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Here we sit on March 27th, 2011, the start of the 2011 Formula One season.¬† The most anticipated start to a season in a long time.¬† Cars sit on the grid, each one on equal ground, all with the same chance to take home glory, each with the same chance to go home in failure.¬† Fans and teams anxious to see how the new Pirelli tires will play into team strategy.¬† Would KERS and the ‘movable’ rear wing make any difference?¬† Once the lights go out, all bets are off.¬† Everyone is ready. Everyone that is except for HRT.¬† Back in the rule book this year is the 107% rule.¬† Teams that can not finish qualifying within 107% of the pole sitter’s time, will be deemed too slow to race.¬† The Hispania duo was just a wee bit outside that margin.¬† It seems that maybe trying to join the rest for a little preseason practice may not have been such a bad idea after all.¬† This is Formula One after all and not the participation league Division One NCAA football is becoming.¬† But I digress.
Race weekend would kick off with McLaren finding the missing time from preseason practice.¬† Most of the top teams expected to battle it out were looking to be on form, with everyone sharing the top spot at some point during the weekend’s practice sessions.¬† Then came qualifying and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, who seemed to have a rocket attached to his car.¬† While all other drivers, except the newer teams who were without, were making use of KERS, Vettel would go on to claim pole without using the extra 80 break horse power.¬† The other teams would start the race on notice. Vettel would start right where he left off, right up front.¬† Hamilton would share the front row with the Red Bull and teammates Button and Webber would hold down the second row.
In a recent interview by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn confirmed that a 4-cylinder version of the large A8 luxury sedan is in the works. Asked if a 4-cylinder luxury car could work emotionally, Winterkorn insisted that today’s technology made it possible to acoustically de-couple the engine well enough to completely mask the 4-cylinder character. According to Winterkorn, it’s all about “achieving less emissions without having less emotions”.
4-cylinder larger luxury cars already exist: The base version of Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class, the S250 CDI, is powered by a twin-turbocharged 204hp 2.2L 4-cylinder turbodiesel. While in most European markets the 6-cylinder diesel versions dominate luxury car sales, Mercedes expects the 4-cylinder to take over the sales lead soon thanks to it’s 20% better fuel economy. The V8 diesel that used to be available in European S-Class versions has been discontinued due to low sales. The only large luxury sedan to still offer a V8 diesel in Europe is the Audi A8.
What does it mean? Luxury car drivers want to save on fuel, too.
Greenies, bring out the (green) pitchforks: The average new car horsepower rating in Germany was the highest in history, for¬†January. Expect the average speed on the Autobahn to rise considerably, because the average German-market car sold in January has… one hundred and thirty three point six horsepower. That’s right, 133.6-hp.
Digging deeper into the numbers and becomes apparent what’s responsible for the rise in average horsepower: Diesels are selling better than ever in recent history and now have a 48% share of the new car market. Germans typically like their diesels a bit more powerful than their gasoline powered engines. The average new diesel makes 150.5-hp, the average new gas engine only makes 118.5-hp.
Also very interesting: SUVs are on a roll, a whopping 14.6% of the new car market now being of the high-riging kind. 70% of the SUVs had a diesel under the hood.
For a little historical perspective: In 1995, the average new car horsepower in Germany was 95.1 hp.
Here it is, another year and another season of racing is upon us.¬† Endurance racing is on its merry way and NASCAR is revving up as well.¬† Now on to the important stuff, Formula One is starting back up.¬† The season is only a few weeks away (or more) and testing is well underway, and as testing goes, almost all the teams are in shape to win the title.¬† That is why just about every team will say not to put too much into testing.¬† Many faces this season are the same and there are some new ones, as well as the return of German Nick Heidfeld.¬† And what season would not be complete if the rumors to replace poor Massa did not surface.
Rules have been altered some in an attempt to increase passing but many of the drivers are leery.¬† The change that I am most looking forward to is the adoption of the ‘movable’ rear wing. ¬† Drivers will have the ability to alter the down-force on the rear wing when in close quarters in order to make a move for position.¬† One thing the wing will not take into consideration is the ability of the driver being passed.¬† KERS also makes a comeback this year.¬† For those not versed in this technology, it allows energy built up under breaking to be stored for later use.¬† The temporary increase in horsepower can be used in the straights to help gain position and make the pass.¬†¬† The last time KERS was available, not all the teams made use of it and those that had it, suffered a weight penalty making it not that big of a performance gain, since all the increase from straight line speed was lost in the turns.¬† Formula One tracks have a lot of turns.¬†¬† Refueling is still left out this year but new tire supplier, Pirelli, brings a new twist to the battle of the pits.¬† Many of the drivers are liking the new rubber but most all of them are talking about the shorter life compared to the Bridgestones of last season.¬† This could be a win for the fans as the cars will have to make an extra stop or two for new tires, possibly erasing some of the large leads that cars up front could gain.¬† With the new toys available to increase passing many drivers are not very optimistic that it will happen, especially among the top cars.¬†¬† I’m pretty sure I think I heard Sauber pilot Kobayashi state that he will show them how its done.
Two major things have happened recently that will have a major impact on the season.¬† First, there was the accident involving Renault Lotus driver Robert Kubica.¬† While racing in a rally event in Italy, the car crashed, sending the Pole to the hospital to have several surgeries to save his hand.¬† As much as he wants to return, Nick Heidfeld should occupy the seat for the season.¬† You can take the driver out of the race but you can not take the race out of the driver.¬† Get well Robert but take your time, we will keep the seat warm for you.¬† Then that brings us to the other major news to start the season, political unrest.¬† The season kicks off in Bahrain, a wealthy kingdom in the Middle East that has not escaped the unrest that has taken over a large part of the region. Word is to come soon from the all mighty troll, Ecclestone, on whether or not the unrest will pose a risk to the safety of everyone involved.¬† Do we really need to think about this?¬† The people of a country are revolting against tyranny and we have to think about having a race in the midst of a revolution is a good idea or not?
With another grueling¬†North American International Auto Show behind us, Justin and Joel round up Adam Barrera, from Highmileage.org, and Zane Merva, from autoinsane.com, ¬†to discuss their winners and losers. The ‚ÄėGarage‚Äô is brimming with all sorts of Japanese metal this time around. Joel even has a funny story about his MazdaSpeed3 vs. a Bobcat.
With only a few days to go before the North American International Autoshow, Justin and Joel invited Nick Saporito from GMInsidenews.com and FordInsidenews.com to come on the show and catch up on the latest news and preview the Detroit Show. The ‚ÄėGarage‚Äô is brimming with all kinds of great vehicles as well as some Feder-Phrenology and great insider info from Nick.
In ‚ÄėThis Week in Cars,‚Äô we critique a critical article on car grilles, talk about two Camaros which could be made obsolete by the upcoming Z28, make fun of Justin’s monologue on the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, and talk about the iPad.
In ‚ÄėTalking Points,‚Äô Justin issues a challenge to Joel, and we find out about Joel and Nick sharing a backpack and their mob mentality at NAIAS.
The Mazda5. The mini-minivan, euro-van, microvan. What ever you wish to call it, Mazda shows that owners do not have to sacrifice the desire for a smaller car while having the need to haul a massive amount of stuff. The newest generation was unveiled at the 2010 L.A. Auto Show in a way that showcases this vehicle, while small, has a massive appetite. With 44.4 cubic feet of cargo space, there is plenty of room for what the journey calls for: a trip to the hardware store, camping, or packing the band up for tonight’s show (or all three), the Mazda5 is more than up for the task. As well as leaving room for the ‘band’ too.
At the show, Mazda laid out material for a home improvement job, enough camping gear for four, and equipment for a rock band.¬† As the timer goes off, four individuals race to pack all of the stuff into the car, as well as morphing into the ‘roles’.¬† Amazingly they are left with enough room to fit themselves and a few seconds to spare.¬† An amazing feat, no matter how one looks at it.¬† With the view of Americans slowly starting to see smaller cars as a viable option and not just speed bumps, it is easy to see that small and practical are possible while still being fun to drive.¬† The mazda5 more that fills the role.
Mazda and I are asking for feedback on this display from the auto show. ¬†Tell us if you think a MPV is right for most families who are purchasing larger long wheelbase minivans or crossovers?
In this edition of the “birdcast”, the title really tells you all you need to know about what we discussed. We enjoyed having our special guest: Craig Cole from the Roundabout Show join Joel and Justin. For all you loyal listeners out there we got in a little weather conversation, discussed some cool new radar detectors and Justin does his best Johnny Olsen impression when describing the Pontiac Aztek. Enjoy!
2011 Kia Sorento EX
2011 Honda Odyssey
This Week in Cars
EPA releases fuel economy ratings for Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt link link
Electricity providers excited and nervous about possibilities of electric cars link
With another grueling North American International Auto Show behind us, Justin and Joel round up Adam Barrera, from Highmileage.org, and Zane Merva, from autoinsane.com, to discuss their winners and losers.