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.
Camaro ZL1: Eight Speeds Are Good. Ten Better.
25. May 2016
One of the reasons why vehicle manufacturers put more gears in their transmissions is to increase the fuel efficiency of the vehicles. It allows achieving the “sweet spot” all the more precisely.
While there might be something of a fuel efficiency aspect to it, chances are that’s simply a side benefit to what is said, by General Motors, to be the first “volume production car” to offer a 10-speed transmission: the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
After all, the 10-speed is mated to the ZL1’s supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 engine, which is estimated at 640 horsepower and 640 lb-ft of torque.
A big benefit is going to be realized by those who are looking to go very fast very quickly. According to Chevy testing, the new transmission—and automatic, with paddle shifters—offers faster shift times than the Porsche PDK dual-clutch transmission.
That’s right: a Porsche vs. a Chevy. Take that, Stuttgart!
The tests show the 1-2 upshift is 36% quicker than the PDK, the 2-3 upshift 27% quicker, and the 3-4 upshift 26% quicker. Presumably the person doing the shifting is really good at handling the paddles.
According to Aaron Link, ZL1 lead development engineer, “It delivers nearly instantaneous, lightning-fast shifts that alter your perception of what an automatic transmission can offer in a high-performance vehicle – whether you’re on the street, drag strip or road course.”
Chances are, Link handled those paddles on more than one occasion.
There is a 7.39 overall gear ratio spread. The first gear ratio is 4.70, which helps get the Camaro off the line faster.
Other Gen Six Camaro models are available with a Hydra-Matic eight-speed, which lead to the need for some clever packaging to fit the 10-speed into the space ordinarily filled by the eight.
And there is clever engineering, as well. The10-speed uses four simple gearsets and six clutches: two brake clutches and four rotating clutches. Realize that this means only one more clutch than the eight-speed, even though there are two more forward gears.
Street, drag strip and road course racing notwithstanding, it turns out that there are aspects of the new 10-speed that contribute to greater fuel efficiency, as in reduced spin losses, ultra-low viscosity transmission fluid, and an internal thermal bypass (for faster warming up of the transmission).
Still: 640-hp. . . .
The 10-speed will be manufactured at the GM Propulsion Systems factory in Romulus, Michigan.
Design, She Said
24. May 2016
Renault is introducing the new Grand Scenic today, so we’re going to take this opportunity to show some sketches that were made by the Renault design team during the development of the new Scenic, a team headed by Agneta Dahlgren, Groupe Renault’s Head of Design for C-Segment and Electric Vehicles, who, incidentally, was named Woman of the Year 2016 by WAVE (Women and Vehicles in Europe) last week.
Dahlgren has been with Renault since 1991 and was given the C-Segment assignment by Laurens van den Acker, senior vice president, Renault Corporate Design, in 2009.
So as for the sketches:
Not the Kind of Hybrid You Might Expect
23. May 2016
Chances are, when you think of a “hybrid” vehicle you think of something like this, the Prius:
Chances are really good you don’t think of something like this, a Class 8 drayage truck (a truck that moves cargo a short distance, such as from a ship to a warehouse) from Mack Trucks:
But that truck is actually a hybrid vehicle that Mack Trucks has developed and is testing, in a project led by the California South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
This vehicle is based on a Mack Pinnacle daycab model. It features a Mack PM 7 diesel engine, a parallel hybrid system and a lithium-ion battery pack.
Notably, they’re using geo-fencing technology to determine when the truck can operate with the diesel engine and when—such as while at the port—it operates in pure electric mode.
The SCAQMD program is being funded by a $23.6-million grant from the State of California.
Maven Hits a Million Miles
20. May 2016
In late January General Motors announced the creation of its car-sharing service, Maven. While the service is still modest in scope, yesterday GM announced that Maven customers have racked up more than one-million miles in the comparatively short period of time between now and then, which is all the more impressive when you take into account the fact that it started in Ann Arbor and New York City, and is just now expanding to Chicago, then Boston and Washington, DC by the end of June.
It is really a compelling proposition. For example, the setup in Chicago includes Maven City. In this program, vehicle prices start at $8 per hour—and that includes insurance and fuel. However, you’ve got to walk before you run, so the number of vehicles available is just 30, which will be located at various sites around the city.
This is a membership model approach, but note that the people who use the service in Chicago or elsewhere need a license (and a smart phone), of course, but they don’t need to own a car.
Isn’t GM a vehicle manufacturing company? That may, by and large, be its business, but the company leaders also recognize that there is a change aborning in this whole mobility space and they’re either going to be a part of it—and not just a part that builds and sells the vehicles to others—or they’re going to be watching companies like Uber making money off of those vehicles. (I would have written “Uber and Lyft,” were it not that GM also made a $500-million investment in Lyft, so it is in that ride-hailing part of the transportation services business, too.)
One somewhat curious aspect of Maven is that in Chicago they are also offering Maven+, which is dedicated to residents of a luxury high-rise apartment community, Aqua, which is the Lakeshore East neighborhood.
And when it opens in Washington, there will be Maven+ at the Hepburn, a 195-unit luxury apartment complex on the grounds of the Washington Hilton.
In both cases, one might think, that these would be prime buyers of Cadillacs, and given Cadillac’s recent sales numbers, it can use all of the luxury customers it can get. (It is worth noting, however, that Cadillacs are in the Maven fleet, so perhaps the use of a Maven Cadillac could be something of an extended test drive.)
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 Passenger Van
19. May 2016
It is hard to describe how large—more precisely, long and spacious—the Sprinter Passenger Van is in a meaningful way. It is not giant, massive. Not in Class 8 Freightliner territory. Not in Thomas Built yellow school bus terrain. But Daimler builds all three, the Sprinter, the Freightliner big rig and the daily student hauler, so know that it knows big.
There is another vehicle under the Daimler umbrella that might be helpful in understanding the context of the Sprinter Passenger Van:
The smart fortwo.
The fortwo is 105.9 inches long. It has a 73.7-inch wheelbase.
The smart is small.
As for large, consider the Sprinter Passenger Van in this context.
The fortwo is for two people: the driver and the passenger. And not much else.
The Sprinter Passenger Van seats 12 people. Yes, a dozen. Once there is the full complement of people on board, there is187.2-cubic feet of cargo room behind the fourth row. You could fit major appliances back there.
The Sprinter Passenger Van is 273.2 inches long. It has a 170.3 inch wheelbase. (There is a “smaller”—relative term—version, too: 232.5 inches long; 144.3-inch wheelbase.)
Which means that you could park two fortwos next to the Sprinter Passenger Van and there would be five feet left blank. Conceivably, you could probably put a couple of fortwos in the Sprinter were the seats removed: the width of a fortwo is 65.3 inches. The maximum width at the floor is 70.1 inches in the Sprinter, though the width at the wheelhouse is 53.1 inches. Still, the interior height is 76.4 inches in the Sprinter, and the height of a fortwo is 61 inches, so conceivably you could put the fortwo on top of the wheelhouse and make it.
Yes, this is a somewhat silly way of describing the Sprinter Passenger Van. But for those who don’t have an eleven-piece band, a soccer team or who make airport runs for hire, the Sprinter Passenger Van is somewhat silly: One of my neighbors did a literal jaw-drop when I piloted by his house.
What is really somewhat bizarre about this vehicle is that—and remember, this is a Mercedes, badges affixed fore and aft—it has a surprisingly low MSRP for a vehicle with a six-cylinder diesel engine: $46,180. Not a bad price for an object that takes up 195,059 cubic feet of space in your driveway.
Also surprising is how easy it is to drive. With the width of 79.7 inches, it is actually narrower than a Ford F-150 (79.9 inches). So those who are comfortable driving a pickup should have no trouble at all driving the Sprinter Passenger Van.
However, the longest F-150 (Supercab with an eight-foot box) is almost two feet shorter (22.5 inches) than the Sprinter Passenger Van, so when it comes to backing in, there is a whole lot of truck back there. (This is a case where you want to opt for the Active Safety Plus Package w/Parktronic because cameras, sensors, beeps, and other elements that can make parking less onerous is helpful.)
Bring your friends. Eleven of them.
The vehicle, as mentioned, has a 3.0-liter, 188-hp V6 diesel. It is mated to a five-speed automatic. This is not the most advanced Mercedes powertrain, but it gets the job done, with the job being moving people and their goods with efficiency, not pulling laps at the Nurburgring.
And while it has high-capacity front and rear springs and shocks, again know that it is about having some payload on board (maximum, incidentally, is 2,368 pounds, so if you have a full complement of passengers and no luggage, know that if each member of the journeying jury weighs 200 lb., then you’re going to be above the legal limit (if each weighs 197 pounds, you’re good to go)). If you are driving solo and without stuff, know that the ride is going to be more than a bit jarring, jittery and noisy. Bring the posse.
To make it easier on them, the $935 electric sliding step is certainly an option you’ll want to opt for. As is the Rear Passenger Comfort Package, which puts an HVAC system on the roof of the van that is much larger than those I’ve had in apartments.
The Sprinter Passenger Van that I drove actually has an all-in price of a more Mercedes-like $63,150, but even that number needs to be put into context: I just checked the website of a local Mercedes dealer and discovered that the base MSRP for a 2016 E400 sedan with a 3.0-liter engine (albeit gasoline and 329 hp not diesel and 188 hp) is $63,100—and if you add in the destination charge of $925, that E400 is actually more expensive than the Sprinter.
But now we’ve returned to silly comparisons.
Engine: 3.0-liter, BlueTEC SCR diesel V6
Horsepower: 188 @ 3,800 rpm
Torque: 325 lb-ft @ 1,400 to 2,400 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Steering: Rack and pinion
Wheelbase: 170.3 in.
Length: 273.2 in.
Width 79.7 in.
Height: 107.5 in.
Cargo volume behind rear seat: 187.2-cu. ft.
Curb weight: 6,182 lb.