2024 Acura ZDX Type S: A Sportier Lyriq?

Strong points
  • Electrifying acceleration
  • Generally comfortable
  • Acura Cruise works great
Weak points
  • Some Chevy-like components
  • Small trunk
  • High price
Full report

Santa Barbara, California—Acura, just like parent company Honda, was late to the EV party. The all-new 2024 ZDX is landing just now in dealerships across the U.S., and the first units in Canada are scheduled to arrive around late May.

Luckily, the brand invited the media including yours truly to get a closer look and test drive the ZDX in performance-focused Type S trim well before we could get a chance to see it north of the 49th parallel. How did it all go down? Scroll down for our takes on Acura’s first-ever electric SUV, which wouldn’t exist without the help of General Motors.

Honda-GM Partnership

As you probably know by now, rather than starting from scratch, Honda went to its partner GM to speed up the launch of both the Honda Prologue and the Acura ZDX. The latter is built alongside the Cadillac Lyriq, another SUV riding on GM’s Ultium architecture.

Photo: Vincent Aubé

The Prologue is manufactured in the same Mexican plant as the Chevrolet Blazer EV and is primarily FWD-based, although it comes with dual motors and AWD. On the other hand, the similarly sized ZDX employs a RWD-based platform like the Lyriq. The two luxury SUVs deliver a more refined driving experience than their more reasonably priced counterparts.

Type S First

In the U.S., customers will have access to a pure RWD model, whereas all Canadian-bound models will feature a dual-motor setup with AWD. This includes the sportier Type S that was the centre of attention at the media event down in California.

While the base ZDX A-SPEC rolls out of the factory with 490 horsepower, the ZDX Type S packs 500 horsepower. Call them even? Not with 437 lb-ft of torque for the former and 544 lb-ft for the latter. But there’s more than that. Unique to the Type S are Brembo brakes with four-piston callipers up front, an air suspension with adaptive dampers, plus 22-inch wheels instead of the standard 20-inch alloys. Low-profile tires are also included, contributing to more precise handling.

Photo: Vincent Aubé

Obviously, the ZDX Type S offers more interior content, too. When you add it all up, there’s a weight difference of about 70 kg between this model and the A-SPEC.

Typical Acura-GM Cabin

Using a GM-developed architecture is bound to generate a few complaints from Acura’s loyal customers. Those familiar with products like the RDX and MDX are in for a shock inside the ZDX, mainly because a number of components (buttons, shifter, plastics, leather, displays, etc.) come from the GM parts bin. Some people won’t mind, but others would probably prefer an interior layout that more closely resembles the latest MDX.

Photo: Vincent Aubé

The excessively thick steering wheel, for instance, isn’t as pleasant to grab as the ones typically found in Acura vehicles, particularly the sexy Integra Type S. Meanwhile, the space-saving, column-mounted shifter kind of has a cheap look and feel. On top of that, the hard plastics on the lower door panels seem to have been ripped off from a run-of-the-mill Chevy, while build quality isn’t quite on the same level as Acura products.

The infotainment system with Google Built-in makes for fairly easy navigation despite the myriad of apps. Similar to other GM vehicles equipped with this technology, the ZDX forces drivers to dig deep to find a simple thing like headlight controls. Hopefully Acura is already working on a solution to take those out the touchscreen as part of a mid-cycle update.

Photo: Vincent Aubé

As a two-row midsize SUV, the ZDX offers generous space front and rear, but the trunk is just a tad larger than that of a Toyota Corolla Cross. You can expand cargo capacity by folding the 60/40-split rear seats.

Remarkable Agility

The small power gap between the A-SPEC and Type S will inevitably draw customers to the cheaper model, but the upgraded suspension and tires are worth the extra investment. For the record, the ZDX Type S carries a base MSRP of $91,590.

Riding on those massive 22-inch wheels, our tester proved remarkably agile on the beautiful roads of Santa Barbara, two hours northwest of Los Angeles. And that’s despite the heavy battery—something the vast majority of EVs have to deal with.

Photo: Vincent Aubé

Knowing that, a smart driver can easily make some adjustments to corner better and make everyone on board feel better. One-pedal driving is possible, but the regenerative braking system is pretty aggressive, so much so that my driving partner for the day asked me to turn it off using a button in the left corner of the touchscreen. Yep, motion sickness is a thing even with EVs.

Sport mode makes the ZDX Type S more dynamic and also more expressive through artificial sound effects that can’t be considered overly intrusive. As far as we’re concerned, it’d be nice if Acura allowed drivers to adjust the sound, but that’s not possible. The suspension stiffens up and lowers ride height by 25 mm in Sport mode, while steering gets heavier. Handling is more fun and more rewarding as a result. On the flip side, Snow mode increases ride height by up to 40 mm, giving the vehicle better obstacle-clearing ability.

Straight-line acceleration is electrifying. Ditto for passing manoeuvres on the highway. Alas, weight often rears its ugly head. Sure, the ZDX Type S is surprisingly comfortable despite riding on 22-inch wheels, but potholes will most certainly be a big problem. We’re curious to see how the suspension will handle rough pavement back home in Canada.

Photo: Vincent Aubé

Acura Cruise

While GM has Super Cruise, the new Acura ZDX has Acura Cruise. It’s basically the same system, just under a different name. When activated, the vehicle can perform lane changes automatically or when prompted with a flick of the turn signal stalk.

During the first part of the trip, we gave Acura Cruise complete control and watched it handle the various obstacles along the way in impressive fashion. At one point, however, as the lane got narrower due to roadwork, the system suddenly seemed lost and we had to take over in order to avoid hitting a Toyota Prius in the next lane.

Photo: Vincent Aubé

What About Efficiency?

Admittedly, it’s hard to gauge efficiency with a vehicle you don’t know on a road you’ve never driven, especially when there’s so much power and torque on tap you can’t resist doing all-out sprints for the fun of it.

It’s probably best if we just refer to the official numbers posted by Natural Resources Canada. So there you have them: the 2024 ZDX Type S achieves a range of up to 447 km and its combined energy consumption is 26.7 kWh/100 km.

In the end, our first drive with Acura’s electric SUV turned out to be a mostly pleasant experience. The ZDX is comfortable, powerful and surprisingly nimble, although not nearly as nimble as the outstanding Integra Type S. Now, how will it fare in adverse weather and road conditions? The answer to that will come later. By the way, we didn’t get any warning messages like during a previous test drive with the Chevrolet Blazer EV, so that’s a good thing.

Watch: The Car Guide Test Drives the 2024 Acura ZDX Type S

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