Acura’s first EV was never going to be an NSX
Though the second-generation NSX supercar was a hybrid, and Honda’s big plans for electrification spawned rumors of a battery-powered halo vehicle in that vein, the first pure-electric Acura was always going to be an SUV, says Acura’s assistant VP of sales for the U.S., Emile Korkor.
The 2024 ZDX is a major first for Honda’s premium marque, though the model is the second SUV in the brand’s history to wear that badge. The first ZDX (model years 2010–2013) was a coupe-like crossover take on the midsize MDX. In retrospect, the recipe was ahead of its time.
The electric ZDX, however, breaks much more significant ground. For one, no Acura with four doors and a trunk has boasted this much power: an estimated 500 hp in top, Type-S trim. Only three bits are shared with an existing Acura model: The four horizontal LEDs arranged under its “chicane” daytime running lights (DRL), which are shared across the lineup; the steering wheel emblem, borrowed from the Integra, and one of the speakers—the tweeter, made by Bang & Olufsen in its first partnership with the automaker.
The 2024 ZDX is the first Acura to showcase the B&O audio system, but it won’t be the last; the system will “cascade” to future models, says the vehicle’s chief engineer, John Hwang. If you’re a huge fan of Panasonic, fret not: The Denmark-based audio company isn’t edging out Acura’s existing audio partner, Panasonic, based in Japan.
Since Acuras are only marketed as such in North America, the L.A. studio took the lead when it came time to evolve the Precision EV Concept, first shown in August of 2022, into a production model. Acura’s dealers, says Korkor, had been asking for an EV for years and were even more pleased with the ZDX than with its 2022 concept forbear. Korkor expects the ZDX to sell in the highest volumes in California—no surprise, given that state’s aggressive EV incentives—and then New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Texas. The EV will sticker around $60K.
Acura plans to market the ZDX as “a good alternative,” in Korkor’s words, to the brand’s biggest SUV, the MDX. After glancing at the MDX’s price structure, we’ll add a qualification: The most expensive version of the electric SUV is a good alternative to the most expensive version of the gas-powered one. Both Type-S models will sticker around $70K. If you like power, the choice is obvious: The ZDX makes around 500 hp to the MDX’s 355.
When comparing entry-level versions of the SUVs, the comparison favors the internal-combustion model. At launch, the cheapest ZDX will cost around $60K; you can get an MDX right now for ten grand less—eight, if you need four driven wheels. (The base ZDX is a single-motor, front-drive configuration.)
Acura won’t let slip where the ZDX will be built, but tax incentives provided by the Inflation Act of 2022 to domestically produced EVs all but ensure it will be made in North America. The ZDX is rather American underneath its handsomely creased sheetmetal, where you’ll find all GM hardware. We’d wager that the ZDX’s closest relative will be the Cadillac Lyriq and that the Acura will be built at that model’s home in Spring Hill, Tennessee.
The GM collaboration isn’t mentioned by Acura in the press release, but the source of the ZDX’s drivetrain was openly acknowledged by engineers at the showing of the car in Detroit. Hwang points to the logos on the wheel centers: His team wanted to use wheel caps from existing models, but the specs of GM’s Ultium platform—specifically, the wheel hubs—were the tiniest bit incompatible.
The Honda e city car is available in Europe, but the automaker has yet to deliver a fully electric vehicle to America with its own badge. Acura will carry that torch for Honda’s first lap around North America, helping fill out a rapidly expanding list of luxury electric SUVs from Cadillac, BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and more. The 2024 ZDX appears well-positioned to carve out its niche, and it arrives at an opportune moment.