Wednesday, September 23, 2015

VW... you are stupid... ballsy but stupid... and also right.

Shocked by the VW scandal, I decided to post this article.

I can't believe how stupid they here, how ballsy they were and ultimately how right they are.

Politicians, in their infinite stupidity think that the world will be better if the clean cars (gasoline engined) are less, and dirty cars (diesel engined) are more and more controlled by regulations that ultimately will kill the engine power making you pull it harder or buy a bigger engine.... ending in more pollution anyway.

There is a why to this: tax! More tax means more money for them... of course the idea of taxing a car that pollutes like a gasoline engine car, is to plant more trees and green areas to compensate... but that money is deviated... lets just say else where.

There is the other matter... by taxing gasoline cars, people flee to diesel ones, and that constitutes a bigger problem as diesel emissions include a lot of carbon particles... this is worse then gas, so the politicians add regulations and taxes to try to baffle the resulting pollution... no trees from taxes still, just more money.

So the game is: Make it as bad as possible and then tax on it and make fortunes.

In order to do that, every car, upon certification to a specific market will have pass a set of tests including the emissions test.

So far so good. We knew that already. The problem is that VW also knows that and ultimately thinks "I don't really care for stupid policies, and if you are making money on us, than I'll fool you".

So now for the news:
Every car that is fitted with ESP will not allow you to properly test it on a rolling dyno. The 2 front wheels spinning while the 2 rear wheels are stopped will immediately trigger EPS into thinking you are trying to accelerate on a slippery surface and dose the engine and apply the brakes... So to solve this issue every manufacturer has input into it's car's software a "test mode" that disables ESP actions.
Now if you are a manufacturer and you want to fool the emissions test, this presents an opportunity, however, if you are going to do that you must really conceal the crafts, as you will be stealing money from governments (the biggest "mafiosos" of them all)  in every car you sell from that point on.

VW did just that! they concealed a way to make their cars pollute 40 to 50 time less if a certain type of parameter was met.

This is not the problem. The problem is that if you are going down this road than you have to make it "look like a bug" in the software.

VW on the other hand coded a set of checks that produce a result...and that can be tracked.

Not that if it was a bug you would be out of trouble... it just makes it easier to explain in court, and that means that, out of the total 18billion fine, you could negotiate your way down to say... half that value!?

In the other words: your VW diesel that claims to produce x co gr/km actually produces 40 or 50 times as much. No worries, it still has that big power from a very small package and that is what you pay for actually.

So this is a big scandal not because it pollutes more, not because they are stealing from the government (and in turn helping you do the same... so now you have that instant karma feeling) but because they where stupid enough to do that in the clumsiest possible way.

Practical results form this stunt?
1 - VW will be fined... hard
2 - VW is stealing from govenrments everytime they sell a diesel car
3 - if you own a VW you have been and are stealing form your government every year when you pay your tax.
4 - VW will have to call back the cars and remap... so be careful! I have no idea how they are going to meet CO emissions while retaining the same power and consumption.
5 - VW stock is history.... sell... yesterday.

HONDA: you killed the brilliant K20A from the type-r and screwed-it-up with a turbo... instead you should have gone for full BTCC race tune to 300bhp NA and fit a jumbo catalytic converter that could be removed and replaced with a test pipe the minute one exits the sales stand. That would be legal, that would be efficient, that would still pollute less than any VW... and we would have loved it.

Test Drive - 2004 Honda Civic 1.7cdti (EP3 chassis)

This a very (very) old post that has been cooking for over 2 years.

There is a reason for this. Firs I tested the car using the standard Michelin energy tires... having driven the Type-r version my immediate impression was: this thing is all over the place! that high roof must really pull the chassis beyond it's limits.
Then, my first recommendation was: change the tires. Go for some proper rubber engineered to grip instead of fuel saving, and then I recommended the Toyo T1-R's I also recommended to increase the 195,60,R15 to a much more sensible 205,55,R15 with reinforced sidewalls to prevent tire wall smash.

The transformation was obvious... having decent road holding from the tires, the chassis actually comes to live and presents all it's magnificent design. Sure it was a bit too high but the stiffness on the tires and the grip was enough to force the chassis into full dynamics (not sure however of it's behavior if you have a transition from good tarmac into a less holding surface).

This was good news but I was out of time and so I had to leave the test... unfinished.

This last 2 months however presented themselves with an opportunity to clock some 10.000Kms on the same car. It was time to to through every type of pavement, road, condition... and check the car properly.

What a surprise. Not a good or a bad surprise but rather a mix.
Chassis wise the car is brilliant... one of the best FWD chassis, period! Grippy and very composed, the lift-off over-steer is controlled with ease and allows for some spectacular drifts...not just for show! Once you've mastered the dynamics of the car, you can keep a very fast pace on any b road. Sure you will kill the front tires fast like any FWD car, but the experience will be involving and with slim to none under-steer.
Turn in is precise and very willingly (surprisingly instantaneous).

Torque-steer however is bad news. I can clearly understand why Honda, having opted for a lower quality, inferior and ultimately cheaper rear suspension design for the new versions of the civic, decided into an improved front suspension design as it was would render anything beyond 150bhp and 200nm/torque problematic. Especially with the worse rear design, the front end would really need to be a charm.

Allow the car to slide a bit further than 20 degrees and you'll feel that the torque for the front wheels will work against you while you steer back when the car starts recovering... unpleasant and eventually dangerous in extreme circumstances. How to sort this out in your own car? kill the rubber bushings and fit some good, hard, polyurethane ones...also buy a bump-steer kit from that you are at it, fit a set of coilovers.
That is the single most weird thing about the car. And having a heavy (really heavy) diesel engine, this is more perceptible.

The Diesel engine... not bad for a 1.7 common rail with an old design. The Isuzu unit is robust and bullet proof, but is is very heavy and since it is a diesel, response is something unheard of. So that is the ONE THING that spoils the package. Had this been a RWD it would kill the chassis competence completely (much like the BMW 1 series).

Appart form that it will cruise at 120km/h at 5lts/km (no AC)... and will average 6.2lt/Km in the 10.000km I've tested with mixed city and highway , with AC (with some highway stretches going beyond the 200km/h apparent limit).

The weight of the engine is very perceptible on speed-bumps. The front of the car easily digs into the ground while coping to deal with the front end weight and still remain "decent" in comfort settings.

It is comfortable enough for long trips (over 700km in a row)...clearly not as comfortable as my V70 T5 volvo, but if you compare chassis efficiency and joy vs ride comfort, this will eclipse the volvo anyway... it will eclipse most cars actually.

So this is a good car. Pitty the engine is diesel, so a 1.8i would be better... a lot better... pitty it is so high, to the sports version is the one to go for... and of course, if you manage to source the type-r 2.0 than there is no looking back,

Comparing it with the recent chassis, the EP3 is the last great Civic to have. So unless you are 70 years old and only drive on motorways, ignore ANY civic beyond the Type-R EP3... and that includes the new "shemale" turbo type-r.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Test Drive - Mini 1.6d

Engine.... engine... this chassis asks for engineeee

The mini is a brilliant little car. It always had been and when BMW took over the new version project it managed to input all the good "drivers car" knowledge they've always had.

It is FWD (not particularly good) but truth be spoken it is a brilliant FWD.
The chassis is very composed and the rear is as live on lift-off as the front is eager to bite into corners... and being so small this means one thing: agility.

This car allows you a very high pace thought a B-road jumping from bend to bend without any sort of inertia issues. It feels a lot lighter than it actually is, but that is good.

Just like it's RWD brother the 1series BMW, this car ask... begs... for a proper engine. And unfortunately just like the BMW's I've tested, it was Diesel.

Don't get me wrong, the car is very lively during acceleration and great for motorway cruising... but when you really need response and rev range, the diesel engine doesn't allow you to properly enjoy the chassis.

My opinion?
Buy the cooper works... the old one... with the compressor. I know the turbo performs better and is less of a pain to keep healthy... but if you want to enjoy the chassis, you need response and the turbos... well the turbos will always have response issues. :)

Did the treatment pills work? Is the Auto industry back on the sanity ground?

As you probably know, my view on today's automotive industry is pretty dark.

I'm a purist and as such, Honda going hybrid and 2wd turbo is wrong, toyota going hybrid is wrong... every manufacturer going 2wd turbo is wrong... everything is wrong out there expect maybe for some enlightened souls that mostly work for lotus... and a couple other manufacturers.

The problem? First came the politicians with their stupid taxes, forcing smaller and smaller engines to be produced... then came their policemen with orders to "invoice" and the speed limit made us run highways at parking lot speeds...then came Al-Gore and his army of zombie tree-hugers that killed some of the most brilliant engines ever made...and finally came the economists and mediocre managers that turned the engineering passion into a blind pursue of profit with total disregard for design quality.

These last years, we saw Toyota kill the Supra, Mazda kill the RX7, Honda kill the NSX...and the S2000... and the Civic Type-r...and the integra Type-r, BMW killed the glorious NA in-line six of the M3, Saab... well no more Saab and I could continue with the kill list on to the trash produced list starting with all and any hybrid with a battery bigger than a standard car battery.

In truth, we have gone back years in engineering terms. I find my self worried, because I'm now buying cars from no later than 2006... and eventually as the years go by and I need to replace them, I might find my self out of options.

Well It seems from this last week that there might be a salvation in the industry after all.
Behind all that madness and stupidity that produces hybrid crap and cars that are as dull as the advertising stating it pollutes less than your farts, some engineers might actually have survived.

So out of those manufacturers that where extremely hill, Honda make the top of the list. With extra needed care as the "return" they attempted was a copy of the recipe from Renault and VW... stating that such a level of desperation could mean "terminal case".... but I guess that some miracle drug treatment worked and a couple of engineers actually survived. They went to the surviving BIKE department, grabbed a proper NA stratospheric revving engine and put it into a car, then the materials and minimalist design, then the disk brakes and controls... and the result, is a brilliant drivers car.

The Honda 2&4 project is an extreme vision of the same genesis I had with my S2000rr concept...and I love it.

Finally, after years stating that Honda was dead to me, I can say that there is a sign of recovery. There might be resurrection after all.

The other manufacturer is a less complicated case. I mean they did got the Turbo on FWD disease (they got that big) but at least they know what is the proper usage for a cars battery.

FORD was BIG. They has the RS Cosworth... they had 2, the Sierra and the Escort... and for the enthusiast that doesn't want to go sideways, they had the FWD, non turbo XR3i... and they had the brilliant fiestas. Then some designer smoked really bad weed and they entered the "new edge design"! Horrible cars to say the least, but at least the chassis design team where working as good as ever and the ugly cars performed brilliantly... and enginewise... well they turned to Yamaha for those... I mean no argues there.

But then the Escort was gone and the Focus needed to show that it was a true successor (not an easy task).
We waited and Ford unveiled the Focus ST... is this the new Cosworth? let me see... no! it FWD YUCK!
Then came the news that the REAL beast was underway and that the RS would have the T5 volvo engine... this was promissing... and when it came out it was... FWD!?!?!? TURBO?!?!?! Why oh why would FORD put a beast of an 5 cylinder TURBO engine on a FWD car??? And as expected the differential Quaife put there and try to solve the impossible,  generated very violent torque steer. Not just bad... stupid!

And Fords performance car became the much better handling and less power through the front wheels Fiesta!

Then FORD knew about the rehabilitation clinic HONDA had just entered and tried some of the same medicine... and voila!
The all new Ford FOCUS RS 2016 is a 2.3 turbo, BUT it is, as every turbo should, AWD!
Not just that, they beefed it up with active diffs and the computer that controls them has a "drift" mode :) and just to put the cherry on top of the cake, do you know who they used to tune the "Drift mode"?
Ken Block! I mean the guy doesn't drive competitively in rally, but give him a junkyard, unlimited set of tires and replacement cars and time, and he will manage to drive sideways the entire time, even indoors... between pillars... and container towers.... and inside airplanes...under a jumping bike...while in the air...and talking to James May!

Ken Block may not be king of rally but he sure is king of gymkhana ... and having set the RS drift mode, fun is assured :)

Well done Ford... and welcome please continue to take the medication before you create a 500bhp 2.0 triturbo FWD Ka, ok? ok.