NEWS EDITOR GREG MIGLIORE: I like the 2013 Acura ZDX. On a snowy, wet commute home, this elevated crossover with all-wheel drive performed in excellent fashion. I even opened the sunroof at times to let in some of the heavy snow, just for fresh air. I think the ZDX looks sharp, has strong exterior styling and carries excellent proportions. Acura took a risk with this thing, and I think it was executed well.
But there are two big problems: First, its styling, which I said that I like, but I know most people don’t agree with me. Second, it’s overpriced. Thus, Acura is killing the ZDX after the 2013 model year.
That’s a shame, because Acura needs brand identity, and by having a crossover like this, it truly had a vehicle that’s unique in the segment. It’s a bit similar to the BMW X6, which is another vehicle I like that many others don’t.
I don’t care. The ZDX is different. It looks like a flying wedge with hidden door handles in back and a pointy grille. There’s no reason not to have a segment-buster in your product lineup.
If I were to buy a crossover, I would look for one with edgy styling like this. One that also offered the elevated ride height of typical utes, with a car-like ride. The Infiniti FX is somewhat similar, with segment-defying looks, though a sportier drive character.
This particular example of the ZDX is dressed darkly inside and out, and that presents a well-tailored appearance. The cabin has mostly nice materials, including a soft-touch piece that bisects the glove box. The navigation system is impressive, displaying in detail everything from Detroit’s downtown streets that shoot out like a spoked wheel, to small, man-made bodies of water in an apartment complex.
The engine is fine -- 300 hp is appropriate -- and the six-speed a capable partner. The chassis is mostly comfortable, though the driving is largely sedentary and relaxing; little athleticism is evidenced here.
Still, I think the ZDX looks cool. I can’t say the same for the Honda Crosstour, and I think it makes more sense to have a premium model that can get-away with unconventional design, rather than try to appeal to a mainstream sect. I still argue there’s a place in the market for vehicles with the appearance and purpose of the Acura variant. I guess I’m in the minority.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR ANGIE FISHER: Acura can be frustrating. Just when I find myself totally excited about this ZDX, they decide to get rid of it. After spending time with the ILX, my fondness of Acura was fading because the compact sedans felt unrefined.
Move to the MDX-based ZDX and my attraction is renewed.
The ZDX offers a lot -- a sharply designed exterior, high-end interior and fun drive feel.
And the exterior is definitely unique. Opinions on the styling seem polarizing, but for me it’s a winner. The sharp edges and contours make the ZDX look interesting, instead of the bland crossovers that flood our roads.
I needed the ZDX to hustle me home for an appointment, and its lower stance allowed me to juke around slower cars. The V6 felt strong, too.
Inside, the ZDX is dynamic, with many angles and materials. It doesn’t look busy, but instead feels modern, luxurious and undoubtedly sexy, especially with the stretched leather that breaks up the dashboard. The interior is all black, but doesn’t feel dark thanks to the panoramic sunroof that nearly opens up the entire roof.
The back seat is spacious, and the cargo area offers a low load-in height and plenty of room.
The rear window is small, and a horizontal bar that dissects it combines for not-so-great visibility. Blindspot detection is becoming a must-have on vehicles for me, and was especially helpful on the ZDX with the small back windows.
Retirees might consider the ZDX because of ease of ingress/egress, but grandkids might have a difficult time with the elevated slotted door handles on the rear doors.
Sadly, Acura is focusing on its “core products,” and leaving the ZDX behind. I would recommend searching the used car lots in a few years and snatching one of these up.
ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: I agree with Greg that the ZDX gives Acura a unique entry in the market. The rest of the lineup doesn’t pack much visual punch. Until the NSX gets here, it’s going to be hard to point to any of Acura’s current vehicles and say they stick out from the crowd. Sure, the ZDX is a standout for the wrong reasons because it’s not exactly a great-looking car, but I give credit to Acura for trying to do something different.
In particular, the ZDX is difficult to look at from the rear-quarter view. The haunches and the shape of the rear hatch are just odd. It’s interesting that Acura has tried to upgrade the exterior for its last year of production with a new grille, bumpers, power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors and a darker wheel finish.
Besides that, there’s a lot of standard features packed into the ZDX including forward collision warning (more on that later), lane departure warning, a 10-speaker ELS audio system, navigation, Bluetooth and front seats that are both heated and cooled. Taking all that equipment into account with the $51,815 price tag our test car carries, it can be considered a bargain compared to the other weirdo crossover that comes to mind, the BMW X6 xDrive35i, which starts at $60,695.
What do I like about the ZDX? The 3.7-liter V6 and six-speed automatic transmission combo is among the smoothest drivetrains out there. Power is respectable and when you put your foot into it, the exhaust note is surprising with a low growl. With the SH-AWD system, the ZDX feels athletic with a good amount of grip available through corners. Body motions are kept in line with little lean, and steering is fairly direct with decent weight tuned in. Brake performance is also strong.
And the handling reflexes don’t come at the expense of ride quality with the suspension still capable of absorbing most bumps and ruts and there’s hardly any tire noise.
As I said, I’m not a big fan of the exterior, but I like the interior that features plenty of leather-wrapped panels throughout and comfortable and supportive front bucket seats. All the plastics are of high quality and the button-laden center stack is easy to get used to. I also like the driving position with seats that sit close to the floor. So it’s like you’re driving a sporty coupe with a higher ride height, which I assume is what Acura was going for.
What drove me nuts about the car (besides the unattractive exterior) is the forward collision warning system that whacked out for no reason on numerous occasions. At night driving down the freeway with absolutely nothing in front of me, it would go off. Approaching traffic when I was already on the brakes to slow down, it would go off. I’m all for safety features, but I think Acura needs to refine the system a bit and make it not so sensitive.
EXECUTIVE EDITOR BOB GRITZINGER: I’m not sure I get the 2013 Acura ZDX styling any more than I get its competitors like the BMW X6 and Infiniti FX models, but it’s hard to argue with the Acura’s ride, handling, performance and interior appointments. Honda, er, Acura, seems to get more from a V6 than you expect, in this case a solid 300 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque which does a nice job of shoving the ZDX down the road. Stability is good for the ride height, steering is responsive and road-sensitive and the brakes are stellar. At the same time, the cabin is kept reasonably hushed, with little engine-, road- or tire noise getting inside.
The biggest problem with the ZDX and its ilk is that while people might like the sleek and edgy fastback styling as a design exercise, when they see what that design does to interior headroom and cargo space the equation changes. If you’re spending roughly the same money, why give up an MDX’s larger capacity and functionality for a polarizing appearance? Apparently the buying public saw it that way, too, and ZDX will end its run after just four years on the market.
2013 Acura ZDX
Base Price: $51,815
As-Tested Price: $51,815
Drivetrain: 3.7-liter V6; AWD, six-speed automatic
Output: 300 hp @ 6,300 rpm, 270 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,452 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 16/23/19 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 18.0 mpg
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