Thursday, August 28, 2008

Viper ACR sets unofficial 'Ring record.

Motor Trend posted a video of a Dodge Viper ACR ripping around the Nurburgring in an amazing 7:22.1. That pretty much makes it faster than everything on the road. Now of course, the ACR is basically a road legal race car so the time can be taken with a grain of salt. Either way it is seriously fast. So far there has been no word on whether the time has been confirmed as official.

Here is the video.

Monday, August 25, 2008

2008 Civic EX follow up

Well, my family and I have just returned from a little road trip during which I was able to get some more serious seat time in our new Civic EX Coupe. If you read my initial impressions of the car, you know that my only gripe with the car was somewhat vague steering and soft suspension. I was most concerned with the car's nervous feel. On the highway the car darts all over and that continued to an annoying degree on this road trip that consisted of about 1000 miles of driving.

That nervous feel was my only real complaint about the car during the trip. I did however find the reason for that condition which I'll tell you about in a minute. Here is a hint, it's something I should have checked earlier and it was not anything mechanically wrong with the car. Aside from that, the car performed flawlessly and was fairly comfortable for such a small car. My son didn't complain about the cramped back seat during the trip so I assume it was bearable.

The best part of the trip was the gas mileage. The Civic is rated at 36mpg highway and we managed to average over 39mpg for the two tanks we used on the trip. Pretty impressive. Most of that was highway with some local driving and a fair bit of stop and go traffic. I was in no way trying to squeeze the most mileage out of it. If I had, I may have hit 40mpg.

Now about that nervous highway handling. I decided not to give the car a once over prior to departing for our road trip, checking the fluids and tire pressures, since it's a brand new car. Bad move. I assumed everything was as it should be from the dealer. Well, you know what they say about assuming. I should have known better than to assume that the dealership checked everything before handing the car over to us. It turns out that the tire pressures were all off from what they should be. Three of the four tires were over 39psi when the recommended pressure is 32psi. The fourth tire, the left front, was only at 31psi. I think that right there should explain the darty, nervous feel. I've corrected that and it should make a big difference. I'll see the next time I get to drive it.

Friday, August 15, 2008

August 2008 Dream Car of the Month - Bugatti Veyron

The name Bugatti was guaranteed a place in automotive history long before VW/Audi purchased the rights to the name and revived the brand with the amazing Veyron. Capable of over 250mph, the Veyron ruled as the fastest production car in the world until it was eclipsed last year.

Development of the new Bugatti started with a series of design concepts ending in the EB 18/4 Veyron concept of 1999. That car was introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show and featured a W18 engine configuration comprised of three banks of 6 cylinders. The name Veyron was taken from the French driver Pierre Veyron who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1939 driving for Bugatti.

The production Veyron was announced in 2000 at the Geneva Motor Show, promising to be the fastest, most powerful, and most expensive production car ever. The W18 of the concept was replaced by a quad turbo W16 engine featuring four banks of 4 cylinders and producing over 1000HP. Initial testing was not without problems though as high speed stability became more and more of a challenge at the speeds the car was capable of. The car was originally slated for production in 2003 but the resulting delays to solve the stability problems led to the car being sent back for major changes.

Veyron "Sang Noir"

The final production version was revealed to the public on October 19, 2005 at the Tokyo Motor Show. The US launch was at the LA Auto Show in 2006. The total production run of the car is planned to be 300 units over a five year span at the price of over $2 million US each. Currently around 220 of the 300 cars have already been sold and most of those have been delivered.

The production Veyron uses the 8.0L W16 64 valve engine producing 1001HP/927TQ mated to a 7 speed dual-clutch DSG gearbox and a Haldex 4 wheel drive system. Curb weight of the car is 4,160lbs despite extensive use of aluminum and carbon fiber. Even at that weight, the car still sports a very impressive power to weight ratio. The Veyron can accelerate from 0-60 in 2.5 seconds with the 1/4 mile disappearing in 10.2 seconds at 142.9mph. The brakes are equally impressive, reportedly able to bring the car to a stop from 249mph in 10 seconds.

The top speed of the car was promised to be 253mph and this was confirmed in 2005 as Car & Driver Magazine took a final production model to a speed of 253.2mph at VW's test track in Germany. Later the Top Gear guys hit 253mph again on the same track. In order to reach that speed the car's top speed mode must be unlocked with a special key while the car is at rest. Only after a thorough checklist is that mode engaged. Once in top speed mode, the Veyron lowers itself and all active downforce generating aero features are disabled to reduce drag. This reduction in drag increases the car's top speed from 233mph to 253mph.

Veyron "Fbg Par Hermes"

There have also been a few special editions of the car announced for those who think the regular Veyron isn't special enough. The "Pur Sang" model Veyron was announced in September 2007 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The "Pur Sang" features a bare aluminum and carbon fiber body and is limited to 5 examples. In Geneva in 2008, Bugatti announced a Hermes edition called the "Fbg Par Hermes" which features a slightly redesigned nose and a full Hermes leather interior. The "Sang Noir" is another special edition painted all in black with chrome and clearcoated carbon fiber accents. There will be 15 examples of the "Sang Noir". Finally, set to be introduced later this month at Pebble Beach, there is the Veyron Grand Sport which features a removable targa top. Production of this model will start next year.

Veyron "Pur Sang"

The Veyron is an impressive technological piece of automotive engineering to be sure. Not too many cars can even come close to it's performance. The car however was not without it's critics. Gordon Murray, designer of the McLaren F1, felt it was a ridiculous exercise in making a car for one purpose, top speed. Murray was very critical of the car's size and weight, assuming that the car would only be impressive in a straight line. After driving one, Murray changed his opinion of the car saying that on the track he was expecting it to behave like a "sack of cement" but he found the car's handling to be impressive and summarized the car as a "huge achievement". High praise from a guy who knows a thing or two about supercars.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

BMW recalling 200,000 vehicles.

BMW announced today that they are recalling 200,000 vehicles due to potential problems with the front passenger airbags. The NHTSA has found that cracks could form in the seat detection mats that could lead to the airbag being disabled and not deploying in an accident.

The recall affects 2006 3 Series, 2004-2006 5 Series, and 2004-2006 X3 SUVs. BMW stated that so far there have been no injuries attributed to the defect.

For some reason, I feel this would be a much bigger story had it been GM, Ford, or Chrysler.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Audi RS6 revealed

Originally scheduled to debut at the Paris Motor Show, the Audi RS6 has been exposed ahead of schedule. Audi released the info on the 2009 RS6 yesterday and it promises to be one hell of a super sedan.

The car will be powered by a 5.0L direct injected V10 with a pair of turbochargers hanging off of it. The boosted V10 produces 580HP/479TQ which should be good enough to rocket the RS6 to 60mph in 4.5 seconds. As is the tradition with German hot rods, the top speed is electronically limited to 155mph.

Switching gears is the responsibility of a six speed tiptronic automatic with manual mode, sending power to the Audi Quattro system. The suspension comes with Dynamic Ride Control which has three settings: sport, dynamic and comfort.

Nineteen inch wheels wearing 255/40/19s surround large six piston front brakes and single piston rear. Twenty inch wheels are optional and they will fit around Audi's optional ceramic brake package.

The RS6 along with the newly revised A6 should go on sale in October.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lexus delaying new models

The situation is getting worse and worse for the major auto manufacturers. Most are cutting back production of larger vehicles and SUVs and trucks in favor of smaller, more fuel efficient models. You know it's bad when Toyota is affected. Toyota and their luxury brand Lexus both sport vehicle lineups that are loaded with large SUVs and trucks. Because of that, Lexus' sales are on a continuing trend downward.

That is why it appears that Lexus has decided to put a hold on their planned "hot rod" GS-F sedan. The car would most likely be a pretty big gas drinker and Lexus isn't sure there will be a market for it when it's finally ready. The Lexus SC model will also be discontinued because no one cares about it. But, have no fear, Lexus will be introducing a version of the upcoming new Prius, yuck.

On top of this, the very long awaited and delayed LF-A supercar has been delayed once again. According to reports, this may be in part to continue development due to disappointing performance results. Or could it be that the bar was just raised out of their reach by the Nissan GTR and the Corvette ZR1. And don't forget the Honda NSX mule running around with the goal to beat anything on the 'Ring.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Nissan delays GTR V-Spec until early 2009

Nissan announced that the much anticipated GTR V-Spec has been delayed for undisclosed reasons until early 2009. The car was originally scheduled to be released later this year in Japan. Instead, Nissan will release a mid model GTR named either Evolution or S-Tune. The car will feature parts from the NISMO line which were fitted on the race spec GTR. The NISMO parts line for the GTR will be released later this month and includes aero parts, suspension upgrades, exhaust, wheels, and ECU upgrades.