Just reading those words made you consider suicide didn't it? Well no tears, not quite yet. Nor does this author have any desire to watch this iconic symbol of automotive joy go down in flames.
The fact of the matter is that we will run out of oil sometime and the sooner we can control our consumption, the longer we can keep vehicles like the fire breathing Corvette ZR1 on the road. Contrary to many people's opinion, this does not mean the death of the "Car Guy" or the end of automotive passion as we know it. I believe that the automotive industry realizes both sides must be pacified in order for them to keep on selling cars. For not only are vehicles getting more efficient, they are becoming more powerful as we speak. A quiet power war is brewing. So, is this the best of both worlds or have we officially gone over to the dark side?
My thoughts on this subject were brought on by the recent introduction of the Ford F-150's adoption of Ford's slightly tweeked EcoBoost and standard 3.7L mills. I began to think that what is happening today is not too much different then what happened during the muscle car sales/racing wars of the 1960's. Now, the stakes are simply much much higher and the game is to be played very differently. In 2016, according to CAFÉ standards, all manufacturer's must have an average fuel economy of 35 MPG across their entire range of vehicles. Yet, despite the struggle to bring an entire range of vehicles compliant; the auto giants must continue to sell vehicles. There has been a rather pleasant side effect to these compliance efforts, however.
There is a horsepower war being fought on a grand scale. The power I speak of is not all out horsepower but rather relative power. Real world, affordable power that is relative to a vehicles measurable consumption of black gold. Let's be honest here. Most people can not afford a CTS-V or a BMW M3 and the people that can are not concerned about my contrived version of relative power. This is not about the titans, it's about the peasants.
On the complete other side of the spectrum, an MPG war rages on. We hear this term "MPG" so much so that I believe it should have its own definition in the Webster's dictionary. It's a pop culture word and it's place in urban vernacular is secured forever. To drive a hybrid is "chic" and saving money on fuel, well that's just a nice side effect to looking hot in that Ice Blue Prius in your driveway. Now, I could banter on about my opinions on these ridiculous, useless experiments in automotive technology but we will hold that for another future (hopefully) blog. Unfortunately, hybrids are expensive, the vast majority of vehicles sold in this country are not hybrids and the CAFÉ standards must be met! Auto makers have responded by producing vehicles that often times render their own hybrid creations, well, useless!
Frequently the subject of my rage, especially when I saw it in person for the first time, is the ill conceived Honda CR-Z. One would expect that there would be some sort of compromise when driving a Hybrid "sports" coupe but when the upside is completely absent.. Honda we have a problem. At least make the vehicle useful if it is to be crowned as a hybrid! Sitting right next to the CR-Z will be Honda's own Fit and Civic Coupe. Sure, these vehicles have "inferior" MPG ( there is that phrase again) but they either provide superior performance or amazing utility for the size. Sure, they are not a looker (to be debated) but is Honda really basing the success of a vehicle of the shallowness of people? This is obviously not helping us car enthusiasts swallow these CAFÉ standards.
There are many wins to be seen on the horizon though. Consumers will soon be able to purchase vehicles, specifically the up and coming Hyundai sonata 2.0T, that have 270+ HP and achieve 34 MPG on those long lonely commutes. This same vehicle can also carry 5 people and coddle them in entry level luxury. Soon, consumers will be able to purchase a Blue Oval full size pick up truck that achieves 26 MPG, has 420 LB FT of torque and will tow 8,000 LBS. I will say that again, a FULL SIZE TRUCK! For those who insist on driving a more traditional economy car, Ford now offers the 40 MPG Fiesta, which renders vehicles like the Prius and Insight completely useless. The research shows that people are liking hatchbacks more and more everyday.
The most simple of techniques was employed to achieve figures such as those stated above; combine and build. Today, advanced raw materials combine with serious computer wizadry to produce amazing results. The family sedan no longer remains simple. Take the example of the Sonata above. It employs dual overhead cams, a twin scroll turbo charger, direct injection and variable valve timing to achieve it's fantastic numbers. Where is the downside in this equation? Great gas mileage and a heady turbo rush; count me in!
So what we have here now is a world full of vehicles without compromise, right? Well, not quite. I love the sound of a raging V-8, V-10 or V-12. Sure I can't afford that Superleggera I saw Hamster drive on Top Gear but I might be able to afford that SS Camaro on the Chevy lot. I have driven the new 307 HP Mustang and when compared to the old modular 4.6L V-8, I would be lying if I said I prefer the V-6. Sure it's better in every way according to the specs but I miss that certain something, that intangible, that tingle in my fingers coming up through that Tremec tranny. In a world of MP3's, when it comes time for cars, I'll take the LP. I am however thankful for the fact that if this breed dies, I can blast some V-8 on my car's stereo and still feel the pull in the small of my back. Oh and that whole "MPG" thing, that's nice too. Max power and max fuel economy, this is the new power war.