Take a ride in Acura’s first EV, its most powerful SUV yet

Acura’s new ZDX Type S is the most powerful SUV the brand has ever produced, generating nearly 500 horsepower and maxing out at 544 pound-feet of torque. In other words, it’s punchy in all the best ways. The automaker is quick to point out that ZDX has more torque than its hybrid NSX Type S supercar and more horsepower than other luxury EVs like the Mercedes-Benz EQE 500 and Audi’s SQ8 e-tron. And it’s all electric.

Like the Honda Prologue, the ZDX was built side-by-side with engineers from General Motors. Drawing power from a 102-kWh GM Ultium battery pack, Acura’s EV shares several components with Cadillac’s elegant Lyriq and Chevrolet’s Blazer EV. In fact, the exterior dimensions of the ZDX are the same as the Lyriq’s and the ZDX was designed at GM headquarters in Michigan.

The pairing of the American legacy automaker with a Japanese manufacturer is an unusual one. Does this partnership work for Acura? We drove the ZDX on a variety of roads in southern California to find out.

Two motors, big power boost

Somewhat ironically–and perhaps with a cheeky wink–the ZDX recycles the name of a previous gas-powered Acura model. With the zero-emissions movement ramping up in recent years, it made sense to revive the Z moniker.

Boasting an EPA-estimated 313-mile range with the single-motor, rear-wheel-drive setup, the ZDX can power up at a DC fast charging station and gain up to 81 miles of range in about 10 minutes. It takes a shade longer than 40 minutes to reach 80 percent, or 250 miles. Opting for the dual-motor, all-wheel drive version reduces the range slightly to 304 miles, and the top-performing Type S gets 278 miles before requiring a full charge.

a gold SUV driving through rocky terrain on road
A single-motor ZDX is good for up to 313 miles of range. Image: Acura

Compared to some of its all-electric rivals from Kia, Hyundai, and Genesis, the ZDX takes significantly longer to charge, which may be a deterrent for those without charging stations at home. On the other hand, the Acura EV has more range and more power.

As a bonus, the ZDX is equipped with a high-end 18-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio setup, an Acura first. Danish company Bang & Olufsen makes sound systems for Lamborghini, Bentley, Audi, and others, so this new vehicle is in good company. In the EV theme, Eddie Grant’s “Electric Avenue” or Børns “Electric Love” are apt candidates for a ZDX soundtrack.  

Economies of scale through a GM partnership

As it’s so for the Prologue, GM provided the battery, frame, suspension, chassis, powertrain, and electrical architecture, while Acura built everything above the chassis. That doesn’t include some of the interior switchgear (knobs and buttons). 

As we noticed when we tested the Honda Prologue earlier this year, the drive mode button is located to the left of the steering wheel, making it difficult to locate and activate easily while driving. It’s worth finding, though, because it activates a useful 25 millimeter lift in snow mode or it hunkers down by 15 millimeters in sport mode for improved aerodynamics.    

The engineers chose to carry over GM’s one-pedal driving for both the Prologue and the ZDX as is without any alterations. 

“We didn’t change a thing,” ZDX Development Leader John Hwang told PopSci in February. “When we were benchmarking and setting targets, we liked how GM was executing this feature, so we said, ‘Don’t touch it. It’s not broken.’”

Hwang says the concept of the Prologue and ZDX are very different. Honda’s EV has a more mainstream feel and employs front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, while the Acura has a much larger battery pack and the car is tuned for a more premium dynamic ride with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

interior of car with red seats
The ZDX Type S is the most powerful SUV Acura has ever made. Image: Acura

What’s next?

Ultimately, Acura’s first EV appears to be a solid initial effort. That said, there’s room for the brand to dig deep into its own engineering expertise for its next EV without GM. We’d love to see Acura find a way to expand upon the genius of its hybrid NSX, which was powered by three electric motors working together with a 3.5-liter V6 engine.

However, Acura clearly stated several months ago that it was finished with hybrids. Instead, executives revealed a plan for a pilot production of solid-state batteries along with more research into hydrogen-powered vehicles. Hydrogen fuel cells are something that both Acura and GM are interested in pursuing, and while the automakers may have scrapped their plans for a smaller, more affordable EV collaboration, that doesn’t mean the partnership is completely kaput.

“The ZDX will have a complete lifecycle and there will be a refresh, so there is still a full team on the Honda/Acura side and a full team on the GM side,” Acura spokesman Jake Berg told PopSci. “This is definitely not the last time we’re collaborating with GM.”

The ZDX qualifies for the full federal $7,500 tax credit, putting the starting price at $57,500. It’s worth considering the extra $600 to get the ZDX in a luminous shade of Double Apex Blue Pearl, developed in-house by Acura’s color and materials team.  

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