wheel.
The ZDX's cabin is one of its most appealing aspects -- for front passengers, that is. The control layout shares elements with other Acura products, notably the MDX, but the fade-to-black Monolith center stack is unique, as is the sumptuous hand-stitched leather trim on the dashboard, center console and door panels. Even the base model has its fair share of electronic toys, and the Technology and Advance packages add even more goodies, though the associated addition of extra buttons clutters up the look of the instrument panel.
For backseat passengers, it's a different story altogether. The cramped rear quarters are the sole way in which Acura's marketing designation of the ZDX as a "four-door sports coupe" makes sense. The ZDX's rakish rear roof line means even average-size adults may find themselves tilting their heads forward or sideways or slouching to fit. Furthermore, rear legroom is tight, and the seat cushion is mounted uncomfortably low to the floor. As for cargo capacity, the ZDX is considerably worse than just about any other crossover SUV -- a total of only 56 cubic feet of cargo space is available with the rear seatbacks folded (versus 83.5 in the MDX).
The 2010 ZDX features the same Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system found in many Acura products. It is capable of transferring different levels of power to individual wheels to maximize traction and grip through turns and in inclement weather. Power comes from a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 300 hp and 270 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control is standard. Fuel economy is a factory-estimated 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway. The ZDX's maximum towing capacity is 1,500 pounds.
The 2010 Acura ZDX tracks capably around corners, thanks to the SH-AWD system that mitigates understeer by sending torque to the wheels that need it most. Even so, the ZDX drives pretty much like an MDX, which is to say sporty as crossovers go but not exactly grin-inducing. The Advance package adds adjustable dampers, but we haven't found them to make nearly enough of a difference to justify the package's pricey premium.
The 3.7-liter V6 is familiar from other Acura vehicles. It's an adequate but not particularly memorable engine, with lackluster torque at low engine speeds. The six-speed automatic transmission does provide quick and smooth upshifts, but downshifts aren't always crisp.
Standard safety equipment for the 2010 Acura ZDX includes antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.
The 2010 Acura ZDX is a new style-driven midsize luxury crossover.