There is no cut and dry answer on what qualifies a vehicle for greatness. You can look at numbers and figures all day long to determine faster, bigger and more agile, but when comes down to it, the choice of what we drive is emotional and not logical. The Acura ZDX stirred emotions in all our editors, ranging from love to hate and everything in between. It's those middle ground decisions that determine if the car is a quirky piece of art or a flawed attempt at modernization.
The seating position and forward visibility were two of the attributes universally praised in our ZDX. In contrast, the rear seats were universally despised. Associate online editor Benson Kong surmised the ZDX was designed for rear passengers no taller than 5 feet. While this fits fine with online production manager Kirill Ougarov's assertion that we should call the ZDX a 2+2, it doesn't jibe with the reality that it is in fact a large four-door vehicle. The design, fit and finish, and interior quality caused consternation as well. Everyone seemed to appreciate the button labels, which disappear when inactive, but the sheer number of buttons caused some drivers to flash into a control-clicking overload. One editor actually took the time and counted 83 buttons, switches, and knobs, excluding window, mirror, or wiper controls, leading him to refer to the interior as "a button orgy."
The interior is a mix of materials and textures. Some look almost exotic, while others look straight out of Honda's entry-level offerings. On the dash alone there are three different materials that all look like leather. One of them certainly must be real leather, but that just illustrates that the others aren't. Senior editor Jonny Lieberman was so impressed with the carpet that he even compared it with that in an English car. The trunk area is also littered with cubbies and covered storage areas. It may cut down on overall space, but it makes for convenient spots to hide valuables and keeps the floor flat for easy loading. We were surprised by just how much cargo fits in the rear, especially with the seats folded down. Acura says the crossover's demographic is empty-nesters seeking something a little more stylish and sporty than a typical sedan. If that is the case, it might be the perfect vehicle for antiquing one weekend and hauling grandkids the next.
Performance probably is not the highest priority for those empty-nesters, either. While everyone on staff was impressed with the ZDX's handling, helped out by near-flawless all-wheel drive and a wide track, many of the drivers felt it disappoints in the power department. Ougarov and Truck Trend editor Allyson Harwood wanted more "oomph" and feel that "300 horsepower just doesn't cut it anymore." Executive editor Edward Loh logged, "The sensations of sound and vibration are probably the best part of the ZDX driving experience," but added, "Too bad the rate of acceleration just doesn't match that fantastic soundtrack." Our ZDX took 6.8 seconds to get from 0-60 mph and ran through the quarter mile in 15.3 seconds at 91.5. For a comparison, the last time we tested a BMW X6 xDrive35i, we recorded numbers of 5.9 seconds for 0-60 and 14.5 seconds at 95.2 for the quarter mile. To be fair, this was the X6 with the six-speed transmission. We haven't retested since the SUV has been fitted with a newer, more advanced eight-speed transmission, which BMW claims has improved 0-60 by over two-tenths. The numbers look big on paper, but will most owners care? In contrast to the other comments, associate editor Scott Evans wrote, "It isn't a sports car and it really doesn't look like one, so I don't find myself expecting more from it. It's got plenty of power for merging and passing on the freeway, and that's really all it needs."
What this vehicle also definitely needs is the Blind-Spot Information System in our Advance trim level. Visibility is compromised by the swooping rooflines and thick pillars, making lane changes a constant adventure. The same goes for the standard backup camera and proximity sensors. With the Tech package, the ZDX uses a camera with multiple viewing options and the center-mounted navigation screen instead of the tiny screen mounted in the rearview mirror. Both of these features make the big Acura livable in traffic and parking lots. We can't imagine the bumps and scrapes our ZDX would have had without the electronic help, so we urge potential customers to order the Tech package.
Aside from the few complaints, our Acura was near bulletproof over its year of living in the long-term fleet. It recorded no additional expenses on top of the $406.58 in scheduled maintenance. Dealership service was always fast and efficient, although on our last trip in we were made as "Motor Trend guys," so the extra-friendly service may have been a little bit over the top.
The ZDX served us as highway cruiser, light off-roader, and around-town commuter. While the 19 mpg average fuel economy might be a little low for some, overall we were pleased with the performance. But we got stuck on a few of its faults. Lieberman summed it up: "Strange days require a strange vehicle. There are some things about the ZDX I love, some I hate. As a driver, I found the whole car totally polarizing. As in I couldn't make up my mind mile to mile. In a lot of ways, the ZDX is like a cheaper BMW X6, only not all that much [$430] cheaper."
From the logbook
"The ZDX is attention-getting, with most admiring stares coming from the drivers of luxury sedans and coupes, plus several 'WTF??'-type glances from older folks."
"I dare anyone not armed with the owner's manual to switch from Trip A to Trip B in under 5 minutes. I don't think it's possible."
"There's some practicality in the ZDX, too. While the Acura's cargo area may not be the biggest around, the four closed compartments were helpful. The large enclosed compartment in the center of the cargo area is perfect for storing a tennis racket or a huge Acura "Thor" press kit while you're transporting plants above it."
| Our Vehicle |
| Base Price || $46,305 |
| Options || Advance Package ($6050: adaptive damping system, adaptive cruise control, ventilated front seats, collision mitigation braking system, blind spot monitoring); Technology Package ($4500: Navigation with real-time traffict and weather, sports seats, 10-speaker surround sound, hard disk drive, push button ignition, dual zone climate control, keyless access) |
| Price as tested || $56,855 |
| Total mileage || 20,541 miles |
| Avg fuel economy || 19.0 mpg |
| Problem areas || None |
| Maintenance cost || $406.58 |
| Normal-wear cost || None |
| 3-year residual value* || $21,833 |
| Recalls || None |
| *Automotive Lease Guide data |