Tony Pimpo 11 years ago

2011 Acura ZDX Review - Defying Categorization

Remind me later
In the marketplace, Acura has traditionally positioned itself below competitors like BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but is working to reach higher with new models. The ZDX is one of the vehicles the brand is reaching higher with. The ZDX hit the market in late 2009 as Acura's take on a crossover with coupe-like qualities, similar in approach to BMW's X6. With the ZDX, Acura dared to be different. Did the gamble pay off? To find out, we spent a week with the ZDX. We wouldn't say Acura's biggest problem recently has been daring to be different though - Honda's luxury division certainly has set itself apart from the pack with the styling language of its latest vehicles. That differentiation has achieved questionable sales results. The ZDX defies expectations and categorization - it has a crossover ride height and a low body. It also has steeply raked front and rear windshields and appears to be two-door in design. Look further though and - surprise! - it has four doors. Up front the angular Acura look with the "Power Plenum" grille actually works, and the side body lines flow into aggressive rear haunches. With a dramatic, concept-like roofline, the rear angle is definitely our favorite. In person the ZDX has a presence that doesn't come across as well in photography. There is no question as to its polarizing nature, however. The ZDX stands out as something quite different than anything on the road. If you're looking to blend in with the crowd, the ZDX isn't for you. We'll get to the interior, but first we'll talk about entry into the interior for the driver and passenger. As we mentioned, the body of the ZDX is low slung, yet the ride height is like that of a crossover. That makes entry an interesting experience, and a graceful one near-impossible. Once you're planted in the seats, for the driver and passenger the interior is a pleasant place to spend time. The sensation of a tall ride height with sports-car atmospherics is unusual and actually pretty neat. A criticism of Acura interiors has been the expanse of buttons on the dash. The ZDX works to consolidate buttons into groups and eliminate unnecessary ones. It also has a trick up its sleeve - the buttons are not printed, but rather illuminated, even during the day. At rest, the panel looks dark. Once the car is started, each group lights up according to usage - turn off the HVAC or audio system, for instance, and the grouping of related buttons will go dark. The screen is placed at a perfect vantage point for optimal viewing. The placement however, rules out a touch screen. Touch screens aren't the Acura way however, as the system is operated with a central control knob. As we've mentioned before, the system can take a little getting used to. There is a longer learning curve than with touch-screen units and some other systems we have used, but once you get acquainted the system proves to be intuitive. The interior is constructed with high-quality plastics, and leather lines the dash and door panels. The interior colors for our tester weren't the liveliest - we would have loved to see our particular model outfitted with the stunning two-tone orange color scheme offered by Acura. It really would have offered some added pizzaz. Overall, the ZDX's interior is impressive, and every bit worthy of its price tag. Acura primarily markets the ZDX to couples, and we can see why. Entry to the rear is made difficult with the low roof-line and small doors. Once seated, rear passengers have sparing amounts of legroom and headroom. It isn't an excellent road trip vehicle for more than two adults, but it offers the ability over a coupe to take people around with you. The ZDX isn't exactly a bastion of practicality - but that isn't what it is intended to be. You can't judge it on traditional merits, as It is something entirely different. For the couple looking to be different, the ZDX offers the ability to take extra passengers in a pinch, as well as travel in adverse road conditions, along with the ability to store gear with a large loading area. Another area the ZDX doesn't behave like a traditional crossover is when the road gets winding. The car exhibited well-controlled body motions and firm suspension tuning. The steering was direct and nicely weighted. Our tester offered the ability to select between Sport and Comfort modes, and there was a noticeable difference between each. However, in either mode, the suspension is clearly tuned for a sport balance. Would you expect anything less? Needless to say, the ZDX passed the fun to drive test . Under hard acceleration the 300 horsepower 3.7-liter emitted a wonderfully nice exhaust note that could be heard at just the right volume in the cabin. Weighing in at 4424 pounds, the ZDX isn't exactly blisteringly fast, but the V-6 does its job. The ZDX certainly makes a statement about its driver. It stands out as a flagship of sorts for Acura. Isn't a little bit of uniqueness and deviation from the norm exactly what luxury is? By that measure, the ZDX excels.