2010 Acura ZDX – A Category All Its Own

Marketers for Honda's luxury division call their brand-new ZDX a "four-door sports coupe." Serious coupe fans might dispute that designation, insisting that true coupes have only two doors. Still, several manufacturers introduced the "four-door coupe" theme earlier, including BMW with its X6 and Mercedes-Benz with its CLS sedan.

According to Acura, the ZDX features the world's first continuous glass surface, extending from hood to bumper to bracket the panoramic sunroof. When closed, the power roller sunshade allows only three percent of outside light to reach occupants. With the shade open, 20 percent of light reaches the interior. Acura promises two-passenger comfort inside the ZDX, but with seating capacity for up to five occupants.

Beneath the low hood, a 3.7-liter VTEC V-6 engine develops 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, driving a new six-speed automatic transmission. Paddle shifters are mounted at the steering wheel. In Drive mode, a touch on the paddle provides a gear change. S-range gives the driver full control of shifts. When operating automatically, a double-kickdown can occur when necessary.

Front / rear torque distribution from the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system ranges from 90/100 to 30/70, taking place automatically. Left / right, the torque distribution stretches all the way from 100/0 to 0/100: all to none, applied to wheels on either side.

Enhanced intake and exhaust sounds yield "a little bit of exciting flavor in the upper rpm areas," said principal engineer Jason Widmer. Otherwise, Active Noise Cancellation and other engineering features help keep the ZDX pleasantly quiet. All models roll on 255 / 50×19-inch tires, but the ZDX suspension may be set for either Comfort or Sport mode. Fifteen sensors react to road conditions, altering the suspension's effect as needed.

On the whole, the ZDX does not yield a truly car-like experience, because its SUV underpinnings are too evident. Handling is a prime enticement, as the ZDX driver enjoys appealing steering feel and fine feedback, along with the bonus of Acura's SH-AWD system, in case the weather turns foul.

Delivering a comparatively firm ride overall, the ZDX hits an occasional bump hard. Such incidents are appropriate for an SUV-based vehicle, but less so for what's deemed a sports coupe. Sufficiently supple in suspension capability, this four-door recovers nicely from any excess reaction. Acceleration qualifies as enthusiastic, if not exactly startling, perhaps not quite as dramatic as some sport-coupe enthusiasts might crave.

Getting inside demands a moderate climb? Almost like some actual SUVs. Substantial side bolstering cradles the driver snugly, but these serious yet comfortable seats are abundantly cushioned, augmented by superior thigh support. The rear seat is more comfortable and roomy than anticipated, but substantial head-ducking may be needed to twitch one's body into the back. Cargo space totals 26.3 cubic feet with the second-row seats up; 55.8 with those seats folded.

Gauges are readable but dim in darker light conditions. Over-shoulder views are somewhat impaired. Visibility directly astern is split by a thick horizontal bar; nearly everything is seen through the upper pane, which is adequate but squat. The driver faces Acura's first hand-stitched leather dashboard.

On sale around mid-December, the Canadian-built ZDX will be priced between the MDX sport-utility vehicle and the RL sedan, which puts it in the mid- $ 40,000 neighborhood. Three versions will be offered, starting with the base model, which includes a standard power tailgate. The Technology Package adds Acura's navigation system, with Real Time Traffic information and a Weather Radar View. Lane Guidance can show which lane to be in, when anticipating a turn. The multi-view backup camera can provide a normal, wide, or top view. In base models, the 8-speaker audio system is rated at 266 watts. ELS Surround Sound is part of the available Technology Package.