It's been said that innovation is often mistaken for madness until time decides otherwise. Now, we don't have a crystal ball, but we're confident that history might not be so kind to the 2012 Acura ZDX. From outward appearance, the ZDX is certainly intriguing, with its elevated ride height, chiseled body and sporty profile. Unfortunately, compromises in the name of this form are many and may be enough to steer shoppers elsewhere.
Under its evocative shape, the ZDX is essentially an Acura MDX, and that's certainly a good point from which to start. The MDX has proven itself as a luxury SUV with athletic handling, more-than-adequate power and a finely crafted interior; the ZDX maintains these admirable traits. The real problem arises from the sloping rear roof line that greatly reduces rear-seat comfort and cargo capacity.
It's a coupe-style utility vehicle, meant to be stylish and personal, but there's too much coupe and not enough utility. To further drive home the point, the Acura ZDX lacks any appreciable performance advantage over the MDX. In fact, the ZDX is penalized in terms of towing capacity, which maxes out at a paltry 1,500 pounds compared to the MDX's 5,000-pound limit.
It's unlikely that style could overcome all that ails the 2012 Acura ZDX. The similarly styled BMW X6 suffers a similar fate as the ZDX and will also set you back an additional $10,000. If looks really are a priority, you might as well consider the dramatic Range Rover Evoque. Then again, you can always make a more reasoned decision and opt for the Acura MDX or BMW X5, which are likely fashionable enough.
The 2012 Acura ZDX is a midsize crossover SUV offered in a single trim level that seats five.
Standard features include 19-inch wheels, automatic xenon headlights, foglights, 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, power heated front seats (10-way-adjustable driver seat with memory, eight-way for the front passenger), leather upholstery and interior trim, a trip computer, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth and a power liftgate. An eight-speaker stereo with an in-dash six-CD changer, satellite radio and a USB/auxiliary audio jack is also standard.
There are two significant option packages for the ZDX. The Technology package adds keyless ignition/entry, perforated premium leather seats, a navigation system with real-time traffic and weather, a multi-view back-up camera, added Bluetooth phone functions with streaming audio and an upgraded 10-speaker Acura/ELS surround-sound audio system with digital music storage. The Advance package includes these features plus electronically adjustable suspension dampers, a blind-spot warning system, adaptive cruise control, a collision warning and mitigation system, heated and ventilated front seats and a sport steering wheel.
The 2012 Acura ZDX features an appealing cabin, notable for its intriguing design and liberal use of leather. Controls are arranged similarly to other Acuras, but a monolithic center stack that fades to black when the car is powered down is unique to the ZDX. There is an abundance of buttons within reach of the driver, but for the most part, operation is fairly simple. Adding in the Technology or Advanced packages tends to clutter the center stack's appearance, though. Hand-stitched leather graces the dash pad, center console and door panels for an upscale look and feel.
Front seat passengers are treated to comfortable and supportive seats, but those relegated to the rear will likely find accommodations less hospitable. The sloping roof line reduces headroom to the point that even average-sized adults will brush up against the headliner. Legroom is also notably lacking, exacerbated by seat cushions mounted uncomfortably close to the floor.
The 2012 ZDX is powered by a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic with manual shift control is the only available transmission. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 19 mpg in combined driving. The ZDX's maximum towing capacity is an underwhelming 1,500 pounds.
The ZDX features the same Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system found in other Acuras, capable of transferring different levels of power to individual wheels to maximize traction and grip through turns and in inclement weather.
In recent Edmunds testing, the ZDX accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds, which is about a second slower than the BMW X5 or X6.
Despite its sporty, rakish appearance, the 2012 Acura ZDX doesn't perform any better than the MDX crossover on which its based, although this conventional utility vehicle is admittedly one of the most athletic SUVs on the market. The SH-AWD system provides a surprising level of cornering grip by distributing torque to the wheels that need it most. Opting for the Advance package and its adjustable suspension is an intriguing performance upgrade, though the base suspension works just fine.
The 3.7-liter V6 provides an inspiring soundtrack, but the power it generates lacks low-end torque and falls just short of impressive. The six-speed automatic transmission executes upshifts quickly and smoothly.
Standard safety equipment for the 2012 Acura ZDX includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. The optional Advance package adds blind-spot monitoring and a collision mitigation braking system paired to the adaptive cruise control. This system detects the likelihood of a front-end collision and alerts the driver with visual and audible warnings. If the driver takes no action, the system engages the brakes and tightens the driver's seatbelt. If the system deems a collision inevitable, it increases braking force and tightens both front seatbelts.
In government crash tests, the Acura ZDX received a top overall score of five out of five stars, with four stars for overall front crash protection and five stars for overall side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the ZDX its highest score of "Good" in frontal-offset crash tests.
In Edmunds brake testing, the ZDX came to a stop from 60 mph in 130 feet, which is longer than average for cars in this class.
The Acura ZDX returns unchanged for 2012.