The Ram's Eye - A Driver's Blog: April 2015



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Thursday, 16 April 2015

Cadillac CT6 - full details!




If you want some proof that Cadillac is doing something right, I might be able to help. Looking through the stats of my blog, searches and viewership of my posts about the CT6 have been soaring lately. There's a lot of excitement about this car and I'm not surprised. There's a lot riding on it and while Cadillac sales haven't been newsworthy, it's hard to argue that it is well on its way to reestablishing itself as a true world leader in luxury with a slowly expanding lineup.


We heard a few things about the CT6 and have seen it in a first-in-the-industry reveal in an Oscars commercial (2016 Cadillac CT6 Surprise Unveil) but now we have full details and things are looking even better. Cadillac is promising a lot in terms of driver involvement, chassis control and power while still delivering in comfort, luxury and connectivity. I don't care much for the last (i.e. connectivity) but it is an important aspect of modern cars so they have to deliver on all fronts.



To deliver on the chassis front, Cadillac is promising one of the most advanced chassises, with an aluminum intensive architecture that also incorporates 11 different materials to achieve target performance and weight goals that will make it the lightest in the class while being the most agile. With a wheelbase of 122.4 in, the CT6 is competitive with the BMW 7-series and Mercedes S-Class (short wheel base models) yet it will be lighter than the CTS, which itself is lighter than cars in ITS class. The current CTS has been weighed in different tests and came in the 3,900 lb range which is 200-300 lbs lighter than cars in its class. The CT6 is bigger than the CTS yet lighter, with an estimated curb weight of around 3,700 lbs, around 600 lbs lighter than a BMW 740i. This is just mind boggling. That's in the range of cars like the Mustang GT and BMW M3. These are performance oriented two door coupes that will weigh as much as a full size luxury sedan, if Cadillac delivers on the 3,700 lb promise. Let that sink in. 

On the power front, there's an all new 3.0 litre twin turbo V6 engine with an estimated 400 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque sitting at the top of the line, the familiar 2.0 litre 4-cyl turbo serves as the base engine with 265 hp and an all new 3.6 litre naturally aspirated V6 is the midrange engine, making about 335 hp. At first, I thought the 2.0 litre turbo is small for a full size luxury sedan but remember that this is about 200 lbs lighter than the CTS which uses the same 2.0 litre turbo and it is more than adequate for a base engine. I'm sure we'll see two more engine options, one for a Vsport trim, probably the same 3.6 litre twin turbo one in the CTS, and another for the full-fat V-series. An active AWD system will be available for those looking for more traction. The transfer case is compact and lightweight. It also features two-gears for greater fuel economy than conventional fixed-torque all-wheel drive systems. All-wheel drive is standard on all CT6 six-cylinder models but it's unclear if it's optional on the 2.0 litre turbo.

Active rear steer will also be offered along with Magnetic Ride Control, as is now expected on every new Cadillac, with selectable drive modes. Those modes are Tour, Snow/Ice and Sport. Every wheel drives, every wheel steers and every wheel’s dampening is adjusted by the millisecond, for responsiveness and driver control unparalleled in the segment, according to Cadillac. Additionally, theres a new feature called Auto Vehicle Hold, which prevents the car from rolling during hill starts and will also keep the car from creeping forward in stop and go traffic to reduce fatigue.



Just about every connectivity and luxury feature you can think of is offered but a few caught my attention. There's a surround-view video recording system that can record front and rear views while driving, and offers 360 degrees of recording if the vehicle’s security system is activated. There's night vision and a rear view camera mirror that uses a camera to fill in the blind spots in the mirror for an unobstructed view. If you're sitting in the back, there's a new articulating rear seat package that offers approximately 3.3 inches (83 mm) of adjustable seat travel, lumbar adjustment, tilting cushions, massage feature, heating/cooling features and armrest with media controls, including HDMI and USB ports combined with 10-inch screens that retract into the front seatbacks and come with connectivity for external devices.

I think the most impressive thing about this car is how much effort Cadillac put into the chassis and driving dynamics as well as rear seat comfort and convenience. This is a an executive sedan that you should be just as happy relaxing in the back on a business trip as you are driving on the weekend with the family. I've never thought I'd be excited about a full size luxury sedan but Cadillac managed to do that. Production will begin at the end of 2015 for the North American market at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. The plant will also produce and export to Europe, Korea, Japan, Israel and the Middle East, starting in early 2016. The CT6 will also be available in China, but Chinese market vehicles will be built in China at an all new plant, which will also start in early 2016. I can't wait!

Wondering how Cadillac achieves those incredible weight savings compared to the competition? Here's a blurb from the press release (including a link):

"The body-in-white of the 2016 Cadillac CT6 is structurally lighter and stiffer than any other dynamically similar vehicle such as the BMW 5-Series or Audi A6.

The new architecture has a mixed-material structure with all-aluminum exterior body panels. Engineers conducted 50 million hours of computational analysis – including 200,000 structural simulations – in its development, generating 21 patents.

The CT6 is approximately 218 pounds (99 kg) lighter than a comparable vehicle using predominantly high-strength steel.

GM’s most advanced body manufacturing methods are used to fabricate the structure, including proprietary aluminum spot welding technology that is more efficient and helps reduce weight. Laser welding, flow drill fasteners and self-piercing rivets are also employed, along with roughly 591 feet (180 meters) of advanced structural adhesives."

For more details on luxury and connectivity features, visit the full GM press release here.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Corvette Z06 beats GT-R Nismo after all!




This is a little overdue, but man, was I ever happy when I read this. A lot of people were disappointed after the first comparison of the new Corvette Z06 vs the Nissan GT-R Nismo and frankly I was a little disappointed myself (read first post here). Every one was expecting the Z06 with the Z07 package to beat every car short of hyper cars on a track but in the hands of Randy Pobst, it posted a best lap of 1:27.1 at Willow Springs vs a lap time of 1:25.7 by the GT-R Nismo, trailing it by 1.4 seconds. Every Corvette fan, myself included, tried to find reasons as to why it lost as it was hard to believe because the Corvette performed far better in individual handling tests (figure-8, braking and skidpad). Well, as it turns out, there was a reason. Chevy looked into the test car and found that the rear suspension was out of alignment.




They sent it back to Motor Trend. To make things even better, GM developed a new setting for the magnetic shocks for rough tracks like Willow. The setting should allow the shocks to provide better control over bumps. With this setting (which will be available to all Z06 buyers) and the rear suspension alignment corrected, the car posted a best lap time of 1:25.0, besting the GT-R Nismo by 0.7 sec. Randy's impressions also better reflected the first test, where he had a lot of confidence in the car. He said: "This was so much nicer to drive. Oh my gosh. The butterflies are gone. The fear is gone. There was a lot of fear in the car before. Just the handling, I trusted it way more. I still don't experience a push anywhere. All the way around the Turn 2 carousel, it feels like I have very little steering in the car. Really balanced. Even the tail, the tail may be coming, but in a no-fear kind of way, like, 'Wow, this thing's really balanced!'"

People are complaining but such oversights unfortunately happen with HUGELY anticipated performance cars. I don't know why automakers don't learn but they all do it. Porsche, Ferrari and Lambo all had their cases of early production cars catching on fire. Nissan had the GTR transmissions blowing up on early cars. This car went out with a misaligned rear end. It's probably the pressure of wanting the press to be able to test the car (and many magazines not just one and in different countries). They want to have the car ready for sales. I say kudos to GM for caring enough to investigate and even more respect for providing a new damper setting for rough tracks.




Some people are also comparing the new damper setting to Ferrari bringing their engineers to track tests to adjust the car for the best results. The new damper setting is far, far from Ferrari, McLaren or any of the big names coming for a test to optimize their cars. The difference is that whoever buys those cars won't have that luxury. They won't be able to call up Ferrari, for example, and say "I'm going to Willow Springs this weekend for a track day. Come and optimize my tire pressures, alignment settings and traction/stability control settings for the best times, will ya?" With the Corvette, GM saw the car perform less than desired, thought they may be able to improve the performance on rough tracks with a new damper setting so they developed it and are going to offer it to everyone who owns the car. Everyone can repeat those results (assuming they have the skill) whenever and wherever they want, as opposed to only a group of automotive journalists with the manufacturer's suspension engineers at their disposal. The two are far from comparable.

One last caveat to the test: The GT-R Nismo was tested with octane booster while the Corvette wasn't. The reason? The GT-R Nismo requires a minimum octane of 93 where the Z06 requires 91 octane or better and 91 was the best available. I think to make this a "gentlemen's race", both cars should have been run with octane booster but, in my opinion,  it's fair to run the Corvette on 91 octane if the manual calls for 91 or better. The C6 Z06 manual called for 93 octane for best performance: "If your vehicle has the 7.0L V8 engine (VIN Code E), use premium unleaded gasoline with a posted octane rating of 91 or higher. For best performance, use premium unleaded gasoline with a posted octane rating of 93." It is GM's fault for removing that sentence that was in the C6 Z06 that said that 93 is required for the best performance. Most people will use octane boost for track days, though. I will say that Nissan is playing a little dirty, though, by saying 93 is minimum required because, as with every modern car, I have no doubt that the GT-R can safely compensate for 91 and will simply pull timing but Nissan doesn't want that to happen.

Now if only Chevy would fix the overheating issue, this would be perfect. Although it does not affect performance greatly (lap times suffered by on only a few tenths while overheated), using 93 or octane boost would help loss of power and very few owners would be able to push the car as hard as a professional race car driver, I still think this should be a zero-excuse car. I hope Chevy does fix this, at least with an upgraded radiator and/or intercooler with the Z06 package. I also would prefer a non-electronic set of shocks on a Z06 and, more importantly, a naturally aspirated engine but this is still a very fine track car.