The Ram's Eye - A Driver's Blog: 2015



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Tuesday, 7 July 2015

6th Generation 2016 Chevy Camaro




This surprises a lot of people, considering that I have a Mustang and a Boss 302 at that, but I'm a Camaro fan. For one, I've always been a Chevy small block fan. They're compact and light (for the displacement), powerful, efficient and reliable. Secondly, without Camaro rivalry, I don't think the Mustang would be as good. Finally, I'm a domestic kind of guy so I like seeing good products from all domestics. As a result, I was looking forward to the highly anticipated 6th generation Camaro and I must say, it doesn't look like it will disappoint.

The first and most important piece of information is that the Camaro is all new. It shares nothing with the previous generation. People will no longer be able to say this is an old bloated chassis or it's just a rebadged Holden. This one is based on the Alpha chassis Cadillac developed for the Cadillac ATS. It's lightweight, compact and strong where as the previous Zeta chassis was intended for a full size sedan and heavy. This has been known for a while though, what's new is just how little this car will share with the current Camaro and the answer is just two parts: the rear bowtie and the SS badge. That's it. Chevy was serious when it said an all new Camaro.




Performance

As with the new Mustang, Chevy added a turbocharged engine to the Camaro lineup. Unlike Ford, though, Chevy made the engine the base, entry level engine which I think is great. Firstly, it would be the cheapest model so it should prove more popular in the tuner market. Secondly, naturally aspirated engines are becoming rarer and rarer in favour of turbocharging so it's always nice to see another one improving and living to see a new model. As a result, the lineup (for now) has three engine options:

  • 2.0 litre 4 cyl turbo making 275 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque
  • 3.6 litre V6 making 335 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque
  • 6.2 litre LT1 Small Block V8 making 455 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque
In true GM fashion, all numbers are SAE certified. The 2.0 turbo provides a wide torque band, with 90 percent of peak torque available from 2,100 rpm to 4,500 rpm and peak torque from as low as 3,000 and all the way to 4,500 rpm. The 3.6 litre V6 is new and still features direct injection and continuously variable valve timing (CVVT) but now brings cylinder deactivation that disables two cylinders under light load. Helping the newfound hp in the V6 and V8 engines will be a drop of weight of at least 200 lbs. Savings will be higher, depending on the model, so lightly optioned cars will probably come in the 3,500's lbs. range and the SS will be in the 3,600's lbs. Maybe an option free turbo model could be in the 3,400 range? One can hope! GM estimates 0-60 mph time in "well under 6 seconds" so the weakest engine will still be quick.

As for the V8, about 20% of the components will be unique to the Camaro SS, including new, tubular “tri-Y”-type exhaust manifolds. It will also feature the same technologies first introduced on the Corvette Stingray such as variable valve timing, direct injection and Active Fuel Management (on automatic-equipped models) to help fuel economy. 

All engines will be offered with either an 8-speed auto and or a 6-speed manual. An all new Hydra-Matic 8L45 paddle-shift 8-speed automatic transmission will be offered with the 4 cylinder and 6 cylinder engines. The transmission is based on the Hydra-Matic 8L90 8-speed, but scaled for the performance envelope of the smaller engines. The LT1 engine will be paired with the Hydra-Matic 8L90 8 speed auto with paddle shifts if you want an automatic or a 6-speed manual with Active Rev Match to "blip" the throttle for downshifts.

As is now the norm, all engines will feature sound enhancers. The 2.0L turbo models will feature engine noise enhancement if equipped with the available Bose audio system. It will amplify actual (presumably prerecorded) sounds of the 2.0L turbo engine but can be disabled based on the driver’s preference.




The 3.6L V-6 and 6.2L V-8, on the other hand, will feature mechanical sound enhancers instead of electronic. Resonators that direct induction noise from the engine bay into the cabin will be used as well as dual-mode exhausts, which feature electronically controlled valves that bypass the mufflers under acceleration, delivering improved performance and greater sound levels. The bypass valves will have different modes that are adjustable that can be changed from a “stealth” quiet mode to the most aggressive “track” mode.

Suspension

For the first time, Magnetic Ride Control will be available on the Camaro SS instead of being reserved for the ZL1. I think this will be great value as I suspect you'll be able to get a Camaro SS with all the performance options and magnetic shocks for under $40,000 USD. Chevy says the new Camaro SS will be quicker than the outgoing SS 1LE which would be put it in very good company.

When designing the suspension, Chevy didn't rely too much on Cadillac's work. Instead, they made changes to suit the Camaro's purpose with approximately 70% of the architectural components being unique to Camaro. Chevy says structural rigidity was increased by 28 percent, while the body-in-white mass was reduced by 133 lbs, presumably compared to the last Camaro not the Cadillac ATS.

An aluminum instrument panel frame was used instead of steel to drop 9.2 lbs. More weight savings were achieved using lightweight components, including aluminum front suspension links and optimized steel rear suspension links in the new five-link rear suspension system which took out another 26 lbs.

Up front, a new multi-link MacPherson strut front suspension with Camaro-specific geometry and double-pivot design provide a more precise feeling of control. The electric power steering system will provide more linear and communicative feel. At the rear, a new five-link independent suspension provides better wheel control during articulation and reduces “squat” during acceleration.

For the first time, Brembo brakes will be available on all models. On the LT models, the Brembo brakes option will bring 12.6 in. front rotors with four piston callipers and 12.4 in. rear rotors with single piston callipers. The SS models will come standard with Brembo brakes which means 13.6 in. front rotors with four piston callipers and 13.3 in rear rotors with four-piston callipers.




Aerodynamics

To round up the upgrades, Chevy spent more than 350 hours testing the Camaro in the wind tunnel to improve cooling and reduce aero lift and drag. I have no idea if 350 hours is a lot for a wind tunnel testing but it must be if Chevy is bragging about it! The front fascia is designed to guide the air around the wheels rather than into the wheelhouses which should reduce drag. The Camaro SS will also get a unique front fascia with integrated brake cooling ducts and a unique hood with functional air vents which improve cooling and reduce front end lift. The roof is sculpted to improve the structural rigidity for greater refinement, according to Chevy. It is also assembled using a process called laser brazing which eliminates traditional spot welding saving a little over 2 lbs and eliminating unsightly "ditch channel" seams and cover trim. The entire car shrinks slightly in every direction, which should help aerodynamics by reducing frontal area:

2016 Camaro
2015 Camaro
Length (in /mm):
188.3/ 4784
190.6 / 4841
Width (in / mm):
74.7 / 1897
75.5 / 1917
Height (in / mm):
53.1 / 1348
54.2 / 1376
Wheelbase (in / mm):
110.7/ 2811
112.3 / 2852
Front track (in/mm):
63 / 1601 (SS)
63.6 / 1616 (SS)
Rear track (in/mm):
62.9 / 1598 (SS)
63.9 / 1622 (SS)




More Corvette Tech

Once again, the Camaro will get Corvette hand-me-downs in the form of an all-new Drive Mode Selector, which tailors up to eight vehicle attributes for four modes: Snow/Ice, Tour, Sport and – on SS models – Track settings. I assume that the system is based on the Corvette's excellent Performance Traction Management (PTM), although it may be less sophisticated to preserve the status of the Corvette at the top of the foodchain. The different modes will adjust many settings as follows:
DRIVER MODE SELECTOR SETTINGS
Snow/Ice
Tour
Sport
Track 
(SS only)
Electronic throttle progression
SNOW/ICE
NORMAL
NORMAL
TRACK
Automatic trans.shift map
NORMAL
NORMAL
SPORT
TRACK
Automatic trans. Performance Algorithm Shift
N/A
N/A
AVAIL.
AVAIL.
Engine sound management (if equipped with dual-mode exhaust)
STEALTH
TOUR
SPORT
TRACK
Electric power steering calibration
TOUR
TOUR
SPORT
TRACK
StabiliTrak – Competitive Driving and Launch Control
N/A
N/A
AVAIL.
AVAIL.
Magnetic Ride Control calibration (if equipped)
TOUR
TOUR
SPORT
TRACK
Ambient lighting (if equipped)
ICE BLUE
BLUE
RED
ORANGE

I think this Camaro will prove a very tough competitor for the Mustang. I'm a sucker for big displacement, naturally aspirated, high revving V8's so I don't think Chevy will have something that would steal the GT350's thunder for me. However, I think the Camaro has a better looking front end and a much better base, V6 and entry V8 models. I do believe that they will be more different than ever, with the Mustang feeling more comfortable and mature and the Camaro more agile and fun to drive. I hope I get a chance to drive one once it goes on sale! For more information on technology and interior, visit GM's press release: 2016 Chevrolet Camaro

Sunday, 5 July 2015

JLT Oil Catch Can Review


I've had a catch can for about a couple of years. If you've been following my blog, you may know that I've had a seldom problem with power steering randomly cutting off. I thought I had it fixed several times but it kept returning. Finally, towards the end of last summer, the problem was found by a tech at one of the local dealers. After a lot of time behind the wheel on and off the track, I can confidently say the problem is gone. I hate to admit but it was my fault. The catch can that I bought was a bigger unit that came with a mounting bracket. Without checking the wiring, I mounted it where the electric power steering rack ground was. Sometimes, while turning, the can would shift so slightly but enough to move the ground cable, cut power and therefore power steering. It was terrifying, especially on the track, and really hurt with being confident behind the wheel.

After the tech found it, he put a second nut on that bolt to hold it better and it worked so much better that power steering never cut off again, but I found that it still shifted enough to cause a slight change in voltage and stability control activated unnecessarily. I tried to find another spot to mount the can but it was hard to find a spot that fits due to its large size so I decided that it was time to get a new, smaller can that does not need to be supported and the JLT unit (JLT Oil Separator) seemed like a great fit. It's small, light and had good reviews. It has OEM connections so I figured it should have a very clean and easy installation.

Actually, saying "easy installation" might be a big understatement. I installed it in less than five minutes and if I didn't have another aftermarket unit, it would take less than one minute. You unclip the stock connections, pull the tube out, and clip the OEM connectors on the JLT can. That's it. I have no idea why other manufacturers don't use the same connectors. They're easier to use and cleaner looking. With the installation out of the way, the other concern is effectiveness.

I've had it for only two track events. The first event was a High Performance Driving School (HPDS) arranged by the local BMW Club. It's a two day, all weekend event. I was there for two slalom exercise sessions and six lapping session, all about 20 mins long. After the event, I drained the catch can and took a couple of pictures.






I unfortunately didn't do any testing with my previous catch can so I can't compare. I also don't have any fine measuring tools I used the smallest measuring cup I found to measure. As you can see in the above picture, it looked like about 3 ml of oil was caught, maybe 5 ml at best. I was disappointed at first as I was expecting it to catch more based on other people's results I found online. I decided to hold my judgement, though, until another track outing. The second time was a regular lapping day, where I was out for three track sessions, each about 20 minutes long. 




As you can see in the picture below, it looks like about 10 ml of oil was caught this time. Remember, this time I was out for one day, not two, half the track sessions and no exercise sessions. That's less than half the length of time and less than half the driven miles, yet there was more than 3 times the amount of oil. After seeing that, I was very happy with the results. I felt that the unit works well as I can't imagine there being much more than 10 ml of oil going back after about half a day at the track. More importantly, it also confirmed that just because someone else caught more in a different can doesn't mean this one isn't effective. The results here are so vastly different that it renders any comparison on different days obsolete. This isn't only the exact same catch can but the exact same car and same driver on the same track and within the same month. Nevertheless, the difference in conditions yielded hugely different results. 




I wish someone would set up a test bench in a controlled environment to actually rate the effectiveness of different cans on sale now. In my opinion, for the results to be valid, they would have to set up an air loop with a known amount of continuous oil supply in it, connect different catch cans to that loop and measure the amount of oil that collects in each can after a certain run time. This should be repeated with different loop air pressures to simulate the different pressures that would be seen in the PCV line at different engine loads and RPMs for both naturally aspirated and supercharged engines. Then the runs should be repeated again at different temperatures and humidity levels. A test such as that would be conclusive as to which catch can is more effective at catching oil. Otherwise, the results would be meaningless and until then, I'll be happy with my current setup knowing it's keeping all that oil out of the engine cylinders. I hope this helps someone make a decision if they are hesitant about getting one.


Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Ford Focus RS Makes Big Power!




Just remember, you heard it (or read it) here first. Ford said that this will be the most powerful Focus ever with "well in excess of 315 hp". Back in February when I posted about it (2016 Focus RS), I brought up the extremely limited edition RS500 which made 345 hp so I expected this one to make close to 350 hp. Sure enough, Ford officially revealed that the Focus RS will make 345 hp and 324 lb-ft of torque from its 2.3 litre EcoBoost engine. This time, though, it won't be a very limited edition to get all that power. All RS's will make that power, at least until Ford makes a performance package or special edition with even more.




As Ford said when it debuted the RS, the engine has been significantly upgraded to handle the added power compared to the 310 hp unit found in the Mustang EcoBoost. The 2.3 litre engine shares the block with the Mustang but significant upgrades support the increased power. The radiator and intercooler are both much bigger units. A new twin-scroll turbo with a larger compressor wheel increases airflow, which is also aided by less restrictive intake and exhaust systems. The exhaust also features an electronically controlled valve that "helps optimize the balance of back pressure and noise output." Typically, such exhaust valves stay closed for quiet operation under light load and open at a certain rpm. To handle the added power, an upgraded alloy is used for the cylinder head to withstand higher temperatures which is also mounted on a head gasket with improved thermal capability. Inside, the cylinder block features stronger high-tensile cast iron liners.

The engine will have a redline of 6,800 rpm and peak torque is available from 2,000 pm to 4,500 rpm and an overboost feature will allow up to 346 lb-ft of torque for 15 seconds at a time. All this power will be routed exclusively through a six speed manual and a torque vectoring AWD system will help put all the power to the pavement. All of this adds up to a very capable package that, on paper, should be vastly superior in performance to its closest competitors, the Golf R and Subaru WRX STi. I'm really looking forward to the first comparison test between all three.

Mustang Shelby GT350 - Legendary Name Brings Legendary Power




It's old news by now but I can't see my blog not having a post about this.. I'm a big Mustang fun. It's the highest revving, most powerful and most power dense production engine in Ford's history. Need more superlatives? It's also Ford's first flat-plane crankshaft and the world's largest flat-plane crankshaft V8. It also has another achievement to add to its portfolio. At 526 hp, it makes over 100 hp/litre.




It will make its peak power, 526 hp, at 7,500 rpm and a peak torque value of 429 lb-ft at 4,750 rpm which gives it a healthy hp and torque peaks spread of 2,750 rpms. Moreover, 90% of peak torque is available from approximately 3,450 rpm and 7,000 rpm. Optimizations have been made everywhere to ensure the engine is always happy to go around a track.

As everyone now knows, the engine will feature a plat-plane crankshaft to improve engine breathing. It does so by separating cylinder banks exhaust pulses (i.e. you can't have two cylinders on opposite banks in the exhaust stroke and pushing exhaust through the exhaust pipes). The engine will be mated only to a Tremec TR-3160 six speed manual (as it should be). The transmission is specifically engineered for low mass and the high rpm application of the GT350 and GT350R Mustangs. It features a lightweight aluminum case and clutch housing and optimized gear cross-sections, dual mass flywheel and dual-disc clutches, all in the name of reducing weight and inertia.

Other unique features of the new 5.2 litre V8 include a slightly oversquare bore and stroke of 94 x 93 mm and a high 12.0:1 compression ratio. The cylinder heads are CNC machined, the intake valves are hollow stemmed and the exhaust valves are sodium filled. Both valves can be lifted a significant 14 mm. Feeding air to the engine is an 87-mm throttle body, the largest Ford has ever fitted to a production engine.

A unique new aluminum engine block featuring Ford’s "patented plasma transferred wire arc cylinder-liner technology" is lighter. This process allows Ford to eliminate heavy iron cylinder liners with a deposition process. The flat-plane crankshaft is forged and is “gun drilled” to reduce total engine weight. A lightweight, high-capacity baffled oil pan is designed to sustain high g-forces in high-speed cornering and hard braking. Ford says even the intake is simpler and lighter. Everything has been optimized. Can't wait to see it in person? Me neither. Here's something that should help; some sibling rivalry between a GT350 and a GT350R out on the track.






Dodge Viper ACR is back!




If you've just bought the most hardcore version of any car that's currently on sale, it will very soon be rendered pedestrian. That's because the Viper ACR is back and it's even more capable. In fact, it's a lot more capable.






Upgraded suspension? Check. The brakes are carbon-ceramic Brembo units with six piston callipers in the front clamping on 15.4 inches rotors and four piston callipers in the back clamping on 14.2 in rotors. Adjustable Bilstein coil-overs replace the stock units and the springs now are stiffer at 600 lb/in in the front and an eye water 1,300 lb/in in the back. Unlike many aftermarket adjustable dampers, those shocks feature 10 settings to adjust both rebound and compression. The coil-overs also allow for ride height adjustment of up to 3 inches! The tires? Oh, they're big. 295/25/19 in the front and 355/30/19 in the rear. If all of this adjustability isn't enough, consider the adjustable aero bits.






An optional Extreme Aero package will feature a detachable front splitter extension, an adjustable dual-element carbon fibre rear wing, four dive planes, six removable diffuser strakes, removable brake ducts, and hood louvers that can be popped out to decrease air pressure in the wheel wells. There are race cars that would have to change body parts to change airflow in the wheel wells, not pop out louvers. Ready for some numbers? Better be sitting down for this. All of this adjustability can be tuned to deliver 2,000 lbs at 177 mph. Two thousand pounds. Some press releases of high performance cars mention aerodynamic improvements to deliver zero lift at lower speeds. Some brag about a few hundred pounds of downforce. The brand spankin' new Porsche 911 GT3 RS has 761 lbs at 125 mph. less than half at over 50 mph lower. It also has 80% of the downforce that a GT3 Cup racing car has which would put a GT3 Cup racing car at 951 lbs at 125 mph. This street legal car will get 2,000 lbs at 177 mph. Let that sink in.






Inside, the ACR is surprisingly a lot more friendly than the last one. Dodge reduced the speaker count to only three. The Uconnect infotainment system is still available as well as A/C and there's still carpeting and plenty of sound insulation. Faux suede is used on the interior surfaces along with lightweight carpeting and a unique steering wheel and an ACR badge is placed on the dashboard.




As with the previous ACR version, power stays the same so the magic happens everywhere else. That means you still get the same 8.4 litre V10 making 645 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque through the same Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual. Dodge will probably be happy to tell you that that torque figure is still the highest of any production naturally aspirated engine. That's why Dodge likes to use big cubes although I have no doubt that the engine could easily make over 700 hp if it wouldn't step on Ferrari's toes. Actually, scratch that. It would absolutely make minced meat of Ferrari's toes.




At the end of the day, though, I don't think there's anything to complain about it if you can afford it. You'll be more comfortable inside while piloting a vastly more beastly machine. Bring it on!




Cadillac ATS-V+ with LS7 Power




Once I learned that the ATS-V will come with a twin-turbo V6, I was a little disappointed but thought that that it actually needs a TT V6 to compete with the M3. If it didn't have one, the ATS-V would have been looked down upon by German brand loyalists as being "old tech" and "inefficient". Cadillac still has to build brand credibility in that market so it's smart to offer the same type of technology so that the brand is the only thing they have to work hard to sell, not what's under the hood. Still, I (and many other fans) wanted a V8 but I never thought I'd see the day. A few weeks ago, though, a rumour has been going around that a higher version of the ATS-V will come and be called ATS-V+. It won't get the new LT1 V8, though, found in the Stingray and upcoming Camaro. No, it will come with the monster LS7 7.0 litre V8 that was in the C6 Corvette Z06 and the current Camaro Z/28. AWESOME.

I read that this was just that, a rumour. The fact that Cadillac CEO promised higher performance V-series cars, though, to combat cars like the Black Series for AMG and that the ATS was designed with an engine bay that can accept V8 makes me think it's a possibility. So here's hoping for a naturally aspirated, V8 powered, 7.0 litre ATS-V.


Dad's Supercar - A great mid-engine build

I came across this home build on a forum (Cobaltss.net) and thought it was really cool. It's a mid-engine build with an engine out of a Cobalt SS (appears to be an LSJ) with a dry sump oiling system. The goal, according to the page, is to have 450 hp on gas to drive to the strip and switch to methanol, change injectors and tune and run with ~ 1,000 hp.






Rear suspension:



Front suspension:



Check it out the (little) details on the build here: Dad's Home-built mid-engine Supercar


Formula race car driver reflexes in the rain


Super fast reflexes, great situational awareness and excellent car control. Watching that save was so impressive that I had to watch it a couple of times. My favourite part is staying focused, in control and continuing the race after avoiding the situation.





Can a fuel additive add hp? Dyno with Video!


Have you ever wondered if fuel additives really make a difference in how the car runs? Better yet, have you ever got in an argument with someone about whether or not it makes a difference? I have. This should settle it (assuming you trust the results of course).





Thursday, 16 April 2015

Cadillac CT6 - full details!




If you want some proof that Cadillac is doing something right, I might be able to help. Looking through the stats of my blog, searches and viewership of my posts about the CT6 have been soaring lately. There's a lot of excitement about this car and I'm not surprised. There's a lot riding on it and while Cadillac sales haven't been newsworthy, it's hard to argue that it is well on its way to reestablishing itself as a true world leader in luxury with a slowly expanding lineup.


We heard a few things about the CT6 and have seen it in a first-in-the-industry reveal in an Oscars commercial (2016 Cadillac CT6 Surprise Unveil) but now we have full details and things are looking even better. Cadillac is promising a lot in terms of driver involvement, chassis control and power while still delivering in comfort, luxury and connectivity. I don't care much for the last (i.e. connectivity) but it is an important aspect of modern cars so they have to deliver on all fronts.



To deliver on the chassis front, Cadillac is promising one of the most advanced chassises, with an aluminum intensive architecture that also incorporates 11 different materials to achieve target performance and weight goals that will make it the lightest in the class while being the most agile. With a wheelbase of 122.4 in, the CT6 is competitive with the BMW 7-series and Mercedes S-Class (short wheel base models) yet it will be lighter than the CTS, which itself is lighter than cars in ITS class. The current CTS has been weighed in different tests and came in the 3,900 lb range which is 200-300 lbs lighter than cars in its class. The CT6 is bigger than the CTS yet lighter, with an estimated curb weight of around 3,700 lbs, around 600 lbs lighter than a BMW 740i. This is just mind boggling. That's in the range of cars like the Mustang GT and BMW M3. These are performance oriented two door coupes that will weigh as much as a full size luxury sedan, if Cadillac delivers on the 3,700 lb promise. Let that sink in. 

On the power front, there's an all new 3.0 litre twin turbo V6 engine with an estimated 400 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque sitting at the top of the line, the familiar 2.0 litre 4-cyl turbo serves as the base engine with 265 hp and an all new 3.6 litre naturally aspirated V6 is the midrange engine, making about 335 hp. At first, I thought the 2.0 litre turbo is small for a full size luxury sedan but remember that this is about 200 lbs lighter than the CTS which uses the same 2.0 litre turbo and it is more than adequate for a base engine. I'm sure we'll see two more engine options, one for a Vsport trim, probably the same 3.6 litre twin turbo one in the CTS, and another for the full-fat V-series. An active AWD system will be available for those looking for more traction. The transfer case is compact and lightweight. It also features two-gears for greater fuel economy than conventional fixed-torque all-wheel drive systems. All-wheel drive is standard on all CT6 six-cylinder models but it's unclear if it's optional on the 2.0 litre turbo.

Active rear steer will also be offered along with Magnetic Ride Control, as is now expected on every new Cadillac, with selectable drive modes. Those modes are Tour, Snow/Ice and Sport. Every wheel drives, every wheel steers and every wheel’s dampening is adjusted by the millisecond, for responsiveness and driver control unparalleled in the segment, according to Cadillac. Additionally, theres a new feature called Auto Vehicle Hold, which prevents the car from rolling during hill starts and will also keep the car from creeping forward in stop and go traffic to reduce fatigue.



Just about every connectivity and luxury feature you can think of is offered but a few caught my attention. There's a surround-view video recording system that can record front and rear views while driving, and offers 360 degrees of recording if the vehicle’s security system is activated. There's night vision and a rear view camera mirror that uses a camera to fill in the blind spots in the mirror for an unobstructed view. If you're sitting in the back, there's a new articulating rear seat package that offers approximately 3.3 inches (83 mm) of adjustable seat travel, lumbar adjustment, tilting cushions, massage feature, heating/cooling features and armrest with media controls, including HDMI and USB ports combined with 10-inch screens that retract into the front seatbacks and come with connectivity for external devices.

I think the most impressive thing about this car is how much effort Cadillac put into the chassis and driving dynamics as well as rear seat comfort and convenience. This is a an executive sedan that you should be just as happy relaxing in the back on a business trip as you are driving on the weekend with the family. I've never thought I'd be excited about a full size luxury sedan but Cadillac managed to do that. Production will begin at the end of 2015 for the North American market at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. The plant will also produce and export to Europe, Korea, Japan, Israel and the Middle East, starting in early 2016. The CT6 will also be available in China, but Chinese market vehicles will be built in China at an all new plant, which will also start in early 2016. I can't wait!

Wondering how Cadillac achieves those incredible weight savings compared to the competition? Here's a blurb from the press release (including a link):

"The body-in-white of the 2016 Cadillac CT6 is structurally lighter and stiffer than any other dynamically similar vehicle such as the BMW 5-Series or Audi A6.

The new architecture has a mixed-material structure with all-aluminum exterior body panels. Engineers conducted 50 million hours of computational analysis – including 200,000 structural simulations – in its development, generating 21 patents.

The CT6 is approximately 218 pounds (99 kg) lighter than a comparable vehicle using predominantly high-strength steel.

GM’s most advanced body manufacturing methods are used to fabricate the structure, including proprietary aluminum spot welding technology that is more efficient and helps reduce weight. Laser welding, flow drill fasteners and self-piercing rivets are also employed, along with roughly 591 feet (180 meters) of advanced structural adhesives."

For more details on luxury and connectivity features, visit the full GM press release here.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Corvette Z06 beats GT-R Nismo after all!




This is a little overdue, but man, was I ever happy when I read this. A lot of people were disappointed after the first comparison of the new Corvette Z06 vs the Nissan GT-R Nismo and frankly I was a little disappointed myself (read first post here). Every one was expecting the Z06 with the Z07 package to beat every car short of hyper cars on a track but in the hands of Randy Pobst, it posted a best lap of 1:27.1 at Willow Springs vs a lap time of 1:25.7 by the GT-R Nismo, trailing it by 1.4 seconds. Every Corvette fan, myself included, tried to find reasons as to why it lost as it was hard to believe because the Corvette performed far better in individual handling tests (figure-8, braking and skidpad). Well, as it turns out, there was a reason. Chevy looked into the test car and found that the rear suspension was out of alignment.




They sent it back to Motor Trend. To make things even better, GM developed a new setting for the magnetic shocks for rough tracks like Willow. The setting should allow the shocks to provide better control over bumps. With this setting (which will be available to all Z06 buyers) and the rear suspension alignment corrected, the car posted a best lap time of 1:25.0, besting the GT-R Nismo by 0.7 sec. Randy's impressions also better reflected the first test, where he had a lot of confidence in the car. He said: "This was so much nicer to drive. Oh my gosh. The butterflies are gone. The fear is gone. There was a lot of fear in the car before. Just the handling, I trusted it way more. I still don't experience a push anywhere. All the way around the Turn 2 carousel, it feels like I have very little steering in the car. Really balanced. Even the tail, the tail may be coming, but in a no-fear kind of way, like, 'Wow, this thing's really balanced!'"

People are complaining but such oversights unfortunately happen with HUGELY anticipated performance cars. I don't know why automakers don't learn but they all do it. Porsche, Ferrari and Lambo all had their cases of early production cars catching on fire. Nissan had the GTR transmissions blowing up on early cars. This car went out with a misaligned rear end. It's probably the pressure of wanting the press to be able to test the car (and many magazines not just one and in different countries). They want to have the car ready for sales. I say kudos to GM for caring enough to investigate and even more respect for providing a new damper setting for rough tracks.




Some people are also comparing the new damper setting to Ferrari bringing their engineers to track tests to adjust the car for the best results. The new damper setting is far, far from Ferrari, McLaren or any of the big names coming for a test to optimize their cars. The difference is that whoever buys those cars won't have that luxury. They won't be able to call up Ferrari, for example, and say "I'm going to Willow Springs this weekend for a track day. Come and optimize my tire pressures, alignment settings and traction/stability control settings for the best times, will ya?" With the Corvette, GM saw the car perform less than desired, thought they may be able to improve the performance on rough tracks with a new damper setting so they developed it and are going to offer it to everyone who owns the car. Everyone can repeat those results (assuming they have the skill) whenever and wherever they want, as opposed to only a group of automotive journalists with the manufacturer's suspension engineers at their disposal. The two are far from comparable.

One last caveat to the test: The GT-R Nismo was tested with octane booster while the Corvette wasn't. The reason? The GT-R Nismo requires a minimum octane of 93 where the Z06 requires 91 octane or better and 91 was the best available. I think to make this a "gentlemen's race", both cars should have been run with octane booster but, in my opinion,  it's fair to run the Corvette on 91 octane if the manual calls for 91 or better. The C6 Z06 manual called for 93 octane for best performance: "If your vehicle has the 7.0L V8 engine (VIN Code E), use premium unleaded gasoline with a posted octane rating of 91 or higher. For best performance, use premium unleaded gasoline with a posted octane rating of 93." It is GM's fault for removing that sentence that was in the C6 Z06 that said that 93 is required for the best performance. Most people will use octane boost for track days, though. I will say that Nissan is playing a little dirty, though, by saying 93 is minimum required because, as with every modern car, I have no doubt that the GT-R can safely compensate for 91 and will simply pull timing but Nissan doesn't want that to happen.

Now if only Chevy would fix the overheating issue, this would be perfect. Although it does not affect performance greatly (lap times suffered by on only a few tenths while overheated), using 93 or octane boost would help loss of power and very few owners would be able to push the car as hard as a professional race car driver, I still think this should be a zero-excuse car. I hope Chevy does fix this, at least with an upgraded radiator and/or intercooler with the Z06 package. I also would prefer a non-electronic set of shocks on a Z06 and, more importantly, a naturally aspirated engine but this is still a very fine track car.


Monday, 30 March 2015

Porsche fights over GT3 name with Aston Martin



According to Motor Trend, a new report stated that after talks between Aston Martin and Porsche over the use of the GT3 name, Aston Martin decided to switch the name of the Vantage GT3, which debuted at the Geneva show this year, to Vantage GT12 after its V12 engine.

There aren't many comments on the post but all three commenters are against Porsche fighting over the name, likening it to a spoiled child and saying there wouldn't be any confusion between the two. It isn't about confusion or Porsche being a child. It's about marketing and brand recognition. How many people refer to Porsche 911 GT3's simply as GT3's? If you say GT3 outside of an FIA sanctioned race, everyone knows you are taking about a Porsche 911. That's very successful building of brand recognition and takes time and hard work to do. The name GT3 has weight and cache in the realm of production cars that Porsche built. If this Aston is called the Vantage GT3, that distinct recognition will no longer belong to only Porsche. Everyone would have had to identify which GT3 they are talking about every time GT3 is mentioned. Whether it is intentional or not, Aston would have cashed in on the value of the GT3 name which Porsche built, especially if it turns out to be a good car.

I like Aston Martin and wish it could have been called the GT3 because it sounds a lot better than GT12 but I can't blame Porsche.


Sunday, 29 March 2015

2014 Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4 - A Closer Look




I agree with the video, there's something special about this car because it's one of the last very few naturally aspirated supercars. McLaren, Porsche, AMG, you name it. Even Ferrari is going turbo for the 458 Italia replacement. Porsche still has the naturally aspirated GT3 but the top dog is still the Turbo S. What makes this even more sweet is that this last fighter is a big V10. I'm a big fan of V10 noise. I don't know for sure which one sounds better, this or the high revving, wailingYamaha-developed 4.8 V10 in the Lexus LFA (which, in my opinion, is its only redeeming feature). I do know, though, that if both were on a track at the same time, the LFA would sound like it was wailing in fear of this Lambo, which would sound like a mad angry bull. I know which one I would take. Check out the video below to hear it and see its incredible performance.




Sunday, 22 March 2015

Kawasaki Ninja H2R - 300 hp and Supercharged




Okay, this isn't a car but there's a reason why I'm writing about it. It has a supercharged 1.0 litre engine makes 296 hp. 296 hp may not be too impressive in a car but one has to remember that this isn't a car. It's a bike and it weighs just 476 lb in full trim and a 90% full tank. That's a weight to power ratio of 1.6 lb/hp. I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around that number.




To put that number into perspective, a 2013 Mustang GT500 has 5.9 lb/hp. A C6 Corvette ZR1 has 5.3 lb/hp. A 2015 Porsche 918 has 4.2 lb/hp and that's with the electric motors running at full song. The insane Hennessey Venom GT with its twin-turbo LS7 7.0 litre engine has 2.2 lb/hp. I can't even begin to imagine what 1.6 lb/hp would feel like.




I would also be curious about how fast you'd have to be going to be able to use that power. I used to have an 09 Cobalt SS. It had GM Stage 1 and a few bolt ons which would put it at very close to that 296 hp figure at the crank. That car had a posted curb weight of around 2,920 lbs - a multiple of over 6 of what the bike is plus it has two wheels to put the power down, yet it struggled to gain traction in first and second gears going in a straight line. I unfortunately don't ride so I don't know what kind of power is useable in a bike and when but my guess would be that it's a struggle to use full power below triple digit speeds but I'm sure seeing how faster the speedometer goes above 150 mph would be surreal.




To make that power, the four-stroke 1.0 litre engine has a redline of over 14,000 rpm and uses an in-house designed Kawasaki centrifugal supercharger that makes 20 psi of boost but Kawasaki says the supercharger is efficient enough to eliminate the need for an intercooler and all associated plumbing. The supercharger uses a CNC-machined aluminum compressor wheel that spins up to 130,000 rpm. All of this does come at a price, though, because the bike costs a cool $50,000 USD.


Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Dodge can't meet demand for Challenger and Charger Hellcats




Apparently, Dodge can't build Dodge Challenger and Charger Hellcats as people can order them. As a result, the company told Fox News: "Due to unprecedented demand for the 2015 Dodge Charger and Challenger SRT Hellcats, we are temporarily restricting orders while we validate current orders that are in the system."

Some dealers are slapping 50% markups on the MSRPs of $59,995 and $63,995 for the Challenger and Charger Hellcats, respectively, while others have reportedly taken deposits on cars they have no idea when they can deliver. In a very respectful move by Dodge, they closed the order books to respect the interests of its fans. It is unknown how long they will be closed for, but an AllParNews.com source said that Dodge may not catch up to the demand and existing orders until August.




Two vehicles, both have 707 hp, supercharged HEMI V8s. One is a large coupe that can go 199 mph and another is a four door sedan that can break the 200 mph barrier and hit 204 mph. The only problem is that the manufacturer can't build them fast enough to meet demand. What a great time to be a gear head. I sure hope Dodge can catch up much sooner than August, though!


Monday, 16 March 2015

4x4 1920's Dodge Brothers Oilfield Dodge




A buddy at work forwarded this video that he came across to me. It appears to be a promotional video for a 4x4 Dodge Brothers sedan with Oilfield Dodge painted on the side. Enjoy!





Top Gear - Please Come Back!




"I THINK it’s fair to say that nature made a mistake when it invented the dinosaur. It was too big, too violent and with such small and puny arms it was never going to be able to operate heavy machinery or even enjoy a bit of special “me” time."

“All the dinosaurs died and now, years later, no-one mourns their passing. These big, imposing creatures have no place in a world which has moved on.”

This is what Jeremy Clarkson wrote in his column in The Sun. By now, you've probably already heard about what has been going on with Jeremy Clarkson and a BBC producer. The show was suspended as a result and now, the above post suggests that the show is going to be cancelled for good, which is tragic as far as automotive entertainment goes. Top Gear's official website, though, has not posted about it being cancelled so there is still hope, although it confirmed that this week's episode will also be postponed pending the investigation into the matter. I think the last few seasons weren't as good as before but I still looked forward to every new episode. The worst part is that we are in the middle of a season so there are a few episodes already filmed and produced, ready to be broadcasted and we'll never see them. What a shame.

In an update, Auto Evolution reported that Clarkson was reportedly involved in filming for BBC rival Channel 4, with a new "Full Throttle" show on its way so there's at least an alternative to look forward to. However, the whole gang was very valuable to the character and entertainment value of the show so unless Jezza, the Hamster and Captain Slow are going to appear together again, I highly doubt this upcoming show, Full Throttle, will be as entertaining as Top Gear. Alas, all good things must come to an end. Hopefully, we'll at least get to see the last few episodes of Top Gear.


J.D. Power Dependability Study - It Isn't One




J.D. Power released its 2015 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study about three weeks ago. I don't like their rating criteria, though. According to J.D. Power, the study "examines problems experienced during the past 12 months by original owners of three-year-old (2012 model year) vehicles. Overall dependability is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality. The study has been enhanced in 2015 to better measure problems related to new technologies and features that are now being offered in today's vehicles."

There are two problems right there. The first is that the problems are reported by owners, not the dealer so there may be issues that are only perceived to be problems. For example, I have heard and read about plenty of owners thinking they have engine or transmission problems and bringing their cars in to get fixed because they aren't accustomed to continuously variable transmission (CVT) noises. Another common issue that I know of is owners unaware of noises associated with direct injection (DI) gas engines. Because of the high fuel pressure DI gas engines run at, they have a ticking noise that can sometimes be heard at idle if there isn't much traffic noise (say in a parking lot). These two perfectly normal noises can be reported as problems when they aren't which is why a problem should be based on warranty repair records.

Another, and a much bigger, issue is better measuring "problems related to new technologies and features". I'm sorry, but I do NOT think of "new technologies and features" when I think of dependability. According to the press release, "bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition issues are the most frequently reported problems after three years of ownership, according to the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study." Dependability, as the name suggests, should measure how much you can depend on your car. If your bluetooth does not work but your car still starts and goes perfectly fine, it's dependable. If you think that if the bluetooth or voice recognition feature does not work, you cannot depend on your car, you have no business driving.

Don't get me wrong, I think those issues should be accounted for. It shouldn't be called a dependability study, though. It should be called a "Satisfaction Study" or a "Quality Study". These sound all encompassing. They sound like they rating everything about the car. A Dependability Study sounds like it is rating which cars are most likely to never have drivetrain, suspension or body problems but that's not what they base it on.

Until they do that, I'll be taking the results of this study with a grain of salt. It's probably safe to say that the top 10 brands in this study are pretty darn reliable, regardless of measuring criteria. These brands are:

1 - Lexus
2 - Buick
3 - Toyota
4 - Cadillac
5 - Honda/Porsche (tie)
6 - Lincoln
7 - Mercedes-Benz
8 - Scion
9 - Chevrolet/GMC (tie).
10 - Acura

Beyond these, though, I wouldn't rely on the study for a measure of vehicle reliability. Looking at Lincoln and Ford proves my point. The comparison is eye popping in terms of number of problems. Lincoln has only 118 problems per 100 vehicles while Ford has 188, a whopping 70 additional problems per 100 vehicles sold, an almost 60% increase in problems while Lincolns and Fords are very mechanically similar. I'm sure Fords are just as reliable as Lincolns but Fords are bought by younger people who utilize their infotainment systems more and probably run into unintuitive features or bugs more often. In my opinion, you can count on the top 10 to be reliable but you shouldn't count out the others as being unreliable or use the ranking alone to determine which brand is more reliable and make a buying decision, except for maybe the bottom two; Land Rover and Fiat.


Friday, 13 March 2015

Adjustable Dampers - Are they worth it?




Adjustable dampers are far from perfect. If they were, a car like the Camaro ZL1 would be Mercedes S-Class (or equivalent) comfortable on potholes, Camaro Z/28 (or equivalent) stiff on smooth tracks and infinitely adjustable in-between on mid corner bumps, road imperfections, speed bumps, etc. GM's magnetic shocks are excellent but, while they are one of, if not the best adjustable dampers available in any mainstream car, they're still a huge compromise between ultimate comfort and ultimate chassis control, you just give up less in performance and less in comfort compared to fixed dampers but get added cost and complexity in return.

The added cost and complexity aren't the only issues, either. Ironically, adjustable dampers put a huge roadblock on adjustability if you ever decide to modify the suspension. Every modern car now has stability control and adjustable dampers would have to be connected to and monitored by the stability control system. Buying aftermarket dampers would upset the stability control system since the signals from the stock electronic dampers would be missing. I know some people don't like stability control but they can save a very bad situation and can be even be useful on the track by putting a nice safety net while someone is learning.

Moreover, a stability control system warning light will probably come on so if you bring your car to the dealer for service, it'll probably cause warranty issues. There may be a handheld tuner to disable the warning light and let the stability control system function properly, but then you get into issues with flashing the car's ECM (although that may not be an issue if you intend to modify the stock engine tune anyway). Basically, it's a huge hassle.




Are they worth it? Absolutely, but only if the car is appropriate. I don't think they are worth it on cars that can be considered track toys. Cars that are expected to be modified a lot for autocross and track days such as Focus ST's or RS's, Mustang GT's, a Camaro SS's, etc. But I would like to have adjustable dampers on a car like a Cadillac CTS-V for example, a car that I would track if I owned, expect to be immensely capable but should still be completely civilized in everyday driving. Now if the adjustable shocks are manually adjustable like the Koni Sports (Koni Yellows), they are a perfect fit for track toys.


Sunday, 8 March 2015

Lexus LF-SA (unfortunately) Revealed




And it is a disgrace to automotive design. How is it possible for a concept car to be so HIDEOUS? What kind of crack is Lexus' design studio smoking? If time machines existed and someone took a picture of this, went back a decade or two and showed it to Lexus' design studio at the time, they would burn the place down to make sure nothing this appalling could ever come out of their offices and curse the roads of the future.


Ford Focus RS - Automatics vs Manuals




A few days ago, Motor Trend posted about the debut of the highly anticipated Ford Focus RS. As with just about every debut of a new performance car, an auto vs manual debate shows up in the comments section. The main argument for auto is that modern dual clutch autos are no longer slow and a detriment to performance so why go for an outdated technology (i.e. manual)? This really annoys me. If someone just wants the fastest, they should want intakes, heads and cams tuned for high rpm for max power, mid range be darned. They should want huge turbos for maximum power with no concern for spool times and linear power deliver. That's not the case, though, those who want autos still want a car that's always responsive and linear throughout the rpm range because it isn't a race car and it won't always be at max boost and rpm.

There are compromises that have to be made for street cars to make them enjoyable and fun to drive as often as possible. A manual is one of these. I won't even use cliches like feeling more connected to the car and being one with the machine. It's about the action. I truly love driving, every aspect of it. I don't want anything taken away. Going to an auto means something is taken away. It's like have an excellent traction control and/or AWD system where you just mash the gas pedal and let the computers figure out how much power to send to the wheels. Another example (albeit an extreme one) is no gas pedals and no brakes, just steering. This is what it feels when I think of getting an auto. Giving up some of the action and letting the car do it for me. Sure, you can put most modern dual clutch boxes in manual mode and it will hold gears but you still lose control over the clutch. And can you get the satisfaction of doing a perfect heel-and-toe downshift? Heck, no!

I agree that a dual clutch should be an option for those who put more emphasis on performance figures or, even more importantly, people that cannot drive a manual because of a physical condition. That's by no means, though, a good enough reasons to say a manual is outdated or unnecessary. The only thing I don't like about a manual is going in slow city traffic. But city traffic IS annoying, with or without a manual. An auto only reduces the effort. Saying no to a manual because of city traffic is like saying no to a stiffer suspension because of discomfort over bumps. Hopefully, manufacturers will keep offering manuals, despite the lower demand.


Saturday, 28 February 2015

Chevrolet SS 1LE Handling Package Possible!




Chevrolet delighted many car enthusiasts when it announced that it will offer a new model called the Chevrolet SS; a RWD sedan based on the Holden Commodore with a standard LS3 6.2 litre V8. Many considered it a replacement to the much loved but short lived Pontiac G8 which was also based on the Holden Commodore. Unsurprisingly, the Chevy SS has been well received in reviews since its introduction, like the G8.

Chevy decided that that wasn't enough, though. Last year, it decided to give another treat to the car's fans and made a 6-speed manual transmission available instead of just the 6-speed auto and the now-well-known GM magnetic shocks also became an option. I wasn't expecting much more to be changed from now on. Since the SS is based on the Commodore and also built alongside of it in Australia, it is expected to go out of production when Holden's manufacturing operations close in Australia and start relying on global GM platforms. A Motor Trend source, though, said that another update might be coming.

A suspension package based on the 1LE packaged offered on the Camaro SS is being considered. The car would use a square tire setup as opposed to the current staggered one, like the 1LE, and offer new dampers and a retuned suspension. It's unclear if a "retuned suspension" includes only springs and antiroll bars or it is more involved. The 1LE currently brings more to the Camaro, such as upgraded wheel bearings, toe links and shock mounts as well as a strut tower brace. Moreover, the transmission gets unique, close-ratio gears more suited to the track, a Torsen limited slip differential to put the power down better and a ZL1-spec fuel pump to ensure fuel starvation is not an issue in high g corners.

The 1LE makes the Camaro SS a very formidable track machine, posting a 3:01.5 lap time at VIR in the hands of Car and Driver, which puts ahead of cars like the Jaguar XKR-S, Porsche Cayman S, Boss 302 Laguna Seca and even GM's own last-generation Cadillac CTS-V. The last SS tested by Car and Driver weighed just 50 lbs more than the last Camaro SS 1LE they tested, despite having an auto while the Camaro had a manual, so additional weight shouldn't be an issue. The 1LE package is known to be very stiff, though, so I suspect the SS would get a softer setup more suited to a large sedan and be a little slower. Still, the best the F10 BMW M5 could do was 3:05.2 so even if it loses a few seconds to the Camaro, we could still be looking at BMW M5 performance for under $50,000 plus have a naturally aspirated V8 to boot, instead of turbo. That would be phenomenal. What's even more interesting to me, though, is the fact that maybe, maybe.. this means that the SS name will live on after Holden. I know it's a stretch but bear with me.

The platform Cadillac developed for the ATS and CTS is now being used to underpin the next Camaro so GM is not opposed to letting Chevy use Cadillac platforms. We have also seen more than one large RWD concept from Buick over the last few years, hinting at a possible halo model. That platform will almost certainly come from Cadillac, if such a car were to exist, so we know that someone at GM is already considering building another large sedan on a RWD platform other than the upcoming Cadillac CT6. Maybe Cadillac's platform for the CT6 will be shared with Buick for a halo model as well as Chevy for a replacement SS after Holden? Why would they spend any more development money on a model that is going to end production in less than two years (i.e. 2017)? We can only hope.

As for the 1LE package, Motor Trend's source says that the engineers know the part numbers to use so it can be put to production very quickly (i.e. within three to six months). The only thing left to do is convincing the decision makers it is worth it.. Please, build it Chevy!