The history of the auto business is rife with examples of cars that made serious functionality compromises in the name of risky styling. To that list you can add the 2013 Acura ZDX.
Acura starts in a good place with its ZDX, borrowing amply from the worthwhile genes of its MDX midsize crossover. From that crossover you get a 3.7-liter V6 and an advanced all-wheel-drive system that helps sharpen handling. The MDX-mimicking interior is also well assembled and brims with the best technology features you'll find in any luxury vehicle.
But from there it's largely downhill for the ZDX. Mostly, its coupelike styling causes functional drawbacks. The rear seats are cramped and claustrophobic (dark leather upholstery magnifies the effect) and the pinched rear styling and sharply rear-sloping roof combine with a high floor to make the cargo area under the rear hatch almost laughably skimpy. Drop the rear seats and there's at least more length with which to work, but the deeply slanting roof prevents loading anything of much height unless it can be laid on its side.
It's worth noting that the ZDX isn't the only vehicle out there that sacrifices functionality on the altar of style. BMW has done a similar thing with its X6, although the X6 is markedly more expensive. Style is prioritized over utility for the smallish Range Rover Evoque as well, right down to it being offered with just two doors as well as four.
There are countless conventional luxury crossovers that are viable alternatives to the 2013 Acura ZDX, but if keeping with a more carlike profile is your preference, some of the more stylish wagons might catch your eye, including the all-wheel-drive 2013 Audi Allroad or Volvo's XC60.
The 2013 Acura ZDX is a midsize hatchback offered in a single trim level that seats five. Standard features include 19-inch wheels, automatic xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors, a power liftgate, foglights, power-folding heated outside mirrors and a panoramic sunroof.
Inside there is keyless ignition/entry, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, driver memory settings and eight-way power front seats with heating and ventilation. Electronic features include a rearview camera, Bluetooth, a navigation system, voice controls and a 10-speaker audio system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB/iPod interface.
Acura maintains a strong reputation for interior materials quality and assembly, and the 2013 ZDX is a prime example of why: The ZDX's interior is an excellent blend of cool, soft surfaces and tech-oriented materials, all meticulously assembled. The overall look is not of traditional luxury cars but nonetheless exudes deep quality. The center console housing the gear selector sharply divides the front seats into two cocooning cockpit-shaped areas. The upper-dash bulge containing the navigation/audio controls appears a little dated and thus seems out of sync with the rest of the ZDX's high-tech interior aura.
Those in the front have a great view, and comfort from the ZDX's supportive front seats abounds, but thanks to the raked roof line, those in the rear -- and it really should be two occupants at most -- are less fortunate. Headroom and legroom are in short supply, despite seat cushions that are low to the floor and not particularly comfortable. The outward view also is cramped by the sloping roof, which compresses the rear window area.
Despite its hatchback body and crossover orientation, the 2013 ZDX doesn't deliver the utility you might expect of a conventional crossover. With the rear seats up, there's a relatively meager 26 cubic feet of available cargo space; once again, blame the sharply raked roof. Drop the rear seats to make the ZDX a two-seater and maximum cargo space improves to a still-modest 56 cubic feet, much less than conventional midsize luxury SUVs.
The 2013 Acura 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.
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. EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined.
The 2013 Acura ZDX has a stout, athletic feel on the road, not surprising given that the MDX crossover on which the ZDX is based is one of the more satisfying midsize SUVs to drive. The ZDX responds confidently to steering commands and although the advantages of the vehicle's all-wheel-drive system can be subtle, there's no doubt the system contributes to the ZDX's nailed-down cornering and stability in higher-speed corners.
The 3.7-liter V6 and six-speed automatic work well together. Power delivery is adequate, but considering the ZDX's more sporting mission, some people will likely be disappointed with its slower-than-average acceleration times.
Standard safety equipment for the 2013 Acura ZDX includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Also standard are forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning systems, although the ZDX's former blind-spot monitoring and collision-mitigation functions are gone, as is the adaptive cruise control that enabled the collision-mitigation system.
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 its frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength 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.
For 2013, the Acura ZDX receives subtle exterior styling updates and revised safety features. Adaptive cruise control has been discontinued. Acura has also said this will be the last year for the ZDX.