Autofield Blog

Gary S. Vasilash

Gary S. Vasilash is the founding editor of Automotive Design & Production (AD&P) magazine, a publication established in 1997 by Gardner Publications with the cooperation of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). He is responsible for the editorial management and direction of the monthly magazine. Vasilash continues to write a monthly column for AD&P and contributes several stories to each issue.

Vasilash has more than 20 years of experience writing about the automotive industry, best practices and new technologies. His work has appeared in a variety of venues, ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Lightworks, a journal of contemporary art. He has made numerous presentations at a variety of venues ranging from the annual meeting of the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT) to the Center for Constructive alternatives at Hillsdale College.

Prior to his present position, Vasilash was editor-in-chief of both Automotive Production and Production magazines—predecessors to AD&P. He joined Cincinnati, Ohio-based Gardner Publications in 1987 as executive editor of Production magazine.

Prior to that, Vasilash had editorial positions with the Rockford Institute and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME).

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism and a Master of Arts degree from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He is a member of the Automotive Press Association.

2015 Honda Fit EX-L

By: Gary S. Vasilash 8. October 2014

The Honda Fit EX-L has a CVT.

That’s “continuously variable transmission.”

Generally, transmissions aren’t that noticeable in cars. Unless, of course, it is a manual, which means that probably about 95% of the population can’t or won’t drive the car.

2015 Honda Fit

The whole thing about CVTs is that instead of conventional gears, there are metal bands. The bands are on pulleys that move in and out, so that the most appropriate gearing is achieved for purposes of fuel economy.

And the Honda Fit EX-L, which has a 1.5-liter, 130-hp I4, gets good fuel economy. As in 32 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 35 mpg combined.

The CVT contributes to that.

2015 Honda Fit

Well, that and the fact that it is a subcompact hatch.

Generally, I don’t pay a great deal of attention to transmissions when driving a car. Unless, of course, it is a manual and I have to be more conscious of the fundamental act of driving. Otherwise, it is, well, automatic.

But I did notice the CVT in the Fit too much. Or maybe it wasn’t the CVT in and of itself, but the entire powertrain.

And it just gave me the sense that I was hoping like mad that it would hurry up and get its job done so that I could go faster than it was moving me. The sense of “c’mon, c’mon, c’mon.”

Let me point out that I like small cars. I particularly like hatches.

Conceptually, I like the Fit.

And I even bought a Honda lawnmower this year, so know that I am invested in Honda engine technology. (I bought a human-propelled version, so I can’t attest to how well the transmission works in the mower.)

But I was not particularly taken with the powertrain in the Fit.

But perhaps I am not thinking about the car in the right context.

Were you thinking of buying a car for a student, particularly a college student who may have a bunch of stuff to schlep to the dorm/apartment and back, then bingo! This fits the bill. (Unintended pun.)

There’s the aforementioned fuel efficiency. And then there is a massive amount of cargo capacity.

The Fit offers 16.7-cu. ft. of cargo volume with the rear seats up. And an amazing 52.7-cu. ft. with the rear seats down.

2015 Honda Fit

By way of comparison, know that the trunk of the Honda Accord Sedan handles 15.8-cu. ft., and I’ve not heard anyone complain that the Accord is stingy with space.

The interior materials are student-friendly as well. There are soft-touch plastics. And yet there are also some, well, “plastic” plastics. You know what I mean.

2015 Honda Fit

This is a car that is nicely styled, but is engineered to be nicely priced, too, with the MSRP of the Fit EX-L being $19,800. (There is only one trim level above that, which is the EX-L with Navi, which has an MSRP of $20,800, and I suspect that people might simply opt for a Garmin and save $800.)

That whole acceleration thing is actually a benefit vis-à-vis the student transport approach.

Selected specs

Engine: 1.5-liter, DOHC, iVTEC I4

Horsepower: 130 @ 6,600 rpm

Torque: 114 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm

Materials: Aluminum block and head

Transmission: Continuously variable

Steering: Electric-power assisted rack-and-pinion

Wheelbase: 99.6 in.

Length: 160 in.

Width: 70.9 in.

Height: 60 in.

Seating capacity: 5

Passenger volume: 95.7 cu. ft.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 32/38/35 mpg

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Honda Goes NVIDIA

By: Gary S. Vasilash 7. October 2014

Lost, presumably (or relatively), last week, amid announcements of things like the Lamborghini Asterion LPI 910-4, which features a V10 naturally aspirated engine combined with three electric motors so that the car has total deliverable power of 910 hp (it is really time to start thinking of hybrids as things other than just Priuses), supercomputer-on-a-chip producer announced at the Paris Motor Show that the its Tegra mobile processor is being used by Honda to power infotainment for 2015 Honda Civic, Civic Tourer and CR-V models equipped with the Honda Connect system (in Europe).

Lambo in paris

Lamborghini Asterion LPI 910-4

That’s as in European models of the vehicles.

What’s interesting to note about this is that Honda becomes the 19th global auto company to go with NVIDIA, which is probably more familiar to global game system and tablet producers—or at least has been heretofore.

Danny Shapiro, NVIDIA’s senior director of Automotive, emphasizes that they’ve been intensively working with automotive for the past several years, which explains in large part why they have marque users including Audi and Tesla.

(The Tesla Model S actually has two Tegra processors, one for the gauge cluster and one for that 17-in. infotainment system.)

Honda is the first Japanese OEM to go with NVIDIA.

Kristian - Israel

And Shapiro points out that Honda will be the first automotive OEM that will be using Android—in this case 4.0.4—as the embedded operating system. That is, Android just like the system that you may have on your phone or Google tablet.

On the Honda vehicles, there is a 7-in. capacitive touchscreen that is used for navigation, audio, and the rearview camera.

It may not be as visibly awesome as that Lambo, but the implications for telematics implementations are certainly underscored by the announcement.

Ford Studio 2000X: Creating the Future

By: Gary S. Vasilash 6. October 2014

Jeff Nowak shows a film clip of a 2015 Ford Edge in action. It is exceedingly high-def. The lights glint off the sheet metal and the glass; the edges are crisp; the colors are rich and bright.

All-New 2015 Ford Edge Showcases Technology, Design and Craftsmanship

One thing about this.

It isn’t real.

There is no 2015 Ford Edge in the film.

There is no road. No buildings.

Jeff Nowak is chief designer at Ford’s Studio 2000X.

There they produce hyperrealistic digital images.

As Nowak explains, about half of the people in the studio are designers. The other half are tech experts.

Through the combination of the two, they are able to help bring designs that are being created in the studio into highly accurate images.

It helps development. It helps executives better understand what is being designed.

Nowak talks with John Manoogian of the College of Creative Studies (Nowak, incidentally, is a CCS graduate), Jeff Sabatini of Car and Driver, and me on this installment of “Autoline After Hours.”

Does things like Studio 2000X portend the end of clay modeling?

Watch and see.

In addition to which, Manoogian, Sabatini and I discuss a variety of auto-related developments, from the imminent Cadillac departure to New York to the viability of Lincoln.

You can watch it here:

“America’s Supercar”

By: Gary S. Vasilash 2. October 2014

While we’ll be taking a more comprehensive look at this powertrain in the November print version of Automotive Design & Production, it is interesting to note that yesterday it was announced that the first-ever supercharged Corvette Z06 engine—SAE certified at 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque—propelled the car to the fastest speed ever for a production car run at GM’s Milford Road Course in Michigan.

2015 "LT4" 6.2L V-8 AFM VVT DI SC (LT4) for Chevrolet Corvette Z

LT4 engine

It runs a quarter mile in 10.95 seconds.

It goes from 0 to 60 mph in 2.95 seconds.

And it is interesting to note that these times are for a Corvette Z06 equipped with a new eight-speed automatic.

Interesting because with the seven-speed manual, the times are 11.2 for the quarter mile and 0 to 60 in 3.2.

Certainly more than respectable times, but it seems as though automatics—with paddle shifters—are now surpassing the manual.

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

The 2015 Z06 will go on sale early next year starting at $78,995, which is certainly a low number compared to other cars with similar numbers.

As Mark Reuss, GM’s Global Product Development executive vp, put is: “The Corvette has long been known as America’s sports car. With the capability of the new Z06 rivaling the best performance cars in the world, we will also be America’s Supercar.”

2015 Lincoln MKC AWD

By: Gary S. Vasilash 1. October 2014

There are a couple ways to think about luxury vehicles.

One is what the luxury brand signifies. What it stands for in the minds of consumers. What it means. The status it provides to the person who drives one.

The other is what it is. Its physical attributes. What it provides. How it is designed. Engineered. Built. What you are actually getting for your money.

2015 Lincoln MKC

There are vehicles that have a badge that say “luxury” to the world. The vehicle in question, however, may be really not all that luxurious, or at least there are other vehicles that offer equal to or better than amenities and execution yet they come at a non-luxury price.

There are vehicles that have the badge yet the badge doesn’t have the resonance, the signification. Yet the vehicles are well built. Well executed. Full of the expected—or possibly even unexpected—features for the category.

Lincoln is in a zone that sort of splits the middle.

For some people, the “Lincoln” brand has a resonance of luxury. For these people, Lincoln is truly aspirational. However, many of these people are those who are not in a demographic that has too many vehicles left in their future. And Lincoln needs to have a whole new cohort to “think Lincoln.”

2015 Lincoln MKC

For this last set of people, “Lincoln” may be something that they sort-of know is in an upper class, but they really don’t have any strong sense one way or the other. They know what Mercedes and BMW mean. Lexus has been on the scene sufficiently long to gain viability and share of mind. They now know that Audi is a player. And Cadillac has been earning its place at the spreadsheet table with some competitive vehicles for the past few years.

But Lincoln?

It is interesting to note that Lincoln, in its advertising for the MKC, describe it as “The First-Ever Lincoln MKC.”

Which is somewhat puzzling to me. Luxury is in many ways about heritage. It is about earned credibility. So the “first-ever” is a bit puzzling.

I think if I was writing the line, I would use a different modifier. Like “The Remarkable Lincoln MKC.” Because it really is a well-executed vehicle, one that people ought to talk about.

2015 Lincoln MKC

The vehicle that I drove had a base MSRP of $35,595. All-in (including $895 for destination and delivery), it came to $48,770. Which is a non-trivial amount of money to spend on a small sport utility vehicle.

Which brings me back to the physical attributes, to what it provides for the money. And I would say that there is value there. Especially on the interior. Which really matters most.

Lincoln MKC Media Drive

The $49K comes with a bevy of items. A Homeric list. Heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, and Bridge of Weir leather. There is a heated steering wheel. Panoramic roof. Pushbutton start and pushbutton shift. Enhanced THX audio. SYNC. And while on the technology route, there is adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake assist. There is lane-keeping assist. There is active park assist (for both getting into a spot parallel and getting out of same).

The wood is wood and open pore. The trim is executed with panache, not just with a Teutonic approach.

The vehicle has a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine that produces 285 hp, and as the curb weight of the all-wheel-drive MKC is on the order of 3,963 lb., that is a sufficient amount of power.

The MKC, first or not, is simply well done. It holds its own with products from the luxury marques. But unlike them, Lincoln is back earnings its luxury stripes, and in the case of this vehicle, there is some evident overachievement going on. Which, for the customer, is certainly a good thing.

It is a crossover you buy for what it offers, and what it offers is more in the tangible sense. Lincoln keeps doing vehicles like this, then the non-tangible will come along in some short order.

Selected specs

Engine: 2.3-liter EcoBoost, DOHC, inline four

Horsepower: 285 @ 5,500 rpm

Torque: 305 lb-ft @ 2,750 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Steering: Electric power assist

Wheelbase: 105.9 in.

Length: 179.2 in.

Width: 73.4 in.

Height: 65.2 in.

Curb weight: 3,989 lb.

Seating capacity: 5

Passenger volume: 97.9-cu-ft.

Cargo volume behind first row: 53.1 cu. ft.

Cargo volume behind second row: 25.2 cu. ft.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 18/26/21 mpg

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