Acura knows that a striking exterior design is a crucial element to the sports coupe experience, and with the ZDX they certainly have that angle covered. Exactly how it strikes a particular person seems to be up for debate, and from my observations there doesn't seem to be much middle ground with the ZDX. In general, I like the general shape of the ZDX, but one thing that would improve it would be a longer wheelbase. The ZDX is fully 16 feet long, but the wheelbase only spans 9 feet (108.3 inches), and the result is excessive front and rear overhangs. Out of curiosity, I checked these numbers against the golden ratio, and found that the ZDX misses the ideal mark by a considerable amount. According to the golden ratio, the optimal wheelbase would be around 119 inches, a stretch of nearly a foot. To achieve this figure would most certainly require a completely new vehicle platform, so it was clearly impractical to pull it off. Maybe next time.
Like it or not, the ZDX cannot escape comparisons with BMW's X6. The two share unmistakably similar profiles, but the differences in design language lead to very different end results. In my mind, the X6 has a more rugged, truckish, ready-for-Dakar look to it, while the ZDX shakes more of a refined, ready-for-Telluride vibe.
Rollin' on 20s?
The ZDX's 19" wheels are cleanly styled and nice looking, but in a world where mommy-boxes like the Venza and Murano offer factory 20s, the ZDX's standard 19s look a little bit undersized. Sure, there are a raft of arguments concerning the practicality of "oversized" wheel/tire combos, but remember the ZDX is supposed to be an exclusive personal luxury vehicle with a price tag in the $50k range. 20-inch wheels will be offered as a dealer-installed accessory, but be ready to dig a little deeper in your wallet, because they (and the extra set of tires you'll need to buy) won't be cheap.
On the Roll
Once it's set into motion, the ZDX's design starts to pick up momentum. It has tremendous road presence, but not because it's physically imposing. The ZDX's unique shape just grabs your attention. The width of the ZDX borders on the absurd, especially as seen from the rear - the rear wheels seem to barely fit between the lane stripes, and the tumbling roofline and "deep draw" fenders really exaggerate the "low and wide" effect. The general reaction that I detected from other motorists who noticed the ZDX was a blend of confusion ("what the heck is it?") and approval.
It's what's inside that counts
Acura placed a great deal of emphasis on the ZDX's interior design, and it shows. The interior's shapes, layout, and (for the most part), the materials are all very sumptuous and inviting to the senses. Much of the dashboard and the center console are swathed in hand-stitched leather, and Acura claims the highest grade leathers were used on the seating surfaces. The attention to detail is carried throughout the vehicle, with metal plated handles and pulls used for the doors and cargo panels. High quality looped carpet is used throughout the vehicle, and it looks quite nice. The Advanced model takes things a step further, with a "brushed tricot" headliner material (with a pseudo-suede appearance), a nice and meaty sport steering wheel (which appears to be the exact same as the TL SH-AWD's wheel), and LED ambient door handle illumination.
Let there be light
The ZDX's standard all-glass panoramic roof bathes the interior in natural light during the daytime and gives the ZDX an airy, open feel despite the cozy "coupelike" roofline. The glass roof is tinted and normally permits 20% light transmission. Should that 20% prove to be too much for your sunburned dome following a long day on the yacht, a powered fabric sunshade can be deployed which cuts light transmission down to a paltry 3%. On the flip side, if you haven't had enough sunshine, or wish to get a better view of a starry night, the front portion of the panoramic roof is power operated and can be opened two ways: tilted up, or slid open. The switch for the roof features "one-touch" open operation, but you have to hold the switch to close it. This is in contrast to most other Honda and Acura moonroofs which are one-touch in both directions. Additionally, the same switch operates the power sunshade. First, the shade is opened by holding the switch. After the shade has been opened, another touch is required to tilt or slide the roof open. The same is true in reverse. Folks who are accustomed to automation may find all of this to be a little too tedious.
Monolithic Control Plenum
As we saw on the concept car, many of the ZDX's buttons on the "monolithic" center stack appear completely black until the various systems are powered up, at which point the LED-backlit labels become clearly visible. The general layout of the center stack control panel will feel very familiar for current Acura and Honda owners, but rendered with even more style. The panel itself is a 5-sided "shield" design that echoes the shape of the power plenum, even including Acura's signature center "break" (the prominent crease in the exterior that bisects the ZDX longitudinally). The panel (shall we call it the "control plenum"?) is black in color and has a subtle grained texture that is attractive and adds to the "premium" look and feel of the interior.
The "control plenum" is dominated by Acura's standard Multi-Mode Interface dial, and you'll find the typical constellation of Navi buttons within a finger's reach. On Navi-equipped models (there were no standard models represented during our event), an 8" VGA color LCD screen crowns the center stack. It is exactly the same display found in the 2009 TL and 2010 MDX. This large LCD display serves as the primary interface to the Navi system, but also includes secondary displays for the audio and HVAC systems. The primary displays for the audio and HVAC systems are thin panels of segmented LCDs (think clock radio). Unfortunately, these segmented LCD displays look outdated and are a weak point in the ZDX's bid for "Tier 1" interior classification. The radio display in particular had some readability issues due to the crease from the "break" passing vertically through the center of the lens. The crease introduces a slight bit of optical distortion and dual reflection planes, which means that in certain lighting half of the display (on either side of the crease) could be occluded by glare or reflection from outside light.
Elsewhere on the dash, things are mostly good. The gauges are thankfully pretty straightforward and (like the steering wheel) appear to have been stolen from the 2009 TL. The controls surrounding the IP (instrument panel) are all straightforward as well. Everything is easy to find and apart from fumbling your way through the wonky interface to Acura's multi-information display (which is nothing new), you shouldn't have any problems jumping in a ZDX and quickly figuring things out.
Acura is quite proud of their first-ever application of hand-stitched leather trim on the dashboard, but with a few tweaks I think they probably could have gotten a little bit more mileage from this distinction. First of all, the "metallic" plastic trim that accents the leather on the dash and doors just doesn't cut it in this class of vehicle. I hate to use the word "cheap", but from a quality standpoint it's a letdown in an otherwise outstanding interior. Secondly, in the Grigio(?) ZDX we drove, the gray leather trim on the dash pretty much vanished in the 8-shades-of-gray interior. There needs to be more contrast with the other trim and dash fixtures to make it pop. Other interior colors work much better; the second ZDX we drove was Mayan Bronze and had an Umber interior. The Umber interior has more contrasting colors and the sculpted leather trim on the dashboard really stood out.
The ZDX offers an excellent "coupe-like" driving position. It's a little bit strange because you feel like you are sitting down fairly low in the vehicle, yet you retain a high hip-point and an SUV-like vantage point of the road. Acura seats these days are generally very good, and the ZDX's thrones are no exception. The premium-leather upholstered seats offer superb comfort and support, and with 10-way adjustability (with 2 driver memory settings) on the driver's side, you will have little problem finding the perfect setting. On the passenger side, "only" 8-ways of power adjustment are available, but it shouldn't prove to be too much of a hardship. Up front, the seating is roomy, but at the same time it feels personal, with well defined zones for driver and passenger. The second row is configured to accommodate up to three passengers, but it's more comfortable for two adults. It works best if these two adults are average in size, easy going, and reasonably limber. The rear seats are comfortable once you are situated in them, but getting in and out of them through the ZDX's diminutive rear portals can present a small challenge. Leg room is adequate but foot room is at a premium - there just isn't a lot of clearance underneath the front seats.
The ZDX features 26 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seats, which is significantly more than a typical sports coupe. Fold the 2nd row seats down, and that number swells to nearly 56 cubic feet - plenty of room to pack for a week at the Hamptons. For smaller items or valuables that you wish to conceal from view, the ZDX offers compartments on either side of the hatch area plus a roomy sub-floor compartment where such items can be stashed. The panels for the side compartments are easily removed, increasing the maximum width of the cargo compartment by nearly a foot. The panel for the sub-floor compartment is supported by dual gas struts.