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Muscle CAFE: The End of Modern Muscle

Old 03-12-2008, 11:23 PM
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Default Muscle CAFE: The End of Modern Muscle

Muscle CAFE: The End of Modern Muscle?

With 35-mpg average economy mandated for 2020, is it "last-call" for today's overcaffeinated muscle machines?

[IMG]local://upfiles/374/7FAF992643D34EF78A6C4861CF94BE8E.jpg[/IMG]

By Frank Markus
Art By Nigel Buchanan

We are witnessing the end of an era. Even as the new Challenger and Camaro prepare for launch, they'll take flight like the last of the dodos. These large, heavy, big-cube, high-horse musclecars as we know and lust after them are unlikely to be replaced by similar vehicles. That's because the life cycle of their replacements will extend to or beyond 2020, the year by which the Energy Bill of 2007 mandates that the overall fleet average fuel economy for cars and light trucks must tally 35 mpg. Tens of thousands of 15-mpg playthings just won't be part of that plan. Already we've seen GM cancel its replacement for the Northstar V-8 and Ford de-emphasizing V-8s in all its future product discussions. But will the party be over? Let's have a hard look at the legislation and its likely impact on one of our favorite market segments.

The first thing that strikes one upon digging into the legalese of the Energy Bill is that it includes almost no specifics. There's the goal of 35 mpg-for cars and for trucks-in 2020, but exactly how we get from here to there is left to the secretary of energy to determine. The combined fleet average is expected to ratchet up in yearly one-mpg increments from today's 25 starting in 2011. Apportioning that average among the fleets falls to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, which must use "1 or more vehicle attributes related to fuel economy" to subdivide the cars and light trucks into different classifications. Then, based on manufacturer forecasts of sales in each class, different fuel-economy targets will be assigned to each class to achieve the overall fleet average. Overachievers will still earn credits that can be traded across classes or carried forward or backward. As of this writing, there's no deadline for these details to be presented, but all the manufacturers we consulted expect the "fuel-economy related attribute" to be vehicle footprint (wheelbase times track width).

Such a system will mean that, depending on the size of a manufacturer's vehicles, the CAFE it'll have to meet may be well above (Suzuki) or below (Rolls Royce) the target economy for a given year. This might inspire designers to jam wheels farther out to the corners of a vehicle to maximize its footprint and thereby lower its target fuel economy, but if such visual jiggerypokery throws the sales volumes off and torpedoes the fleet average, CAFE noncompliance fines might be imposed. What happens if demand shifts and the fleet average target is missed, even though every car hits its own target? Nobody knows for sure.

Another open issue: How will plug-ins, full electric vehicles, and fuel cells be counted? Heavily incentivizing these popular alternative-fuel vehicles could prove a politically expedient way of achieving 35 mpg without forcing too many voters out of their beloved tow-vehicles and musclecars.

To find out just what sorts of "replacements for displacement" might power the next-generation musclecars, we contacted the go-fast gurus at the Detroit Three, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz AMG. All were adamant on one point: Performance cannot be sacrificed as it was in the 1970s and 1980s. Corvette chief engineer Tom Wallace echoes everyone else's sentiments: "What matters is pounds per horsepower. Horsepower is technology and displacement. If you can take mass out, you can take horsepower out. If you can take horsepower out, you can take displacement out and improve fuel economy." Lowering mass improves every sporting aspect of a car, so this is excellent news for Mustangs, Camaros, and Chargers, which can afford to shrink a bit. Further reducing mass from cars like the Corvette, however, will requir
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Old 03-12-2008, 11:24 PM
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Default RE: Muscle CAFE: The End of Modern Muscle

Thomas Baloga, BMW North America's engineering VP, expects conventional technologies coupled with ultracapacitor hybridization should be sufficient to meet the standards near term (he points out that BMW's fleet CO2 output has dropped 12 percent in 15 years- more than any other manufacturer's, according to Environmental Defense). For the longer term, he's bullish on hydrogen, but in keeping with BMW's Ultimate Driving Machine mantra, he believes it should be burned in a delightfully musical engine, rather than blown unceremoniously through a fuel-cell stack. (BMW and Mercedes are even more concerned about potential California CO2 regulations that seek to impose an effective 43-mpg standard by 2016, if the state succeeds in its appeal of the EPA's refusal to approve California's emissions waiver.)

Bottom line: Expect musclecars to evolve, offering equal or better performance in a lighter, smaller, more aerodynamic form bristling with new technologies. Don't be surprised to find roller bearings replacing plain journal bearings in cranks, cams, and elsewhere as manufacturers chase friction out of their rotating assemblies (INA sells rollers that assemble just like journals). Transmission-gear ratio spreads will widen (ZF has announced an eight-speed automatic with a 7.01:1 spread). Building small, cheap cars with great mileage is simple. Packaging the aforementioned high-tech into reasonably sized, desirable cars affordably (and profitably) is not.

Here's hoping that, as NHTSA plots our path to 2020's 35-mpg destination, it dials in sufficient alternative-fuel credits and incentives so people can buy the cars they want at prices they can afford (without bankrupting automakers) in numbers that make the CAFE math work out so Congress appears to have done something. It won't be easy, but neither was rejiggering the city and highway window-sticker numbers, and the EPA got that right.

In the meantime, we're ready to embrace the next generation of 4.0-second musclecars, no matter where the tire-smoking torque comes from.

Green Muscle
Would you smile as broadly whooshing to 60 mph in four seconds with an electric hum replacing that stirring fourth-order V-8 roar we all adore? In many ways, electric cars are natural muscle-machines. They make their peak torque at zero rpm for awesome holeshots, they carry their weight down low, and tuning can be as simple as adding batteries or individual fuel cells and maybe bolting in a more powerful motor. Might a digitally reproduced V-8 soundtrack help?

DeJa Vu
We've been here before. At the dawn of the 1970s, an escalating horsepower war peaked with big blocks and 400-plus-horsepower claims. Then the industry was hit with a double-whammy: tightening emissions regulations and the 1973 oil embargo. Hydrocarbon and carbon-monoxide emissions were tightened for 1972 (along with NOX in California), and the automakers lowered compression to comply. Providing a fig leaf of sorts, in 1972 SAE began requiring exhaust and accessory systems to be installed during performance measurements, a change that lowered SAE gross figures by about 20 percent. The three-way catalytic converter arrived in 1975 and drastically cut emissions, but until precise fuel metering arrived in the 1980s, engine output remained anemic. Today's vast computing power enables advances in technology and science that give engineers more options for improving performance and fuel economy. Peak power may again decline, but weight will too and any drop in performance should be far milder.

CTS, 300, and Challenger make up the pic.


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Old 03-13-2008, 04:32 PM
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Default Are Muscle Cars Dying?

I was finding it hard to believe that the Camaro was only 6 months behind the Challenger. If this article is correct then it indeed is 1 year behind.


Are Muscle Cars Dying?

Posted: Mar. 13, 2008 11:03 a.m.


Motor Trend writes, "We are witnessing the end of an era." Despite the imminent launch of a number of new American muscle cars with big V8 engines like the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger, "high-horse musclecars as we know and lust after them are unlikely to be replaced by similar vehicles." New federal fuel economy standards dictate that "overall fleet average fuel economy for cars and light trucks must tally 35 mpg" by 2020. Motor Trend expects "musclecars to evolve, offering equal or better performance in a lighter, smaller, more aerodynamic form bristling with new technologies" to meet the requirements. But it does conclude that the V8 may be dying. "Already we've seen GM cancel its replacement for the Northstar V-8 and Ford de-emphasizing V-8s in all its future product discussions."

The return of one member of the dying breed has been delayed. Autoblog reports, "Chevy has revealed that the Camaro will now be a 2010 model, rather than a 2009 model." However, "the car will go on sale in the spring of 2009, yet still be called a 2010 Camaro."
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that "Dodge dealers are seeing the excitement the upcoming Challenger is generating." Jack Nerad, Editorial Director at Kelley Blue Book, notes "I've heard...that $20,000 over sticker has been offered and bandied about," for the Challenger.

To research your current options in the muscle car market, see U.S. News' reviews of the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Pontiac G8.

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Old 03-14-2008, 12:07 PM
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Default RE: Muscle CAFE: The End of Modern Muscle

"It's not over till it's over!"

We'll cross that bridge when we reach it. Perhaps high powered Diesels will take over. Many of those are fast and fuel efficient without having the safety hazards that hybrids pose. I hope that bolded area demonstrates that Dodge will keep the Viper going.
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