Acura AWD Cars

Acura’s signature Super Handling AWD system makes driving cars like the TLX and MDX a smoother, safer experience.
Written by Macy Fouse
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Updated on Nov 28, 2022
Having an
with AWD can make or break your driving experience if you’re prepping for wintery streets or hitting the roads less traveled. Driving an SUV like the
can make tricky road conditions a cinch to handle. 
Most cars can take care of you when the roads are smooth. But when the going gets tough with rough roads or snowy hills, all-wheel drive (AWD) can change the game. 
That doesn’t mean AWD is right for everyone, though. So how do you know if it’s right for you? And how can you pick between the Acura models with AWD?
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How do Acura AWD models work?

Acura broke the mold when it debuted its trademarked Super Handling All-Wheel Drive™ (SH-AWD) in 2005—the world’s first all-wheel drive system to integrate active torque vectoring to increase agility and stability for AWD. This system was an upgrade from Acura’s Variable Torque Management all-wheel drive system (VTM-4), which was introduced in 2001. 
In today’s Acura AWD models, the SH-AWD system is more compact and quicker than ever. But how does it work?
SH-AWD can send up to 70% of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels—or distribute up to 100% of the torque to a single wheel, providing maximum stability and turning power. The engine’s power can be routed to a transaxle while torque is sent to the back wheels via a torque transfer unit. This unit is mounted in the front instead of with a traditional center differential. 
There have been four generations of the ​​SH-AWD, each with different capabilities and upgrades: 
  • First generation: The first ​​SH-AWD iteration continually and actively distributed torque to enhance traction and boost performance. This generation used an Acceleration Device to overdrive back wheels by over 5%. This was available on the RL model from 2005 to 2012.
  • Second generation: This generation eliminated the Acceleration Device but integrated Vehicle Stability Assist, Traction Control Systems (TCS), and Hill Logic, which automatically modified the front-rear torque split depending on the grade of the surface. This version came on the following models: 
  • MDX
  • RDX
  • TL
  • ZDX
  • Third generation: This SH-AWD version implemented a rear differential that was 25% lighter. This reduced friction and increased yaw effect, or the car’s right and left turning motion. The third generation also enhanced cornering ability and was available on the 2016–2021 MDX models and 2015–2020 TLX models.
  • Fourth generation: The current version is the most compact version so far with a 30% faster reaction time and a 40% increase in torque for some models. This SH-AWD iteration comes on these models:
  • RDX (2019-Present)
  • TLX (2020-Present)
  • TLX Type S (2021-Present)
  • MDX (2021-Present)
Now that you have an in-depth look at Acura’s signature AWD system, let’s look closer at the models sporting it. 

Which current Acura models have AWD?


Starting price: $38,900
Body style: Sedan
Engine type: 2.0 L 4-cylinder, 3.0 L V6
No matter what engine it’s fitted with, the edgy TLX maximizes performance with AWD. AWD is available on any trim and standard on the higher trims like the Type S. This car performs well when equipped with front-wheel drive, so bumping it up to AWD turns it into an agile performer. 
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Starting price: $40,600
Body style: Crossover
Engine type: 2.0 L 4-cylinder
The spry RDX comes standard with front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is an option to add on for $2,000. The RDX only comes in one trim but offers several packages. Paired with SH-AWD, the model's athletic handling will help you conquer any and every curve that comes your way.

Starting price:$48,000
Body style:SUV
Engine type: 3.5 L V6, 3.0 L turbocharged V6
Like the other models, the nimble MDX comes standard with front-wheel drive but has the option to upgrade to AWD. Upgrading to the performance-focused Type S, however, will land you standard AWD and a
turbocharged V6
engine making 355-hp. 

NSX Type S

Starting price:$169,500
Body style:Sports car
Engine type: 3.5 L twin-turbo V6
The NSX Type S—the new configuration for the 2022 model—is a hybrid. A twin-turbo V6, three electric motors, and AWD make the NSX an unstoppable force made for zipping around with ease. 

What are the benefits of having AWD?

AWD comes in handy in quite a few situations, like severe weather conditions and off-roading excursions. The extra traction from AWD shines on rugged terrain and unpaved roads
Northern states like
experience plenty of snowy weather every year.
has more unpaved roads than any other state. Southern states like
get tons of rain year-round.
While anyone can make use of AWD, residents in states like those listed above should think about investing in an AWD vehicle to make driving safer any time of year.
AWD has many perks, but it’s not without its disadvantages. Fans of 4WD might argue AWD isn’t worth getting at all, especially if you have snow tires for the icier months. 

Differences between AWD and 4WD

4WD and AWD may sound like the same thing, but it’s important to distinguish between them so you can make the best decision for your driving needs and finances. Let’s go over the key points of each. 
With AWD (all-wheel drive), all four wheels get torque through the engine. AWD typically comes on unibody frames in either full-time or part-time options. Full-time AWD uses both the front and rear wheels all the time, and part-time AWD functions when extra traction is needed, saving gasoline in the meantime. 
On the other hand, 4WD (four-wheel drive) is often integrated into body-on-frame models like pickup trucks and large SUVs. Like AWD, 4WD systems employ power to front and rear axles, but they also direct power to the left and right wheels. This increases traction and control of the vehicle and is ideal for off-roading.
Key Takeaway Both AWD and 4WD increase safety and control of the vehicle, so the decision will come down to whether you expect to be driving on more dirt roads or snow-covered ones.

Do I need AWD?

AWD makes a vehicle more powerful, more effective to handle, and safer on wintery roads—but that doesn’t necessarily mean it's ideal to drive every day. If you spend an overwhelming majority of your driving time on paved roads, AWD probably isn’t worth it for you.
Consider the driving you do in a year. Do you often tackle backroads or steep mountains on your annual camping trips? Does it snow regularly in your area?
Only you know what’s best for your driving habits, and AWD isn’t for everyone. That being said, AWD is a nice option to have regardless of the situation. 

How to save money on car insurance

AWD can indeed protect you against hazardous driving conditions, but it can’t do it all. That’s why it’s crucial to have a solid car insurance policy to cover you in any unforeseen accidents—because AWD can’t prevent everything
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