Thursday, September 15, 2011 08:00
One of the most satisfying things about working on cars is making them better by increasing power, improving the ride, and tuning the suspension. But there are some people out there who are spoiling the fun for everyone. We’re not talking about safetycrats or greenies, but automotive engineers like the ones responsible for the 2012 ZL1 Camaro, a car that’s not only the most powerful production Camaro ever made, but is crammed with so many high-tech features that just about the only thing left for a hot-rodder to tune is the radio.
Start with the engine, a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 that churns out 580 horsepower––at least 150 more than the advertised power of the legendary 1969 Camaro ZL1’s 427-cubic-inch big block––while still meeting modern emissions requirements.
Then there’s the transmission. With the ZL1 you can specify either a six-speed Tremec TR-6060 MG9 manual or a Hydra-Matic 6L90 automatic transmission. The 6L90 has three drive modes: Drive, calibrated for optimal fuel economy; Sport, for more aggressive driving; and Manual, with no automatic up shifts, and staged upshifts for incredibly fast shifts and maximum performance.
Fancy yourself a good suspension tuner? Okay, beat this: The Camaro ZL1 will feature the third-generation of Magnetic Ride Control, which employs valve-less damping and Magneto-Rheological (MR) fluid technology. MR fluid is a suspension of iron particles in a synthetic fluid. When the system is activated, the particles are magnetized and aligned into fibrous structures, changing flow resistance. By controlling the current to an electromagnetic coil inside the piston of the damper, the system varies the suspension firmness to match the road and driving conditions. There are three settings for MRC in the ZL1: Tour, Sport, and Track. More...
Monday, June 6, 2011 06:00
Chevrolet’s iconic Camaro might be hitting middle age, but it’s showing no signs of drifting over into the slow lane. In fact, the 2012 model year––the Camaro’s 45th––will see a raft of enhancements, including an improved version of the standard 3.6-liter direct-injection V-6, a new FE4 performance suspension package for SS coupes, and several interior and technology improvements, such as a revised instrument panel design, a new steering wheel, and a rear camera system.
In addition to all of the 2012 upgrades, the 45th Anniversary Special Edition gets Carbon Flash Metallic paint that comes with a red and silver rally stripe; 20-inch wheels in dark silver; a standard rear spoiler and HID headlights; a Jet Black interior with leather-trimmed seats featuring the 45th Anniversary logo; a white instrument panel and door trim inserts; red, white and blue stitching on the seats, steering wheel, shift knob and boot, door armrests and console lid; and a 45th Anniversary logo on the steering wheel.
Power comes from the new 3.6-liter LFX engine that pumps out an SAE-certified 323 horsepower at 6800 rpm, 11 more than the 2011 engine, with no compromise in fuel economy. The LFX uses a new cylinder-head design with an integrated exhaust manifold; longer-duration cams; a composite intake manifold; structural front cover and cylinder block enhancements; and lighter, stronger con rods.
The FE4 suspension package includes retuned front and rear shocks, new solid stabilizer bars front and rear, and 20-inch aluminum wheels with P245/45R20 tires up front and P275/40R20 in the rear. In addition, the suspension geometry has been adjusted, including reshaped stabilizer bars that are repositioned outboard of the shock mounts, giving more effective body control and more precise response in performance driving.
Expect to see the 45th Anniversary Camaro in showrooms this summer, but put your order in now if you want to drive home in one.
Monday, May 9, 2011 06:00
For many years now, the closest a customer could get to customizing a production car from the factory was to choose the car’s paint color. Even exotic car owners, who could have their cars tailored to their exact specifications and loaded with all manner of expensive goodies, were still unable to see anything more than snippets of what the finished product would look like. But now, thanks to the magic of technology and graphic design, anyone, regardless of the number of banks, oil fields, and Super Bowl rings they may own, can now create and customize a life like version of their dream car online.
Mini has, for a long time, had one of the best company websites when it came to being able to build and create a custom vehicle right on your home computer. Their car configurator not only allowed the user to choose options such as color, trim levels, body kits, and wheels, but actually updated the car’s image with the chosen selections. This, aside from being immensely fun and entertaining, helps give the user and potential customer the ability to make their dream Mini come to life right before their eyes. More...
Tuesday, April 26, 2011 07:00
China is fast becoming the manufacturing powerhouse that Japan was a few decades ago, churning out clothing, consumer goods, electronics, and lead-tainted toys faster than Walmart can sell them. Now, if one Chinese company has its way, you’ll be able to buy your very own Great Wall by 2015.
Great Wall Motor Company, a privately owned carmaker, already sells cars in Italy, Australia, and of course China, where it sold half a million units last year. Great Wall’s next objective is the U.S., where it plans to open its first dealership in 2015.
It was inevitable that a Chinese car company would someday set up shop here. It’s said that in London you’re never more than 10 feet away from a rat, but in America, you’re never more than six inches away from a product made entirely or partially in China. But something might get lost in translation on the trip over.
It’s thought that the first model that Great Wall will offer is the Haval SUV. What’s a haval? It’s a “cryptographic hash function,” which as near as I can figure out has something to do with computer programming. Great Wall also makes a sedan called the Voleex, which if it isn’t an alien species in a Doctor Who episode, it should be (“Doctor, the Voleex are preparing to attack!”).More...
Friday, April 22, 2011 06:00
A lot of car guys think the Toyota FT-86, now the Scion FR-S Concept and possibly a future Scion production vehicle, is the best-looking thing they’ve ever seen. When someone shows me a picture of an ugly child, I’ve learned to say, “What a sweet baby.” It’s not a lie and goes over much better than “What species is that?” or “Warn a guy before you show him something like that.”
The Toyota FR-S borrows heavily from racecars—and that’s what makes it ugly. Modern racecars are, for the most part, ugly. But they are ugly for a reason. Usually, that reason is to increase aerodynamic downforce, which allows the cars to go around corners at phenomenal speeds.
The things the FR-S borrowed from racecars include slats, side skirts, huge openings in ahead of the front wheels, and a prominent rear undertray. On a racecar, these features are functional. Ugly, but functional. For instance, the openings ahead of the front wheels on racecars allow air to exit the radiator without producing lift (which is the opposite of downforce). And front lift makes the car want to go straight in that 140-mph kink. On a racecar, an upswept rear undertray produces aerodynamic downforce to keep the rear planted. If a racecar has as large of a front under-bumper opening as the catfish mouth of the FR-S, it means the engine is really hard to keep cool. More...