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2012 Acura ZDX Expert Reviews

Expert Reviews

2012 Acura ZDX

New Car Test Drive
© 2012

The Acura ZDX projects the image of a car, a four-door coupe, yet it offers some of the utility of a crossover SUV. Larger than it looks, ZDX seats five.

Based on the Acura MDX midsize sport-utility, the Acura ZDX looks a bit like a four-door coupe, with hidden rear door handles to exaggerate the two-door look. Its design uses pronounced fender flares, a raked windshield, pronounced tumblehome on the side glass (it curves inward toward the top), and a fastback roofline.

The ZDX cabin is richly appointed with hand-stitched leather and special materials used for a bold appearance. ZDX is very comfortable for two, and the front passengers will find plenty of room. Tall rear-seat passengers will find it a little cramped for headroom and legroom, though it's fine for those of average or shorter stature. Also, the long, coupe-like front doors and short rear doors make access to the back seats less convenient. On the other hand, who cares what those back-seat people think? They're not making the car payments, right? It's the folks up front who matter here.

Underway, ZDX glides along with a plush, well-controlled ride, and the creamy propulsion provided by its sophisticated drivetrain. The ZDX is powered by a 300-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 hooked to a 6-speed automatic with manual override control (via steering-wheel buttons). Throttle response is immediate and authoritative, and the gearshifts are smooth and positive. Noise levels are low while cruising, the climate-control system effective and the entertainment systems bright and clear. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 16/23 mpg City/Highway.

In normal driving, the ZDX steers keenly and stays on line with an intuitive accuracy, responding with moves that belie its considerable size and heft. Pick up the pace, and the ZDX steers accurately and hangs on well in fast turns, benefitting from Acura's SH-AWD intelligent all-wheel-drive system. Only when pressing hard in the convoluted confines of a canyon road does the big Acura begin to remind its driver that it's a close relative of the big MDX. Narrow roads quickly emphasize the car's width, and we were hard-pressed to avoid the Botts dots from drumming through the suspension as we put wheels over the line. The ZDX does better in the twisties when ordered with the integrated dynamics system that is part of the Advance Package. But the ZDX is more about luxury than sporty handling, its priorities highlighted by slightly numb steering and unhurried transmission response.

ZDX is stylish and luxurious yet practical. ZDX offers nearly 56 cubic feet of cargo space when the rear seats are folded. A hatch-like rear door provides easy access to the cargo area, and the liftover height is low, making loading and unloading cargo easier.

Launched as a 2010 model, Acura ZDX is unchanged for the 2012 model year.

Model Lineup

Acura ZDX ($46,020); Technology Package ($50,520); Advance Package ($56,570)

Walk Around

Designed in keeping with Acura's Keen Edge theme, the ZDX flaunts dramatic planes and contours. To get the aggressive haunches that distinguish this crossover, Acura produced a rear quarter panel that required extraordinary stamping procedures. With the deepest draw of any panel the company has ever produced, great care had to be taken with die design to avoid wrinkling or tearing of the metal skin.

A long panoramic glass roof features an integrated power moonroof. Dual powered sunshades provide shelter from the sun. Wide wheel arches, pronounced shoulders and angular creases provide surface tension to dispel any suggestion of the usual two-box SUV look. Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights are mounted inside asymmetrical housings up front, and there's a stylistic continuation of Acura's chevron grille motif in the lower-bumper apertures.

At the rear, the designers again used distinct panel shapes, tail light outlines and integrated exhaust outlets to embellish the silhouette. A lower glass panel in the rear hatch helps improve rear visibility.


The Acura ZDX features a luxurious cabin with rich-looking hand-stitched leather on the dashboard, door panels and center console that has been executed with great care. The hides themselves are what's known as full grain. Many leather finishes are buffed surfaces, necessary to remove flaws. These are carefully selected, unscarred hides from Hungary and China.

Fitting the leather panel on the sculpted dashboard is quite a challenge, due to the unusual concave shape, and requires special techniques. The result, particularly with the Umber and black combination, is striking, and the textures themselves are rich and pleasing to the touch.

The rest of the interior is very modern in design, with electroluminescent gauges and a center console the Acura designers call the Monolith. Until its backlighting comes on when the ignition is switched on, the console remains blank and dark, with no evidence of the many switches and controls it contains.

Lighting inside the cabin is provided by the large glass roof during daylight hours, and by subtle LED lighting at night. There is over 26 cubic feet of luggage space behind the rear seats, expanding to nearly 56 cubic feet when those seatbacks are folded flat. Access is by the convenient hatch-like rear door, and the liftover height is helpfully low.

Further expansion is possible (for long objects such as golf bags) by removing side panels in the cargo compartment. An underfloor area of about two cubic feet is also available for secure storage.

The front passenger area is both spacious and attractive, but the sloping roofline makes inevitable inroads into rear headroom. Legroom is also not as good in the back, and access is hindered by the small doors and their proximity to the rear wheel well. But adults of average height may still find the rear seats a pleasant place to be for moderate journeys.

Excellent ergonomics make the use of the many devices at hand easy to use. Critical controls are found on the steering wheel, while secondary switches are logically arranged on the dashboard and center console. Voice recognition makes the phone, radio and navigation systems very simple to operate.

Driving Impressions

Underway, the Acura ZDX feels smooth and refined. Noise and vibration are filtered out and the result is a very quiet and composed vehicle.

Handling is a bit sportier on ZDX models equipped with the two-position (Sport or Comfort) Integrated Dynamics System that accompanies the Advance Package.

Assisted by Acura's SH-AWD intelligent all-wheel-drive system, the ZDX steers accurately and hangs on well in fast turns. The extensive ride-motion control strategy (using magneto-rheological damping fluid that varies its viscosity in response to an electric current to vary shock damping) helps the ZDX retain a plush ride in more sedate applications.

While it seems almost eerie to bend a large and heavy vehicle like the ZDX through the tortuous sections of a canyon road and have it stay on line and not wallow, the layer of relentless refinement still makes itself felt with a slightly remote steering feel and gearshifts, even when initiated manually, that are a touch sluggish in response.

The ZDX shock tuning is clearly on the comfort side of the equation, yet the ZDX still acquits itself well on tortuous roads for a 4500-pound vehicle. But comfort and isolation are this car's priorities, and drivers needing a more sharply honed experience should probably look at Acura's RDX, which is lighter and more responsive in challenging terrain.

The 3.7-liter V6 engine is smooth, its performance in most circumstances best described as mellifluous. Most of the power lives in the higher rev ranges, though the torque isn't bad in the mid-range either, thanks to the VTEC variable valve-event technology. Low-rev urge, however, isn't enough to overwhelm the two tons of luxury equipment without downshifting help from the obliging 6-speed automatic.

Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 16/23 miles per gallon City/Highway, or 19 mpg Combined.

As for open-road conduct, there isn't much that can waft passengers along with better comfort, quietness and security than these big Acuras. Let's face it, that's what most shoppers in this segment are looking for, and in the ZDX they get it in spades.

The Acura ZDX is a four-door, coupe-like crossover with distinctive styling, top-drawer refinement, a luxurious cabin, and easy-to-operate technology. It's smooth and quiet. Acceleration and handling are responsive by SUV standards, though it feels bigger and less responsive than an Acura sedan. Overall, the Acura ZDX is a good choice for couples who want a car that's stylish and luxurious yet practical.

Barry Winfield filed this report to after his test drive of the Acura ZDX around Beverly Hills and Malibu.

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