Monthly Archives: November 2016

CNG trucks can go the distance

elivery trucking is a dirty business, but the companies that rely on it are working to clean things up. Along with the push toward electric trucks and vans, compressed natural gas (CNG) is emerging as a useful alternative to our reliance on diesel power. In the UK, Scania has created a fleet of biomethane fueled trucks for Waitrose, which is looking to reap the rewards with lower running costs and less emissions.

To make sure the trucks can stand up to the rigours of delivery driving, Scania has collaborated with American firm Agility Fuel Solutions. The fuelling system relies on two 26-inch carbon fiber tanks, which store enough gas to cover between 300 and 500 miles (483 and 805 km) without refuelling. The biomethane – which is up to 40 percent cheaper than diesel and emits 70 percent less C02 – is stored at 250 bar of pressure, 25 percent higher than conventional CNG vehicles like the Audi A3 g-tron.

The clever tanks are already in use in America, but the fleet of Waitrose lorries is the first to make use of them in Europe. They’ve been adapted and certified for European roads, and save a claimed 500 kg (1,102 lb) in weight compared to the eight steel tanks used in most CNG trucks at the moment. They also hold more gas than a conventional setup, which makes for greater range.

Each truck is around 50 percent more expensive than a regular diesel truck, but Waitrose is expecting to save between £15,000 and £20,000 (US$18,800 and $25,100) on diesel each year, meaning the extra cost should have been recuperated within three years. The trucks are expected to run for around eight years, which means the supermarket is expecting to save £75,000 to £100,000 ($94,100 to $125,400) over their life. Compared to a diesel, each truck will help save more than 100 tonnes of C02 every year.

“High pressure carbon-fibre fuel tanks demolish the ‘range anxiety’ concerns that have made many hauliers reluctant to move away from diesel to CNG,” says Philip Fjeld, CEO of CNG Fuels. “Renewable biomethane is far cheaper and cleaner than diesel, and, with a range of up to 500 miles, it is a game-changer for road transport operators.”

Durango SRT is a muscle car in SUV clothing

Once wild animals full of wanderlust, SUVs have long been domesticated into quiet, loyal family haulers used for bringing home groceries and shuttling sports and spectator gear to the field. Dodge believes that there’s still some feral nature left in these still-formidable beasts and it’s drawing it out in a big way with the all-new Durango SRT. Dubbed the “Dodge Charger of the full-size SUV segment,” the new Durango packs power and performance previously unimaginable for a factory Durango.

We’ll have to wait until the New York Auto Show in April to see the all-new Challenger SRT Demon, the “ultimate performance halo” Dodge has been teasing for weeks in a series of videos. But Dodge won’t be limping into this week’s Chicago Auto Show without an exciting muscle car debut. Only this muscle car is an SUV, a three-row SUV Dodge calls the fastest, most powerful and most capable out there.

The first Durango SRT ever becomes the larger brother of the ever-exhilarating Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. Like the Jeep, it’s powered by a 6.4-liter HEMI V8. That engine makes 475 hp at 6,000 rpm and 470 lb-ft (637 Nm) of torque at 4,300 rpm.

With help from a launch control system, specially calibrated TorqueFlight eight-speed automatic transmission and performance-tuned AWD system, the SRT V8 inspires some brilliant performance, starting with a 0 to 60 mph (96.5 km/h) in just 4.4 seconds and 12.9-second quarter-mile.

In case you momentarily forgot while looking at those times, that’s a bulky, 200-in-long (5.1-m-long) Dodge Durango we’re talking about.

To assist with cornering at high speeds, Dodge and SRT have stiffened up the front and rear springs and rear sway bar. Bilstein adaptive damping is integrated into the short- and long-arm independent front suspension and the specially tuned multi-link system at the rear.

Dodge touts benchmark braking, saying the combination of Brembo high-performance six-piston front/four-piston rear calipers and vented rotors will bring the Pirelli 295/45ZR20 Scorpion Verde all-season tires and 20-in “Goliath” five-spoke wheels to a crisp stop from 60 mph (96.5 km/h) within an estimated 115 ft (35 m).

Of course, not every drive in a full-size SUV is going to be a full-speed hurl, and Dodge has worked to ensure a ride balanced enough for everyday life. The SRT seven-mode drive system lets the driver quickly tweak settings like shift points, front/rear torque splits and active damping. Among those seven modes are a relaxed Auto setting for basic, everyday driving, an aggressive Track setting for the highest levels of performance on smooth, dry surfaces, a traction-enhancing Snow setting, a fuel economy-boosting Eco setting, and a Tow setting for best putting the Durango’s 8,600-lb (3,900-kg) towing capabilities to work.

the next family Expedition smarter and lighter

They might have a reputation for being thirsty old dinosaurs, but big family four-wheel drives are getting smarter with every generation. The new Ford Expedition has grown in every direction, but an aluminum-intensive body and smarter powertrain options mean it uses less fuel, tows more weight and handles better than before.

Although it shares an EcoBoost badge with the current car, the new Expedition drops the old twin-turbo V6 for the smarter second-generation EcoBoost V6 found in F-Series trucks. It makes 375 hp (280 kW) and 637 Nm (470 lb.ft) of torque in that application, but given the different roles of the two cars, you can expect those figures to change slightly when Ford unveils the full spec. The new engine is hooked up to a 10-speed automaticgearbox, which is more capable with a load on the back thanks to short bottom ratios, but more efficient on the highway thanks to its three overdrive gears.

Efficiency benefits aside, the new powertrain should also be more capable off-road when it’s hooked up to the optional electronic limited-slip differential and smart four-wheel drive system. Drivers are able to choose the type of terrain they’re on using a console-mounted rotary controller, and the car will automatically set itself up to tackle it, shuffling power to where it’s most needed in just a fraction of a second. According to Ford, more than half of all Expedition owners value towing, and 15 percent tow weekly or monthly, so adding the new Pro Trailer Backup Assist system was also a logical step. Then again if you’re towing that often, maybe it’s worth learning how to reverse a trailer?

Bugatti lifts curtain on Chiron production line

Building and testing any production car is a fiendishly complex undertaking, but some cars require more time and attention than others – Bugatti’s new supercar, for example. Production of the Bugatti Chiron has officially started in Molsheim, and the company has peeled back the curtain to show the world how 1,800 individual parts come together to make someone’s dream a very, very expensive reality.

The production process starts, as you’d expect, with the customer nailing down the final specification of their car. Potential owners sit down with a consultant from Bugatti and run through the full range of options, choosing from a huge palette of standard paints and eight different carbon fiber weaves for the exterior before moving to the interior.

Here’s a hot tip: if you’re not good at making decisions, don’t try and configure the cabin of a Chiron. As if choosing between 31 different types of leather and eight shades of suede wasn’t enough, you can select a dizzying array of carpet, seatbelt and stitching options. And if that still isn’t enough, the team at Le Maison Pur Sang is able to make an owner’s most intricate fancies come to life with custom paint finishes, interior trims and option packs.

Once the customer has signed off on their final configuration, a production slot is assigned to the car and parts are ordered, starting a process generally spanning nine months. Before all the additional parts arrive, the naked bodyshell is assembled and sent to the paint shop, where it’s lavished with up to eight coats of paint. Each layer is done by hand, sanded back and polished before the next is applied – while cars with naked carbon fiber on the outside go through a separate, equally time consuming process.

Paris collectible car auctions

The Paris round of collector car auctions begins later this week, and in close to a perfect setting, the three tier 1 auctions are just some of Retromobile’s many highlights. The auctions run February 8 (RM-Sothebys), February 9 (Bonhams) and February 10 (Artcurial) and though the auction world record price won’t be under threat this year as it was last, some very important and wonderfully storied automobiles will grace the auction block this week.

 

1 – Nuvolari’s Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo Tipo B P3

Estimate: €3.8 to €5.0 million (US$4.1 to $5.4 million) | Auction Link

Look closely at this rare 1934 Alfa Romeo and on the bonnet you’ll see the Prancing Horse logo made famous by Ferrari Scuderia. More than a decade before Enzo Ferrari started making cars under his own name, he ran his own race team and became the pseudo Alfa Romeo works team. The car is an Alfa Romeo Tipo B P3, one of just seven built, the first single seater in Grand Prix racing, briefly dominant in it’s time, and the first to appear at auction for a decade.The car is even more significant when you realize it was campaigned by Scuderia Ferrari, and driven by Tazio Nuvolari, the pre-war equivalent of Juan Manuel Fangio and a contender for the best driver of all time. That’s Nuvolari below, with Enzo Ferrari seated on the pit apron. Understanding the celebrity status enjoyed by Nuvolari during the 1930s is difficult today, but in Europe he was a household name spoken with great reverence for his regular extraordinary feats of bravery and win-at-all-costs madness.

Many decades of his own team’s Grand Prix success, Enzo Ferrari still regarded Nuvolari as one of the best ever, proffering the names Tazio Nuvolari and Sterling Moss as the best he had seen. Ferdinand Porsche called Nuvolari “the greatest driver of the past, the present, and the future” and he was once described by leading Grand Prix driver Achille Varzi as “the boldest, most skilful madman of all.” There is no record of when Varzi made that famous quote, but as an off-track friend, sometimes team-mate and eternal on-track rival of Nuvolari, he bore witness to many of the legendary Nuvolari exploits.

F1-for-the-fans tells the story of the 1930 Mille Miglia, where Nuvolari led the race on time but was behind Varzi on the road: “In the dark of night Nuvolari tailed Varzi for tens of kilometres, at speeds up to 150 km/h (93 mph) with his headlights off, thereby being invisible in Varzi’s rear-view mirrors; ultimately switching on his headlights just before overtaking ‘the shocked’ Varzi near the finish at Brescia and scoring the event’s first win at over 100 km/h (62 mph).”

My favourite story about Nuvolari involves his rise through the ranks as a motorcycle racer where he was also a tearaway. In a high speed practice accident for the Monza Grand Prix, Nuvolari broke both legs, and awoke on Saturday night to find himself strapped like a mummy. The next morning, he had the doctor restrap him in the crouched position he required so he could ride a motorcycle, and he was allowed to start the main race from the back of the grid, as the bike needed to be held upright by his pit crew until the race was underway. Sure enough, Nuvolari rode through the field and won the race. What’s amazing is that there are countless stories like this about Nuvolari to choose from. He regularly broke bones, and seemed to bounce right back to his death-defying best immediately.

 

2 – 1965 Ferrari Dino Berlinetta Prototype by Pininfarina

This is the original prototype vehicle for the mid-engined Dino, later to become the Ferrari Dino, and will be sold 52 years after it first rocked the world in it’s debut at the Paris Motor Show in 1965. Since 1967, the car has been on display in the Musee de l’Automobile at Le Mans, and is now being sold. The full story of the history of this game-changing car is told well in the auction description. It isn’t just the first Dino prototype, but the first mid-engined Ferrari. Could blow through the estimate very easily. Worth watching.