As a new style of car, most people won't take to the 2010 Acura ZDX at first glance. Its sleek body styling says sports car, but hefty dimensions and big wheels suggest an SUV. But we grew to like the looks after successive viewings, if not the practicality of the design.
As we showed the car to friends and relatives, they inevitably harrumphed with approval about the luxurious cabin from the front seat, but then noted the low door sill, sometimes with a head butt, on getting into the back seats. We merely mumbled that, as the ZDX is something like a sports car, nobody is really supposed to sit in the back.
Weird styling aside, there is very little difference between the underpinnings of the ZDX and the. And there was a lot we liked about the latest MDX.
Notably, the ZDX gets a feature called Song By Voice as part of its iPod integration. Similar to Ford's Sync technology, you can tether an iPod to the ZDX's USB port, and then say the name of an artist or album to start playback.
We hooked up an iPhone to the car, and after it took a minute to index the music library, we were able to say "Play The Clash" to get songs by this band playing. The system worked well, even with more-difficult band or album names.
Other audio sources in the ZDX include satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming audio, a single-disc player that can read DVD-audio discs and MP3 CDs, along with 15GB of music storage space on the car's own hard drive, the disc player serving as a ripper to save music to the drive.
The sound system through which music plays, branded as an ELS system, uses 10 speakers, including a subwoofer and centerfill, and a 435-watt amp. We found the audio quality to be powerful and crisp, the system producing a strong sound with hard edges. The subwoofer delivers bass that you can feel in your chest, without shaking the door panels. Some people might prefer a warmer sound, but we appreciated the clarity of the reproduction.
The rest of the cabin tech in the ZDX is also similar to what you find in the MDX, which means a hard-drive-based navigation system that shows traffic, but doesn't have 3D maps. We were a little disappointed with the maps, as the scale between maximum zoom and the next level up was too great, making it difficult to navigate in a dense, urban environment.
We were also given a weird and not very efficient route by the navigation system on one trip, when it told us to take a highway instead of the perfectly good freeway running parallel. The system doesn't offer choices of fastest or shortest route amongst its preferences, a common feature with most navigation.
However, we do like that Acura incorporates weather data into the navigation system, along with forecasts. There is also a neat feature that lists a number of scenic roads around the country, to which the system will guide you.
A Bluetooth phone system rounds out the cabin tech suite. It offers all the features we would expect from a high-tech car, such as importing a paired phone's contact list and showing recent calls on the LCD. But it doesn't let you dial contacts by name with voice command, a feature becoming more common with competitors.
The ZDX and MDX also drive similarly, both getting an adaptive suspension with comfort and sport modes, and Acura's Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). The combination of these two suspension technologies makes the bulky ZDX rotate nicely during hard cornering.
As we tested the ZDX on mountain roads, powering through corners at speeds you wouldn't normally take a vehicle that sits up high like an SUV, the active suspension pushed back against body roll, keeping the car relatively flat. At the same time, SH-AWD transferred torque across the rear axle, sending more power to the outside wheel to help push the car around the turn.