Acura Automobiles: 2011 Acura ZDX


In its ongoing relationship with its clients, the Acura Division noticed that some of them own both a sports coupe and an SUV the former for its performance and highly personal driving character, and the latter for its utility and practicality for hauling personal gear as well as for going places where the road conditions are difficult. This basic premise (combining a personalized “coupe” driving experience with versatile functionality) drove the body and chassis design of the Acura ZDX. As such, the ZDX has a distinctive design flair unmistakable with any competitor, and the all-season wherewithal to go almost anywhere in comfort, safety and style.

Early in the design process, Acura committed to several key elements for the ZDX that would define itbut would also to be its most challenging design aspects.

These include:

  • “2+Freedom” package concept that puts the driver and passenger first, followed by the luxurious and generous rear storage capacity, followed by rear-seating capacity
  • The “Keen Edge” body design, which required special dies for stamping the dramatic deep-draw rear quarter panels
  • The Acura-first panoramic glass roof with unique twin sun screens
  • Upscale interior including leather instrument panel with sweeping curves and use of concave surfaces
  • An available Integrated Dynamics System (IDS) that interacts with the steering as well as the (ADS) Active Damper System suspension
  • An available blind spot information system (BSI) that uses radar sensors to alert the driver of another vehicle that is detected in close proximity of the ZDX
  • The first use of 19-inch diameter wheels and tires as standard equipment on an Acura, with 20-inch diameter wheels and tires available
  • Supreme attention paid to reducing noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) in the passenger compartment with features such as acoustic front windshield glass, 5mm thick front door side glass, special design side pillar separators, specialized insulation (such as a multi-layer undercover) and even textile-covered inner fender wells


The primary design goal for the ZDX exterior was to create a distinctive, modern personal “sports coupe” body while providing adequate ground clearance and favorable approach and departure angles that allow off-highway use. In simple terms, the overall goal for ZDX was to combine two parts sports coupe with one part all-surface capability to create a one-of-a-kind performance sports coupe with outstanding versatility. The result is a highly emotional design that inspires and encourages drivers to pursue a passionate getaway of their own.

Conceived and developed entirely at the new Acura Design Studio in Torrance, California, some of the most unique styling elements of the ZDX include deep-draw body panels that create a muscular stance, strong character lines including bold wheel arches, cleverly concealed rear door handles, and the expansive panoramic glass roof.

Body In Motion

The strong character lines along the bodyside add an element of suspense to the ZDX design. The body appears to be in motion even when the ZDX is standing still, and there is a distinct element of tension communicated by the interaction between the different body surfaces. From above, the ZDX panoramic roof has a distinct “pulled” look, similar to the look of a slingshot just before release. This generates a sporty and aerodynamic silhouette unlike any vehicle in the market.

Additional character elements include Acura’s distinctive grille shape, sharply flared front fenders, dramatically rising character lines sloping rearward along the sides and an artfully sloping rear deck. All in all, the ZDX body lends the appearance of being pulled taut over a muscular skeleton. Acura designers refer to this directionality, pulled and tension as “suspenseful emotion.” Numerous separateand yet intertwineddesign elements go into the ZDX’s body design. The list includes “Keen Edge” side-panel character lines that attract the eye up and back across the bodyside, and a highly kinetic look that is simultaneously unique and refreshing.

Bright and Black Finishes

Adding emphasis and elegance to the ZDX body design is a continuous stainless-steel trim feature that completely encircles each side window, along with a rich gloss-black finish on the window pillars.


Integrating the “sports coupe” body design onto a taller, wide-track chassis required total commitment from the manufacturing team as well as the design engineers. This is because rendering the rear bodysides, broad fenders and more vertical upper bodysides from a single steel panel required an extreme “deep draw” process that had never been mass-produced before. Adding to the challenge was the tight 8mm radius on the character line running along the bodyside a much tighter radius than found on other Acuras.

Because maintaining the deep-draw panels was an essential part of the body design, the manufacturing team was tasked with finding a way to produce them. Although the goal was to use a single metal panel to avoid the unsightly seams that would result if multiple panels were welded together, engineers left no avenue unexplored from hand fabrication to stretching the limits of existing stamping technology. Initially told by the stamping experts that the body panel was impossible to make, the designers turned to hydroforming, but there were no presses available in an appropriate size for such stamping technology. The manufacturing team agreed to try building a panel in two pieces, seaming it in the taillight area and under the rear door cutline, but eventually rejected that concept too.

Eventually the original stamping team found a way to make the part in one piece with the help of a low-friction phosphate coating between the die and the steel panel, which improves its formability. Although creating the one-piece deep-draw side panel took a year and a half of development work, the finished component dramatically adds to the ZDX’s provocative appearance and enhances the precision of the metal craftwork.


Befitting its “sports coupe” design, the 2011 ZDX is longer, lower and features a significantly wider track than its primary market competitors. As a result, in stature as well as design, the ZDX offers an especially dramatic appearance and driving character.


Developed by a team of Acura engineers based in Ohio, the 2011 ZDX utilizes an Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure that more evenly distributes collision forces through the entire vehicle structure during a frontal collision while simultaneously helping to retain the integrity of the passenger compartment. Attaining a high level of dynamic body rigidity is essential for precise handling, ride quality and quietness inside the cabin something that is especially true for the ZDX with its large panoramic glass roof feature.

By researching the body’s dynamic response to chassis loads during everyday driving, ZDX engineers considered the unit body’s “dynamic stiffness” as an entire system, not just as an individual component. Thus body rigidity is not an end to itself rather it is an enabler for enhanced vehicle dynamics, ride comfort and driving quietness.

In addition to the rigidity of the panoramic roof opening being critical to ride, handling and safety during a potential rollover, instrumented testing revealed that the “tailgate ring” (the metal structure surrounding the tailgate) is extremely important for handling, stability and ride. In the ZDX this area is extremely rigid, providing the rear suspension with a solid mounting structure that nets improved handling precision.


The passenger compartment and other key areas of the ZDX body structure are formed from high-strength steel, with 48-percent of unit body constructed of the advanced material. High-strength steel contributes to added rigidity, excellent crashworthiness and lighter weight, with different grades of the steel specified for use in different parts of the vehicle. Some notable areas using high-strength steel include the A- and B-pillars, floor sills, roof frame, cross braces and floor cross members.


Lightweight materials (including aluminum) are used to further reduce vehicle mass, which helps improve performance while lowering fuel consumption and emissions. Aluminum is used for certain ZDX components such as the hood and instrument panel support, where light weight is beneficial but the strength of steel is not imperative. In total, about 5-percent of the ZDX body components are constructed of aluminum.

Compared to steel, the weight savings of using aluminum for the ZDX hood is about 15 pounds. In addition to lowering overall weight, the lighter hood also helps lower the center of gravity on the ZDX. Aside from using a unique metal conditioner and phosphate dip prior to painting, there are no unique production challenges in using aluminum body panels and no ownership compromises either. A single, large-volume gas strut supports the hood when open.

The aluminum instrument panel support assembly saves approximately 14 pounds compared to the weight a traditional steel unit. This support, which connects the A-pillars to the front floor crossmember, is a structural element consisting of special extrusions and stamped sheet aluminum.


The Acura ZDX spent considerable time in the wind tunnel to test and develop its aerodynamic properties. The attention to detail in aero efficiency included the development of stylized lower bodyside sills that help keep air from moving underneath the vehicle and causing turbulence. Lift balance and the overall coefficient of lift were also addressed to help keep the ZDX stable at high speeds.

Numerous aerodynamic details direct and smooth the airflow underneath the vehicle, contributing to better engine cooling, greater fuel efficiency, lower emissions and reduced interior noise. Some of these include:

  • Air dam beneath the front bumper directs airflow up and rearward to the radiator
  • Small strakes ahead of the front and rear wheels direct air around the tires
  • A pair of strakes in the middle of the underbody area help keep air separated from the bottom of the vehicle at higher speeds
  • Mid-floor undercover reduces air tumbling past the fuel tank and rear differential


Special acoustic glass is used on the windshield of the ZDX to help reduce noise entering the cabin. Tuned specifically to attenuate wind-noise frequencies, the unique windshield glass uses two layers of 2mm safety glass with an inside layer of a transparent and elastic acoustic membrane for a total glass thickness of 4.7mm. The acoustic glass windshield helps place the ZDX at the top of its class in wind-noise performance.

In addition, the windshield incorporates UV light absorbing technology just like the 4mm thick panoramic roof glass, 5mm thick front side, 3.5mm rear side glass and the 3.1mm thick rear tailgate glass.

The ZDX’s windshield benefits from a defroster system that is nearly invisible from the driver’s perspective, yet delivers much improved area coverage and quicker defrost time as compared to previous Acura models.


The 2011 ZDX offers 271 degrees of outward visibility (more than the BMW X6), a significant accomplishment considering the dramatic “sports coupe” upper body design with its aggressively sloping rear cabin.


Engineers attacked noise from virtually every source inside and outside the ZDX, with the primary goal of reducing noise at its source. One creative noise-reduction technique is the use of composite seals in the exterior door panels. These “weather strip” seals actually serve two purposes to reduce the transmission of noise through the doors, and to shield the interior components from dirt and water while driving through heavy rain or puddles. The door insulators provide a substantial reduction in objectionable sound up to five decibels on some roads.


The ZDX’s front door handles are sized for comfort as well as ease of use, regardless whether the user is bare handed or wearing winter gloves. There are three door checker positions (the detent mechanism that holds the door partially open) instead of the usual two, providing a convenient “in between” position in tight parking situations. The door openings are finished with an attractive composite garnish that hides the doorsill when the door is open.

The rear door handles are mounted vertically on the trailing edges of the doors, and blend into the black garnish above the beltline of the vehicle. The design emphasizes the “sports coupe” body silhouette, making the ZDX appear like a 2-door vehicle while still providing the convenience and utility of four doors. Attention to detail in the sealing of the doors and tailgate also heightens the performance of the ZDX’s overall noise level. ZDX designers even focused attention on the smoothness of the inside of the door openings, ensuring that no spot welds or other inconsistencies mar the smooth finish.

Ingress and Egress

Focusing on its “Passionate Getaway” mission, the ZDX design purposefully emphasizes the front doors. However, designers also worked diligently to make the more abbreviated rear doors useful as well. The ZDX rear doors open an impressive 78 degrees to allow passengers a wide usable area between the door and bodyside.


The Acura ZDX uses bi-functional High-Intensity Dischargelow and high beam headlights. The advantages of HID headlamps include greater lighting power, daylight type lighting temperature and reduced power consumption. The low beam headlights provide an impressive 730 lumens of lighting power, and the light projection cut lines of the HID headlights are extremely precise, providing maximum nighttime visibility without distracting other drivers.

ZDX also features Daytime Running Lights (DRL), which automatically turn on with ignition activation. DRLs have been proven to measurably improve daytime traffic safety by increasing the vehicle’s visibility to other motorists. Halogen fog lamps are also included as standard equipment on all ZDX trim levels.


The Acura ZDX receives as standard equipment a camera that displays a rear view behind the vehicle. The ZDX displays a rear view image on a 3.5-inch diagonal image located within the rearview mirror, while the ZDX with the Technology Package or Advance Package displays an image on the in-dash full VGA navigation screen.

Furthermore, Technology and Advance Package models offer three different rear view angles normal rear view, wide rear view and a tow-friendly top view. The camera lens is located on the tailgate next to the license plate.


In another worldwide first, the ZDX uses a combined AM/FM/XM antenna. The tri-band fin-type antenna is located on the rear area of the roof and uses a patented mounting structure, along with an aerodynamically efficient design that reduces aero drag as well as noise. The advent of this combined antenna eliminated the cost and complexity of using both a XM antenna and an AM/FM in-glass antenna.


Sensors for the blind spot information system (BSI) are located behind the left and right rear bumper fascia. The sensors can detect other vehicles when they are in the blind spot of the ZDX driver. The feature uses indicators to alert the driver when another vehicle is detected in close proximity to the ZDX.


The Center High Mount Stop Lamp (CHMSL) features a single array of 12 LED diodes. The LED-design CHMSL was used for its unique appearance as well as its ability to produce the required lighting brightness within the very slender physical dimensions of the light assembly. Four LEDs are also used in each of the ZDX’s outside mirror housing-mounted turn signals to improve visibility during lane changes or turns.


When viewed from above, the ZDX has the longest continual expanse of glass in the automotive market, stretching from the leading edge of the windshield to the trailing edge of the tailgate glass. A large component of this is the panoramic glass roof assembly, with a single sliding glass panel measuring 48.2 inches wide and 24.5 inches long. The ZDX’s moonroof opening is 25-percent larger than the one found in the BMW X6. To further brighten the cabin, a fixed glass panel over the rear seat area has the same dimensions as the movable front panel. Dual motorized sunshades cover both the front and rear panels should the ZDX occupants choose to reduce sunlight entering the interior.

The glass used for the panoramic roof panel is 4mm thick, and is tinted to provide privacy along with blocking 80-percent of all light (and 90-percent of UV sunlight) entering the ZDX cabin. When the roller shades are extended, only 3-percent of overhead light will enter the cabin.

In contrast to most sunroofs and transparent moonroofs, the ZDX panoramic roof panel tilts and slides up and back across the outside of the vehicle’s roof. This design helps to preserve maximum interior headroom while also retaining the dramatic and personal “sports coupe” design of the cabin greenhouse.

Due to its large size, the roof operating assembly required an inventive and sophisticated assembly process. Whereas most sunroof assemblies are installed from inside the vehicle, the ZDX’s assembly (along with the entire glass roof panel) is pre-assembled and then, as a complete assembly, affixed to the roof of the vehicle from above using a combination of bolts and urethane adhesive. The entire glass panel is replaceable in the event that it is damaged.

Air deflector

A mesh fabric pop-up air deflector at the front of the ZDX’s roof opening is a first for Acura. The unique deflector achieves a new standard for wind-noise performance when compared to a traditional blade deflector with a dramatic 10-decibel reduction in noise level as measured at 100 kph (62 mph). The noise reduction is due to airflow moving through as well as over the top of the deflector, which diminishes the booming noise that is common with a solid-style deflector panel.

The air deflector fabric is specifically designed to resist the buildup of dust, grit and organic matter such as insects. In testing, Acura designers drove the ZDX through the buggy Midwest at night, stored the vehicle for 10 days to let the assortment of insects on the deflector thoroughly dry, and then simply vacuumed them off.


A gloss-black rear spoiler is standard on the ZDX, with a larger black or body-colored rear spoiler available as a dealer-installed accessory. The rear spoilers are more than just a styling cue as they help air separate cleanly off the back of the vehicle, in turn reducing lift and helping the ZDX meet its aerodynamic targets that are important for both fuel economy and low NVH within the ZDX interior.


Construction of the ZDX tailgate represented a unique challenge due to its large size and its two glass components a larger upper window and a smaller lower window. Two gas-charged struts support the tailgate, and a power open/close function is standard. The power function can be operated via the key fob remote, by a button on the instrument panel, or by a button located beneath the tailgate lip.

For safety, an anti-pinch feature is built into the power tailgate operation. Pressure-sensitive wiring, encased in a protective rubber sheath, encircles the tailgate; if the system senses an obstruction while closing, the tailgate will automatically reopen.


The ZDX fuel filler door is unlocked when the driver’s door is unlocked, and is easily pushed open and closed from outside the vehicle. The fuel-filler door is made of a composite resin material that is lightweight, dent resistant and corrosion proof. For a fully finished appearance, the inside of the door is a flangeless design.


Beneath the aerodynamic front and rear fascias are two structural bumper beam assemblies that help minimize damage during a collision.

In another first for Acura, through-bumper, dual polygon-shaped exhaust outlets give the ZDX an even more premium look. The exhaust finishers are constructed of stainless-steel, are polished to a high luster and include integrated reflectors to help with nighttime visibility.


For the ZDX, Acura engineers wanted a mirror-smooth paint finish with a wet, glossy look. To improve the surface smoothness, “orange peel” (the finely undulating surface found on most paints) had to be greatly reduced.

To remain environmentally responsible, six waterborne exterior colors are available that use a durable clear-coat finish that resists scratching and airborne pollutants. In addition, a new painting cell was established in the factory to ensure that separately painted body panels (such as the ZDX’s front and rear bumper fascias) have excellent color harmony with the body.


The 2011 Acura ZDX is assembled in Alliston, Ontario, Canada. To ensure the most accurate tolerances in key parts of the build process, manufacturing was computer simulated while the ZDX was in its engineering phase at Honda Research Americas (HRA) in Ohio with special attention focused on 21 key components including the large panoramic glass roof. Conducting a “virtual build” via computer gave Acura’s manufacturing team the opportunity to identify and mitigate any potentially negative human factor issues during assembly such as excessive reaching or lifting to install components. As a result, the ZDX is manufactured and assembled with a high level of accuracy as well as with an extremely worker-friendly process.


For years, Acura vehicles have been successfully meeting ever more stringent world guidelines to reduce the content of harmful metals such as chromium and lead, along with reducing volatile organic compounds (VOC) and polyvinyl chlorides (PVC). The ZDX marks the first Acura to use a mercury-free Navigation display screen, which features LED backlighting instead of traditional cold cathode backlighting. To reduce environmental impact at the factory, a special separation line isolates different manufacturing scrap materials (such as aluminum) for recycling.


A dedicated array of exterior accessories has been developed for the Acura ZDX. When installed at the time of vehicle purchase, the accessories are covered by Acura’s 4-year/50,000-miles basic warranty.

  • 19×8.5-inch 10-spoke aluminum wheels (Sparkle Silver)
  • 20×9-inch 12-spoke aluminum wheels (chrome look)
  • Wheel locks
  • Towing package (includes complete Class I hitch, harness and hitch ball)
  • LED illuminated sport running boards
  • Color-matched back-up sensors
  • Color-matched body side molding
  • Color-matched door edge guards
  • Splash guards (color matched)
  • Rear bumper appliqu
  • Tailgate spoiler
  • Engine block heater
  • Remote engine starter

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