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Episode 857 – Ford Explorer Sport, New Chevy Traverse Revealed, Palladium Rising

March 29th, 2012 at 11:53am

Runtime: 7:31

Ford released information on the new Explorer Sport, which is getting a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine.  The Blue Oval’s cross-town rival, Chevrolet, just spilled the beans on its latest three-row crossover, the Traverse.  Prices of the precious metal palladium are set to rise throughout the year because automakers keep using more and more of this shiny, silver metal.  All that and more, plus guest host Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, shares his recipe for the perfect sports car.

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‘Renzo here.  Mr. McElroy has relinquished control of the show to me once more because he’s away on double secret Autoline Business, but don’t ask me ‘cause I don’t know nothin’!  And if you’re wondering who I am, well, I’ll give you three guesses . . . HINT, it’s right down there.  Anyway, enough of that, we’ve got some news to get through, and after that, I’ll share MY recipe for the PERFECT sports car.

FORD EXPLORER SPORT
But first up . . . some news from Dearborn.  On Monday we told you Ford would be offering a performance version of the Explorer.  Well, now it’s official. The Explorer Sport is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine that cranks out an estimated 350 horsepower and 350 pound-foot of torque – no surprises here. Four-wheel-drive is standard.  Fuel economy is projected to be 18 MPG in the city and 22 on the highway. The chassis was stiffened for better handling and larger brakes were added to enhance stopping performance. The exterior has its own unique cues.  Most notably, the Explorer name is spelled out on the front hood just like on the new Flex. The Explorer Sport will be out later this year.

TRAVERSE CITY
In related crossover news, Chevy showed off a refreshed version of the Traverse. Look closely at this family hauler’s front end because it’s the new face of Chevy crossovers. Inside, the Traverse now features soft surfaces on the instrument and door panels, ambient lighting and a new center stack. It’s powered by the same 3.6-liter six-shooter as the current model. The new Traverse will be available later this year.

RENAULT’S GRANDIOSE KANGOO
Meanwhile over in France, Renault just revealed its new people hauler, a larger version of the Kangoo called the Grand Kangoo – really? – which can seat up to seven people.  If hauling cargo is a must, its second- and third-row seats can fold flat for even more room.  This compact “vanlette” is powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder diesel. The Grand Kangoo goes on sale in Europe next month.


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PALLADIUM RISING

There’s an automotive turnaround taking place.  No, I’m not taking about GM, Opel or even Peugeot.  Bloomberg reports palladium is set to storm up the charts.  Last quarter it was the worst-performing precious metal on commodities exchanges, but the shiny silver element could turn into a segment leader.  Even though it’s had a rough ride, investors predict it will become No. 1 by the end of the year.  In the final quarter of 2011 palladium was trading at about $850 per ounce.  But since then prices have fallen more than 30 percent.  The drop is attributable to slowing car sales in China.  Despite the country’s cooling, automakers keep using more and more of the stuff.  The transition metal’s primary use is in catalytic converters.  There’s expected to be a shortage this year as Russia limits supplies.  South Africa, another major producer, is projected to have the lowest output in years.

PATENTLY THE BEST (subscription required)
General Motors an innovation leader in the U.S.?  Yes. Last year it was ranked No. 1 in the automotive/transportation sector by the Patent Board, an organization that tracks this kind of stuff.  Moving to Europe, Peugeot-Citroen takes the crown in France.  PSA published more than 1,200 patents last year – 85 more than it did in 2010.  It’s interesting that PSA can deliver all of this innovation yet still be in a terrible financial position.  You can thank French tax incentives for that.

THE WILD, WILD EAST
China’s roads are like the Wild West.  They’re congested with inexperienced motorists and hordes of pedestrians.  Driving a bus must be one of the most stressful jobs in the country.  But it’s just gotten worse.  Drivers in Jinghua have been instructed to stop crashing in to expensive cars!  Recently they were shown a poster with logos of different luxury automakers and their corresponding price tags.  Apparently it’s still ok for them to plow through inexpensive vehicles, so watch out if you drive a Geely.

After the break, MY secret recipe for the ultimate sports car.

‘RENZO’S SECRET RECIPE
If I were to build my vision for an everyday sports car – a 3,000-pound, design-forward, mid-engined machine – I would go shopping for the “magical” ingredients that make the great machines of the world, well . . . great.

Since design is the ultimate initial product differentiator in this business, I’d give GM’s Ed Welburn a call, because I appreciate his feel for what makes design work and what makes it exciting.

The power? As good as the engines are these days from Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Ford, McLaren, Mercedes, VW, et al, I’m going with the magnificent, normally aspirated 7.0-liter LS7 V-8 from GM.

The six-speed gearbox would come from the Audi R8.  Yes, I appreciate and sometimes love double-clutch automatic transmissions, but if it’s my car with my name on it, I will happily be shifting manually, thank you very much.

The steering mechanism would come from the new Porsche 911 because its new electromechanical system is simply the best in the business. And I would dip into the Porsche parts bin for the brakes as well – from the current Porsche 911 Turbo.

For the suspension I’m calling up McLaren to see if they wouldn’t like to sink their teeth into my little “project.”

The lighting and interior design execution would be left to Audi and the tires will come from Michelin.

The aforementioned sources for these magical ingredients represent car companies that are consistently doing the best work in the automobile business today.

But just having a couple of these ingredients doesn’t guarantee success in this business, because a random set of ingredients is just that, a mélange of good stuff that looks great on paper, but doesn’t necessarily hang together as a unified whole.

The car companies who separate themselves from the pack are the ones that are gifted at tuning their particular set of magical ingredients to flourish together to the point that greatness follows.

The rest? They may score a few notable wins and superlatives here and there, but they never seem to get it together enough to achieve the top plateau.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this Thursday.

And since it’s the fourth working day of the week, you know what that means.  Join me tonight for another episode of Autoline After Hours.  I’ll be wranglin’ a trio of all-star guests including Mark Phelan from The Detroit Free Press, Gary Vasilash of Automotive Design and Production as well as Charlie Vogelheim from ResponseLogix.  We’ll cover a bunch of interesting topics PLUS the biggest news stories from the past week.  Check it all out at Autoline.tv starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  DO NOT MISS IT!

Again, I’m the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo.  Ciao, for now.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog and WardsAuto.com

51 Comments to “Episode 857 – Ford Explorer Sport, New Chevy Traverse Revealed, Palladium Rising”

  1. tj Martin Says:

    EUROPEAN UNIONS pt II

    The UK is on the brink of a Fuel Tanker drivers strike , with gas supplies diminishing rapidly , stations closing down and people in general in a bit of a panic .

    Lesson learned ? Don’t mess with those EU/UK Union/Guilds

    They’ll gang up on you and take you down in a heartbeat

    ——–

    RENZO GT

    Hmmmn . Well PDL … I agree with most of your ingredients , excepting the designer and the engine .

    That Chebbie , nice as it is , is a Dinosaur , over weight and underpowered for the Cubic Inches ( you did notice both the ZR1 and the ZO6 both require a supercharger to be competitive now didn’t you ? ) If its ‘Mericun ‘ power you’re looking for it’d have to be the new aluminum block FORD hands down … but personally I’d go for the AMG V8 thats in the SLS

    Design wise I wouldn’t let a GM designer in the same room as my impending Dream Supercar ( just the thought of a Cadilac inspired Supercar makes me a bit ill :( ) If its a Yank you’re wanting , bring in Freeman Thomas and give him free reign

  2. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The Chevy engine doesn’t make as much power per cubic inch as other engines with more valves, but that only matters when racing under rules with a displacement limit. For a road car, so what? Also, the weight of the LS7 is not high for a naturally aspirated engine of ~500 hp.

    It depends upon what you like, and there is something to be said for today’s “small block” Chevy V8. I guess I don’t consider 500 hp “underpowered, ” and they even get decent gas mileage on the highway with the super tall gearing they use in today’s Corvettes.

  3. jesse Says:

    Cab forward design….a hint of the upcoming C7 CORVETTE maybe??There is no replacement for displacement!

  4. Chuck Grenci Says:

    As Kit alluded; the ZO6 doesn’t rely on a turbo or supercharger. It is naturally aspirated small block, 427 cubic inches producing 505 hp (pushrods are not dead). And again, in the Corvette (cruising) gets great mileage (can top 30 on the hwy at sub 80mph speeds). This, and the LS9 are world class engines; in the LS9, while supercharged, gets 636 hp (in Corvette form).

  5. Jon M. Says:

    Yuck, Chevy–to no surprise–took the blandtastic Traverse from plain ol’ vanilla and boring to homemade vanilla and more boring. And if this is the new face of Chevy, what have we to look forward to? Faces not even a mother could love.

  6. john787 Says:

    I’d like to ask Peter De lorenzo what he thinks of the GM CEO now that he has been at the job for some time. I know Peter ridiculed him when Akerson first started…which I thought was unfair. Be honest and give us an answer.

  7. Chuck Grenci Says:

    And agree with Peters’ later statements; that the parts don’t necessarily make it all good, it takes synergy of the parts (parts working together) to make that one ‘sweet machine’.

  8. Steve Says:

    Chevy engines no good? Maybe you should tell Suntrust racing. I would like to know how they make them go fast against the superior competition.

    http://www.suntrustracing.com/

  9. john787 Says:

    Who wants a Ford Explorer that gets only 18mpg city—22mpg highway unless for towing. No big accomplishment on this one.

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    Are these manufacturers ever planning on making their replacement vehicles lighter than the one before?

  11. john787 Says:

    to #4 Chuck Grenci

    I’ll confirm the statement made about the great gas mileage the new Corvette can achieve on the highway, because I can get that kind of mileage with my new Corvette.

  12. tj Martin Says:

    #2

    ‘ Underpowered ‘ in comparison to the size and weight .Oh yes it is . Check out the lbs of say the Ferrari or AMG V8 as well as the cubic inches and the HP they’re throwing out .

    Valve train arrangement ? After that comment ( #2) I won’t even bother to try and explain it to you . Its a lost cause . You do not get it .

    In the Corvette , sure the LS7 sufficient . But then again the Corvette , fun as it is , is a rough , difficult and poorly built Exotic alternative …. not a genuine exotic ( which is why at the same price in the EU/UK they all chose a Euro Exotic over a Vette ; prices being close to double for a Vette to what they are here )

    LS7 in a Hot Rod ? Well sure unless its a FORD body : in which case I’ll take the FORD crate engine any day

    If I’m going to build a ‘ genuine ‘ exotic I want the power plant to match . Not some updated motor thats barely changed architecturally since the 50′s

    This being 2012 and all ;-)

  13. tj Martin Says:

    Chevrolet Corvette C6

    I’ll put this plainly .

    At the price point they are available for in the US , the C6 is a pretty good bargain . Poorly made , not great reliability but Bang for the Buck a good deal .

    Against the competition though in Europe and the UK where they stand toe to toe price wise with their more Exotic competition , they do not compare ….. as well as do not sell ( reminding y’all that the Vette distributer in the EU/UK went bust due to lack of sales )

    Don’t kid yourself . I love the C6 for what it is : but what it is not is a World Class automobile .

    Nor is it in anyway an Exotic . Its good ol’ Mericun Iron plain and simple .

    As far as their wins in ALMS /LMS etc ? Well lets just say there is a bit of an unfair advantage in the rules that the Corvette team engineers has been smart enough to take advantage of , congratulate and enjoy the wins and leave it at that

  14. Lex Says:

    @ #5 Jon M

    I agree with you. That is why I must strongly disagree with Peter’s Designer of Choice “Ed Welburn”. The New Face of the Chevy Traverse is unimaginative to say the least. If the New Hyundai Vera Cruz or Santa Fe have any of that Hyundai Fluidic Structure in it’s design. The Chevy Traverse and Equinox better get out of their ways! I will let you know when I return from the New York Auto Show.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “Check out the lbs of say the Ferrari or AMG V8 as well as the cubic inches and the HP they’re throwing out .”

    “tj,” lets have some links showing weight of those engines. The 7 liter Chevy is about 450 pounds. In all likelihood, the AMG is heavier, and the Ferrari might be.

    If you want to talk about weight per cubic inch, the Chevy is by far the lightest, but that’s not the point. The Chevy is competitive in power/weight, in spite of it’s being a “dinosaur.”

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I agree that a Corvette is not an “exotic.” It’s just a car that competes with exotics in measurable performance, but for well under half the cost.

  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    ….and note that Peter said:

    “If I were to build my vision for an everyday sports car”

    He didn’t use the word “exotic” to describe his dream sports car. Maybe that’s why he would use the Chevy engine, rather than an AMG or Ferrari. As far as these Ford V8, they offer complexity for the sake of complexity. The naturally aspirated Fords don’t do anything the Chevy pushrod engine won’t do.

  18. C-Tech Says:

    Given the beautiful simplicity and reliability of the LS7 engine compared to the European exotics I understand the selection of the LS7. If I am building an exotic to DRIVE rather than admire and look at the powerplant has to be reliable, repairable, and powerful. Other very honorable mentions on my list: Chrysler Hemi, Porsche Turbo.

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I like Chrysler “old” hemis, but they ARE heavy, like more than 200 pounds heavier than an LS7.

  20. C-Tech Says:

    I have never been impressed with the Chevy Traverse. Call me when then scrap the design and start with a clean sheet. The Dodge Durango is a better choice for the money IMHO.

  21. C-Tech Says:

    Let me add, If I were spending a little more, the Ford Flex may be a better choice than the Traverse.

  22. T. Bejma Says:

    #5 Jon M

    Not the new face of Chevy, the new face of Chevy SUV’s, which would mean just the Traverse and Equinox, since the Tahoe is based on the Silverado. Look at the new Malibu and soon the new Impala if you want to see the face of Chevy cars.

  23. C-Tech Says:

    @ #19
    I’m sorry Kit, I should have specified the new Hemi.

  24. C-Tech Says:

    Perhaps Ed Welburn as the designer, however the re-birth of the ’69 Camaro I am not impressed with. I preferred the second generation designs. I think I would ask the group who have developed the Mustang, Shelby concept, and New Ford GT to design my sports car.

  25. C-Tech Says:

    Professor Martin, what is your take on this palladium report? Should I invest?

  26. T. Bejma Says:

    #1

    The LS7 has an aluminum block, dry sump oiling system and 11.0 to 1 compression ratio and, as others have corrected you tj Martinj, 505hp without a supercharger…

    Ford didn’t have a true aluminum block V8 until the 2011 Shelby GT500 unless you count the Ford GT (which also required supercharging)…

    Maybe you better catch up on your LS7 facts tj Martinj:

    http://www.corvettemuseum.org/specs/2006/LS7.shtml

  27. Kit Gerhart Says:

    #23,
    Thx. I thought you meant new hemi, but just commented on the old hemi. Sorry.

  28. C-Tech Says:

    @ #27
    No problem Sir. Speaking of the “old” hemi, didn’t Pinifarina (pardon the spelling) use Chrysler Hemi’s in its limited edition exotic cars in the 50′s and 60′s?

  29. Kit Gerhart Says:

    There were Facel Vegas with Chrysler hemis, but I don’t know who designed them. Maybe Pininfarina did something Chrysler powered. I’ll see if I can find anything.

  30. tj Martin Says:

    RIP Bill ( Grumpy ) Jenkins

    http://bangshift.com/blog/bill-grumpy-jenkins-one-of-drag-racings-greatest-drivers-and-innovators-passes-at-81.html

    ——

    @ T Bejima – I’m leagues ahead of you as I was mistakenly thinking of the ZR1′s motor instead of the naturally aspirated LS7 which everyone and his brother has already corrected me on today . So thpppppppppt :o

    And regardless the LS7 is still a dual valve dinosaur hardly worth calling World Class .

    ( if something is considered World Class ONLY in its country of origin , it hardly qualifies as World Class )

    ——

    C-tech

    re; Palladium ; Isn’t that the new MTV spinoff cable music channel ? ( sarcasm intended )

    Seriously though my monies are neatly tied up in nice safe places so I’m not even considering things like palladium : never mind being in a position to give anyone investing advice on the stuff

    The only advice I’d give on ANY investments right now would be ;

    EXTREME CAUTION

    Far too many numbers are being overly manipulated and falsely stated to jump into anything unless you’ve got some extensive First Hand Knowledge about it.

    Best advice I was ever given ?

    Invest in what you know/understand well and love .

    Otherwise …. remember … in tenuous financial times ;

    Cash is King ;-)

  31. tj Martin Says:

    @ T Bejima

    BTW . FORD was doing this ….

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosworth_DFV

    ….well before GM/Chevy even knew the definition of OHC , DOHC or 4 valves per cylinder !

    Dominated F1 for years . Indy as well .

  32. T. Bejma Says:

    Part of the way through “American Icon”. Very interesting. I was surprised how screwed up Ford was from late ’90′s until Alan showed up. I know we have issues at GM, but at least for the most part we are on the same page. Sounds like the Blue Oval was more like the Blue Silos…

    Also surprised about the other candidates they wanted before Mulally… Carlos Ghosn? Good thing his ego got in the way of accepting the Ford offer. Definitely not a good fit.

  33. T. Bejma Says:

    #31

    Well aware, and quite an fan of the Cosworth. The Double Four Valve was just sponsored, not developed by Ford.

    Even GM took advantage of the British engine builders knowledge of overhead cam motors with the 1975-76 Cosworth Vegas. In fact in 1969 GM and Cosworth Engineers even thought the Vega aluminum block might be a good fit for a 4 cylinder racing engine (unfortunately under race trim they had a propensity to split the cylinder bores).

  34. Kit Gerhart Says:

    …and for several years, Chevy-badged engines dominated Indy racing. (Ilmor)

  35. C-Tech Says:

    @ #31
    Bill Jenkins had to be one of the best drag racers and engine builders ever.

    All the Corvette does is match and/or beat the world competition for less money, while being more reliable. If that is not world-class, you are in an alternate universe.

    It seems that this aricle speaks more of Cosworth’s engineering prowness and Ford’s money (plus the smarts to leave them alone!). Ford did little to bring this technology to Dearborn.

  36. pedro fernandez Says:

    Dr Sergio Frankenstein has struck in the UK, check out the Chrysler (Fiat) Ypsilon, it is the ugliest new subcompact I’ve seen recently, looks like they had some left over PT Cruiser front ends and they just attached to a Fiat body and not only that, its got bad reviews on youtube CarBuyer from the uk.

  37. C-Tech Says:

    @ #36
    TopGear liked the Chrysler Ypsilon. It basically is a stretched Fiat 500, like the 500L John reported on earlier.

  38. pedro fernandez Says:

    TopGear UK must be a trio of tipsy Brits whose taste in cars has to be questioned, really, just look at that car, that front end just doesn’t cut it in today’s market. plus the tester found a bunch of interior shortcomings as well.

  39. Jesse W. Henry Says:

    #26 T. Bejma

    Ford did have an aluminum block V8 before that… In 1996 the Mustang Cobra had an all aluminum V8 and 305 rated HP at 281 C.I.naturally aspirated. The Explorer V8 went aluminum block in 2000 I believe and the Mustang GT 3 valve in 2005. Not sure when the F150′s went to aluminum block engines. The supercharged engines in the Mustang, the Lightning and the Harley Davidson F150′s retained the iron block.

  40. C-Tech Says:

    @ #38
    Pedro, if TopGear says something bad about Chrysler you quote them word for word, if they say something good they are “a trio of tipsy Brits”. We get that you hate all and anything Chrysler.

  41. pedro fernandez Says:

    You really gonna look at that car and tell me it’s good looking? Besides I am quoting the youtube review of that same car by CarBuyer who BTW also put down the new Yaris, a car that was on my short list but it no longer is.

  42. C-Tech Says:

    @ #41
    Looks of a car are very subjective (except in the case of the Pontiac Aztek), some liked the looks of the PT Cruiser / HHR and some hated them. This car doesn’t look that bad to me. I like to make my judgements in person.

  43. C-Tech Says:

    One person’s judgement may influence my opinion a bit, but final judgement I try to reserve for when I see it and do the test driving. That is why 300C and CTS are high on my list.

  44. T. Bejma Says:

    #39 Jesse

    I stand corrected. Forgot about the “modular” V8 that had both aluminum and iron versions…

    Ahhh… The dark days when V8′s were only getting 300 hp. The Camaro V6 has 300hp now…

  45. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I thought the Ypsilon looked ok in the pictures, but it would look better if the front were more like a PT Cruiser.

    To me, PT Cruiser styling has worn well after all these years. I always though they looked kind of cool, and still do. I’m not sure the new Hyundais will stand the test of time as well.

  46. C-Tech Says:

    @ #44
    I think about the fun I had in the ’80′s with a 73 Camaro and later an 86 Mustang GT. You had no ABS, Traction control, and YOU had to figure out how to make it faster (and LAST !) on a budget. With 300hp V-6′s at twice the price, it is no wonder why the young people who are into cars (on a budget) are falling into tuning 4 cyl Toyota’s, Honda’s, and Mitsubishi’s.

  47. tj Martin Says:

    Ari-Vail-ci

    The Mrs and I gots some serious Sitzmarking to catch up on

    8)

    ——-

    C-tech – And WTH wouldn’t any THINKING person despise anything Chrysler of the last 52 years ? Its all been unreliable pretentious crap ! No exceptions .

    Anyone that would even consider a 300C hasn’t done their homework and in fact is being more swayed by Image & Media than the hard core Truth & Facts .

    But hey . Don’t listen to me ! Go buy one and find out for yourself . Just don’t come back here crying cause your POJ’s in the garage for the umpteenth time and expect any sympathy

    BTW – Those 4 cyl ‘ Tuner ‘ cars for the most part in fact cost more than any new 6 cylinder OEM once all is said and done . What needs to be addressed is just WHERE are these kids getting the $$$$$$$ to build their little Coffee Can Mufflered tin cans on wheels .

  48. Kit Gerhart Says:

    #47,
    Chrysler has made a lot of good stuff over the last 52 years, including my 23 year old minivan than has been reliable and runs fine, turbocharger and all. I still see a number of those first generation Chrysler minivans on the road, and the newest ones are 22 years old. My parents had a number of Chrysler products over the years, and the worst one, a ’77 Volare was as reliable as many other cars of the time.

    The 300C is a bargain, for those who want a big, rear-drive car, as is the Charger.

    Yeah, it’s crazy how much money some people spend on “tuner” cars. I see wheels and tires that cost more than the car is worth.

  49. Brett Says:

    The only thing Ford had to do with the Cosworth DFV was funding. Nothing about that engine was in-house or attributable to Ford. They wrote checks and so they got their name on the valve covers. Same story with the Illmor “Chevrolet” Indy engine.

  50. Jim Gordon Says:

    Does anyone else here agree with me that the number of email comments being posted ought to be edited at times? I’m thinking especially about the writer’s appropriateness of expression and content, lack of repetitiveness for ideas already expressed by others and so as to reduce reader fatigue generally?

    Another complaint is that there are no postings on some days while there are far too many on other days. Today there are 49 postings! Now, I love my daily sojourn on this website, but really that’s way, way too many! So, I end up reading maybe the first 1/3 seriously, then tiring, starting to browse the next 1/3 and almost totally omitting any review of the remainder. Reading 49 postings is simply too much and too tedious even for the most dedicated among your fans, don’t you think?

    So, how about limiting the daily postings to, say, no more than 15-18 that are a bit more unique, well stated, politely expressed and thought-provoking?

  51. Kit Gerhart Says:

    #47,

    “Its (Chrysler products) all been unreliable pretentious crap ! No exceptions .”

    “tj”,

    You don’t seem to have a clue about what the word “pretentious” means. Regarding cars, it would apply to paying $10K, or $30K, or $100K for a prancing horse or a three pointed star for a car that performs no better than one that costs a fraction as much. Chrysler products are about the last thing that would qualify as pretentious.