Monday, January 30, 2017

New Class Race Cars in Classes for the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona

Photo Credit: General Motors

This weekend kicks off the official start of the auto racing season in North America for 2017. The 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course within the Florida motorsport complex called Daytona International Speedway hosts a large field of teams and drivers competing for a once around the clock event. The debut race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona is a fresh opportunity to ring in a new year on a highest note.

For 2017, big changes to the Prototype and GT Daytona class for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will create some new sights to behold for race fans. Thanks to a series of rules designed to make competition vehicles comply closer to the regulations of international racing sanctioning bodies such as the ACO and FIA, some new pieces of motoring technology are incorporated within the grid. Debuting in the top class for the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona, DPi (Daytona Prototype international) features race cars sharing LM P2 chassis and suspension components originating from four manufacturers. DPi cars can be tailored by car brand entities such as automakers with special bodywork and engine power. The new vehicle specifications succeed the previous DP category race vehicles.

In the season opener for the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Daytona, six all-new race cars will be engaged in the ultimate christening.

Cadillac DPi-V.R 

Photo Credit: General Motors

The Cadillac DPi-V.R is one of several new cars complying with the updated class regulations that will compete alongside conventional LM P2 cars in a general prototype category in 2017.

Marking Cadillac’s return to prototypes after a lukewarm 2000-2002 effort in the American Le Mans Series, the 2017 vehicle is mainly a race-bred shape but incorporates several cues belonging to the luxury car brand. Vertical LED front and rear light strips as well as canopy graphics depicting a side window line on the DPi-V.R are some features found on the production Cadillacs such as the CTS or XT5.

Reflecting Cadillac’s production high-performance CTS-V sedan, a 6.2-liter V-8 engine is used to power the 2017 DPi-V.R although in a different configuration. Instead of a supercharged 640-horsepower engine found on the current CTS-V, the powerplant used on the Cadillac DPi-V.R is naturally aspirated and is restricted to produce around 600 horsepower. A dry sump oiling system and sequential transmission are also special to the prototype race car.

The Cadillac Dpi-V.R is an indirect replacement to the Chevrolet Corvette DP race car.  Ran from 2012 to 2016 in Grand Am and later in what is now known as IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the Corvette DP was the instrument used to lock the 2016 Prototype class manufacturers’ title.

Acura NSX GT3

Photo Credit: Honda North America 

When an auto manufacturer builds a sports car or supercar, there is nothing like motorsport competition to add legitimacy to high-performance engineering and speed-tuning. Starting at the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona, Acura looks to promote the character of their NSX supercar by partnering with the experienced operation of Michael Shank Racing.

Competing in the production-based GT Daytona category, the Acura NSX GT3 reflects much of the road-going supercar’s design despite using custom bodywork. Aerodynamically augmented to the race track, the NSX GT3 competition car is identified by enlarged hood vents, prominent rear deck wing, underbody diffuser and other minor tweaks. Underneath the body, the Acura NSX GT3 utilizes a production-based aluminum space frame.

The most notable differentiation of the Acura NSX GT3 from its production model is the powertrain. Unlike the 2017 Acura NSX’s Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive configuration, the race version is only powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 engine channelling propulsion solely to its rear wheels. The engine used in the NSX GT3 shares much of its technical design with the production supercar including the block, cylinder heads, crankshaft and dry sump oiling system. A race-purpose six-speed sequential transmission is in place instead of a dual-clutch gearbox.

Arriving with a high-profile appearance for 2017, the Acura NSX had actually competed at the Rolex 24 at Daytona 20 years ago. A Mark Hein-entered NSX raced in the GTS-3 category for the 1997 Daytona endurance race finishing in 71st place overall completing just 90 laps.

Mercedes-AMG GT3

Photo Credit: Daimler AG

Not an entirely new race car for 2017, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 is making its debut at this year’s 24-hour event on the Daytona International Speedway road course. Late last year, Mercedes-Benz announced involvement with Riley Motorsports and SunEnergy1 Racing.

First racing intentionally in late 2015, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 race car had been competing on the Blacpain GT Series where it won two sprint races as well as an Endurance Cup race at Silverstone in 2016. Produced based on the Mercedes-AMG GT supercar, the competition car incorporates modifications such as its large rear wing and a widened stance. An extensive use of carbon fiber components is a considerable characteristic for the GT3 car. Borrowed and enhanced from the SLS AMG GT3 race car, the Mercedes-AMG GT3's naturally-aspirated 6.3-liter V-8 engine is planted under the car’s long hood.

Porsche 911 RSR

Photo Credit: Porsche Car North America

Porsche’s success at the Rolex 24 at Daytona is record-setting. Since 1968, overall wins alone total 18 as a car make and an additional four as the engine supplier of the winning car. An additional 76 class victories prior to the 2017 race also serve to promote the brand as one of the most successful in the Daytona sports car race.

The Porsche 911 RSR is only new car included in the ultra-competitive GTLM class where the sports car specialist has to contend against the Chevrolet Corvette C7.R and the Ford GT. Although the general styling of Porsche 911 vehicles has maintained a general correlation for more than 50 years, the new 911 RSR model has actually been completely redesigned in Weissach, Germany. A new body structure, aerodynamic tailoring that includes a large rear diffuser and revised suspension is found on the 2017 Porsche 911 RSR. Along with improvements to handling and downforce, the rear-mounted, 4.0-liter boxer-style six-cylinder engine can generate up to 510 horsepower.

Lexus RC F GT3

Photo Credit: Toyota Motor Sales USA

Powering the overall winner of the Rolex 24 at Daytona for three consecutive years from 2006 to 2008 with Chip Ganassi Racing, Luxury car company Lexus is taking a new approach to the endurance race for 2017.

Pledging involvement to the GT Daytona class for this year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Lexus and the 3GT Racing team (formed by Scott Pruett and Paul Gentilozzi) are fielding two race cars based on the RC F Coupe. The specially-prepped Lexus RC F GT3 uses a modified version of the 5.0-liter V-8 engine found in the production car. Technical specifications set out by the RC F GT3 when unveiled in late 2014 featured a race vehicle that is 4 inches longer in overall length and is considerably wider than the showroom example of the coupe. Wheelbase length remains consistent between the race and production car. Weight of the Lexus RC F GT3 is also significantly lower than the road-going coupe.

Lexus and 3GT Racing originally intended to debut the RC F GT3 coupe on the track in 2016 competition in the United States but would have to wait until this year to compete in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. The 2017 car did race at the Nurburgring last year where it won in the VLN Endurance Championship.  

Mazda RT24-P  

Celebrating its 25th anniversary of a 24 Hours of Le Mans win last year, Mazda is still hunting for an overall victory at another popular daylong event at the Daytona International Speedway. Built in a quest of conquering another 24-hour race, Mazda unleashes its 2017 challenger in prototype competition called the RT24-P.

The vehicle’s use of 24 in the nameplate relates to both the Mazda Road to 24 driver development program and the presence of a 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine. Compared to its past motorsport efforts that consisted of rotary engines and most recently diesel power, Mazda’s all-new RT24-P explores a relatively more conventional route in powertrain performance. Replacing the unsuccessful SkyActiv-D diesel engine that ran in 2014 and 2015, the 600-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter power unit used for 2017 was introduced into last year’s prototype race car.

All-new modern look from the Mazda RT24-P complements the KODO design theme the Japanese automaker has incorporated across their production vehicles. A marriage of function and pleasing style, KODO design emphasizes an aerodynamic shape with muscular proportions. A five-point Mazda grille is also applied to the RT24-P. Mazda switches from their previous Lola chassis to a Riley chassis developed in relations with Multimatic for the new prototype machine.

The Mazda RT24-P as well as the other race cars will be making their debuts at Daytona but will be making many more appearances across the motorsport world in this upcoming year.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Bizarre Events of the 2016 Auto Racing Season

Photo Credit: Foto Studio Columbo Per Pirelli Media

By many people, by many respects, the 2016 year will be remembered in an oddly unpleasant way. As there have been so many bad events in history in previous years, we have found this recently completed one being a period of collective sadness, mourning and a time where unforseen occurrences were far too common. In auto racing, 2016 was not immune to perceived wackiest the year apparently brought.

Ahead of a 2017 year of memorable and potentially shocking racing moments (a year that has already included the hiatus of Carl Edwards in NASCAR), there’s time to reflect on some most astoundingly wacky 2016 events.

No Tea Party For IndyCar in Boston

Ryan Hunter-Reay #28 Car Being Rolled Out of Paddock Area
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

If you are a fan of IndyCar racing, you would be aware of the surrealistic sight of seeing everyday city streets or urban areas converted into high-speed thrill zones. For those who also pay attention to the frequency of new venues being added while others are taken away, you would be aware how challenging it could be for promoters to maintain a temporary city race course appeasing fans, competitors, sponsors as well as the city itself. Even the most earnest attempts by promoters can conclude short of being an annual event like the Long Beach Grand Prix or the Honda Indy Toronto.

The Grand Prix of Boston was intent to be a labour day weekend party headlined by the Verizon IndyCar Series. After building up the event as a prominent penultimate round for the 2016 season, the Grand Prix of Boston was abruptly cancelled in late April after the race organizer Grand Prix Boston failed to get approval from city departments for the 2.25-mile course planned for the race weekend.

In recent months, the plot has thickened behind the failed Grand Prix of Boston as the local news focus has turned towards the use of funds by the organizer and CEO. Under bankruptcy filings, spending by the Boston Grand Prix has been heavily scrutinized with allegations money was being misused. Wild local news stories with assets being frozen by a bankruptcy judge and Boston Grand Prix CEO John Casey defending himself against charges of wrongdoing are definitely not the show race fans were expecting to see. IndyCar needed to provide $925,000 of its own funds to partially refund advance ticket holders.

As a silver lining to the cancellation of the Grand Prix of Boston street race, IndyCar replaced the date with a popular return to the Watkins Glen road course in 2016.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Sidelined for Half a NASCAR Season 

Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images

A form of auto racing that has a reputation for on-track competition, stock car racing within the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is often the most guaranteed to provide entertainment value to spectators. However, recent years have seen that reputation tarnished with 2016 delivering several less than enjoyable moments within the lengthy 36-race regular season. We had several races that lacked suspense such as Martin Truex Jr’s win in the Coca-Cola 600 and Kyle Busch’s uneventful Brickyard 400 victory allowing the series to be classified as a sleep remedy even as V-8 engines roared. The first two rounds of this season’s Chase (a 10-race elimination-style playoff NASCAR bills as a climactic conclusion) proved dull. Finally, third difficulty in watching the full NASCAR Sprint Cup season in 2016 was the absence of Dale Earnhardt Jr in the second part of the tour.
Following two heavy impacts at Talladega and Michigan races, Earnhardt Jr was diagnosed with the symptoms of a concussion. Following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Kentucky race, the news broke that Alex Bowman would drive the #88 Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports. Initially dealt as temporary a couple races in the 2016 season, Dale Earnhardt Jr’s concussion-like injury would sideline the driver for the remainder of the year’s competition.

Before withdrawing from competition for the remainder of the year due to the concussion symptoms, the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup was not shaping up to be a banner season for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Uncharacteristic moments where the restrictor plate ace loss control in the Daytona 500 and Talladega were themselves a surreal sight.

Even though Earnhardt’s season was cut short, NASCAR fans remained extremely loyal to the driver. Pinpointing the importance of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s appearance on the NASCAR Cup Series starting grid, the regular driver of the #88 Chevrolet was crowned the NMPA Most Popular Driver award for the 14th consecutive occasion.

Rookie Rossi Captures 100th Running of Indy 500

Photo Credit: John Cote/IndyCar

In every case of conventional auto racing, the general object is to reach a distance before all competitors to win. Although the distances are not set in endurance matches such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, other events such as the Daytona 500 or the classic Indianapolis 500 feature a prescribed race length. Sometimes to win you can completely outpace a competitor or simply use strategy. Fuel can become a manner where some winners can prosper. While the concept of winning a race on a fuel mileage gamble doesn’t sit right with all racing fans, the action decided the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 leading to a popular rookie winner.  

In an event where 2014 Indy 500 victor Ryan Hunter-Reay and pole sitter James Hinchcliffe led a sizable portion of the 200 laps, the majority of the front-running IndyCar machines required a stop for fuel. Deciding to push every last drop of E85 from their fuel cell, the Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian team’s #98 entry driven by Alexander Rossi stayed on track emerging in the lead with three laps remaining in the 500-mile race. Through aggressive fuel management on the final laps, the American driver succeeded in winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500.

The 24-year-old Rossi pulled off an accomplishment in his young career many highly-experienced drivers have stride to claim. A win that came from a practical long-shot, Alexander Rossi was supported by a race team that fielded another surprise win in 2011 when the late Dan Wheldon entered victory lane after a dramatic finish.

On-loan to the United States Verizon IndyCar Series from Formula 1's Minor Racing, Alexander Rossi’s victory in his first Indy 500 as well as his 5th IndyCar race has left the American driver with a bright open wheel racing future for 2017 and beyond.

New Ford GT Wins Le Mans in Debut Appearance 

Photo Credit: Ford Motor Company

In United States automotive history, the creation of Ford’s revenge attack on Ferrari at the Le Mans 24-Hour race is a legendary story. In the 1960s, a failed purchase of Italian sports car company led Ford to create their own race car called the GT40. Winning the race in 1966 on route to what would be a total of 3 consecutive victories, the Ford GT40 is enshrined as one of greatest vehicles built by the blue oval. Paying tribute to the car in the mid-2000s with the Ford GT, a 2017 revival of the supercar was accompanied by a race effort that included a return to Le Mans as a production-based GTE entrant.

A factory-supported effort with Chip Ganassi Racing at the helm, the Ford GT’s presence at its first race on Daytona International Speedway was immediately high-profile. By the way the media talked up the Ford GT race car at the Rolex 24 at Daytona debut, it gave the impression the car would have won the race overall. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s  two-car effort with the Ford GT was complicated in its first race but the #67 car would find victory lane in its fourth event driven by Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook. The effort would win again at Detroit’s Belle Isle before focus was turned to France for the 24-hour race.

On the 50th anniversary of the famous first GT40 win at the classic endurance event, the four-car Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team took the pole in the LMGTE Pro category with the #68 vehicle. At the end of 24 hours, the #68 Ford GT crossed the line first ahead of Risi Competizione who ironically fielded a Ferrari. While the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team celebrated the on-track result, the outcome would not be finalized until days after the race. Ferrari filed a protest against the Ford GT claiming the car exceeded a so-called performance window set by the ACO sanctioning body of the race. Ford countered with charges against the runner-up #82 Ferrari 488 GTE. The conclusion was two penalties for the #68 Ford GT connected to a faulty wheel speed sensor and speeding through a Slow Zone. Resulting in a total 70 seconds lost on track, the penalty would have shifted the win to the Risi Competizione Ferrari if not for 20-second penalty assessed against the team in post-race for broken leader lights. The Ford GT retained the victory after some resorting after the checkered flag.

As the performance window violation resulted in no affect to the race outcome, there has been some suspicion uttered on Internet message boards Ford was allowed to compete with an overpowered race car. Some suggested there was a desire to see the Ford GT win Le Mans on the anniversary of its first win.

Audi Cuts Prototype Program For 2017

Photo Credit: Ferdi Kräling Motorsport-Bild GmbH

When the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship ended in Bahrain on November 19th, an era of a motorsport juggernaut concluded. After operating as one of the most successful factory Le Mans prototype teams, Audi Sport put an end to their top-tiered sports car racing program. First endeavouring into the sports car prototype category in 1999 with a closed-cockpit R8C and R8R roadster, Audi’s sophomore effort with the R8 race car laid the foundation for a dynasty. The Audi R8 proved a dominating force that steamrolled the competition on almost any track in 2000 and would maintain its reign until the car was retired in favour of the R10. After the R10, Audi competed with the R15, R15 plus and several variations of the R18 all obtaining a high level of success.

Over the course of 18 years, the Audi Sport prototype effort captured 13 wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 11 victories at the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. As a fitting end to the Audi Sport R18 e-tron quattro’s success, the team won its final race at Bahrain in a one-two finish amounting to the squad’s 107th victory.

Through Audi Sport’s reign in the prototype category, their vehicles would become previews for a considerable amount of groundbreaking automotive technologies that shortly found its way into production cars. Victories at the 24 Hours of  Le Mans allowed Audi Sport to claim  several firsts in the deployment of new technologies. Gasoline direct injection in 2001, TDI diesel power in 2006, LED headlights in 2010 and hybrid propelled car in 2012 with a diesel/electric powertrain.

While the factory-based Audi Sport effort in prototype is dropped following the 2016 season, there remains an understanding that the R18 e-tron quattro race car could be campaigned by a private team able to afford the vehicle.

Chris Buescher Wins Pocono & Qualifies For Cup Series Chase

Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

2016 was the third season where the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship was settled by a multi-tier chase format involving 16 drivers. Through the first 26 races, the object for drivers is to win at lease one event and maintain a points position inside the top-30 in the standings. Often an easy feat among full-time top teams, the second aspect was an obstacle for Kyle Busch in the 2015 season after missing the first 11 races due to injury at Daytona. In that case, the driver of the #18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing recovered, won several races, entered the top-30 in points and proceeded to become the champion through the Chase. For the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tour, an outcome at Pocono Raceway July race brought a similar scenario that served as both an underdog’s triumph and a wacky assembly for the Sprint Cup Chase.

The Pennsylvania 400 was settled not by 160 laps but by an onset of fog past the halfway point. In a gamble, the James Buescher driven #34 Ford Fusion owned by Front Row Motorsports decided to remain on the race track while many teams have already made pit stops. When the caution came out on lap 133 for weather, it was a gamble to take the lead as the fuel load onboard for #34 car ran lower. Luckily for Buescher and the Front Row Motorsports group, the fog only intensified to the point the race was called at lap 138 resulting in a pure upset victory. A rookie win by Chris Buescher, it was the second time in victory lane for Front Row Motorsports who also captured the 2013 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Unlike the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup victory by Front Row Motorsports, the 2016 trophy at Ponoco also represented a chance to take part in the Chase playoffs. Despite the surprise win, the #34 Ford Fusion was largely a mediocre contender on track through the 2016 season leaving a big question of whether the team can break into the top 30 in points before Chicagoland. A 5th place at the Bristol short track and a 17th at Darlington served as meaningful efforts that insured the underdog race organization were able to obtain their playoff berth.

Within the Chase, a Cinderella story ended as the Front Row Motorsports #34 team was little match against front-running cars from competitors such as Hendrick Motorsports, Penske Racing or Joe Gibbs Racing. With the best finish being a 23rd at Dover, Buescher was out of the Chase in the first round.

For 2017, Chris Buescher and the Front Row Motorsports team have separated with the driver named to a new second car at JTG Daugherty Racing. Landon Cassill is taking over the #34 machine.  

Nico Rosberg Wins F1 Championship; Makes Surprise Retirement

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

The 2016 Formula 1 season provided one of the most engaging driver title battles in years. For the first time since 2012, the championship came down to the final grand prix of the season. Among the favoured Mercedes AMG cars, drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg proceeded to test their equal equipment as well as the nerves of their team’s personnel with a testy back-and-forth battle all season.

In the very contested 2016 championship battle, it would have appeared the reigning champion Hamilton would have the advantage. Frankly, there seemed to have been a preference of Hamilton to Rosberg by British motorsport media outlets (but far be it for me to criticize falling victim to national pride). Many regarded Lewis Hamilton as a superior driver and Nico Rosberg as lacking the ability to outmatch his teammate prior to the season starting. However, Nico Rosberg’s four consecutive victories kicking off 2016 followed by three straight wins closing out 2015 silenced naysaying until the midpoint of this past Formula 1 season. Some miscues by Rosberg and Hamilton’s return to championship form during the early part of the summer allowed an actual fight for the title to develop. An advantage Nico Rosberg obtained for several races following the Formula 1 summer break was just enough to fend off Hamilton for the World Drivers’ Championship by a five-point margin.

Claiming the greatest treasure in the Formula 1 world in a stunningly hotly-contested title race, Nico Rosberg shocked the world again by announcing his retirement. Stating that his dream has been fulfilled by the Formula 1 championship, Rosberg also commented stresses related to battling for the title and balancing his family influenced the choice to back away from the sport. The decision to quit racing for the German is a rare moment where the reigning World Champion will not be part of an upcoming season.

Mercedes AMG recruited Williams Martini Racing’s Valtteri Bottas to join Lewis Hamilton for the 2017 season.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Lamborghini Achieves Production Records In 2016; Reaffirms Urus SUV

Photo Credit: Automobili Lamborghini

Although 2016 resided in the ‘Year of the Monkey”, one major Italian automaker was lifted by a year of the bull according to sales numbers.

A year where Lamborghini spent time to commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Miura, a car that arguably gave relevance to the term ‘supercar’, the exotic vehicle constructor also left 2016 on a joyful note. Lamborghini achieved historic record sales globally through the past 12-month period by sending 3,457 of their latest high-performance vehicles into elite hands of the wealthy and socially affluent. This recent all-time achievement for Lamborghini follows up last year’s successful run of 3,245 vehicles. The 2016 year’s 7 percent increase over the previous year is also the sixth consecutive time where the sports car builder posted growth.

According for the majority of 2016 Lamborghini models was the V-10 powered Huracan. Lamborghini Huracan and Spyder variants totalled to 2,353 of the 3,457 vehicles sold last year. Introduced in 2014, the Huracan was immediately loaded with the responsibility of succeeding one of the most prolific cars that wore the bull badge. Assembled over a 10-year run, the Lamborghini Gallardo ended its production run with a total of 14,022 built. With the conclusion of 2016, the Lamborghini Huracan now exceeds 6,200 examples constructed.    

While 2/3rds of Lamborghini sales reflected popularity of the Huracan, the brand’s flagship Aventador also enjoyed a stellar showing in 2016. Crossing the 1,000 vehicles per year threshold after the 2015 calender year, the twelve-cylinder Lamborghini Aventador closed out this recently parted year with 1,104 models produced. The 2016 model year for the Aventador included the 50-car Miura Homage edition. A limited-run Lamborghini Centenario, based on the Aventador and sold as a coupe and roadster, also accounted for production last year.

From the 3,457 Lamborghini’s produced in 2016, 1,041 were destined to the United States. According to Automotive News Canada, Canadian sales of Lamborghini were assessed at 160 vehicles after November 2016. The Italian brand also celebrated record sales in European regions, the Middle East, Africa and on the Asian continent.

As an apparent treat to the growing customer base for the supercar builder, a much-anticipated third Lamborghini model has now been locked into the production forecast. The sport crossover vehicle teased for the first time in 2012 is finally going to become part of the Lamborghini lineup starting in 2018. With five years passing between the concept car and the construction of the consumer model, we’ll have to wait and see how much of the original premium crossover design will be found when the first Urus will leave its Sant’Agata Bolognese manufacturing facility. Upgraded capacity at the Sant’Agata Bolognese plant is scheduled to be completed this year tailored to meet production records in the future. The Lamborghini Urus will be the first utility-style vehicle entrant by the auto company since the rugged LM002.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Volkswagen Again Revisits Retro Microbus Concept With I.D. BUZZ Design

Photo Credit: Volkswagen AG

Automakers around for a long time are often presented with the opportunity to relive some proud moments. Production milestones, anniversaries of key dates or the continuation of a popular vehicle model name are moments to cerebrate past achievements often in a manner meant to connect a brand’s past and present. Using one of their more culturally significant designs, Volkswagen’s presence at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit is anchored by a vintage Microbus charm loaded with their latest smart vehicle technology.

Photo Credit: Volkswagen AG

The latest glimpse at Volkswagen’s post-diesel focus on electrification as a manner of cleaner motoring, the I.D. BUZZ concept re-imagines the utility and personality belonging to the 1960s Volkswagen vans for a 21st century climate. Exterior design cues from the original Volkswagen Microbus is translated into modern times on a 194.6-inch (4.943-meter) long platform that is an extended version of the basis for the I.D. concept car introduced at the Paris Motor Show. Aside from its van shape, the I.D. BUZZ differentiates itself with a two-motor powertrain. Assembled to deliver all-wheel drive propulsion, the two electric motors of the Volkswagen I.D. BUZZ combines for 369 horsepower. A 111-kWh battery is projected to allow the van to travel 270 miles (470 kilometers) based on United States fuel economy estimates.

Photo Credit: Volkswagen AG

Utilizing the van-like physique, the Volkswagen I.D. BUZZ promotes practicality available through the electric vehicle design. The cabin is configured to seat up to eight occupants. In tradition to the popular camper variant of the original Microbus, the I.D. BUZZ’s third row seat can be converted to a bed while the second row seating transforms into tables. A Silver Birch wood floor lines the lower part of the vehicle’s cabin while a roof incorporating to two glass panels adds a natural feeling to the concept van. Ample Storage inside the Volkswagen I.D. BUZZ Two luggage compartments.

In keeping with Volkswagen’s I.D. concept vehicle range’s ambitions, this latest concept exhibits the automaker’s full optimization of smart technology. Improving vehicle function along with passenger comfort, some of the connected gear employed on the electric concept design is automated driving applying laser scanners, ultrasonic and radar sensors as well as cameras along with traffic data relayed to cloud-based communications.  The operator’s hands of the Volkswagen I.D. BUZZ grips a touch-sensitive steering wheel and absorbs information through an augmented reality heads-up display system. A full suite of safety aids such as Blind Spot Monitor, the beam of LED headlamps and an eMirror system support the driver. Ambient lighting surrounds the occupants inside the car while comprehensive I.D. Box infotainment control can be integrated with Bluetooth-enabled portable devices.  

Photo Credit: Volkswagen AG

For those keeping count, this is the third time Volkswagen has rekindled the character of their famous Microbus in concept car form. For the 2001 auto show in Detroit, a Microbus Concept debuted and was almost a production reality car. Ten years later, the Bulli Concept revisited the Microbus styling as a fully electric vehicle.  Volkswagen can easily be forgiven for its desire to revisit what may be the most attractive, charismatic van designs ever produced.

While the I.D. BUZZ name seemingly resembling the professional moniker of a late 1980s or early 1990s rap star, Volkswagen is serious in a focus for electrified vehicles. By 2025, the German automaker wants fully electric powertrains to account for one million of their vehicles sold per year.  

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ford Enters 2017 With A Vision Deeper Into The Future

2016 Ford Mustang California Special
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

The Detroit-based North American International Auto Show has always fueled an early release of potentially game-charging designs and vehicle philosophies from automakers (with American companies traditionally reserving some of their most pivotal presentations). After the course of recent history, Ford Motor Company hasn't been afraid to make some noise on the departure or arrival of a new year. In December 2013, the current generation Mustang broke cover ahead of the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit while a new F-150 pickup truck debuted for that same exhibition. The following year, Ford decided to retain the suspense for the show introducing two EcoBoost-propelled, high-performance models in the form of the GT supercar and the F-150 Raptor. Ahead of the 2017 edition of the important automotive event, the blue oval has set out some remarkable new plans that includes adding electrified powertrains to some iconic Ford vehicles with the start of the next decade.

Envisioning a new stage of motoring employing electricity for moving their vehicles with greater efficiency, Ford's beloved Mustang pony car and celebrated F-150 pickup truck will be given hybrid technology. Planned for 2020, details for the two hybrid propelled variants of the Ford Mustang and Ford F-150 is light. Ford has only said that the upcoming F-150 Hybrid will feature powerful towing and payload hauling abilities while also pledging the truck can operate as a mobile generator (Similar to what was accomplished with the 2004-2007 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra hybrid truck). In the case of what can be expected from a Ford Mustang Hybrid, V-8 engine performance with strong low-end torque is promised.

Intentions of hybrid-powered Ford F-150 and Ford Mustang by 2020 is only a tip of the iceberg for what the auto company has in store for electrified driving. A fully-electric compact sport utility crossover vehicle is slated for introduction at the same time as the two before-mentioned hybrids. The unnamed electric vehicle will boast a battery capacity allowing the automobile to exceed 300 miles on a single charge. A plug-in hybrid version of the Ford Transit van will be distributed in European countries by 2019. Electrified performance is also set to become a priority for law enforcement vehicles with two hybrid choices set to be offered within the next several years.

It's remarkable to consider the depth of hybrid or electric vehicles from the current and future Ford Motor Company. Following a period where Toyota and Honda were launching multiple hybrid vehicles, Ford emerged in the late-half of the 2000s with the Escape Hybrid as well as the Fusion Hybrid (badge engineering also created the Mariner sport utility and Milan sedan under the now-defunct Mercury brand). An automaker that played a gigantic role in the destruction of the electric car during the early part of the 20th century, production of all-electric vehicles started with the limited fleet sales of the Ford Transit Connect van and later with the widely available Focus Electric.

Coinciding with specific product plans, Ford Motor Company has pledged a $700 million investment into the ongoing research of electric vehicle technology and autonomous motoring. Funding for the expanded research will be made easier following the now-cancelled plans for a new manufacturing facility in Mexico. Construction of the $1.6 billion plant in San Lius Potosi, Mexico is seen as less popular due to cost and apparent changes in political policies in the United States. While backing out on plans to build a new plant in Mexico, Ford Motor Company is still committed production south of the United States border. Production of the Ford Fusion, Lincoln MKZ is occurring at the Hermosillo Stamping and Assembly Plant while construction of Fiesta subcompacts takes place at in Cuautitlan. Ford is also committed to route production of the next generation Focus through the Hermosillo facility.

With the approach of the 2017 Detroit auto show, these new year revelations for the present and future of Ford Motor Company reveals the healthy process of innovation remaining in full force.