Autofield Blog

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

By: Gary S. Vasilash 27. August 2015

While the drive to reduce emissions from cars and trucks is on-going, the automakers are faced with adding technology to vehicles that cost consumers money, but which can’t be appreciated the same way, say, LED headlamps or satellite radio can.

After all, those various and sundry systems that keep emissions from happening in the first place or that capture it before it goes out of the tailpipe are essentially invisible.

BIG smoke ring

Which leads to something that is happening in Copenhagen as a result of work being done by an architectural consultancy, BIG, along with an aerospace organization, Rumlaboratorium, and the Danish Technical University.

It is based on an idea from Berlin-based artists group realities:united.

They are going to create (assuming that their Kickstarter campaign is successful) to create a steam-ring generator that will produce a smoke-ring for every ton of carbon dioxide created by a power plant.

According to the EPA:

“To obtain the number of grams of CO2 emitted per gallon of gasoline combusted, the heat content of the fuel per gallon is multiplied by the kg CO2 per heat content of the fuel. In the preamble to the joint EPA/Department of Transportation rulemaking on May 7, 2010 that established the initial National Program fuel economy standards for model years 2012-2016, the agencies stated that they had agreed to use a common conversion factor of 8,887 grams of CO2 emissions per gallon of gasoline consumed (Federal Register 2010).

“This value assumes that all the carbon in the gasoline is converted to CO2 (IPCC 2006).”

So if there are 8,887 grams per gallon and there are 907,185 grams in a ton, 102 gallons of gasoline burned produces a ton of CO2.

Imagine if cars rolled around creating smoke rings every time they burned that much fuel.

Might make things at least more amusing—unless, of course, you were inching along on the 405 in Los Angeles, which would be one huge cloud of smoke rings.

Petersen & Pixar

By: Gary S. Vasilash 26. August 2015

A couple weeks ago we mentioned that one of the places that Gearheads need to go at some point in their lives is the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. . .but not until December 2015, when the museum, which is undergoing massive refurbishment, reopens.

How massive?

Petersen 2

Well, for one thing, they’ve partnered with Pixar Animation Studios to create “The Cars Mechanical Institute,” based, of course, on the Disney/Pixar Cars. This is an “augmented reality” exhibit that includes “CARSpad” mobile devices. The objective, in the words of Jay Ward, the Cars Creative Director at Pixar Animation Studios, is to “entertain, educate and inspire many generations of children.” Meaning grown-ups, too.

Petersen Pixar

What’s notable about the New Petersen is the massive amounts of New Technology that is being deployed.

So far, more than 68 miles of data-carrying cable have been installed, as well as an array of routers and switches so there is a 500-Mbps transfer rate. The Petersen has partnered with Belkin/Linksys to help with this infrastructure.

Among other significant data points:

  • 25 new exhibits
  • 1,600 LED lighting fixtures
  • 45 Panasonic projectors
  • A 130-foot long display in the Hollywood Gallery
  • A 8 x 20-foot storyboard in the Grand Concours foyer
  • A 166-foot long wall with 12 projectors in the Grand Salon
  • A 134-foot/180-degree wall in the Motorsports Gallery
  • 43 interactive touchscreen kiosks

Oh. One more thing.

There are cars.

Lots of cars.

Real ones, too. Not just Cars.

About the Hybrid’s Future. . . .

By: Gary S. Vasilash 25. August 2015

There are a number of fabulous failed tech predictions, like Thomas Watson’s 1943 comment, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers,” and he was chairman of what was to become IBM at the time.

Arguably, Ken Olson, founder of Digital Equipment Corp., was even more off the mark in 1977 when he stated, "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.”

Now we all, effectively, carry computers in our pockets.

Toyota hybrids

Hybrids, one and all.

Back at the turn of this century, the concept of hybrid cars seemed fairly absurd, to those in Detroit, in particular.

Marketing gimmicks at most.

Even European automakers seemed to think that cars didn’t need electrification, they needed dieselification (and now not only are they offering hybrids, but they are jumping to full electric vehicles).

Maybe the predictions of the hybrid’s irrelevance isn’t as grand as Watson’s or Olson’s comments (Robert Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, 1995: “I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse”), but Toyota’s bet on the tech seems to be paying off quite well.

Toyota has calculated that since the first Prius was made available in Japan in 1997—the year that it delivered 300—to today, when it has an array of hybrids beyond the Prius, an array that includes forms like Lexus luxury hybrids and even SUVs, they’ve delivered 8,048,400 hybrids (through July ’15) on a global basis.

The North American market accounts for 2,789,100 hybrid sales.

Some gimmick.

Who would have predicted it?

Fast, but Not Furious

By: Gary S. Vasilash 24. August 2015

Van Conway is the president and CEO of Conway MacKenzie, a Birmingham, Michigan-based consulting and advisory firm.

You might imagine that someone who is the president and CEO of a firm like that would consider, oh, fly fishing to be an extreme sport.

Maybe that’s the case.

But not for Van Conway.

2015 Dodge Viper TA 2.0

A blue Viper.  Not the ConMar Racing Blue Viper.

You see, Conway grew up in Detroit. And one of the things that must come out of the taps supplied by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Dept. is something that makes you like cars. Fast cars.

Like a 2006 twin-turbo Dodge Viper SRT10 that, Conway says, can generate as much as 2,000 hp. That’s not a typo. Of course, it doesn’t keep that pace for long, but in the world of straight-line racing, it’s long enough to get it done.  (And the word from Conway is that 3,000 rpm isn’t out of the question.  Seriously.)

Conway and David Mardigian, CEO of MCM Management Corp., a demolition contractor, operate ConMar Racing.

And the Viper is one of the cars they campaign at places like the Texas Invitational, which attracts Gallardos and GT-Rs (ConMar has those, too), and Corvettes and Mustangs, and all manner of other cars that go fast.

Conway, on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” tells host John McElory, freelance auto journalist and hot rod expert Jim McCraw and me all about the straight-line racing phenomenon and how Nth Moto, a Minnesota-based tuning operation that routinely deals with supercars, transformed the Viper into the beast that it is.

Oh, one more thing about that car: It is street legal. It has a passenger’s seat. It was driven to the studio.

And yet it can routinely go over 200 mph.

Audi e-tron quattro concept – Exterior Sketch – Rear

Sketch of the Audi e-tron quattro concept.

In addition to which, McElroy, McCraw and I discuss the week’s news, including Toyota’s plans for no-haggle car shopping, Audi’s e-tron quattro concept and the implications for Tesla, and more.

And you can see it all here:



2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD

By: Gary S. Vasilash 21. August 2015

The following is true.


Earlier this month I drove a 2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD to the 2015 CAR Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.

If you heard anything about that event, which, incidentally, was its Golden Anniversary, somewhere along the line the issue of the weather undoubtedly came up. As well as the word Armageddon.

This is what the sky looked like when I pulled into the parking lot at the Grand Traverse Resort:


Within 20 minutes, the sky ripped open and unleashed rain, hail and, well, trees. The power was out because the tumbling trees took the power lines with them.

I was glad that I had the Sorento, because when I ventured out, it gave me the sense of confidence that it would help me get to where I needed to go—within reason. It wasn’t as though I was going to need to traverse boulders or logs or the like.

2016 Sorento SXL

Confidence. That’s why I think people buy crossovers like the Sorento.


Some of my colleagues who flew up to TVC needed a ride to an event.

“What are you driving?” I was asked.

“A Kia Sorento,” I replied.

“A what?!”

“A Sorento.”


“Get in.”

“This is a Kia?!” he remarked with surprise leavened with grudging admiration. He admired the leather seats that are “merlot” colored, the eight-inch display in the head unit, and the dual-zone climate control, among other features.

2016 Sorento SXL

That’s because (a) you really never have much in the way of a color pallet when it comes to seats (black, beige, gray. . .); (b) he needed to clearly see the stations on Sirius XM because what I was playing was not to his likings; (c) the post-rain temperatures spiked upward during the day so the cabin was hot, and he was warmer than I was.

He thought the ride was smooth, and there was more than sufficient power from the remarkable 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine to get us where we were on our way to going with a certain level of promptness—and this is a vehicle that’s gone beyond 4,000 lb. And when we got to the parking lot, I had to maneuver out of my selected spot and into another per the instructions of a parking lot warden, and I found that the rear backup camera, the output of which is displayed on the aforementioned screen, was helpful (because the Sorento is 187.4 inches long) and the power-assisted steering highly beneficial.

His tune changed.


One of the things that you might think about a vehicle like the Sorento is that in order to drive more than a couple hundred miles you’re going to have to spend time at gas stations where the washrooms tend to be unavailable literally or figuratively. Yet I was getting a solid 24 mpgs, which is better than the sticker. (Your results may vary.)

2016 Sorento SXL

One of the things that I’ve noticed about a number of new vehicles of late—even vehicles of the magnitude of the Sorento—is that the bottom seat cushion is somewhat truncated, which means minimal thigh support, and if I can notice it, being about 5’ 8”, I can’t imagine the discomfort of those of greater scale. But this is not an issue with the Sorento, and as one of my colleagues might put it, it is an “all-day” vehicle: meaning you could drive it all day (the ~4 hours to Traverse City is fine by me).

Selected specs

Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC I4

Material: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 185 @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 178 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Steering: Motor assist rack-and-pinion

Wheelbase: 109.4 in.

Length: 187.4 in.

Width 74.4 in.

Height: 66.3 in.

Curb weight: 4,303 lb.

EPA fuel economy: city/highway/combined: 19/25/22 mpg

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