Archive for February 2015

NAIAS 2015. Detroit Impressions

Detroit Motor Show, officially known as NAIAS (North American International Auto Show) has been an impressive start of the automobile world into a new year for 25 years. Being a Canadian auto journalist, I have been regularly attending this great show since 2011.

Detroit this year presents a number of attractive and provocative topics from efforts to reach the passionate CAFE targets to autonomous driving to a design renaissance. Each of these topics deserve a particular attention. However, I will focus on one topic:

Like every year, NAIAS 2015 in Detroit attracted thousands of journalists from all over the world.

Like every year, NAIAS 2015 in Detroit attracted thousands of journalists from all over the world.

The main lesson I draw from this year’s show was a simple one: Whether gasoline or diesel, the internal combustion engine (ICE), the heart of almost each motor vehicle, is one of the longest-lasting and most successful inventions in the history of mankind. It has been 127 years since Mrs. Bertha Benz, Karl Benz’s courageous wife completed the first long-range automobile journey in the history. And the ICE is to stay with us for a couple more decades.

I am not telling you this just because of a 50 per cent drop in gasoline prices in the last six months. Just to the contrary, several manufacturers presented their hybrid and all-electric vehicles in a way, as if they were not aware of this drop. It is probably wise to say that, looking from a broader perspective, those manufacturers are more focused on CO2 emissions (or reduction of it) rather than the consumption itself.

About two and a half years ago, the Obama Administration set a CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) target of 54.4 mpg for 2025. In European terms, it corresponds to an average of 4.3 liters per 100 kilometers. As the name implies this figure represents the average consumption of all vehicles of a manufacturer.

This target would be much more easily (and almost immediately) achievable if a company would produce only compact and subcompact cars such as Toyota Corolla and Ford Fiesta. However, the portfolios of North American manufacturers consist of different models up to 3-ton-trucks. Furthermore, recent, low gas prices encourage people to buy more of big trucks and SUV’s, shifting the balance towards “north”. With gas prices about 1.65 dollars per gallon, the incentives to reach the 2015 target are not good and companies face a big challenge at first sight. But, with a closer look at the industry, I am glad to see that things are moving in thr right direction.

Arguably the biggest news in Detroit came from the manufacturer in Dearborn, MI. Ford demonstrated one of the biggest innovations of recent years in the industry. Starting with the 2015 model, the “Blue Oval Company” switches to an all-aluminium body in the production of its top selling vehicle, the F-150 truck. Considering the fact, that this legendary truck is the top-selling vehicle in North America for almost half a century, you will understand the scope of change and the business risk Ford undertakes. With a weight reduction of up to 317 kilograms for the F-150, Ford’s goal is to make a big difference in this category and come closer to 2015 CAFE standards.

The all-aluminium body of the 2015 Ford F-150 is perfect example of technological innovation and strategic business risk with rewards.

The all-aluminium body of the 2015 Ford F-150 is perfect example of technological innovation and strategic business risk with rewards.

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SMDI (Steel Market Development Institute), the lobby organisation of the American steel producers, presented the latest steel applications in the automotive industry thus reminding us that the competition between steel and aluminium will intensify.

As the engines get smaller, the additional power comes more and more (on-demand) from turbo-charging instead of displacement. This is another step towards CAFE target while staying loyal to ICE.

General Motors introduced the upcoming Chevrolet Volt, a vehicle with a gas generator as range extender supporting the battery instead of directly moving the vehicle. This system eliminates the range anxiety, which is still an impediment for electric vehicles, with a market share of about 1 per cent in North America. Nevertheless, you should not expect a big change for electric vehicles as long as the gas prices stay so low.

Realistically we can expect more popularity of hybrid vehicles that can combine the advantages of conventional engines and cleaner driving while using the existing infrastructure. No charging stations are required (except plug-in hybrids to a certain extent).

The German Schaeffler Group presented a number of innovations such as new automatic transmissions, decoupling systems for four-wheel vehicles, new roller bearings that reduce friction, and new variable diameter pulleys for CVT transmissions.

Newest generation, 9-speed automatic transmission, developed by the German Schaeffler Group raise the bar for full harnessing the engine's potential and to generate a flat, torque curve

Newest generation, 9-speed automatic transmission, developed by the German Schaeffler Group raise the bar for full harnessing the engine’s potential and to generate a flat, torque curve.

Conclusion: With hundreds of innovations and improvements, driven by tens of manufacturers and hundreds of suppliers, we have a good chance to reach the 2015 CAFE targets while keeping ICE. The principle will be the same, but we will have much more efficient and effective engines.

All-electric or hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles still remain largely experimental with a tiny market share.

No matter how much one gallon of gas will cost in 2020, the industry looks capable of reducing CO2 emissions from 172 to 130 grams per 100 kilometers.

With the 2008 financial crisis in the almost distant past, The North American Automotive Industry is capable of achieving this goal.

 

Highlights from Detroit 2015

NAIAS 2015. Ford GT

Ford GT was arguably the star of this year's Detroit Auto Show

Ford GT was arguably the star of this year’s Detroit Auto Show

The GT will boost the image of already successful Ford to higher skies

The GT will boost the image of already successful Ford to higher skies

 

The new MKX is a bold statement that Ford is very serious about making Lincoln a luxury brand that can survive in the long term.

The new MKX is a bold statement that Ford is very serious about making Lincoln a luxury brand that can survive in the long term.

NAIAS 2015. Luxury in Motion NAIAS 2015. Luxury in Motion

F 015 Luxury in Motion Concept from Mercedes is an intellectual and design exercise on the not so distant future of mobility.

F 015 Luxury in Motion Concept from Mercedes is an intellectual and design exercise on the somewhat distant future of mobility.

NAIAS 2015. Luxury in Motion

NAIAS 2015. Acura NSX NAIAS 2015. Acura NSX

The Acura NSX is an impressive car that would and should hardly see the light of the highway in a country with decades-old speed limits. Who will build new racetracks?

The Acura NSX is an impressive car that would and should hardly see the light of the highway in a country with decades-old speed limits. (Except racetracks of course)
NAIAS 2015. Mercedes Maybach

NAIAS 2015. Mercedes Maybach

Maybach returns as a subbrand of Mercedes, the range-topping version of the S-Class

Maybach returns as a sub-brand of Mercedes, the range-topping version of the S-Class

NAIAS 2015. Alfa Romeo 4C NAIAS 2015. Alfa Romeo 4C

Alfa Romeo returns to North America with the 4C. VW was so willing and passionate to acquire this brand a couple of years ago.

Alfa Romeo returns to North America with the 4C. VW was so willing and passionate to acquire this brand a couple of years ago. The FCA Boss always said “No”

NAIAS 2015. Buick Avenir Concept NAIAS 2015. Buick Avenir Concept NAIAS 2015. Buick Avenir Concept NAIAS 2015. Buick Avenir Concept

 

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2015 Range Rover Sport 5.0 V8 S/C Autobiography

The British “Uber-SUV” Delivers the Best of Two Worlds

Range Rover (or should I say Land Rover (LR), the broader term and company name, which covers both Land and Range) is arguably one of the top names when we think of a vehicles that can go beyond the asphalt and paved roads.

No matter how the surface is, Range Rover is able to transmit power to the four wheels effectively.

No matter how the surface is, Range Rover is able to transmit power to the four wheels effectively.

 

Torque vectoring is one of many high tech features the Range Rover has for superb off-road driving in snow, mud or gravel.

Torque vectoring is one of many high tech features the Range Rover has for superb off-road driving in snow, mud or gravel.

What would be a better alternative the the Range Rover in South Ontarian winter.

What would be a better alternative the the Range Rover in South Ontarian winter.

I wish I would have a red or blue vehicle for a better picture.

I wish I would have a red or blue vehicle for a better picture.

This name has been part of the automobile history since 1948 and sold in more than 140 countries. LR has tough years if not decades behind. Once owned by Ford and then by BMW, LR (as part of the Jaguar Land Rover Group), since 2008, the Indian Industrial Conglomerate is LR’s controlling shareholder. Things are getting better and better since then. The British Royal brand, tarnished by lowest scores of initial quality studies several years ago is flourishing again as the increasing global sales suggest. New or newer products and more models to choose from with much better quality promise a better future.

My recent test vehicle from the Range Rover range was the Range Rover Sport 5.0 V8 S/C Autobiography. This long model definition suggests to top-of-the line version of this sporty, big SUV.

The combination of high-quality plastic, leather and metal is simply gorgeous and impressive.

The combination of high-quality plastic, leather and metal is simply gorgeous and impressive.

510 horses under the hood and ready to run at any moment are comparable to the most elite class of the automobile world from Ferraris and Lambos to superlatives like Porsche Cayenne Turbo or BMW X5 M50. This power propels the newly aluminized, lighter-weight Sport to 100 kilometers an hour in just 5.3 seconds. The top speed exceeds 250 km/h that I could not test for the predictable reasons.

The 5L V8 engine delivers 510 HP with a staggering torque of 502 lb-ft. The German-built, 8-speed automatic transmission connects the power-plant to the road excellently.

The 5L V8 engine delivers 510 HP with a staggering torque of 502 lb-ft.
The German-built, 8-speed automatic transmission connects the power-plant to the road excellently.

Speeding or accelerating is only one of the beautiful features of this “Uber-SUV”. With active damping suspension, long wheelbase and the high, majestic seating position on top of the fine leather, the can show to other participants of the traffic around you, what kind of mobility you can afford. Mobilizing a torque exceeding 600 lb-ft while listening to the magic sound of superchargers “on duty” is a driving experience you will never forget. The German, ZF-eight speed automatic transmission delivers this huge torque to the four wheels in 275/45R21 format. At your discretion, you can increase your control over the vehicle by shifting to manual mode via the shift paddles at your fingertips.

This performance has its costs at the pump with an average of over 15 liters. Not because of the owner of this vehicle will suffer from the fuel costs, but for the sake of even more torque, more pleasure and extended range, a Diesel engine would nicely fit to this machine.

The royal rear-seating comfort is ideal for two but comfortable also for three when needed.

The royal rear-seating comfort is ideal for two but comfortable also for three when needed.

With so many driving assistance systems from adaptive cruise control to “DampTronic” suspension that can sense the road surface 500 times per second and “Roll Stability Control” that practically eliminates a rollover risk, you will not feel alone behind the steering hill

The best part though, is hitting the road and challenging the Canadian winter while few others dare to drive.

And a 1,700-watt Meridian audio system with 23 speakers will not let you to listen to the blowing wind outside.

The infotainment screen falls a bit short of the generally very high standard of the vehicle. The menu could be simpler and more responsive. RR surprisingly opted for more traditional shit lever instead of a dial knob.

The infotainment screen falls a bit short of the generally very high standard of the vehicle. The menu could be simpler and more responsive. RR surprisingly opted for more traditional shit lever instead of a dial knob.

The total price including options worth 15 grand (as you would expect from a fully-loaded, impressive media vehicle) reaches 120 thousand. Even at this price range, there are some features which need improvement: A visually more appealing and bigger infotainment system with faster response being on top of my wish list.

Conclusion

If you are wealthy enough and want to combine the highest driving comfort with the ultimate off-road capabilities, Range Rover Sport may be your best choice.

2015 Range Rover Sport V8 5.0

The Specifications

Type of vehicle All-wheel drive SUV
Power 5.0, V8-gasoline engine, supercharged, 510 HP
Transmission Eight-speed automatic
Brakes Four-wheel disc with ABS
Price: base/as tested $104.990 / $119,715
Destination charge $1,575
Natural Resources Canada fuel economy (L/100 km)  city, highway
Standard features AdvanceTrac with electronic stability control, tire pressure monitoring, ABS (anti-lock brakes), hill start assist, power mirrors with integrated blind spot mirrors,  Multifunctional Message Centre with LCD screen
Options Ebony Premium Headliner: $450, Climate Comfort Package: $1,000, Premium Audio System: $4,550, 22″ Gloss Black Diamond turned Wheels: $2,400, Full-size Spare Tire: $250, Adaptive Cruise Control: $1,500, Stealth Package: $1,000, Soft Door Close: $600, Paddle Shit, Nobel Plated: $100, Park Assist: $1,200

Article: Varol McKars

Pictures: Varol McKars, Burak McKars

Test vehicle was provided by JLR Canada via BHG Media

For the most up-to-date and more detailed information, visit:

http://www.landrover.ca

All rights reserved. This article cannot be copied entirely or partially without the prior written consent of the author. Links to the website (autoandroad.com) are allowed.

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