Acura calls the ZDX a "sports coupe." Seeing as it's built on the same platform as the MDX SUV and shares its powertrain, all-wheel-drive layout, and high seating position, the purists might argue. But in the context of BMW's new X6 M, and Infiniti's FX50, Acura might have a point. These days, almost anything with a cabin where space has been deliberately compromised for the sake of style is called a sports coupe.

The ZDX is the first vehicle designed entirely at Honda's $15 million Acura Design Studio in Torrance, California. It's the work of a young design team -- Damon Schell, project leader, Michelle Christensen, whose theme sketches were adopted for the exterior, and interior designer Michael Wiedeman -- are all well under 40. The ZDX shares many design cues with the controversial TL sedan, though the execution is thankfully much less cartoonish. In fact, the production version, which will differ on in minor detail, will arguably be the best looking vehicle in the Acura range when it goes on sale this fall.

The ZDX is big. Overall length is 192.4 in. and overall width is 78.5 in. It rides on a 108.2-in. wheelbase and stands 61.8 in. tall. The rakish roofline is key to the ZDX's sports coupe pretensions. The rear door handles have been hidden to emphasize the coupelike profile. The roof features black-tinted glass panels, which continue right through the backlight and onto the vertical surface of the rear hatch, just like an old CRX. Or a Lamborghini Espada. The through bumper exhaust outlets are a first for Honda.

In the ZDX function is secondary to form. The C-pillars have been pulled dramatically inward to give the ZDX a pronounced shoulder over the rear wheel. "The rear quarter panel requires the deepest draw in Honda history," says Schell. The B-pillar has also been moved rearward compared with the MDX. As a result, the rear door aperture is relatively narrow, and tall passengers will find the rear seat headroom a little tight. With rear vision likely to be somewhat restricted, its no surprise to learn the production ZDX will come standard with an all-new blind spot warning system and a multi-view rear camera that will offer wide angle and top-down views.

If you want a family car, buy an MDX -- the ZDX is aimed at well-off couples who don't need to take kids with them when they travel, say the designers. "At one stage, we even thought of making it so the rear seats folded up only when you needed them," says Schell.

That idea was rejected, but the ZDX still features one of the most overtly upscale interiors yet from Honda. Production versions will retain the show car's sweep of leather running from the doors across the crash-pad and onto the center console, though not in impractical white. A proprietary process allows the leather to be formed over the concave surfaces. All the minor controls are grouped around a black center stack nicknamed "The Monolith" by the design team because its backlit button labels disappear when the ignition is switched off.

Honda officials won't confirm all details of the production version yet, but logic suggests this range-topping, sporty Acura will be available with the punchy 305-hp, 3.7L V-6 offered in the TL. The engine will be mated to an all-new six speed automatic transmission with a sequential sport-shift mode. All weather traction is courtesy of Honda's complex, heavy but effective Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system.