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BACK SEAT DRIVING - SEPTEMBER 2009

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Fri, Sep 4, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

HOT WIRES For hot and tender news wires on the car culture, see LA Car's Hot Wires Mercedes Reveals a New Gullwing at Frankfurt e-Tron Concept at Frankfurt Audi Shows an R8 Spyder in Frankfurt The Cash for Clunkers Top 10  

 

 

Mercedes Benz SLS AMG

BILL WRIGHT: BACK SEAT DRIVINGTHE RETURN OF THE GULLWING Mercedes reveals a new gullwing at Frankfurt Not to be outdone by Audi, Mercedes had one of the absolute highlights of the IAA in Frankfurt: The new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. The super sports car boasts a unique design, extensive lightweight construction, outstanding handling and exemplary safety. This is the result of a unique technology package consisting of a lightweight aluminium space frame bodyshell with gullwing doors, the AMG 6.3 litre V8 front mid engine with dry sump lubrication, plus 420 kW/571 hp output and 650 Newton metres of torque, the seven-speed dual clutch transmission in transaxle format and sports suspension with aluminium double wishbone geometry. The gullwing accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds and goes on to reach a top speed of 317 km/h. Its combined fuel consumption is 13.2 litres per 100 kilometres (all values are preliminary). Dr. Zetsche, "The new SLS AMG is a contemporary reinterpretation of the dream in the form of a star. And this exceptional car is far from being a nostalgic glimpse backwards. It is a determined step into the future. From the very start, we conceived this amazing car with an electric-only driveline." At IAA 2009, Mercedes-Benz is also presenting the technology for an electric-drive SLS AMG with an emissions-free hi-tech driveline. Powerful propulsion is provided courtesy of four electric motors with a combined output of 392 kW and a maximum torque of 880 Newton metres. The "electric" gullwing handles the sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in around four seconds, putting it on the same high level as the SLS AMG with its 420 kW/571 hp AMG 6.3 litre V8 engine. "Therefore" continues Dr. Zetsche, "the SLS is perhaps the most stunning proof that driving fun has a future at Mercedes-Benz - with state-of-the-art internal combustion engines and emissions-free electric drive."  

 

 

 

 

Audi e-Tron concept

BILL WRIGHT: BACK SEAT DRIVINGAUDI SINGS THE BODY ELECTRIC Audi reveals the purely electric e-tron in Frankfurt September 15, 2009 - Audi presents its highlight of the IAA 2009: the e-tron, a high-performance sports car with a purely electric drive system. Four motors - two each at the front and rear axles - drive the wheels, making the concept car a true quattro. Producing 230 kW (313 hp) and 4,500 Nm (3,319.03 lb-ft) of torque, the two-seater accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h (0 - 62.14 mph) in 4.8 seconds, and from 60 to 120 km/h (37.28 - 74.56 mph) in 4.1 seconds. The lithium-ion battery provides a truly useable energy content of 42.4 kilowatt hours to enable a range of approximately 248 kilometers, or 154 miles. The package takes into account the specific realities of an electric vehicle. The battery is directly behind the passenger cabin for an optimal center of gravity and axle load distribution. Audi says the e-tron is able to freely distribute the powerful torque of its four electric motors to the wheels as required. This torque vectoring is said to allow for extraordinary dynamics and an undreamed-of level of agility and precision when cornering. Audi has taken a new approach to many of the technical modules. A heat pump is used to efficiently warm up and heat the interior. The drive system, the power electronics and the battery are controlled by an innovative thermal management system that is a crucial component for achieving the car's range without compromising its high level of interior comfort. Networking the vehicle electronics with the surroundings, which is referred to as car-to-x communication, opens new dimensions for the optimization of efficiency, safety and convenience. Drive System and Energy Supply Four asynchronous motors with a total output of 230 kilowatts (313 hp) give the Audi e-tron the performance of a high-output sports car. Audi says the concept car can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h (0 - 62.14 mph) in 4.8 seconds if necessary, and goes from 60 to 120 km/h (37.28 - 74.56 mph) in 4.1 seconds. The torque flows selectively to the wheels based on the driving situation and the condition of the road surface, resulting in outstanding traction and handling. The top speed is limited to 200 km/h (124.27 mph), as the amount of energy required by the electric motors increases disproportionately to speed. The range in the NECD combined cycle is approximately 248 kilometers (154 miles). This good value is made possible by the integrated concept: technology specially configured for the electric drive system combined with state-of-the-art battery technology. The battery block has a total energy content of roughly 53 kilowatt hours, with the usable portion thereof restricted to 42.4 kWh in the interest of service life. Audi uses liquid cooling for the batteries. The energy storage unit is charged with household current (230 volts, 16 amperes) via a cable and a plug. The socket is behind a cover at the back of the car. With the battery fully discharged, the charging time is between 6 and 8 hours. A high voltage (400 volts, 63 amperes) reduces this to just around 2.5 hours. The Audi engineers are working on a wireless solution to make charging more convenient. The inductive charging station, which can be placed in the garage at home or also in special parking garages, is activated automatically when the vehicle is docked. Such technology is already used today in a similar form to charge electric toothbrushes. The battery is charged when the car is stationary as well as when it is in motion. This form of energy recovery and return to the battery is already available today in a number of Audi production models. During braking, the alternator converts the kinetic energy into electrical energy, which it then feeds into the onboard electrical system. The Audi e-tron, which is slowed by four lightweight ceramic brake discs, takes the next large step into the future. An electronic brake system makes it possible to tap into the recuperation potential of the electric motors. A hydraulic fixed-caliper brake is mounted on the front axle, with two novel electrically-actuated floating-caliper brakes mounted on the rear axle. These floating calipers are actuated not by any mechanical or hydraulic transfer elements, but rather by wire ("brake by wire"). In addition, this eliminates frictional losses due to residual slip when the brakes are not being applied. This decoupling of the brake pedal enables the e-tron's electric motors to convert all of the braking energy into electricity and recover it. The electromechanical brake system is only activated if greater deceleration is required. These control actions are unnoticeable to the driver, who feels only a predictable and constant pedal feel as with a hydraulic brake system.

Audi e-Tron Driving Dynamics The normal distribution of the tractive power is clearly biased toward the rear axle in accordance with the weight distribution of the e-tron. Similarly to a mid-engined sports car, roughly 70 percent of the power goes the rear and 30 percent to the front. If an axle slips, this balance can be varied by means of the four centrally controlled electric motors. The electric vehicle from Audi thus enjoys all of the advantages of quattro technology. The four individual motors, which in the interest of greater traction are installed behind the wheels as wheel drives, also enable the e-tron's lateral dynamics to be intelligently controlled. Similar to what the sport differential does in conventional quattro vehicles, torque vectoring - the targeted acceleration of individual wheels - makes the e-tron even more dynamic while simultaneously enhancing driving safety. Understeer and oversteer can be corrected by not only targeted activation of the brakes, but also by precise increases in power lasting just a few milliseconds. The concept car remains extremely neutral even under great lateral acceleration and hustles through corners as if on the proverbial rails. The chassis has triangular double wishbones at the front axle and trapezoidal wishbones made of forged aluminum components at the rear axle - a geometry that has proven in motorsports to be the optimal prerequisite for high agility, uncompromising precision and precisely defined self-steering behavior. A taut setup was chosen for the springs and shock absorbers, but it is still very comfortable. The direct rack-and-pinion steering gives finely differentiated feedback. Its electromechanical steering boost varies with speed, so that the e-tron only has to provide energy while steering, and not while driving straight ahead. As befitting its status, the Audi concept car rolls on 19-inch tires with a new blade design. 235/35 tires up front and 295/30 tires in the rear provide the necessary grip. Car-to-x Communication The buzzword "car-to-x communication" refers to the direct exchange of information in flowing traffic and to the traffic environment. The letter "x" is a free variable that can refer just as easily to other vehicles as to fixed infrastructure such as traffic lights. In contrast to today's telematic systems, car-to-x communication no longer requires a central service provider to quickly and effectively pool and process information. The participants themselves perform these tasks by spontaneously networking with one another. The future car-to-x network still needs some time before it becomes reality on the roads. This obstacle is one that can be overcome, however, as nearly every carmaker in Europe, the U.S and Japan have decided to develop a common standard for hardware and software. Once all new cars are equipped with this technology, a functional network of automotive transmitters will soon be available, at least in large population centers.  

 

 

 

 

Audi Chair Rupert Statler and the R8 Spyder

BILL WRIGHT: BACK SEAT DRIVINGAUDI R8 GOES TOPLESS IN FRANKFURT On September 11, 2001, I was at the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung, otherwise known as the Frankfurt Motor Show. The show in Frankfurt occurs every two years, and this marks my first return since that eventful moment eight years ago. While no Frankfurt Motor Show will ever etch my memory as the one in 2001, the 2009 IAA is certainly proving to be eventful. The event of the day: Audi showcases a topless version of its supercar, the R8. The R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI quattro comes only one way: With a V10 engine producing 386 kW (525 hp), launching the open-top two-seater to 100 km/h (62.14 mph) in 4.1 seconds on its way to a top speed of 313 km/h (194.49 mph). Its lightweight cloth top opens and closes fully automatically; several body parts are made of a carbon fiber composite material. Of course, the R8 Spyder features the Audi Space Frame (ASF) and quattro permanent all-wheel drive. Like every open-top Audi, the R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI quattro has a cloth top. Audi argues that the soft top's approximate weight of a mere 30 kilograms (66.14 lb) keeps the vehicle's total weight and center of gravity low. Audi says the top also takes up little space when open, and tapers off to two slim fins extending to the trailing edge of the car. Audi also claims that the electrohydraulic soft top opens and closes in 19 seconds, even while driving at speeds up to 50 km/h (31.07 mph). In the version with manual transmission, the R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI quattro weighs only 1,720 kilograms thanks primarily to its aluminum Audi Space Frame (ASF) body. Despite reinforcements in the area of the sills, the center tunnel, the rear wall, the floor pan and the A- and B-pillars, the body weighs only 216 kilograms (476.2 lb) - just 6 kilograms (13.23 lb) more than that of the R8 Coupé. The high stiffness of the ASF body, which includes an integrated engine frame of ultra-lightweight magnesium, provides the foundation for the car's dynamic handling and superior safety. The Devil is in the Details Numerous details demonstrate that the Audi designers put their hearts into the design of the R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI quattro. The air inlets in the nose, which direct air across the three radiators, and the lip of the front skirt are painted high-gloss black. The struts in the broad, low, single-frame grille are finely coated with chrome. The standard full-LED headlights are technical works of art. Their reflectors resemble open mussel shells; the daytime running lights appear to be a homogeneous strip, but actually comprise 24 individual LEDs that form a curve at the lower edge of the headlight. The full-LED headlights from Audi are unmatched by its international competitors. Light-emitting diodes are used for the low beams, the high beams, the daytime running lights and the turn signals. With a color temperature of 6,000 Kelvin, the LED light is very similar to daylight, making it easier on the eyes when driving at night. Additional strengths include excellent light distribution, long service life and extremely low energy consumption. The side sills of the R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI quattro are broad and angular. V10 badges on the flanks allude to the power of the engine. A dark surface between the rear lights emphasizes the car's width. The chambers of the lights are colored dark red, with LEDs generating a three-dimensional light pattern. The exhaust system ends in two large, oval tailpipes, and the fully lined underbody ends in an upturned diffuser. The rear spoiler extends automatically at higher speeds. Audi offers the R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI quattro with a choice of three colors for the top. The body is available in eleven paint finishes, with metallic and pearl effect finishes standard. The windshield frame is coated with anodized aluminum. The Heart of the R8 Spyder The Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI V10 engine is normally aspirated and produces 530 Nm (390.91 lb-ft) of torque at 6,500 rpm. Peak output of 386 kW (525 hp) is reached at 8,000 rpm, and the rev limit is not reached until 8,700 rpm. Specific power output is 100.9 hp per liter of displacement; each hp only needs to move 3.3 kilograms (7.28 lb) of weight. Performance reflects this awesome potential: 0-100 km/h (62.14 mph) in 4.1 seconds; 0-200 km/h (124.27 mph) in 12.7 seconds; top speed is 313 km/h (194.49 mph) with the six-speed manual transmission. The 5.2-liter engine features FSI direct fuel injection. The high 12.5:1 compression ratio that this enables contributes to the high performance and good fuel efficiency. Equipped with a manual transmission, the R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI quattro consumes an average of 14.9 liters of fuel per 100 km (15.79 US mpg) - a good figure given its power. With R tronic, this figure improves to 13.9 liters (16.92 US mpg). Dry sump lubrication, another motorsports technology, ensures that the supply of oil is maintained even at the maximum lateral acceleration of 1.2 g. The Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI is also available with an optional automatic six-speed transmission. The R tronic offers a normal and a sport program as well as a fully automatic and a manual mode. The manual mode allows the driver to make lightning-fast gear changes using the joystick on the center tunnel or with the paddles on the steering wheel. The open-air sports car also comes with "Launch Control" - a program that manages engagement of the clutch perfectly to maximize acceleration at start. The Bottom Line The Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI quattro is built by quattro GmbH at the Neckarsulm plant. The vehicle, including the ASF, is largely hand-built. The open-top two-seater will be launched in Germany in the first quarter of 2010. Its base price will be 156,400 euros. US launch information for the R8 Spyder is not yet available.

 

 

 

 

Corolla Matrix

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVINGTHE CASH FOR CLUNKERS TOP 10 Transportation Dept Releases Stats The U.S. Department of Transportation has released its statistics on the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), otherwise known as the Cash for Clunkers program. With dealers submitting 690, 114 entries totaling an estimated value of $2,877,900, here is what it looks like: Top 10 New Vehicles Purchased 1. Toyota Corolla 2. Honda Civic 3. Toyota Camry 4. Ford Focus FWD 5. Hyundai Elantra 6. Nissan Versa 7. Toyota Prius 8. Honda Accord 9. Honda Fit 10. Ford Escape FWD New Vehicles Manufacturers Toyota 19.4% General Motors 17.6% Ford 14.4% Honda 13.0% Nissan 8.7% Hyundai 7.2% Chrysler 6.6% Kia 4.3% Subaru 2.5% Mazda 2.4% Volkswagen 2.0% Suzuki 0.6% Mitsubishi 0.5% MINI 0.4% Smart 0.2% Volvo 0.1% All Other <0.1% Top 10 Trade-in Vehicles 1. Ford Explorer 4WD 2. Ford F150 Pickup 2WD 3. Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD 4. Ford Explorer 2WD 5. Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan 2WD 6. Jeep Cherokee 4WD 7. Chevrolet Blazer 4WD 8. Chevrolet C1500 Pickup 2WD 9. Ford F150 Pickup 4WD 10. Ford Windstar FWD Van Vehicles Purchased by Category Passenger Cars: 404,046 Category 1 Truck: 231,651 Category 2 Truck: 46,836 Category 3 Truck: 2,408 Vehicle Trade-in by Category Passenger Cars: 109,380 Category 1 Truck: 450,778 Category 2 Truck: 116,909 Category 3 Truck: 8,134 84 percent of trade-ins under the program are trucks, and 59 percent of new vehicles purchased are cars. "The program worked far better than anyone anticipated at moving consumers out of old, dirty trucks and SUVs and into new more fuel-efficient cars," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Average Fuel Economy New vehicles Mileage: 24.9 MPG Trade-in Mileage: 15.8 MPG Overall increase: 9.2 MPG, or a 58% improvement Cars purchased under the program are, on average, 19 percent above the average fuel economy of all new cars currently available, and 59 percent above the average fuel economy of cars that were traded in. "This means the program raised the average fuel economy of the fleet, while getting the dirtiest and most polluting vehicles off the road," said LaHood. To see LA Car's Cash for Clunkers Winners and Losers, click here

 

 

 

A JOURNAL OF LOS ANGELES & ITS CAR CULTURE

LA Car

That was LA Car's subtitle when it started back in 1997. It's original website address was about five times the size of lacar.com. Since then, La Car became LA Car. Its subtitle became Reporting From Car Culture Ground Zero, then From The Heart of Car Culture, to today's The Cars and Culture of Southern California. At all times, however, we aimed to chronicle the Southland's automotive spirit - much like one's own journal or diary. LA Car has always been a great source to come back to from week-to-week, to see what articles and reviews have been added to our rather staggering database. With Back Seat Driving, a.k.a. BSD (note the similarity to two well-worn abbreviations, BS and BFD) and Hot Wires - Hot & Tender News From the Car Culture (co-located with Back Seat Driving, and updated at least daily), we give you some reasons to come back more often (all opinions, by the way, are those of the respective author). So, go ahead and bookmark www.lacar.com. We'll be sure to always provide a link to Hot Wires and the latest Back Seat Driving blog entry. In the meantime, welcome to the journal and journey from the heart of the car culture. - Roy Nakano  For past Back Seat Driving and LA Car Blog entries, click the Archives.

 

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