Known for its technology innovations, Honda’s R&D efforts have been somewhat lackluster as of late. The Japanese automaker appears to have turned a corner, however, announcing a long list of new engines and technologies.
Easily the most revolutionary is an electric SH-AWD system that will be paired with a new V6 hybrid powertrain and 7-speed dual clutch transmission. Essentially an evolution of the current mechanical Super Handling all-wheel drive found in models like the Acura RL and TL it uses two independent electric motors at the rear wheels, each producing 20 kW, operating independently of the front gasoline engine and hybrid system. Like the current SH-AWD system it can deliver more power to the outside wheel in a corner for maximum cornering performance – but there’s more. Rather than simply limit the power sent to the inside wheel in a corner, the system actually generates electricity at that wheel, sending it to the outside wheel. A car fitted with this new two-mode hybrid system would also be capable of an electric only acceleration at speeds of up to 40 km/h (25 mph).
Honda claims this setup delivers V8-like power and acceleration at fuel economy levels as good as or better than current four-cylinder engines. When questioned, engineers on hand at a demonstration event at Twin Ring Motegi commented that we should expect fuel economy to be roughly 30 percent better than a similar V6. Taking the Honda Accord as an example, the current model achieves a 20/30 mpg city/highway rating, so we can expect a a future product equipped with this system to deliver roughly 26/39 mpg – although that number is likely optimistic as a future product would most certainly weigh more than an Accord (this technology is destined for an Acura model), plus there’s the all-wheel drive factor.
The real focus, however, is on delivering performance with reduced fuel economy, a hybrid philosophy similar to that of Lexus. To emphasize this fact, Honda has developed it’s own 7-speed dual clutch transmission. Prototype models available to drive were absent of any self-shifting feature (be it with the gearshift or paddle shifters) but the use of such setups in a production model is highly likely.
So where will we see this impressive new technology? As usual, Honda was coy on specifics, but representatives present did indicate that the new E SH-AWD will arrive in a future Acura model – with the next-generation RL an obvious choice.