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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.
The broad fenders on the ZDX make the overall design work, giving it a sports car look.
Weird styling aside, there is very little difference between the underpinnings of the ZDX and the 2010 Acura MDX. 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.
With voice command you can request music from an iPod by artist and album.
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.
The navigation system lacks 3D maps and a zoom level between 1/20th and 1/8th of a mile.
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.
The weak link for this type of driving in the ZDX, and the MDX, is the power train. The ZDX uses a 3.7-liter V-6 with Acura's variable valve timing technology, putting its output at 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. That engine made a delightful sound when we punched the gas, but technically it is pretty average for this segment. BMW's X6, with a turbocharged 3-liter straight six, gets substantially more torque.
A dial in front of the shifter switches the suspension between Sport and Comfort modes.
Likewise, the six-speed automatic transmission in the ZDX doesn't go above and beyond. It is a perfectly fine transmission for trundling around cities and rolling down the freeway, but it didn't snap crisply from gear to gear as we threw the car into the turns. It features both Sport and manual shift modes, but the former isn't particularly aggressive, merely keeping the engine speed above 3,000rpm. For manual mode shifting, there are paddles on the steering wheel, but we could mentally track the time between paddle pull and gear change.
Maneuvering on city streets, the steering radius proved adequate for some fairly tight U-turns. But the dimensions of the vehicle, with its wide sides and long nose, make it difficult to judge the space around it. The ZDX has a backup camera, an essential feature on this car, with two different views and static distance lines. But sideview cameras would also be useful.
The rearview camera shows distance lines, and can be switched between two different views.
The suspension's Comfort mode isn't all that comfortable. It gives the suspension longer travel and a soft feeling, but doesn't let the ZDX ride over potholes unruffled. That long suspension travel also leads to up and down oscillation on the freeway. We generally preferred leaving the suspension in Sport mode.
Those little critiques aside, the ZDX feels solid, with the luxurious cabin and easy driving character make it a comfortable road trip car. EPA fuel economy is 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, making it a car you might want to reserve for longer trips, as opposed to errands around town. In our driving, we just eked out 18.2 mpg, which felt a little low.
The ZDX has a few tech tricks that help it out on the freeway. The Advance trim version comes with adaptive cruise control, which matches speed with slower traffic ahead. We cruised for miles and miles without touching gas pedal or brake.
The radar for the adaptive cruise control also enables the Collision Mitigation Braking System, which, when sensing an impending crash, pretensions the seatbelts and applies the brakes. A few times, as we closed in on slow traffic ahead, this system flashed a sign on the instrument cluster warning us to brake.
Blind-spot detection in the vehicle lights up icons in the A pillars alerting you to traffic in the lane next to the ZDX. This system has a narrow field of detection, only lighting up when other cars are almost out of view of the sideview mirror.
We ended up liking the unique look of the 2010 Acura ZDX, but didn't find it all that practical, as rear seat access and the cargo area is compromised by the sloping roof. The interior styling is very good, giving the ZDX the kind of luxury feel that past Acuras have lacked. The cabin tech interface design also contributes to its design score, as we found it quite easy to access different car functions. We also appreciate that Acura has reduced the number of buttons on the dashboard from some more extreme quantities on other models.
The drivetrain was merely average; we've seen countless V-6es mated to six-speed automatics, and the performance numbers are not exceptional. But the cornering abilities boost the ZDX's performance tech score.
It achieves an excellent score for cabin tech, too. Although the maps for the navigation system could be better, there were a lot of features we liked. The stereo, with its voice command iPod integration, helps raise the score significantly. And driver aid features also give it a boost.
|Model||2010 Acura ZDX|
|Power train||3.7-liter V-6|
|EPA fuel economy||16 mpg city/23 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||18.2 mpg|
|Navigation||Hard-drive-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3 compatible single DVD/CD player|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||15GB onboard hard drive, USB drive, Bluetooth audio, Sirius Satellite Radio|
|Audio system||ELS 10 speaker 435 watt system|
|Driver aids||Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, rearview camera|
|Price as tested||$56,905|