Autofield Blog

The BLOODHOUND Disassembled

By: Gary S. Vasilash 2. January 2015

This is the BLOODHOUND:

Bloodhound 1

Yes, it is a rocket car. But it is a hybrid rocket car. That’s because in addition to the Rolls-Royce EJ200 jet engine and cluster of Nammo rockets, it has a 550-hp supercharged Jaguar V8. Maybe they need something to run the alternator for the gauges.

All in, they’re looking at some 135,000 thrust horsepower.

Anyway, the BLOODHOUND, which is being built in Bristol, UK, is intended to break the land-speed record sometime in 2016. The current record was set in 1997 by the Thrust SSC, a vehicle developed by Richard Noble and driven by Andy Green. That vehicle achieved 763 mph.

It so happens that the project director for BLOODHOUND is Richard Noble. You can guess who the driver will be.

The objective for the BLOODHOUND speed-wise is to hit 1,000 mph.

The objective for the development of the BLOODHOUND is to engage students in primary and secondary schools in the excitement of automotive (and arguably aerospace) engineering.

The car consists of a titanium upper chassis, carbon-fiber monocoque and cabin, and some 3,497 other parts, not counting the 22,500 aerospace-rivets.

Here’s the car and driver Andy Green (if you didn’t guess it earlier, looks like you’ve got it now) in a fundamental state:


Photo by Stefan Marjoram

Wonder if they have an instruction book to put it together?

Driving Through 2015

By: Gary S. Vasilash 1. January 2015

As today is January 1, 2015, the start of a new year, what you may want to do is buy a calendar. As you are a reader of this, we'd like to suggest that you opt for something like Velocity: Heroes of American Racing by Pete Lyons.


This calendar includes 24 photos taken by Lyons or his father, Ozzie. The people featured are Mario Andretti, Jimmy Clark, Briggs Cunningham, Mark Donohue, Dan Gurney, Jim Hall, Graham Hill, Phil Hill, Parnelli Jones, Bruce McLaren, Stirling Moss, and Carol Shelby. There is a large photo for each, as well as a smaller one that is the leader for a thumbnail biography of each of the drivers.

Not only does the biography include the driver's overall racing record, but it includes some things that you may not have known about the driver. For example, did you know that Mario's middle name is Gabriele? Or that Briggs Cunningham, who created a car company that built vehicles for the road and for the track, lived to age 96? Or that Graham Hill didn't have a driver's license until he was 24?

If you had Velocity, you'd learn that, which is probably more interesting than one of those word-a-day things that has words that you'll probably never use, but you most certainly can dazzle your race-interested friends with what you'll glean from Velocity.

You can order one here from Octane Press.

VW Taps Robbie Williams for. . . Marketing

By: Gary S. Vasilash 31. December 2014

Last week in Germany, Volkswagen announced that British pop star Robbie Williams is its marketing manager.

Well, at least he’s the marketing manager for the company’s “Club & Lounge” trims of the up!, Golf, Beetle, and Tiguan.

The tagline is “Wie gut klingt das den,” which roughly translates into “How good does that sound?”

Robbie Williams

Yes, a watermarked image from

And speaking of sound, VW announced that it is cooperating with Spotify. Not only are there specific playlists for the various “Club & Lounge” models, but users will be able to generate special playlists along with personal messages that can be emailed or posted on Facebook.

The droll Mr. Williams said of his new role: “For me, it’s a big change. It’s stepping out of the world of pop into a proper job.”

Presumably David Hasseloff wasn’t available.

Incidentally: VW might be hoping that some of Williams’ charm rubs off on its vehicles: Williams has been a phenomenal success in terms of topping the album charts in Germany and he made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for selling 1.6-million tickets in a single day to his 2006 world tour.

Come to think about it, maybe Hasseloff wasn’t considered.

Wie gut klingt das den?

2015 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4WD

By: Gary S. Vasilash 30. December 2014

My brother is tall. He works for a construction company so he has to drive to work sites. He has kids that need carting here and there, both with and without stuff.  Plenty of stuff.

His dream vehicle is the Yukon Denali XL.

2015 GMC Yukon XL Denali

Approximately the only thing that my brother and I have in common is our parents.

I can completely understand why he finds the vehicle so desirable. He’s big, it’s big. He needs something durable, and the SUV is durable. He needs to carry plenty of people and the Yukon has three rows and, as we’re talking XL, it has cargo space in the back even with the third row up and ready for passengers. And he, like all of us, would like to spoil ourselves with something, and the Denali trim level is nothing if not sumptuous. (Yes, sumptuous.)

The vehicle as driven has an MSRP of $68,380.

Additional sumptuousness in the form of options (Touring Package, power retractable running boards, adaptive cruise control, Midnight Amethyst Metallic paint, 22-in. aluminum wheels with painted inserts) adds $8,590 to the bill. Then with $995 for destination, you arrive at $77,965.

2015 GMC Yukon XL Denali

Did I mention that it is a “dream” for my brother?

Probably for several other people, too.

But I suppose if you measured the sheet metal and the leather and the electronics and all of the other elements that go into this vehicle, that price is actually something of a bargain.

Let’s face it: the whole is greater than the weight of the parts, because there was a whole lot of thoughtful engineering that transformed the mass into a well-executed vehicle.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Yukon XL Denali is something that you might not remark about immediately, but will be pleased with the performance of something you won’t notice.

The SUV is powered by a 6.2-liter V8. This is a monster of an engine, generating 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. Admittedly, you need a monster of an engine because it needs to move something that weighs some 5,800 lb., is 18.5-ft. long, nearly 7-ft. wide, and just over 6 ft. high (trust me: you want to opt for the power retractable running board, although, as I’ll get to in a moment, they are one of the sore points in the vehicle).

Now you would imagine that when moving a giant, nearly three-ton box, you’d need a lot of fuel. A lot. The Yukon XL Denali has a 31-gallon fuel tank, which is a good thing regarding the number of times you’ll be visiting the gas station(and let’s face it, although visiting the gas station is now unlike a stint in an endodontist’s exam room, even at $2.00 a gallon you’re talking about the price of a couple of movie tickets at the multiplex and small bag of popcorn and a Coke for a tank).

Anyway. . .one of the clever things that GM Powertrain engineers has developed is a cylinder deactivation system. In GM-speak it is “Active Fuel Management.” What this does is determine whether or not it is possible to use the eight-cylinder engine as a four-cylinder engine. You might be surprised to learn that as you are cruising along down the highway, you really don’t need all eight pistons working.

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to drive a wide variety of cars, trucks and minivans with cylinder deactivation. Some are smoother than others when it comes to engagement/disengagement.

While driving along in the Yukon XL Denali I wondered whether it had Active Fuel Management.

It does. It is that seamless.

(As someone who ordinarily drives a car, I couldn’t get all that excited about getting about 18 mpg. But I suppose SUV drivers will be delighted.)

(And I probably ought to point out that the engine also has variable valve timing and direct injection, which also help fuel economy, as well as a six-speed automatic. It should be noted that between the time that I had the vehicle and, well, now, GMC announced that the 2015 Yukon Denali and XL Denali models would be equipped with an eight-speed automatic, which provides better fuel efficiency.)

About that deployable running board. You want it for getting in and out of the vehicle, for certain. But the thing is that the cabin is so quiet that when I climbed in, started the engine, and prepared to put the SUV into gear, I heard the mechanical noise of the running board getting stowed, which was a bit disconcerting.

The cabin is quiet. (There is active noise cancellation when driving, by the way.)

2015 GMC Yukon XL

“Denali” is the name of the highest peak in North America. It represents the top-of-the-line for GMC. And this is really quite evident in the execution of the interior, from the materials to the seating comfort, from the touch screen in the instrument panel to the 10-speaker Bose surround sound. Opt for the Touring Package and get things like rear-seat entertainment and even a third-row DVD screen, and you’re feeling like you’re in a family room on wheels.

While all vehicles are getting spotted with sensors like a kid with chicken pox, it makes more sense in some than others. Sensors make a whole lot of sense in the Yukon XL Denali. Especially the standard side blind zone alert, lane changing alert, and lane departure warning. There is also standard forward collision alert, but I didn’t have a whole lot of trouble seeing the front end. The rear, however, is so far back there that the technological advantage was greatly appreciated.

If you’re like my brother, you’d probably REALLY like this SUV.

Selected specs

Engine: 6.2-liter, VVT, direct injected V8

Material: Cast aluminum block and heads

Horsepower: 420 @ 5,600 rpm

Torque: 460 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Steering: Electrical power-assist rack-and-pinion

Wheelbase: 130 in.

Length: 224.3 in.

Width: 80.5 in.

Height: 74.4 in.

Seating capacity: 9

Trailer towing maximum: 7,900 lb.

Max cargo volume (2nd & 3rd row folded): 121.1 cu-ft.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 14/20/16 mpg

IceRocket Tags:

ŠKODA Superb Sketch

By: Gary S. Vasilash 29. December 2014

This is a sketch of the ŠKODA Superb, which is going to be the flagship for the Volkswagen Group brand:


It is to be introduced in Prague in mid-February.

The launch of the vehicle, which will be available in several European markets, is to take place in mid-2015.

While it is admittedly just a sketch, it sure does remind us of something:

2015 Optima

[2015 Kia Optima]

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