It’s been a few years since we last detected much of a pulse from Honda [Ed: in fact, Paul Niedermeyer declared Hyundai the "new Honda" in terms of engine technology leadership way back in 2009]. But just when we were wondering if all hope was lost, and that it might be time to pull the plug…signs of life. In Japan, for the Tokyo auto show, Honda has unveiled ambitious new powertrain plans [via Automotive News [sub]].
With engine management technologies creating ever-more refined, well-behaved engines, the snap-crackle-pop overrun at the beginning of this video is an increasingly rare throwback to the time when men were men and engines could blow up at any second. Sure, such playfulness will probably be managed out of existence by the time the F30 M3 hits dealerships, but it seems like a good omen for the M3’s return to six-cylinder power. In fact, it might even be possible that the backfire heard here has something to do with the electric turbocharger that’s rumored to give the new M3 lag-free turbo performance… but then you’d probably be a better judge of that than I.
Last Monday, we regaled you out with stories of Toyota coming to grips with the “new peak oil,” and other topics related to the growing gap (or lack thereof?) between global production and consumption oil. This week I’m feeling a little less apocalyptic, and little bit more indulgent. And really, why not celebrate those precious hydrocarbons while they’re still cheap and plentiful? This Mercedes SLS AMG Black Series may burn ‘em by the bushel, but it sure sounds good doing it. And though cars like the forthcoming 650 HP Shelby Mustang GT500 prove that performance is still alive in the 21st Century, high-revving, large-displacement, naturally-aspirated V8s like the AMG Black’s are going to be facing special challenges under future emissions standards. Which makes its gargling, chortling music all the sweeter to my ears…
It’s no secret that Ferrari has been wrestling with the inevitable conflict between its bellowing V12s and European emission regulations, but that’s not the only challenge facing the Prancing Horse’s powertrain division. Sure, there’s the increasingly-tenuous link between the Scuderia’s Formula One technology and its road cars [sub], but in the short term that actually helps the emissions issue by creating a pretext for bringing KERS to the road (where it otherwise has little role). In fact, the real issue for Ferrari’s powertrain team is not even a “Ferrari issue” at all, but a Maserati issue.
BMW hasn’t offered a four-cylinder engine in the U.S. for quite some time, so I was eager to check out their new 2.0-liter twin-scrolled turbo. A Z4 so equipped arrived in my driveway today.
Not to give too much away prior to the full review, the new 240-horsepower engine works very well when paired with a six-speed manual in the 3,263-pound Z4.
Then I broke it.
Of all the Japanese automakers, none are as far behind on hybrid technology as Nissan. For some time there was a sense that Nissan’s (relatively) huge investment in electric vehicle production would represent a “leapfrogging” of hybrid technology, but now the firm is using the common industry response to questions about future technology: a suite of options, rather than one single technology, will meet tomorrow’s low-energy transportation needs. As a result, Nissan’s been playing catchup, as it admits in a recent press release [PDF]
“We must have a tougher job than any other hybrid team in the industry,” says Mitsunobu Fukuda, a senior powertrain engineer at NATC. “Because our CEO, Carlos Ghosn, used to be known as skeptical about the value proposition of hybrids we had to make a really compelling case that we could deliver value to customers to get him to validate a hybrid program.
In 2004, as a stopgap measure, Nissan licensed hybrid technology from Toyota for use in certain markets.
“It was a bit of a blow to our pride, but that was the right thing to do under the circumstances,” Fukuda says.“Instead of rushing out a ‘copy-cat’ hybrid we wanted to take the time to develop our own hybrid, one that is clearly different – and better. I think we’ve managed to do that.”
What makes Nissan’s forthcoming hybrid system so different? For one thing, it uses Nissan’s “one motor, two clutch” system (currently found only on the Infiniti M Hybrid), which enables a compact design. For another, it’s supercharged.
“We” being Nissan, and “this” being shortening a GT-R powertrain enough to fit a Juke bodyshell over it. It won’t ever make production, and it will probably spin dizzy, short-wheelbase circles every time it even thinks about a corner… but even the haters have to admit that this is a clever way to highlight the Juke’s unexpectedly sporty nature. But despite the argument that “there’s a history of Nissan engineers driving the business,” let’s be clear about one thing: Nissan’s involvement in this project is all on the marketing side. Once upon a time, Nissan’s engineers might have built a little monster like this out of sheer passion, in their spare time. Today, though, the work gets outsourced to specialty race engineering shops, RML in this case. It’s not a knock, that’s just how the world works anymore.
UAW Local #273 members working at Chrysler’s Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance factory in Dundee, Michigan voted to authorize a strike [Ed: despite a no-strike agreement that was agreed to inexchange for Chrysler's bailout] in advance of negotiations over local issues, particularly a recently announced rotating shift schedule that has created unrest at another Chrysler plant in the Detroit area. The proposed schedule is so unpopular that almost 99% of local #273 members voted to authorize a strike if negotiations break down. The shifts, which rotate 12 hr day and night shifts week to week, are intended, Chrysler says, to maximize productivity. The UAW says it is to reduce overtime pay. The normal 3 shift model increases straight-time production by 20% to 120 hours per week.
Dow Jones cites a report in Der Spiegel Magazine which claims that GM Vice Chairman for Corporate Strategy Steve Girsky
has made enquiries at BMW to start discussions on “far-reaching joint projects.”
According to Dow Jones, the Spiegel article does not cite any specific source for its information, and TTAC has not yet been able to find the original article online. According to Dow Jones, GM is
primarily interesting in gasoline and diesel engines… General Motors is at an advanced stage in developing a fuel cell and could offer co-operation in that field… The technology behind GM’s Opel Ampera electric vehicle would also be of interest to BMW, according to the report.
GM has not yet responded to TTAC’s request for comment. A similar rumor was floated by Handelsblatt around this time last year, but BMW was quick to quash it. Are things different this time, or is GM still struggling with unrequited desire? We’ll let you know as soon as possible…