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Acura Planning to Show MDX Prototype

“Concept” likely to be production-ready – and introduce new electric AWD system.

by on Dec.13, 2012

A sketch of the new Acura MDX "prototype."

Acura will turn to the upcoming Detroit Auto Show to reveal a new prototype of its MDX crossover-utility vehicle. Sources tell it may also use the opportunity to reveal an all-new electrically enhanced all-wheel-drive system that will go into production with the next-generation crossover.

For its part, the maker isn’t saying much about the new MDX. Beyond providing a sketch of the prototype, it suggests in a release that the 2014 model will adopt a new “’Aero Sculpture’ design language affecting both form and function.”

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The image indicates the show car, at least, will adopt a version of the much-maligned Acura grille that critics have dubbed the “beak,” though like other recent offerings, such as the production RLX flagship unveiled at last month’s LA Auto Show, it will be significantly downsized from the chromed sheath on the current MDX.

If recent history is any indication, Acura will display a concept vehicle that will, in fact, be little more than a tarted-up version of the production model due to reach showrooms in time for the 2014 model-year.

The launch of the MDX – along with the new RLX – could be critical in parent Honda’s effort to try to revitalize the once powerful Japanese luxury brand.

But what could draw particular attention is likely to be the MDX’s distinctive new driveline system, the electrified version of its Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive, or e-SH-AWD.

In the mechanical version, power is sent to all four wheels but differentials and brakes are used to maximize torque where traction is needed most. That system is notably capable of torque vectoring, using the AWD system to help steer the vehicle through a corner.  Critics of AWD technology note that more basic systems push a vehicle through a corner, making it more difficult to steer around a turn.

The e-SH-AWD system is one of three new hybrid technologies from Honda, a more basic two-motor hybrid debuting on the Honda Accord Plug-in announced in Los Angeles.

Up front, the MDX with e-SH-AWD will mate a conventional gas engine with a single electric motor to drive the front axle.  There will be two more electric motors in the rear, one for each wheel.  It is a concept also known as a through-the-road all-wheel-drive system as there are no direct mechanical links between front and rear axle.

The technology is intended to provide a more elegant torque vectoring system, among other claimed advantages.

Acura will offer a conventional, non-hybrid powertrain, as well, for the next MDX.

With the addition of the MDX, Acura’s biggest crossover, and the new RLX, Honda hopes to regain some of the momentum lost in recent years by what was the first Japanese luxury brand. The maker has also taken aim at the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. luxury market with the new ILX entry-luxury sedan.

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