Chevy Corvette: Two Key Numbers

By: Gary S. Vasilash 6. May 2011 06:38

The numbers are:



The first number relates to the increase in highway miles per gallon that can be achieved on the 2012 ZR1 thanks to taller fifth and sixth gears in the manual transmission. That brings the highway number to a highly respectable 22 mpg.

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Realize that the 2012 Corvette ZR1 has a 6.2-liter, 638-hp supercharged V8 engine, so 22 mpg is remarkable by any measure.

As for the bigger of the two numbers, that is the amount that General Motors is investing in the home of the Corvette, the Bowling Green Assembly Plant, in order to prepare the plant for the next-generation Corvette,

As GM North America president Mark Reuss put it when making the announcement of the investment for the seventh-generation Corvette, “This is a significant day for anyone who believes that American should build world-class, high-performance products. Corvette has no domestic peer for performance and pedigree and stands alongside the world’s best supercars with almost 60 years of continuous heritage.”

The current-generation car will be built for the next two model years. The 2012 model year Corvette includes the Chevrolet Centennial Edition, which will go into production at Bowling Green in July.

2012 Chevrolet Centennial Edition Corvette Z06

And another switch from the 2011 models is that the Z06 will have an optional carbon fiber hood.

2011 Ford Edge Sport AWD

By: Gary S. Vasilash 5. May 2011 06:19

The thing about the 2011 Ford Edge Sport AWD: Rollin’ on 22s to Applebee’s

The Edge arrived on the market in late 2006, and since then has been one of the more respectably selling midsize crossovers. But Doyle Letson, chief designer of the 2011 Edge, was faced with a product that works, yet which needed to have a little something more to make it, well, edgier. Or at least more distinctive than it had been. So they sharpened things up a bit, making enhancements both outside and in. But they had the opportunity to go even further with the Edge Sport.

2011 Ford Edge Sport

You need look no further than the 22-in. forged aluminum wheels on the car to understand that this is something more than a little special in the family crossover segment. It wasn’t all that long ago that 20s were big. The Edge is available with 17s. But here’s the Edge Sport with the 22s, smoked headlamps flanking a Tuxedo Black grilles. Smoked tail lamps in the back along with oval-shaped chrome exhaust tips. Body colored rockers and door cladding in between. Inside, “Silver Smoke” interior appliqués and seat inserts. Aluminum pedal covers on the floor and paddle shifters on the wheel. A 305-hp 3.7-liter V6 under the hood. Riding on a sport-tuned suspension. Sony premium audio system. SYNC voice activated system. Leather trimmed seats. An interior quality that is a cut above what you might expect from a crossover.

2011 Ford Edge Sport

Yes, the kind of vehicle that when you roll to your local eatery with the kids in the back, you’re not feeling so, well, adult, grown up, or. . .old.

Which is undoubtedly the point. Let’s face it: There is both a need (if you leave the kids at home there is 68.9-cu-ft of space behind the first row) and desire (the vehicle sits high so there’s better visibility than you’re going to get in a sedan) for crossovers. Yet in some ways they’ve become sort of minivanish.

And in the Sport array, there’s no vanishing—it is, comparatively speaking, in your grille.

2011 Ford Edge Sport

Still, if you’re going to be traveling up and down the highways and byways—commuting on roads that have potholes treated with the tossed shovels of asphalt or taking long summer rides up north—you might want to reconsider the Sport because the suspension is a bit on the tuned side, especially as compared with the conventional Edge. And while the conventional Edge comes with a 285-hp 3.5-liter V6, realize that when you’re talking about a vehicle with a curb weight in excess of 4,000 lb. (for the AWD version you’re talking 4,265 lb), the additional horsepower isn’t all that noticeable.

Again: If you want the look and feel of something that isn’t quite as ordinary in the crossover segment, then the Ford Edge Sport could be your ticket.

Then again, you could just accept the fact that you need a five-passenger car and have a tendency to carry stuff, and just live without the 22s and what comes with it. But then you could also forego high heels for more sensible shoes, too, and what’s the likelihood of that happening?

Selected Specs

Engine: 3.7-liter, 24-valve Ti-VCT V6

Material: Aluminum bock and heads

Horsepower: 305 @ 6,500 rpm

Torque: 280 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Wheelbase: 111.2 in.

Length: 184.2 in.

Width: 76 in.

Height: 67 in.

Fuel economy (AWD): 17.23/19 mpg

Base MSRP: $38,070

Audi’s A7 Plans

By: Gary S. Vasilash 4. May 2011 06:11

At the recent New York Auto Show, an autofieldblog correspondent was on the scene, reporting on Audi. Here’s his assessment:

“At the New York Auto Show, Audi introduced the new A7 four-door coupe to the media for seemingly the umpteenth time. It also reiterated the notion that the car bridges the gap between the A6 and the A8 in much the same way that the BMW 5-series Gran Turismo fits neatly between the 5-series sedan and the 7-series and the Mercedes-Benz CLS is book-ended by the S-class and the E-class.

Audi A7

Audi A7

“Of course, it’s further evidence that product planning in Ingolstadt [Audi] and Munich [BMW] is heavily influenced by what’s happening in Stuttgart [Mercedes], and vice-versa. The A7 definitely wins the styling battle in this exclusive class, since the BMW is one of the company’s more homely offerings and the Mercedes isn’t as attractive in its second iteration as was the first.

BMW 535i

BMW 535i

“The only real news at New York was what the car will cost—and how many Audi expects to sell. The A7 will start at $59,850, fitted with a 310-horsepower supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s a little bit pricier than the base 535i GT and about $11,000 less than the CLS, which does have a more powerful V8 underhood.


Second-generation Mercedes CLS

“Audi of America president Johan de Nysschen says that a well-equipped A7 will likely go out the door in ‘the late 60,000 area,’ and says that Audi wants to sell 7,000 a year. Those numbers look do-able, although the car’s hatchback design might be a sticking point with luxury-car buyers here in the U.S.

Audi A7 rear

Audi A7

“He also said, interestingly, that the car might cannibalize some short-wheelbase A8 sales in the quest for Audi to get A6, A7, and A8 volumes up to a quarter of the company’s model mix. That’s sound business sense in the long term: the sweet spot in the luxury market is in the A6/E-class/5-series arena, where margins and volumes are both relatively high. Mercedes must love the way it shifts as many E-class models as it does C-class cars in the U.S. ….”

Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0: Impressive Numbers

By: Gary S. Vasilash 3. May 2011 06:45

Want to talk some serious powertrain engineering? Consider the 4.0-liter engine under the hood of the 2011 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0. Yes, a 4.0-liter engine. But one that produces 125 hp per liter. It achieves 500 hp at 8,250 rpm. And provides 339 lb-ft of torque at 5,750 rpm. It is equipped with a six-speed manual.

The flat-six engine uses forged pistons, titanium connecting rods, and a crankshaft straight out of the 911 GT3 RSR—race car.

Speaking of racing, if you were to take it out on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife circuit, and you were an exceptional driver (perhaps more exceptional than you already imagine yourself to be), you’d be able to make it around in 7 minutes, 27 seconds.

More likely would be that you’d do a straight-line 0 to 60 mph, which can be achieved in 3.8 seconds.

It isn’t all about the engine, of course. The Porsche engineers went at the car with reducing as much weight as possible while still making it a driveable car.

The car features aluminum doors and hood, and carbon fiber front fenders and luggage compartment lid. The two seats are based on carbon fiber, as well. Even the carpet is “weight optimized.”

In total, the car, filled with gas and ready to roll, weighs a mere 2,998 lb.

Three more numbers to take into account:

· 193. As in “mph.” The top speed.

· 600. The number of 2011 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0s that will be available—worldwide.

· 185,000. As in “$.” The MSRP (excluding destination) for the car, which will become available in the U.S. later this year.

2011 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV

By: Gary S. Vasilash 2. May 2011 06:37

The thing about the 2011 Maxima 3.5 SV: The word voluptuous comes to mind.

And that’s not a bad thing.

The four-door—and it should be noted that Nissan has brought back the tagline “The 4-Door Sports Car” for this gen Maxima, having strayed to more pedestrian and less sporty paths in recent times, thereby not providing a sufficient amount of space between it and the run-of-the-mill family sedan—has such a distinctive style, with its broad front and rear shoulders and shark-like aggressive front end, it brings to mind something like Scarlett Johansson as a comic book character: bigger than life and almost exaggerated. But in a good way.

The car is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that provides 290 hp and 261 lb-ft of torque and is fitted with a continuously variable transmission. As a front-driver (which, as purists will note, makes it somewhat iffy vis-à-vis sport car-ness) the car is setup so that I didn’t notice any torque steer during hard(ish) acceleration. As the car, unfortunately, is recommended to run on premium unleaded gas, I’m thinking that being lighter on the throttle is something that is going to be happening more rather than less often. The car is stickered at 19/26 city/highway; I eked out 22 in combination driving.

Inside, the car is almost German in terms of the materials, from the quality soft-touch, nicely grained IP and other trimmed surfaces to the leather on the seats, steering wheel, and shift knob to the metallic trim. . . although it should be noted that the car as Driven had the “Sports Package” option which upped the ante on all of those materials: they’re standard equipment, but the ones in the Sport Package are nicer. And it is worth noting that the Sport Package adds some nice touches, like the alluring (to go back to the ScarJo metaphor) smoked lens for the HID xenon headlamps to paddle shifters for the transmission (which is sort of a bizarre thing if you think about it: stepped-gear transmissions—be they manual or automatic—have set gears; a continuously variable transmission is. . .continuously variable, so the paddle shifters are somewhat odd inasmuch as they’re essentially allowing you to shift to what amount to “virtual” gears). The eight-way power driver’s seat is both comfortable and bolstered so that when you’re making a quick run to pick up milk or tediously driving down I-75 through Ohio you don’t feel as though you are suffering for your sportiness. (And the Sport Package, while we’re on the subject, provides memory for said seats, steering wheel and outside mirrors.)

Another package—this one called Sport Technology Package: do you get the whole sportiness thing?—brings to bear a hard-drive based, voice-recognizing, navigation system with a 7-in. VGA touch-screen monitor and a 9.3-GB Music Box system in case you want to drive across country and never hear the same song twice and possibly not all the songs ever.

Functionally, it is full of the now-obligatory acronyms, including four-wheel ABS, traction control system (TCS), vehicle dynamic control (VDC), tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS), brake assist (BA), electronic brake force distribution (EBD), and, because this is, when you really get down to it, a family car, lower anchors and tethers for children system (LATCH).

Many cars in the Maxima’s five-passenger sedan category are rather bland, body side creases and chrome bits notwithstanding. That is not an issue with this car. Not at all.

Selected specs

Engine: 3.5-liter V6

Material: Aluminum block and heads

Horsepower: 290 @ 6,400 rpm

Torque: 261 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm

Transmission: Continuously variable with adaptive shift control and manual mode

Wheelbase: 109.3 in.

Length: 190.6 in.

Width: 73.2 in.

Height: 57.8 in.

Base curb weight: 3,565 lb.

EPA Estimates: 19/26 mpg city/hwy

MSRP (without delivery): $33,530

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