The 2011 Acura ZDX is something of a mixed bag. What the automaker intended was to design an AWD vehicle with luxury appointments and none of the utilitarian overtones big SUVs just can't seem to escape. The ZDX has good performance, and a really terrific interior, but it's appeal will be limited. This is not a family hauler, but more or less a coupe-esque crossover. Don't put anyone in the backseat for any extended period of time, and don't expect to be carrying a lot of cargo. The ZDX sells in an MSRP range of $42,213 to $51,780, and returns 16 mpg city and 23 highway.
If you want more cargo room and a better backseat, test drive the Acura MDX (for roughly a grand less on the sticker price.) If you're not uptight about driving an actual SUV and still want AWD, take the Lexus RX350 for a spin. It seats five and goes for $6,000 less than the ZDX. The closest kin is the BMW X6, billed as a "sport utility coupe." That one, however, will run you $11,335 more. Obviously, this is a highly user-specific genre of luxury vehicle, where choices are dependent on tastes, pocket book, and use.
The ZDX has remained largely unchanged since it was introduced in 2010. There are three trims: base, Technology, and Advance. There's a 3.7 liter V6 under the hood (300 hp and 270 lb. ft. of torque), and AWD is standard. The handling is something after the fashion of a sports sedan, but the curb weight on the ZDX keeps it from attaining real sport-tuned performance. Although reviewers are mixed on the exterior appearance, the ZDX has a sculptural if confusing quality. It really does look like the transitional middle stage of a sedan morphing into an SUV.
Inside, however, the ZDX is an undisputed thing of beauty, replete with high-tech features and high-quality materials. There is little interior cargo space, and no one really wants to sit in back, but other than that, the curved dash, soft leather, panoramic sunroof, low noise, and abundant gadgetry win universal praise. If you go for the $4,500 Technology package, you get voice recognition navigation with real-time data, ten-speaker audio, XM, and 15 gbs of media storage.
With the second row up, cargo space measures 26.3 cubic feet; down, it's 55.8. Either way, those numbers are meager for the class, with the Lexus RX 350, for instance, delivering 40 and 80.3 cubic feet respectively. There is, however, a bonus cargo feature on the ZDX. Two wall panels in the cargo area can be removed to accommodate larger, bulkier items.
Although the 2011 Acura ZDX has not been tested against the newest federal government standards, the vehicle picked up five starts in front and side crashes and four in rollovers for the last model year. Standard safety systems include side curtain airbags, vehicle stability assist, traction control, and trailer stability assist. There are some concerns about rear visibility, which can be resolved with the rearview camera that is, unfortunately, only available as part of the $4,500 tech package.
There's no question that the Acura ZDX is a niche vehicle. It's not a sedan and it's not an SUV. You'll either love or hate the exterior. You won't be disappointed with the interior. In fact, you may not ever want to get out. It's pricey. The gas mileage is ridiculous in the face of the rising standards. The ZDX is not a bad vehicle, it's just not "business as usual." If nothing else, you'll get a kick taking it for a test drive.