It’s hard to imagine another automaker or a race team beating this kind of lineup

For the eighth consecutive year, Acura is returning to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with a lineup of would-be conquerors, determined to build off the automaker’s dominant run in last year’s event when it set numerous records in multiple classes and categories. This year, Acura’s Pikes Peak lineup includes four home-grown models that will be driven by the automaker’s very own research and development engineers. A fifth car, the Acura TLX GT, will be driven by driver Peter Cunningham, who’s as motivated as anybody to eclipse the record-setting time of 9:27.352 that he set last year with that year’s version of the TLX GT. As five models aren’t enough, a separate Acura NSX will serve as the event’s resident pace car for the fifth consecutive year, having first taken that role in 2015. As other automakers have come to identify specific races as their own, it’s hard to argue against Acura staking claim to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Not only has it established numerous records in the annual race, but it has also set itself up as the dominant force in the race over the last few years. If past performances hold firm, this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb could once again turn into Acura’s very one showcase.

Acura’s 2019 Pikes Peak Lineup

MDX Sport Hybrid

Acura Has One Hell of a Line up for the 2019 Pikes Peak Hill Climb
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Building off the success of the Acura RDX A-Spec at the 2018 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Acura is bringing another one of its crossovers to this year’s event. Say what you will about the standard Acura MDX — it’s Acura’s three-row luxury SUV — but the MDX Sport Hybrid isn’t going to Pikes Peak to show off its luxury digs. The Pikes Peak-spec MDX Sport Hybrid is a race-prepped SUV that you shouldn’t take lightly. It’s powered by the same 3.5-liter VTEC V-6 engine you see in a standard MDX, only this time, the engine’s displacement increases to 3.7 liters. If that’s not enough, Acura also dropped a three-motor electric hybrid system to bring the SUV’s output to an impressive 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque.

Outside of the revamped engine, the MDX Sport Hybrid also benefits from a stripped-down interior, including the complete removal of the second and third-row seats.

Really, who needs second and third-row seats when you’re racing up Pikes Peak? In place of the posh seats is a custom roll cage that Acura developed in-house. On the technical side, the MDX Sport Hybrid receives a race-tuned active-damper suspension that should come in handy when Jordan Guitar of Acura R&D’s Chassis Development Group takes the race-spec SUV up Pikes Peak, hoping to improve on his performance last year when he came in third in his class with a 2019 RDX.

Read our full review on the 2019 Acura MDX.

2019 Acura RDX A-Spec

Acura Has One Hell of a Line up for the 2019 Pikes Peak Hill Climb
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Unlike the Acura MDX Sport Hybrid, the Acura RDX A-Spec is making a triumphant return to the 2019 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb a year after making its debut at the event. This year, the RDX A-Spec will race in practically the same setup as it did last year. That includes a production model-sourced 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 350 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. The output represents an increase of 78 horsepower and 50 pound-feet of torque, which is a by-product of Acura dropping a larger turbocharger and intercooler into the proceedings.

The automaker also installed a 48-volt electric supercharger that should come in handy in fighting turbo lag, particularly when the RDX comes closer to the top of the mountain.

Acura also performed software calibrations to some of the SUV’s existing software, including the SH-AWD system, particularly in its ability to allow for more rear-wheel torque bias without compromising the system’s ability to enable 100 percent of rear-wheel torque to be transferred individually to the right or left rear wheels. Step inside the completely gutted interior and you might be surprised to see a full roll cage in the area where the second- and third-row seats are supposed to be. For its specific purpose as a full-spec racer, those seats are nothing more than anchors weighing the SUV down.

Acura Has One Hell of a Line up for the 2019 Pikes Peak Hill Climb
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They needed to go. Other mechanical updates include a race-tuned suspension, Brembo front brake calipers, racing pads, and a set of lightweight 19-inch HRE forged race wheels wrapped in Pirelli racing tires. Steven Olona, an engineer with Acura R&D’s Chassis Development Group, will drive the 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec up Pikes Peak. Fortunately, Olona isn’t a noob in the world of racing. Not only has he driven rally cars in the past, but he also joined Acura’s Pikes Peak associate race team two years ago as a fabricator and crew chief.

Read our full review on the 2019 Acura RDX.

Acura "Time Attack" NSX

Acura Has One Hell of a Line up for the 2019 Pikes Peak Hill Climb
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At this point, the Acura NSX Time Attack has become a staple at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. As one of the event’s most accomplished racers, the NSX Time Attack returns to Pikes Peak with the goal of eclipsing its record time, which it set last year when it clocked in a time of 10:02.448 in the Time Attack 1 Class with Honda R&D engineer and Pikes Peak veteran James Robinson behind the wheel of the racer.

Needless to say, Acura is not only looking to improve on last year’s time — maybe even approach the class-winning time (9:37.152) that the 2017 Porsche 911 GT3 R set last year — but it’s also itching to improve on its fourth-place finish in 2018.

Can the Acura NSX TA get the job done? It probably depends on who you ask, though you have to give Acura credit for at least making serious preparations to achieve its goals.

Acura Has One Hell of a Line up for the 2019 Pikes Peak Hill Climb
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The 2019 NSX TA heads to Pikes Peak with a larger rear wing and an aggressive front splitter, two critical ingredients in the quest to add as much downforce to the car as it tries to go up the mountain. The race car’s interior has also been stripped down. No surprises there. The twin-turbo V-6 engine benefits from a little software tuning. Together with the same Sport Hybrid system as the one found on the RDX A-Spec, the NSX Time Attack’s output now sits at 625 horsepower. That represents an increase of over 50 horsepower compared to the standard NSX. Acura also hopes that the new set of lightweight HRE forged wheels wrapped in high-grip Pirelli R-compound tires gives the NSX Time Attack the traction it needs to improve upon last year’s time.

Read our full review on the 2018 Acura NSX.

Production-Spec Acura NSX

Acura Has One Hell of a Line up for the 2019 Pikes Peak Hill Climb
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The Acura NSX TA isn’t the only NSX that’s coming to the 2019 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

A near-production-spec of the NSX will also compete at the event with no modifications apart from a racing seat with a harness, a fire suppression system, and an internal roll cage.

Other than these items, this NSX is the same one you’ll see on public roads. It’s powered by a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine and a three-motor electric Sport Hybrid system that combine to produce 573 horsepower and 476 pound-feet of torque. All that power courses through the world’s only nine-speed DCT transmission that’s used in a production vehicle, which, in turn, sends the juice to the two rear wheels. Piloting the production-spec NSX is Nick Robinson, who himself is an engineer with Acura’s R&D Chassis Development Group. He’s also a vet of the Pikes Peak circuit, winning the Time Attack 2 class back in 2016 with a second-generation NSX. If his last name sounds familiar, that’s because he also happens to be the brother of James Robinson.

Acura RealTime Racing TLX GT

Acura Has One Hell of a Line up for the 2019 Pikes Peak Hill Climb
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Arguably the star of Acura’s Pikes Peak lineup, the RealTime Racing TLX GT all-wheel-drive racer returns to the scene of one of its greatest triumphs. Last year, the TLX GT, with RealTime Racing’s Peter Cunningham behind the wheel, romped its way to 2018 Open Class Record with a record-setting time of 9:27.352 that was good enough to earn Acura its third-straight Open Class victory and a third place overall finish in the event.

Determined to at least duplicate that success, Acura is bringing a heavily modified TLX GT to the proceedings.

The racer is powered by an enhanced version of the company’s J35 twin-turbocharged V-6 engine — it’s the same engine used in the Pirelli World Challenge — that’s specifically tuned to cope with and thrive in elevation challenges posed by the mountain. Honda Performance also lent a hand in the racer’s development, specifically supplying the software mapping that improves turbo operation and boost pressures that the racer will need to cope with the steady dip in oxygen on the way up the summit.

Acura Has One Hell of a Line up for the 2019 Pikes Peak Hill Climb
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The race car’s suspension setup is another one of its points of pride with the RealTime racing team creating a setup that’s specifically tuned for hill climbing purposes. Seriously, if there’s a race car you’re going to pay attention to, it’s the Acura RealTime Racing TLX GT. Once again, the car will be driven by Cunningham, who will look to build on an impressive rookie campaign last year — he won the event’s Rookie of the Year award — and secure another dominant finish for the TLX GT. Knowing his credentials as an experienced racer with more than 90 professional race wins in his career, Cunningham and his TLX GT will be hard to bet against.

Read our full review on the 2018 Acura TLX.

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
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 Pikes Peak Open class 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 Alternative Fuel 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 (10:48.094), 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 Alternative Fuel 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 his colleagues in developing their driving skills.

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:

Vehicle
Driver

Class

2018 Result

TLX GT

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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