When Acura introduced the latest inception of their entry-level sedan, the TSX, as well as the drastic makeover of their highly touted top-end prize, the TL, some assumed the group had lost sight of what made Acura such a powerhouse over the past 20 years. Gone were the familiar lines that seemed to subtly blend into each new incarnation as the years passed by. It's this familiarity that managed to attract a massive fan base that had always felt comfortable with slight aesthetic changes, and eagerly anticipated Acura's amazing technological and ergonomic improvements from year to year. Today, as the dust has finally settled after extensive changes to many of the front runners in Acura's line up, it's apparent that Acura knew exactly what they were doing. Not one to rest on its laurels, the fresh change has brought forth outstanding sales, especially for the record shattering '09 TSX. During a time when many are reeling from the economic woes that hold a knife to the throat of most auto makers, Acura has shown that customer loyalty and forward thinking make for a masterful combination.
As discussed in the Honda Accord Crosstour review, the crossover market is in full swing with absolutely no signs of slowing down. The fickle U.S. market is firmly set on purchasing vehicles that can multi-task without breaking a sweat. Safety and amenities are ever-improving, chassis size is slightly shrinking in comparison to the once white-hot SUV reign, and there's no question that the race for more efficiency fused with increased horsepower is already in motion. While the Crosstour breaks new ground under the Honda banner, Acura has, almost simultaneously, introduced the ZDX crossover to the U.S. market.
Close cousins, yet worlds apart
While you will find some similarities between the Accord Crosstour and the new ZDX in terms of shape and overall maneuverability, it's the intricacies that make all the difference in the world. Both vehicles carry the well known characteristics of the modern day crossover, from the increased ground clearance and car-like handling, to the neatly tapered roof line that instantly brands the car with a crossover moniker. However, spending time in both vehicles reveals a world of difference in a few major areas. This is not to say that the Honda Crosstour doesn't deliver as promised, but rather that the much higher price tag you see plastered on the window of the ZDX is in fact for good reason. When I tested the Crosstour for a week, I was impressed to say the least and walked away feeling positive about the new offering. When I took hold of the ZDX for a week, giving it back felt like I was giving away my child. It grew on me after the first hour behind the wheel, and my kung-fu grip was viciously applied to the baby soft leather steering wheel for those seven days. This lead to a moment of slight awkwardness when the woman who was assigned to oversee the car's return to Acura had to repeat herself three times upon requesting its keys.
The ZDX is loaded with technology and handling "extras" that, along with advanced safety measures, really add up in the curb weight department. Over 4,000 lbs of girth sit firmly on the factory 19-inch wheels. However, the sporty suspension, with Judo-like weight manipulation, gives any driver the utmost confidence during cornering. In fact, the word "confidence" carries over every facet of the ZDX. Stout, solid road-feel combined with the ability to toss the SH enhanced suspension any way you please at less than a moment's notice eliminates any bad thoughts of the oversized, hunkering SUVs of the past. Nimble and predictable, the SH AWD system is forgiving whileremaining crisp.
Power by the pound
With a healthy amount of weight to muscle down the road, Acura opted for their 3.7L V6 producing 300hp/270 ft-lbs. Even with that much power, most would assume the acceleration wouldn't exactly shine with that much heft. But they'd be dead wrong. The growl of the ZDX's V6 is something that would bring a sheepish grin to the face of any true car guy. The aggressive note that is screamed by that same V6 during its VTEC crossover is something that, once experienced, will have you begging for more. The linear, somewhat peaceful "hum" quickly turns sinister as the needle climbs toward its boiling point. Taking advantage of local twisty back roads with the torque of the V6 and the freedom of the Sport mode paddle shifters had a heavy influence on the back and forth battle that quietly occurred inside my head when I was asked to turn over the keys.
It's What's On The Inside That Counts
One of the most remarkable aspects of the ZDX is its sweeping interior. Driver- and passenger-side dash portions meet in the middle and arch down the center console and toward the rear seats. Leather-wrapped with exposed stitching, the interior carries an air of lavishness not found in most crossovers offerings. The panoramic sun roof and electric moon-roof allow the sun to glow on all of the passengers, with a electronically controlled fabric cover that can be used to block out the elements. During the week that I had the car, we experienced a pretty healthy heat wave, and even with the fabric cover drawn, the ZDX did heat up quite a bit, comparable to a rag top equipped car.
Advanced seat frames help to reduce seat flex and give occupants an even more solid and confident (there's that word again) feel. The active sound control system utilizes a pair of microphones to "listen" for road noise, then sends out an inverse waveform through the factory speakers to literally cancel out any unwanted road noise. The result is a whisper quiet ride that will certainly spoil you for any future trips in a friend or family member's car. The high mounted navigation screen and large, multi-tasking control knob carry all of the bonus features you'd expect from a high-level Acura.
Got the look
My weekend car consists of a bright yellow S2000 that some would consider heavily modified. It has a funny way of catching wanted and unwanted attention whether I like it or not. However, driving the ZDX for seven days drew far more double-takes than my yellow eyesore ever did. At stoplights people were asking what it was, and when it was available. Instead of passing, many would pace the car, falling back to see what the badge said, speeding up to get a look at the front end, followed by a smile or a thumbs-up. Though the styling may, once again, throw you off at first glance, Acura feels there's a pretty good chance you'll grow to love the ZDX. And if history serves as any type of roadmap, it won't be long now.
|Engine type||Aluminum-alloy V-6|
|Valvetrain||Belt drive, SOHC, VTEC(r) 24-valve|
|Horsepower @ rpm (SAE net)||300 @ 6300 rpm|
|Torque @ rpm (lb-ft)||270 @ 4500 rpm|
|Compression ratio (:1)||11.2|
|Throttle control||Drive-by-Wire throttle system|
|EPA Estimated Fuel Mileage 27 (city / highway/ combined)||16 / 23 / 19|
|Transmission||Transversely mounted front engine, Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD)|
|6-speed Automatic Transmission with Sequential SportShift paddle shifters, Grade Logic, Shift Hold, and Cornering G Shift Control systems|