Expert Reviews

2024 Acura ZDX Type S First Drive Review

The 2024 Acura ZDX is the brand’s first-ever electric vehicle (EV), marking the return of a name once used for a quirky crossover that was probably ahead of its time.

That its namesake sold so poorly makes it a strange moniker for what’s a rather important new model for Acura. It is, however, a decidedly decent driver that looks pretty damn good, too.

Dashing Good Looks

Never mind its name – the ZDX is a genuinely handsome machine. This EV stands out even on dreary days, reinforcing the sporting intent of the Type S trim in particular. Helping matters is the top trim’s black roof that gives the ZDX a long and lithe look.

The wheels – massive 22-inch alloys on the Type S – are pushed to the extreme corners of the ZDX, hiding the true scale of this intermediate-sized crossover. While this EV is smaller overall than the three-row MDX, its wheelbase is a whopping 203 mm (8.0 in) longer.

The front and rear lights boast familiar Acura design elements, while the fascia features more illumination – a very in-vogue touch. The one styling misstep is the chrome accent that sweeps from the roofline through the C-pillar looks like the landau bars found on a hearse. (Bet you can’t unsee that now).

Functional Interior

That limo-like wheelbase gives the ZDX’s cabin generous proportions. Legroom in the rear seat is especially noteworthy, and despite the fashionably squat roofline, headroom is good all around. At 813 L, there’s a good amount of cargo room, too.

Compared to the vibrant exterior, the mostly monochrome interior treatment seen here is only barely brightened by some accenting red stitching. It’s a design choice that toes the line of other Acura products, meant to be a cockpit for serious driving work rather than posh luxury. (Those willing to settle for a black or white exterior can spec snazzy red leather seats instead.)

While the likes of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz have perfected this theme of starkness, it’s usually done with a wealth of premium materials and trims to reinforce the luxury price point. Acura has made leather seating standard in both the A-Spec and Type S trims, but many of the other material choices belie the model’s premium positioning, with some of the switchgear and dashboard plastics being particularly hard and chintzy.

Still, it’s a functional place to rack up kilometres, with the front seats offering a good blend of support and suppleness to remain comfy after a day behind the wheel. There are plenty of storage cubbies, too, and the controls are sensibly laid out (with the exception of the drive mode switch that's situated near the driver’s left knee). The traditional knobs for volume and temperature adjustment are especially appreciated, while the rest of the climate system is controlled via proper buttons instead of a menu buried within the infotainment system.

Top-Shelf Technology

Of course, the ZDX has plenty of screens packed with functions, but they’re mostly intuitive and easy to grasp. The primary touchscreen measures 11.3 inches and utilizes a Google-based interface, with Google Maps serving as the default navigation system that can also be displayed on the 11-inch configurable instrument display. It’s a neat system that enables slick route planning to optimize charging stops and travel time. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, both with wireless connectivity.

The ZDX features an 18-speaker stereo that features so-called “beosonic” control that lets the driver adjust the sound stage to suit their mood or the music being played. It’s meant to be an easy, on-the-fly way to adjust what would normally be multi-step equalizer fine-tuning, but no matter where we set it, it didn’t quite hit the mark.

There are a few giveaways that this Acura shares more than just the Ultium architecture with not only its Honda Prologue corporate cousin, but several General Motors (GM) models. There’s the OnStar remote services button, as well as hands-free highway driving that’s a repurposed version of GM’s impressive Super Cruise system. When active on designated highways, the vehicle maintains its speed, lane placement, and even makes automatic lane changes, all without driver intervention.

The ZDX is chock-full of advanced safety features including the usual autonomous braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, and now rear autonomous braking and pedestrian alert. There’s also a self-parking system that works in perpendicular as well as parallel spots – an Acura first.

Decent Drive

Since the brand’s inception in the 1980s, Acura has embraced driving enthusiasts with many of its models. This is a brand known for a series of high-revving four-cylinders, snarling V6s, and some of the best manual transmissions ever – none of which applies here.

What the ZDX does have – at least in the Type S variant tested here – is a sophisticated air suspension dialled in to balance a compliant ride quality with serious handling chops. Yes, the ZDX is a large and heavy vehicle, but it managed the twisting and undulating two-lane roads of our test loop northwest of Montreal with remarkable poise.

In the sport drive mode, the suspension squats 15 mm (0.6 in) and stiffens the damping while boosting throttle, steering, and braking responsiveness. In reality, the differences between normal and sport settings are barely noticeable, which says more about how polished the setup is regardless of drive mode than anything else. The stopping power and feel from the massive 15.6-inch front brakes clamped by six-piston Brembo calipers (the rears measure 13.6 inches) are excellent and easy to modulate.

Around town, trundling in stop-and-go traffic, and even tackling a few monstrous potholes, the Acura ZDX drove like the premium vehicle it is. And although the air suspension does a good job masking the weight and harshness of the 22-inch wheels on Quebec’s miserable pavement, the steam-roller-sized tires tended to transmit more road noise to the cabin than they should.

Dynamically, if there’s a letdown from the ZDX Type S it’s the way it delivers its power. Rated at nearly 500 hp and 544 lb-ft of peak torque, it should give the thrilling and immediate thrust that’s become a hallmark of performance-oriented EVs. And although the Type S is undeniably quick, it feels as if the Acura doles out its torque in a very measured way, possibly in the interest of refinement or safety, effectively dulling the highly-addictive kick in the backside other performance EVs offer.

Reasonable Range

The ZDX Type S is rated at a range of 447 km (versus 489 km for the A-Spec). When setting out, the projected range was shown at an optimistic 471 km, but after a 220 km mix of urban traffic, highway cruising, and strafing the rolling hills in sport mode, 50 per cent of the battery’s energy had been depleted, suggesting the official figure was probably more realistic. Still, it was an unseasonably cool day that warranted regular use of the heater, heated seats, and heated steering wheel, all of which draw a lot of juice, so surpassing the official figures is conceivable.

The 102-kWh battery pack is divided into a dozen different modules, just like the Cadillac Lyriq‘s. It’s rated for fast-charging speeds up to 190 kW, which should add up to 100 km in as few as 10 minutes.

Final Thoughts

While we wait to see what’s next from Acura in terms of its electrified offerings, the 2024 Acura ZDX is a solid effort. Acura has very successfully applied its familial design to the ZDX, making it one of the most handsome electric offerings this side of the Porsche Taycan. Starting at $84,990 for the dual-motor (all-wheel-drive) A-Spec, it comes very well equipped. Adding the performance and style enhancements of the Type S raises the price to $91,490, and Acura figures this will be the volume-seller. (Freight adds $2,595 to both.) It puts the ZDX amidst some heady competition, the most obvious of which is its platform-mate from Cadillac, which, when fully optioned, nudges a few thousand dollars higher than the Type S, but has an interior with posh finishes including wood trim.

Meanwhile, the Audi Q8 E-Tron, BMW iX, and Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV easily push past the $100,000 mark when specced with the equipment that comes standard here, but those machines offer more premium interior finishes, too. It’s also worth noting that the Tesla Model X starts in the same neighbourhood and has notably more power and range.

For Acura’s first foray into the EV realm, there’s a lot to like with the ZDX, especially with the way it rides and handles. Only time will tell if potential buyers will find a brilliant suspension, good looks, and generous helping of equipment enough to make this all-electric ZDX a bigger success than its namesake.