The 2012 Acura ZDX is exciting to look at, indulgent to experience and thrilling to drive. For those who enjoy the finer things when behind the wheel, the ZDX will be quite alluring. With its dramatic styling and unique body style, it's sure to impress upon arrival at any destination.
Based on its exterior, the 2012 Acura ZDX might seem like a more luxurious alternative to a rugged crossover, but this four-door sports coupe wasn't designed with families in mind.
I optimistically thought the ZDX could work for my small family of three. As one who readily awards bonus points for originality and good design, it was off to a good start. Things got better behind the wheel, too; the ZDX is powerful, responsive and sporty with its 3.7-liter V-6 engine. Despite its sizable appearance from the outside, it wasn't comfortable, convenient or practical on the inside. It's unorthodox shape and unique dimensions were the deal-breaker.
The Acura ZDX starts at $46,020, but my test car, a top-of-the-line Advance Package, was priced at $57,455.
The ZDX's looks are polarizing. You'll hear everything from high praises to utter confusion when discussing this out-of-the-ordinary vehicle. It's difficult for some to pinpoint it: The ZDX is too high off the ground to be a sedan, but it's sleeker and sportier than most crossovers.
The ZDX's angular details and dramatic slope — from front to back — set it apart from most cars on the road, and not only does it look unique, but it also looks expensive. My favorite exterior feature is the giant moonroof, which is standard on all trim levels and catches the eye when paired with my test car's Crystal Black Pearl paint color.
Sadly, the sleek styling that makes the ZDX so beautiful is what make it impractical for families. One problem is the rear door handles sit near the top of the doors. Because the car is high off the ground, this makes it nearly impossible for a child to reach them.
If children are too young to get in and out of the car by themselves, the roof's drastic slope makes things difficult when loading them into their child-safety seats. To get my 1-year-old daughter into her car seat, I had to first position her almost horizontal in my arms while reaching inside, and then once inside, I had to turn her into a seated position while not slamming her head (or mine) on the low roofline. At the end of my weeklong test drive, I checked the roofline for dents where my head repeatedly hit the doorframe (I'm just 5-foot-4). It's awkward to enter and exit the ZDX from any door, front or back.
The cargo area also suffers due to the ZDX's shape; it tapers down so low in back that the cargo area is shallow. It fit what I needed to haul, but this car is way too sexy for double-stroller duty.
The ZDX keeps in line with its luxury status by requiring premium gasoline for its 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 engine that's paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. It gets an EPA-estimated 16/23 mpg city/highway. I admit to having fun while driving the all-wheel-drive ZDX, but I was surprised to find I averaged just 13 mpg during my weeklong test drive. Ouch.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Not Really
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
There's a lot to love about the five-seater's interior. Leather covers the dash and center console; tricot ceiling liner feels like suede, and even the Berber-like floormats are stylish. All the expected luxuries are available, and for a little extra money, you can enjoy heated and cooled leather seats, navigation with real-time traffic info and an upgraded surround-sound system.
No matter how luxurious the ZDX is, however, its shape and dimensions cause problems on the inside. The ZDX can haul five people, but it'd be a tight squeeze. The ZDX works better with just two passengers in the backseat, which is tight. Because of the sloped roofline, even passengers of an average height will feel claustrophobic. There's hardly any head clearance in the back and front rows.
The good news is that legroom for all fares much better. Although my 5-foot-7 husband's head brushed the car's ceiling when riding in the front row, he had a comfortable amount of legroom, even with a rear-facing infant-safety seat behind him.
Storage compartments are a little scarce in the ZDX, but you can get by with the center console bin. There are four cupholders in the ZDX.
As much as I wanted to believe the ZDX could work for a family, it had too many visibility issues that couldn't be ignored. From the driver's seat, the rear window seems like a light at the end of a long tunnel. You cannot see out of the ZDX's sides, and the rear window is so low that it's not useful. If the second-row's head restraints are up, they block even more of the limited view. Yes, there's a standard backup camera and an optional blind spot warning system, but even with these aids, my limited visibility when driving the ZDX left me feeling less than confident.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
The 2012 ZDX scored an overall five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It earned five stars out of five in the side-impact crash test and four stars in front-impact and rollover crash tests. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the 2012 ZDX earned the top score of Good in front and rear crash tests. It hasn't undergone IIHS' side-impact and roof-strength crash tests.
The ZDX has standard all-wheel drive, antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with traction control, active front head restraints and six airbags, including side curtains for both rows.
There are some impressive safety options such as the Collision Mitigation Braking System, which is part of the Advance Package. The system alerts the driver with both audio and visual alerts — it evens tugs the driver's seat belt — to apply the brakes if it senses an impending collision. Adaptive cruise control is also part of the optional Advance Package. It enables the driver to set a distance behind the car ahead of them and the ZDX will maintain it, accelerating and braking when necessary. Adaptive cruise control performed as promised, but it didn't operate as smoothly as in other cars with this feature. The braking felt choppy, and I found the flashing "brake" warning light on the dash to be unnerving.
Another optional feature is the blind spot warning system, but it's an absolute must-have because the ZDX's shape and dimensions cause visibility issues. Due to the many blind spots, I relied on this feature heavily. Although it was useful, I found it worrisome to have such a dependence on two little indicator lights, which alerted me when a car was in my blind spot.
The pleasant surprise in the ZDX was how easy it was to access the two sets of lower Latch anchors in the rear seats. While you may have some challenges fitting the child-safety seats in the backseat, you won't have the Latch anchors to blame.
Get more safety information on the 2012 Acura ZDX here.
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