The Ram's Eye - A Driver's Blog: 2013



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Sunday, 8 December 2013

The 2015 Ford Mustang is revealed!




The 2015 Mustang is finally here and it must be said, I'm pleasantly surprised (for the most part). The folks at Car and Driver were almost bang on with the final rendering that they posted a few weeks ago (2015 Mustang Leaked). This isn't a rendering though, this is the real thing straight from Ford.






Although I am not a fan of a few things, it is much better than I thought it would be. Considering all the talk about the Mustang going global and ditching traditional styling, I am very happy with the result. I think it looks absolutely fantastic. There's one problem, though, which is that it is unmistakably a Mustang only from most angles, not all. Looking at the picture below, if you remove the iconic pony from the wheel centre cap, it does not look like a Mustang. And it doesn't have to look retro to look like a Mustang because the rest of the car is very distinctly Mustang but looks very modern. From the front wheels back, it looks excellent; the profile, the roof, the rear end, the hips (yes, these are hips, not shoulders) and the stance are all done right. The front, however, not so much. The lights are too long and narrow. I think it would have looked much better if the headlights stopped at the edge of the front fascia while everything else remained unchanged. Nevertheless, the from end still looks striking and muscular.




The stance is improved by the new dimensions as the new car is lower and wider. Emphasized by the wide rear end, the rear track is a whole 3 inches wider than the current generation while the whole car is 1.5 inches wider at 188.3 inches. Other than that, there are few changes. Despite a lot of speculation that the 2015 Mustang will be smaller, it is essentially the same size. Overall length is 188.3 inches which is only 0.2 inches shorter than the current model but it sits 1.4 inches lower at 54.4 inches. Wheelbase is identical at 107.1 inches. This means that if the new car is lighter than the outgoing model, it will be through better chassis design and material selection, not shrinking in size.

Speaking of weight, there have been rumours of it being as much as 400 lb. lighter than the outgoing model. I couldn't find any information about the weight of the new model but I'm not holding my breath for 400 lb. Chevrolet cut almost 100 lb. off the chassis of the new C7 Corvette yet it is slightly heavier than the C6 Corvette due to added technologies and features and, unfortunately, I would expect the same to hold true for the Mustang.




Inside, the car will gain a tilting and telescoping steering wheel as opposed to the current tilting-only wheel, keyless entry, adaptive cruise control, push button start and a rev matching feature on manual transmission equipped models. Improved stability and traction control systems will also be available. If there's one improvement to the interior that the car needed the most, though, it would have to be the location of the cup holders. The cup holders were moved slightly to the right and the gear shifter moved to the left. Being a manual-equipped Mustang owner, I can say that this will be much appreciated. As was the case with previous models, Recaro seats are expected to come back as options.

The major change under the hood is the addition of the 2.3 litre 4 cylinder EcoBoost engine which is expected to be a mid-level engine that slots between the 3.7 litre V6 and 5.0-litre V8 which are expected to carry over with some upgrades. The V8 will gain hardware from the now-out-of-production Boss 302 such as the valve springs and connecting rods as well as an oil cooler. Expect power and torque numbers to be higher than the 420 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque of the current Coyote engine. Output of the V6 shouldn't change much to prevent the performance of the V6 from being too close to that of the EcoBoost engine.

Last but very certainly not least, the chassis. I have always felt that the solid rear axle gave the Mustang some sort of a charm - it was a flaw that every Mustang had to work with while battling with the world's top performance cars the same way the Porsche 911 always had its engine in the wrong place. Nevertheless, the new platform, S550, finally gives the Mustang an independent rear suspension which should improve both ride handling and I can't say that I'm not happy about that. The unfortunate part, though, is that this is probably going to be the best suspension and chassis to ever underpin a Mustang but it won't be perfect. The perfect Mustang, in my opinion, should look like the current generation (or even better, a 1967 fastback) and have the new S550 chassis, the 5.0 litre V8 Roadrunner engine and the transmission out of a GT500 but with the former Boss 302's gear ratios.

Since that Mustang will probably never be built, at least not by Ford, I am very happy with what we have here. I'm sure it will be excellent to drive and the updated look will bring more fans to the Mustang nameplate. Pricing has yet to be announced, but I expect the GT to go up in price, the V6 to start at close to the current price and the EcoBoost-equiped Mustang (SVO anyone?) to slot in between. Road tests for all three models can't come soon enough!


Sunday, 1 December 2013

What to expect from the next generation Chevy Camaro?




As long as Mustangs and Camaros are in production, Ford and Chevy will always be trying to one-up each other. Ford announced that it will be using a 4-cylinder EcoBoost that's larger than the one used in the Focus ST for the next generation Mustang. Instead of Chevrolet trying to one up Ford by offering a turbo 4-cylinder with more power, better fuel economy or both, they skipped the 4-cylinder option all together. Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer, recently said that the next gen Camaro will continue to have a V6 as the smallest engine offering. "As long as they'll pay me to be the chief engineer, I'm going to fight for every horsepower I can and every cylinder I can," he said.

The benefit, in my opinion, isn't power or performance. I would actually expect that the 4-cylinder turbo to have a slight edge in performance compared to the base V6 options in both the Mustang and the Camaro plus there will be a far better aftermarket potential. It's simply not what the car is about. The car is not meant to save fuel, it's meant to be a performance car. And I'm not saying that efficiency and performance can't go together. As a matter of fact, I would expect negligible real world difference in mileage between an EcoBoost Mustang and a V6 Camaro because, while the smaller engine will probably be more efficient and have higher EPA ratings, actual mileage of turbo engines drops quickly when you are pushing them.  It's the attitude of the car that they're maintaining with this move. Plus, at least for the next generation, you will not hear a 4-cylinder engine noise come from a Camaro.

GM pulled the same trick with their full size trucks when they continued to offer a V6 only as the base engine and kept all optional engines as V8's while Ford brought the EcoBoost V6 to the F150 lineup but they did work on improving efficiency. Although GM kept only V8's at the top, they added a multitude of technologies to save fuel and if you look at the midrange V8 in the Silverado that's meant to be an equivalent to the EcoBoost V6, it actually matched the EcoBoost's EPA city rating and beat the hwy rating by 1 mpg so don't count out the Camaro from the fuel economy race just yet.

And that's not all for Camaro fans. A few weeks ago, Chevrolet published a video showing the anticipated Camaro Z/28 lapping the famed Nurburgring in 7:37.47. That puts it just ahead of the 911 Carrera S, which did the deed in 7:37.9. There are a few things in the Porsche's favour though. The tested car had the PDK transmission which cuts 0.7 seconds off the 0-60 time and 1/4 mile time while adding over 3 mph to the 1/4 mile trap speed. This would probably translate to quite a few precious seconds on a 13-mile track. Moreover, the Camaro had to make do with a slightly wet track. Check out the video below for the full lap.





Sunday, 17 November 2013

Lincoln Motor Company - What does Lincoln need to succeed?




A couple of weeks ago, I made a post about a recent Motor Trend test of the Lincoln MKZ lineup. In that post, I suggested that the testing itself was hurting Lincoln's image. The vast majority of the review was about performance numbers and that doesn't seem to be what Lincoln is after so, naturally, Lincoln cars don't put down numbers you can brag about. They're simply adequate. That doesn't necessarily mean they are bad cars though. For example, if someone were to take a Rolls Royce Phantom Coupe and compare its performance to a new Corvette Stingray Z51, the Phantom would come up really short. In reality, the Phantom Coupe is very far from bad or even average. It's simply not a performance car. In fact, it's so far from a performance car and offers so much more luxury and brand prestige than a Corvette that they would never be cross shopped, but you get the point. If you use the Corvette yardstick, the Rolls Royce would come up short. The opposite is obviously true as well - if you use the Rolls Royce yardstick, the Corvette would come up short. This begs the question, though, what yardstick should you use for Lincoln?

In my opinion, this question is the core of Lincoln's problem. If you were to use any commonly used yardstick when reviewing other luxury cars, Lincoln cars would come up short. That's not because Lincolns aren't any good. It's because Lincolns do not excel at any one aspect. Going back to Rolls Royce, it offers levels of attention to detail and workmanship that are unmatched. It may not offer as many features as a Mercedes S-Class but it never claims to showcase the latest and greatest in car features. Stepping down from the ultra exclusive brands like Rolls Royce, I find that Mercedes seems to focus more on features and ride comfort. BMW, Audi and Cadillac (since the first generation Cadillac CTS) mix great handling with luxury but there are a few differences. Cadillac, for example focuses on style, sharp handling and excellent balance between ride and handling. Audi also focuses on styling but in a very conservative and constrained style and gives more weight to stability and safety through their Quattro AWD system.

This takes us back to Lincoln. What is Lincoln's focus? What is Lincoln's "specialty"? Lincoln doesn't come to mind when you're thinking of any specific luxury car feature or character. Whether you're thinking about power, handling, style, features, materials quality, or ride, none of these take you back to Lincoln. Lincolns are just average at all aspects. They may very well offer the best compromise for many buyers since there is no one single strong aspect but that doesn't do the brand image any good. That's what Lincoln needs to change.




I've heard over and over again from many people that Lincoln needs a RWD car and, while I would love a RWD car from Lincoln, I don't think it necessarily needs one. Audi has done quite well with building cars on a platform shared with VW and none of their cars are RWD or even based on a RWD chassis. It has done a great job differentiating itself from VW. What Lincoln desperately needs is a speciality - a focus. It needs an identity. Will the new Lincoln MKC show an identity? Only time will tell. The new MKZ was a step in the right direction but wasn't quite there. Here's hoping that the MKC will be.


Thursday, 7 November 2013

Chicago hit and run - this is a bad one!

If you mention hit and run, you already know there are bad driving manners involved. How do you define a bad hit and run? I think this video sums it up pretty well. In an attempt to run away and avoid having to provide insurance information, the driver hits not one or two but three cars. That's three cars while attempting to get away - i.e. three in addition to the car the driver hit in the first place for a total of four hit and runs within a few minutes. That's a bad hit and run.. luckily, the getaway was caught on camera so hopefully someone was able to get the license plate number. 


 



Monday, 4 November 2013

2015 Mustang Leaked and Engine Options Details!




Just a few weeks before the reveal date of the much anticipated 2015 Mustang, pictures and information have been "leaked." This new Mustang is very important for Ford because the aim is to take it globally which means it has to appeal to buyers not only in North America but in other markets as well. This model celebrates the 50th birthday of the Mustang and will be the first truly global Mustang model which means it not only has to be appealing to different markets, but it also has to make a very good impression and Ford is counting on three major changes - exterior design, suspension and powertrain options.

The new design is certainly striking (go to Car and Driver for a 360ยบ interactive view - 2015 Ford Mustang Leaked!). The car clearly shares resemblance with the Evos concept and the current generation Ford Fusion while looking muscular. I do wish it looked more like an evolution of the current Mustang but I do like the design. I'm not a huge fan of the very thin headlights but other than that, I think it looks great. 

The other major change is tucked under the new skin and has been long awaited by many - the independent rear suspension. There's no doubt that Ford has done an amazing job with the solid rear axle used on the current Mustang but the added unsprung mass that has to be controlled and the inherent problem with articulation can only be completely fixed with an independent suspension. Moreover, the whole chassis is getting reworked to save weight. In fact, there has been reports of the new Mustang being up to 400 lbs. lighter than the current one but I'm not holding my breath for that. I wouldn't be surprised if the chassis is 300-400 lbs. lighter than the current one but I expect added safety requirements and features to bring that down to around 200 lbs. and, according to Car and Driver, that's what Ford is targeting which is still excellent. That would put the V6 version around 3,300 lbs. and the V8 around 3,400 lbs. 




Speaking of engines, the V6 and V8 engines are expected to carryover with some changes resulting in more hp, but the major change under hood is the addition of a turbocharged 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine. American Muscle reports that one of their community members shared a survey that he received after buying a 2013 Mustang and the survey shows a 3.8-litre V6, a 2.4-litre I4 (turbo) and a 4.9-litre V8 as engine options (AmericanMuscle.com - Ford Survey Accidentally Leaks 2015 Mustang Engines & Options). The engine sizes are slightly off from what is expected but don't expect that to translate into production. As American Muscle put it, the numbers were probably skewed to throw the average Joe off from thinking they are specific engines that are being developed for the next generation. What we can learn from the survey is that the V6 and V8 engines will be back, the 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine will probably be offered in the US, not just in Europe, and that it will not be the base engine. Instead, it will be an upgrade over the V6 which will continue to be the base engine.

All in all, it looks like the new Mustang will definitely not disappoint. The lighter chassis and better suspension will improve an already great handling car and, while the current Mustang isn't lacking in the power department, the power bump will certainly be very welcome. In fact, with 3,400 lbs and power in the mid 400 hp range, it should have a power-to-weight ratio that's only slightly lower than the new Corvette. And although the new look may upset some die-hard fans of the current retro Mustang, it should bring more new buyers.


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

2013 Lincoln MKZ Full Line First Test - A Closer Look




It's no secret that Lincoln has been struggling lately to establish itself as a serious luxury brand, often being criticized of not differentiating itself enough from its parent, mainstream company, Ford. Motor Trend's most recent test of the MKZ line-up is in line with all recent Lincoln reviews. I think part of the problem is with the reviews, though, not Lincoln and its offerings. Let's look at this latest review.

You don't need to read a whole lot to notice the problem (2013 Lincoln MKZ Full Line First Test - Motor Trend). In fact, you only need to read past the first couple of lines. They said that the Lincoln MKZ has changed things but is it good enough to be more than "Ford-Plus? That's still a tough case to make, when given all the data." Notice the problem? The problem is the data. Or rather, using data.
Over the years, performance figures have become a huge factor in judging a luxury car. So huge, in fact, that the vast majority of the article is only about performance numbers.




The article consists of 13 paragraphs (plus introduction and conclusion paragraphs) - 9 of which are about performance numbers. Over two thirds of a luxury car review talks about nothing but acceleration and grip measurements. How does it drive? How quiet is it? What does it deal with road imperfections? These and other important aspects of a luxury car are overlooked in the name of performance. All we're told, literally, is that "all models drive nicely and are pretty quiet inside, except for the hybrid model, which has more engine noise than the other two when it's running." So here we have an (arguably) very stylish, comfortable, and quiet luxury sedan that drives well and has great features but its performance figures lag behind the competition which automatically pushes it down the hierarchy of luxury cars.




That's not to say that the automotive media is the only side to blame. I do think that performance figures are being given a greater weight than they should be when it comes to luxury cars but since more people are starting to care about performance numbers, Lincoln should meet that demand. I don't think that the Lincoln MKZ is only a good car, as Motor Trend described it, I think it's a great car. The problem is that where it compromises the most is the performance front which seems to be the last place car buyers want to compromise nowadays. If we overlook the fact that it's RWD and take a high level look at the Cadillac ATS for example, it compromises the most in packaging, in my opinion. It's a little less space efficient than the competition but in exchange you get excellent styling, handling and chassis balance. People don't seem to mind that all that much, though, so the ATS is considered by many to be a success. Will the MKZ be a success? Only time will tell but sales seem to be slowly gaining momentum. Based on the MKZ's feedback, though, Lincoln still has some work to do. What do you think Lincoln needs to be considered best in class? Sound off in the comments below!


Sunday, 29 September 2013

Lamborghini Gallardo Safety Car Spins - Campionato Italiano GT

How do you know that track conditions are rather slippery? If the safety car spins out. The video below shows a Lamborghini Gallardo spinning out due to very wet conditions on the track during the 2nd race of Campiona Italiano GT at Vallelunga. I doubt he will forget that moment. To rub salt in the wound, the video shows some of the race cars warming up their tires right after showing the Lambo spinning out.




2013 Motor Trend Best Driver's Car - A Closer Look

I don't know who had the idea first, Car and Driver or Motor Trend, but they both go out every year and line up a group of the best performance cars that were updated or introduced the preceding year in a comparison test. The first Lightning Lap feature was in 2006 and I believe the first Motor Trend feature (used to be America's Best Handling Car) was in 2007. I'm not sure if either had earlier equivalents but based on these dates, it looks like Car and Driver had the idea first. I actually like the Lightning Lap feature better. I think it's because ranking in Car and Driver's Lightning Lap is based only on lap times.

A better lap time does not necessarily mean a better car. However, ranking cars based solely on their lap times makes the feature very objective. The issue that I find is that many (many) people disagree and argue about Best Driver's Car rankings but there's no arguing with lap times. I think Motor Trend's staff knows this so I usually notice that they fixate on the strengths of a car that they like and want to rank higher than they think many readers would rank and vice versa - fixate on the weaknesses of a car that they don't like and want to rank lower than they think many readers would. The folks at Car and Driver know that their opinions and driving impressions do not affect the rankings, positively or negatively, so they list what they like and don't like about each car and move on to the next. It makes the Lightning Lap less subjective in my opinion because no one is trying to convince you of one thing or another. I don't get the feeling that anyone is trying to sell you their point of view. Nevertheless, I enjoy reading Motor Trend's Best Driver's Car a lot and, as with Car and Driver's Lightning Lap (Car and Driver's Lightning Lap 2013 - A Closer Look), here are the cars that I think are truly impressive or disappointing.



The Highs:


Mercedes Benz E63 AMG S Model (wagon) - It's a wagon. It has nearly as much room as today's crossovers, weighs over 1,000 lbs more than most and it's quicker than an E92 M3. It is simply awesome. There are a couple of issues with it though. The first issue is that it is a impressive based on Car and Driver's ranking criteria, which is lap times, but low based on Motor Trend's - how good a driver's car it is. Okay, I haven't driven it, but based on the review, I don't have a good impression about it being a great driver's car. Let's look at what they had to say.. "Where the E63 faltered was at the edge. Driven all the way to the limit, it begins to fall down." "Not the Best Driver's Car due to its numb steering, heavy build and understeer." "an absolute riot in a straight line but corners, especially ones that stack up, are another story." So, to sum it up, it's a great driver's car as long as you don't take it to the limit which is very contradictory. It's a car that can only be a great driver's car as long as it's driven at 8/10th or lower.


Make no mistake, this doesn't make it a bad car. This is a super wagon. Its selling point is that it can be all things to all people. It can shuttle people along with half their stuff, half an hour later it can be doing hot laps at the local track or making passes at the drag strip and it can do either task very well. Because of this and the fact that it's a Mercedes, it has to be big, comfortable and pack a lot of luxury and safety features (i.e. heavy) and it has to be safe at the limit (i.e. understeer). The weight probably is what's killing the steering feel and response and its purpose requires it to understeer at the limit. 






Mercedes Benz SLS AMG Black Series - Here's another surprise from AMG. Besides the S Class, AMG cars have been know to be oversteering beasts that are built to put a huge smile on your face. They are fun cars not precision handling cars. I think most reviewers are very wrong when they say AMG is the M3 equivalent from Mercedes. It's far from it. I think AMG simply knows that there's a market for fast and powerful luxury cars so they give people an alternative. Not an equivalent, an alternative. I have met many AMG and M3 owners at the track and they are very different. It seems that they are going a different route, though, and trying to be taken seriously. 

They turned the C63 AMG into a fierce track machine by applying the Black Series treatment. They gave the E63 AMG AWD. All the reviews that I read about the SLS AMG were in line with the regular AMG image. It's a fun car. A blast to drive and great on the road. A precision handling car, it isn't. The Black Series treatment, again, changes that just like it did with the C63 AMG. 






The Lows:



Aston Martin Vanquish - The price, power and looks suggest a much quicker car. This Aston and the Jaguar F-Type V8 S are originally GT cars that want to double as sports cars when taken to the track. Despite the Jaguar being 77 hp down on power and lacking a rigid roof compared to the Aston, it is only 0.10 seconds slower. I think Aston Martin has been surviving in a similar manner to Toyota. Toyota has been making boring, soulless and bland looking cars for years that sell only because people expect them to be reliable. Aston Martin makes cars with technology and performance behind its competition but they sell because they look and sound the way they do. 

It isn't a necessarily a bad thing though because, to me, it is part of the charm of Aston Martin. Whenever I see an Aston on the road, I instantly make the judgement that the owner does not care about 0-60 mph times or top speed. They don't care about max lateral g's the car can generate in the corners, how fast the gear shifts are or power to weight ratios. There are better cars for the money. It's a car you buy with your heart not your mind. Where Toyota commits crimes against the automobile by taking cars closer to appliances, Aston Martin does the automobile a favour by taking cars closer to art.






Nissan GT-R Track Edition - Every time I read a review about this car, I like it less. I appreciate it more for its capabilities, but I like it less. The performance potential is huge. It has massive grip levels. The AWD and electronics can keep you safe if you're learning and can take you to super car performance levels if you know what you're doing. But whenever I read a review, I get more convinced that this isn't a driver's car. Well, why would it keep coming back and doing well at the Best Driver's Car feature? I think it's confidence. This car has got it in spades due to the phenomenal grip from the AWD system. Motor Trend has said several times that confidence is one of the major characteristics they look for. I don't think it does very well in the other categories that define a great driver's car though.


One of issues they had with it was a loss of power. After the engine got hot, the car's computer started pulling boost despite all gauges, temperature included, reading normal values. Boost was peaking at 10 psi instead of usual 15 which is a big difference. It even dropped to 7 psi later as the engine got hotter, just under half. They were running on 91 gas so it is possible that the engine wouldn't lose that much power with 93 but I have hard time believe it would prevent noticeable power loss all together which means that you'll have to watch the boost gauge and come off the track to let it cool down whenever it starts to drop. This isn't unexpected for many boosted cars as stock cooling usually isn't sized to handle heat due to serious track use but a GT-R isn't just an every day boosted car and the track edition further emphasizes that. The track edition even goes as far as taking out the (albeit, almost useless) rear seats to remind you that it wants to be a serious track machine.


The handling impressions were odd too. Randy said that he was surprised at the amount of understeer the car had and it was middle of the corner, not on power. "You got out of the corner before releasing the brake, it starts to understeer and you're looking for the apex, and it just won't come to it," he said, "the front just wasn't responding. Never any power rotation and just a surprising amount of mid-corner understeer." Could that have been on purpose? Is Nissan trying to tune out some power rotation to make the car more confidence inspiring? I know it would work for some people - to feel like the back could never come out on power unless you're being stupid with the throttle. It's possible, but I would except the complete opposite out of a "Track Edition" of a sports car; a more neutral and balanced chassis. And you even pay a price for the reworked handling - an even stiffer suspension that makes for a jittery and bouncy ride on public roads.






Audi R8 V10 Plus - A lap time of 1:38.7 around Laguna Seca is hardly disappointing but when you consider that the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S that was present for the same testing went around the famous track in 1:39.19, less than half a second slower, it is a little less impressive. The R8, which has a whopping 150 hp advantage plus an excellent AWD system and transmission, like the Porsche, should be able to pull a greater lead, apparently due to a surprising lack of grip from the tires. Are the tires to blame? Is the suspension tuning to blame? Can't say. But I can say that, based on the specs and equipment, it should be capable of a quicker lap time.






Overall, I'm rather disappointed with this year's BDC. I usually am a little disappointed with BDC because, like I said at first, I feel like it is very subjective but this year I was even more so. There are many cars that I was expecting to see but weren't there. The BMW 3-series, Cadillac ATS, Audi TT RS and Camaro 1LE keep coming to mind but I'm sure there are others that I am forgetting. The Corvette Stingray should have been there but GM, unfortunately, wasn't able to provide a car. The Bentley is really confusing me. What is it doing here? Sure, the capabilities of the car are impressive but there are many cars I can think of that would be better contenders for the title of best driver's car than a 5,000+ lb Bentley. I hope the next BDC feature will be better. 


Saturday, 10 August 2013

2014 Corvette Stingray Z51 Tested!




It's in a league "well beyond the reach of the current Porsche crowd." That's what Car and Driver had to say about the new Corvette during their test after posting a 1.08 g score on GM's black-lake circle. Much like the outgoing C6 Corvette, opinions about the new Corvette seem to be anonymous. However, unlike the outgoing C6 Corvette which was praised for its performance capabilities and value but criticized for the quality of the interior and the seats, the C7 Corvette Stingray seem to be basically flawless.

We'll get the easy stuff out of the way first - the numbers. The best numbers were achieved by Edmunds, where they were able to do a 0-60 mph sprint in just 3.8 seconds and the 1/4 mile was dealt with in 12 seconds flat at 117 mph. For comparison, the last Grand Sport Edmunds tested did the same deeds in 4.2 seconds and 12.5 s @ 115.1 mph. The Stingray was able to blast through a 6 x 100 ft slalom at 72.8 mph and hold 1.08 g around the skidpad while the Grand Sport managed the slalom at 69.2 mph and held 0.98 g around the skidpad. It took just 93 ft to come to a stand still from 60 mph, 10 ft shorter than a Grand Sport.



2014 Corvette Stingray Z51           
2010 Corvette Grand Sport            
0-60 mph(sec.):
3.8
4.2
1/4-mie (sec @ mph):
12.0 @ 117.3
12.5 @ 115.1
Slalom (mph):
72.8
69.2
Skid Pad Lateral G (g):
1.08
0.98
60-0 mph (ft):
93
103

So it out accelerates, out handles, out grips and out brakes the outgoing 'Vette. With ease. But how far is it "beyond the reach of the current Porsche crowd"? For comparison here are the numbers for a 2012 911 Carrera S with the 7-speed manual and and the PDK:



2012 Porsche 911 Carerra S 7MT    
2012 Porsche 911 Carerra S PDK    
0-60 mph(sec.):
4.6
3.9
1/4-mie (sec @ mph):
12.7 @ 113.2
12.0 @ 116.5
Slalom (mph):
71.3
71.4
Skid Pad Lateral G (g):
1.04
1.03
60-0 mph (ft):
102
98


This is very impressive, considering that a 911 Carerra S PDK will set you back Corvette ZR1 money - over $45,000 more - assuming PDK is the only option on the 911 and the Z51 package and magnetic shocks are the only options on the Corvette. Add that to the fact that the Corvette weighs 110 lb more than the Porsche, and the numbers become even more impressive. So it still has incredible bank-for-your-buck value and you don't even have to live with a budget interior anymore. Everything looks great on paper then but numbers aren't everything.

Chevrolet announced that there will be a new suite of electronics that will aid the driver and help with vehicle control. Since then, I have been concerned that it will move away from the pure driving experience and will basically be Chevy's GTR - a car with incredible capabilities that also claims most of the credit because of how much the car corrects your inputs. This isn't the case with the Corvette.




Make no mistake, the electronics have come a long way. As Edmunds puts it, it allows you to do things you would never consider doing without such elegant back up systems. One of those things was executing a 100-mph four-wheel slide over a mid corner blind crest on a wholly unfamiliar racetrack. This means that it doesn't intervene at every chance it gets to correct your inputs. It lets you do what you want, it simply keeps you from crashing your brand new Corvette. Most advanced electronic stability, traction and power delivery systems attempt to keep you within the limits of grip of the car. Not the PTM system. It lets you go beyond grip limits but keeps you within the limits of control. It's a very different design strategy.

Alex MacDonald, chassis control performance engineer for the Stingray, said that he understands that exiting a corner sideways is, for many, the most rewarding component of driving a car that works right despite it being slower and man is he ever right. You're not always out there to get the best time. You're not always wheel-to-wheel racing. If you think you don't need the PTM system, though, you can turn it off all together and do all the work. Another point for the design team then.

Moreover, when you are done thrashing it around the track and want to put down a serious lap, you'll have no problem doing so. Everything has been dialled up form control, to feedback to response. The new chassis, as we've learned during the reveal, is 57% stiffer. In fact, the C7 Corvette convertible will be 20% stiffer than a C6 Corvette coupe. The steering column is 150% stiffer than the same part on the outgoing 'Vette. It's a textbook rear-drive sports car. A real driver's car.

And thanks to magical magnetic shocks, it's a perfectly comfortable everyday car. "Even Porsche's do-all 911 can't match the ride/handling balance available in the Stingray," said Edmunds. The seats? Well, the base GT seats are not a problem anymore, let alone the optional competition seats that will be available as an option.

This then is the Corvette Chevy should have built a decade ago. It's an everything sports car for everyone. And it carries a base price of $51,995, only $1,400 more than the outgoing C6 Corvette. The goal of gaining market share seems like it's bound to happen but we'll have to wait and see!


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

What is the best mod to cut down lap times?




You've got some money saved. You have been thinking about modifying your car to make it quicker and now is the time to go shopping. If you're not sure what to get, the good news is that with track days and interest in lapping becoming more popular, you can easily find good resources online. Better tires are usually recommended as the best place to start and I couldn't agree more. If you want to improve the specs of your car, tires are definitely the best place to start. If you want to go faster, though, save your money..

Last weekend, I headed to the track for Atlantic Sports Car Club (ASCC) Time Attack #2, my first timed event. I've only been going to non-timed, lapping events for the past few years but I've wanted to start going to timed events for a while to make sure I'm moving in the right direction. The event included 5 sessions - a practice session and 4 hot sessions. I was planning on using my GoPro camera to film all timed sessions but, unfortunately, it got very hot sitting in the back (I didn't want it in the front to avoid distraction) so I only recorded the practice session. I will have to find another spot for it next time I go.




My goal was a lap time of 1:25.x or under by the end of the day. After my first session though, the practice session, I changed my mind about the "or under" part of my goal.. My fastest lap during the practice session was 1:28.7 (video below). That meant I had to find 3 seconds to reach what was initially my minimum goal.

I started to think of the places where I thought I am losing a lot of time and decided to work on the entries of corners 1 and 7 and the exits of corners 2 and 9. I stayed on the throttle slightly longer after the front straight (between corner 11 and corner 1) and carried more speed through corner one. Similarly, a little late braking at the end of the back "straight" meant carrying more speed through 7. At the exits of corners 2 and 9, I applied more throttle past the apex. I didn't get on the throttle any earlier, only rolled into the throttle more quickly. This combination of late braking, carrying more corner speed and quicker throttle application cut down 1.5 seconds off my practice time for a best lap time of 1:27.2 during the 1st hot session.

I liked the results so much that I decided to work on the same corners during the 2nd hot session, with more late braking and corner speed plus quicker throttle application. I was able to find another half a second for a best lap time of 1:26.7. This meant I was less than a second away from my goal and I had 2 more hot sessions to find that second!




For the 3rd session, I decided to add corners 3 and 5 to the list of corners to work on. I had only made changes to braking and throttle application up to that point but no changes to my lines. That changed for the 3rd session. I tried to apply more throttle coming out of 3 but I was running out of room on corner exit so I tried to turn in later coming into 3 and I immediately noticed a huge difference in speed. I carried so much more speed that I almost ran into the rev limit before braking for 4 - a first for me. At the entry of corner 5, I refrained from using the brakes at all and decided to rely on engine braking alone. As you can see in the video (go to corner 4 at 0:40 in the video), corner 5 is an uphill/downhill corner - corner entry is uphill and corner exit is downhill with the apex almost exactly at the highest point. Because of that, the car unloads mid corner and shifts to the right of the track around the time you need to get back on the throttle so you can't carry too much speed going into 5. As it turns out, though, engine braking is more than enough for my speed coming out of 4. I might need some braking when I get corners 4 and 5 better nailed down, but at this point, the result was.. *drum roll*.. another 1.2 seconds - yes, I was at my goal! A best lap time of 1:25.5 during the 3rd session.

For the 4th and final session, I used the same line that I used in the 3rd session with late turn in into 3 and continued to work on my throttle and braking application. The result was another 0.3 seconds for a best lap time of 1:25.2 for the session and for the day. We got a yellow a flag, though, because someone spun so we were offered one additional hot lap and a few of us took it. For this hot lap, I tried to work on corner 2 entry as well. This didn't work so well.. I got on the brakes a little later, tried to carry more speed and ended up going wide so I actually lost time compared to my best time of the day and got a lap time of 1:26.3.

I have no doubt that 1:25 is a good few seconds slower than what the car can do but I was happy with the results nonetheless. From 1:28.7 to 1:25.2 is an improvement of three and half seconds. The cost? $160. Short of forced induction and track tires, I would be hard pressed to find something that can cut down 3.5 seconds off lap times on a 1.6 mile track, let alone do it for $160. If you've got some extra money saved, don't spend it on modifications until you attend a few high performance driving schools and timed events. Nothing will give you more bang for your buck. A "driver mod" is the best mod to cut down lap times until you have accumulated many hours of seat time on a track.