What is Acura SH-AWD?

Liz Kim | Aug 31, 2020

At Acura, SH-AWD is an acronym for the automaker’s proprietary all-wheel-drive system. It provides the enhanced traction that any AWD vehicle supplies compared to a front- or rear-wheel-drive system, but Acura adds rear-axle torque vectoring – that’s the SH, or Super Handling, part of the equation – to add a measure of performance to its vehicles.

Acura SH-AWD Super Handling All Wheel Drive

What Acura models have SH-AWD? - Find the best Acura deals!

Three iterations of SH-AWD exist. The most common one is for gas engine-only models, including the Acura MDX midsize SUV, RDX compact SUV, and TLX sport sedan. The less common one is for hybrid models, including the MDX Sport Hybrid and RLX Sport Hybrid (discontinued for 2021). The Acura NSX supercar possesses a third version. Depending on the model and trim level, SH-AWD is offered as standard or optional equipment. The small Acura ILX sedan is the only model in the company’s lineup that doesn’t offer SH-AWD.

What does Acura SH-AWD do? - Find the best Acura deals!

Depending on the vehicle, AWD systems typically send power to just one axle on a vehicle until wheel slippage is detected. In other words, if your make and model is normally front-wheel drive, but you’ve selected the AWD option, under most driving situations your AWD vehicle’s drivetrain is directing all or most of the power to the front wheels.

When the vehicle’s drive wheels start losing traction, the AWD system will deliver a percentage of power to the other set of wheels in order to regain grip on the road. In our example above, the AWD would start powering the rear wheels to improve traction. By putting power to all four wheels, AWD helps the car to accelerate and steer better in low-traction situations.

What makes Acura SH-AWD unique is that it can deliver up to 70% of engine power to the rear wheels, and thanks to the Super Handling part up to 100% of that power to either the left or right rear wheel, depending on which one has more grip. In other words, depending on the driving situation, up to 70% of engine power goes to a single rear wheel. 

This mechanism is called torque vectoring, and the result is more accurate and entertaining handling on dry pavement. From maximizing traction at the wheel with the most grip to reducing oversteer and understeer, SH-AWD translates to greater driving enjoyment. 

How does Acura SH-AWD work? - Find the best Acura deals!

The latest version of Acura SH-AWD debuted in the 2019 RDX SUV and is now available in the redesigned 2021 Acura TLX. In addition to more compact packaging, it boasts a 30% reduction in response time and a 40% increase in maximum torque capacity at the rear axle. 

Acura also says the rear axle is continuously overdriven by 2.9% with the fourth-generation version of SH-AWD, which the company claims will result in sharper and more accurate corner turn-in, improved tracing through the corner, and an amplified yaw-moment effect of left-to-right torque transfer. In other words, more fun!

In the Acura Sport Hybrid models, SH-AWD works a different way. Each rear wheel is driven by individual electric motor that produce power independently of each other. There is no axle connected from the engine to the rear wheels. The result is an instantaneous burst of electric torque to one or both rear wheels, and rapid acceleration without slip or tire chirping that garners a Sport Hybrid driver some side eye from disapproving onlookers.

In the NSX sports car, things are arranged a little differently. Unlike other vehicles in the Acura lineup, which position their gasoline engine in the front, the NSX’s engine lives in the middle of the vehicle behind the two seats. In the application of Sport Hybrid technology, the electric motors are connected to the front wheels instead of the rear wheels. 

Pros and cons of AWD - Find the best Acura deals!

The downside to having an AWD system on your car is added cost, greater mechanical complexity, and decreased fuel economy compared to a conventional two-wheel-drive vehicle. But the advantages of increased traction, performance, handling, and safety, especially for those who live in areas of the country that often see inclement weather, makes AWD a desirable choice.

The information in this article is from Acura. It was accurate on August 31, 2020 but may have changed since that date.

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