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Twizy: 15 in “Zero”

By: Gary S. Vasilash 26. June 2014

This is a Renault Twizy:

Renault film 1

It is an electric vehicle with a lithium-ion battery.

It is a diminutive—just 2.34-m (92.1-in.) long, 1.24-m (48.8-in.) wide and 1.45-m (57-in.) tall—with an 80-km (49.7-mile) range (“by applying eco-driving principles”) or 55 km (34.1 miles) (“in severe conditions with repeated hard acceleration”).

Chances are, the Twizy is pretty much a vehicle that is best suited for urban environments.

Renault film 2

Given the side windows—or lack thereof—it is probably best suited for climes in which there is little in the way of rain.

Clearly, the market is rather limited for the Twizy.

So perhaps Renault was excited that filmmaker Terry Gilliam, the man behind such films as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Brazil, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, used 15 Twizys in The Zero Theorem, a film opening tomorrow.

Renault film

While we haven’t seen the film, apparently it is set in “London, in the not-too-distant future.”

Which leads us to wonder about the drizzle.

The Twizy is manufactured in a plant in Valladolid, Spain (approximately 150 km, 93 miles, northwest of Madrid). Presumably, the climate would be more suitable for a car like that.

But then again, this is a Terry Gilliam film.


2015 Acura RDX AWD

By: Gary S. Vasilash 25. June 2014

One of the things that Acura has been battling against for the past few years is the criticism that the styling of some of its vehicles is just too bizarre. Much of the shots have been taken at the front ends of the cars and SUVs, with “beak-like” being the nicest characterization coming from pundits.

So it seems as though Acura designers have scaled things back, minimized their gestures.

And it is a case, at least so far as the RDX goes, of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

2015 Acura RDX

Because from a design point of view, it seems to me that the vehicle has become far too innocuous. In fact, in the office parking lot, where there are fewer than 100 vehicles parked on any given day, I had a hard time picking out the RDX from the other compact crossovers that were there. As it was the newest vehicle in the lot, you’d think that it would be outstanding, but when it comes to exterior appearance, it blends in.

It should be noted that the people at Honda East Liberty, Ohio, plant where the RDX is produced are superbly skilled at shaping sheet metal, so it’s not like there isn’t the wherewithal to make something more expressive.

2015 Acura RDX

The RDX competes in the “entry premium SUV” market with the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes GLK, and now the Lincoln MKC, so it’s not like it isn’t in a space where the level of challenge isn’t particularly high. That said, from a sales standpoint it is holding its own, so apparently there are a sufficient number of people in the market who aren’t as uninspired by the exterior as I am, which leads to another thought:

When you are driving a car, it is about (1) how it performs and (2) the comfort, features and amenities that are there with you in the vehicle.

That is, you aren’t looking at the vehicle, you are operating it.

And it is in the driving performance and the comparative high level of comfort and content that the RDX does well with.

2015 Acura RDX

The car is powered by a 273-hp 3.5-liter V6 that’s mated to a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters on the steering wheel (something that puzzles me, because I have doubt that people who are in the market for a vehicle like this: According to Acura, for this, the second-generation RDX, the “target buyer has shifted to a slightly older (early 30s versus late 20s) driver that is married and soon approaching parenthood. In addition, the target buyer will likely be well into their career and have a higher household income ($125,000 versus $100,000) than the previous RDX target buyer. The RDX target buyer still values a sport minded driving character but also prioritizes increased comfort (with strong emphasis on premium interior appointments) and increased utility.” So doing quick shifts on the way to Target may be fun for the first few times, but those paddles are likely to atrophy over time due to lack of use.). Know that the RDX with the AWD (the car is front-wheel-drive biased, with 100% to the front in normal conditions, but then 25% to the rear when there is wheel slip detected or hard acceleration, and a 50/50 split should this really get slick) and the Tech Package (which means navigation with voice recognition, real-time traffic and weather, ELS Surround audio, xenon hid low-beam headlights, and more) results in a vehicle with a curb weight of 3,852 lb., which is a power-to-weight ratio of 14.1, which is good, though not head-snapping-during-acceleration, nor should it be.

The suspension has MacPherson struts in the front and a multilink arrangement in the rear. It features what they call “Amplitude Reactive Dampers,” which are essentially two-valve shock absorbers that help mitigate jarring on bumpy surfaces.

2015 Acura RDX

The leather seats are nicely bolstered and comfortable; yes, the driver has 10-way adjustability, which seems to be the sort of thing that one apparently needs in the category of vehicle.

The descriptor of the target buyer includes a desire for cargo utility. The tailgate opens 48.8-in. across, which means ready access. Behind the rear seats there is 26.1-cu. ft. of storage; flip the handles on either side of the cargo area and the 60/40 rear seats can be indexed downward so that a capacious 76.9-cu. ft. of storage is available.

Full marks go to the engineers on the project. The poor Acura designers, however, really need to change their game.

Selected specs

Engine: 3.5-liter SOHC V6

Horsepower: 273 @ 6,200 rpm

Torque: 251 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm

Materials: Aluminum block and heads

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with Sequential Sport Shift

Steering: Rack and pinion, electric power

Wheelbase: 105.7 in.

Length: 183.5 in.

Width: 73.7 in.

Height: 66.1 in.

Passenger volume: 103.5-cu.ft.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 19/27/22 mpg


Renault’s New Trafic & the Eiffel Tower

By: Gary S. Vasilash 24. June 2014

As production costs around the world vary, global OEMs are shifting where they build products, often at the expense of long-time production sites where, essentially due to labor costs, things have become non-competitive. This is particularly the case in Western Europe.

SandovilleThey’ve installed 187 new robots in Sandouville to put 5,000 spot welds on the body of the New Trafic

So it is interesting to note that the Renault Sandouville plant, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, which had been a passenger vehicle plant (it builds the Laguna and the Espace), has a product added to it, the New Trafic and Opel/Vauxhall Vivaro high-roof version light commercial vehicles.

The Trafic, of which Renault has sold more than 1.6-million since it was introduced in 1980, is, according to the company, available in 270 body versions and more than 100 colors (which sounds like a logistical nightmare).

One interesting factoid regarding the preparation for building the New Trafic in Sandouville: for the press tooling, 5,000 metric tons (or 5,512.5 tons) of cast iron were used, which Renault says is three quarters of the weight of the Eiffel Tower’s metal frame.

That’s a lot of die sets.

VW’s Powertrain Approach, GM Recalls, IQS Numbers, & More

By: Gary S. Vasilash 23. June 2014

So there’s the new, but now-familiar Volkswagen GTI with its 2.0-liter, direct-injected turbocharged engine that produces 217 hp.

Golf GTI

Then there’s the GTD, which has a 2.0-liter 182-hp diesel engine that produces 380 lb-ft of torque.

Golf GTD

And there’s even the GTE, a plug in hybrid that combines a 1.4-liter, 148-hp engine with a 75-kW electric motor.

Golf GTE

In the U.S., the first is available. But what about the other two?

That’s a question—among others—that we put to Oliver Schmidt, General Manager, Engineering & Environmental Office, Powertrain & Fuel Strategy, Volkswagen of America, in this edition of “Autoline After Hours.”

Schmidt is well-versed in the VW powertrain strategy going forward, and he tells John McElroy of Autoline, Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free Press and me what he can about VW’s approach to engines, noting that just because the company has something on sale in Europe (e.g., the GTD) doesn’t mean that it necessarily makes sense for the U.S. market, even though there may be some (e.g., me) who think it is a wonderful car.

In addition to which, the panel discusses General Motors’ on-going recall saga, as last week Mary Barra appeared before U.S. House Committee on Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations (“And I am not going to accept business as usual at GM. It's time — in fact, it’s past time — to insist on total accountability and make sure that vital information is shared across all functions in our company… so we can unleash the full power of our 200,000 employees, our 21,000 dealers and our 23,000 suppliers.”).

Also, the J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey results were released last week, as well, and the relevance of those numbers is also discussed—and it is somewhat more lively than you may image.

It’s all here:


Hankook Award-Winning Conceptual Tires

By: Gary S. Vasilash 20. June 2014

To use an egregious pun. . .Hankook Tire designers are on a roll.

So far this year they have received trophies in the International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA), the Red Dot Design Award competition, and the iF Design Award.

The most recent, the IDEA 2104 award in the transportation category, was for two concept tires, the Tiltread and the eMembrane, which were designed with students from the University of Cincinnati’s industrial design department.


The Tiltread (left, above) is based on a three partitioned non-pneumatic tires and automatic tilting system. The idea is that the setup will allow high-performance vehicles to corner more readily.

The other concept tire, eMembrane, uses shape memory alloys so that the contact ratio of the tire changes depending on driving speed. That is, when driving at low speeds, the tread is narrower, thereby providing reduced rolling resistance for improved fuel efficiency. When at high speeds, the tire patch is wider to help maximize grip.

Funny thing: no matter how many concept tires there are, it always seems that those used on production vehicles look like. . .tires.


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