Acura calls the new ZDX "a provocative new four door sports coupe", but it's hard to feel shocked or outraged that anyone would attempt to pass off an SUV as a sports car. In the context of vehicles like Caddy's Escalade, Porsche's Cayenne, Infiniti's FX and BMW's X6, trying to define exactly what an SUV is these days is like trying to explain the differences between a Corvette and a Camry to a caveman.
The reality is the Acura ZDX is about as sporty as you'd expect a 4400lb all-wheel drive truck with 300hp, an automatic transmission, wide tires, and a relatively high center of gravity to be: A well-driven V-6 Camry SE sedan will blow its doors off on a winding back road. But with ZDX sportiness has nothing to do with function. It has everything to do with form.
The ZDX's sheetmetal is the work of 25 year old Acura designer Michelle Christensen, and looks remarkably close to her original theme sketches. Turning those sketches into the real thing required some serious rule-breaking by American Honda engineers. The sharply creased, broad shouldered rear quarter panel required a draw twice as deep as Honda regulations allowed, for example, and the development of a new phosphate coating so the metal would slip cleanly in the die. The fully glazed upper -- glass runs from the base of the windshield over the roof and down to the taillights -- raised concerns over weight and cost.
The interior shows the same dedication to form over function. Designer Michael Wiedeman's swooping concave feature lines, which arc across the dash, linking the center console and the doors, take more than an hour and a half to hand finish in leather. Honda can assemble almost a tenth of a whole Civic in the same time.
Yet there is a practical side to the ZDX. It will accommodate five, though the rear doors are relatively narrow, and that swooping roofline means visibility is limited. The rear load space might look compact, but there's a hidden under-floor compartment for extra storage, and side panels that can be removed to allow golf bags to be stowed crossways. The rear seats fold forward to create a near flat area that reaches forward to the B-pillar and offers 55.8 cubic feet of cargo space.