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MARK PHELAN

The future of performance

Automakers more prepared to adjust to fuel standards than in 1970s

BY MARK PHELAN • FREE PRESS COLUMNIST • April 27, 2008

A picture is forming of how automakers will build vehicles with power and performance in the face of upcoming tough fuel economy rules.

The first generation of fuel economy regulations in the 1970s ushered in a couple of decades of bad and boring cars, largely because Detroit-based automakers were unprepared for it.

"This is very different," Mike Accavitti of Chrysler's SRT performance group told me after a day driving the company's fast new Dodge Challenger in California. "We have time to strategize, and we have technologies that didn't exist then. People have been working on alternative powertrain systems for 10 years now.

"There's a way to do it. We don't know exactly how, but our engineers will do it. There's a way to serve our customers and serve the government."
A mosaic of new technologies -- some already on the road in limited numbers -- reveals the route companies will take to meet the new requirements and still build vehicles that can excite buyers.

The key technologies -- many of them spelled out in last week's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposal to hasten adoption of the new standards -- include direct injection of gasoline, turbocharging and supercharging, a variety of hybrid systems and new transmissions.

NHTSA's proposal doesn't give much weight to diesel engines, but those powerful and fuel efficient powerplants play a large role in some automakers' plans, too. As a rule of thumb, engineers generally figure a diesel needs 30% to 40% less fuel to produce the same amount of power as a gasoline engine.

Surprisingly, given their relatively low profile in environmental circles, General Motors and Volkswagen have the largest portfolio of the new technologies in use today. GM produces direct-injection gasoline engines, a variety of hybrids and diesels in production around the world today.

VW jumped on the direct-injection gasoline bandwagon early and uses it across its Audi and VW model lines to boost power and fuel economy. VW is also a leader in Europe's competitive diesel market. Diesels power 50% of passenger vehicles sold in Europe and account for 70% of sales of big, powerful luxury cars in the German market.

Toyota, which grabbed the mantle of environmental and fuel-efficiency leadership with its Prius hybrid, has more experience with hybrids. Toyota has some direct injection gasoline engines in production in models like its new IS-F performance sedan, but the automaker has little history with passenger-car diesel engines and has yet to offer a hybrid that works in pickups and large
SUVs.

Powertrain specialists expect direct injection and other technologies to raise the power and efficiency of gasoline engines' efficiency to unprecedented levels.

Audi, for instance, wrings 272 horsepower out of a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with direct injection and turbocharging in the TTS sports car it is to introduce later this year.

GM already has a 260-horsepower 2.0-liter direct injection turbo engine on the road in its Chevrolet HHR SS compact wagon, Pontiac Solstice GXP and Saturn Sky Redline roadsters. (And Cobalt SS:rolleyes:)

Engines like that could be adapted to replace big powerplants in larger vehicles and to boost fuel economy in small cars. Ford plans to offer direct injection turbo engines widely across its model line, even in its F-150 pickup.
A case in point is the new BMW X6 SUV, which features a 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 in its top model, replacing what would have been a larger and thirstier V8 in earlier days.

GM insiders also say the lithium-ion batteries the company announced at the Geneva auto show in March can be used in conjunction with very small direct injection engines -- think less than 1.5-liters -- to provide a power boost for quick acceleration and raise fuel economy substantially.

"We're not trying to get out of the performance business," Chevrolet boss Ed Peper told me. "We're going to continue to improve the fuel efficiency of every model we build. People are still interested in performance, and we're going to offer it."

LINK: http://freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080427/COL14/804270647/1210/BUSINESS

Sport Compacts, 4cylinder DI Forced Induction is the future...Yay for Cobalt SS Turbo Solstice GXP and Sky RL!!! :D;) Bye bye American V8...:sad:

CobaltSS
 

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Perhaps. Cars like the Cobalt SS/TC will be popular, and they sure as hell are nice, but RWD cars like the G8 will always be the definition of performance IMO.
 

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We've been hearing that since Civics got popular on the coasts. Sure smaller turbo engines will be more and more popular but they will never be a replacement for RWD V8's. I think if more cars become available like the Genesis coupe the popularity of turbo 4's will increase for performance cars. The problem is that most turbo 4's currently come in FWD cars which don't get to many people who have owned RWD V8 cars very excited.

They might be thought of as a substitute but never a replacement.
 

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We've been hearing that since Civics got popular on the coasts. Sure smaller turbo engines will be more and more popular but they will never be a replacement for RWD V8's. I think if more cars become available like the Genesis coupe the popularity of turbo 4's will increase for performance cars. The problem is that most turbo 4's currently come in FWD cars which don't get to many people who have owned RWD V8 cars very excited.

They might be thought of as a substitute but never a replacement.
ya though they may not be a "replacement" they surely will do the following

1) sell more
2) more popular
3) more desirable
4) better handleing
5) better fuel economy (must)
6) wont cost you an arm and leg to own
7) just as reliable, if not better

surely im just as much of a V8 fan as the next guy, ive drivin trans ams and camaro z28's (2000, 2001). the thing about it is that the straight line they were beasts, but in a corner, horrible. and that stays true with a lot of bigger cars like the new G8. im partial right now but i wanna see how it handles before i make assumptions. even though my gut feeling says a 08 SS/TC cobalt will 9 times outa 10 will be quicker in a corner, hands down. technically only thing you wont get, is a bigger bonet...
 

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ya though they may not be a "replacement" they surely will do the following

1) sell more
2) more popular
3) more desirable
4) better handleing
5) better fuel economy (must)
6) wont cost you an arm and leg to own
7) just as reliable, if not better

surely im just as much of a V8 fan as the next guy, ive drivin trans ams and camaro z28's (2000, 2001). the thing about it is that the straight line they were beasts, but in a corner, horrible. and that stays true with a lot of bigger cars like the new G8. im partial right now but i wanna see how it handles before i make assumptions. even though my gut feeling says a 08 SS/TC cobalt will 9 times outa 10 will be quicker in a corner, hands down. technically only thing you wont get, is a bigger bonet...
The F-bodies handled much better in the corner then the car it was supposed to be competing against, the Mustang.

With IRS it would have been even better.

They were not horrible as you claim. Suv's are horrible. Camaro's are better then the average FWD econobox.
 

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surely im just as much of a V8 fan as the next guy, ive drivin trans ams and camaro z28's (2000, 2001). the thing about it is that the straight line they were beasts, but in a corner, horrible. and that stays true with a lot of bigger cars like the new G8. im partial right now but i wanna see how it handles before i make assumptions. even though my gut feeling says a 08 SS/TC cobalt will 9 times outa 10 will be quicker in a corner, hands down. technically only thing you wont get, is a bigger bonet...
Now, I'm as much of a fan of economical but fast cars like the Cobalt SS, but RWD will always handle better than FWD on similar cars. FWD cars tend to understeer due to all the the drivetrain weight being on or in front of the front axle while RWD cars have most of their drivetrain weight is behind the front axle. FWD cars can be made to handle incredibly well, but they will always hold a disadvantage to RWD cars that can be made to handle even better thanks to weight distribution.

A perfect apples-to-apples comparison is between the B-Body Impala SS of the mid-'90s and the modern W-Body Impala SS. Stock for stock the FWD car is quicker in a straight line (if you can hold it straight due to torque steer), but the RWD car kills it in the corners, and it's got a ten year disadvantage.

To say the G8 handles horribly means you've never driven a G8.
 

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Now, I'm as much of a fan of economical but fast cars like the Cobalt SS, but RWD will always handle better than FWD on similar cars. FWD cars tend to understeer due to all the the drivetrain weight being on or in front of the front axle while RWD cars have most of their drivetrain weight is behind the front axle. FWD cars can be made to handle incredibly well, but they will always hold a disadvantage to RWD cars that can be made to handle even better thanks to weight distribution.
I couldn't have said it better myself.
 

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Now, I'm as much of a fan of economical but fast cars like the Cobalt SS, but RWD will always handle better than FWD on similar cars. FWD cars tend to understeer due to all the the drivetrain weight being on or in front of the front axle while RWD cars have most of their drivetrain weight is behind the front axle. FWD cars can be made to handle incredibly well, but they will always hold a disadvantage to RWD cars that can be made to handle even better thanks to weight distribution.

A perfect apples-to-apples comparison is between the B-Body Impala SS of the mid-'90s and the modern W-Body Impala SS. Stock for stock the FWD car is quicker in a straight line (if you can hold it straight due to torque steer), but the RWD car kills it in the corners, and it's got a ten year disadvantage.

To say the G8 handles horribly means you've never driven a G8.
Amen to that :yup:
 
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