New Century To See New Interpretation of Performance
Car enthusiasts of a certain age will likely recall the Ford Mustang Mach 1 pony car. Offered on the 1969 fastback model, it was a wicked-looking machine with window louvers and optional shaker hood scoop. Well, Ford is going to resurrect the nameplate for a 2020 vehicle.
The scene of the tease
However, it won’t be a Mustang and won’t have a V-8—or any engine. It will be a “Mustang-inspired” crossover, and it will be electric.
Ford’s executive vice president, Jim Farley, revealed the bold plan at a pre-event prior to the opening of the Detroit auto show after announcing the next-generation F-150 pick-up will be available with a hybrid powertrain option, claiming Ford “won’t stop there. We’re also thinking about performance vehicles. Mach 1, a performance battery electric [vehicle is] coming in 2020 and we can’t wait. It’s the beginning of a whole new world for our customers and electrifying the best of Ford.”
He then pointed to a big screen behind him where a Mustang and an Explorer drive into Ford’s secretive Detroit area Corktown “Team Edison” electric vehicle facility, suggesting that the Mach 1 will combine the best attributes of its legendary sports coupe and the practicality of its popular SUV. The company then simply rolled a short teaser video about the project, which showed the Mustang and Explorer pulling into the Corktown building just before a bolt of lightning strikes. The garage doors begin to come back up, but the video cuts before anything is revealed.
Rather than offering any details, Farley asked the assembled media, “Can a battery electric vehicle stir the soul?”
Appropriately, the Mach 1 reveal came at an event where Ford also showed off a performance gas SUV in the Edge ST and a “Bullitt” special edition of the Mustang. Whatever Mach 1 is, it appears the Tesla Model X will face some competition in 2020.
$11 Billion Electrification Investment
During the same event, Ford announced it would more than double its investment in the production of electric vehicles, promising to spend $11 billion on the technology by 2022. The Detroit automaker said it will roll out 16 fully electric cars within five years, the first of which would arrive in 2020.
All we have for now
This was seen to be a response to crosstown rival General Motors, who last week said it plans to roll out at least 20 new electric cars by 2023, a goal that puts it in a position to bring battery-powered driving to the mainstream, joining Volkswagen, Hyundai-Kia and Toyota in strong electrification drives. Last week GM also unveiled a concept electric autonomous car without steering wheel or pedals.
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News: Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept Introduced
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News: 2018 Ford F-150 Gets a Diesel
A Swoopy Look at the Future Debuts; Surprise: It’s Not An Electric Car
For weeks, Infiniti has been teasing the Q Inspiration Concept ahead of its world introduction at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The glimpses hinted at the Japanese luxury carmaker’s future design direction and how its next fleet of cars could look. Not seeing any tailpipes on the rear end led us to believe it was powered by a battery-electric powertrain.
But when the car was revealed today, the Infiniti Q Inspiration proved to be more than just a swoopy, athletic piece of motor show eye candy; beneath the skin the concept featured Infiniti’s new variable compression ration gasoline engine technology (VC-Turbo).
A Different Kind of Gasoline Engine
VC-Turbo made its production debut in the 2019 QX50 crossover SUV at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show last November. In the Q Inspiration, VC-Turbo allows Infiniti designers to make the most of the packaging, taking advantage of the compact powertrain to increase the size of the cabin while maintaining the footprint of a midsize car.
The Infiniti concept drives into the brand’s future
The VC-Turbo uses some complex mechanical magic to vary compression on the fly, between 8:1 for high-performance situations, to 14:1 for maximum efficiency. Mounted to the exhaust manifold and integrated in the cylinder heads of the four-cylinder engine is a single-scroll turbocharger. Infiniti says the system provides the torque and response of a hybrid or turbodiesel powertrain without sacrificing efficiency. In the Infiniti Q Inspiration, the power is directed to four wheels via a front-biased all-wheel-drive drivetrain. The system can direct torque to the rear wheels individually as needed.
Deatails about power output or fuel economy were not released.
Short Hood, Stretched Cabin And Swooping, Coupe-Like Roof Line
The Infiniti Q Inspiration will certainly stand out in a crowd. It features an over-sized, double-arch grille with narrow slits and a lighted Infiniti logo near the hood line. Additional scoops bring more wind into the engine and feed the blade-like air curtains used to reduce turbulence around the front wheels. The slit LED headlamps are framed by distinctive LED strip lights. bulging fenders give the sedan a muscular stance, with a strong crease that runs nearly wheel well-to-wheel well. A close look reveals hidden door handles and a lack of mirrors, with the concept opting for side view cameras.
The car has no pillar at its rear door, and the roofline has an aggressive, coupe-like curve that stretches, fastback style, into the rear decklid. Narrow taillamps that pick up the LED strip look wrap across the back of the concept and flare into the rear fenders.
Using concept cars trucks like “suicide doors,” ingress to the interior is easy
“The premium sedan segment has become rather conservative,” Christian Meunier, Infiniti global vice president, said. “The Infiniti Q Inspiration previews something that could appeal to a younger audience who seek modern design and new technologies.”
Interior design is a minimalist approach to not distract drivers from driving. It provides everyone with a relaxed and airy environment, trimmed with leather and matte wood. Even though the concept has a midsize footprint, interior space is on par with some larger luxury sedans. Getting in and out is made easier with pillarless suicide back doors and low sills.
The instrument panel has a horizontal orientation and is divided into two tiers. The upper level features video displays that extend door-to-door. Another touchscreen, just above that center console, controls the infotainment and climate control systems.
The engine’s already here and the design is coming soon
The Infiniti Q Inspiration can seat four passengers with each given their own floating touchscreen infotainment system. This allows passengers to watch a film, read the news or relax individually without distracting other occupants. Each screen offers “guided meditation to help occupants leave any stress behind when they start a journey,” says Nissan “The car can also monitor passenger biometrics.”
Finally, a raft of ProPilot near-future semi-autonomous drive technology have been adopted from parent company Nissan. The car uses camera and radar input to support the driver in responding to other vehicles on the road ahead. In this application, ProPilot can automate end-to-end driving, operating and navigating autonomously on multi-lane highways and intersections alike.
A True Concept Car
The Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept isn’t planned for production. It does, however, offer a glimpse into the technologies we’ll see in Infinitis of the near future. As for styling, the concept is intended to show a design vision for upcoming sedans such as the Q70 sedan, which is due for a redesign in 2019 or 2020.
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A New Front Opens In The Truck Wars.
The Lighter Challenge
You’d be forgiven if you thought a pickup truck owner sounded like a proud parent when discussing his(or her) truck. Oh, the things they can do, the feats of power and might. The versatility, unexpected surprises of comfort and utility. They are things of beauty, though that beauty might need to be experienced to be appreciated.
Keep your ears tuned to those conversations (and they are many since full-size pickup trucks remain the most popular and best-selling vehicles in the U.S.), because we suspect the bragging rights are about to change. Where it was how easily you could tow or how much you could haul, you are going to begin to hear pickup owners wax eloquent about fuel economy and pick up MPG attained – while still doing all those things that pickups are designed to do.
This change in the dialogue is being driven by a couple different issues. First, of course, is that fuel prices aren’t getting any lower. While not as high as the spike of a couple years ago, $3 and $4 gas and diesel has become the norm and doesn’t show any sign of decline. Second, the government is pushing automakers to boost the fuel economy of all their vehicles and trucks are having their turn. More detail on this later, but suffice it to say that the desire to reduce petroleum use in this country has to start with big pickups. Because they’re so popular and historically have not been very fuel efficient, they use a disproportionate amount of gas and diesel. Conversely, relatively small numerical increases in MPG can reap very positive fuel savings.
When we’re talking about pickups, the sweet spot is the half-ton pickup, designated as a usually 150 or 1500 by the Detroit Three, and indicator of the nominal payload capacity of 1500 pounds. Ford, Chevy, GMC Truck and Ram all have heavier duty models as well, but their sales volume is with the half-tons. With the Toyota and Nissan pickups, all their offerings are in the half-ton realm.
Here’s some chronology of the changes in technology that are feeding the focus on fuel economy in trucks.
Ford was first to throw down the gauntlet when it began offering its EcoBoost engines in the F-150. Skeptics said the pickup buyers would scoff at a V6 as inadequate for a real truck, possibly an insult to the manhood of
Ford’s First Challenge-EcoBoost
anyone found driving one. The market did not think so and the EcoBoost became one of the more popular engine options, picked by about one-third of F-150 buyers. The EcoBoost has been so popular that for the 2015 model Ford will offer a second, even smaller version of the turbocharged, direct-injected engine. Ford’s advanced engines pushed highway fuel economy into the mid-twenties, rarefied atmosphere for a full-size pickup.
Not to be outdone, Ford’s big rival Chevrolet redesigned its Silverado pickup for 2014 and dropped in a V8 that they claimed would best the EcoBoost V6 in fuel economy. It may
Chevy Silverado-V8 MPG Champ
have only been one MPG, but bragging rights are bragging rights in the truck market. The bottom line with both Ford and GM was that pickup engines were now featuring all of the advanced technology formerly reserved for sedans. Clean Fleet Report just finished a road test of the Silverado and found it was efficient and didn’t sacrifice any of its capabilities. We also noted that during this efficiency focus the industry has also pumped up the interior comfort of these workhorse vehicles.
Over at Ram they weren’t standing still, which may be why Ram pickups are sneaking up on Chevy in sales (Ford has held the top spot for more than three decades). Ram’s V6 topped all of the engines from its cross-town rivals. They mated both the V6 and V8 engines to an 8-speed transmission and with the venerable Hemi V8 Ram’s featured MDS (Multi-Displacement System), which deactivates cylinders of the engine when they aren’t needed to save fuel.
Ram upped the ante last year by announcing it was adding the first modern diesel in the half-ton market to its 1500 early this year (2014). Those are just about to arrive at dealerships. The 3.0-liter V6 will deliver an EPA estimated 28 MPG on the highway while maintaining hauling and towing capacities. It also just took honors as one of Wards Magazine’s Top 10 Engines of 2014.
The latest effort in this arena was just presented at last month’s Detroit Auto Show. Ford showcased a complete rethinking of the F-150, wringing a 15 percent weight reduction by going to an aluminum body and high-strength steel chassis. With the reduction in overall weight, they were able to add a second, smaller EcoBoost V6 as noted above. They also incorporated Auto Start-Stop in what appears to be an all-out effort to take the top MPG crown in the pickup field. Official fuel economy numbers for the new 2015 F-150 with the 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine haven’t been announced yet, but the story is clear.
Waiting for the diesel upgrade
On the horizon, we expect to see more MPG-boosting technologies applied to the truck market. Some have already been set to go into motion. Toyota showed a version of its Tundra pickup with a hybrid badge sometime ago, but hasn’t applied that technology to a truck–yet. Nissan has already announced it is dropping a Cummins V8 diesel into the Titan pickup and showed off a V6 diesel-powered Frontier pickup at the Chicago Auto Show this month. GM has announced next year its Colorado and Canyon midsize pickups will feature V6 diesels.
Fuel economy has never been a more important story in the pickup market, which is why Clean Fleet Report will be covering this segment along with the others. It’s going to be a fun ride.
Photos by Michael Coates, John Faulkner & the manufacturers
Posted Feb. 15, 2014
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While the high-horsepower seventh generation Corvette pointed one future direction for General Motors at the recent Detroit Auto Show, the company had another car that could be as significant for what GM hopes to become in the 21st century. That car is the Cadillac ELR, the company’s second foray into range-extended EVs (after the Chevy Volt).
The ELR is a two-door (unlike the four-door Volt), four-passenger car that features luxury that GM says will not be found in a Chevrolet such as cut-and-sew accented leather incorporating sueded microfiber, chrome, wood and available carbon fiber finishes throughout. Styling is much more striking than the Volt, picking up from the Cadillac signature Art & Science styling of the Converj concept car of 2009. Unlike the Volt, which went through a significant redesign between the concept and production versions, the Cadillac will carry many of the styling themes into production because they are aerodynamic. The final version of the ELR is expected to carry a slippery .305 coefficient of drag.
The company also tweaked the power output slightly (even though it uses the same batteries and electric motors as the Volt) so that in production the 300-pound heavier ELR will out accelerate its more pedestrian sibling. The power will come from deeper draws on the LG Chem lithium-ion battery system, which features 288 prismatic cells putting out 16.5 kWh of power through the 117-135 kW drive motors on the front wheels. The 435-pound battery pack pushes the total weight of the car over 4,000 pounds.
Like the Volt, the ELR will have an approximately 35-mile all-electric range, at which point the 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine will kick in and charge up the batteries, allowing an approximate 300-mile driving range. Also similar are the recharge times–about 12 hours on 120-volt system and 4.5 hours on a 240-volt one.
Sales Expectations Lowered for Luxury Electric Car
Where the ELR also departs from the Volt is in its sales targets. GM launched the Volt with lofty goals for high-volume sales; it had predicted the car would sell 40,000 units in 2012. As a result of sales less than half that, it has had the car called a failure. In contrast, the ELR was presented to media as a limited edition vehicle with sales expected to be in the low 1000s. Prices were not announced, but speculation was that the ELR would retail in the $50-60,000 range, probably closer to the actual cost of the Volt, so less of a financial risk for GM. When it’s introducing in 2014 it will offer California buyers the potential to have single-occupancy access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes.
It will not be the first luxury plug-in on the market, of course, since it follows the Tesla Model S and Fisker Karma, but it will be one the first from an established manufacturer. If it comes in at the expected price, it could undercut prices of both of those vehicles. But, depending on when it actually hits showrooms in 2014, it also could be completing with the BMW i8 and the Infiniti LE – and possibly others from Mercedes or Audi.
Posted Feb. 2, 2013
Auto shows always present a confusing story to the general public because the messages being transmitted through the media are intended for a variety of audiences – everyone from those interested in cheap, basic transportation to the enthusiast looking for the hottest, most-up-to-date muscle machine to the high-roller with money to burn on something exotic. At Clean Fleet Report, we know our job is to sort through those disparate messages and deliver to you the ones focused on the cars that deliver the best fuel economy and the most advanced technology designed to enhance MPG.
The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS, aka the Detroit Auto Show) is the premier auto show on this continent, beginning the year by entertaining thousands of journalists from all over the world and showcasing more than 50 of the latest vehicles from American and foreign automakers. This year’s show is predicted to push the envelope with a record-breaking number of new high-MPG vehicles. Here are some of the expected highlights:
Cadillac ELR plug-in
Cadillac will unveil General Motors second model based on Volt technology, the ELR. It promises to be a coupe (compared the Volt’s four-door sedan configuration but technically should be very similar with 40 miles of EV-only range and a small gas range-extender engine that will allow it to travel about 300 miles on one tank of fuel.
Toyota has already teased its Furia concept, which is seen as a preview of the new Corolla model. No details, but the current model delivers mid-30s MPG so expect the new version to top 40 MPG if it is to remain competitive in the compact segment. Toyota could add a hybrid model to continue the proliferation of its Hybrid Synergy Drive.
Acura’s NSX Hybrid
Acura is expected to introduce the production version of the new NSX mid-engine sports car. In concept versions it had a V-6 engine augmented by an electric motor. The combination in a lightweight mid-engine all-wheel-drive car will likely produce not only excellent performance but good fuel economy for this class of vehicle.
VIA Motors will show three full-size plug-in vehicles. Expanding on their current range-extended pickup models, they will show a 4WD pickup, 4WD SUV and a 12-passenger van aimed at ride-sharing and shuttle operations. The typical VIA setup combines a gasoline V-6 engine with a series hybrid electric drivetrain (similar to the Chevy Volt setup) and give 40 miles of EV range along with an extended range of up to 300 miles with average fuel economy of more than 100 MPG.
VIA Motors Plug-in SUV
Mercedes-Benz will present a redone version of its best-seller, the E-Class, introducing a hybrid version (the E400) to join its gas and BlueTEC diesel models, both delivering highway fuel economy in the low 30s. Both models will feature 7-speed automatic transmissions and options 4Matic all-wheel-drive.
BMW will introduce several concept and production models and continue its focus on “Efficient Dynamics” that includes electric drive, its “ActiveHybrids” and new high-mileage diesels. The company will have its eDrive electric models on display at the show, including the i3 that will go on sale this year (2013).
Jeep is planning to showcase its new diesel engine in the Grand Cherokee. The V-6 VM Motori engine should deliver fuel economy close to 30 MPG in the 4WD SUV.
Volkswagen is expected to present a new Passat-based 7-seat all-wheel-drive SUV that will fit in size between the current Tiguan and Touareg. It’s expected to have both advanced gasoline and diesel engines that should put it near or at the top in fuel efficiency for that class of vehicle.
Tesla, Nissan, Hyundai, Honda, Kia, Ford and others all have press conferences scheduled so it is likely there will be even more EV, plug-in, hybrid, advanced gasoline and clean diesel announcements of high mileage vehicles at the show. Clean Fleet Report will bring all of the highlights as they happen.
In addition to individual model introductions, the Detroit Auto Show also will be the site of the announcement of the North American Car and Truck of the Year winners. As one juror said, have one thing in common–efficiency. The three car finalists are the Cadillac ATS compact luxury sedan; Ford Fusion (which won the Green Car of the Year award in Los Angeles in November), which comes in gas, hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions; and the Honda Accord, which also comes in gas, hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions. The truck competitors are the Ford C-Max, which is available as a hybrid or plug-in hybrid; the Mazda CX-5 SUV with its fuel-efficient Skyactiv technology; and the Ram 1500, which boasts 25 MPG from its standard V-6 engine mated to an 8-speed transmission.
Posted Jan. 2, 2013