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Neo-Classic Car:  1987 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe
Oct22

Neo-Classic Car: 1987 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe

By Chris Haak

10.22.2009

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There weren’t a lot of bright spots in the performance car universe in the mid-1980s.  At the tail end of the malaise era, before Honda Accords had 272-horsepower V6s, Corvettes had 430 horsepower V8s standard, cars just weren’t very good.  And they certainly weren’t very fast or powerful.

The Buick GNX was GM’s greatest performance car of the period and stuffed an underrated 276-horsepower turbocharged and intercooled V6 under its black, boxy body; Corvettes in 1986 produced 240 horsepower.  Meanwhile, Chevrolet’s personal-luxury coupe, the Monte Carlo, carried the bowtie division’s flag for NASCAR purposes at the time, and Ford was putting its far-sleeker Thunderbird on the track against the boxy Monte Carlo.

GM figured that an easy way to improve the Monte Carlo’s aerodynamics, and continue to hold its position atop the Manufacturers’ Cup standings, would be to change the shape of the Monte Carlo’s rear end to shorten the decklid and lengthen the roofline via a re-shaped backlight treatment.  GM wasn’t allowed to just change the template of the race car, though, without selling a production version, so for the 1986 model year, the company built a limited run of 200 white Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupes.  Two hundred was the minimum production number required under NASCAR’s homologation requirements.

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The Drive to 35.5 Miles Per Gallon, Part Two
Oct22

The Drive to 35.5 Miles Per Gallon, Part Two

In Part One, we covered technologies that can be applied to internal combustion engines to improve fuel efficiency.  In Part Two, we cover changes that can be made to a vehicle’s electrical system to improve fuel efficiency in the drive to reach the mandated 35.5 miles per gallon bogey.

By J. Smith

10.22.2009

It doesn’t take an engineer to realize that new powertrain technologies can increase fuel economy without eviscerating performance.  Indeed, coupling an EcoBoost with a six-speed tranny and adding in a little aerodynamics should yield both better MPG and elapsed time.  But electrical systems can also help.  As noted in Part One, Bosch does not specialize in hybrids or battery systems – both of which will be key technologies in the future.  While the omission from Bosch’s presentations was obvious, so was the reason for the omission.

Start-stop and high-efficiency alternators

High Efficiency Generator

High Efficiency Generator

First of all, start-stop systems are an easy way of getting an extra MPG or two in the city.  Bosch has a system that is currently used by the Porsche Panamera.  Unfortunately, a Panamera was not available for test, but simply shutting down the engine at stops will result in better fuel economy in stop-and-go city driving in any vehicle.  Bosch expects these systems to be in 80% of new European cars and 40% of new North American cars by 2015.

Start-stop has the advantage of being conceptually simple.  In terms of technology, it is also easy to implement in existing platforms.  The key is to make the starting and stopping as seamless as possible so that consumers don’t notice it.  In addition, stronger batteries are needed to cope with a lifetime of constant starting and stopping in the course of ordinary city driving.

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2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track Review
Oct21

2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track Review

By Chris Haak

10.21.2009

asset_upload_file792_2970I’m not sure what Hyundai was thinking when they named this car “Genesis.”  Like the Genesis sedan, it’s based on an all-new rear wheel drive platform, and in fact both cars share the same 73.4 inch width and the same architecture as the sedan.  Having reviewed the Genesis sedan several months ago, I can testify that the Genesis Coupe is an entirely different car.  It’s far less refined, has a far smaller interior, and is far more fun to drive.  So why not call it something different?

When I first saw photos of the Genesis Coupe a few years ago, I was underwhelmed by its design.  It looked like a design that was too busy, with too many curves, creases, and folds.  As I’ve seen more of them on the road and at auto shows and media events, my opinion moderated somewhat.  Looking at the Interlagos Yellow coupe with 19 inch wheels and low profile tires, big, red Brembo brake calipers sitting in our driveway, I became a fan of the car’s design.  I also appreciated the swept-back headlights (my tester also had optional HIDs) and small grille opening.

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The Drive to 35.5 Miles Per Gallon, Part One
Oct21

The Drive to 35.5 Miles Per Gallon, Part One

Part One of this series introduces the context of an experience that our writer had at a media event sponsored by Bosch, and specifically looks at internal combustion technological improvements.  Tomorrow’s installment will delve into electrical system technologies that can also improve fuel economy.

By J. Smith

10.21.2009

fueleconomyThis past spring, the Obama Administration announced more stringent fuel economy standards, which will require cars and light trucks to reach CAFE standards of 35.5 MPG by 2016.  And stringent emissions requirements are around the corner.  Auto Supplier Bosch wanted to showcase the technology it has been developing that will help meet that goal.  And they had cars in which to test said technology and a proving grounds site in the Mitten State.  And Techshake has exactly one correspondent who resides in the Mitten State, hereinafter known as Michigan.  Hijinks ensue.

I had some trepidation about this assignment.  After all, fuel economy events are hardly the stuff of which dreams are made.  The last time stringent fuel economy and emissions regs went into effect, it gave birth to an era of leisurely performing, poorly running transportation-related devices—can we really call them cars?—that most enthusiasts recall only after waking in a cold sweat.  What future horrors wait in the shadows?  A new Malaise Era?

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The Once Car-Free Land Where Mercedes is Now King
Oct21

The Once Car-Free Land Where Mercedes is Now King

By Andy Bannister

10.21.2009

Welcome to AlbaniaOn my recent visit to the western Balkans I had the opportunity to cross into the mysterious land of Albania, a country where until 1990 ownership of private cars was completely banned.

Alas for Albania, which got the roughest deal of any of the East European states during the painful communist era which started after the Second World War. The country’s paranoid dictator, Enver Hoxha, was so extreme he even cut his countrymen off from with countries like Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, which he considered had betrayed the true principles of Marxism-Leninism.

This legacy is immediately evident on crossing the frontier – the otherwise flat road breaks into a series of gentle zig-zags every few yards, as a cunning plan to stop imperialist aircraft landing on the decrepit highways of the workers’ paradise. Dotted everywhere are strange little concrete pill-boxes, which were to be the first line of defence for an invasion.

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2010 Audi S4 Quick Test Drive
Oct20

2010 Audi S4 Quick Test Drive

By James Wong

10.20.2009

B8-Audi-S4Manufacturers usually make every one of their new models have more of everything – power, technology, safety features and, unfortunately, more weight and size as well.

Audi has bucked the trend with their new (B8 platform) S4. So while the (B7) S4 featured a 4.2 V8, the B8 S4 now has sitting in its engine bay a supercharged 3.0 V6 pushing out nearly identical power and torque figures of the engine it replaces. It however, consumes far less fuel, and if equipped with the optional 7-speed S-tronic transmission, is able to achieve 9.4L/100km thanks to the 7th overdrive gear ratio. Don’t for one second think that Audi is scrimping on the power, though – the V6 is able to produce at least 90% of the maximum torque available from 2,200rpm to 5,900rpm, so while on paper it may seem like a less powerful car, in reality the new S4 feels far more lively.

Audi is no stranger to turbocharging. So it may seem rather strange that Audi has employed supercharging to force induce the new S4. The fact is this – Audi had two prototypes of the V6 engine while developing the car, one turbocharged and one supercharged – and after extensive testing found that the supercharger had more benefits for the V6, with more compact packaging as well as a more linear torque delivery. So Audi went ahead with the supercharger idea, which is brilliant. What isn’t is that Audi also retained the ‘T’ tag to identify the supercharger, which means it no longer exclusively denotes turbocharging. Personally, I thought Audi could have marketed it differently to cause less confusion to consumers, already bogged down by the myriad of jargon ranging from TFSI to MMI.

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Congress Approves DOE Funding for Three-Wheelers
Oct19

Congress Approves DOE Funding for Three-Wheelers

By Brendan Moore

10.19.2009

A bill that allows three-wheel vehicle manufacturers to be eligible for much-coveted federal DOE (Department of Energy) funding has passed Congress, and is expected to be signed into law by President Obama as early as today.

Current DOE rules limit funding eligibility to companies that make four-wheeled vehicles that also meet other emissions and fuel economy standards.

The new rules open up funding eligibility to include vehicles manufactured with three wheels than can carry at least two people, attain a minimum of 75 mpg and be fully enclosed. Each application for funds from a three-wheeler manufacturer will be assessed by DOE individually.

2011 ApteraCompanies like Elio Motors and Aptera, who plan to start manufacturing gasoline-powered and battery-powered three-wheelers, respectively, in the near future, were cheering the news, as their applications for DOE funding were rejected previously. Both companies said that they would re-apply for DOE funding as soon as possible.

For those people that complain that everything on the road looks the same these days, the rebuttal to your complaint is a three-wheeler. All of the three-wheel vehicles in the pre-production pipe look like nothing else on the road today. In fact, if you crave attention, buying one of the first three-wheel vehicles manufactured is guaranteed to garner many second looks by other motorists and pedestrians, as the vehicles look futuristic and dramatically different from any mass-produced four-wheel vehicle on the road today.

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A Balkan Odyssey in a Baby Renault
Oct16

A Balkan Odyssey in a Baby Renault

By Andy Bannister

10.16.2009

Renault Twingo frontI’ve recently returned from a week driving Renault’s smallest car – the Twingo – around the mountain roads of one of Europe’s least-known but most scenic lands, the Republic of Montenegro.

The country – its name means “black mountain” – was part of Yugoslavia from 1918 until that nation disintegrated in the 1990s, and more recently was in a loose confederation with its larger neighbour, Serbia. After many years of economic isolation it became independent in 2006 and is now seeking greater ties with the European Union.

Blessed with a coastline on the beautiful Adriatic Sea and some of the most rugged national parks anywhere in the world, the compact size of Montenegro and its challenging roads make it the perfect place for a driving adventure.

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