Monday, January 29, 2007

2007 BMW M3

AKA “The Daddy” But… what’s up with those mirrors? Just reminded me of the cool mirrors of the E36 M3 version, although these ones look a bit strange… hopefully they will look alright in the flesh. Probably BMW will say that the mirrors were designed with the help of the supercomputer that they are using for the aerodynamic development of the F1 car, and they will probably mention that these were also tested in the wind tunnel where the F1 car is tested... and you know what?... it's probably true.

This car is making people wait patiently. Folks that are looking for a sports coupe (or sedan) are keeping it as cool as possible while waiting for the real thing. Judging by the amount of camouflage it seems the presentation is near. The prospect of revving the V8 engine of this thing past the 8000rpm while still the commercialization is months away is a modern way of torture. Please BMW, hurry up. Oh, why bother, they never do, they always test their cars for ages.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

2007 Audi A5

The relentless pursuit of profit in auto companies has many forms. One is to sell a derivative of an existing car at a higher price. Examples: the 3-series coupe vs 3-series sedan; 407 coupe vs regular 407; Mercedes CLK vs C-class. Frequently the derivative versions has a distinct design (see the different front end and rear design of the BMW sedan and coupe) and even a different name for the model (see the CLK vs common C-class). BMW gambled with the prospect of changing the 3-series coupe for 4-series but they give up because the M3 badge is such a strong one and the 3-series designation highly iconic.

The new Audi A5 follows that trend: it is based on the Audi A4 (current version or next platform??) but it gets a different design and different name. And all for a bit more upscale perception and presumably higher selling price. It will be presented very shortly but until then we are curious about how it will look in the streets. Because, although the design is highly related to the
Nuvolari concept, master Walter de Silva gave it a more latin touch in the design of the side profile that doesn’t look so teutonic as in current Audis. So a new orientation for Audi?... we will soon see how it turns out.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Chevrolet Volt: the ifs, buts and maybes

The uncertainties...
Some unanswered questions like: what if I travel at 160kph and discharge the batteries until 10%, can the ICE generate sufficient power to charge them with the energy rate I need? How should the discharge cycles be handled? How many full cycles will Li-ion batteries allow in the near future? How will car manufacturers adjust to a series hybrid shift… even if the mechanical simplicity and the fact that the ICE is kept should make them more friendly than if considering a pure electric vehicle? How will Big Oil react to this? What if a higher demand for Li-ion batteries triggers an increase in prices of its raw materials used for manufacturing. Do series hybrids present a challenge for the electrical grid? Is Big Oil going to buy electric companies?

But the biggest question remains? Can we really achieve the necessary robustness in future batteries? Make them last 10 years and be charged/discharged for more than 200 thousand kilometers and without safety/reliability issues? The next 3 to 4 years should give the answer to that.

Batteries are the weak link...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Chevrolet Volt: architecture and technique

Architecture and technique

Starting with a quick look at the design. In the side profile just check how the front overhang is small. This is usually an attribute of luxury longitudinal engine RWD cars. And yet the Volt is a FWD car… however, the E-flex platform allows evolutionary changes in the architecture like this one. The electric engine is placed very low and the small ICE engine is placed behind it, in front of the firewall. This arrangement makes for a lot of free space in the front for radiators (also very small because of the size of the ICE) and in the end you can make the car with very short front overhang. Other benefits of the current E-flex architecture include more space for crash absorbing structures and an easier implementation of pedestrian safety measures because there are much less hard points under the hood.

More good stuff in this architecture: having the ICE placed behind the front wheels and all those batteries sitting low in the center of the vehicle make for outstanding weight distribution, very low center of gravity and a bigger wheelbase for the same vehicle length. This means making an humble FWD with most (if not better) attributes of a RWD car, something impossible in the current paradigm of vehicle architecture.

Another significant note: the ICE is decoupled from the electric engine. Imagine what one can do with that: ICE in the front and electric in the rear wheels, two electric engines for AWD and the ICE in front, ICE and electric together but in the middle for a mid-engine roadster, 2 electrics+ICE and batteries under the platform for a SUV… And when the in-wheel electric engine reaches maturity one can have a truly revolutionary architecture change.

Finally a quick look at the underpinnings. There’s a wonderful real-car feel to it. You don’s see exotic materials (these were used but in the body of the concept), you see stampings, sheetmetal and familiar parts (the rear suspension looks like the one in the Opel Astra). The overall message is: “this is for real, this is meant to go for production…”

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Chevrolet Volt: our Concept Car of the Year 2007

This week Auto-Future is exclusively dedicated to the Chevrolet Volt: our Concept Car of the Year 2007. No need to wait for other concepts for the rest of the year: we made our choice!

Concept and design

How would the reader imagine a new concept car showing a green technology? Perhaps something like a Prius but more exotic. Probably a car with refined aerodynamics (and thus, a compromised design), skinny tyres; a cute look… Now look again to the Chevrolet Volt… what a macho car! The high shoulder line, the strong face, the character lines and the definitive sports car features: the short front overhangs, big tyres and powerful stance. This is the main statement of GM with the Volt: this car is a no compromises green vehicle. The series hybrid technology will allow drivers in the future to greatly reduce their environmental impact while keeping the comfort, features, safety and driving pleasure of today’s cars. Moreover, series hybrids are a key technology to keep the liberty of choice: you will not have to drive something like a Prius, you can have something similar to the E-flex platform on a car like the Chrysler 300C or a SUV seating up to 7 persons.

But still, if the Volt is for real, it will change habits: it will force companies to put charging stations in parking lots, and in the 3-5 years that it will take for something similar to arrive in the market the photovoltaic industry will have evolved to a higher level. We will discuss that in Auto-Future in a couple of months…

Friday, January 12, 2007

Stars and flops of Detroit 2007

The year is beginning very busy: while the Detroit show is fresh we are already receiving press releases on new cars and concepts for Geneve. So let’s quickly finish the Detroit issue.

Star of the show, concept car of the show and Auto-Future’s Concept Car of the Year 2007: Chevrolet Volt
Auto-Future’s love affair with the Volt will fully develop next week. It’s all Volt all week with analysis and details on the concept that is amazing the world.

The other star concept: Jaguar C-XF
The cool thing of this concept is that the real world version will not be very different, at least judging from the first available spy shots. This is the design that Jaguar needs and another spin-off of Auto-Future’s darling: the 4-door coupe, a type of car whose growth we predicted and discussed before.

The flop of the show: Lexus IS F
What a pathetic joke! What was the Lexus philosophy in design?... ah, L-finesse or something like that. The IS F is the complete opposite, a tacky design without any sort of class or finesse. We could even try to warm the rear exhausts but the side skirts of this thing would still ruin the design.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

2007 Mercedes C-class

We should see the first official pictures in the next days but for now here is a picture of the bodyshell. The W204 is a very important car. It will be the new reference of this segment. People that can afford it have nothing more to bother choosing, unless they prefer a sportier drive: then the choice is the BMW 3-series. For those that can't pay there are plenty of alternatives but for now the top spot in this class of cars is known: The new W204 and the E90 are the undisputed leaders.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The road to EV future: Chevrolet Volt video

Guess what: Auto-Future is awarding the Chevrolet Volt as Concept Car of the Year 2007. Shouldn't we do this only at the end of the year considering so many new models and concepts will be presented? Well, check the title of this joint again: Auto-Future. We just know this is the most important concept of the year.

For further joy check this video presented by
Motorauthority on the Volt. It shows the car charging, moving, interviews with different folks from the design team and even the instrumentation.

Monday, January 08, 2007

2008 VW Golf VI

There is a new article from German magazine AutoBild with lots of juice on the next Golf VI. The pictures present what looks like a major restyling of the current model. That's because the generation VI will indeed be only a heavily restyled Golf V, with emphasis on cost-cutting changes. A prediction of a new 1.6TDI brings novelty in the engine range this being , of course, a common-rail diesel.

Other than some politics the article presents explanations for the unusual short cycle life of the current model and why the new one will keep so much stuff from current one. Some of the explanations presented by AutoBild are incorrect: the Golf V is not not expensive and for sure it is not premium, at least in Europe. It certainly is more premium than a Kia but, unlike what happened with generation IV, it is now very far from the exclusive BMW 1-series/Mercedes sportcoupe league. We are not sure if a major restyling will be enough to revive the VW Golf. The game has moved on, maybe it's time for a new start?... For sure, the current Golf V will have a place in history but for the worst reasons: This is the Golf that failed!

The road to EV future: Chevrolet Volt

Oh what a pity, it’s still only a concept. Auto-Future already mentioned this vehicle in a previous series-hybrid post. The concept car was finally presented in all its glory. It’s a series hybrid: fundamentally an electric car where the ICE only works as generator to charge the batteries when needed. Please Toyota, build it! LOL, just being mean!

Other than the great internals and technology, the Chevrolet Volt is also a great-looking car! It as a sort of 5-door coupe style with a high shoulder-line. We love high shoulder lines. What is lacking for this thing to be built? Only the robustness of the Li-ion batteries and a reduction of their price. Hopefully, these issues should be solved in the beginning of the next decade. Until then the countdown continues, we are on the road to EV future.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

2007 Citroen streetlounge

... or whatever other name they will come up with. The car pictured below fits in a sub-segment that is widespreading, although cars in this class are generally not very successfull. We are talking of variants of Puntos/Corsas/Clios etc. that have monospace features in design and space. Cars like the Renault Modus; Fiat Idea; Skoda Roomster; Opel Meriva are based on smaller car platforms but are made with a higher roofline and seating position in order to increase space. This is generally well accomplished but unfortunately all of these cars look like crap, hence the lack of sales success.

It seems that the poor thing pictured below will follow the same path: more space and more uglyness. We could not care less about such things but actually the great success of the Ford S-max and C-max models exposed a savoir-faire of Ford in making great-looking monospace cars. We wonder if the future Ford B-max will have an improved design compared to other brand's approaches. For now this Citroen thing is just another forgetable also ran.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Ford Interceptor concept

The new Ford Interceptor concept is making a lot of people happy. More precisely, it's making a lot of people dream because such thing will probably never be built. But maybe if enthusiats show enough appreciation... Auto-Future is doing just that and showing the best part of the car: the short front overhang. It's not just pretty, it means that underneath the car there's a longitudinal engine RWD platform.

However, rumours state that the Interceptor uses the Mustang platform, and these rumours go along others that prospect a future 4-door version of the classic muscle car. Although we thing RWD is a great thing for a medium or large sedan, fact is the Mustang platform is too simple for this kind of car. A new platform shared with Australia's next Falcon would be more appropriate.