Gary S. Vasilash
Gary S. Vasilash is the founding editor of Automotive Design & Production (AD&P) magazine, a publication established in 1997 by Gardner Publications with the cooperation of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). He is responsible for the editorial management and direction of the monthly magazine. Vasilash continues to write a monthly column for AD&P and contributes several stories to each issue.
Vasilash has more than 20 years of experience writing about the automotive industry, best practices and new technologies. His work has appeared in a variety of venues, ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Lightworks, a journal of contemporary art. He has made numerous presentations at a variety of venues ranging from the annual meeting of the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT) to the Center for Constructive alternatives at Hillsdale College.
Prior to his present position, Vasilash was editor-in-chief of both Automotive Production and Production magazines—predecessors to AD&P. He joined Cincinnati, Ohio-based Gardner Publications in 1987 as executive editor of Production magazine.
Prior to that, Vasilash had editorial positions with the Rockford Institute and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME).
He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism and a Master of Arts degree from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He is a member of the Automotive Press Association.
10. February 2017
Infiniti, at long last, seems to be on a roll in the U.S. market. For 2016, it sold 138,293 vehicles, which is an increase of four percent over 2015.
So to help keep the momentum going, it is launching at the Chicago Auto Show two 2017 “Signature Editions,” one for it Q50 3.0t sport sedan and the other for its full-size QX 5.6 SUV.
In both cases, it is about adding some special content, like, for the Q50, a power-sliding glass moonroof, navigation, and LED lights fore and aft.
For the OX80 Signature Edition there are things like exterior touches like chrome outside rearview mirror caps and dark-finish 22-inch forged aluminum alloy wheels, and inside touches like a leather Saddle Tan trimmed surfaces. And there is a lengthy list of driver assistance tech, including: Backup Collision Intervention (BCI), Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Intelligent Cruise Control (Full-Speed Range), Distance Control Assist (DCA), Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW), Blind Spot Intervention (BSI), Land Departure Warning (LPW) and Lane Departure Prevention (LDP).
While it is certainly the case that sedans are having a tough time of it in the market so providing some additional features and functions is a good thing—although it should be noted that Q50 sales actually were up last year, albeit only by 0.3 percent—when it comes to SUVs, be they large, medium or small, they are figuratively flying off the showroom floors: the QX80 sales were up 7.2 percent last year, and realize that it has a starting MSRP of $63,850, so that’s a non-trivial purchase.
Toyota TRD in City of the Big Shoulders
9. February 2017
For some reason, the Chicago Auto Show has the reputation of being the “truck show.” That is, if you’re going to be showing a new truck, don’t reveal it in Detroit, New York or LA, do it in Chicago.
The only rationale I can think of goes back to 1914 when then-Chicago resident Carl Sandburg published the first of what were to be collected as the Chicago Poems, a poem that you may recall from high school that opens:
HOG Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders
Be that as it may. . .
In keeping with the truck theme, Toyota rolled out two new grades for its Tundra full-size pickup and its Sequoia full-size crossover, two vehicles that can readily accommodate those with broad shoulders.
But in the case of both of these trucks, what Toyota has done is called on its operation that is for making trucks a bit more, well, “stormy, husky, brawling,” in effect: Toyota Racing Development (TRD), the company’s in-house tuning shop. (Yes, it is involved in the NASCAR program—and last year Toyota won the Daytona 500 (and 15 other races) and received the Manufacturers Championship—as well as in endeavors that involve deserts, rocks and whatnot.)
The 2018 Tundra TRD Sport is available on the CrewMax and Double cab configurations, 4x4 and 4x2 grades. Although the vehicle is visually TRDed—color keyed mirrors, bumpers and hood scoop; 20-inch silver alloy wheels with black accents; mesh grille with body-color surround; 20-inch silver alloy wheels with black bezels; and, lest anyone mistake it for something else: TRD Sport bed-side graphic. The inside has TRD touches, as on the shift knob and sport mats.
But it isn’t all show and no go as there are TRD Sport Tuned Bilstein shocks and TRD front and rear anti-sway bars.
The 2018 Sequoia TRD Sport is similar in some respects—as in terms of the shocks and sway bars—but it goes more toward black than body colored, as in gloss black mirror caps, black satin finish TRD sport badging on the front doors, and smoked rear tail light lenses.
On the inside, there are the TRD shift knob and floor mats, as well as TRD sill protectors. The standard seating surfaces are black fabrics; however, there is optional black leather captain chairs for the vehicle.
Both vehicles have a 381-hp 5.7-liter i-Force V8 engine.
In addition to which, both (along with other non-TRD variants of the respective 2018 models), will feature as standard the Toyota Safety Sense package (TSS-P). It includes pre-collision with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, auto high beam, and dynamic radar cruise control.
Were it not for the fact that in January the RAV4, with 22,155 units, outsold Camry (20,313), the other Chicago intro might have gone overlooked, but given the momentum of RAV4 in the Toyota lineup, the RAV4 Adventure can’t pass unmentioned.
This model is available as either front- or all-wheel drive. There is a standard tow package for both, which includes an upgraded radiator and supplemental engine oil and transmission fluid coolers (if the engine is going to work harder by pulling a load, then you need to make it easier to do so), as well as a suspension system that has increased ride height.
And there are visual differences, too, like large, over-fender flares, 18-inch black alloy wheels, lower body guards, black headlight bezels, fog lamp surround, roof racks, and badging. Inside there are Adventure-specific trim panels, sill protectors and all-weather mats.
All of these vehicles are going to be available in the fall.
Sandburg, incidentally, died at age 89. In Flat Rock, North Carolina.
Ford Expedition: Bigger, Better
8. February 2017
If you’re going to introduce a new full-size SUV, you might as well do it in a place where there are more of them sold than anywhere else, says Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas. And it also happens to be a place where Ford sells 20 percent of its F Series full-size pickups.
Specifically, in the case of the new Expedition—and this is “new” as in “all-new,” which is probably due, as the fundamental vehicle was introduced 20 years ago, and while it has been updated and refreshed, it hasn’t undergone a full top-to-bottom change since until now—the global reveal took place at the Ford Center at the Star, a complex in Frisco, Texas, north of Dallas, a 510,000-square foot indoor athletic facility used by the Dallas Cowboys for training (there’s an indoor arena that seats 12,000 and there is a Texas-sized Ford Blue Oval on the outside of the building that’s probably big enough for the new neighbors down the way in Plano to see).
Jones (left) and Hinrichs (right) deep in the heart of Texas
Hinrichs has two new Platinum Expeditions driven out on a plaza outside the building. One of them was piloted by Stephen Jones, chief operating officer of the Cowboys, and son of Jerry. Jones said he is a long-time Expedition owner.
Perhaps one of the most notable things about the new Expedition is, Todd Hoevener, chief engineer, points out, the fact that the body is made with aluminum. And like the aluminum-bodied F Series, there is a high-strength steel frame underpinning the vehicle. (Although there are some borrowings from the F Series in terms of the front of the vehicle, Hoevener says the Expedition is its own platform.)
As is the case with the F Series, the purpose of the aluminum, the engineer says, was to reduce mass. There is up to 300 pounds of mass savings for the new vehicle thanks to the material. He points out that this is important because the Expedition is bigger than the previous model and it is offered with an array of available amenities.
The Expedition has more than 40 new features and driver-assist technologies, ranging from a second row seat that slides fore and aft and tips forward in such a way that it is possible to have a child seat in place while someone is accessing the third row to on-board Wi-Fi that’s not only capable of handling 10 devices, but which is accessible up to 50 feet away from the vehicle, from for 12-volt power points and six USB chargers and a 110-volt power outlet to a vista roof that covers the first and second rows.
And there are keeping assist, active park assist, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, and much more.
Under the hood is a 3.5-liter EcoBoost (with start-stop) that’s mated to a 10-speed automatic.
It is available as a 4x4. There is what Ford calls “Intelligent 4WD,” which is available with an electronic limited-slip differential that sends the torque to the wheel that needs it.
Ford research found that more than 50 percent of Expedition owners tow with their vehicles. That number may actually rise, as they are offering Pro Trailer Backup Assist, which essentially helps control the maneuvering via the turning of a knob.
Hinrichs pointed out that last year SUVs outsold cars in the U.S. market. So the Expedition, which goes on sale this fall, is one of a suite of products that the company has—or will have (the EcoSport is coming in 2018 to address the small end of the market and the Bronco is coming in 2020 to further address the middle)—to meet customer demands.
Especially in Texas.
2017 GMC Acadia AWD SLT-1
7. February 2017
It must strike some people as rather amusing that essentially every vehicle manufacturer in the known world—and probably also in parts unknown—is busy chasing the development of crossovers and sport utility vehicles. I mean, when you have companies even like Rolls-Royce prepping their entry into the segment, you know that this is a place where companies are confident they must be.
And those some people, in particular, probably work at GMC. That’s a General Motors division that has done nothing other than trucks throughout its entire history.
The company had its start in 1901, when the Grabowsky Brothers established Rapid Motor Vehicle Company in Pontiac, Michigan. They made trucks. In 1909 General Motors bought the company. It also bought Reliance Motor Car Company in 1909. It merged the two in 1911 and GMC was officially launched in 1912.
(There is always some speculation that the “G” in the name is a tribute to Max and Morris Grabowsky. It probably isn’t.)
The point is, the folks at GMC have gotten damned good at this non-car thing over the years. And it is worth noting that in 2016, GMC’s sales performance came in second to Chevrolet and ahead of both Buick and Cadillac. Compared to 2015 Chevy was up 12.7 percent, GMC 5.8 percent, Buick 2.8 percent, and Cadillac 3.2 percent.
For model year 2017 the GMC Acadia is an all-new vehicle.
What is utterly uncharacteristic of vehicles of any type, the new model is actually smaller than the one it replaces.
That is, it is 193.6 inches long. The 2016 model is 200.8 inches long. It is 75.4 inches wide. The previous is 78.9 inches wide. It is about 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor.
The clever thing is that the 2017 Acadia isn’t small. It is still a sizable vehicle. And while the word “nimble” might be a bit of an exaggeration, it really is much more maneuverable than its predecessor (thanks, in part, to the electric, variable-assist power steering), and while it feels “lighter,” it is no less planted on the road. So while it provides the space to carry people and cargo, it is still something that it more readily inserted into a garage.
About the people part. The Acadia is available in a number of trims. GMC has had its Denali upscale level on offer for a number of years and that is where you’re really getting into the refined space. For the 2017 model year it is added another lever, All Terrain.
Part of All Terrain—which is the vehicle I drove—is cosmetic. As in having a body-color grille surround, black chrome trim and special wheels on the outside and on the inside covered storage bins and All Terrain labeled seats.
Whereas the Acadia basically is a three-row crossover, in the case of the All-Terrain version, it is a five-person setup, with the area that would otherwise have the third row being available for additional cargo, including a cargo-management system.
But this is not all show and no go. The All Terrain version also has an all-wheel-drive system with what’s called “Active Twin Clutch,” which is said to optimize traction. And while other Acadias with AWD have an “Off Road” mode on the drive mode selector, the All Terrain has, well, an “All Terrain” mode, which is oriented toward hill climbing.
That said, I’m guessing that the All Terrain Acadia is going to spend more time at shopping malls than Moab.
Engine: 3.6-liter direct-injected V6, 310 hp// Transmission: Six-speed automatic//Seating: 5// Cargo volume: 41.7 cu. ft.// Fuel economy: 18/25/20 city/highway/combined mpg
Engineering the 2017 Lincoln Continental
6. February 2017
Mike Celentino, is chief engineer for the 2017 Lincoln Continental. As Lincoln is making its way back into the consideration space for those who are in the market for luxury vehicles, the Continental is a signal mark that the company is serious about luxury, because even though the customer base may be moving more toward crossovers, a full-size sedan still matters.
And this is a sedan that truly is visibly impressive and imposing, with an overall length of 201.4 inches and a wheelbase of 117.9 inches.
The design has a certain reserved stateliness to it, sophisticated but not staid, with a broad bodyside (which Celentino says is facilitated by using door handles that are not mechanical, but actually use electronics: they were able to move the handles to the top of the beltline because they didn’t need the space within the door cavity for the conventional mechanisms) and strong rear shoulders.
Although there is a 400-hp, 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 under the hood and available all-wheel drive with dynamic torque vectoring (i.e., power is sent to the rear wheel that needs the most torque during cornering), Celentino says that the objective with the Continental was not to create something that would set a record at the Nurburgring, as is the case with other luxury sedans, but the power and the capability that provides the driver with confidence when merging onto a freeway, which is certainly a more likely occurrence that finding oneself on a racetrack in western Germany.
And let’s face it: a 30-way power adjustable seat is undoubtedly of more interest than a 0 to 60 time for someone who is looking for comfort, quiet and luxury.
Celentino talks about the development of the Continental—a car that is meant to resonate not only with U.S. customers, but those in China, as well, as this is a global car—on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” where Autoline’s John McElroy and I are joined by Michelle Krebs of Autotrader.com.
Then John, Michelle and I discuss a variety of topics, from the new market approach that it being taken by Lynk & Co, a new automotive brand that’s been created by Geely (the company that also owns Volvo), the sales trends in the U.S. market, management shifts at BMW and Mazda, and the results of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
And you can see it all here: