What is SH-AWD?

It’s a familiar acronym, but it might not be the best-understood one on the market. Honda and Acura’s SH-AWD has been available on SUVs and sedans for nearly two decades now. But what does it mean, how does SH-AWD work, and why is SH-AWD worth it for the average car or SUV buyer?

What Does SH-AWD Stand For?
Everyone knows by now that AWD stands for All-Wheel Drive. The “SH” part of it stands for “Super Handling” – this is all-wheel drive with a performance twist! The SH-AWD acronym is Honda’s proprietary system. Some other carmakers have a version of performance-minded all-wheel drive, but there is only one SH-AWD. Now in its fourth generation since its implementation, it continues to evolve.
How Does SH-AWD Work?
At the base of it, SH-AWD is meant to adjust and distribute power to improve handling on slick surfaces and in poor weather, and also allow for performance-minded cornering when you want to have some fun!

It all starts with the platform. Almost every Honda or Acura with SH-AWD is based off of a similar model built on a front-engine, front-wheel-drive platform. This includes models like the 2022 Acura TLX, 2022 RDX compact SUV, and the 2022 MDX midsize SUV. Moving to all-wheel drive, a driveshaft routes power to a rear differential, to be directed through the rear wheels. In a typical AWD system, up to 90 percent of the power is going through the front axle, while the remainder is split between the rear wheels, evenly.

Learn about SH-AWD at Bobby Rahal Acura in Mechanicsburg, PA | White Acura TLX driving down the dark colorful street
Learn about SH-AWD at Bobby Rahal Acura in Mechanicsburg, PA | Yellow SUV driving on dirt road
Super Handling All-Wheel Drive doesn’t just send torque to the rear axle, but splits it across the individual rear wheels. When vehicle sensors detect cornering forces, the system vectors torque to the wheel doing the most work for a sharp turn. Depending on the Acura model, this could mean up to 70 percent of the engine torque is sent to the rear axle – and up to 100% of that torque can be directed to the rear outside wheel.

This then increases the feeling of rotation into the corner, and requires less steering input, making performance driving a little less tense. It helps to minimize understeer and oversteer, and puts power down sooner. This creates improved handling characteristics through tunes – hence, Super Handling!

What’s the Difference Between Gas and Hybrid SH-AWD Vehicles?
While this system is excellent in the traditionally-powered Acura cars and SUVs, the next generation of vehicles are looking towards hybrid and fully-electric power. This means the SH-AWD needed to be tweaked to get the most out of it with the new powertrains!

In the hybrid SUVs like used editions of the MDX and RLX, there is no mechanical drive shaft that goes to the rear wheels – they’re powered by individual electric motors. The motors operate independently, so when SH-AWD is needed it can instantly trigger the motors to ramp up or down, as needed. While the regular SH-AWD system makes the adjustment quickly, this is even faster!

On the flip side – almost literally – the Acura NSX features a mid-mounted engine, which is connected to the rear wheels via the driveshaft. The front wheels in the NSX are powered by individual electric motors. When SH-AWD is triggered in the NSX, the rear wheels still get the transfer of power at the driveshaft, but now, the front electric motors activate as necessary to correct side-to-side power difference. The key part in the NSX is that a third electric motor hops in to move the power from side to side across the rear axle while the monster turbochargers spool up. This allows for that instantaneous SH-AWD response in a corner while the V-6 gets up to speed to push out the necessary power on its own.

Learn about SH-AWD at Bobby Rahal Acura in Mechanicsburg, PA | Blue Acura NSX drifting on road

Why Buy a Vehicle with SH-AWD?
Because you want to have fun. Because you want grip when you need it. Because you have performance on your mind. Because standard all-wheel drive just doesn’t quite offer what you’re looking for. All of these reasons and more make the SH-AWD system one of the most sought-after all-wheel drive systems on the market today!
Want to Know More?
We can talk all about SH-AWD, but the best thing to do is get a feel for it first-hand. Contact us or stop in to Bobby Rahal Acura in Mechanicsburg, PA and take a two-wheel drive and an SH-AWD version of the vehicle you’re looking at and feel the difference for yourself!