In 1897 Thomas B. Jeffery, a bicycle maker from Chicago, built himself a rudimentary automobile. He was pleased enough with the result that he gave up the bicycle business, bought a defunct bicycle factory in Kenosha, Wis., and created one of the first automobile factories in the country. He called his new car the Rambler but it was not his first product to bear that name.
Chrysler introduced a new Dodge Viper ACR that they say is their fastest track car ever. It has huge carbon ceramic rotors and six piston calipers by Brembo, a fully adjustable suspension and a wild aero package that is said to make almost a ton of downforce at speed.
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You can read more about the new Viper ACR at The Truth About Cars.
“Struggling American Motors” was such a familiar phrase in news accounts of the company in the 1970s that one could be forgiven for thinking that “struggling” was part of its name. Banks had been extending credit through successive years of losses but it was clear that such generosity would eventually come to an end.
The company had to show that it at least still had some good ideas and so in 1977, in what was probably a Hail Mary Pass, Chairman Roy Chapin put together a dog and pony show called Concept 80, a showcase of full-scale prototypes the company could produce in the near future—if it only had the resources to develop them.
I think it’s safe to assume that the first Chevrolet Volt was designed to look like an electric car. For the second generation of GM’s extended range hybrid car, GM Design has taken a more conservative look, resulting in a Volt that still shares some styling cues with its predecessor but looks more like a conventional car.
There have been some technical improvements as GM continues to develop its battery tech. The 2016 Volt is also the first North American application of GM’s new family of all aluminum direct injected four cylinder engines. It’s a bit larger at 1.5 liters than the 1.4 L ICE in the first Volt, but it weighs 100 lbs less than that engine, which has an iron block.
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The 1.5-liter is the first of GM’s new four-cylinder, direct-injection, aluminum-block engines in North America. Despite a compression ratio of 12.5:1 (compared with the 1.4’s 10.5:1), the 1.5 runs on regular gas and makes 101 horsepower. And the powertrain is 100 pounds lighter than the outgoing car’s, useful considering that Volt drivers generally prefer to motor electrically, carrying the engine as dead weight.
Range is up 31% to 50 miles on battery power and fuel economy when powered by gasoline has also been improved over the 1st gen Volt from 37 mpg to 41 mpg. Volt owners will also save money on the gasoline itself since the new Volt takes 87 octane, not premium gas like the original.
All it takes for Porsche to earn back the good graces of their enthusiast fanboys, after introducing SUVs and sedans, is to come out with what looks like a purist sports car. This time it was the Boxster Spyder, said to have all of the essentials with none of the fluff. That may be so and the Boxster may be a very capable performance car, but Porsche is still the most cynical car company in the world. They’ve gotten their enthusiast fans to buy into the notion that it’s the success of the Cayenne and Macan CUVs that allows them to make what purist cars they do make.
Interestingly, Porsche’s version of their minimalist sports car has a styling feature borrowed from their most expensive road car, the 918 hybrid, fairings that run from behind the seat headrests to the back deck of the car. They also evoke the single fairing/fin on the 1950s era 550 Spyder racers.
The Porsche-Piech family that controls 51% of the VW group’s shares likes having the family name associated with fast cars, but I believe that they like being rich even more.
When the McLaren F1 went racing, it was very successful even though Gordon Murray never meant for it to be a competition car. That’s because it was very much a “Formula One car for the road”. In 1995, the F1 GTR dominated the 24 hour race at LeMans, taking 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th place finishing positions. However, competitors kept pushing the envelope, making race cars with only the barest homologation. To respond, McLaren decided to build a car meant for racing, with all the aero advantages late 1990s tech could provide. To make it legal, the factory built just three road cars with the “longtail” body and revised front bodywork. The result was that in 1997, the F1 Longtail won five of the 11 races of that year’s FIA GT Championship, and finished first and second in its class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Of those three homologation special road cars, two were bought by private customers with the original prototype remaining in factory hands. To celebrate the introduction of the new 570S model and the Sport series, McLaren brought out the “XP GT” protoype, the rarest McLaren road car in existence.
If you’ve been thinking of getting a track car and you have a spare $3.1 million burning a hole in your pockets, McLaren has just the thing for you, the P1 GTR, a not street legal, lightweight and track focused version of their hybrid P1 hypercar. It’s stripped down, has 1,000 total horsepower compared to the street P1’s 918 HP, has a Formula One style carbon fiber steering wheel, and to save weight the seat is positioned for the buyer and then it is rigidly bolted to the chassis. To that level or personalization is added the McLaren P1™ GTR Driver Programme.
As Paul Mackenzie, McLaren P1™ GTR Programme Director explains, ‘The programme is about enabling our drivers to get the most out of both the McLaren P1™ GTR and themselves. Before they get out on track, each driver will join us at the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) and have unprecedented access to our cutting-edge facilities, including the racing simulator. They’ll build up a greater understanding of the car’s capabilities and true performance, as well as learning braking and turn-in points before they arrive at the circuit. It also allows them to analyse and discuss their performance ahead of testing themselves in the real-world situation.
‘It is a programme that has been developed over the years for our Formula 1 team and young drivers. It’s not just about fitness, but looks at the full wellbeing of the driver, preparing them mentally and physically for the adrenaline of an unforgettable track experience.’
The base Range Rover is a pretty luxurious vehicle, starting at a bit over $80,000. Take a base RR, put in the 550 HP version of the corporate V8 and another $100K or more worth of high end and bespoke appointments by Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicles and you get the Range Rover SVAutobiography (one word, please). It has a stunning black over silver two tone paint job and an interior (and reclining rear seats) that will satisfy the most discriminating of Chinese entrepreneurs (or party connected cronies). At the New York auto show press conference introducing the RR SVA, Gerry McGovern, Jaguar Land Rover’s director of design, alluded to the maximum Range Rover as being at home in New York’s affluent Hamptons, and closed his description of the SVAutobiography with, “And, it’s very expensive.” I’m surprised that they didn’t just call it the Range Rover Very Expensive since the price tag is surely part of the appeal. Veblen goods indeed.
I’m not sure what the LT stands for in McLaren’s nomenclature. I’m guessing that it’s more likely to mean “lightweight, track”, rather than “Lawrence Taylor”. The 675LT is the most powerful, lightest version of McLaren’s Super series of cars based around the 650S (itself a cosmetic and performance upgrade of the previous 12C). The version they brought to the New York Auto Show was painted in a subtle and quite beautiful dove grey, a color that complements the car’s shape very well. McLaren communications director Wayne Bruce told me that he picked out the color for the show car himself. Well done, Mr. Bruce, well done.
Over the years it’s become pretty much standard form for midengine sports cars to have their engines exposed, either al fresco or under glass or clear plastic. The McLaren 675KT has a tempered glass engine cover with beautifully cut and ground vents that makes some rather notable Ferrari’s plastic engine covers look cheap.
The introduction of the 570S was a big deal for McLaren so they pulled out all the stops. I’m not sure why a metaphor from pipe organs fits high performance cars, but the event was important enough that McLaren brought out an example of each of their now three distinct lines of cars, the entry level Sport series, the heart of the lineup Super series (based around the 650S) and the P1 related Ultimate series. For the heart of the lineup, they brought out a candy red 650S Spider. Fortunately for our fans of 3D photography, they had the MDDs (McLaren dihedral doors, in contradistinction to LSDs, Lamborghini Style Doors – which actually only come on the top of the line Lambos, not the Gallardo or its Huracan replacement) open.