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Monday, March 26, 2012

Acura RL gets NSX's hybrid drivetrain

Acura's redesigned RL flagship sedan will get the all-wheel-drive hybrid drivetrain earmarked for the brand's NSX sports car in a bid to inject fresh technology into the struggling premium lineup.

Honda Motor Co.'s so-called Sport Hybrid SH-AWD -- short for Super Handling All-Wheel Drive -- hybrid system uses two electric motors at the rear wheels to deliver independent torque for tighter cornering.

The technology was unveiled on the eve of the Tokyo Motor Show in December and was originally billed as a key selling point of the resurrected NSX.

But the RL sedan also will get the powertrain, Honda President Takanobu Ito told Automotive News. While the NSX is due in the United States within three years, the redesigned RL could arrive as early as this fall.

"The technology has outstanding handling," Ito said. "The thinking behind the RL and NSX systems is the same, but the NSX's will be more sports-car focused."

Ito did not say when the awd RL will arrive or whether it also will come in a nonhybrid variant. But the debut of an awd, gasoline-electric version is part of a blitz of hybrid technology Ito is about to unleash.

First will be a two-motor hybrid system for mid-sized vehicles such as the Accord sedan. That arrives next winter.

Honda also is developing the next generation of its small-sized, motor-assist hybrid technology. That will debut next year on the redesigned Fit subcompact, Ito said.

Honda hasn't committed to bringing the Fit hybrid to the United States. Other U.S. models such as the Insight, CR-Z and Civic Hybrid use the current generation of Honda's small hybrid system, which the company dubs integrated motor assist.

The current RL has so-called Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. But that system channels engine power directly to all wheels through a transaxle and rear differential. The new incarnation uses battery-driven motors to power the rear wheels.

One difference between the RL and NSX hybrid systems will be layout, a spokesman said. The NSX will have a midship engine with two motors on the front wheels. The RL will have a front-mounted engine with its motors in the rear.

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