“But, what are they?”
As if to corner the market on producing the most polarizing vehicles for the 2010 model year, Honda and its luxury division Acura have each released a new vehicle that almost forces consumers to scratch their heads faster than the heartbreak of psoriasis.
No definitive term has surfaced yet to identify the niche segment the new Accord Crosstour from Honda and ZDX from Acura occupy yet automotive history has seen similar units before. When I first gazed my attention to these marriages of sedan and crossover utility vehicle I was served with an image circa 1981-82 from my memory archives – the AMC Eagle SX/4.
The new Crosstour and ZDX are built from modified modern sedan platforms that borrow crossover utility and ground clearance. They offer a coupe-ish roofline over a tall rising-to-the-rear shoulder line and finish with something a bit more rakish than a conventional hatchback opening at the rear. Each is powered by the automaker’s top powertrain offering and they both allow for all-wheel drive running gear underneath (standard on ZDX, available on CrossTour). And each is dressed to the nines with the latest technology, creature comforts and safety equipment that Honda and Acura offer.
So what are they? Bulked-up sedans? Sporty utes? Curvy coupeish crossovers?
Honda Accord Crosstour
The new is, pretty much, just a pregnant Accord. There are still four doors, a peppy 271hp 3.5-liter iVTEC V-6 under the hood with variable cylinder management for fuel savings, smooth five-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch alloy wheels, double wishbone front and independent multilink rear suspensions, front and rear stabilizer bars, four wheel disc brakes and vehicle stability assist with traction control. We enjoyed an EX-L tester in FWD that also added full contingency of leather interior set off with wood trim, 360-watt premium audio system with satellite radio and navigation system with voice recognition technology.
Additional goodies included power moonroof, Bluetooth hands-free technology, steering wheel-mounted controls for audio, cruise and phone and rearview camera system.
The vehicle rides as well as anything Honda produces today and behaves nicely too. I just hope no adults will have to get stuck riding in the rear seat area as headroom is severely reduced thanks to that sharply dropping roofline. And to take full advantage of cargo capability those rear seats will have to be folded down, especially for taller items to fit inside.
Pricing begins at $29,670 for a base EX 2WD without nav and rises to $36,220 beginning MSRP for a 4WD EX-L with nav system. Our 2WD EX-L nav-equipped tester rolled in at $34,770 and offered 18 mpg in city driving and 27 mpg highway.
The luxury version of this new thing-a-ma-bob vehicle – the Acura ZDX – is being called a four-door sports coupe by the automaker. Yeah, right. I think the designers watched too many Star Wars movies myself.
“The ZDX is like nothing you have ever seen before from Acura,” said Jeff Conrad, vice president of Acura sales. “It combines the best attributes of a coupe, a sedan and a sport utility – all wrapped in a beautifully sculpted package – that will attract an entirely new luxury customer to the Acura brand.”
OK, I will concede it does feature a roofline similar to luxury sedans using the same descriptor and the ride is somewhat sporty and the rearseat area does feel like being crammed into the back seat of a sports coupe, but I think I would have gone a different route on the segment placement. A Mercedes CLS or VW CC this thing ain’t.
The ZDX features harder lines than the Crosstour, more power under the hood thanks to the 300hp 3.7-liter six, an extra gear in the transmission, paddle shifters, standard Super Handling-All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), power liftgate, panoramic glass roof with power sunshades (that do NOTHING to abate the heat) and Acura’s new Integrated Dynamic System offering selectable comfort or sport driving dynamics.
The latter tailors the fully independent suspension’s Active Damper System and speed-sensitive steering together to suit the driver’s preference for a more comfortable or a more sporting ride – all available for easy change at the turn of a dial. Comfort mode prioritizes road isolation and reduced passenger fatigue, while Sport mode favors crisp handling response, heightened vehicle body control and maximum traction. At the heart of this system are electronically-controlled magneto-rheological shock absorbers – similar to those found in the Corvette system. And like the Corvette system I find the comfort setting way to bouncy a ride for my taste.
The Acura arrives in one of three trim levels – ZDX, ZDX with Technology package and ZDX with Advance package. Our recent tester was the latter and came complete with everything Acura could cram into the tight chassis including Collision Mitigating Braking System and Adaptive Cruise Control.
With a pricetag of $56,855 for the ZDX Advance I don’t think Acura is expecting to sell many of these vehicles. Fuel economy was an acceptable 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway especially considering all the added weight the Advance carries (ahem, yours truly not included).
Rearward vision is very limited in the ZDX but fortunately it features blind spot indicator technology as well, a feature I grew quite fond of in traffic.
The new rides from Honda and Acura are certainly different from the usual assortment of vehicles that have been delivered to me lately and I appreciate the effort to produce vehicles that will appeal to a cross selection of shoppers and I hope, for their sakes, that car buyers are looking for hyper-niche vehicles these days that look like they can make the the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.