The Acura ZDX Is A Normal EV For Real People (And That's Rarer Than You'd Think)

Honda has been largely absent from the electric vehicle market in the United States, and the brand's only current contributions to electrification are hybrid versions of the CR-V and Accord. They're perfectly fine cars, if a little mundane. But that has changed today as Honda's Acura brand has unveiled its first EV, the 2024 ZDX. Unlike Cadillac's most recent EV announcement, the Escalade IQ, or anything from Tesla, the ZDX doesn't boast any extraordinary abilities aside from a pretty impressive range clocking in at upwards of 325 miles from the base, single-motor model. 

It can't teleport, tell the future, crabwalk sideways, take a bullet, drive underwater, or recall the past of your golden years. It's pretty much just an Acura SUV, and that's a good thing. The ZDX has the potential to be a really big deal for not only Honda/Acura explicitly, because it looks (and presumably drives) like a normal luxury SUV you'd see in grocery store parking lots all over the country. Acura can possibly teach just about every other EV automaker some important lessons in how to make a genuinely compelling electric vehicle.

Devoid of gimmicks

Take a look at the current EV landscape and it's full of forward-looking statements with no delivery, bizarre claims, and endless gimmicks. Tesla is, well, Tesla and the entire brand is built on goofy memes and cars that look like they were squeezed out of a toothpaste tube. Or, with the case of the yet-to-be-released Cybertruck, rendered on a Sega Dreamcast. The brand dubiously claims its cars can drive themselves and that's not the only promise getting it into hot water. And that's a shame, because under the very thick exterior is a competent EV that millions have already adopted. But Tesla's harsh brand acolytes and the car's less than conventional exteriors have undoubtedly turned people away. Elon Musk being the most-vocal of those acolytes probably doesn't help much, either.

Compared to Tesla, the ZDX is downright boring. But you know what most people like? Accords, Civics, CR-Vs and other classically "boring" cars. Acura is playing it safe because most car shoppers choose familiarity over gimmicks. Honda and Acura have that in spades.

Next there's General Motors, ostensibly a real automaker. Ultium, the brand's EV platform, has been heralded (by GM) as an automotive Messiah for years and claims to be able to make the entire world drive affordable EVs with great range. So far, GM has only delivered six-figure SUVs that can "crab-walk" and a single Cadillac crossover. Hardly an Ultium powered world. Chevrolet has the Silverado EV and Equinox EV in the pipeline, true, but the Ultium-based ZDX EV could actually end up beating them, in volume at least, to the market early next year.

No misplaced nostalgia

Meanwhile, Ford has been extremely confident in its electric future, even going as far as establishing a new EV-centric brand, Ford Model e. But the Big Blue Oval's two current EV offerings rely heavily on nostalgia. The F-150 Lightning had the potential to follow in the footsteps of its gasoline-powered namesake and become one of the best selling vehicles in history. The Lightning, much like the ZDX, errs on the subtle side with its looks, and could easily be mistaken for a "normal" F-150. It's not the least bit flashy. But here's the rub, the price has fluctuated more than the stock market and Ford can't even make the truck at a rate where people can actually buy it. 

Then, there's the Mustang Mach-E. Beached whale looks aside, the Mach-E offers little over other EVs aside from the nostalgia-bait Mustang badge on the front. The $60,000 Mustang Mach-E GT tops out at 260 miles of range, a full 40 miles less than the $54,490 Tesla Model Y Performance. The Acura ZDX, that doesn't try to be an Acura's Greatest Hits compilation album, is projected to cost around the same price and it can achieve well over 325 miles of range. The performance-oriented ZDX Type S still gets an estimated 288 miles of range.

Ford's efforts are valiant with the Lightning and Mach-E, but the actual delivery has been lacking at best. The Lightning can't quite become a normal production car and the Mach-E's misplaced nostalgia isn't doing it any favors, especially in the range department.

A regular car, that just happens to be electric

The Acura ZDX could possibly be the much needed wake-up call that the EV industry needs. Of course, that's pending the actual release. Acura doesn't make any claims the car absolutely cannot deliver on, unlike Tesla. The ZDX isn't going to be a car that every person on Earth is going to drive, unlike GM's Ultium. And the ZDX isn't constantly saying "Hey, remember this?" unlike Ford. It's just an electric SUV. And that's probably what the market needs and wants right now. 

The $60,000 price point isn't exactly affordable, but neither does it seem outlandish for what is Acura's new flagship SUV (a mid-range MDX with all-wheel drive costs about the same). More important, it paves the way for Honda EVs that will essentially print money. A no-nonsense Honda CR-V EV or Pilot EV will undoubtedly destroy the avant-garde EV monstrosities that other automakers are trying to pawn off on normal car buyers who explicitly don't want a statement piece. They just want to go to work and not pay for gasoline. We still have to get behind the wheel to be sure, but on first impressions the 2024 ZDX — and future EVs from Honda — can likely do that better than anyone else.