Highlights of a recent trip to Tokyo with Honda for the motor show provided access to far more than just the show stands. Chief among them was the opportunity to drive the company’s ‘Super Handling-AWD’ system.
Honda has not officially confirmed that this is going in the new range-topping sports car that it will reveal at Detroit in January, but sources admit that this is the case and so it was with more than a little interest that I got behind the wheel of the US-spec Accord that was being used to demonstrate the system, and set off for a brief run at Motegi.
Two electric motors drive the rear wheels and can split the torque delivery, sending up to 100 per cent to either side depending on the traction required. A new direct-injection 3.5-litre V6 petrol motor powers the front wheels to complete the four-wheel drive layout, and a new seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission finishes the package. Ultimately it means that the motors deliver a limited-slip diff effect while also providing the added bonus of four-wheel drive and improving the balance of efficiency and power.
Or so Honda claims. We’ll have to wait and see about the efficiency and power claims, since everyone in the know remains very tight-lipped when it comes to figures. But in terms of the way it drives, it promises great things for the new Honda sports car. Turn-in was tight, there was an impressive surge of power and you could feel the rear wheels reacting effectively to cornering forces.
Even in the soft and cumbersome US Accord you got the sense that this was a quick-witted and sensitive system. The seven-speed gearbox also seemed well sorted, being particularly effective in manual mode, if a little slow-witted in auto. It’s early days, and we hope that the production unit will feel a touch smoother, but there’s a lot to like about the new SH-AWD.
Until it’s fitted to an appropriately lightweight and driver-focused car it’s impossible to declare an absolute verdict here. But even very senior sources were referring to the sports car that it will power as a ”future NSX,” and if Honda can take this system and make it the core of a car with even half the desirability and individuality of the NSX, they'll be on to a winner.