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Acura isn’t a stranger to the high altitudes and endless hairpins that is the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. For 2019, the automaker will be there with a veritable fleet of five vehicles, a number which Acura says is its largest entry list ever for the famous event. The RDX A-Spec and TLX GT return after debuting at the hill last year, joined by two different NSX models – one a production model and the other a modified time attack racer. The last vehicle, however, piqued our interest in a big way. And that’s saying something, because this new Acura-badged Pikes Peak challenger is actually an MDX Sport Hybrid three-row SUV.

As you might imagine, this particular MDX Sport Hybrid isn’t a stock production machine. Engineers ditch the smaller 3.0-liter V6 engine used in the hybrid, which is replaced by the larger 3.5-liter V6 from the standard MDX. That mill is then punched up to 3.7-liters and connected to the hybrid’s three-electric motors – one in front and one for each rear axle – with the result being 400 horsepower (298 kilowatts) and 350 pound-feet (475 Newton-meters) of torque. Shifting duties are handled by a seven-speed DCT, sending that power to all four wheels through Acura’s SH-AWD system.

Gallery: Acura At 2019 Pikes Peak

Acura also tweaks the SUV’s suspension, though the changes are vaguely described as “race-tuned” and “optimized” in the name of seeking a better handling balance for the sizable MDX. Naturally, there’s a full roll cage, which aside from the safety aspect also bumps up the SUV’s structural rigidity. And though the MDX offers three-row accommodations for passengers, all the seats and much of the interior are stripped away in the name of weight reduction.

Why does this build have our interest in a field of some positively awesome Acura race cars? Admittedly, as a racer, this modified MDX Sport Hybrid isn’t terribly impressive. However, we can easily see a 3.5-liter version of the hybrid model enter production as an amped up SUV to battle other performance-oriented people movers. Ford Explorer ST, we’re looking right at you. What do you say, Acura?

Source: Acura

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Acura Engineers Field Four Homegrown Entries at Pikes Peak; Pro Peter Cunningham Challenges the Pack




  • Four entries to be driven and crewed by full-time Acura R&D engineers
  • Modified MDX Sport Hybrid boasts larger displacement 3.7-liter V6 engine and three electric motors for more than 400 horsepower, makes racing debut
  • Winningest American sports car driver Peter Cunningham fielding Acura TLX GT completes the five vehicle card
  • Thermal Orange 2019 NSX to serve as the Official Pace Car of the event


TORRANCE, Calif., June 19, 2019—Acura will campaign the largest collection of competitive entries in the brand’s history in the 97th running of the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 30. Acura is distinct from its competition in taking on the “Race to the Clouds” with hand-built, homegrown cars crewed exclusively by in-house engineers. Four production-based Acura models will challenge the field across multiple race classes, piloted by four full-time engineers who work in Acura product development in Ohio. Completing the lineup is the RealTime Racing Acura TLX GT all-wheel drive race car, driven by two-time class winner and SCCA Hall of Famer Peter Cunningham. Acura’s 2019 race entries highlighted in short video.

In addition to fulfilling the company’s “racing spirit”, the Acura Pikes Peak race team utilizes the treacherous hill climb event to grow the skills of young engineers within the company and serve as a test bed for future performance technologies in production vehicles. Led by Acura R&D engineers Justin Lumbard and Steven Olona, the team is responsible for all aspects of the program including the proposal of vehicles, buildout, crew support and navigating race cars to the finish line.

Acura has reached the 14,115-foot summit each of the last eight years, scoring numerous records and podium finishes. Most recently, in 2018, Acura achieved its second-consecutive Open Class Pikes Peak win and an overall third place finish with Peter Cunningham in the RealTime Racing TLX GT (9:27.352). Additional record setting runs include a Hybrid-production car record for the Acura NSX driven by James Robinson (10:02.448) and a front-wheel drive record for the Acura TLX driven by Nick Robinson (10:48.04), both in 2018.

In addition to the five race entries, Acura will lead the pack to the summit with a 2019 NSX in Thermal Orange Pearl paint and Pikes Peak inspired race livery serving as the Official Pace Car for the historic hill climb event.


The Race Entries

MDX Sport Hybrid

Acura will debut a race-prepared 2019 MDX Sport Hybrid built specifically for the hill climb. The Pikes Peak MDX utilizes the standard MDX (non-hybrid) 3.5-liter V6 VTEC® engine, bored out to 3.7-liters. The larger displacement engine operates in tandem with Acura’s unique three-motor electric hybrid system and 7-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT). The Pikes Peak MDX Sport Hybrid produces a combined 400 horsepower and 350 lb.-ft. of torque through the use of special tuning to both the engine and the electric motors.

The MDX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD® system and race-tuned active-damper suspension have been optimized to improve dynamic balance and maximize performance. A custom roll-cage, designed in-house, increases structural rigidity (and adds safety) while extensive weight reduction was accomplished by removing much of the vehicle’s interior, including the passenger and second and third row seats.

            Driving the MDX Sport Hybrid will be Jordan Guitar of Acura R&D’s Chassis Development Group. Guitar made his Pikes Peak debut in 2018, piloting the 2019 RDX. Foul weather hampered Guitar’s run, limiting him to just the lower two thirds of the mountain. He finished third in class.  

2019 RDX A-Spec

The 2019 RDX A-Spec returns to the mountain following its Pikes Peak debut in 2018, featuring a production-derived 2.0L VTEC® Turbo engine, sport tuned 10-speed automatic transmission and 4th-generation of Acura Super Handling All‐Wheel Drive™ (SH‐AWD®). The RDX’s engine has been optimized for the hill climb with a larger turbocharger, short-path intercooler and electric supercharger fed by a 48-volt micro-hybrid system. Total output is 350 horsepower and 330 lb.-ft. of torque. Software calibrations to the RDX’s production SH-AWD® system allow for more rear-wheel torque bias, while still enabling 100-percent of rear-wheel torque to be transferred individually to the left or right rear wheels.

The Pikes Peak RDX’s interior has been stripped for reduced weight. Chassis enhancements include a roll-cage, race-tuned suspension, lightweight 19-inch HRE forged race wheels and Pirelli racing tires. Braking performance has been upgraded with Brembo front brake calipers and racing pads.

Driving the 2019 RDX A-Spec will be Steven Olona, an engineer with Acura R&D’s Chassis Development Group. An accomplished rally driver, Olona joined Acura’s Pikes Peak associate race team in 2017 serving as a fabricator and crew chief. This will mark Olona’s first time driving in the historic hill climb.

“Time Attack” NSX

One of two NSXs campaigning in this year’s hill climb, the “Time Attack” NSX distinguishes itself with a larger rear wing and aggressive front splitter adding significant downforce for better lateral grip at speed, and larger turbochargers to help recover horsepower losses at altitude. Total system output is an estimated 625 HP. Through various weight reduction measures including a stripped interior, the “Time Attack” NSX loses more than 200 lbs. compared to a production NSX. Additional enhancements include custom software for the twin-turbo V6, three-motor Sport Hybrid and SH-AWD® systems to optimize performance during the hill climb. Finally, lightweight HRE forged wheels are wrapped in high-grip Pirelli R-compound tires.

A 9-time Pikes Peak veteran, James Robinson will again serve as the lead of Acura’s Pikes Peak race team. Robinson’s past successes at Pikes Peak include a Hybrid production car record set in 2018 (10:02.448) as well as podium finishes in the Exhibition, Open and Time Attack 1 classes.

Production-Spec NSX

The second of two NSXs competing this year is a near-production NSX with only safety-related modifications, including an internal roll cage, racing seat with harness and fire suppression system. Utilizing the second-generation NSX’s factory twin-turbo V6 engine and three motor electric Sport Hybrid system, the NSX produces a combined 573 horsepower and 476 lb-ft. of torque. Power is channeled to the rear wheels through the world’s only 9-speed DCT in a production automobile, while twin electric motors independently vector torque between the front wheels to enhance the NSX’s acceleration, braking and cornering abilities.

The production-spec NSX will be driven by Nick Robinson, brother of James Robinson, and an accomplished engineer with Acura R&D’s Chassis Development Group. A Pikes Peak veteran himself, Nick Robinson established a new front-wheel-drive record for Pikes Peak in 2018 and achieved a Class Win in Time Attack 2 with a second-gen NSX in 2016. The year prior, he won the PP250 class on a Honda motorcycle. In addition, Nick Robinson serves as a driving safety expert and helps mentor new drivers throughout their careers at Honda R&D Americas. 

RealTime Racing TLX GT

The RealTime Racing TLX GT all-wheel drive race car returns to Pikes Peak in 2019 following a commanding 2018 Open Class Record and overall podium finish. Featuring an Acura twin-turbocharged J35 V6 motor used in past Pirelli World Challenge series competitions, the TLX GT’s powertrain has been tuned for the unique elevation changes of Pikes Peak. The software mapping developed by Honda Performance Development (HPD) optimizes turbo operation and boost pressures for the decreasing levels of oxygen on the way up to the 14,115-foot summit. RealTime has developed the TLX GT’s suspension specifically for the hill climb, and geared the transmission for faster acceleration when exiting the course’s many tight hairpin turns. Additional enhancements for 2019 include increased downforce via a new rear diffuser configuration.

 The TLX GT will again be piloted by Peter Cunningham of RealTime Racing, which has campaigned Acura race cars dating back to 1992. A distinguished member of the SCCA Hall Of Fame, Cunningham made his Pikes Peak debut in 2017 earning an Open Class win (2nd Overall) and being named ‘Rookie of the Year’. In 2018, Cunningham repeated the success with another Open Class win and 3rd overall finish. Cunningham has claimed more than 90 professional race wins across 12 different North American road racing series and holds numerous World Challenge race records.


Acura’s 2019 Competition Field:




2018 Result


Peter Cunningham

Open Class

1st in Class, 3rd Overall

“Time Attack” NSX

James Robinson

Time Attack 1

Hybrid Production Car Record

RDX A-Spec

Steve Olona

Exhibition Class

3rd in Class

(Driver = Jordan Guitar, Shortened Course)

Production-Spec NSX

Nick Robinson

Time Attack 1

New Vehicle Entry

MDX Sport Hybrid

Jordan Guitar

Exhibition Class


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