2024 Acura ZDX Type S First Drive Review: A Good Car With First-EV Jitters

A far cry from the original four-door coupe CUV, this new ZDX is more usable and addresses the few shortcomings of the Honda Prologue.

byMichael Febbo|
Michael Febbo
Michael Febbo.


I reviewed the new Honda Prologue EV back in February. Overall, I found it to be a perfectly fine electric CUV for the mass market, even if it did have a couple of issues. The 2024 Acura ZDX Type S, which is also built on GM’s Ultium platform, not only addresses the few issues with the Prologue but adds the luxury and performance buyers expect from the Acura brand. Hopefully, they’re expecting the $23,000 price bump too.

For 75 grand, the new ZDX is a good start to Acura's electric car journey. It's practical, drives well enough, and feels fancy enough, acting as an interesting in-between option for those looking for something more affordable than the Mercedes EQs and BMW i's of the world but something a bit more luxe than, say, a Kia EV6.

This Time The Powertrain Is Shocking And The Styling Is Normal

The original Acura ZDX, produced from 2009 to 2013, was based on the MDX but topped with four-door coupe styling favoring form over function. The interior featured a number of firsts for Acura including complex concave interior surfacing which required new construction methods. Leather was painstakingly selected and mostly hand-stitched. The car received mixed reviews from the press while dealers who struggled to understand it weren’t particularly successful at selling it. 

This new ZDX is far more clear-cut. This is a mid-size crossover with traditional styling that asks very little in terms of transitioning from a gas-powered vehicle. The designers did take a few chances; some more striking than others. The slim headlights and DRL treatment look great and I can even get behind the lit grille surround. Details around the front valence, rocker panels, and rear diffuser add some aggression without trying too hard. Large wheels and short overhangs hide some of its size. The longer I looked at it, the more I liked it. But the chrome line over the side windows that stops well short of the shoulder line is in my opinion, a visual annoyance. I have dubbed it the Hoffmissedit Kink, but as every owner of a first-gen Porsche Panamera likes to say, “You can’t see it from behind the wheel.”

Inside is another mixed bag. The interior of the original ZDX was referred to by one of my old coworkers as a “button orgy” after counting 83 physical interfaces—excluding window, mirror, and windshield-wiper switches. Luckily, the new ZDX features a perfectly sized get-together of buttons on the center stack. Things like HVAC, seat heating and ventilation, and even the volume for the 18-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo are done by individual physical controls. The seats are well-shaped and covered in soft leather. There are more interior surfaces and colors than I cared to count. Some are actual aluminum and chrome, others are various colors and molded textures of hard plastics. It makes for an excessive amount of visual noise, especially on the door panels. It blends together more cohesively on the black interior, and I’m guessing if you opt for white or red leather, you’re OK with some contrast.

The backseat is more than large enough for adults, though only two comfortably. The trunk is decent-sized, with nearly 30 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row, and double that with those seats folded down. There are USB-C ports—two front, two rear—along with a wireless phone charger up front. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both wireless and the car comes with three years of Google Built-In service, for whoever uses that. My actual time in the car was under three hours. It was perfectly comfortable for that amount of time, and I would imagine, even twice that.

The Acura is also mostly a pleasure to drive, starting with the powertrain. Going into this, I expected overpowered excess. The ZDX is rated at 499 horsepower and 544 lb-ft of torque. This might sound like a lot, but weighing in at a claimed 6,052 pounds, the power feels appropriate and delivery is smooth and predictable. Maybe finding that one stray pony just to satisfy my OCD would have been way too much. Regen braking strength is selectable via the drive mode settings or on the fly with a steering wheel paddle. You can dial in anything from zero regen to near-full panic stop, and I spent a lot of time one-pedal driving. Regular brakes are present since hiding behind the 22-inch wheels are 15.3-inch front brake rotors that the bright yellow six-piston calipers will hardly ever squeeze. I tried them, and they work, but they seem more decorative than anything.

On the highway, Acura’s Hands-Free Cruise dominated the experience. Yeah, it’s Super Cruise borrowed from GM. It works remarkably well, although it is still a bit unnerving to let the car take control. In one instance, the ZDX insisted I take over driving with the steering wheel flashing red and my seat bottom bolsters vibrating. But, this seemed like a very particular set of circumstances where another car was acting erratically in a construction zone with multiple layers of old lane markings. Acura says there are currently 400,000 miles of mapped roads where you can use it. I'm sure I'll gain more trust in the system at some point.

No Hot Hatch

When I drove the Honda Prologue, I found a couple of shortcomings with its ride and handling. In my review, I pointed out that the steering was slow and a little ponderous, which I then explained was probably due to the steering rack's 18.5:1 ratio and that it could probably use something closer to 15:1. I also didn’t think the suspension tuning was quite up to Honda standards. It rides like a car that handles well, and handles more like a car that rides well; most of this is down to damping rates. Imagine my surprise that the ZDX Type S has a 15.9:1 steering ratio and active suspension with electronically controlled valves in the dampers along with air springs. A less humble person would take the opportunity to point out that I was, to my knowledge, the only person to point this out in a Prologue review. But I’m not that guy.

Even in Type S form, though, the ZDX is no hot hatch. It weighs three tons, has a 10-foot wheelbase, and ultimately suffers from being a modern car. The steering is substantially better than it is in the Prologue, but there is still zero feel. Partly this is down to the fact that it is electrically assisted power steering, but as far as I could tell from sticking my head and iPhone beneath the car, it uses a virtual steering axis front multi-link suspension. It makes sense for cars with a lot of torque going through the front wheels. Decreasing the scrub radius to zero or close to is a good way to stop torque steer. The downside is that you lose steering feel. But if we disregard the feel that doesn’t exist, the steering is accurate and predictable. It loads up a bit more in sport mode, and the quicker-than-Prologue steering ratio, along with stiffer anti-roll bars, makes it feel more responsive. If you live in an area with twisty roads, you’ll be able to find some enjoyment in the ZDX Type S. 

Michael Febbo

Let's Be Real

This car probably wouldn’t be a good fit for me, assuming I could swing the payments on a $75,000 car, and that’s fine. Please take note, I’m not angry at the very existence of a car that doesn’t fit my needs. Although, I would be fine with the 278-mile range from the 102-kWh battery. According to Acura, it expects a decent portion of ZDX buyers to already have a charger at home and that for most of them, using a public charger will be a novelty. Level 2 home charging will supply about 30 miles per hour of charging. With DC fast charging, it can get from 20 to 80% capacity in a claimed 42 minutes.

ZDX buyers will likely have at least one other car and this will be used for commuting around town. I know some of you are already asking, “What about cross-country road trips?” From what I’ve seen, the average person buying something like this is likely to drive to an airport for any trip more than a few hundred miles. 

The ZDX is rated to tow 3,500 pounds. But whenever towing with a CUV comes up, I think back to interviewing a powertrain engineer from BMW on the launch of the twin-turbo V8-powered X5. I asked how important it was to customers to have the 6,000-pound tow rating to which he laughed and said, “In America, we know anyone who tows more than a single 300-pound jetski will go buy a heavy-duty truck.” He’s not wrong.

The Early Verdict

Montecito, California is a quaint, beachside suburb of larger Santa Barbara, itself a private helicopter suburb of Los Angeles. It’s a small enclave where billionaires and A-list celebrities can sequester themselves from the mere B-list millionaire riff-raff of Santa Barbara. I’m sure the parade of American-built Japanese EVs displaced the conversation about Rob Lowe’s dog pooping on Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ private beach on Nextdoor’s Montecito group. Although many of us might see the ZDX as a bit of a stretch at $74,850 including destination, this is what Montecitan parents will buy their least favorite kid. But don’t feel too bad for Bronx, he’s not giving up much to his siblings. Neptune’s Mercedes EQE 500 and Calcite’s BMW iX xDrive50 are both $90,000 similarly spec'd and both are borderline hideous.

There's a lot to like about the 2024 Acura ZDX Type S. The ride and handling are a huge improvement over the more mainstream Prologue. It's a comfortable, luxurious family car that fills a spot that a decade ago would have been occupied by a sedan. It has perfectly adequate range, decent performance, and can provide driving enjoyment for those willing to seek it out. It represents a pretty decent value next to the European options and is a small performance step up from other Japanese and Korean offerings. But, in the end, it is still Acura's first step.

The original ZDX is still one of my favorite Honda/Acura products. The styling both inside and out oozed passion-project while the mechanical underpinnings provided an enjoyable driving experience. This new ZDX is completely different. Instead of a vehicle built out of the passion to create something unique, this was born of necessity. I can't say this is a great vehicle, and I certainly don't think we'll be longingly reminiscing over it a decade on. But this is a good vehicle, for now.

2024 Acura ZDX Type S Specs
Base Price (as tested)$74,850 ($76,450)
Powertraindual motor all-wheel drive | 102-kWh battery
Torque544 lb-ft
Seating Capacity5
Curb Weight6,052 pounds
Towing Capacity3,500 pounds
Cargo Volume28.7 cubic feet
EPA Range278 miles
Max DC Charging Rate190 kW
0-60 mph4.2 seconds
Quick TakeThe ZDX Type S gets Acura's EV initiative off on the right foot with solid driving dynamics, a nice interior, and decent value over the German competition. Greatness, however, will have to wait.
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