While it hasn’t been without reprieve, much of our automotive history has been occupied with manufacturers perpetually hunting for more power. The pursuit is a no-brainer. A motor releasing more energy than its rivals means a faster car and more bragging rights. Nowhere is this better epitomized than the muscle car era, where domestic automobiles morphed into ludicrously overpowered machines that we still look back upon with fondness.
The power wars continue into the present day. Dodge’s Challenger SRT Hellcat and Demon dragster are a prime examples, but Ford now hopes to rival the Hellcat with its Mustang Shelby GT500. Chevrolet made a valiant attempt with its Camaro ZL1. The quest for power spills over to everything from utility vehicles to hypercars, but there are other ways to go about building a swifter vehicle. You could always place it on an aggressive diet.
In the 1930s, Chrysler experimented with aerodynamics to deliver a product that could slip through the wind better than the vehicles of the day, bestowing upon the public the Airflow. Alas, not too many people were ready for the future, leaving the concept a commercial failure.
Today, Citroën is giving the name and concept a second try, with fuel economy and the environment in mind.
I am sitting in a parking garage in a throng of torpid auto-journalists, nearly all of whom are wearing the same glazed expression of terminal information overload. On-screen, molecules of fuel and air are doing a complicated little computer-animated dance, as narrated by Susumi Niinai, program manager at Mazda’s powertrain development division. His English, while Japanese-accented, is better than, y’know, mine, but the concepts he’s explaining approach the limit of comprehensibility to the lay-person. Mind you, it’s a pretty nice parking garage.
Some of you, like me, may have been hearing all the rumblings about Mazda’s new SKYACTIV technologies and been wondering whether it’s going to turn out to be a series of technological breakthroughs or, alternatively, a load of complete cobblers thought up by some Zoom-Zoom marketing guru.
Good news everyone! It’s the former. Bad news everyone! I have to try to explain it to you. And I borderline don’t understand it myself. Here goes…