Chris Harris continues to bring us coverage of the unbelievably exclusive test drives of cars that you would think manufacturers would never let the media drive. This time around he does a few hot laps in BMW’s factory backed 2013 DTM M3. Though an M3 in name, the car is actually a full on race car with a carbon tub and an advanced aerodynamics package. These are the same regulations that the Japanese Grand Touring Championship (JGTC) will be adopting for 2014 and Grand-Am racing in the US in 2017. The idea is to keep development costs down by getting more people on the same equipment. As Chris points out, the car is extremely technically advanced, maybe even to a fault. The DTM cars are so capable and aerodynamics dependent that there’s a lot less exciting wheel-to-wheel action during the races. It’s not like the Golden Years of DTM when the race cars were still based on the production cars. That being said, it’s still pretty fascinating to watch Harris try to extract the most from the car on the track.
Motor Trend managed to get their hands on one of the new C7 Corvettes for a quick test. Initial impressions are very positive. The Corvette has always had a reputation of being the best “performance bargain.” On the one hand, that means that you get a lot of outright speed and performance for how much the car costs. On the other hand that meant that buying a Corvette meant that you were making compromises in refinement even though the car was really fast. It seems that General Motors listened to the complaints and addressed them with this new car.
The new LT1 engine is still a pushrod V8 but it now has direct injection, variable valve timing and variable displacement. It legitimately makes more power with less fuel. There were rumors that the C7 was going to move to a smaller 5.5 liter twin turbo V8 for the sake of fuel efficiency, but the engineers figured out they could get better mileage out of a bigger 6.2 liter naturally aspirated V8. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s all about the variable displacement system that shuts off half the engine when power requirements are small. In going to a bigger V8, the engine was also a bigger V4 when half of the cylinders were turned off. This meant that the LT1 could operate as a V4 for more of the duty cycle which resulted in better gas mileage than even the turbo engine could manage.
GM also payed special attention to the interior quality and the lateral support of the seats-two of the biggest complaints about the C6 Corvette. There are more premium materials, like carbon fiber and leather, that define the sharp new design that ties in to the Stingray theme. As you will see in the video, there is a decent sized infotainment touchscreen on the dash and a customizable digital gauge cluster that will give you the old school bar graph tachometer from the C3.
Carlos also says that the new electronically adjustable diff, suspension and tire temperature monitors work with the traction control systems to seamlessly make the car a lot more agile and competent. He goes on to talk about how the front and rear axles are balanced and much more communicative which allows the driver to push the car with confidence.
It looks like General Motors was serious about making the Corvette a serious world class car. Instead of being the compromised bargain, it seems the C7 is now a legitimate all-around sports car that happens to be cheaper than its competition. Kudos to GM for listening to what their customers wanted and then delivering the goods. I can’t wait for the Z06 and ZR-1 versions of this new C7.
“The answer to everything is Miata” is a running joke over on the Grassroots Motorsports forum. It’s funny because it’s true: the Miata is the perfect blend of low cost of entry, performance potential and practicality. They’re simply fun little cars. Mazda built this MX-5 Super20 concept for the SEMA show in 2010 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Miata. All they had to do was turn to the prolific and enthusiast driven aftermarket that has built itself around the fun to drive nature of the car. The Super20 has a Cosworth engine being force fed by a Flyin’ Miata supercharger kit. Power output is estimated at 225 to 250 horsepower. Suspension has also been upgraded and really wide 16 inch Toyo racing tires fill the widened fender flares.
I really like Carlos’s analogy of music for sports cars. There are cars that perform well because they are designed to do so in a very specific way like the GT-R. He says cars like these represent Punk Rock. They’re in your face in terms of outright performance despite of what driving style you may have behind it’s wheel. Cars like the Miata are more about existing in harmony with the melody of the driver.
The guys at Monster Energy and ICON have put together an exciting third installment to their motorcycle vs. car drift battle series. The first video explored the concept of tandem drifting an LS1 powered FD RX-7 against an extended swingarm Kawasaki ZX-10. The sequel became more theatrical by introducing the concept that the motorcycles were being chased by a police officer in a Ford Mustang. Now the story continues with the guys getting out of jail after inspiring a “driftpocalypse” where everybody drifts high powered cars everywhere. The two riders turbocharge the Triumph Daytonas they started using during the second video to 204 horsepower to keep up with all the new drift mayhem. The Law Enforcement characters also get some upgrades in the form of a 850 hp X2R desert racing buggy and remote controlled camera helicopters and quadcopters.
The lead designer and head engineer of the Cadillac ELR stop by Jay Leno’s garage to show him the new car. The ELR is GM taking the technology Volt and moving it into a premium market. The powertrain is based off of the one in the Volt but is recalibrated for a little more performance. Most importantly, the chassis of the ELR is larger and is no longer an obvious tie-in to the Chevy Cruze like the Volt is. Cadillac’s very successful angular design language is also present on the ELR. I find it interesting that the car technically didn’t need a front grill but they added one purely to keep the styling coherent. I think the ELR is a very encouraging sign for the electric vehicle market. It’s a start to shedding some of the styling, luxury and performance compromises that people are not willing to make to drive EV’s.