You can find a buyer for just about anything in the good ol' USA, but the 2010 Acura ZDX might be a hard sell. Acura started with the capable and practical three-row MDX crossover, removed the third-row seat and added a rakish fastback roof line that makes the second-row seat as cramped as a coupe's. ZDX buyers also get exclusive leather-wrapped dash panels and a nifty center stack panel that fades to black when it's not in use. Perhaps that will be enough to win the hearts of empty nesters in search of something more daring than a typical luxury crossover.
This is not a new formula. BMW did something similar with its X5, replacing the optional third row with a fastback shape and calling it the X6. The X6 offers a choice of two turbocharged engines that you can't get in the X5, and its two remaining rear seats (the middle position is omitted) still have room for lanky adults. The ZDX, conversely, shares the MDX's 3.7-liter V6 and six-speed automatic gearbox, so it has no performance edge to justify its less functional design.
Accordingly, the 2010 Acura ZDX's distinctive aesthetic will likely determine its fate. Shoppers with $45,000-$60,000 in their pockets tend to appreciate individuality, and there's certainly nothing on the road today that could be mistaken for Acura's new creation. However, they also appreciate performance and practicality, and there are many vehicles that outdo the ZDX on these counts. You can get an X5 for this kind of coin, or a Mercedes-Benz M-Class or a Porsche Cayenne -- or, at the rough-and-tumble end of the spectrum, a Land Rover LR4. And if the fastback-SUV concept appeals, note that the quicker and sharper X6 starts at the same price as our loaded ZDX tester.
Still, the ZDX starts at thousands less than that BMW, and it promises to announce its driver's independent streak like few vehicles of this sort. That just might be enough reason to take a 2010 Acura ZDX for a spin.
The ZDX is powered by a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic with manual shift control is the only available transmission. Fuel economy is a factory-estimated 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway. The ZDX's maximum towing capacity is 1,500 pounds.
In real-world driving, the ZDX's V6 provides adequate acceleration, but it's nothing special. The last MDX we tested accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds; relative to that model, the ZDX features a new six-speed automatic transmission, which should serve to increase acceleration times by a few ticks. The transmission is smooth and quick on upshifts, but it can be sluggish when downshifts are called for.
On winding roads, the ZDX handles relatively well thanks to its standard "Super Handling" AWD system (SH-AWD), which is found in many Acura products. This system apportions varying amounts of power to individual wheels to maximize traction through turns and in inclement weather. One result is reduced understeer in spirited driving, as the system automatically sends more torque to the outside wheels while cornering. However, there's no hiding 4,400 pounds of mass and a high center of gravity, even if the ZDX does ride a bit lower than the MDX. It's still a crossover SUV, albeit an athletic one, and it drives the part.
On the highway, the 2010 Acura ZDX is fairly quiet, though some tire hum makes its way into the cabin. Our Advance Package test vehicle had the two-mode adjustable suspension, but we found that the modes aren't that different from one another, and our experience with a base ZDX suggests that the default suspension setup delivers an agreeable combination of ride comfort and cornering poise. The front seats are welcoming and supportive, and the armrests are nicely padded all around.
The backseat is another matter. Acura markets the ZDX as a four-door coupe, and when it comes to the cramped rear quarters, it might have a point. Even average-size adults will find their headroom encroached upon by the fastback roof line. The seat cushion is also uncomfortably low, and legroom behind the front seats is limited. It's frankly rather remarkable that Acura could start with the MDX's spacious second row and end up with this.
The ZDX's gauges are clear and attractive in Acura's current fashion. The so-called Monolith center stack is fundamentally similar to the MDX's, but it fades entirely to black when not in use ? an interesting touch. The standard dual-zone automatic climate control system is fairly straightforward in operation, but the center stack is a bit cluttered overall, with too many similar-looking buttons clustered together. Our test vehicle's navigation system worked flawlessly, however.
In terms of real-world functionality, the 2010 Acura ZDX's 56 cubic feet of maximum cargo space are eclipsed by the econobox Honda Fit (57 cubes), to say nothing of rival crossovers like the BMW X5 (75 cubes). Also, that sloping roof line makes child safety seat installation a chore. The hatchback design is convenient for loading groceries and such, but the same can be said for any crossover SUV.
Design/Fit and Finish
The ZDX's exterior design is a unique confluence of SUV, hatchback and coupe styling cues. The tapered rear end looks dramatic, but we're less sure about the elevated ride height (only marginally lower than the MDX's) and prominent prow. Inside, the high-quality materials are a home run, especially the hand-stitched soft leather panels on the center console and dash. Our test car was a pre-production model, but its build quality left nothing to be desired.
Who should consider this vehicle
he 2010 Acura ZDX should appeal to MDX fans who want more style and don't require the functionality of a traditional crossover. Otherwise, we'd recommend taking a close look at the many other capable crossovers in this price range.