Special Coverage

Auto Interiors Conference

Between the unusual mocha leather and futuristic styling cues, the interior of the all-new Acura ZDX leaves Ward’s editors pleasantly surprised and hopeful that future Acuras will carry on the ZDX’s interior DNA.

The 5-passenger luxury cross/utility vehicle is honored with a 2010 Interior of the Year award for Design Breakthrough.

Replete with unusual and visionary touches, including leather-wrapped concave instrument-panel trim and shield-shaped center stack that is convex, rising to a peak at its middle, the overall feel of the ZDX’s interior is – dare we say – other worldly, and matches well its angular exterior styling.

“The interior design reminds me of a spaceship from ‘Aliens,’” Ward’s AutoWorld Editor-in-Chief Drew Winter writes on his score sheet.

Ward’s Associate Editor Byron Pope concurs. “It felt like I was sitting in a giant Transformer.”

Ward’s tested a $56,855 ’10 ZDX in early April. The model has both Advance and Technology packages, which include a voice-activated navigation system, perforated leather seats and blind-spot detection system.

The eye naturally is drawn to the center stack, which starts with a protruding brow over the navigation/infotainment screen and extends down to the large dial controller for many of the screen’s functions.

The convex shield-shape of the lower center stack is fetching, and the audio and HVAC controls within the space are clean and contemporary.

With the radio off, the buttons appear black, with no typeface. But when the audio system is turned on, the buttons illuminate with a crisp white light, revealing the font.

Acura designers specified a horizontally striated texture for the buttons and surrounding plastic.

Such attention to detail can be found throughout the ZDX.

Notably, its cargo area boasts thoughtful touches, such as a strut-assisted lid for an under-floor bin; brushed-aluminum handles for storage compartments make a classy styling statement.

In the center console, sliding, tensioned doors hide a power outlet and cupholder, the latter’s door an extension of the armrest.

A second console cupholder is hidden beneath a louvered manually operated door that matches the patterned, silver carbon-fiber trim surrounding the shifter and used as accent trim throughout.

A panoramic sunroof, with windows over the front- and rear-passenger seats, lets the sun shine in on the brown and dark gray color scheme.

Ward’s judges appreciate the high-quality materials employed in the ZDX, including deeply grained leathers, suede-like headliner, looped carpeting and cushy material swathing the upper instrument panel.

The execution also is supreme, as the soft-touch upper IP is one continuous piece with no visible seams. The leather-wrapped concave trim piece of the IP bears no wrinkles or imperfections.

The look is achieved by applying cut-and-sew leather by hand to a molded plastic substrate, an Acura official told Ward’s last year.

The ZDX showcases unique thinking in interiors and, more importantly, goes a long way toward establishing an identity for Acura.

“Acuras used to be boring,” Winter says. “This represents needed risk-taking on (Acura’s) part.”

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com