What do Mustang and Camaro have in common?

9It’s like the Hatfields swapping recipes with the McCoys. Or Michigan and Ohio State drawing up plays together.

Starting next year, the Chevrolet Camaro will share a transmission with the Ford Mustang.

Cross-town collaboration between General Motors and Ford Motor Co. was once unfathomable. But cost cutting, engineer shortages and increasing regulations made it inevitable.

“It is surprising,” said Gale Halderman, the Ford designer responsible for the exterior of the first Mustang. “Back in my time, we couldn’t even talk to anybody from GM.”

Detroit’s pony-car war has been raging for half a century now. In recent years, Ford and GM have worked together on a number of projects, including six-speed transmissions used in the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Escape and Chevy Equinox. But none of those vehicles stirs up emotions like a Mustang’s full-throated roar or a Camaro’s smooth purr.

The 2017 Camaro ZL1 is the first of eight vehicles slated to get GM’s 10-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission. Some versions of the Mustang are expected to get the same gearbox for 2018. A screenshot from Ford’s dealership parts-lookup system, posted on the website Mustang6G.com last week, all but confirmed longstanding rumors that the Mustang was in line for a 10-speed automatic. (A Ford spokesman declined to discuss its future product plans.)

That transmission and a nine-speed automatic for front-wheel-drive vehicles were jointly developed by Ford and GM under a partnership they started in 2013. Ford has said the 10-speed will be offered in the 2017 F-150 this fall, and GM is expected to put it on full-size pickups next year.

But that’s not to say customers would ever notice any similarities between the Camaro and Mustang or the F-150 and Chevy Silverado. Even though some internal components are identical, the two companies will build, integrate, program and tune their transmissions independently.

“We will each use our own control software to ensure that each transmission is carefully matched to the individual, brand-specific vehicle DNA for each company,” Craig Renneker, Ford’s chief engineer of transmission and driveline components and pre-program engineering, said when the automakers announced their 2013 deal.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne, in a manifesto last year advocating for industry consolidation, complained that up to half of a vehicle’s development cost is spent on proprietary components that are “not discernible to customers.”

3 Emerging Trends in Automotive Engineering

2Not too many people know automotive trends the way the staff does at The Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research (OSU CAR). This interdisciplinary research center at OSU’s College of Engineering focuses on advanced electric propulsion and energy storage systems, engines and alternative fuels, intelligent transportation and vehicular communication systems, autonomous vehicles, vehicle chassis systems, and vehicle safety.

“One of the biggest trends right now in automotive engineering is improving engine efficiency and fuel economy,” says Giorgio Rizzoni, director of OSU CAR. “This includes downsizing, down-speeding, direct fuel injection, and boosting.”

Other engineering trends focus on improving transmissions (adding speeds), accessory load reduction through the intelligent energy management of other vehicle components, vehicle electrification, hybridization, improved battery management systems, new battery chemistries, and power electronics.

“Weight reduction in vehicle subsystems is also being tested by using lightweight structures made from alternative materials such as aluminum, magnesium, composites, plastics, and multi-material construction,” adds Rizzoni.

Battery Systems

Battery management systems are being designed to meet performance, life, and warranty goals for both batteries and their monitoring and management systems. “Automakers need to fully understand how varying operational limits affect the life of battery systems through extensive testing and modeling, followed by developing sophisticated algorithms to track and predict various parameters, such as state of charge and state of health through the life of the battery,” comments Rizzoni.

In order to expand battery operating range and reduce costs, some researchers are designing and testing new battery chemistries and subsystems. Advanced chemistries could allow batteries to operate through greater temperature extremes, last longer, and reduce weight and cost. Other efforts are being made to reduce the cost of the ancillary systems, such as cooling, to further reduce the total cost of the battery system.

Only 25 of Mazzanti Automobili’s New Supercar Will Be Made

3Hailed as the most powerful street-legal supercar ever made in Italy, Mazzanti Automobili’s Evantra Millecavalli is a more ferocious version of the Evantra supercar, which was originally unveiled at Top Marques Monaco in 2013. Equipped with a 7.2-liter V-8 biturbo engine, the car can go from zero to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 250 mph. The 1,000 hp speed demon also features custom-made, carbon-ceramic brakes (which can stop the car in 7 seconds flat) and a 6-speed sequential gearbox. A meticulous marriage of passion and performance, the punchy car has an insatiable need for speed.

A prototype of the car debuted at the Salone dell’Auto di Torino Parco Valentino in Piedmont, Italy, earlier this month. Only 25 examples of the limited-edition cars will be made, meaning automobile aficionados will want to get their hands on one as soon as possible.

Here are the best coupes and GTs for 2016.

Selection Guidelines:

Vehicle models must have been introduced or significantly updated since March 2015.
Model-year 2017 vehicles that were available for test-driving were considered.
Model-year 2016 vehicles that were judged for the 2015 Best of the Best issue were not considered.

Consumers Digest’s 2016 Automotive Best Buys

4What do you get when you combine 54 years of commitment to the consumer, scrutiny of 12 automobile design and performance characteristics, and 124 combined years of behind-the-wheel auto know-how? Consumers Digest’s Automotive Best Buy recommendations for the 2016 model year, that’s what. That means 48 recommended vehicles (across 13 classes of automobiles) that represent exceptional values in each segment. It means evaluation of specific vehicle attributes; analysis by and feedback from six longtime automotive journalists; answers to questions that you would pose to dealers and salespeople yourself.

What don’t you get? You don’t get dated, often inappropriate recommendations of vehicles that are based solely on prior model-year surveys. You don’t get reviews by amateurs. You don’t get recommendations that are rooted in bias.

The editors of Consumers Digest are proud of the stringent nature of the publication’s process and evaluation across dozens of categories, in general. The publication’s research and reporting on the automotive sector is no exception. This includes constant scrutiny of the automotive marketplace to identify shifts in vehicle production and in consumer demand, to ensure that shopper’s needs are best met.

As for the analysis and reviews that we provide: You can expect first-hand, authoritative insight that drills down to the specifics that pertain directly to what you’ll experience when you get behind the wheel.* Observations like:

It can be equipped with a brake-energy-regeneration system that helps to increase fuel efficiency, but it’s hardly worth the extra cost, because it saves only an extra 1 mpg.
We’d love to see an available upgrade that has another 30 or 40 horses to further complement the vehicle’s energetic handling capabilities.
A performance-tuned suspension is newly offered. When we put it through its paces, we found that it improves the car’s handling a notch, but it’s not essential.
Handling is mostly precise, but it’s not as agile as some smaller and more athletic coupes.
A nicely designed interior, unfortunately, is plagued by too many control buttons at the center of the dashboard.
The newly available Sync 3 media control system is easier to operate than the confounding array that was included in previous versions.
We found that an available air suspension comes in handy to lower the ride height for easier entry or to raise it for added off-road ground clearance.
A smooth ride and lively nature defy its sheer size.
So, click on the links of the specific automobile categories at left to avail yourself to Best Buy recommendations that hit home like no others can.

* Reviews of vehicles generally are published around the time of their introduction. Figures and other information that are noted in the reviews could vary with those that you will find now.

Exceptional Values in Standard, Cruiser, Dual-Sport/Adventure, Sport & Touring Models

5It’s been 8 years since the economy went into free fall, but the motorcycle business still hasn’t recovered fully. The industry sold 382,000 on-road motorcycles in 2014, according to Motorcycle Industry Council. That’s a 3.7 percent increase from 2013, but the number is far short of the 1.1 million motorcycles that were sold at the industry’s 2007 peak.

What that means for riders: Fewer new models from which to choose exist than in previous model years. Instead, manufacturers increased the amount of variation to carry-over models by adding wind screens and saddlebags to produce touring models or by adding safety features, such as anti-lock brakes (ABS). Further, the largely flat motorcycle sales figures from the past 3 years mean that prices increased only modestly over that period.

The industry is in the process of remaking itself. You’ll notice that models have been influenced by a demographic shift, as the sport’s bread-and-butter buyers—baby boomers—grow older. All of the dealers, motorcycle manufacturers and industry observers with whom we spoke agree: Younger riders don’t have the same desire for horsepower and ever-larger engines that older riders have, and the younger riders are more cost-conscious. “Our long-term strategy is ensuring our core customers get to ride longer, and we continue to bring new customers into the sport,” says Jennifer Hoyer of Harley-Davidson Motor.

Consequently, the price that’s on most models, even with significant updates, increased far less than 10 percent from 2012 to 2015. Because manufacturers shifted focus to the lower end of the market, you’ll notice small price increases even on entry-level models. For example, the Honda CBR250R increased 5 percent, and the Kawasaki Versys 650 increased 4 percent, despite adding ABS as standard equipment.

Faraday Future’s Designer Gets Charged Up about Its All-Electric Supercar

6An all-electric, single-seat supercar, Faraday Future’s FFZERO1 Concept upped the ante at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on January 4. Equipped with motors at each wheel, the 1,000 hp vehicle vaults from zero to 60 mph in under 3 seconds (on its way to a top speed of 200 mph), while representing the next generation of connectivity.

Robb recently caught up with the company’s head of global design, Richard Kim, to discuss the car’s development, the future of alternative mobility, and even the role virtual reality plays in the process. (ff.com)

Robb: What was your career path to Faraday Future?

Richard Kim: The group at Faraday Future wanted someone from an electric-vehicle and new-mobility perspective. I had previously been a lead designer with BMW and part of the founding team that developed the BMWi before the marque even knew what the “i” was going to be. I had moved on to Audi for a few years when Faraday found me and I joined. The company had only been in existence for a couple of months at the time.

RR: How did the idea for the FFZERO1 Concept first come about?

RK: So many luxury marques have been around for ages—BMW just celebrated its 100th anniversary, for example—and that gives them a legacy to lean on. When you don’t have that, you are forced to reinvent the wheel in order to stand out. We have the freedom and flexibility to push boundaries, and a car like the FFZERO1 allowed us to express our design language and experiment with what we could do visually and functionally.

RR: Explain the unique design process for the FFZERO1.

RK: The entire car was designed using virtual-reality technology. Our headquarters is now a state-of-the-art facility, but when I first started with Faraday Future it was an empty warehouse for all intents and purposes. All of the most talented people I had met along my professional journey, a group of about five or six guys, were now with me and we were used to working with the support of CNC machines, every tool you could think of, and a full fabrication team. Here, at the start, we had nothing.

One of my colleagues, who was very involved in the video-game world, had an idea for fast-tracking our development and brought in a virtual-reality headset that soon became our lifeline. The process eventually matured and virtual reality is now the way we design all of our projects. The technology has given us incredible freedom, efficiency, and cost-savings—we could have developed the car in a park or my backyard.

RR: How does the FFZERO1 express Faraday Future’s aesthetic vision?

RK: We wanted it to be super-sculptural, really extroverted in appearance. When people first see the car we want them to say “I want it” and then ask “what is it?” That visual appeal is somehow missing in a lot of current sustainable trends.

With the FFZERO1 we looked to push the limit in regard to materials and three-dimensional sculpture. And because our power-train platform allows for such flexibility, we incorporated two air tunnels that extend the length of the car and allow for unobstructed airflow for enhanced cooling of the batteries and increased aerodynamics. That design element is only possible with a battery platform like ours. Whether it’s a crazy one-seat supercar or a large 10-person family van, the platform supports it all very easily. Modular platforms have been talked about but this is the first time I’ve actually seen it done in such an efficient and honest way.

RR: Why did you decide on an all-electric power train?

RK: The point is clear: We have to clean up the environment, and electric power trains and battery technology are the best path forward. But along with that, we want to make sustainable driving exciting and sexy, and we plan to do that better than anyone else. There is still a notion today that electric cars are these funny little creatures that basically amount to a glorified bus pass. We want the experience to be amazing. Even if you are sitting in traffic for hours, our goal is that you will actually be refreshed in the equivalent of a mobile spa oasis—your home away from home. Our first production car will express that.

Old rule in motorcycling

7UNDER CONTROL. More motorcycles than ever before include ABS as standard equipment or as an option. All manufacturers have ABS available on some models, and it’s available in all motorcycle styles. You can purchase entry-level motorcycles that have ABS in every category. You can spend as little as $4,700 for a sport motorcycle that has ABS and about $8,000 for a model in the cruiser, dual-sport/adventure, standard and touring categories for that feature. Two manufacturers, Harley-Davidson and Honda, make this technology available for their entire lineup, either as a standard feature or an option. At Harley-Davidson, which began to provide ABS as an option on its touring models in 2009, the system is part of a $1,195 security package; you can’t buy it separately. Honda, which introduced models that have ABS in 2009 on two of its sport motorcycles, now makes it available for as low as $500 on every motorcycle, except for one model that has an engine that’s smaller than 250 cc.

The newest advancement in ABS—cornering anti-lock brakes, or cornering ABS, which also are called lean-sensitive anti-lock brakes—is now available on three models from three manufacturers: the Ducati Multistrada S ($19,695), the KTM Super Adventure ($20,499) and the Yamaha YZF-R1 ($16,490). The manufacturers tell us that this technology gives you the ability to slow a motorcycle effectively even when it leans into a turn. Normal anti-lock brakes are effective only when a motorcycle heads straight.

These models debuted overseas and were due to go on sale in the United States in March or April 2015. We hadn’t ridden one at press time, but the innovation has drawn praise. The technology “knows how far you’re leaning and how rapidly, so you can stand on the rear brake and squeeze the front brake for all you’re worth, and it will not activate the brakes more than it can handle,” says Ty van Hooydonk of Motorcycles.org, who rode the KTM model that has this feature. In other words, the brakes won’t activate to the point that they lock up and cause the motorcycle to skid. (Motorcycles.org stresses safe, smart motorcycle riding.)

The old rule in motorcycling, he says, is that when you were leaned over, you didn’t want to apply a lot of brake, if any, for risk of losing control of the motorcycle. Even models that have conventional ABS can cause a rider to lose control of the motorcycle when they lean.