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.
27. September 2016
When you think of the Volkswagen Beetle, chances are you remember the classic Doyle Dane Bernbach ads from the 1960s or the little flower vase on the instrument panel of the New Beetle.
Chances are you don’t think of a Bug going 205.122 mph.
Yet that’s what Preston Lerner, a contributing editor to Automobile Magazine, did recently at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
The Volkswagen Beetle LSR is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injection four-cylinder TSI gasoline engine—an engine that you can get at your local VW dealer. . .except that this one was specially modified by THR Manufacturing.
It was kitted out with new turbochargers, pistons, camshafts, connecting rods, and head modifications.
And that Beetle on the lot doesn’t produce 543 horsepower and 421 pound-feet of torque. You have to be satisfied with the 210 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of the stock Beetle R-Line coupe.
But your daily commute probably isn’t over salt flats, either.
On the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox
26. September 2016
To say that the Equinox crossover is important to Chevrolet is to vastly understate the case.
The compact CUV arrived on the scene in model year 2005 with a standard 185-hp, 3.4-liter V6 engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Then there was a second generation in 2010, this time with two powertrains available: the standard 182-hp 2.4-liter four and a 264-hp, 3.0-liter V6. Both had six-speed automatics.
While the vehicle had a midcycle refresh for 2016, the rest of the industry started producing compact crossovers to meet the market’s growing appetite for the vehicles. Many of these vehicles left the Equinox credible, but not incredible.
Alan Batey, president of General Motors North America and Global Chevrolet brand chief, at the reveal of the 2018 Equinox (held, not coincidentally, on the autumnal equinox) points out that back in 2004, the compact SUV and CUV sales in the U.S. were on the order of 7 percent of the market. That has soared to some 18 percent.
In the context of Chevy, the Equinox is the number-two best-selling vehicle in the entire lineup.
The top-selling Chevy from January through August 2016 is the Silverado pickup, at 380,176 units.
The Equinox comes in with 158,475.
One of the things that Chevy has been doing under the direction of John Cafaro, executive director, Chevrolet Global Design, is redoing the vehicles in the lineup.
Two notable examples are the 2016 Malibu and the Volt.
Again through August, Malibu sales of 148,868 vehicles represents a 14.4 percent increase versus the same period in 2015.
Volt sales of 14,295 units are up a whopping 71.9 percent.
And while Equinox’s 158,475 bests both of those cars (and it should be recognized that those are both sedans, a segment that is weakening in light of the utility vehicles’ growth), that number is off 17.7 percent.
So for model year 2018—which means, in this case, “coming next Spring”—Chevy has put the Equinox on a new platform with new sheet metal, new interior and new—and interesting—powertrain options.
Well consider: all three of the fours are turbocharged.
And for another, one of the three is a 136-hp, turbodiesel that provides 236 lb-ft of torque.
Note how Messrs. Batey and Cafaro have “global” in their titles? Well, it so happens that in Europe there happens to be the opportunity to order an Opel Astra or Insignia with a 1.6-liter “whisper diesel.” Yes, the technology for the diesel that will be available in the U.S. in the Equinox sometime next year after the launch has that engine under the hood. (Why “whisper diesel”? Because it is quiet, so quiet that GM Vauxhall posted a YouTube video on that subject.)
The standard engine is a 170-hp 1.5-liter. It, like the turbodiesel, is fitted to a six-speed automatic, the Hydra-Matic 6T40 for it, and the 6T45 for the turbodiesel.
Then there is the third engine, a 252-hp, 2.0-liter engine. It is mated to a Hydra-Matic 9T50—and that “9” stands for “9,” as in being a nine-speed automatic.
There is another interesting number related to the 2018 Equinox: 183.1. That’s the overall length in inches. It is interesting because the current generation has an overall length of 187 in. Yes, the 2018 Equinox is more compact than its predecessor (something that we’ve seen GMC do with the Acadia crossover). However, the vehicle is said not to stint on passenger volume as a result (however, the cargo area behind the second row suffers some, going from 31.5-ft3 in the 2016 model to 29.9 in the new one). Maximum cargo space for the 2018 is 63.5-ft3.
The reduction in size has led to a reduction in mass: the base curb weight for a FWD vehicle with a 1.5-liter engine is 3,327 lb. The base curb weight for a 2016 Equinox—FWD with a 2.4-liter—is 3,777 lb.
As regards the styling, which was performed in the GM Design Studio in Warren, Michigan, Cafaro says, “There’s a lot of Malibu in the vehicle.” This is not a case where they’ve taken a sedan and simply provided greater ground clearance, but, he explains, “This is taking the Malibu passion and design execution into the crossover segment. They are two companions in the showroom.”
He adds, “We have a lot of design equity built up in it”—the Equinox cumulative sales top two-million—“so it is a balance how far you reach and have the look and feel of an Equinox.”
According to Cafaro, in the studio they have an “Equinox team—just like the Corvette team.”
While some might argue that that is a bit of an exaggeration, clearly Cafaro and his colleagues went at the crossover with the zeal that is characteristic of things like the Malibu and Volt—and as previously pointed out, both of those cars are going in the right direction sales-wise.
And one more thing: they had to think globally, as the 2018 Equinox is eventually going to be available in 115 markets around the world.
23. September 2016
One of the things that is becoming more important to several automobile manufacturers is discovering alternatives to the norm, not only in creating advanced powertrains and autonomous technology, but as regards alternatives to straight-up cars and trucks.
Notably, French vehicle manufacturer Peugeot produced its first folding bike in. . .1892. (It was designed by Captain Henri Gerard for the French army.)
Peugeot is launching its first electrically assisted folding bike, the eF01. It joins a lineup of more than 10 models of electrical bicycles that the company has had on the market since 2009.
According to Neil Simpson, lead designer at the Peugeot Design Lab, "The eF01 benefits from optimized ergonomics. When folded, the bikes two wheels are perfectly aligned allowing the user to effortlessly walk with the bike using the handle built into the frame. The eF01 possesses a patented memory system for the saddle which means the perfect saddle height can be quickly achieved every time."
The bike weighs 17 kg (37.5 pounds), can hit 20 km/h 12 mph) and its lithium-ion battery provides a range of up to 30 km (18.6 miles).
The eF01 can be recharged in about two hours from a 12-volt outlet. Peugeot has configured its 5008 model SUV with what it calls the “Dockstation,” especially designed to store and charge the eF01 in the rear cargo area.
It can be folded in less than 10 seconds.
For those who are looking for something in a faster, more traditional bike, Peugeot is also launching the eU01s, which uses a Bosch Performance Line electric motor that propels the bike to a top speed of 45 km/h (28 mph).
The eU01s can be fitted with either a 400- or 500-Wh lithium-ion battery, which provides a range of 75 or 95 km (46.6 or 59 mph), respectively.
An optional feature for the eUO1s is the Bosch Nyon system, which is a compact computer that has a 4.3-inch screen providing everything from help in setting up the pedal assistance profile to navigation.
Wonder what Captain Gerard would have thought about all this?
2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
22. September 2016
The Honda Accord is simply a really, really good car. (Yes, that’s not precisely a technical automotive description nor is it a highly sophisticated assessment, but when you get right down to it, normal people are in the market for midsize sedans like the Accord, and they are likely to be interested in the comparative levels of goodness of a car more than knowing about the 0 to 60 time or the way that it feels when carving through a curve.)
We’ve already talked about it with another powertrain. So pretty much what is said there stands here.
But this is the Accord Hybrid.
And while I could go on and on about the clever powertrain that Honda engineers have devised (e.g., there is a four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle two-liter engine that works with two AC synchronous permanent magnet motors and through an electronic continuously variable transmission), but it seems to me that hybrid technology becomes successful when it is transparent to the customer.
I would argue that most people—again, those who are looking for a midsize sedan because they have kids or the like something large without having to clamber into a truck—probably don’t know what they have under the hoods of their cars, and if they do know whether they have a four- or six-cylinder engine, they don’t have the foggiest notion of the horsepower. Sure, there are exceptions. And there are people who buy Hemis. But for the average customer and the average car. . .
So what someone needs to know about the Accord Hybrid is that (1) it has the sort of power that you’d expect from a midsize sedan (one of the things that the Honda people have done is provide a bit of oomph in the form of sportiness when you get on the accelerator, but I think that it largely mitigated by the performance at really slow speeds, which feels sort of lagging) and (2) you get really, really good fuel efficiency from the car (as in getting about 50 mpg without really trying—though that’s not the official number).
Now because this powertrain is more expensive than that found in other Accords, and because some people think that you can’t possibly want to spend extra money on a hybrid because gas is so cheap, there are some differences between this car and its brethren, like a special aluminum hood that you won’t recognize as an aluminum hood unless you carry a magnet with you and apply it to exterior body panels, and unique alloy wheels and blue highlighted LED headlights, both of which are discernable.
Also standard in the Acord Hybrid is the “Honda Sensing” suite, which includes a Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), all of which are good for safety and comfort.
Here’s what I think is the big difference between, say, an Accord EX-L (the high-end version with an I4, which I choose because it gets better fuel efficiency than the two higher grades with a V6) and the Hybrid is the trunk space for the Accord Hybrid is more than two cubic feet smaller—13.5 cu. ft. vs. 15.8 cu. ft. You’ve got to put those extra batteries somewhere.
So here’s the thing: you weigh your cargo needs versus your fueling frequency preferences. (Or maybe you are actually considering the overall environment and have concluded that burning less gas is simply a good thing to do, yet you want (a) a sizable vehicle and (b) a boatload of amenities, so. . . .)
Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC, four cylinder
Material: Aluminum block and head
Horsepower: 143 @ 6,200 rpm
Torque: 129 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
AC synchronous permanent magnet electric motor
Total system horsepower: 212 @ 6,200 rpm
Transmission: electronic continuously variable
Steering: Electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Length: 194.1 in.
Width 72.8 in.
Height: 57.5 in.
Passenger volume: 100.8-cu. ft.
Curb weight: 3,536 lb.
EPA: 49/47/48 mpg (city/highway/combined)
With Great Material Come Great Seats
21. September 2016
Automobile seats for the past several years have pretty much resembled. . .automobile seats. Yes, there have been a multitude of fabric changes, particularly lots of leather. And it is almost as though the whole notion of hand-stitching—or at least machine stitching that appears to have been done by hand—is one of the biggest breakthroughs in interiors, even though one could argue that it is the sort of thing that one could find in 19th-century stagecoaches.
Although it is a concept, the seat that Lexus is going to be showing at the 2016 Paris Motor Show is anything but a “classic” design.
The “Kinetic Seat Concept” not only resembles a spider web (we’ll forego the Peter Parker references), but it is made of a material developed by a Swedish firm in Stockholm, Spiber Technologies, which is located at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology. They’re using recombinant DNA to make synthetic spider silk (according to the company, “To produce spider silk protein recombinantly, we selected only a portion of the gene sequence that spiders use to make spidroins. We call this the mini-spidroin. The selected gene sequence was then cloned into E. coli bacteria,” which is more than we want to know, especially the last bit).
Back to the seat. The design (not the styling) is executed such that the net not only fits the shape of the occupant’s body, but because the center of the backrest is located at shoulder blade height, the head is stabilized such that there are high levels of support.
Not surprisingly, the seat is lighter than conventional models. Not only does mass reduction lead to using less fuel, but unlike traditional seats that use various foams and plastics, there are no petroleum-derived materials used for the Kinetic Seat Concept.