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



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Sunday, 24 February 2013

SRT Viper ACR is coming!




Unsurprisingly, a more track focused Viper ACR has been confirmed for production (Viper GTS-R shown). SRT CEO Ralph Gilles has previously hinted at a Viper ACR but a high-level at Chrysler has confirmed to Motor Trend that a faster snake is already under development. Apparently, the reason for the delay is not budget or technical difficulties facing the SRT team. Rather, it's a problem with the tires.

The SRT team would like some of the sticky goodness wrapping the Corvette ZR1's wheels - the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires. However, Michelin wouldn't sell the tires to SRT. The Corvette team may have had something to do with it but that would be difficult to confirm. Either way, they are now pressing their supplier, Pirelli, to develop something comparable to the Pilot Sport Cup tires to be used on the Viper ACR. The development for the car and tires are expected to be done for the 2014 calendar year.

Along with upgraded tires, the ACR should receive a bunch of performance boosting upgrades. Judging by the previous ACR, the treatment should include stiffer springs and anti-roll bars, upgraded shocks, better brakes, aerodynamic upgrades to increase downforce and a drop in weight. A more hardcore version or package may also strip the interior or at least a few convenience features like A/C or speakers/radio for more weight savings. It is unknown whether or not there will be a power increase.

There has been a power increase in the past for the ACR version but the previous ACR did not receive a power bump. The current power output of the 8.4 litre V10 was kept at 640 hp to keep the weight to power ratio of the Viper at 5.2 lb/hp (power to weight ratio of 424 hp/ton), the same as the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta. Any higher and the Viper would have had a better power to weight ratio than the Ferrari and  Fiat wouldn't have been too happy about that. More power out of the monstrous V10 can be had relatively easy, though, and could even exceed the 731 hp rating of the F12 Berlinetta. I wouldn't be surprised if they at least give it a different tune that improves mid range torque and response but no increase in top end power a la the Mustang Boss 302's TracKey, except it would be a permanent tune dedicated to the ACR.

If the new Viper ACR follows in the foot steps of the previous one and does include weight saving upgrades, then it should have a better power to weight ratio than the F12 Berlinetta and that's with no increase in power. Do you think the SRT team will be able to convince Fiat to take the 8.4 litre V10 closer to its full potential? A 700 hp Viper ACR wouldn't be so bad..

Source: Motor Trend


700 hp C7 Corvette Stingray ZR1 may be in the works!



The C7 Chevy Corvette - the Stingray - was revealed last month and the details are very promising (full post: The Stingray is back! Details about the new 2014 C7 Corvette). If we're to learn anything from the changes from C5 to the C6 Corvette, the C7 base and Grand Sport Corvettes will approach the performance of the current Z06. Carbon fibre bits and an all aluminum frame are now standard across all models. As a result the new car is 99 lbs lighter but the chassis 57% stiffer than the outgoing model. With the added help of 50/50 weight distribution and increased power, GM says the base model Stingray will be quicker than the current Grand Sport Corvette. That means the Z06 will have to move up a lot in performance and so will the ZR1.

The next ZR1 is expect to use a supercharged version of the new LT-1 V8 in the new base Corvette, much like the current Corvette ZR1 formula, with about 700 hp. The Z06 may keep its massive naturally aspirated 7.0 litre V8 but with more power. Fuel economy probably will not drop with the increase power. GM will make sure that the Z06 and ZR1 are differentiated enough in terms of hp. As a result, the ZR1 will maintain its hp advantage. The Z06 should pack around 580-600 hp and the ZR1 should be close to or even crack 700 hp.

According to GM, the new LT-1 V8 is expected to make at least 450 hp in the base Corvette. Before the Camaro ZL1 numbers were released, it was expected to have around 550 hp which means that "at least 450 hp" should translate to a power rating of 460-480 hp. The Z06 and ZR1 are expected to be released about a year after the base model to let the base model establishes itself and get sales. Much like the development of the C6 Corvette, the Z06 will probably be released first, followed by the ZR1. 

Source: Motor Trend


2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club vs. 2013 Scion FR-S - A Closer Look




When Jeremy Clarkson presented the Toyota GT-86 (Scion FR-S over here) and Subaru BRZ on Top Gear (Season 19 - Episode 3), he praised them for offering affordable RWD fun. With a balanced lightweight chassis, fuel economy tires (little grip) and RWD, the car offers the same sort of fun you can have in German RWD sports sedans, but with two exceptions - lack of power and a luxury car price tag. It sounds like a good formula but the case changes in North America because the domestics have that area covered - affordable, fun RWD cars and they've even got power to boot so marketing them that way won't work. What's the selling point then? The only advantage cars like the Mazda MX-5 offer over here is lightweight handling.

Motor Trend's comparison of $28k high performance two door cars that they had last year (full post: Comparison: $28K High-Performance Two-Door) used that advantage to choose the winner. I personally would buy the Mustang V6 if I were in the market with that budget. The reasons are: I buy domestic, great heritage and I know what I need to do to get the car where I want it to be. There isn't much that can be done, though, about what I don't like about the MX-5 and the likes; lack of practicality/space and power. I could solve the power issue by going for an engine swap or forced induction but either of which would cost several thousand dollars. Plus, I would have to spend money on modifying the suspension anyway to deal with the extra weight in the front and the power in the back. 


However, I do understand picking one of the lightweight offerings because you can't take a whole lot of weight off the Mustang without stripping the car and even the few weight saving modifications with a full interior will be very expensive and yield little results. When it comes to lightweight handling, these cars excel. That seemed to have been the selling point or clear advantage in all reviews.. until a few days ago.


This comparison (full post: 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club vs. 2013 Scion FR-S) wasn't about the more communicative or more driver oriented car. It was about the more fun to drive car. This left me confused as to why the rest of the cars from the $28k performance car comparison didn't make a reappearance since the comparison criteria has changed, especially these cars' biggest problem and the top performer - the V6 Mustang. 





The problem is that value matters a lot whenever people are buying anything and the V6 Mustang has plenty of that. However, being aimed at a much larger demographic, it has to be toned down and heavier - this is because it has to be more practical (bigger) and, to keep it affordable, use of exotic lightweight materials is not an option. Both the Mustang and the Camaro are expected to lose a couple of hundred pounds or so when the new generations come out which should help a lot but they will still be heavier. The result? The general consensus is that if you want more car - the car that is quicker/better handling, more powerful, more practical, more affordable, or "all of the above", get the Mustang. If you want the more driver oriented car off the showroom floor, get the MX-5 or one of the Toybaru twins (FR-S/GT-86 or BRZ). 


But this one wasn't about the more driver oriented car. It was about the more fun to drive car. The V6 Mustang and other performance cars on the market like the Golf GTI, Focus ST and others offer a lot of fun but they weren't in the comparison. As I read further, I got even more confused. "The roadster exhibited, "lots of body movement, roll, and dive, which isn't what you'd normally call ideal," said Lago, "But for some reason, somehow, it works." Work it does." 


Praising body roll and dive wasn't the end of it though. Later they added: "Even the body roll we first noticed on the figure eight helped make the experience that much more enjoyable for the driver because, as Lago pointed out, it makes the driver feel like they're on the world's driest waterslide." Wait.. body roll made the car much more enjoyable for the driver? Body roll is always a negative in any performance car comparison, whether it's about fun, performance numbers or handling. Body movement kills both fun and performance. In this case, though, body roll was fun, much more fun.. it was like being on a waterside.. Is this an early April fools joke?


I understand and like the lightweight and fun to drive formula for an affordable price. It should have more power though. I don't know if this formula hasn't had more power because it would drive up the cost or the little power is part of the philosophy behind it. Either way, it is what it is and you have to compromise between the heavier but quicker and more powerful options or lighter options. But this comparison and the conclusion just seem to contradict just about every performance car review. Praising body movement? Saying it makes the car much more enjoyable? It almost seems like someone at Motor Trend just wanted the Mazda to win a comparison test but couldn't use the true advantages of the lightweight formula because the Toybaru twins do that better and didn't invite other competitors because they offer more fun.

Source: Motor Trend


Sunday, 17 February 2013

Details about the new 2014 Chevy SS




Chevrolet has finally revealed its much anticipated RWD flagship sedan. As expected, the car looks nearly identical to its Australian cousin, the Holden VF Commodore SS-V and bears great resemblance to the late Pontiac G8 GXP. Unlike the Holden and the Pontiac though, the Chevy will only be offered with a 6-speed automatic as the sole transmission option. This is disappointing for those of us who prefer to row their own gears but I doubt it will affect sales.




Since Dodge pulled out of NASCAR, this makes Chevrolet the only maker to have a RWD production vehicle (and a V8 one at that matter) using the same nameplate that's used for NASCAR. It, unfortunately, still isn't mechanically related to the race car but a shared name and front end is a good start.




It will be offered with the LS3 6.2 L V8 making 415 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque routed to the rear wheels and a 3.27 final drive ratio. Chevy is estimating a 0-60 time of about 5 seconds but I am expecting this to be overly conservative. A mid-high 4 second range is more reasonable, especially when considering that the G8 GXP always posted a sub 5-second 0-60 times.




Braking power comes courtesy of two piece, four piston brembo brakes up front and single pistons sliding callipers out back. Chevy says the weight distribution will be a near perfect 50/50 with a low weight distribution, thanks in part to aluminum hood and trunk lid that save 30% compared to equivalent steel parts. 19 inch forged aluminum wheels are standard, wrapped in Bridgestone tires with a staggered setup - 245/40/19 fronts and 275/35/19 rears. Sport tuned suspension and power steering system round off the handling package. According GM's executive chief engineer of GM global programs, David Leone, the car will deliver incredible grip and handling balance while cornering and a comfortable drive while on the road. Sounds great to me!




The car will come with many standard convenience and safety features and will seat 5 adults comfortable. Chevy's MyLink infotainment system, heads up display, push-button start, 9-speaker Bose audio system, eight-way power front buckets, blue accent lighting, LED daytime running lights and HID headlamps are all standard features. Increasing the premium feel, stitched leather, soft touch materials, embroidered SS decals on the seats and dashboard and chrome trim are also all standard. The seats actually look like they have cutouts for a 5 point harness.






Safety features include forward collision alert, lane departure warning, side blind spot monitors, stability control, traction control, a backup camera and rear cross traffic alert. Automatic Parking Assist, a Chevy first, will provide assistance in parallel and reverse right angle parking situations. It will also seat five adults comfortably, which is to be expected from a big Chevy. Power sunroof is expected to be the only option.




Judging by the long list of standard features and the tire-shredding Corvette V8 engine (as the only engine option), the SS is not expected to have an entry level model for masses like the G8. It will stay true to Chevy's tradition of good value for money though, so a price tag similar to that of a luxury car with the same size, power and features is out of the question. I expect MSRP to be close to or under $45k which will be a heck of a bargain for what you get. Will this car be as good or better than the Pontiac G8 and receive the same praise that it did? Will Ford or at least Lincoln be next in line to offer a RWD performance sedan? I sure hope so.


Sunday, 3 February 2013

Top 5 pictures from the Top Gear inbox


Top Gear posted a few funny/weird pictures of the (probably) very many that fans email to them (full post: A small selection from the TG inbox). There are quite a few so be sure to check all of them but here are my top 5:


Nurburgring Toaster: I would have toast every day just to use this and print a map of the Nurburgring on my breakfast.











Knowledge of British culture: This is one of the top 5 simply because it is true.






Evolution (or lack thereof) of the Porsche 911: I can just imagine Jeremy and Hammond fighting over this picture. Jeremy blaming Porsche's design department for being the laziest and Richard defending the design because it is aerodynamic. I do appreciate keeping heritage in car designs but it is still funny to look at.




Bugatti Veyron body kit: It is both sad and impressive that someone went through all the work to do this.



Lieber Nurburgring als Ehering: This translates to "Rather Nurburgring than wedding ring." It is stuck on the unmistakable back end of a Corvette. Need I say more?