First Drive: 2010 Acura ZDX
The shape of things to come.
By Jean Jennings
Here's the new reality: We have a bulging generation of aging hipsters with active lives who don't want to drive with their knees up around their ears, and they want easy access for kayaks, geraniums, and occasional adult friends. And there are still a few people out there with money who want to be pampered in a cool-looking ride. But this idealized baby-boomer buggy can no longer look like a big SUV or a minivan, which makes the Acura ZDX a striking choice.
Without the exotic full-width, full-length panorama roof and the concealed rear door handles that give it a coupelike profile, the ZDX would look like it had been hit by the BMW X6's ugly stick. Having been prejarred by the X6, it's easier to accept Acura's wild fastback crossover.
The ZDX is a luxury leap for Acura, sure to be more of an image statement than a volume leader. Once you duck through its hunkered-down portals, you'll find an utterly glamorous, leather-lined cabin with a ton of headroom, at least for the happy couple up front. The seat leather is truly special - ironed to a smooth, buttery finish. The dash is a horizontal stack of lovely layered materials - rich chocolate leather and a slice of brushed aluminum in our test car - running from door to instrument binnacle. The headliner is thick, and the carpeted cargo area behind the three-passenger rear seat has a covered sub-trunk that will hold a case of wine. Check the seams of the doors, the hood, and the power liftgate, and you'll find no spot welds or rough metal edges.
There's no roughness in the driving experience, either, since the ZDX is based on the Acura MDX's platform and is powered by the same 300-hp, 3.7-liter V-6. A new six-speed automatic is operated with a set of perfectly placed aluminum paddles that feel great and work better. Even in auto mode, aggressive acceleration is met with crisp shifts almost at the rev limit. We dialed up Sport mode for a run west out of Carmel Valley on G16, and the heavier steering effort and firmer suspension dampening (part of the optional Advance Package) helped us to neatly slice through the long series of tight turns as the road narrowed and grew rough. Even in base trim, the ZDX hugs the road and is blessed with Acura's trademarked SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive), which sends varying amounts of torque not only from front to rear but can send 100 percent of available torque to the left or right wheels.
The Technology Package, which loads on the electronics, is the other of the two optional ZDX trims. Cue the premium ELS ten-speaker, 435-watt sound system, with USB, Bluetooth audio streaming, the ability to link six iPods, fifteen gigabytes to store ripped CDs, and voice-activated song recall, and you won't want to leave the cocoon. Think of your favorite boutique hotel, and Acura will nod sagely.
On sale: November
price: $45,000 (est.)
specs: 3.7L V-6, 300 hp, 270 lb-ft; 4-wheel drive