Updated Chrysler Pentastar V6 Hints At Next-Gen Emissions Rules   Recently updated !

3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 adds cooled EGR for model-year 2016

3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 adds cooled EGR for model-year 2016

Since its introduction in 2009, the Pentastar V6 lineup has been an enormous success for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles with more than 5 million units sold to date. The Pentastar in 3.6, 3.2 and 3.0-liter (the latter in China only) displacements is offered in everything produced by Chrysler larger than the 200. For the 2016 model year, Chrysler is rolling out the most substantial updates yet for this award-winning engine. At least one aspect of the revised engine points to the upcoming EPA Tier 3 emissions standards.
Most of the revisions to the V6 are pretty straightforward and increasingly common. Two-step variable valve-lift and variable cam-phasing with a range expanded from 50 to 70 degrees will help to reduce pumping losses and contribute to improved torque. Also aiding the torque output is a bump in compression ratio from 10.2 to 11.3:1.

The fuel injectors now have double the holes, going from four to eight for improved atomization of the fuel. However, Chrysler has opted not to follow the latest trend and continues to inject fuel into the ports upstream of the valves rather than directly into the combustion chamber. While this will certainly help keep costs down, during a preview of the engine, FCA powertrain engineering VP Bob Lee explained that they opted to stay with port injection for emissions reasons.

The primary benefit of direct injection is the charge cooling it provides when used in combination with the higher pressures from turbocharging. Conversely, spraying fuel directly into the combustion chamber complicates mixing air and fuel, especially when the engine is cold. This can often lead to higher emissions of particulate matter, aka the soot commonly associated with older diesel engines. Automakers have addressed the problem on diesels with particulate filters that capture the soot and then periodically burn it off at high temperatures.

Beginning in 2017, EPA Tier 3 standards will tighten the limits on particulate emissions for all light duty engines. If you take a look at the area around the tailpipe of many cars with direct injected engines, especially Fords with EcoBoost, you may notice black stains that are typically a sign of particulate emissions. In the coming years, we will like see many, if not all gasoline direct injected engines adopt particulate filters similar to those found on diesels.

Given the experience that many customers have had with mediocre real-world fuel economy on turbocharged GDI engines and rumblings of further adjustments to the way EPA label mileage values are calculated to reflect this, sticking to a normally aspirated engine could work to FCA’s long-run advantage.

Other changes to the Pentastar that will help its emissions performance is the addition of a cooled EGR system and a switch to 100 millijoule high-energy ignition coils. Efficiency will be aided by a two-stage variable displacement oil pump and smaller diameter crankshaft journals for reduced friction. The block casting has been reworked with new ribbing that helps improve noise, vibration and harshness while at the same time reducing the amount of material for lower weight. Despite the 13 pounds added for new hardware like the valve-lift adjusters and EGR, the net weight of the finished engine is only up by two pounds.

Auto stop-start is already included in several Pentastar applications like the Jeep Cherokee and Ram 1500 but it will be standard with all applications of the revised engine. Overall, the revisions to the second-generation Pentastar should boost fuel economy by about six percent. The second-generation Pentastar launches this fall in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and will roll out to other applications over the next year or so.

2015 Tesla Model S P85D – Excellent But Not Perfect

2015 Tesla Model S P85D - 4 of 36-02.jpeg
Nine years ago, I was beginning my career as a professional writer just as a little Silicon Valley startup was emerging from stealth mode to introduce its first product. Taking its name from one of the greatest engineers and inventors of all time, Nicola Tesla, that company reignited the pursuit of battery electric vehicles with a heavily modified Lotus Elise chassis packed with 1,000-pounds of lithium ion cells. It would take another two years before paying customers would finally take delivery of the first Roadsters and another four after that before Tesla would finally deliver its first completely in-house developed product, the Model S. During a recent trip to California I finally got my chance to drive the insanely fast Tesla Model S P85D.


2016 Honda Pilot – Designed to Fracture Wheels, Not Knees

Pilot SOT Action ShotWhen I was in my high school auto mechanics class learning how to rebuild carburetors, grind valve seats and set the valve clearances on a Triumph TR7, I was already dreaming about being an engineer in the industry and developing new cars. One of the most important lessons I learned from those years in the garage was that any engineer should be required to assemble and service a product before it goes into production. It’s become apparent to me over the past 35 years that few if any engineers have ever picked up a wrench. Fortunately, Honda seems to have heard that message and implemented it in the design of the 2016 Pilot crossover.


2015 Ram ProMaster 3500 – A Red, Italian-Bred Two-Seater That Really Hauls!

2015 ram promaster 3500 - 5 of 25Another Woodward Dream Cruise has come and gone and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles loaned me a bright-red, two-seater of Italian descent from its fleet to drive. Sadly my ride was not a fancy new Ferrari 488, but rather a Ram ProMaster 3500 which is derived from the European-market Fiat Ducato. While I certainly want to try out the Ferrari some day, for anyone that has ever spent a blistering hot summer afternoon in the eight-mile long traffic jam that is the Dream Cruise, the Ferrari would have been completely out its element anyway. On the other hand, the ProMaster can really haul, making it ideally suited to moving my daughter’s belongings to her new Midtown Detroit apartment.


Tesla Goes to the Stock Market to Replenish Cash

Tesla-Motors-symbolThe car business is an enormously expensive place to play. Building factories can cost anywhere from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars, especially if you want to mass produce anything. In late 2008 and early 2009 at the height of the financial crash, we saw General Motors go from $16 billion in cash reserves to virtually nothing in a matter of months as they raced toward bankruptcy. Tesla Motors is now standing on the precipice of major investments to grow the company and they have been spending their reserves at such a prodigious rate that they too need to raise more cash.

In the recently released Q2 2015 earnings report, a more troubling aspect than the operating losses which have been typical of the company’s finances from day one, was the cash burn rate. Tesla went from having $1.905 billion on December 31, 2014 to just $1.15 billion on June 30. A good chunk of this went to paying for equipment in the Fremont, California factory for production of the Model X crossover and ongoing construction of the “Gigafactory” battery plant near Reno, Nevada.

However, the outflow is just getting started as the company prepares to start equipping that $5 billion battery factory (although a significant chunk is coming from Panasonic and other suppliers) as well as developing and producing the more affordable Model III. Tesla has publicly stated a goal of expanding production from 50,000 units this year to 500,000 by 2020. While selling half a million cars would raise significant revenue, they have to spend a lot of money before they ever get there.

To help keep things going in the near term, Tesla announced plans today to issue $500 million worth of new common shares in the company. CEO Elon Musk has committed to spending $20 million of his own money to buy new shares. Given the enormous investments that will be required for equipment and engineering in the next five years, $500 million seems like a pittance and it likely won’t be the last time we see Tesla going to either the equity or debt markets to raise more money. In this case, Tesla’s stock price has already taken a hit in the last few weeks dropping from a high of $282 on July 20 to close at just over $238 yesterday. Right now they are probably balancing the need for cash with not overly diluting the stock and sending the price down even faster.

These are perilous times for Tesla Motors.

2015 Ford Edge Sport – An Actual Sport Utility Vehicle

2015 Ford Edge Sport - 4 of 33

Two decades ago when the sport utility vehicle was really taking off as a segment in the in the American market, the Ford Explorer was the hottest ticket in town and they were selling as fast as Ford could churn them out. Despite the name, there really wasn’t anything particularly sporty about these truck-based wagons and there was no pretense to actual high-performance or even decent handling. As the 1990s turned into the 21st century, the market shifted from old-school SUVs to car-based crossovers and even sports car stalwarts like Porsche got into the action. Somehow, in 2015 we’re now in a place where despite its high-riding stance, many CUVs can be considered serious performance machines including the all-new 2015 Ford Edge Sport.


Tesla AutoPilot Cost and Take-Rates

Model S autopilot

Last October, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk stepped onstage in Los Angeles to announce the new P85D edition of the Model S and a new semi-autonomous driving feature called AutoPilot. Surprisingly, Musk told the audience that, starting two weeks prior to the event every Model S coming off the line was already equipped with the package of radar, camera and ultrasonic sensors that would enable AutoPilot. The engineers were still working on the software and it would debut in 2015. It’s now August 2015 and AutoPilot still hasn’t been turned on but the company’s second quarter earnings release did make an interesting mention of the new capability.


2015 Kia Soul! – It’s Not Just for Hamsters

2015 Kia Soul!  - 1 of 1A few weeks ago I spent a week with the 2015 Kia Soul EV and came away very impressed by what the South Koreans had achieved. It wasn’t that long ago that Kia was known as a brand that built cheap and frankly not very good cars and SUVs. I liked the first-generation Soul when I drove it several years ago and was even more impressed with the new battery-powered version. There’s just one problem, if you live outside of California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Texas or Georgia, you can’t buy one. But fear not, there is a Soul for the rest of us that is still powered by internal combustion of gasoline.


2016 Chevrolet Volt Officially Rated at 53 Miles Electric Range



Back in January when Chevrolet first showed off the all-new second-generation Volt, we were told that the electric driving range would be at least 50 miles and the hybrid fuel economy would be about 41 mpg. This morning, they announced the official EPA certified results that would go on the fuel economy label and they beat those estimates. The larger 18.4-kWh battery and more efficient motors are now rated to provide a 53 driving range before the engine fires up. That’s a 40 percent bump from the 37 mile range on the 2015 model (the original 2011 was rated at just 35 miles) Once the battery is depleted (or when its really cold or if you’ve been running on electricity only for more than six weeks) the Volt is rated at 42 mpg combined. Unlike many cars in recent years, GM was always fairly conservative in rating the original Volt and it wasn’t at all unusual for many drivers to meet or exceed the 37 mile driving range on the label. Assuming that GM has done the same this time, most drivers should have little difficulty topping 50 miles but we’ll find out for ourselves in the not too distant future.