Acura wants to prove that its RDX SUV is more than a grocery getter

We just drove the 2019 Acura RDX, and found it to be appreciably sportier than the average small luxury SUV. Acura wants to drive that point home by entering the RDX in one of the world’s most challenging races: the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

Pikes Peak is a mountain in Colorado, and people have been racing to its 14,115-foot summit more or less annually since 1916. That makes the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb one of the oldest automobile races around. Dubbed the “Race to the Clouds,” it’s also one of the toughest. The 12.4-mile course features 156 corners, and the air near Pikes Peak’s summit is so thin that internal-combustion engines have trouble making full power.

To fortify the RDX for this unforgiving environment, Acura fitted the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with an electric supercharger. Along with a larger-than-stock turbocharger and bigger intercooler, Acura hopes the changes will compensate for the thinner air at higher elevations. Power output also increases to 350 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque from the stock 272 hp and 280 lb-ft.

Acura retained the stock all-wheel drive system’s hardware, but recalibrated the software to send more power to the rear wheels. The suspension was retuned, and both the brakes and tires were upgraded. As is typical for race cars, the interior was stripped to save weight.

Acura has raced at Pikes Peak for several years, and always brings a fleet of vehicles. This year is no different. In addition to the RDX, Acura will field the modified TLX A-Spec sedan and TLX GT race car that ran last year. The Honda luxury brand’s NSX supercar will also compete for the third year in a row. In 2017, the TLX A-Spec took first place in the Exhibition Class, while the NSX placed third in the Time Attack 1 class.

The green flag drops on the 2018 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 24. Other notable entries include a Bentley Bentayga, which will compete with the RDX for the title of fastest SUV on the mountain. Volkswagen built a Batmobile-like electric racer in order to break the record for electric cars, which currently stands at 8:57.118. If VW can beat that, it’s possible the German automaker will also take the overall win this year.

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