Lately there’s been reason to question if Acura has lost its way as a brand. For starters, there’s the designs. Next, it wasn’t all that long ago that Honda’s luxury arm exited the entry-level sport coupe market where the RSX was so successful – and so good. Plus, there’s Acura’s continued insistence that it won’t build a V8 or go rear-drive and, therefore, won’t ever truly compete as a top-tier luxury brand. Then there’s the botched NSX revival.
|1. The Acura ZDX is powered by a 3.7L V6 with 300-hp, delivering a 0-60 mph time of 6.5 seconds.
2. Options include things like high-grade Milano leather, Keyless Access with a push-button ignition, vented front seats, Adaptive Cruise Control, a blind spot information system and active damping suspension.
3. Pricing starts at $45,495, jumping to $49,995 with the Technology Package and full-loaded with the Advance Package at $56,045.
But let’s put all that behind us for a moment and examine Acura’s progressive new ZDX, with its mould breaking concept and provocative design. Here is real proof that Acura has lost its way.
TWO PLUS NO ONE: THE ZDX PHILOSOPHY
According to Acura, the ZDX does exactly what it’s supposed to, targeting well-off middle-aged couples who really have no need for those rear two doors. Acura calls the vehicle’s theme “2+Freedom,” which puts the focus on the needs of the driver and passenger.
So if you don’t need the added functionality that a crossover should provide, then the ZDX is perfect. But then you should ask yourself, why would you want a luxury crossover at all, with a high center of gravity and heavy curb weight – not to mention a price-point above sportier offerings like the TL (also available with all-wheel drive), or even larger and more functional vehicles like the MDX? So many questions…
Simply put, the ZDX is the perfect luxury crossover for people who don’t need a crossover at all. And isn’t the whole point of a crossover the needs part? Wouldn’t you rather be driving a sports sedan? (Perhaps not).
ABANDON ALL PASSENGERS AND CARGO, YEE WHO ENTER HERE
With the ZDX, Acura took the idea of a coupe-styled sedan (popularized by the likes of Mercedes and Volkswagen) and mixed it with the functionality of a CUV. The problem with the ZDX is that it doesn’t offer much functionality at all – apart from the capable SH-AWD system. In fact, it’s poorly executed on many, many levels.
Cargo room may be rated at 26.3 cubic feet, but the space is all length and no height, meaning you can’t actually use it for much – just like one of its main competitors, the Infiniti FX. The rear seats do drop, however, for a total of 55.8 cu.-ft. of space.
Using the rear seat space for cargo is probably a better use for it, as the second row chairs are useless for passengers larger than a Capuchin monkey. For adults, sitting upright in the back is simply impossible, but harder still is trying to get into the rear compartment. Acura designed the rear door handles into the car to give it the appearance of a two-door, and it might as well be with the size and shape of the rear openings making entry, let alone exit, nearly impossible. The space at the bottom of the door is so thin it’s barely wide enough to fit your foot as you twist your shoulders and put your arms forward in a sort of up-wards diving motion, attempting to get in. Then you have to grab hold of something, pull yourself inside, only to discover that it’s so uncomfortably small you immediately regret your decision to get inside in the first place.
TRUE LUXURY INSIDE, BUT SOME OPTIONS SHOULD BE STANDARD
As for the front two seats, ingress and egress is no problem at all. And it shouldn’t be either, as the entire vehicle is designed around just the driver and the passenger. Visibility isn’t great though, with a large A-pillar blocking the view up front and a rear hatch design that limits the view out the back.
The cockpit itself is nicely designed and wonderfully executed with high quality leather. On higher models with either the Technology or Advance package, premium Milano leather is used with perforated seats. All models get plenty of extra leather throughout the cabin, including on the dash.
All models also come with luxury features like a 10-way drivers seats and 8-way passenger seats, as well as a power tailgate, panoramic glass roof and back-up camera. On base models, the camera view is visible on the rear-view mirror, while all other models display using an 8-inch LCD screen for the Navigation system, which can display three different view angles.
Opting for the Technology Package will give you that Navigaton system with voice recognition, as well as that Milano leather and Acura’s Keyless Access System with push button start – which really, really out to be standard on a vehicle of this caliber. Also included is the ELS Surround audio system with 435-watts of power and 10-speakers – making the ZDX one of the few Acuras with an audio setup worthy of a premium brand. Those wanting even more can opt for the Advance Package which adds on interior upgrades including a sport steering wheel and vented front seats, as well as high-tech items like a Collision Mitigating Braking System, Adaptive Cruise Control, a blind sport information system and a sporty Active Damper System.
SUPERB DRIVING DYNAMICS
As far as crossovers go, the ZDX is as dynamic as they come – thanks in many ways to the incredibly capable SH-AWD system, that not only distributes power front to rear, but also side to side in the rear.
Steering is direct and nicely weighted and the vehicle never feels top-heavy. Brakes scrub off speed capably, which is impressive considering the car’s 4,400 lb curb weight. Acceleration is brisk with a 6.5 second time to 60-mph, thanks to a 300-hp 3.7-liter V6 engine. The six-speed auto has been updated for the ZDX with quicker shifts and there’s a Sport mode to ensure the car says in a lower gear longer. And to keep with the car’s sporty nature, Acura made sure paddle shifters are standard.
Fuel economy for this engine is quoted by Acura as best-in-class, but that’s just a testament to how terrible the rest of the competition is at sipping petrol. As it stands, the ZDX gets just 16/23 mpg (city/highway). Part of the reason for this is the massive 4,445 lb curb weight, although we can’t help but think an extra gear in the transmission would deliver more Honda-like fuel economy. Six gears is fine and all, but with all the other luxury automakers now offering seven and even eight-speed units, Acura seems behind the times – especially on a vehicle that is supposed to be revolutionary. Better yet, Acura could have developed a six-speed dual-clutch unit.
Oh, and we feel compelled to point out another drawback to the ZDX – it only has a tow rating of 1,500 lbs. The MDX, with the very same engine, can pull up to 4,500 lbs. Again, not very functional.
Acura’s new ZDX is luxurious, sporty and well put together, but in so many other ways fails to deliver. And we don’t even want to bother with the vehicle’s style, which is sure to have fans, but doesn’t do anything for us. (Who knows, perhaps it will grow on us like the TL has started to).
Never has a Honda product been so un-Honda-like, lacking in functionality, fuel economy and the ability to engineer plenty of space into a small package. And for its design, it’s rather un-progressive in terms of fuel economy and technology – like having just a six-speed automatic transmission. Plus, lacking items like a smart-key system with push-button ignition as standard just seems offensive to our wallets.
Sure, we’ll admit that at a starting price of $45,495, it’s a solid $10,000 less that the BMW X6 – which is an equally silly vehicle (although with more room in the rear). The Price climbs to $49,995 with the Technology Package and even with the Advance Package still falls under the base price of an X6 at $56,045.
We have to question why Acura would build a vehicle like this when there are so many other traditional luxury segments it could be working on. BMW we can have more sympathy for, as it’s already exceeding in almost every other area, so why not try something new. We do, however, respect the desire to be a leader in a new segment.
While Acura will say the ZDX does just what it’s supposed to, by crossover standards, it certainly does not. The point of a CUV, luxury or not, is to find a compromise between functionality and fun, losing out on the latter for more of the former. The ZDX still manages to deliver quite a bit on the entertainment side, but with no practicality to speak of, it’s a pointless vehicle.
If you don’t really need or want passenger or cargo room then don’t get a crossover. And if you do need some functionality, why would you want a crossover that doesn’t deliver it?