Acura built a restomod 1997 SLX with the modern RDX's powertrain for Radwood SoCal

The restored example of Acura's first SUV now packs a 350-hp turbocharged four-cylinder and Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive.

Daniel Golson Former social media editor
3 min read

This 1997 SLX is more than meets the eye.


Radwood is a car show that celebrates everything good, bad and weird about 1980s and '90s car culture, and the final show of the 2019 season is happening this weekend in Southern California. Acura is bringing this restored 1997 to the show, and it's much, much more than meets the eye. Its 'Super Handling SLX' nickname should give you a hint as to what I'm on about... This SLX is fitted with the turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 10-speed automatic transmission, and SH-AWD (Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive) system from the current production crossover.

When it launched in 1995 the Trooper-based SLX was both Acura's first SUV and its first vehicle to offer four-wheel drive, and just 6,590 were sold over four model years in the US. While the standard production SLX's 3.2-liter V6 engine put out 190 horsepower and 188 pound-feet of torque and was mated to a four-speed automatic, the RDX's 2.0-liter inline-four puts out 272 horses and 280 pound-feet and and is paired with a ten-speed automatic. But obviously those numbers aren't big enough, so Acura fitted a custom exhaust, intake, and turbo -- along with ECU tuning -- to boost the motor to an estimated 350 horsepower and 340 pound-feet.


The track has been widened and there's independent suspension at all four corners.


The modifications extend well beyond the powertrain, too. Acura had to separate the body and the frame to figure out how to make the swap happen, with the biggest challenge being how to fit a transverse engine between the frame rails -- the SLX's original V6 is longitudinal. There are new subframes welded to the original ladder frame, and the independent rear suspension setup from the RDX replaced the SLX's solid rear axle. MacPherson struts replaced the independent double-wishbone front suspension, and the SLX's front and rear tracks are now much wider.

Even the original SLX had power-assisted ventilated disc brakes, but the restomod has received larger front discs and an electronic parking brake. A custom set of 17-inch Fifteen52 Tarmac wheels replace the stock 16-inch wheels and are wrapped in Yokohama off-road tires. Acura has repainted the SLX in Performance Red Pearl, a color offered on most of the current Acura lineup, and there are Champagne Silver accents on the fenders and lower body for a period-correct look. Rounding out the exterior is a custom hard-shell spare-tire cover in place of the original vinyl unit and a subtle SH-AWD badge on the tailgate. 

The interior has been re-upholstered in grey Milano leather, the steering wheel has been fitted with paddle shifters, and a wood applique has been applied to the dashboard and door panels. As for the cost? The SLX came in at $33,900 in 1996, which is around $57,100 when adjusted for inflation. When it comes to the Super Handling SLX's price, though, Acura says "don't even ask."

Prior to Acura acquiring the car, this SLX was owned by Acura enthusiast Tyson Hugie, who makes a cameo in the above video. The SLX was originally painted in Fir Green Metallic and had around 178,000 miles when Acura acquired it. Hugie still owns his first car, a 1994 Acura Legend coupe that has over 572,000 miles, and his collection includes a number of other pretty pristine Acuras, many of which are high-mileage.

In addition to the Super Handling SLX, Acura is also bringing an unmodified 1996 SLX also owned by Hugie, a 1986 from the Acura museum, and a 1991 that is the earliest known example in North America. Radwood SoCal is being held on Dec. 7 at Oak Canyon Park in Orange County, California. Our own Steven Ewing and Andrew Krok will be there with some exciting (borrowed) cars of their own, so check back this weekend for coverage from the show.

Acura stuffed an RDX engine into a 1997 SLX for Radwood SoCal

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