Archive for December, 2009

29
Dec
09

Rendezvous- L.A. edition w/ Jay Leno

Remember Rendezvous? the Claude Lelouch-filmed  speed run through the streets of Paris in 1978? We talked about it once briefly because the sheer bravado of the stunt, coupled with the setting and perspective truly engrossed us. Watch it here if you haven’t seen it yet.

Today Jalopnik put this video up of Jay Leno mapping out his own rendezvous course in his backyard through the hills of Los Angeles in the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. While the video isn’t super exciting, it is fun to watch, the route itself is pretty interesting, and the engine soundtrack is phenomenal. Check out the video below, and after that, we took the liberty of putting up a map of the route in case you’re in the L.A. area and want to tackle it safely and legally see it yourselves. Looks like the starting point is where Mulholland and Coldwater Canyon meet.

What’s your Rendezvous run? let us know.

UPDATE: Autoblog has the same video up, along with a “making of” video. check it.

Map: (click to make with the big-ness)

-Alex K-

28
Dec
09

Mustang Madness! 2011 Mustang GT 5.0 and BOSS 302R

You may have heard rumblings about Ford’s engineers in Dearborn tinkering away at something special, but now we can say without a doubt: the 5.0 is back. In 2011, the Mustang GT will be powered by an all new 5.0 liter V8 that will deliver 412 horsepower and 390 ft-lbs of torque. The naturally aspirated feat owes much of its efficiency to the 4-valve Twin independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT), producing a substantial amount of power while still upping the fuel economy to 25 miles per gallon.

This double-overhead-camshaft configuration employs two camshafts per cylinder bank – one camshaft to operate the intake valves and one camshaft to operate the exhaust valves. Ti-VCT rotates the camshafts to advance or retard the cam timing, based on several measures including throttle opening. An element unique to the Mustang GT 5.0-liter V8 is that Ti-VCT is actuated by camshaft torque, with assistance from pressurized oil. Using camshaft torque energy should provide faster throttle response and maximize use of existing energy, aiding fuel economy.

An additional element is the increased capacity and baffling of the deep-sump stamped steel oil pan to enable sustained high-rpm use and keep the oil change interval at 10,000-miles. Piston-cooling jets also were incorporated for performance-minded customers and for faster oil warm-up on cold start.

Specially designed tubular exhaust headers were developed to maximize exhaust pulse separation and improve flow. This was a response to customers immediately swapping the headers out for 3rd party replacements for an easy performance boost, so the engineering team sought to make them the best from the get-go.

To manage all the new grunt and help along the miles per gallon, the Mustang GT will gain a new 6 speed transmission. With the automatic, the estimated miles per gallon is 25 highway and 17 in the city. The manual will match the current estimated 24 mpg highway and 16 mpg city numbers, but getting an extra 112 horses with no compromise is very much getting your cake and eating it too.

Driving dynamics have been sharpened up as well, as Stabilizer bar diameters, spring rates and dampers all have been tuned for improved dynamics, and a Brembo brake package will be finally available, something that Mustang enthusiasts have been itching for. The package will include the 14-inch vented front discs from the GT500, 19-inch alloy wheels and summer performance tires. Hopefully I can get Ford to slap a pair on this guy.

The look of the Mustang GT won’t change dramatically from the recent refresh, but 2011 GT’s will proudly sport 5.0 fender badges, as well as a host of new colors such as Yellow Blaze Tri-Coat, Race Red and Ingot Silver.

Inside, the driver will notice the speedometer increased to 160 mph, and the tach redline is upped from 6,500 to 7,000 rpm.

Those who may feel left out of the V8 party shouldn’t fret, as with these developments, the 2011 Mustang V6 will have its horsepower increased to 300, matching the current V8.   and if that weren’t enough, there’s more:

Hot on the tail of the news of the 2011 5.0 Mustang GT is the announcement that Ford Racing is returning the road racing legend back to the track.

Dubbed the BOSS 302R, this factory-built race car is set to go fro Grand-Am, SCCA, and NASA classes.  “From Shelbys to Bullitt, Mach and Cobra Jet, it is now time for BOSS to join the list of America’s most coveted Mustangs’ says Jamie Allison, director of For North America Motorsports.  The BOSS 302R will come equipped with the new 5.0 –liter 4-valve engine like the 2011 GT, a 6-speed manual transmission, roll cage, race seats, harness, data acquisition, and race dampers/springs, plus a Brembo brake and tire package. I had a brief chance to hop inside one, and I’m so very much looking forward to sitting in one on the move.

A Grand-Am Homologation Package (M-FR500-BOSS R1) will also be ready to compete in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge at Daytona on January 29th, 2010, where five BOSS 302R’s will be delivered for the opening race.  These will feature a sealed high-output race engine with an upgraded cooling system, a close-ratio six-speed transmission with integral shifter, a seam-welded body, race suspension/KONI dampers and ABS brake tuning, race performance exhaust and a high-speed balance one-piece driveshaft.

The BOSS 302R will be replacing the highly successful Mustang FR500C (this one)that has won three Triple Crown championships in five years in KONI competition, and has also seen success in FIA GT4, winning the driver’s championships in ‘07 and ‘08.

“Racing has long served as a technical proving ground for production engines,” continues Allison, who echoes the belief of many that great road cars stem from excellent race cars.  The great part is, you don’t have to be left out of the action: the BOSS 302R is available through any Ford dealer. While obviously not street legal, anyone can walk in, go straight to the Ford Racing performance parts counter, and place an order for their track day or SCCA races. The base package starts around $79,000, while the Grand-Am packages will start at about $129,000. It’s best to get a move on, however, as only 50 will be built this year, so if you have the means and the proper forum for make this car shine, now is the time to get a hold of one.

Read this post and more over at Autosavant.

-Alex K-

23
Dec
09

A Formula 1 Christmas….(a.k.a nothing rhymes with ‘Bob Varsha’)

It’s two nights before Christmas, and I’m having a think,

about racing and cars, which happens when I drink.

With Schumi returning for formula gold,

I wonder if such chances have passed cuz I’m old.

Not old per se, just too old to start,

on a path that infants begin racing karts.

I’ve thought this before, as blog posts will tell,

I even emailed, like a schoolboy, Le Mans great, Derek Bell.

“Hey Derek,” I said (we met ‘cuz of Bentley),

“what can I do to see time in Gran prix?”

When he replied, he said the time may have passed,

when engineers would make a mold of my ass,

and fit each contour into my F1 seat,

from where I would see just who I could beat.

Saddened, I moved on and continued writing here,

drunk, bitter, and watching Top Gear.

Around 3 AM, I finally crashed in my bed,

hot laps and pit stops still in my head.

I suddenly found myself in a bright red beast,

with paddle shifters and wings, and a wide open street.

A circuit like one’s never seen before,

made from all different tracks, even Singapore.

Part Monaco, part Monza, with sprinkles of Spa,

the Glen, De La Sarthe and La Guna Seca.

(and before those last two garner comments from the uptight,

I know they’re not F1, but it was my dream, alright?).

Off my car launched with such force, sound seemed to shatter,

downforce pressing my car to be flatter.

I hit S-curves and chicanes, rumble strips and more,

running through bends and straights I adore,

Through Copse!

Down Corkscrew!

Eau Rouge and Piscine!

’round Campsa, Coca-Cola, and all of Hockenhiemring!

Such joy as I  felt so much fear and such grace,

I could’ve kept on forever and never dropped pace.

At some point, however, the ride had to end,

and I woke up in bed, I’d cross the last bend.

No miracle had happened, nothing unusual arose,

Didn’t wake up with a pussycat doll or ripped-off fuel hose,

I just sat with my head that throbbed like a drum,

trying to make sense of my dream ( I blame the rum).

It was then it occurred that hey, it’s Christmas eve!

and I should be celebrating, no time to grieve,

for lost times and missed chances I made myself believe.

I’m still young, a quick learner and I’m pretty fit,

(besides, when someone told me “no”, did I ever give a shit?).

and maybe when I go down tonight under the tree,

I might find something else there with my Forza 3.

some tickets to fly and enroll at Skip Barber,

to be taught to live the hopes that I harbor.

Maybe that’ll happen, and then again, maybe not,

but one day I’ll go out and give it all I’ve got.

I’ll learn to race proper and go as fast as I can,

and if I screw up? There’s always Grand-Am!

Thanks for another year of reading my pieces,

have a merry Christmas from AutoKinesis!

-Alex K-


21
Dec
09

Lexus HS 250h Review

Read this review and others at Autosavant.com

We’ve come a long way in a short while, when climate change and carbon footprint entered the lexicon, and the helpless automobile was borne aloft as the anathema to all things pure and natural. Naturally, alternative fueled cars had their time to shine, and to the staunch petrolhead, this was something to turn ones nose up at, be it out of pride or, more likely, fear that this heralded the end of “proper” cars.  So here we are, at the precipice of a new decade, and powerful, dinosaur-burning thumpers are still here (for now), supercars have begun to embrace electric power, and in the middle of the spectrum we find, puttering along, with no sign of relentment, is the hybrid.

The Lexus HS 250h is the division’s first foray into the realm of hybrid power plants, an inevitable direction with the highly successful Prius close in Lexus’ lineage. Those of us without a large amount of hybrid experience (much like your humble, luddite reviewer) will approach the HS with a sense of trepidation and, more optimistically, a fresh perspective on the automobile as we have come to know it. One would first expect the shape to be as bulbous as its Toyota cousin, but the profile of the HS is not as pronounced, just a slightly bloated departure from more familiar sedan shapes. Despite being round, it still incorporates enough moderately clean lines to give certain aspects an element of seriousness.  The HS features proximity sensors for keyless entry to the car and push button start, which tends to confuse things in one’s first starting of an unusual car since with push button start, the general methodology is holding start button, electronics switch on, and listening for the engine kicking off.  This is not the case here where it is “hold start button, electronics activate….now you can leave.” I’ve always been the type of driver that warms a car thoroughly before heading out, regardless of a car’s vintage, and this came to mind as I wondered how this would be possible if the HS decides to start the engine a few minutes into my journey. Lexus, as I discovered would be a recurring response, had thought of this in advance. The car has no visible temperature gauge, but starting the HS first thing after a cold night will prompt the engine to turn on as it will sense the need to do so on its own.

The engine in the HS 250h is basically the same 2.4 liter inline-4 power plant optimized to complement an electric motor that one will find in the Camry Hybrid, which produces a decent 147 horsepower on its own without its electric companion. Between the two power systems, the car produces 187 net horsepower, which is plenty of adequate performance for a car of this size to get around without too much thought for the punch that it lacks. Buttons by the wheel allow you to select from the standard ECO mode to either “power”, which favors output to fuel consumption, to EV, that will have the electric motor do much of the work. While one might not feel a substantial difference between the various modes, an available info screen in the gauge cluster will show the driver in real time which system is doing what between the battery, the engine, and the wheels. An arrow from the engine symbol will show that it is currently sending power to the wheels, while the battery will do the same every once in a while for extra help, and braking will display an arrow from the wheels to the battery indicating kinetic energy reclamation.  There is no regular tachometer in the HS 250h, but a gauge that goes from “charge” to “power” instead. Ride quality is comfortable as the Lexus is carried by a fully independent front and rear suspension that clearly prefers comfort to nimbleness and does well in that regard, while also having decent braking performance. Front visibility is excellent, but the blind spots are chillingly bad, and not being able to adequately see in various directions makes parallel parking a chore. The HS 250h has optional park assist cameras and sensors, and while they help slightly, they could do with improvement. The sensors, the most particularly useful parts, tend to have a very short reach, and only beep when one gets precariously close to something. The cameras would be helpful, but without an on-screen graphic like guide lines, it’s difficult to tell just how close the curb is to the side of the car, so the HS 250h tends to be on it, or nowhere near it.

Beyond the start button, the interior of the HS 250h is replete with a near overwhelming array of displays, buttons and interfaces for various systems, prominently presented on the center console that sweeps vertically down from the dash to the armrest. At the base is the input device for the Lexus driver information center, which is as near as a full-fledged computer mouse as a car will ever get. The size of this in relation to the gear shift as well as the shifter’s ousting from its traditional spot is indicative of the dominance of gadgetry in the HS 250h over the actual driving experience.  The driver information center allows access to all major car functions as one might suspect. What it does well is navigation, where clicking and zooming across the map feels natural with the mouse-like interface.  Upon entering a major highway, a sidebar panel will appear with the distance of the next three upcoming exits and what services one could find at them. What it doesn’t excel at is more detailed interaction in the midst of driving. On the subject for navigation, the system will lock you out from inputting any search parameters while on the move, and this also applies to dialing a phone via Bluetooth connection if you haven’t uploaded it in the phone book, or have it in your call history which lead me to the potentially less safe solution to bypass this nanny-ness by dialing the number on my phone anyway instead of using the car’s dial pad, which is at least near the driver’s line of sight in the flip-up nav-screen.  Plenty of the rest of the functions are accessible while driving, but almost ironically, the interfaces are too home computer-like to be easily used on the go. ipod music menus, for example, are very much set up like file folders with tabs at the top of the screen that can be clicked on with the cursor, all perfectly fine when standing still, but take a large heap of the attention the driver budgets from his or her primary duties behind the wheel.

Lexus seems to have noticed that there is plenty to take your mind off of driving in the HS 250h and has a tech package available with loads of driving assists to pick up the slack. Most fascinating is the Lane Keep Assist, which uses various sensors to keep the car in the lane if the driver’s lack of focus causes the car to slightly veer. When activated and approaching the edge of a lane too much, the HS 250h will pull towards the center ever so slightly to compensate. It won’t be a dramatic, self-driving moment, but the driver will feel a subtle amount of force feedback in the steering wheel. The system will also display a steering wheel graphic on the LCD screen in the gauge cluster to remind the driver that one or both hands are absent from it, as well as have two lanes illustrated that become bold when one seems to be wandering near them. On top of the steering column are sensors that monitor the driver’s eyes as well when the Lane Keep Assist is on. Wandering pupils or heavy lids will prompt the car to beep loudly for attention. Shutting one eye won’t trick the sensors, but a decent amount of squinting will. The cruise control radar can work in conjunction with this and follow a lead car steadily while maintaining about a three car length distance. If there is a dramatic interruption such as getting cut off or someone ahead slamming the brakes, the HS 250h will beep wildly again and rapidly brake to a low speed, but will not stop completely on its own.

While these are meant for driver safety, between the comfortable ride quality and interior, driver information center, and driver assists, it’s easy to see how an occupant is almost discouraged from doing much driving at all (great for coming home from the bar as well, with taco bell in one hand and a podcast playing…so I hear). The HS 250h is clearly for someone who wants Lexus level comfort but has no call for much driving performance; with plenty to keep them entertained while getting from A to B, and reducing their fuel budget at a minimum. With an estimated combined MPG of 35, the HS 250h will probably only need refueling every other week with daily use. Money that isn’t spent on fuel will go to towards the dealership, as the MSRP starts at $37,000. This review car, laden with all options totals at $44,967, including the $875 delivery fee.  Seems to be a hefty bottom line, but keep in mind an owner will be making 1k back a year from not going to the pump.

-Alex K-

01
Dec
09

2011 Audi A8: News and Pics

We’re at the tail end of ’09 and already Audi has planted the seeds of excitement for 2011 with the reveal of the new Audi A8. While not all of us can take trips to Miami for the big reveal, we still have some details and pics for your enjoyment here.

The 4th Generation of the A8 looks to continue the trend of sophistication and engineering that Audi has come to be known by, judging by the looks of the aluminum body built with the Audi Space Frame architecture, that maintains modern strength and safety demands while still being light for the sake of sporty agility and fuel efficiency. Official numbers on this are scarce as of yet, but the 2011 A8 is expected to weigh as much as the current gen model (3,682 lbs), despite being a few inches wider and longer.

Under the hood is a 4.2 FSI V8 that produces 372 hp, a 22 hp increase as well as 328 ft-lbs of torque. Fuel efficiency has been increased by 15% due to thermal management and kinetic energy recuperation systems. This promises a 0-62 time of 5.7 secionds and is electronically limited to 155 mph.

The transmission is an 8 speed tiptronic shift-by-wire setup with a dynamic shift program (DSP) that handles it all in cruise and sport mode. an interesting note is that the DSP communicates with Audi’s MMI navigation system, and if route data is supplied, it will incorporate this data as you speed along, intended to avoid unnecessary gear changes.

AWD is of course standard as the A8 sports Audi’s current quattro AWD system that features the 40/60 torque split with rear wheel bias. The sport differential is an option as well if you plan to truly give the A8 the business, as well as dynamic steering. This all sits on an adaptive air suspension with adaptive damping to give the optimum ride comfort and smoothness depending on the situation.

On the inside is the quality styling we expect from Audi, with an emphasis on giving the interior a more spacious feeling than its predecessor. The latest MMI navigation and console will be incorporated, which displeased me in the R8, but came to appreciate with more current incarnations. A prevailing design element is the “wrap-around” curve that forms “an elegant belt line as on a yacht” and that the instrument panel is “neat and tidy” and “shaped like a gentle wave,” descriptions which I can conjure James May in my mind saying aloud and then following with “I don’t know what all that means, but I quite like it.” In any case, the interior is to be just as stylish and comfortable as current models, if not better.

Expect pricing details to effervesce nearer to the fall of 2010 when they will begin to appear in dealers in the U.S., but have in mind that it will be one of its factors in competing with cars like the Mercedes-benz S Class and Jaguar XJ. As always, of the utmost importance is the experience behind the wheel, and if Audi’s latest offerings are anything to go by, the 2011 Audi A8 should be one hack of a ride.

 

-Alex K-