We will have to wait another year to see the Porsche 918 Spyder grace the floors of a car show. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to inspect it at the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show. We got a taste of the Spyder at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, but changes to the concept car are pretty significant—in a good way. Fortunately, car shipping will make these incredible pieces of machinery available to anyone who can pay the price tag.
Now, the engine’s V-8 is purported to be a whopping 4.6-liter, with alleged 550 horsepower from, not the original design of 3 but rather, 2 electric motors. Part of what makes this hybrid unique is going to be the racing technology used to craft the operating parts. The Formula 1 grade lightweight pistons, variable valve timing with the step motors for the intake and exhaust phase, the central injector and central oil feed to the crankshaft are among a handful of the design specs that will make the Spyder one of the most amazing hybrid sports cars on the market.
For the last decade or so, the auto industry seems to have developed a collective knack for making enthusiasts hurry up and wait. Alfa Romeo has been threatening to return to the U.S. (We’re not counting the rare and pricey 8C Competizione and Spider as a proper return.) since its stepmom (Chrysler) was shacking up with some domineering German. Each of the Detroit Three has said, “Our half-ton diesel pickup is just around the bend,” though they clearly haven’t been referring to the next bend. And if the concept versions of the new jointly-developed Toyota/Subaru sport coupe aren’t piling up like cordwood in some Japanese warehouse, we’ll eat a live electric eel.
But one of the most galling fits of carmaker procrastination has to be the saga of Jaguar’s smaller-than-the-XK sports car. First there was the XK180 Concept of 1998. Then, two years later, there was the F-Type Concept. The production version was going to be front, no, mid-engined! Then Ford axed the project, then started on it again, killed it again, and sold Jaguar to Tata. Now the baby Jag sports car ball is rolling again, and once again a concept version has been unleashed upon the public. Its name? C-X16.
It wasn’t that long ago that luxury used to be all about conspicuous consumption, particularly in the automotive realm. It was a never-ending race of who could construct the biggest body, the brawniest engine, and the most dead-tree-and-bovine-skin-filled interior. And in many regards, that’s still the case.
But more and more, peddlers of high end products and services (as well as the well heeled clientele to which they cater) are glomming onto the idea of being responsible, upstanding corporate citizens. Part of this is due to them seeing the intrinsic PR value of such cultural shifts, but the cynic in is guesses most of it is due to new government regulations here and abroad that are already on the books or soon will be. Whatever the motivation, manufacturers are releasing cars like the Aston Martin Cygnet and Lexus CT200h that adhere to the notion of less is more. And now Cadillac plans to join that club.
Up until very recently, electric cars had a reputation of being slow, unexciting transportation appliances (This despite the fact the fastest car in the world from 1898 to 1904 was a French electric car, the Jeantaud Duc.). Lately, though, battery-powered cars are starting to come across as legitimate performance cars, due in no small part to cars like the Tesla Roadster and the Mercedes-Benz SLS E-Cell.
Now Nissan seems to be jumping onto the exciting EV bandwagon. First was the Esflow concept, which premiered at the Geneva Motor Show last month, and now the company’s tuning arm, NISMO, has created a radical, widebody racing version of the Leaf that’s on display at the New York Auto Show. But it turns out there’s very little Leaf underneath.
With all the talk of tighter Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements lately (35.5 miles-per-gallon in 2016, and some legislators calling for 60 mpg nine years after that), a lot of us gearheads are understandably worried about the future. However, forcing automakers to devise substantially more efficient new cars might not be all bad news; to make such quantum leaps in fuel economy, cars will have to be noticeably lighter than they are now, because clean diesels, hybrid systems and the like won’t be enough by themselves. And in addition to increased efficiency, less mass also means better acceleration, braking and handling.
Against this backdrop, the people behind the Los Angeles Auto Show’s annual Design Challenge drafted the rules for this year’s contest thusly: Create a four-passenger vehicle weighing 1,000 lb. or less that is comfortable, safe, and delivers satisfactory performance and looks. When all was said and done, nine concepts from seven automakers (Daimler created one for each of its three passenger car brands) were submitted and, if you ask us, they’re all significantly less depressing than other people’s visions of our automotive future. But don’t take our word for it; make the jump and judge for yourselves.
On monday we brought you some details about the upcoming, beautiful, techno-bombshell known as the Mercedes SLS E-Cell. Dressed in highlighter green it’s hard not to stare, although I think the words “electric-powered SLS” would have drawn almost as big a crowd. I understand everyone wants to jump on the “green train”, but things are getting out of hand.
Today we have a follow-up video from our friends at Streetfire.net, showing the SLS doing what it was meant to do: hauling ass. The first video talked about the details of the car, how the systems work, and gave a once-over of the car. (At least, that’s what our minds decided the host was saying in his strange language.) It appears once Mercedes was done with the pleasantries of journalist trots around the neighborhood and red carpet events, it got back to doing what made us fall in love with them in the first place, perfecting speed. Make the jump to watch the video.
With all the strict new emissions and fuel economy regulations pending worldwide, it’s easy to believe that the era of fast, fun cars is about to end – this time for good. But while big, thumping gas engines are almost certainly donezo, it might not be time to write the obituary for high performance cars just yet. Tesla has already shown that you don’t need an internal combustion engine to have a sports car, and Mercedes-Benz will soon be driving that point home with an electrified SLS AMG.
Called the Mercedes-Benz SLS E-Cell, the eye-popping yellow prototype seen here previews a production model scheduled to arrive in 2013. It features a foursome of electric motors – one driving each wheel – that spin up to 12,000(!) rpm and provide a whopping 526hp and 649 lb.-ft of torque combined. The four motors will get their juice from an array of lithium polymer batteries residing in the center tunnel (which is occupied by the driveshaft on the gas version) and behind the cockpit. The temperature of the batteries and other electical components is managed by a pair of independent cooling systems. It all adds up to an estimated 0-60 mph time of four seconds flat.
If there are two things most 21st century Americans living in major metropolitan areas can’t seem to live without, they are the automobile and the mobile phone. And as the mobile phone has evolved into the smartphone, the opportunities to build closer ties between the two contraptions become more abundant and easier to realize. With that in mind, GM is working on an app for Android-powered smartphones for use in conjunction with the upcoming Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid.
Considering who makes the Android OS, it should come as no surprise that Google Maps will provide the proverbial meat of the navigation component of the app. As such, there will be a voice-activated, location-sensitive destination search function as well as the ability to see your real-time location on a map. OnStar will provide the proverbial potatoes in the form of verbal turn-by-turn directions. (Other functions will include battery charge scheduling and monitoring and remote start.) However, the navigation function won’t be available in the first version of the app; you’ll have to wait for version 2.0 to enjoy the aforementioned features.
When the hybrid revolution loomed its slow and ugly head I was accepting, but wary. How would this affect the great cars of our world? I’m fine commuting to work or schlepping kids in a dreary fuel-sipper if it means cleaner air and less dependency on foreign oil. Honestly, I am. We simply cannot continue to exist as we have in the past if we hope to have a future. But surely there would be stipulations that would allow the greats – Ferrari, Lamborghini, Zonda – to escape a life of restriction and abstinence from horsepower. Right? Can’t we have our economoical work-horses for Monday to Friday and still keep the stallions for the weekend?
While Ferrari has made some alternative energy concepts, like the 599-based Hy-kers example above, it’s been planning to focus on reducing the emmissions of its horses without resorting to removing their “orbs of essence.” Apparently I’m not the only one afraid and annoyed at this possibility. At the Beijing Motor Show, Autocar caught up with Amadeo Felisa and asked about a “greener” future for Ferrari. The response wasn’t as enthusiastic as your local Birkenstock salesman would hope: