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Fake Hondas

August 23rd, 2010 Comments off

When Hyundai entered the North American auto market in the mid-late’80’s, my initial impression was, “Who are they fooling?!  Nobody’s going to mistake that piece of crap for a Honda!”  I assumed, given the similarities in their name – and their cars’ badging – that they were attempting to capture the segment of the car market made up of consumers who thought they were buying a Honda weren’t capable of thought.  Consumers quickly realized that Hyundais weren’t Hondas, however.  Honda had gained a reputation for well-built, reliable vehicles, while Hyundais were quickly discovered to be poorly built, unreliable, and basically not worth the low price in their window stickers.

That was twenty years ago. So, what’s changed since then?  Well, Hyundais have.  After a few faulty starts, they’ve successfully moved into the luxury market with the Genesis.  They’ve also legitimately moved into the performance market with the Genesis Coupe.  And now, they’ve created the 2011 Sonata – a high-feature car for the masses that’s actually quite attractive.  They hired IAV Automotive Engineering (whose clients also include Bentley) to help them trim weight from the Sonata.  Since the car is only available with a 4-cylinder, the engine cradle structure didn’t have to be designed to accommodate any optional V6 – allowing a reduction in mass that translates in weight reductions elsewhere (such as the braking system) without a performance compromise.  (I love whole-systems thinking!)  All of this results in a car that has a little more power than a similarly featured Honda Accord (its most direct competitor), gets slightly better highway fuel efficiency (35 vs. 34 mpg), weighs approximately 100 pounds less, and is arguably more attractive.  The fact that the Sonata combines the impressive 200 horsepower 2.4 liter 4-cylinder (with continuously variable valve timing) with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and an SE trim-level that actually comes with performance goodies like stiffer springs, better shocks, and larger anti-roll bars, makes the $2k discount relative to the Accord all the more impressive.

A 10-year, 100,000 mile powertrain warrantyInitial Quality Ratings at the top of their class? What’s not to like? …Well, there’s that whole “no available V6” point where Honda has the advantage.  Then again, the 274 horsepower 2.0 turbo due out later in the model year should fix that.  And still reach 34 mpg.  …A fake Honda indeed!

2011 Hyundai Sonata

Peeks, Leafs, and Curves

April 25th, 2010 Comments off

Just over a week ago, I opened my mouth about V-Vehicle Company, and the fact that they appeared to be dead in the water.  Apparently, the folks at VVC read my post, and thus decided to give a few journalists a sneak PEEK of their affordable, efficient, composite-bodied compact.  According to Autobloggreen, it looks like a cross between a VW Golf and a Dodge Neon. …Who knew ThatCarBlog had such an effect on the automotive start-ups?

2011 Nissan Leaf

In other news, this week Nissan revealed that 6,635 people in the U.S. have paid $99 to reserve a Leaf … in only 3 days.  This is notable for several reasons.  First, lack of customer demand was one of the reasons GM cited in the early ’90s for the limited availability (and eventual cancellation) of the EV1 program.  (Of course, when customers … demanded … the EV1, GM’s stance was, “Oh, they’re not really serious.”)  Demand for the Leaf, which won’t be available until the end of the year, is already stronger than expected – a very good sign for Nissan (and EVs in general).  Secondly, compared to the expectations and media chatter surrounding Chevrolet’s Volt, hype surrounding the Leaf has been relatively limited.  This deserves mention, considering the Leaf will arrive at around the same time as the Volt, and it’s an all-electric vehicle (compared to the Volt’s plug-in-hybrid … er, extended-range-electric propulsion architecture).  Many folks still consider pure EVs to not quite be ready for mass-market consumption.  …And finally, the 100-mile range Leaf will cost $25,280 after tax incentives, about $7k less than the Volt.

2011 Audi RS5

And on a final note … I just can’t stop staring at Audi’s new RS5.  This is one sexy car, with subtly striking CURVES and amazing performance potential.  OK, so the 450 hp, 4.2 liter V8 underneath its hood may not be the most efficient power plant imaginable, but with an average fuel economy of 22 mpg, it’s not nearly as thirsty as most cars of this caliber.  And with such visual appeal on the outside, it’s hard to pay attention to what’s on the inside…

Vaporware

April 16th, 2010 Comments off

It’s been about 10 months now since I blogged about the V-Vehicle Company and their plans to turn an abandoned headlight factory in Louisiana into a manufacturing facility for a new, compact, efficient, inexpensive, American-made vehicle.  At the time, they planned to start production of their mystery-vehicle in about 17 months.  That’s 7 months from now.

Since then, they’ve failed to secure a DOE loan, and recently announced a change in command (as reported by earth2tech).  And still, there’s no sign of anything actually being produced by this “company” anytime soon.  They’ve got a lot to do in 7 months…

Lately, there’s been chatter about another company with plans to bring prosperity to the folks in the deep south.  HK Motors, a China-based car company with plans for compressed-natural-gas-fueled hybrid vehicles (with a small gasoline tank back-up – you know, in case you can’t find a CNG station anywhere), intends to build a manufacturing facility in Bay Minette, Alabama.  The manufacturing campus is projected to cost around $4.3B, with an annual output of 300,000 SUVs, passenger cars, and trucks by 2013, eventually employing 5,800 people to build a million cars annually by 2018.  …Wow, that’s about 10% of the U.S.’s current new car market…

Unlike VVC, HK actually has a website.  And some prototype vehicles.  And some sketches of a manufacturing facility.  But I have to look at the description of their technology with a critical eye.  It reads a little too much like an infomercial to be believable. And, cynically, the Chinese auto industry’s strength has not been in developing next-generation advanced vehicle technologies, as much as it has been in copying technology from other manufacturers and figuring out how to manufacture it more cheaply.  From my point of view, HK’s grand plans just seem a little too … grand.

We’ll have to wait and see if HK … or VVC … ever delivers anything besides vaporware.

Categories: Auto Companies Tags: , ,

The Sound of Silence

February 19th, 2010 Comments off

Seems I’m linking back to myself a lot lately…

Last year, I bored you with a description of a speaker embedded in a car’s exhaust system, used to help tune the exhaust note.  Well, it turns out Honda/Acura has been doing something similar for a while, only using the speakers that are already inside your car.

They call it Active Sound Control, and the system uses anti-phase sound waves (which I also previously talked about) to cancel the “unwanted” engine noises from the cabin, while allowing the more pleasing snarls to tickle your eardrums when the throttle is to the floor.  (The irony here is that I’ve yet to come across a Honda or Acura that actually produced any sound which could be described as aurally exciting.)  Honda is offering the technology on their new Crosstour (a car which I’m oddly intrigued by), and Acura on their TSX, RL, and ZDX.

This is cool technology.  But I can’t help but think it’s just technology for technology’s sake – sort of a Rube Goldberg device for correcting the deficiencies of their engine designers and exhaust system engineers.  (Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time Honda employed an over-engineered solution for a simple taskbut that time I was impressed.)

Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps using the stereo to cover up engine sounds is a more efficient solution to unwanted cabin noise than a well-designed engine, proper attention paid to exhaust tuning, a chassis developed with NVH in mind, and sufficient levels of sound-absorbing insulation.  (For what it’s worth, GM chose the insulation route with their Quiet Tuning technology in their Buick brand.)

In my opinion, a more holistic approach would be better than Active Sound Control.  As in most cases, it’s better to treat the source than to mask the symptom.

Somebody KERS!

February 14th, 2010 Comments off

Last August, I posed the question, “Who KERS?” in regards to the limited success of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System employed in the 2009 Formula 1 season, and the elimination of the system for 2010.  Well, it turns out that at least one of the systems developed by an F1 team will in fact live on.

As recently described by AutoBlogGreen, Porsche is utilizing the Williams-developed flywheel-based energy storage system in its 911 GT3 R Hybrid.  The 911 GT3 R is the race version of Porsche’s bread-and-butter 911.  The hybrid system leaves the conventional 480-hp flat-6 powering the rear wheels untouched, while adding a pair of 80-hp electric motors to each of the front wheels.

Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid

Porsche has always done things a little differently than other automakers, at least with respect to the 911.  Instead of competing in the horsepower wars using 8-, 10- and 12-cylinder engines with massive displacement, they’ve continually developed their horizontally opposed 6-cylinder combined with lightweight (and often exotic) materials to maintain their competitive edge.  Until just over a decade ago, this engine was still air-cooled, in contrast to literally every other automaker’s water-cooled powerplants.  And even now, in a triumph of engineering over physics, Porsche still hangs the motor way out back behind the rear axle.  So it comes as no surprise that they’ve taken the less-traveled path of using a flywheel (instead of a battery) to recovery the energy from braking.

In the simplest terms, the system works by the front-axle motors acting as generators to convert the kinetic energy of the spinning wheels to electrical energy under braking.  The electrical energy is then converted back to kinetic energy at the flywheel (which is essentially another electric motor), as it spins at speeds up to 40,000 rpm.  Under acceleration, the flywheel then acts as a generator, converting the kinetic energy of its spinning mass to electricity, which is routed to the front-wheel motors, where it is converted back to kinetic energy to help power the wheels. (One thing I’ve often wondered in systems like this is – why all the conversions? You want kinetic energy to move the car, and with a flywheel you’ve got a kinetic energy storage system.  Seems like there’d be fewer conversion losses if you could skip the electro-part of the electro-mechanical system, and just connect the flywheel to the drive system by an intelligently activated clutch or viscous coupling.  I’m sure the hybrid system designers out there could give me countless reasons why this wouldn’t work, however.)

And finally, am I a hypocrite because I like this car so much more than the BMW X6 ActiveHybrid, which I criticized here?  Of course not.  BMW has taken a conventional fuel-efficient technology and applied it to a mass-market car solely for performance purposes, with almost no efficiency benefit.  (Plus, the X6 is ugly.)  Porsche, on the other hand, has taken an unproven fuel-efficient technology, and applied it to a limited production race-car as sort of a rolling laboratory to spear-head the development of this new technology, before potentially applying it to its road-going cars.

And although I (like many others) question the feasibility of flywheels as the energy storage solution for mass-market hybrid vehicles, people also once criticized the throwing-a-dart-backwards handling characteristics of the rear-engined 911.  And by most measures, Porsche has been successful with that effort…

High-Dollar Hybrid

January 24th, 2010 Comments off
A few days ago, I found myself driving around Phoenix in Mercedes’ new S400 Hybrid.  (Indeed, I found myself behind the wheel of a large automobile.  …Wow, that’s funny stuff.)  The S400 is “the big Merc”, and the folks at Daimler have created a hybridized version to propel it while still maintaining somewhat sane levels of fuel efficiency.
So, what do you get when you buy a $90,000 hybrid?  Well, if it’s the Merc, you get luxury.  You get rich leather seats that are firm (it is German, after all) and that can contort your body in ways it was never meant to bend.  You get a consolidated multimedia interface (Mercedes calls it XXXX) that controls everything imaginable, from the stereo, A/C, and navigation system, to blue-tooth connectivity, rear-window sunshade, and ambient lighting color.  It was fairly intuitive, and I was able to figure out most features within a few minutes.  You also get that vault-like feeling of solidity that the Germans do so well.  (Jeremy Clarkson would say it feels as if it was carved from a single block of aluminum.)  And you get acres of leg-room in the rear – perhaps because that’s where some owners may sit when chauferred around.
And how is it to drive?  Again, “solid” and “luxury” are the words that come to mind.  With the suspension in the “normal” setting the ride is Buick-soft, and pot-holes pass by with hardly a thump.  Put the suspension in “sport” mode, however, and the dampers firm up significantly.  It’s still a big, heavy car, but driving is more rewarding in this setting – the ride is only slightly compromised while body roll in the turns is reduced substantially.  The steering is weighted just slightly on the heavy side – which is a good thing in my book.  The braking, while firm, feels a bit artificial – probably a result of the hybrid drivetrain.
Ah yes, I almost forgot – it’s a hybrid!  Well, it’s a mild-hybrid.  The XXX hp, V6 engine does all of the work most of the time.  The Li-ion battery – the first ever in a production hybrid from a major OEM – spends most of its time being rechared during idling, braking, and coasting events.  (The artificial braking feel likely comes from the fact that the load of the generator charging the battery is additive to the actual braking system.  There’s a little “sticky” feel when releasing the brakes, probably due to the delay of the regen turning off.)  Under normal driving and acceleration, the electric motor doesn’t really participate.  But mash the pedal to the floor, and watch the the energy flow on the dash-mounted screen as the battery discharges and the electric motor complements the engine in moving this XXXX lb car 0-60 mph in X.X seconds.  While quick for a car this size, the performance certainly isn’t blistering.  However, the system – which also turns the engine off while sitting at stop lights – achieves XX mpg in the city and XX mpg on the highway, a XX% improvement over the regular S400.  (Unlike what BMW did with the X6 hybrid, Merc’s goal was to improve fuel economy without sacrificing performance.  Plus, the Merc is actually appealing to look at.)
Really, the only thing that alerts the driver to the fact that this is a hybrid is the tach needle that drops to zero when the car stops moving, and the slight shudder of the engine when it restarts – an event that happens when the brake is released.  Admittedly, this shudder is probably only noticeable because the Mercedes V6 is so perfectly balanced and silky smooth otherwise.

A few days ago, I found myself driving around Phoenix in Mercedes’ new S400 BlueHybrid.  (Indeed, I found myself behind the wheel of a large automobile.  …Wow, that’s funny stuff!…)  The S-class is “the big Merc” (well, excluding their SUVs), and the folks at Daimler have created a hybridized version to propel it while still maintaining somewhat sane levels of fuel efficiency.

So, what do you get when you buy a $90,000 hybrid?  Well, if it’s the Merc, you get luxury.  You get lots of burled walnut, and rich leather seats that are firm (it is German, after all) and that can contort your body in ways it was never meant to bend.  You get a consolidated multimedia interface with an 8″ screen (Mercedes calls it the COMAND system) that controls everything imaginable, from the stereo, A/C, and navigation system, to blue-tooth connectivity, rear-window sunshade, and ambient lighting color.  The system is reasonably intuitive, and I was able to figure out most features within a few minutes.  You also get that vault-like feeling of solidity that the Germans do so well.  (Jeremy Clarkson would say it feels as if it was carved from a single block of aluminum.)  And you get acres of leg-room in the rear – perhaps because that’s where some owners may sit when chauferred around.

And how is it to drive?  Again, “solid” and “luxury” are the words that come to mind.  With the suspension in the “normal” setting the ride is Buick-soft, and pot-holes pass by with hardly a thump.  Put the suspension in “sport” mode, however, and the dampers firm up significantly.  It’s still a big, heavy car, but driving is more rewarding in this setting – the ride is only slightly compromised while body roll in the turns is reduced substantially.  The steering is weighted just slightly on the heavy side – which is a good thing in my book.  The braking, while firm, feels a bit artificial – probably a result of the hybrid drivetrain.

2010 Mercedes Benz S400 BlueHybrid

2010 Mercedes Benz S400 BlueHybrid

Ah yes, I almost forgot – it’s a hybrid! Well, it’s basically a mild-hybrid, but with some drive assist.  The 275 hp, 3.5 liter V6 engine does all of the work most of the time.  The Li-ion battery – the first ever in a production hybrid from a major OEM – spends most of its time being rechared during idling, braking, and coasting events.  (The artificial braking feel likely comes from the fact that the load of the generator charging the battery is additive to the actual braking system.  There’s a bit of a “sticky” sensation when releasing the brakes, probably due to the delay of the regen turning off.)  Under normal driving and acceleration, the electric motor doesn’t really participate.  But mash the pedal to the floor, and watch the the energy flow reverse directions on the dash-mounted screen as the battery discharges and the electric motor complements the engine in moving this more-than-2-ton car 0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds.  While reasonably quick for a car this size, the performance certainly isn’t blistering.  However, the system – which also turns the engine off while sitting at stop lights – achieves 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, a 26% improvement over the conventional S550, which uses a 382 hp, 5.5 liter V8 to propel it to 60 mph nearly 2 seconds quicker than the hybrid.  (Unlike what BMW did with the X6 hybrid, Merc’s goal was to improve fuel economy without sacrificing performance.  Plus, the Merc is actually appealing to look at.)

Really, the only thing that alerts the driver to the fact that this is a hybrid is the tach needle that drops to zero when the car stops moving, and the slight shudder of the engine when it restarts – an event that happens when the brake is released.  Admittedly, this vibration is probably only noticeable because the Mercedes V6 is so perfectly balanced and silky smooth otherwise.  Nonetheless, it’s worth mentioning.

In hybrid terms, the car doesn’t really do anything that other, cheaper hybrids don’t.  So what good is its Li-ion battery pack?  Well, it’s a lot smaller than the NiMH batteries used in every other conventional hybrid (although its capacity is about the same), so passenger and cargo space is completely unaffected.  (Same as it ever was…  Same as it ever was…)  But it does represent another step in Lithium-ion technology moving into the mass-market.

Stay-tuned!  If all goes as planned, I’ll be test-driving a much more radical and exciting alternative vehicle in the next few weeks.  One might say it’s an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime!

Missing the Point

January 7th, 2010 Comments off

The fuel-economy of our nation’s light-duty vehicle fleet has been roughly stagnant for the past three decades, following a significant (but unsustained) improvement just after the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules were enacted in 1975.  And although our cars’ fuel-economy hasn’t really improved, their efficiency certainly has.  We’re certainly moving around a lot more mass, a lot faster, on the same amount of fuel (per car) we were using 30 years ago. The problem is, all this technology packed into our automobiles has been engineered almost entirely to give us more performance (a 1980 Honda Accord had less than 80 hp; today’s base-model is approaching 200) and move us around in a lot more luxury (with a resulting heft of 3200 lbs for today’s Accord, a gain of a half-ton over the 1980 version) than we ever thought possible, at the complete expense of fuel-economy.  (I know, it’s a result of market demand…  But the best marketers are experts at selling us what we don’t need.)

These days, hybrid technology seems to be the solution to significant increases in fuel-economy, as it becomes ever more difficult to squeeze further efficiency improvements from conventional powertrains.  But BMW has taken a different tack with their ActiveHybrid X6.  Touted as “the world’s most powerful hybrid,” BMW starts with a 4.4-liter, 400 hp V8 internal combustion engine – which, until recent years, would have been enough of a beast to power anything but vehicles of near-supercar status – and integrates it with not one, but TWO electric motors totaling an additional 174 hp.  And sure, the combined 574 horses will be enough to provide incredible acceleration in this nearly 3-ton mammoth, but … what’s the point?

2010 BMW X6 ActiveHybrid

2010 BMW X6 ActiveHybrid

The X6 ActiveHybrid starts at a base price of nearly $90k.  At that price-level, you could almost have a Tesla Roadster, or one of the other upcoming EVs or PHEVs with phenomenal performance and actual environmental benefits.  Granted, the X6 will carry a little more gear than a Roadster.  But, it’s ugly – no matter what powertrain is under the skin.  The X6 looks like the answer to a question that nobody asked.  And while I’m sure it, like all BMWs, offers a driving experience more exhilarating than the majority of other cars on the road, I can’t help but think of it as a caricature of a Honda CRX.

I hope automakers don’t repeat the trend of the past 3 decades, by following BMW’s example of continuing to utilize efficiency-improving technology to increase performance while sacrificing potential fuel-economy benefits. Fortunately, due to the recent and long-overdue increase in CAFE standards, this trend may be thwarted.  At least, as it was in the 1980s, temporarily.

Utilitarian

January 3rd, 2010 Comments off

I love utilitarian vehicles – cars that are built for a purpose, in which every part has a function.  (Fake hood scoops, on the other hand, piss me off.)

Mahindra TR20

Mahindra TR20

Mahindra is probably the largest car company that you (here in the U.S.) haven’t heard of.  But you will soon.  …Or, at least eventually. They plan to begin selling a line of pick-up trucks in the U.S. in 2010: the TR20 two-door, the TR40 four-door, and a similarly styled SUV.  These large-compact pick-ups have some interesting specs, such as a 2.2-liter diesel engine that gets 30 mpg, and a large bed that can haul an impressive 2,765 pounds – more than most full-size U.S.-built trucks of the 1500/F-150 variety.  And it looks utilitarian – no expanses of chrome or other useless adornment here.  If a piece is there, it’s for a reason.  For example, the truck has built-in tie-down hooks along the outer edge of the cargo area – a simple and more elegant solution than Utili-trak system on Nissan‘s Titan.

I like this truck. I hope it does well, when it finally arrives.  (The introduction has been repeatedly delayed – the current prediction is this coming Spring).  But American truck-buyers are a fickle (and loyal) bunch.  Getting consumers to embrace a not-quite-Ford-tough-looking truck made in India, with an engine that sacrifices a little power for efficiency, may be a tough sell.

Quattro Formaggio

December 20th, 2009 Comments off

For 37 years, I lived in the south.  (And technically I still do, though most would call my current locale the Mid-Atlantic.)  And in the south, we only get snow once – maybe twice – a year.  And when we do, it’s typically an inch or two (and the governor still usually declares a state of emergency).  Despite this, all three vehicles in my household’s garage have all-wheel- (or 4-wheel-) drive.  I’ve insisted on it.

Now, many folks believe all-wheel-drive is only useful in snow or mud (or otherwise slippery conditions).  I recall about 8 years ago, when I test-drove a VW Passat, I asked the salesman about 4Motion – Volkswagen’s all-wheel-drive system.  His reply was, “You can’t get that down here!  Those are only for up north!”  (…We then went to the Audi dealer and bought an A4 Avant – with Quattro all-wheel-drive – instead.)  And sure, the biggest advantage for a vehicle in which all 4 wheels are driven comes when the weather gets treacherous.  …I’m thinking about this now, because I recently had the opportunity to drive through the middle of The Blizzard Of ’09.  It took 6 hours to go what is normally a 2-hour drive.  Toward the end, I saw rear-wheel-drive cars pirouette across icy bridges, front-wheel-drive cars struggle to exit nearly level parking lots, and even an overturned tractor-trailer.  Overall, I probably witnessed over 50 vehicles nosed into a guardrail, stuck on the shoulder, or otherwise scarred and motionless.  (Quiz:  What do you think the car was that stood out to me out as being the most unusable in the snow?  Answer at the end of the post.)  The A4 soldiered on, as if the event were simply a light rain.

Audi Ski JumpOf course, an AWD vehicle isn’t the only way to handle snowy roads.  A capable driver with a front-wheel- or even a rear-wheel-drive car (especially with a limited-slip differential) and proper tires can maneuver quite well.  (An even smarter driver may decide to stay inside and enjoy some hot buttered rum!)  But physics dictates that the more contact-patches moving the car along, the more likely it is to move at all.  (Stopping is a different matter.  All cars have 4-wheel-brakes.  Unfortunately, it’s the loose nut behind the steering wheel that is often the weak link!)  The fact that I saw a few 18-wheelers (with two driven axles, totaling 8 wheels) spin their tires and go nowhere on the slightest incline testifies to the road conditions 2 nights ago.

But what about the 99% of the time when you don’t need all-wheel-drive?  I mean, doesn’t it just add weight and inefficiency?  Well – yes, it does.  But, it’s still worth it.  Drive a front-wheel-drive car near the limit – try to accelerate while turning.  The front-end will just plow (that is, understeer, or in NASCAR-speak:  push) to the outside of the turn.  A rear-wheel-drive car is much more sporting in that regard, but apply too much power and the opposite effect occurs:  oversteer, when the rear-end breaks loose.  But an all-wheel-drive car can make even the worst driver look talented.

And what about that other 1% of the time when the weather dictates that an all-wheel-drive system might be beneficial? Absolutely worth the price paid (which is usually no more than a DVD or a navigation system).

QUIZ ANSWER:  I saw several of the latest generation Dodge Magnum wagons during my drive.  I think every one of them was stuck.  If you live north of the US/Mexico border, you probably shouldn’t buy one.

Electric Eye Candy

December 16th, 2009 Comments off

A decade ago, Toyota showed us that transportation could be efficient but boring when they introduced the first generation Prius.  A few years ago, Tesla wowed the world (well, at least the automotive world – or rather, the green-sports-car-world) with its Roadster, showing that fast can be efficient and sexy all at once.  Then came Fisker‘s Karma.  And others…

Mercedes Benz SLS AMG

Mercedes Benz SLS AMG

At this point, high-end, electrified sports cars are popping up as frequently as Tiger Woods’ mistresses.  Two recently caught my eye.  (Cars, not mistresses…)  The first is the Mercedes Benz SLS AMG.  Now, the SLS isn’t a built-from-scratch EV supercar.  This homage to the classic 300SL comes with a 6.2-liter, 563 hp V8 providing the motivation for sub-4-second acceleration to 60 mph.  But, Daimler’s Chairman of the Board Dieter Zetsche says “As of 2013, it will be available with an electric-only driveline.”  Unfortunately, details are sparse.  But given the gasoline version will probably cost around $200,000, there’s plenty of financial opportunity to install a very capable electron-based drivetrain in a couple years.

The other car that caught my attention is a new car (the Motion) from a new car company (Kepler Motors, presumably named for German mathematician Johannes Kepler, for a reason I don’t know, although I did once visit Tübingen, Germany – the town of Kepler’s alma mater – and had some really good spätzle).  The Motion – a parallel through-the-road hybrid – utilizes Ford‘s new EcoBoost engine (which I described here), tuned to 550 hp and attached to the rear wheels, while a 250 hp electric motor provides motive force at the front end, adding up to new levels of ridiculosity.  It’s good-looking, exclusive, and undoubtedly fast, but I keep thinking:  All these new companies keep showing us what they can do with electrified drivetrains – now, show us what you can do with a $20k – $40k price point.