LAMBORGHINI: THE DNA MUST BE RETAINED
What is the key to the future for Lamborghini?
We are pretty sure that carbon fiber will be one of the major players for the structural parts of the next decade. It was forecast that in the next four years the automotive business will be the number-one consumer of carbon fiber, so this is clear. Carbon fiber will be a key for the future to improve safety, to improve the stiffness, and reduce weight.
Turbo or hybrid Lamborghini?
Normally, you talk about turbochargers when you think about downsizing, and downsizing is something that is difficult for a super sports car [manufacturer] like Lamborghini to think about at this moment. I think it is against the heritage of the DNA of the flagship like Aventador. The turbo is something...but at the end, the really sportive car is naturally aspirated. If you are a good engineer, you are able to achieve the best performance without using boost. And for us, the challenge that we have is to be the best. To have the best means to use the best possible, that means the flow efficiency of the intake manifold, of exhaust, reduce the backpressure...everything in the best way. If we talk about [a] hybrid solution, it is the same discussion. We want to use everything in order to achieve our target of reduction of the CO2 of 35 percent compared with 2007. To reach this, you must maintain the DNA. If you put 400 kilograms [880 pounds] of batteries it will be difficult to have a car that can be able to run with handling that we want.
The 2021 Aventador?
If I close my eyes, I want to retain the DNA of Lamborghini, but I want also to be more and more aggressive in the CO2 reduction and fuel consumption. I must think something like this: Cylinder deactivation-we have 12 cylinders, but if I can use in the town three, four, six...if I can have some energy storage, something like this, can be another opportunity. But what is important is to maintain the DNA of Lamborghini. If when I want to open the throttle body, I push the accelerator, I must have 12 cylinders that push me from behind. I must hear the noise. If I don't have this, it is finished emotionally for Lamborghini. And if it's finished emotionally, then there is no sense for Lamborghini to exist. -Maurizio Reggiani, Research and Development Director at Automobili Lamborghini, s.p.a.
MAZDA RX-9: RETURN OF THE ROTARY
Word from deep inside Mazda's Hiroshima HQ is that development of its much-rumored, rotary-powered RX-9 is well underway. As one source told us, the company has put most of its R&D efforts into its new SkyActiv engines and transmissions and the next-generation MX-5, hampering the RX-9's progress.
"We want to take the RX-9 to the next level, but just can't find the man-hours to do it," says our insider. "We have a guideline. We know what we have to do. But as we must give priority to the next-gen MX-5, we have only a small band of guys working on the RX-9."
Unlike the outgoing RX-8, with its complicated rear-door setup, the RX-9 will be a coupe. This means it will be more of an RX-7 for the 21st century, but with a twist. That twist will reportedly be in the form of hybrid technology Mazda will borrow from Toyota, thanks in part to an agreement the automakers signed last year. Apparently Mazda will only use Toyota's hybrid drive unit, with the main power coming from the Mazda-built rotary. The hybrid unit will reportedly be used primarily as a power booster and range extender. Our confidant tells us there is no point in doing with a rotary what a current gasoline engine can do, hence the move to a hybrid-assisted setup.
"Smaller, lighter, cleaner, more fuel-efficient, and more fun to drive. That's where we want to take the next rotary car," says our source, who hinted at a late 2013 debut. Given the bad rap the RX-8 suffered -- fuel-guzzler, oil-guzzler, weak mid-range torque -- such a radical rotary rebirth is the only way to take Mazda's greatest legacy forward.
MCLAREN: PUSHING THE PERFORMANCE ENVELOPE
McLaren customers will soon take delivery of the 592-horsepower, mid-engine MP4-12C, but the wizards at Woking aren't resting on their laurels. The company has already announced that it intends to release at least two more models based on the 12C over the next two years. The first should be a street version of the 12C GT3 race car that is currently being campaigned in the European FIA GT3 series by CRS Racing. That $512,000 GT3 race car is limited to a run of 20 and uses a detuned version of the 12C's 3.8-liter twin turbo V-8 paired with a new paddle shift gearbox developed by Ricardo. Expect similar bodywork and race-tuned performance the GT3 street version that should make its debut in 2013.
What will the McLaren flagship supercar be like 10 years from now?
We will undertake further research into the use of carbon-fiber composites. McLaren hasn't produced a road or race car with anything other than a carbon chassis for 30 years. I expect us to continue to find intelligent ways to use carbon in more applications in our future range of sports cars. We'll also consider alternative powertrain concepts. Key to success in this area will be developing energy storage units that are lightweight and efficient, yet allow us to push ultimate performance and increase driving pleasure. We understand sports car customers won't accept compromise, so our future cars must provide class-leading fuel efficiency and deliver the performance one expects of a car wearing the McLaren badge. -Dick Glover, McLaren Automotive, Inc. Research Director
MERCEDES-BENZ: DOES A STAND FOR AMG?
Mercedes-Benz has released several forward-looking vehicles, including the eye-searing SLS E-cell electric supercar, but the future may rest in A-class, according to Ola Kaellenius, chairman of Mercedes-Benz's AMG division.
"That car screams sportiness. Whereas we haven't made an official commitment or a final decision, it's something that we're looking at very carefully," says Kaellenius. Selling a small Benz in the U.S. is something the company has been hesistant to do thus far, but as Americans continue to downsize and car companies face CAFE pressure, the question may no longer be if, but when. Question is, will it be a platform suitable for AMG?
"When we put together a performance package for AMG, it's about the holistic engineering experience," says Kaellenius. "Our goal is to not only have benchmark performance, but also benchmark efficiency in the segment. It's a lot about the chassis. For a lot of AMG cars we re-engineer the chassis completely to fit to the driving profile we're looking for."
NISSAN: THE ELECTRIC GT-R
Electric GT-R? Really? Carlos Tavares, recently promoted to COO of Renault, hinted at as much at the 2011 New York auto show. "Of course, it's going to be zero emissions. Because your kids, my kids, they will very soon select their car from a short list of zero-emissions vehicles. That's going to happen very soon -- my kids or the kids of my kids at the latest. So it's going to be zero emissions... going to be connected and plus plus plus in safety, comfort, and entertainment."
Of course, zero emissions can be achieved without going full electric, but Nissan has already set a couple of precedents. The Leaf is currently the only electric car available in the U.S. by a major automotive manufacturer, and the company took it racing with the Nismo Leaf RC.
"Well, the GT-R is going to have, of course, a different balance of those attributes. But you have here the Nismo Leaf RC, which is, of course, a racing car. But it's a racing car to make a statement that there is nothing contradictory between an EV power source and the pleasure of driving fast-in a racing car in this case." Electric GT-R? You heard it here first...
PORSCHE: EMBRACING HYBRID TECHNOLOGY
Of all the sports car makers, Porsche has been the first to openly embrace hybrid technology. It's been only with the company's two best-selling (and least-sporty) models, the Cayenne SUV and Panamera sedan, but, according Dr. Michael Steiner, director of the Panamera product line, that should change.
"From our point of view, hybrid technology could help provide some additional performance. We are also thinking of additional downsizing. If you look at the 911 Turbo, it is an example of engine downsizing. We only have six cylinders, turbocharged, and we have the power of competitors' V-8 engines. In the future, we are also thinking about having a four-cylinder engine, but only if it can provide a strong level of performance. There is no decision made yet. There could be a hybrid version [of the 911] in 10 years. Most likely we will give the customer the choice between a traditional high-performance car or a hybrid car. It will depend on the market situation, on tax regulations and things like that, which car will be the faster one."
How far into the product line will Stuttgart apply hybrid technology? If the company's $845,000 918 Spyder hybrid is any indication, all the way to the very top.