Test Drive – 2010 Acura ZDX Advance

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Base Price: $56,045

Price as Tested: $56,855

This week, we’re driving Acura’s new 2010 ZDX, a design-tweaked SUV that is built on the popular MDX chassis. The distinguishing factor is ZDX’s car like body design, which attracted a lot of positive attention everywhere we took it.

Unlike its sibling MDX, the new ZDX can’t handle three rows of seating, and that’s the way Acura wants it.

I’m of the opinion that Acura is attracting the same SUV consumer base that MDX appeals to, yet does so while creating a new “ZDX Car Like” niche. Acura hopes that a portion of today’s “green buying” public no longer wants an SUV moniker tied to their purchase, thus fulfilling this expected consumer need. Call it what you want, even if the mechanicals are the same and ground clearance between the two models are nearly identical, with ZDX at 7.9 inches and MDX a bit higher at 8.2.

As for features, ZDX has it all. On several long trips during our week long test, my passengers and I were able to test the high-end Technology Package, which adds Acura’s top notch navigation system with real-voice recognition, dash display rear camera, real time traffic and weather.

An impressive collision mitigation braking system (CMBS) and adaptive cruise control allows the driver an electronic “co-pilot” that assists in everyday driving. Specifically, a front grille radar signal is constantly transmitted, and the return signal is evaluated and determines the distance and closing speed to vehicles that lie directly ahead. So, if you are traveling behind a car and the collision system is activated, the ZDX will automatically brake and keep a safe distance from you and the car in front. Even if you set the cruise to 65-mph, the system slows the ZDX and keeps a safe distance between you and the car in front, which may be going, say, 40-mph.

I grew to really love this feature, as it is a true safety enhancement. When the system senses that a frontal collision is unavoidable, the front seat belts tighten, and strong braking is automatically applied to help reduce the impact velocity and collision force. The goal of the CMBS system is to alert the driver to apply the brakes. It is not alone expected to brake the vehicle sufficiently to avoid a collision. Your Honda/Acura dealer will tell you more and show you first hand how it works.

All ZDX’s come XM Satellite, 19-inch tires and wheels, panoramic sunroof, nice ambient cabin lighting, rearview mirror back-up camera (ours had the full display from the Navigation screen), dual-zone climate control, heated eight-way power front seats, leather trim, power lift gate, Bluetooth, an 8-speaker stereo and 6-CD changer, and much more. Additionally, our tester had no options, just $810 for delivery as our top line Advance model’s base price carries all of the futuristic features and comforts.

Inside, ZDX truly delivers Acura’s theory on sporty opulence. The instrumentation is appealing, the 10-speaker DVD Dolby/DTS is great and the blind spot electronic and visual warnings are appreciated. Seating is fine, but negatives due to ZDX’s 5-passenger car like style are cargo room and rear seat accommodations. When compared to sibling MDX, rear quarters are tight, and cargo is reduced from a maximum of 83.5 cubic feet in the MDX with rear seats down to just 57.3 cubic feet rear seat folded forward in the ZDX. But again, Acura is hoping a “green” consumer doesn’t want to compare, and the ZDX’s cargo number is more than acceptable for an automobile.

Under the hood, ZDX receives motivation from Acura’s trusty 3.7-liter V6, which produces 300 horses and 270 pound-feet of torque. A fine shifting and new six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control is standard across the line, with paddle shifters on the steering wheel for more precise shifting. The power and torque are passed through a fully independent suspension and the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system found under many Acura models.

As for safety, all expected airbags including side curtain, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes with brake assist, vehicle stability assist, electronic brake distribution, side impact door beams and daytime running lamps are all standard.

Acura ZDX handles very well, although it won’t win any sports car races. Still, with all of the electronic enhancements that help handling and emergency situations, you’ll be pleased. As for performance, expect 0-60 in about 6.5 seconds.

Important numbers include a wheel base of 108.3 inches, 16 city and 23 highway EPA rating, 1,500 pounds tow capacity and 21.3 gallon fuel tank.

In summary, wherever we took ZDX, from sporting event to restaurant valet parking attendant, everyone wanted to know what it was and noted how good looking it was.

And yes, everyone called it a car, so perhaps Acura’s “new niche” marketing is working.

Likes: High tech safety packages, looks, interior, six speed transmission, AWD.

Dislikes: Tight rear quarters, cargo room, weird rear door handles.

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist).

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