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 Ford Explorer Timberline joins the 2021 Explorer King Ranch as a new model for 2021.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Following in the footsteps of the Raptor and Tremor versions of Ford trucks, the 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline debuts with a host of new equipment designed to make the popular SUV a more capable off-roader. Like what Subaru is doing with its Wilderness packaging, Ford will carry over the Timberland trimmings to multiple models.

"Ford is delivering on more capable SUVs with Timberline. Consumer data has shown us that now more than ever, customers want to get outside and explore nature with friends and family," said Kumar Galhotra, president, Americas & International Markets Group, Ford Motor Company. "Timberline hits a new sweet spot with these customers who want an ideal combination of passenger space, moderate off-road capability and great manners around town."

The Explorer Timberline has a new Forged Green Metallic exterior color. It has a blackout treatment on the headlights and taillamps, as well as the Ford oval. Timberline badges feature on the C-pillars and lift gate. Red Ember tow hoods are at the front and rated at 150 percent gross vehicle weight.

2021 Ford Explorer Timberline

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

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LED fog lamps, a Carbonized Gray grille, and dealer-installed Ford Performance auxiliary lights with a 160,000-candelas output come on the vehicle.

The 2021 Explorer Timberline comes standard with four-wheel drive with torque vectoring technology that works to distribute the right amount of torque to each wheel. It also has a Torsen limited slip rear differential, which helps prevent wheel spin.

Ford's Terrain Management System is also standard, allowing drivers to select between seven drive modes depending on road conditions. The Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport have a similar system. Hill Descent Control is also standard.

Steel skid plates line the front and rear underbody of the vehicle protecting the engine and transmission. Ford has given the model a 0.8-inch ride height increase and heavy-duty shocks that were originally developed for the Explorer Police Interceptor. Steering calibration, stabilizer bars and springs are specially tuned for Timberline – including an exclusive front rebound spring that helps prevent sudden jarring off-road.

The new Explorer has an approach angle of 23.5 degrees and maximum departure angle of 23.7 degrees, plus minimum ground clearance of 8.7 inches.

The rig rides on high-sidewall Bridgestone Dueler P265/65R-18 all-terrain tires with a tread pattern designed to balance off-road traction and on-road quietness. The shoes are wrapped around high-gloss painted aluminum wheels that feature a laser-etched Timberline logo.

Explorer Timberline is powered by a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine that produces 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. It is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

For customers who need to tow RVs, ATVs and boats to their adventures, the standard Class III Trailer Tow Package brings 5,300 pounds of towing capability.

The interior sports a Deep Cypress color way that is matched with an Ebony headliner, overhead console, pillar trim, grab handles, visors, and moonroof shade. The instrument panel has a Stone Mesh appliqué while other colors feature elsewhere. Satin Silver Twilight is on the center stack, steering wheel bezel and door armrest trim; Deep Cypress on door trim panel inserts; Deep Tangerine stitching on the seats, steering wheel and door trim; and Timberline logos on the front seats.

Rubber floor liners are standard and ActiveX cloth seats inserts are designed to be cleaned easily and keep bottoms in place on rough terrain.

Standard Ford Co-Pilot360 and Co-Pilot360 Assist+ technology features that include Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go and Speed Sign Recognition, Lane Centering, Evasive Steering Assist and voice-activated touch screen navigation. A 360-degree camera also comes on the model.

Buyers can choose three Outfitters packages – Outfitters SkyBox, Outfitters MegaWarrior and Outfitters FrontLoader. All three packages combine all-weather floor mats, crossbars and the selected Yakima rooftop accessories for customers to take even more equipment with them on their next adventure.

The 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline is available to order now and arrives at Ford dealers this summer joining the Explorer King Ranch and new Platinum grades in the company's lineup.

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The 2021 BMW 4 Series has the drive dynamics BMW enthusiasts will love.

Photo courtesy of BMW

A lot has been said about the looks of the 2021 BMW 4 Series. At its absolute worst, the car is a sleek-bodied rabbit. At its best, it's a dynamic driver that doesn't look as bad if you choose colors and packages that make the grille blend in with the body a bit. Either way, the 2021 BMW M440i is a good drive.

With a starting price of $58,500, the all-wheel drive version of the M440i is solidly in the luxury category. It has more generous proportions than its predecessor but as a coupe, the parts that truly matter are the cargo space and the head- and legroom for front seat passengers. Both are excellent.

The M440i is the upgraded version of the 4 Series that slots between the traditional 430i and 430i xDrive. As such, it has BMW's twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder under the hood that's capable of reaching 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. The car can get from zero to 60 is a zippy 4.3 seconds in a smooth fashion, which handy when you're working your way between highway lanes trying to get around snowbirds that don't use turn signals on Florida's highways.

2021 BMW 4 Series The car delivers pointed handling on highways, back roads, and city streets.Photo courtesy of BMW

The car has mild-hybrid technology, an engineering achievement that puts connects a 48-volt battery with the rest of the powertrain to give drivers immediate access to power off the line while saving on fuel. BMW traditionally does a great job seamlessly implementing this tech and the M440i is no exception.

BMW loaded up the model used for the test run with nearly $13,000 in extras - the paint job alone was near an additional $2,000. That numbers includes a few packages. The Drivers Assistance Professional Package ($1,700) gets a buyer traffic jam assist and Driving Assistant Pro technology. The $3,700 Executive Package adds a lot of the things you'd think would already come standard on a $50,000+ vehicle like heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, ambient lighting, a head-up display, and upgraded headlights.

The M Adaptive Suspension ($700) nicely balanced the car's on-road prowess, agility, and bump absorption. The upgraded disc brakes worked steadily without feeling grabby allowing the accelerator to be put close to the floor with confidence. Steering was, as BMW so often executes in its sedans, pointed and connected, a formula that aids in the enjoyment of time behind the wheel.

2021 BMW 4 Series This model features BMW's signature cognac leather interior.Photo courtesy of BMW

BMW is really good at designing one-size-fits-all solutions for the cabins of their vehicles and the M440i is no exception. While it creates an annoying feeling of sameness, it does allow the car's buttons, dials, switches, and knobs to nearly always be found in the same place. It's a little like coming home from vacation and standing in your own kitchen and knowing where all the dishes are without having to open multiple cabinets.

At the center of the dash is a 10.25-inch touch screen while a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster sits in front of the driver. The BMW infotainment system is pretty responsive. Whether or not you like the rotary controller is a personal preference thing, but putting biases aside, it's hard to complain about how much easier it is to use than the Lexus touch pad. There is a downside, however. The font and layout choices on the instrument panel look like they were chosen by elementary school children. Huge numbers and sweeping black space take some getting used to. After about 300 miles, I still wasn't used to it.

The sameness factor carries over to the M440i's safety systems where the adaptive cruise control tech's insistence that a passing road sign is the correct speed you should be going is enough to cause frustration at best, and at the worst, a rapid slow down that could endanger those around you and yourself.

2021 BMW 4 Series The 2021 BMW 4 Series carries over typical BMW design into the cabin.Photo courtesy of BMW

The 2021 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe is a good car, with plenty of caveats that keep it from being great car. It's a vehicle for people who really want to drive it and don't mind the way it looks because they don't see that angle on a regular basis.

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