2010 Acura ZDX
2010 Acura ZDX. Click image to enlarge

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Long term test: Acura ZDX, Part one
Long term test: Acura ZDX, Part two
Long term test: Acura ZDX, Part three
Long term test: Acura ZDX, Part four

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2010 Acura ZDX

In the Robert J. Sawyer novel The Terminal Experiment, a future Toronto’s fast-food delivery needs are met by a chain called Food Food, which serves and delivers just about everything in order to please everybody. It’s a riff on ubiquitous Pizza Pizza franchises found across the country, and was a prescient bit of writing in 1995, predicting the trend towards near-ridiculous diversification in the retail business (Canadian Tire and Shoppers Drug Mart selling food staples, grocery superstores selling patio furniture and clothing). Something similar is happening in the auto industry now, with many automakers picking up on a desire among buyers in luxury segments for vehicles that are practical, but don’t necessarily look it.

The Acura ZDX is part of the latest one-car-fits-all zeitgeist. Like the BMW X6 that was introduced not long before it, the ZDX is ostensibly a crossover like the MDX, which shares its drivetrain and platform. It’s the rakish body that makes the difference here, giving the ZDX a sports-car profile.

2010 Acura ZDX
2010 Acura ZDX. Click image to enlarge

There’s nothing new about combining sportiness with practicality, nor is it that novel to build a sporty crossover or SUV, but one that tries to look like a sports car is a new development, and not one that works all that well, in my opinion.

The first problem has to do with getting in. You have to step up to the ZDX’s raised floor, but because of the chopped roofline, you must simultaneously duck to avoid whacking your head on the door frame. Once you’re in, things are better. Front-seat headroom isn’t great, but should be enough for most drivers. Getting out is another story. The running boards are too narrow to be useful, but are just wide enough to get in the way. Throw in slushy winter conditions, and you’ve got a car with perfectly-placed pant-leg soilers. I drove this car for the better part of a week and never found a way to get out gracefully.

2010 Acura ZDX
2010 Acura ZDX
2010 Acura ZDX
2010 Acura ZDX. Click image to enlarge

The ZDX has a three-place rear seat, but as the exterior lines and hidden rear door handles suggest, coach class is not central to what the ZDX is about. Just about everyone will have to slouch to fit under the rearward slope of the roof, which also makes it even more difficult to enter and exit with any of your dignity intact.

There’s the issue of visibility, hampered here by the racy roofline that splits the view through the rear window into two narrow slits. The backup camera is a must, so it’s a good thing it comes standard (the base model has one that displays in the rear-view mirror, while the optional Technology Package includes a multi-view camera that shows up in the eight-inch dash screen).

The thing is, as much as the ZDX looks like it’s trying to hard to be something it can’t, it’s actually quite entertaining to drive. The engine is strong and the car quick, if not blindingly fast; cornering is flat, and the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system, which helps handling by routing power to the outside rear wheel in corners, works like a charm, as usual. The six-speed transmission, new for 2010 and replacing a five-speed in the MDX, brings quick shifts and the kind of overall performance that would be expected in a sport sedan. There is some practicality to be had in the 745-litre trunk, which expands to 1,580 litres with the rear seats folded to their nearly-flat norm. That’s a lot less than the MDX, but still useful.

We can’t be far off from something with minivan-like seating, a coupe-like roofline, space for a few suitcases and performance to rival that of a 911 Turbo. When it comes – and it almost seems inevitable, at this point – what will it be called? “Car car?”

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