Autofield Blog

Art of the Bike: Yamaha VMAX Carbon


By: Gary S. Vasilash 11. February 2015

Oftentimes, there is but a fanciful relationship between the name of a vehicle and the reality on the ground.

Yamaha

But that’s not the case with the Yamaha VMAX Carbon.

The special-edition bike’s tank cover, front and rear fenders, and side covers are all produced with carbon fiber.

And while you can’t hear the sound of the 197-hp, 1,679-cc engine, know that there are upswept Akapovic slip-on mufflers for audio accentuation.

Yamaha, incidentally, is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the original VMAX.


More Than a Midcycle Refresh


By: Gary S. Vasilash 10. February 2015

Up until recently, medium-sized trucks, by and large, tended to stay in production for long periods of time with minor modifications along the way. In some cases, things went on the same for REALLY long periods of time. Consider the Ford Ranger, which, comparatively speaking, underwent few significant changes (and by way of comparison, we could take the Ford F-150 during this same timeframe) from1982 until it went out of production in 2011. (Some people joked that the tooling simply wore out.)

Oshkosh

 

This came to mind when I spotted a piece indicating that Oshkosh Defense received a production contract from the U.S. Army in June 2009 for its Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) all-terrain vehicles (M-ATVs). Oshkosh is signed to provide lifecycle services and support through July 2018.

Unlike medium-sized trucks, these MRAPs (notably, Oshkosh produced more than 8,700 of them in quick order to provide support for the troops) undergo more than potholes and heavy loads. People try to blow them up.

So Oshkosh has a process in place to upgrade and maintain these vehicles.

They have received a contract valued at more than $77-million to “reset” 800 of the MRAPs they produced.

A given vehicle is inspected then repaired, which might include replacing missing parts.

In addition to which, they provide upgrades, or updates, to keep the vehicles up-to-date. For example, there are a underbody improvement kit and an upgraded automatic fire extinguishing system.

So, like a medium-sized truck the M-ATV may look pretty much similar, but unlike a truck, it is kept battle-ready and relevant with significant tech.


Developing the Cadillac ATS-V


By: Gary S. Vasilash 9. February 2015

This is the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V sedan:

2016 Cadillac ATS-V Sedan

The model, not yet on the streets yet (it is coming a bit later this year), also comes as a coupe:

2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe

The ATS-V, explains Tony Roma, chief engineer of the vehicle (as well as for the CTS-V, the bigger brethren of the ATS-V), is a luxury sedan that can be driven on a daily basis in a comfortable manner. . .or it can go like a bat out of you-know-where on a track, as it offers a 0 to 60 mph time of 3.9 seconds, and it can hit 189 mph.

Yes, there is a setting that allows you to adjust the vehicle parameters (e.g., steering, suspension, throttle) for taking the car racing; there is a setting that allows you to drive it to the grocery store without feeling as though you are going to end up with bruised kidneys.

2016 Cadillac ATS-V Sedan

The ATS-V has a V6 under its hood. A hood, incidentally, which is made with carbon fiber, and which has an air-extraction vent that pulls hot air out of the engine compartment and also, Roma explains, helps reduce lift by channeling the air over the roof of the car rather than letting it exit from below.

2016 Cadillac ATS-V Sedan

A V6 and 189 mph?

The ATS-V is the first V-vehicle from Cadillac that has a twin-turbo setup. And the turbines within the turbochargers are not your ordinary run-of-the-mill versions, either: they are produced with low-inertia titanium-aluminide. In addition to which, they’ve developed a patent-pending low-volume charge-cooling system that is not only compact, but which, given its location vis-à-vis the turbos, provides maximized boost pressure post-haste.

And if you’ve got a quick-spooling turbo system, then having titanium connecting rods to reduce inertia of the rotating assembly helps, too.

All told, the 3.6-liter, all-aluminum V6 produces 455 hp and 445 lb-ft of torque.

The transmission options are a Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual with active rev matching or a HydraMatic 8L90 eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters.

The power and performance of the rear-drive vehicle necessitated beefing up the basis structure of the car, as in a unique shock tower-to-plenum brace, a strengthened rocker bulkhead, stronger rear cradle-to-rocker braces, and V-braces for the engine compartment. The result of all of this is 25% greater structural stiffness than a non-V ATS.

Roma talks about this and much more on this edition of “Autoline After Hours.”

John McElroy of Autoline, Greg Gardner of the Detroit Free Press, and I ask Roma about the car and how it was developed. (Yes, they’ve taken it to the Nurburgring.)

In addition to which, McElroy, Gardner and I discuss a variety of other non-ATS subjects, including vehicle sales, where there is a growing preponderance of truck-like vehicles in place of traditional sedans, Super Bowl ads, where there was panelist contention regarding what worked and what didn’t, and the remarkable Nissan GT-R LM NISMO vehicle for Le Mans.

Nissan GT-R LM NISMO

And you can see it all here:

 

 


Toyota Going More Flexible


By: Gary S. Vasilash 6. February 2015

Next week at the Chicago Auto Show, Toyota is going to roll out two new versions of the Camry and the Corolla, which we might have otherwise not mentioned were it not for the fact that they point out something that seems to be a profound shift at the corporation.

First, there is the Camry Special Edition.

Camry SE

Realize that Toyota substantially reengineered the Camry last year, changing all of the exterior sheet metal, for example, with the exception of the roof.

Realize that last year, with sales of 428,606 units (compared with 408.484 in 2013), Camry was the #1-selling vehicle in the U.S.—for the 13th year running.

Although some people deride the Camry for being a “soul-less appliance,” presumably other manufacturers of midsize cars only wish that they could have a car nearly as appealing as the Camry.

The Special Edition will have special 18-inch alloy wheels, a moon roof, smoked tail lamps, special seat material and stitching, wireless charging, and other features.

Then there is the Corolla Special Edition.

Corolla SE

Again, the Corolla is a fairly fresh car, having been introduced in 2014.

And while it didn’t do Camry numbers last year, with 339,498 units, it did more than respectably well. To put that in context: Civic, 325,981; Cruze, 273,060; Focus, 219,634.

This Special Edition will have modifications similar to the Camry.

Here’s the point:

Toyota is going to be building the Camry Special Edition from August 2015 to January 2016. Period. The company calculates there will be just some 12,000 units built.

Toyota will be building the Corolla Special Edition between August and December 2015. The company will build 8,000 units.

Toyota is nothing if not a mass-manufacturer. It builds lots of cars.

But one thing that tends to be forgotten is that Toyota is the master of flexible manufacturing. It has the ability to shift production in a way that would leave many other manufacturers with their proverbial heads spinning.

Perhaps it hasn’t exhibited that aspect of its skill set much of late (at least in the context of coming out with new models: let’s not forget that when there was the alleged problems leading to massive recalls a few years back, it responded with production post-haste).

The designs at Toyota are becoming more expressive.

Now we may be seeing the company putting its manufacturing flexibility to work as well.

This is the profound shift we’re talking about.


Zero to 60 in. . . ?


By: Gary S. Vasilash 5. February 2015

Chances are, when you think of Bentley, you think of something like this:

Mulsanne Speed

That, of course, is the Bentley Mulsanne Speed, shown here at the 2015 North American International Auto Show.

What you probably don’t think about when you think of Bentley is something like this:

Winchester sofa

Yes, a sofa.

However, you would be wrong.

That is the Winchester. It is part of the “Bentley Home” collection.

In addition to the new sofa, there are armchairs, consoles and beds.

The furniture was designed by architect Carlo Colombo. It is produced in collaboration with Luxury Living Group, a European furniture manufacturer.

The Mulsanne Speed, which goes from 0 to 60 mph in less than five seconds, will set you back at least $340,000.

The Winchester sofa, which goes from 0 to 60 mph only if being conveyed by something else, will set you back about $15,000.

So it is fair to say that when you think “Bentley” you should also think “wealthy.”




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