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Hyundai & Art

By: Gary S. Vasilash 7. November 2014

Although we could take this opportunity to point out that earlier this week Hyundai and Kia (remember: Hyundai Motor Group owns Kia) received a $100-million penalty from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency thanks to the U.S. Department of Justice—the largest penalty in the Clean Air Act’s history—for misstating/miscalculating the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted from several of the companies’ cars and SUVs, we won’t.

Rather, we’ll talk about something more uplifting.


Three Eggs (1975-82). A video installation. © Nam June Paik Studio

As in Hyundai Motor’s 11-year partnership with the Tate Modern museum in London, which is supporting a newly curated display of work by South Korean artist Nam June Paik, as well as the acquisition of nine of the late artist’s works for the museum on the Thames.

Among the work shown is Paik’s Can Car, a sculpture produced in 1963, consisting of a tin can, an electric motor and a pair of wheels.

Clearly, Paik was ahead of his time vis-à-vis electric vehicles.

(Hmm. . .presumably those aforementioned greenhouse gas emissions wouldn’t have been a problem were those cars and SUVs EVs. . . .)

Toyota: Ah, Maybe They Didn’t Put It Quite Right

By: Gary S. Vasilash 6. November 2014

A news release from Toyota coming out of SEMA opens like this:

In drag racing terms, a “sleeper” is a car that   looks as innocuous as possible, but has the means to blow the doors off the competition.

And then it goes on to explain that the folks at Motorsports Technical Center created a 850-hp sleeper car that makes use of a 5.7-liter 3UR-FE V8 from a Tundra—blown with a TRD supercharger and equipped with a wet nitrous system—as well as a Tundra’s transmission, rear axle and electronics.


The sleeper in question is a 2015 Camry.

In fact, they call the car the “Sleeper Camry.”

Here’s the thing: While the Camry may not be the most exotic thing in the midsize sedan category, arguably the 2015 version is far more expressive than anything carrying the Camry name since. . .well, since the Camry has existed.

Toyota is positioning the Camry as having a design that is “bold,” that has styling that “excites from every angle.”

And at SEMA they’re saying it is a snooze?

Not clever.

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe 2.0T AWD Premium

By: Gary S. Vasilash 5. November 2014

Solid. Stylish. Squinched.

Those are the characteristics of the Cadillac ATS Coupe.

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

Two out of three ain’t bad.

The last first.

The backseat of the car is pretty much useful as a shelf, not as a seat. A really nice leather-clad shelf, mind you, but a shelf nonetheless. Even though the car is ostensibly a four-passenger car—there is a cupholder separating the two places on the rear seat—children would have a difficult time getting their feet and calves through the space that exists when the front seats are positioned for someone well short of six-feet. While some might quibble about the headroom that is a consequence of a coupe roofline in the back, let’s be serious: no one is going to sit back there. Ever. In if they should for some reason, that is going to be the first and last time.


One of the things that is characteristic of German cars, by and large, is that they are generally engineered for the Autobahn. No, this doesn’t mean that they’re all built so that they can operate at speeds in excess of 200 kph. What it does mean is that they’re structurally capable of going faster, which means that there is nothing wishy-washy about the steering or the suspension.

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

You get behind the wheel of the ATS Coupe, grab the steering wheel—which has a nice diameter that means business—and when you start driving, particularly at a speed beyond 40 mph, you recognize that this car is engineered well, that there is substance there.

Don’t, however, confuse substance with ponderousness. This car is quick, not thick.

In fact, one of the things that the engineers did during development is to concentrate on mass efficiency. That means they used an engine with an aluminum block and head (well, it is worth noting that the car here has the 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbo; there is a 3.6-liter V6 available, as well, and it too is all-aluminum). They used lots of aluminum in the suspension. And there is even the use of really light magnesium for the engine mount brackets.

(With the concentration on using light materials in the front, where a car tends to be the heaviest given that there is the engine up there and a trunk full of air in the back, the engineers managed to get a weight distribution for the ATS Coupe of 51% front, 49% rear. No mean feat, that.)


The ATS Sedan came first. Then the Coupe. They both have a great resemblance, for obvious reasons. On the exterior, there is only one thing that the two have in common, which is the hood. (Obviously, the roof is longer, as are the doors, seeing as how there are two, not four. And the decklid is comparatively truncated, as well.)

One of the most stylish aspects of the ATS Coupe is something that you are unlikely to see unless (1) you deliberately look for it or (2) drive a lot at night. The vertical front lamps are absolutely striking. What is notable, and certainly a luxury cue, is that the car is available with illuminated door handles, so as you approach the car, keyfob in hand or pocket, then the front lamps turn on and the door handles, too. Nice.

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

Inside, there is the Cadillac cut-and-sewn interior. The company has managed to come up with an interior approach that is as distinctive as the creased sheet metal on its exterior (although speaking of the exterior creases, it should be observed that they’re becoming somewhat softer or more supple or something: you won’t cut yourself waxing the bodyside).

While the use of leather and wood in 21st century conveyances that don’t have horses up front often seems somewhat anachronistic, the Kona brown leather and the open-pore wood actually work in the ATS Coupe. (However, a long-time owner of a Japanese-marque luxury car told me that she thought the wood was unappealing, but that probably has something to do with the lack of layers of lacquer, which is why I like it: If you’re going to use wood, then make it clear that it is wood.)

At this point there need be the now-obligatory criticism of the Cadillac CUE interface on the 8-inch color touch display. There are efforts underway among some people to save the manual transmission. The ATS has a six-speed automatic that you can tap through the gears via magnesium paddle shifters on either side of the steering wheel. I would suggest that there be an effort to save the knobs. (I was looking at Consumer Reports recent reliability listing and see that the Cadillac ATS with a turbo (probably the sedan version, but as these two cars are largely similar beneath the sheet metal skin, I’m going to extrapolate here) is on the “Least Reliable” list for luxury compacts, and I am going to guess that given CR points out that for all vehicles, “The area that largest growing number of complaints by far is infotainment systems and associated electronics” that the ATS may be dinged for CUE.)

Yes, I understand that the Apple iPad does not have knobs or buttons. I also understand that the iPad doesn’t have a 272-hp engine and all-wheel drive.

I didn’t drive the ATS Coupe on the Autobahn. I did drive it on Detroit’s I-696 which, as people in these parts know, is probably the closest thing to the Autobahn. Yes, there are speed limits on 696. There are also people behind the wheels of powerful cars who evidently can’t read numbers.

I think that were the car to be somewhere in southwest Germany it would do just fine.

Selected specs

Engine: 2.0-liter, turbocharged, direct-injected I4

Materials: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 272 @ 5,500 rpm

Torque: 295 @ 3,000 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Steering: ZF rack-mounted electric, power-assisted

Wheelbase: 109.3 in.

Length: 183.6 in.

Width: 72.5 in.

Height: 54.8 in.

Curb weight: 3,571 lb.

Seating capacity: 4

Passenger volume: 83.9-cu-ft.

Cargo volume: 10.4 cu-ft.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 20/28/23 mpg

What Would George Washington Drive?*

By: Gary S. Vasilash 4. November 2014

Today is Election Day in the U.S.

While not exactly being a Nate Silver for this year’s election, John Krafcik, president of TrueCar, says, “There’s unquestionably a link between vehicle choice and the political landscape—you see this clearly in the state-by-state data.”

Which you can see here, the breakdown between political orientation and whether people in that state are pickup or car buyers.


“Our bold call is that trucks and SUVs will outnumber cars and minivans at polling stations in swing states this year”—of which says there are 10 out of the 36 states in which there are Senate races—“putting Republicans back in control of the Senate for the first time since 2006.”

*Probably a horse-and-wagon.

Are Two Strokes Better than Four?

By: Gary S. Vasilash 3. November 2014

A typical internal combustion engine at work in any car or truck today is a four-stroke: intake, compression, combustion, exhaust. This means that there needs to be things like valves and camshafts and cylinder heads.

Two-stroke engines are simpler. Compression and combustion. Instead of valves, there are ports in the walls of the cylinder for intake and exhaust. The engines are much simpler than four-stroke engines. And smaller. And less expensive. And yet, you’re likely to find a two-stroke engine on a lawnmower or a jet ski, not a car or truck. This is because two-strokes tend to have issues related to producing more pollution and not having the sort of longevity of a four-stroke (you’re not going to see a 100,000-mile warranty on that snow mobile).


Enter Achates Power of San Diego. For the past 10 years the company has been working on the development of two-stroke diesel engines for use in the auto industry.

But these two-stroke engines are wholly unlike those that you’ll find elsewhere. That’s because they’re using a configuration that has two opposed pistons in a single cylinder. According to David Johnson, Achates president and CEO, a man who has diesel experience with Navistar, Ford and General Motors, Achates is solving many of the concerns related to two-strokes, and, because of their approach of having two pistons in one cylinder they have developed an even simpler architecture for what is already more straightforward than a four-stroke.

He says they’re getting the power and the performance. That they’re getting better combustion so there are reduced exhaust emissions. That they’re providing a means through which OEMs can get the kinds of miles per gallon that they need to make reaching CAFE affordable for both the manufacturer and the consumer.

And David Johnson talks about this and more on this edition of “Autoline After Hours.”

Lindsay Brooke of SAE International joins John McElroy and me in the studio to talk with Johnson.

In addition to which, Brooke, McElroy and I discuss a variety of subjects, including John’s lunch with Dan Gurney, my trip to Wolfsburg to drive the eGolf and the GTE, and other automotive-related topics. Like the new Voltec powertrain for the forthcoming 2016 Volt.

All of which you can see here:

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