The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is, undoubtedly, an amazing vehicle. Of course, as with any worthy car, Top Gear has this beast featured in one of their episodes (click here for the full Top Gear episode). While it is evident from the video that perhaps the handling of the car isn’t quite like it’s track-bred competitors (GT3 RS Porsche and Ferrari 458 Italia), the car still retains exactly what Mr. Clarkson and I both love about Mercedes-Benz: a refined, yet ferocious, sense of luxury. This is especially clear after taking a look at the interior of this lovely machine (below), which is appropriately named the “cockpit” of the SLS.
(Hopefully) Everyone that reads this blog knows that I’m a car nut. I particularly like anything obnoxiously fast and equally as expensive (hey, you get what you pay for…). Anyway, I changed my desktop wallpaper today. Usually I have some expensive high performance coupe/sedan which keeps me motivated for about a week or so. Currently, I have a picture of the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport on my desktop. This thing isn’t even really a car. I’m not sure what to classify it as – maybe an airplane without wings? It’s a phenomenal machine. Only 200 ever produced, 0-62 in 2.5 seconds and 0-100mph in only 5.5 seconds. It has sixteen cylinders and four turbochargers. One of the coolest things about the car (everything about this car is cool) is that “It sounds like a dragon with emphysema sucking on a bottle of oxygen.” The sound it produces is amazing.
This Youtube clip shows one of these awesome machines being auctioned off for a cool $2.9M. It was for a chance to work with Bugatti engineers to personalize the vehicle before it was purchased, but that’s still a ton of money. $2.9M could buy a huge house, a huge yacht, or even probably a small island. Here’s a clip of the car in action.
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Alright, it’s been a while. Anyhoo, just flipped through pictures of the Detroit Auto Show and the Tokyo Auto Show. There were many similarities between the two shows. Detroit had some really good (and really green) concepts, but the Tokyo Auto Show slide show caught me right out of the gates with the Lexus LF-A. The LF-A has a 4.8 liter V10, all for only $375,000. Although that’s a hefty price tag for most, I say “only” because it’s significantly less expensive than Mercedes-Benz’s “supercar,” the SLR (near $500k). Another car that stuck out is the Tango, from Commuter Cars (Detroit show). There was a lot of discussion about whether Smart cars would be safe. I can’t imagine how you can build a car as small as the Tango and call it safe, especially when there are Yukons and Expeditions running left and right through the typical urban setting on a much more frequent basis than the Tango will be (based on the fact that Smart cars are still a rare sighting). The LA Auto Show also had some cool cars, the LF-A Lexus being one of them. As automakers start rolling their concepts out, it will be interesting to see how closely these cars will resemble the Lexus that Tom Cruise drove in Minority Report.
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Yep, another Times article, this time about the new BMW 7-series. In 1977, the 7-series came standardly equipped with a six-cylinder engine. For 2010, BMW plans on re-introducing the same style engine, hopped up on a lil’ bit o’ somethin’ somethin’, giving it about 185 more horsepower than the original engine. Okay, there’s more horsepower. In a straight six engine. What happened to the V8s and V12s BMW offers with the 7-series? Hmm…seems like the German automaker really is trying to be as green as possible, from vehicle recycling to providing more energy efficient engines that use less cylinders.
I must say that there’s a certain feeling that only a V8 can provide (since I haven’t had the privilege of driving a V12, yet…only an in-line 4 cylinder, V6, and V8). I’m curious to see if (potential) buyers of the new 7-Series will be turned away from the smaller engine, or if they will embrace the fuel efficiency it provides and hop on BMW’s proverbial green train. I’ve made my opinion on the matter clear before – I enjoy beastly V8s despite their not-so-economical fuel consumption. However, while letting BMWs approach ferment in my mind today, I’ve become a little more open to a small engine that can do the same work as a fuel hungry, growling V8 (the growl is part of the experience). It seems that the trend in the auto industry is that larger engines may be slowly phased out of production and replaced with smaller, more powerful, more fuel-friendly ones. Clearly, the marketplace will determine whether this trend sticks or flops. In the meantime, I’ll watch, from the comfort of my 4-cylinder Camry, which I have no intentions of replacing within the next 200k miles (only at 37k right now)!
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A New York Times article about the Chevy Volt has brought me to speculate a little on the future of cars. The article focuses on the fact that the Chevy Volt, which is to be released as a 2011 model, runs purely off of electric power for 40 miles. After that 40 miles, a gas-powered generator for electric energy kicks into power and fuels the vehicle (the generator kicks at about 71hp, according to this article). The author of this article, who was able to witness the transition from electric power to gas-generated electric power while driving the Volt, stated that the transition was seamless and that she couldn’t tell the difference between the two modes of driving. I found the following part of the article very interesting:
“I push the accelerator and the engine sound does not change; the “gas pedal” controls only the flow of battery power to the electric drive motor. The pedal has no connection to the generator, which is programmed to run at constant, preset speeds. This characteristic will take some getting used to by a public accustomed to vroom-vroom feedback.”
Lindsay Brooke, New York Times
This segment struck me as interesting mainly because it signals a transition in the future of cars as we know them. The “vroom-vroom” factor that almost every car today has seems to be in danger. With the introduction of hybrid and electric-powered vehicles, cars are losing their sounds and trending towards silence. I certainly would miss the sound of a powerful V8 revving up or responding to a (ok, MY) lead foot.
The question that comes to mind here is whether we are willing to sacrifice power for increased fuel economy. Can a balance be reached? Lexus, at first glance, seems to be on the right track with their 2010 340 horsepower GS Hybrid and their even more impressive 2009 438 horsepower LS Hybrid. However, these hybrids only appear to save about 3 mpg when compared to a comparable Lexus-offered gas engine (this is still about 30 mpg away from the fuel economy available on the Toyota Prius), according to fueleconomy.gov.
I must preface this next comment by making readers aware that I’m an environmentally conscious consumer and that I probably care more for the environment than the typical college student. When it comes to cars though (if you know me well, you’ll understand why), I must say that the typical inefficient gas engine is my choice over the hybrid engines. I currently drive a 4-cylinder car which gets about 22-34 mpg and I love it (for more than just the infrequency of gas station visits).
My ideal car, however, is a gas-guzzling V8 sedan which only gets 12-19 mpg according to fueleconomy.gov. While this fuel economy is very low and also mildly depressing, it is my personal choice to take dazzling performance (0-60 in just 3.9 seconds according to Car and Driver) over saving a few miles per gallon. With regard to the environment as a whole, I feel as if there are other things I could do to offset owning a gas-guzzling vehicle. My love for speed and power overcomes my ability to see tens or possibly even hundreds of years into the future at what the potential repercussions of driving a car with poor fuel economy could involve for the environment. All in all, I’d love for the “vroom vroom” to stick around, but it seems that the increased demand for oversize golf carts may soon take control of the market. Seems like the V8 is going to be silenced by the much less powerful hybrid engine with the help of the forceful hand of government subsidies and incentives.
That said, when are we getting flying cars??
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