Episode 1052 – Corvette’s Aerodynamic Tricks, GM to Build Rear-Drive Coupe, Honda GEAR

January 18th, 2013 at 11:23am

Runtime: 7:00

Last night on Autoline After Hours we learned about some of the coolest aerodynamic tricks they’re using on the new Corvette. It looks like the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ twins may be getting some new competition. At yesterday’s Montreal Auto Show Honda pulled the wraps off its concept car called the GEAR. All that and more, plus host John McElroy recently invited four of the editors from Ward’s Auto World on Autoline This Week to talk about where they see engine technology going.

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Wow, we’ve made it to the end of the week, TGIF, and now let’s get to the latest news in the global automotive industry.

Last night on Autoline After Hours we learned about one of the coolest aerodynamic tricks they’re using on the new Corvette. That ductwork on the top of the rear fenders is functional and takes in air for the transmission radiator on one side and the differential radiator on the other. But here’s the most interesting part, that air gets exhausted from vents on either side of the taillamps. That air flow fills in a low pressure zone at the rear of the car and tricks the airflow into thinking the car is longer, thus reducing drag. And you know? I knew I had seen something like this before. Do any of you remember the Probe IV, an aerodynamic study Ford did in 1983? It sucked air in on those slots on the rear fender and vented it out the back of the car for the same reason that they’re doing in on the new Corvette. But while the Probe IV was a wind tunnel study, the Corvette is the first car I’m aware of to use that in production.

We reported on this last year, but now it’s official. Mazda and Fiat will collaborate on developing a new two-seat convertible sports car for Alfa Romeo. The car will be based on the next-generation MX-5 and will be built by Mazda in Japan. The Alfa will have its own unique styling and will offer a different powertrain than the MX-5. They both go into production in 2015. And just so you don’t puzzle too much over how we titled this story, did you know that Toyo Kogyo is actually the official name of Mazda?

Speaking of low-cost, fun-to-drive, rear-drive sports cars, it looks like the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ twins may be getting some new competition. GM North America President Mark Reuss says building a small, rear-wheel-drive coupe is “on the list.” He says the car would most likely be built from GM’s rear-drive Alpha platform, which is currently used for the Cadillac ATS. And do you remember that Mark Reuss was the executive who led the development of the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky?

Car sales may have slowed down in China last year, but they still posted breathtaking totals. We just got the official tally. 19.3 million units were sold. That includes 15.5 million light vehicles and 3.8 million commercial vehicles.

At yesterday’s Montreal Auto Show Honda pulled the wraps off its concept car called the GEAR. I love the surface language on this car, especially the front end. Honda says this could be a simple, affordable and customizable car aimed at young buyers living in urban areas. But we don’t have any other details on this concept, so I guess we’ll just have to wait on this one.

What are the latest trends in engine technology? We’ll be talking to the editors at Ward’s Auto World about that, right after this.

(Ward’s 10 Best can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show).

Every year, the editors of Ward’s Auto World evaluate all kinds of engines and then they award the ten best. In fact, that’s what they call it, Ward’s Ten Best. I recently invited four of the editors to join me for Autoline This Week to talk about where they see engine technology going.

You can watch that entire show right now at www.Autoline.tv and learn who Ward’s gave its Ten Best awards to. And you can also catch all the coverage we devoted to the Detroit auto show (Day 1, Day 2) as well as our Autoline Supplier Symposium. Lot’s of good information there.

But that wraps up today’s report, and brings us to the end of the week. So have a great weekend and please join us again here on Monday.

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

50 Comments to “Episode 1052 – Corvette’s Aerodynamic Tricks, GM to Build Rear-Drive Coupe, Honda GEAR”

  1. W L Simpson Says:

    This olwrench hopes Mark Reuss does a better job on details this time than was done on Sky/Solstice. I was excited about the Solstice& went to buy the first one in our area. lots of great, (& not so great ) ideas , very poor execution. The trunk full of gas tank was especially bad. There’s a gorgeous, low mile
    coupe on Ebay right now.—too bad it’s only good for looks

  2. ColoradoKid Says:

    What comes around goes around ;

    From Sky/ Solstice – to ATS – and back . GM’s just full of irony of late ;-) Lets just hope as WL said GM can do it ( something / anything ) right this time as the Solstice/Sky twins mechanically were a joke

    ( yeah yeah you’ll all refer to Wikipedia and try and say its not but my EU/Antipode GM connections say otherwise and have the documentation to prove it )

    Honda GEAR – Why in the name of all things good did Honda NOT bring the GEAR to the NAIAS ? They really have lost the plot … haven’t they !

  3. Kit Gerhart Says:

    While the gearing of the standard power train of Solstice/Sky was poorly chosen; too wide of spacing for a sports car, the big problems were in the details. There was no trunk. The top mechanism sucked, and the interior was too crude, even for a moderately priced sporty car.

    None of this has anything to do with the ATS, which is well executed, and outperforms the 3 series in some ways pertaining to “sportiness.”

    Yeah, I hope they do better, a lot better, with this new coupe than with Solstice and Sky.

  4. Kit Gerhart Says:

    What do Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, and Nissan have in common? No engines on Wards’ 2013 “10 best engines” list.

    No, I’m not saying that the list is completely “correct.”

  5. ColoradoKid Says:

    C7′s ‘ original ‘ ductwork ;

    Ahem ; Porsche 959 – Ferrari Enzo – F12 – FF – Koengisegg Agera R – Pagani Huayara – McLaren F1 and MP4-12C – Bugatti Veyron – Gumpert Apollo – Every F1 car on the grid since the 80′s – Every LMP1 car for the last decade … and on and on .

    Thats assuming those C7 ducts are actually functional that is . Cause from the detail shots I’ve seen I’m having some serious doubts … thinking GM may just be up to it old Hyperbole Smoke& Mirrors routine ….. again

  6. ColoradoKid Says:

    #4 And your point is ?

  7. Kit Gerhart Says:

    4, Nothing profound.

    And your point of continually bashing the ATS, and the C7, when most everyone else rather likes them in most ways.

  8. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I just watched the engine show,pretty informative and their stated criteria to make their list seems fair.Although one of the improvements to power from small displacement engines that they didn’t mention is the variable vane geometry on the new spaceage deluxe high tech turbochargers ;}>

  9. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It seems that, for the most part, the Wards people like new technology. In some cases, it seems to work exceptionally well, like with the BMW 2.0 turbo, but in the case of the Subaru engine, it seems that having two kinds of fuel injection on one engine is technology for technology’s sake. The engine works well, but couldn’t it work as well with just direct injection?

    The Chrysler engine works well, but it seems that it stay on the list mainly because it is so much better than what it replaced.

  10. Drew Says:

    #5 – Let’s give John a break and just say he was referring to mass production cars.

    I attended the NAIAS yesterday with major pre-reservations about the C7 styling. After seeing it in person, I have no problem with the rear end design. The roof is still a quandry due the strakes of body color – along the side roof rails, but not down the A-pillar; and across the roof between the carbon fiber removable panel and the backlite, but not down the B-pillars. This is not a terminal condiditon and can easily be corrected in a minor freshening.

    I can’t wait to see a shoot-out between the C7 and the NSX!!!!!! They are both very expressively styled with classic, but very different, sports car proportions. As such, my winner will be chosen by the driving experience and cabin environment…. oh, and dollar/value (yea, yea, yea, I know the NSX will be more expesive than the C7).

  11. Tony Gray Says:

    Where else are you going to learn of the link between the new Corvette and the Prove IV? Love this show.

  12. T. Bejma Says:


    Can assure you the duct work on the Corvette is all very functional. Besides seeing it in person yesterday, one of the suppliers I am responsible for at GM makes the tail light bezels that John was referring to.

    Also since you are a betting man, would like to challenge you to find one single solitary statement that I have EVER made on this site that is not factual or indicated as my own opinion. I work at GM and my opinions and statements are NOT Dogma – Rhetoric – Hyperbole – Platitudes & Attitudes, they are my own…

  13. ColoradoKid Says:

    Friday Moment of Laughter : To end the week on a positive note ;


    #10 You’re gonna wait an awfully long time seeing as how pigs have a better chance of flying at this point in time than the NSX ever has of making it into production

  14. ColoradoKid Says:

    Wards engine choices ;

    Kind of funny that the BMW they’ve placed on the list has been recalled and sited for fuel leaks and self ignition at least twice Worldwide .

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Those are good.

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, but it works nicely, most of the time.

  17. ColoradoKid Says:

    # 15 – Especially the Range Rover Ad ! I’m still laughing over that one .

  18. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ CK: they aren’t looking at the problems of engines per se,they are looking for innovation etc.All will have some sort of teething problems when new.

  19. ColoradoKid Says:

    G.A. – 18

    Point taken . Kind of a bit misleading though to the general public .. don’t you think ?

  20. Josu Says:

    Great idea to make a RWD chevrolet branded car based in the ATS, the next Camaro will be based in this platform anyway, so having the Camaro why not a RWD sedan instead of a coupe, the thrills of the 3-series, internationally sized so you can sell it in Australia as the spiritual successor of the Holden Torana. And easy to sell here in Europe…if priced properly, not what GM is currently making with Cadillacs and Corvettes. Why the Corvette is America is priced between a Boxster and a Cayman and here in Spain is priced like the 911? Lost opportunity iMO.

  21. ColoradoKid Says:

    #20 Bad news Josu . Antipode RWD’s : both FORD and Holden aren’t selling and are on their way out . So no sales possibilities for the Sky-ATS-Sky version 2.0


    Let be a little clearer on something for future reference . I do not dislike the ATS . Its a decent little car . Probably the best thing Cadillac has ever made . But it is NOT brilliant … worthy of all the hyperbole and praise being heaped upon it … nor is it in any way the equal or better of either the BMW 3 Series or the MB C-Class . Fact is its barely equal to the outgoing Lexus IS and a touch better than the outgoing Infiniti G37 .

    So its the excess and ill deserved praise that I’m bashing Kit … not the car . A little humility on the part of GM as well as a lot less Hyperbole on the part of some here and in the press would go a long way to tempering my attitude towards the ATS

    As to the C7. I’m no slave to the Tyranny of the Masses .. so really don’t care if I do stand alone . It looks like a cheap hot wheels toy in its Show Stand guise . Perhaps if GM tones it down …. a lot….. the basic overall design may just prove worthy of praise . But as is …. its juvenile at best . And lets face another fact with the C7 . It may drive very well . May even wind up better constructing than the C6 ( which rattled like a P/U with a bed full of beer cans ) . But it is NOT the pinnacle of modern automotive technology everyones trying to make it out to be. Fact is it may work well … but from the engine bay to the rear suspension to all GM’s bravado about its aero trickery etc ….. its dated technology … has brought nothing to the table …. and in fact just barely makes use of technology many others have already gone beyond .

    So once again like the ATS .. A whole lot more humility from the likes of GM … as well as a ___ of a lot less hyperbole and bravado …. along with a reasonable price tag …. and some body mods …would go a very long way again towards tempering my attitude towards the C7 as well .

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    Re the Sky/Solstice, fool me once……. you know the rest. Only diff now is that they can take apart a BR-Z and replicate it, I’m sure they can get their Chinese partners to do the dirty work for them.

  23. Lex Says:

    GM – Mark Reuss: Bring back the Pontiac Fiero!!!

    What happens on the new Corvette when snow and ice fill those rear fender vents? Does the transmission and gear box over heat?

    That Honda Gear looks to me like a cartoon version of the European Honda Civic. Honda should just bring over the much sexier European version of the Civic to the US, and bring back the RSX to Acura.

  24. Kit Gerhart Says:


    I’d like them to make a Chevy version of the ATS, and sell it for a Chevy price. That would be cool.

    As far as BMW 3 series, I’ve driven them, but not the current generation. I love the now mostly discontinued naturally aspirated inline six, and the handling. The interior, though, has been underwhelming for a car that expensive. Yeah, the interior of the new “3″ has been upgraded. The Bimmer has a better turbo 4 than the ATS, but I’d take the ATS’ 3.6 over the turbo six in the 335, which has been unreliable, and performs barely better than the ATS 3.6.

    As far as the C-Class, the 4 cylinder turbo version is truly underwhelming. It is much slower, and uses as much or more gas than the 328. The ATS turbo is faster than the C250, but uses more gas. The rest of the “C” is nice, though, and the C350 is fast and nice, but pricey compared to the ATS 3.6.

    In other words, the ATS IS equal to or better than the 3 series and C_Class is some ways, and worse in others. If I were spending that kind of money on a car, I’d probably get the 328, because it clearly has the best manual transmission power train. With other power trains, the choice is less clear.

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, I agree that the ATS has probably received too much hype. As far as whether it “deserved” NACOTY, I’d about call it a tie between the ATS and Fusion, assuming the Fusion drives as well as the class leaders. It is certainly the “looker” in its class.

  26. T. Bejma Says:

    “A little humility on the part of GM”

    When has GM ever said anything with hubris about the ATS?

    From the ATS website:

    “How did we create a world-class Cadillac like no other? By building a compact luxury sport sedan that’s as nimble and exhilarating as it is luxurious and technologically advanced. By benchmarking the world’s best luxury sport sedans and aiming even higher. And, finally, by testing its limits on some of the most punishing proving grounds on earth.”

    And who determines what is “excess and ill deserved praise”? Is there a maximum amount of praise something can receive? How is it measured? Is there a perfect amount of praise?

    At least you can finally admit that your opinion of the C7 may not agree with the masses instead of trying to convince everyone that likes it that they are wrong…

  27. ColoradoKid Says:

    Audi RS6 vs C7

    Uh oh ! First slap down challenge has been issued gentlemen . Round one going to Audi ;


    The one I’m dying to see is the updated GT-R vs the C7 . No matter what the outcome of that .. having driven both last years GT-R and the ZR1 I can guarantee you the C7 driver will of worked a whole lot harder and sweated a heck of a lot more than the driver in the GT-R at the end of the day .

    Lets see now if GM’s got the cojones and the goods to take on the challengers as they come forth . Win , lose or draw … this could get interesting 8)

  28. T. Bejma Says:

    How could round one go to Audi, because they said so? If you look at the ‘Ring times, even a C5 can handily smoke the Audi…

    Audi RS6 = 8:09 (Audi claim)
    C5 Z06 = 7:42
    ZR1 = 7:26

  29. Bradley Says:

    John, I like the tie with the jacket/suit.

  30. HtG Says:

    Well, this is awkward. Here’s a video from CES where in a video blogger talks to a Toyota guy about future safety tech. Warning, awkward


  31. T. Bejma Says:


    Very awkward. Got to admire his patience…

  32. HtG Says:

    TGIF F1 fans at ALD. Here’s a 4 parter on Graham Hill from the Beeb. Relax, Superdupersunday isn’t until Sunday.


  33. XA351GT Says:

    Lex @ #23, How many people do you know that will drive a Corvette in Ice and snow? When the weather gets nasty you can believe that the owners will leave them in their heated garages and take their 4×4. Corvettes have always = fair weather cars as do mosy high powered RWD cars.

  34. Kit Gerhart Says:

    32, Great series. Thanks for the link.

  35. GaryPaul Says:

    This is a long bit of a rant so SKIP my meager thoughts if you don’t wanna read them!) Well I will be at the auto show later in the upcoming week to see these vehicles in person and gauge first their exterior design and impact–like the C7, and the VW Sport Ute that seems to be well liked (in style) only by me (ha). Yeah the VW is a bit of a copy cat of the GMC sport utes or cross overs or wagons (they are all just trying to be cool station wagons after all!), but its also damn good looking–if the pictures don’t lie–and sometimes they do! You can’t really judge by the pics but i will make a wager if it looks very much like it does in the pics it will sell well (and I have been wrong before but not too often on what will sell or won’t). Boring? Well how many ways is their to make a functional 2 box exterior?

    Now back to the Vette and the criticism some seem to throwing at it….–One thing I learned about GM from about 1990 through 2010–they were dysfunctional business wise–unable and UNWILLING to make the strong decisions to simplify and focus the “team” (team: what they call all employees at all companies these days it seems)on what was NEEDED to be accomplished allowing GM to move closer and closer to the bankruptcy cliff. Mulally did see the need to simplify and focus FORD and he did so cogently with the One Ford idea, then actually pursued this idea. For decades the man at the top of GM–Rick Wagoner–did not have the cajones to rigorously root out causes of the irrational business plan!

    Rick Wagoner was not an idiot but he was NOT the man for the job at GM and should have been canned by the clueless Board of Directors years before the bankruptcy.

    OK–so most of you know this –what’s my point–My point is that even though a top executive who had vision and clarity (recognition of reality) was desperately needed at GM and Wagoner was not that man, Wagoner did methodically & slowly improve the quality and design of GM cars especially in the few years before the meltdown and bankruptcy in 2009. This understanding will allow many of you to realize that this company that was dysfunctional business-wise–was a company that could and did still produce a number of pretty good vehicles by the time it went out of business. This may help people to realize that GM does not simply just build junk as some appear to have concluded.

    GM makes a number of respectable vehicles and illustrates solid design and engineering today whether it is the Corvette or the full sized pickups or the engineering of the conservative small block Chevy V8.

    And regarding the Corvette style: a last few thoughts. I have noticed through the years working for GM and Audi and VW and just plain observing vehicle design, that a vehicle can not appeal to me, yet can be a winner in the marketplace (i know that seems obvious but a few of you out there seem to be confusing your own personal style viewpoints with what you believe will or will not sell well based on its exterior design–this is an important distinction to make!–An exterior design that may be hard to phantom on a computer or TV screen can be a winner in the marketplace!). A further point: Just because a vehicle attracts attention–& even sells well–does not mean it is necessarily good looking! A Nissan GTR attracts attention & is an excellent automobile and its creator can be proud of the achievement–but it is not particularly good looking–inside or out! A 1961 Jaguar E type, may have been a near quality disaster but overall few call the exterior a dog and most find it quite attractive!

    The new 2014 Corvette?–I like this vehicle (from the pictures and the specs we have so far been privileged to see)and partly because of its functional vents! Is it as gorgeous as the original Stingray? –Perhaps not–but it seems to be a well developed vehicle with a lot of attention on the seats and interior (which it needed) and likely its handling/performance capabilities as well. Well see after getting a chance to thoroughly ring it out…

  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    You hit on something, at least a little bit, that I have thought about the last few years. How do GM employees maintain morale through the bankruptcy, and the rest of what has been going on. One way or another, it seems that they have. Through everything, they have come up with competitive products in most segments.

  37. T. Bejma Says:


    Having lived through the bankruptcy as a new employee (since 2006) I can tell you that the way that I maintained morale was very much through the product. When I started at GM we were just launching a very substantial upgrade to the truck line from the GMT800 to the 900. To this day, this truck drives more like a car than the 2005 GMC Canyon that I owned before my current 2007 Cobalt SS. Being able to turn a truck ride (harsh over bumps, stiff rear end, etc.) into a much smoother ride was an amazing accomplishment that is still not achieved with the F150 or the Ram, despite the fact that both are very good at being trucks (hauling, 4X4, etc.).

    We also had just launched the last generation Malibu that took some large leaps in interior design that still look good today in rental car form.

    Even though Pontiac was on it’s way out, they were not offering much new anyway (except the great G8) and Saturn and Hummer were pretty much inconsequential and hard to justify in a failing economy.

    What was great was that we were putting a lot of focus on the customer and the things that were the most important to them. We dove completely into Warranty and trying to understand what caused our customers to bring their vehicles back to the dealer. Prior to right before bankruptcy, we barely looked at Warranty and in a very short time it was part of everyone’s day, everyday.

    Our current Leadership is unlike any we have had in the past and definitely “gets it” that being the biggest or having the most market share is not the most important measure of success, but making product that people love (ATS, Camaro, Sonic, Verano, C7), creating a secure financial position with a fortress balance sheet and keeping your employees happy and engaged is the way to long term success.

    I can tell you that GM is a very good place to work (especially after spending 24 years in the supply base) and we have only great expectations for what is to come.

  38. XA351GT Says:

    Lex @ #23 How many people do you expect to be driving a Corvette in Ice and Snow ? Those will be parked in their heated garages and the owners will probably be in their 4 X 4 s.

  39. ColoradoKid Says:

    The Automotive Oxymoron of the Decade ( no doubt )

    The annual Ferrari/Ducati Wrooom Festival . An event intended to celebrate both’s accomplishments of the previous season as well as and introduction to the coming one .

    The Ferrari team showing up in one FIAT SUV or another …. the odd FF making its appearance …. their F1 cars on full display

    just as

    The Ducati team arrives …… in … errrr … their new owners cars ….. e.g. Audi’s …

    At one point all on stage together .

    Can’t you just see Winterkorn and Marchionne sitting in their respective living rooms watching ……. both steaming under the collar and hoping the others car breaks or self ignites . What I would of given to be a Fly on both their walls ;-)

    #37 A lot . Unless of course you’re thinking the only ones that will be buying a C7 will be those well to do plumbers … living in FlA or CA or Arizona …. 55 and older who can afford at least two cars ……. which …. is kind of contradictory to Chevrolet’s intent ….. but in light of price guesstimates …. will no doubt be the case . I hear Palin’s ‘ Joe ‘ is first in line to buy one :o

  40. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’ve known a couple people who used Corvettes as daily drivers in Indiana. They had a second set of wheels with winter tires, and got by ok, as long as the snow wasn’t deep enough to drag the undercarriage too much.

    Yeah, the vast majority of Corvettes are not driven in the winter. If you have enough spare money to buy the ‘Vette, you probably have enough money to buy something else to drive in the winter.

  41. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Does anyone know whether the rear glass still is hinged to provide for storage access. While a sports-car, that was a bonus on the Vettes since 1984 (big cargo area, and useful). Hopefully they didn’t lose that feature.

  42. T. Bejma Says:


    Still looks decently sized.


    Should be able to handle a couple of golf bags…

  43. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It’s great that they give the Corvette a hatch, making the available cargo area easily accessible.

    The C2, while a big hit when it arrived, and still with collectors, had no trunk or hatch, and it is very inconvenient to load cargo.

  44. HtG Says:


  45. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Thanks T.B.; exactly what I was asking about.

  46. HtG Says:

    41 are those tail lights round when lit?

  47. ColoradoKid Says:

    F1 News ( Mercedes AMG )

    Hmmn ..

    Niki Lauda at the helm
    Lewis Hamilton in the drivers seat
    Toto Wolfe now calling the shots
    Nico Roseberg in the second chair

    Me likes :o

  48. pedro fernandez Says:

    Is MB doing themselves a disservice by introducing a “low cost” small sedan to the US market, or will traditional MB buyers just ignore this and continue buying their E and S class?

  49. digitalmonks Says:

    I’m pretty sure the Lexus LFA had the same cooling and routing as the Corvette and I believe that Ferrari has as well.

  50. Tman Says:

    @48 Yes Lexus LFA uses the same routing and they go a step further by using it for the primary engine radiator not just diff and tranmission. But I think John was referring to mass production cars and both the LFA and the ferrari are basically one-offs.

    In regards to the Stop-Start question from the After hours. Cars using stop start use an intergrated Starter-alternator. Which is basically a beefed up alternator than can work backwards. This eliminates the need for a traditional starter motor.

    Well except BMW and Mazda who both use beefed up starters and alternators that work intermitently rather than constantly on like regular cars.

    Of course all systems need a beefier battery using more pricey AGM batteries. The valeo system used by PSA uses a 5V supercapacitor. Mazda also uses a 25V supercapacitor in its i-Eloop system.