HOW IT WORKS

In simple terms, here's how Acura's Super Handling all-wheel drive system works

The Acura RDX comes equipped with the fourth-generation of the company's all-wheel drive system.

Photo courtesy of Acura

The first generation of Acura's all-wheel drive system debuted in 2005 in the RL. The fourth-generation of the system was introduced with the redesigned RDX in 2019, still wearing the SH-AWD badge.

The idea is the same through the generations but with generational enhancements it's come to be generally regarded as one of the best systems you can get.

2019 Acura RDX Drivers can see their AWD system in motion on the SUV's driver information screen. Photo courtesy of Acura

Acura's SH-AWD system is mechanically very similar to a car without all-wheel drive. Models with SH-AWD, like those without, have two axles that each attach to two wheels. The axles are connected by a drive shaft.

In AWD models, at the intersection of the front axle and drive shaft is the transmission and a single speed transfer case. The transfer case is a mechanical device that transfers power from the transmission to the front and rear axles via the drive shaft.

At the intersection of the drive shaft and the rear axle, there is a differential. The differential is a set of gears that allows the car's wheels to revolve at different speeds.

In some vehicles, torque can be delivered to one, two, three, or all four wheels to varying degrees depending on what the road conditions require. When operating in a straight line, the system uses G-sensors to route the appropriate amount of power to the rear wheels. If you're hammering the throttle, more torque is given to the rear wheels. When less power is required due to a slow start or maintenance of a consistent speed, less is given.

The fourth-gen AWD system can distribute up to 70 percent of the system's power to the rear wheels. When moving through a corner, the differential can then move up to 100 percent of that torque to one of the car's wheels, if necessary. Acura says that this system allows the SUV to keep its grip, before it becomes an issue, in challenging driving conditions.

Not all all-wheel drive systems operate all of the time. The ones that don't are called part-time all-wheel drive systems. This allows the driver to receive the benefits of an all-wheel drive system as well as the fuel efficiency that comes with front- or rear-wheel drive when the conditions are right.

The fourth-generation of the system allows the AWD mechanics to react faster and sees a 40 percent increase in maximum torque capacity.

Acura's MDX and TLX still employ the company's third-generation SH-AWD system as they await a redesign.

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The Passport was lightly modified for competition.

Honda

Honda recently announced a line of off-road-oriented trims and packages for its vehicles. Called TrailSport, the trim brings rugged appearance upgrades to the Honda Passport and will eventually offer more performance upgrades for other vehicles in the automaker's catalog. To further prove its mettle in the off-road space, Honda built a 2022 Passport rally truck to compete in the American Rally Association race series. The truck debuted over the weekend in Michigan and had a reasonably successful run for its first time out.

2022 Honda Passport Two Honda engineers handled driving duties.Honda

Importantly, the Passport's drivetrain and suspension were left untouched for the rally. The 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6, nine-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, and suspension in the rally vehicle are the same components that you or I would see if we bought a new Passport today. Honda did add a transmission fluid cooler, but even then, it's the unit that everyday buyers can get with the available towing package. The SUV's interior was stripped and modified for safety and performance.

2022 Honda Passport Honda is pushing deeper into the off-road with its TrailSport trims.Honda

Honda did upgrade the Passport's wheels and tires for the event by fitting 17-inch BRAID Winrace T rally wheels and Maxxis RAZR M/T or A/T tires. The automaker also made modifications to the SUV's underside with custom 1/8-inch thick aluminum oil pan and rear differential skid plates. High-density panels protect the fuel tank and other sensitive components, while Carbontech XP12 brake pads and high-temp racing brake fluid slow things down.

2022 Honda Passport The Passport's interior had to be stripped and modified for the event.Honda

The ARA National and Regional Championship Series events feature modified street vehicles that travel at speeds well in excess of 100 mph. The courses include gravel, dirt, mud, and snow, and cover hundreds of miles. The Honda Passport rally vehicle was first driven by two Honda engineers and ran in the top ten out of 42 teams. Honda says that a tire de-bead eventually slowed the team, leading to a delayed finish.

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The all-electric ID.4 will help its pilot and navigator tackle the grueling race route.

Volkswagen

Off-road racing and endurance races are nothing new, but the Rebelle Rally's approach is unique. The event is the first all-women event of its kind in the U.S. and takes participants through severely challenging terrain with no electronic aids allowed for navigation. This year, Volkswagen is bringing its new ID.4 EV to the event to be piloted by driver Mercedes Lilienthal and navigator Emily Winslow.

Volkswagen ID.4 Mercedes Lilienthal and Emily Winslow will pilot the ID.4.Volkswagen

Tanner Foust Racing and Rhys Millen Racing modified the VW with new suspension system, tubular control arms, fabricated skid plates, battery protection, and other off-road-ready kit. The crossover has also been fited with a Thule roof rack and Yokohama Geolandar A/T tires.

The ID.4's battery and electric motor will remain untouched. That means a combined output of 295 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. The 82 kWh battery can deliver an EPA-estimated range of 249 miles on a charge, but keep in mind that the terrain the team will be tackling will have an impact on that number.

The 2021 event marks the sixth year for the all-women rally raid. Teams are faced with 1,400 miles of desert in Nevada and California, and must navigate the racecourse without the use of electronic guides, such as GPS or cell phones. From the start in Las Vegas to the finish in Glamis, CA, participants must use maps, compasses, and their own skill to navigate.

Volkswagen ID.4 Several modifications were made to the suspension and other components.Volkswagen

Even though it's the ID.4's maiden year on the market, the electric crossover has already had a successful run in motorsport. Earlier this year, another modified version of the vehicle competed in the NORRA Mexican 1000. It was also massaged by Tanner Foust Racing and Rhys Millen Racing, and VW notes that the ID.4 that we'll see in Rebelle Rally vehicle was improved using data from its first races.

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