"Man, this car is hot! What is it?"
The wide-eyed pedestrian is standing in the intersection of one of Manhattan's hopelessly gridlocked streets, mouth agape and feet welded to tarmac.
Certainly the new Acura ZDX is a show-stopper, even in a town where everyone has seen just about everything.
The ZDX is easily the most audacious automobile that Honda's upscale division has devised since its spectacular NSX sports car was unveiled some 20 years ago.
Acura's strategy in a nutshell: Offer premium sport utility vehicle buyers a more daring and sportier package that sort of resembles a coupe, but still retains its all-wheel-drive capability. With that premise, the uniquely positioned ZDX, arriving this December, will try and seduce a niche of early-adopting sophisticates willing to purchase a vehicle that's far outside the mainstream.
Today's limited choices in the luxo car/ute category include the Infiniti FX and BMW X6. The ZDX's interpretation begins with a platform developed from the highly successful MDX sport ute. From there, the company's California design team shifted into overdrive in developing a radically desirable shape.
Viewed head-on, the MDX's carry-over DNA is apparent, but beyond the front doors, the roofline swoops dramatically downward, seamlessly blending with an elongated hatchback that abruptly folds into the back bumper. The front doors are made coupe-like long, which is intentional since they help in masking two smaller rear-seat openings, the door handles of which have been cleverly camouflaged beside the rear-most roof pillar. The roof is actually a continuous glass surface extending from the windshield to the farthest edge of the hatch opening.
Members of the design group freely admit that their influence in penning the ZDX's interior came from the well-organized and uncluttered guest-room styling at San Francisco's Hotel St. Regis. That's difficult to verify, but the clean look is certainly in evidence, especially the well-carpeted storage area that can be extended when the passenger seat and split-folding rear seat are folded flat. As well, the spare tire stows under the load floor, leaving a substantial brief-case-sized compartment in back to keep all kinds of personal effects under wraps.
Also hidden from view is the MDX-based 3.7-liter V-6 that directs its 300-horsepower to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. In normal driving conditions, the front-to-rear torque is split on a 30:70 basis, but will automatically adjust up to a 90:10 if the rear wheels lose traction. However, in a turn, up to 100 percent of the rear torque can be shifted to the outside wheel to maximize cornering bite.
Of course, wearing the Acura badge means a car-load of standard or available luxury and technological features. Among the more interesting is Active Noise Cancellation, which uses the audio system to electronically counterbalance unwanted sounds from intruding on the passengers' peace and quiet. Also standard is a leather interior, rear-view camera, power-operated sunroof, tailgate and multi-adjustable rear seats. The options list includes a blind-spot warning system, multiview rear camera, upgraded ventilated leather seats, high-end audio system, voice-activated navigation and adaptive cruise control that maintains a set distance between the ZDX and the vehicle directly ahead. There's also an adjustable suspension that varies the ride between "Comfort" and "Sport" settings.
A truly sporty sport ute has its drawbacks and compromises and the ZDX is no exception. The sloping hatchback compromises luggage space, while the smaller rear doors are not easy to enter or exit, particularly for tall adults.
By contrast, the comfortable driving position and various controls are up to snuff, the 300-horse V-6 is an eager performer and the ride is both solid and smooth. And, as our Manhattan man in the street so eloquently put it, this car is "hot."