I was a fan of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) long before they became a staple of every suburban driveway. I had owned frontrunners like the Dodge Ramcharger and the Ford Bronco a decade before any soccer mom would have gone near a rugged vehicle like that. Over the years, SUVs became more luxurious and agile because there never really was any “Sport” in “Sport Utility” during those early years. That is until the Cross-Over Utility Vehicle (CUV) stormed onto the stage with a widened stance, fat tires and a motor churning the kind of horsepower that would often make Sports Cars blush.
The engine in the Acura ZDX even embarrasses the brand’s most prolific sports car, the NSX, since it produces more power than the low-slung mid-engine car ever did. At 3.7 litres, the potent V6 in the ZDX displaces more volume than the NSX mill and features the legendary VTEC system mated to its single over head cam design. The V6 is an enjoyable engine to push, with a high redline that makes maximum power at 6400rpm. With 300hp on tap, this motor makes the ZDX a very fast vehicle. The response is direct and immediate thanks to the drive-by-wire throttle. Despite the high performance, this high-compression motor sips fuel. With 12.7L/100km in the city and a miserly 8.8L/100km on the highway, the ZDX is very efficient. It’s a good thing too, since this crossover only accepts premium fuel.
All of the good things happening under the hood would be of no consequence without an innovative transmission. For the experience to be complete, Acura fitted the ZDX with a 6-speed automatic transmission activated by race-inspired paddle shifters. Much like its main competitor the Infiniti FX, the ZDX features an all- new transmission to keep it in the powerband at all times. The shifts are fast and the gearbox is fitted with two new technological advances, the Grade Logic Control which selects the correct gears for going uphill and the Cornering G-Shift Control reduces gear changes during cornering when torque isn’t at your fingertips. These features combined with the SH-AWD drivetrain, dramatically improves performance.
Despite not being renowned for a huge AWD lineup, Acura’s Super Handling – All-Wheel Drive system is touted as one of the best available. An electronically controlled torque distribution system can send power to the wheels that are either slipping or require more power to whip the ZDX around corners faster. The sensors monitor the speed and angle of the turn and can send loads of torque to the rear outside wheel during a corner to help the car pivot faster and maintain a tighter line.
The fact that 100% of the power directed to the rear of the car can be sent to that critical outside wheel is a feat no other manufacturer has replicated. The power can also be alternated from front to rear according to conditions of driving style in addition to the left and right split to improve both performance and safety. All of the system’s calculations occur within fractions of a second and are are undetectable to the driver.
The prowess of the driveline advances work well in conjunction with the suspension. Up front is a MacPherson strut design with a multi-link trailing arm in the rear. On crumbling city streets the ride is firm yet very livable and downright impressive when provoked. Since this vehicle is nearly as heavy as the MDX it is based upon, there is acceptable amount of body roll, but the SH-AWD keeps the ZDX in check. It would have been interesting to review the magnetic ride control, which adjusts the dampening force for more extreme cornering, but that option is only available in the U.S. Regardless, the ZDX is a great handling vehicle that is competitive in an increasingly crowded segment. Staying competitive also means connecting the car to the asphalt with some impressive 19-inch alloys, running grippy 255/50R19 all seasons.
The sharp edge designs on current Acuras have definitely set them apart from other automakers. While the new look may have taken a while to set in, the sci-fi appearance of the ZDX just works. The same slippery lines that allow such great fuel efficiency are the ones that get this vehicle the attention it deserves. With a sharply split front fascia leading up to dramatic slip on the roofline tapering down to an angular rear hatch, the whole package appears fast even while standing still. The roof is almost entirely comprised of tinted glass that extends past the rear belt line to the hatch, creating the kind of rear-visibility reminiscent of the long-retired Honda CRX. Combined with the Bali Blue Pearl exterior on our tester, the greenhouse roof blended in seamlessly for an upscale, yet aggressive looking package. For us, one of the most striking features of the ZDX is the interior. With distinct swooping lines, rich materials and one of the slickest centre control panels we’ve ever seen, the interior gets top marks. All of the controls and gauges are logically located and easy to read and use. The power leather seats are bolstered well to keep occupants secure during cornering and comfortable on longer trips. The navigation controls are located on a popular push wheel design, while the rest are located on soft-touch buttons in the center of the dash. The buttons are LED backlit and go completely dark when not illuminated to give off a modern, iPhone-type feel.
The ZDX would make an ideal option for the “double-income, no kids” crowd and hip empty nesters that could use some sport with their utility. The back seat hasn’t been mentioned much for a reason since the roof line makes exit and entry a bit of a challenge, but the ZDX was never aimed at families but rather those who need the space but would never consider a minivan or a lumbering SUV. Fast, stylish and packed with industry-leading features, the ZDX should definitely be on the list of cars to consider when looking for a CUV.
2010 Acura ZDX
Price as tested: $59, 590 (Tech Package)
Engine: Acura 3.7L V6 VTEC
Output: 300hp with 270lb-ft
0-60mph = 6.1-seconds
60-0mph = 113 feet
Tested with: V-Box Performance Meter www.vboxusa.com