AD #1457 – AWS Revival?, Opel Reveals Vivaro Van, Dodge’s Wicked Hellcat Engine

September 15th, 2014 at 12:01pm

Runtime: 8:37

- Formula E Is Off To the Races
- Russian Car Sales Plummet
- India’s Auto Industry Booming
- All-Wheel Steer Revival?
- Can You Name This Car?
- Opel Reveals Vivaro Van
- Dodge’s Wicked Hellcat Engine

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Electric race cars take to the streets, all-wheel-steering is making something of a comeback, and how long it takes for the Hellcat engine to suck all the air out of a room.

We’ve been reporting on this for nearly two years and it finally happened this weekend. Formula E, the electric race car series, held its first race in Beijing. Sounding something like loud slot cars, the Formula E racers put on a pretty good show, including a very scary looking accident at the last turn that fortunately did not result in any injuries. The race was about 50 miles long, and took 52 minutes to run. But because the 800 pound battery pack cannot go the full distance, the drivers had to pull into the pits halfway through the race, jump out of one car and into another. Despite having a reported top speed of 137 miles an hour, the cars looked kind of slow going down the straights. Even so, there was enough action going on that we’re intrigued enough to want to watch the next one.

OK, let’s stand back for a moment and look at what’s happening in Russia, China and India. Thanks to its incursion into Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and the economic sanctions that followed, the Russian car market is plummeting. Wards reports that sales in August dropped 26%. Year-to-date sales are down 12%. The Russian auto industry is getting clobbered and sales are expected to drop even further.

China gets a lot of attention because of its booming car market, but now more automakers are starting to focus on India. The United Nations predicts that India’s population will surpass China’s by 2028 and IHS Automotive says its passenger car market will be the third largest by 2018, up from sixth today. Now GM announced it will launch 40 new vehicles there and in other international markets, not including China, North America or Europe. Honda, which has fared better in India, is going to expand its operations there, too. The Japanese automaker will build a new plant and is starting a second shift at one of its other plants as demand rises. Last month Honda’s sales were up 88%.

Is all-wheel-steering starting to catch on…again? The Acura TLX and Lexus RC are the latest cars to offer active all wheel steer, that is, where the rear wheels are actively actuated, rather than just turning slightly due to compliance in the suspension. With active AWS the rear wheels can turn in an opposite direction to the front wheels, what is called counterphase. That can really reduce the turning radius of a vehicle. Or they can turn in the same direction, what they call in-phase. And that can practically make a car feel like it’s moving sideways when making lane changes at highway speeds. Back in the late 1980’s and 90’s Honda and Mazda offered it on the Prelude and 626. And about a decade ago GM offered it on the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra. That gave those big trucks the turning radius of a Honda Civic. All Wheel Steer never caught on back then but we’re starting to see it appear on more cars these days, and it looks like it’s in for a revival, at least on luxury cars.

Ok it’s time for another Barn Find. This one comes courtesy of Juan Manuel Perez-Debrand. It’s a Lotus he spotted on the streets of Tokyo, Japan but he wants to know if you can name the model. Just leave your guess in the comments section below and we’ll reveal the answer later on this week. And if you got pictures of a car you want to see in Barn Finds, just send them to

Opel just pulled the wraps back on its new Vivaro van. It will be offered in two wheelbases as well as two different heights. There’s up to 3 rows of seats with all kinds of loads variations, which lends to a maximum load volume of up to 8.6 cubic meters. Two diesel engines are offered, one of which is a biturbo. With Ford and Ram bringing their European styled vans to U.S. shores, we wonder if the Vivaro will end up wearing a Chevy bowtie? Prices for the van start at about 23,600 pounds or a little over $30,000.

Coming up next, a look at some of the ridiculous stats of Dodge’s Hellcat engine.

On last week’s Autoline After Hours we had the Head of Engineering at SRT, Russ Reudisueli bring one of his wicked Challenger Hellcats into the studio. While talking about the car Russ dropped a few gems on just how crazy a 700 horsepower engine can be.

(The AAH preview is only available in the video version of today’s show.)

Also joining me for that show is my co-host Gary Vasilash and Chris Paukert from Autoblog. And if you want to learn everything from how the Hellcat project even got off the ground to more ridiculous stats like the ones we just showed you, head over to our website to watch the entire episode.

The Chevy small block V-8 is a storied engine, but do you know the story of how that engine came together? That’s the topic we’ll be talking about on Autoline After Hours this Thursday, and it’s a good one.

But that brings us to the end of today’s show, thanks for watching and please join us again tomorrow.

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44 Comments to “AD #1457 – AWS Revival?, Opel Reveals Vivaro Van, Dodge’s Wicked Hellcat Engine”

  1. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Isn’t that Lotus model the old Europa?

  2. Brett Says:

    Lotus Europa

  3. Ron Paris Says:

    Barn Find: WAAAYYY to easy John. It’s a Lotus Europa.

  4. G.A.Branigan Says:

    You know it’s easy if I got it ;}>

  5. Munger Says:

    Lotus Europa is the barn find!

  6. HtG Says:

    It has to be a trick, it’s so easy.

  7. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Yep, Lotus Europe; saw one (in the flesh and also ‘timeframe’) on my way home from college in and around 1970.

  8. Bradley Says:

    Formula E! Looks like they are on the right track.

    I think if NASCAR went Electric it would be identical to slot car racing.

  9. HtG Says:

    Rearing the steering

    My cars all have rear wheel steering, standard. The controls are the gas and brake pedals.

    Rotation ;)

  10. Don B. Says:

    Hey did anyone else notice Gary’s shirt change colors?
    The Chinese sueing suppliers reminds me of when they were being sued for making clones of US vehicles the F150 comes to mind. Who won that or was there a cease and desist order?

  11. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Not to put a damper on the Formula E (besides you can make your own judgements) but it wasn’t IMO very exciting, and the last lap crash was poor judgement and poor driving (there should be a driver penalty because of it, again IMO). Maybe if the next race is not on a street course there might be better racing (because there was a lack, thereof, in Beijing).

  12. dcars Says:

    Is the new Vivaro based on the Renault Traffic/Nissan Primastar?

  13. marshy Says:

    That’s definitely a Lotus Europa – I have, from my childhood, a purple matchbox one.

  14. RumNCoke Says:

    Didn’t Diana Rigg drive a Lotus as Mrs. Peel in the original Avengers? I don’t think it was a Europa – maybe an Elan?

  15. MJB Says:

    Hey John, the second generation Acura Legends had the AWS option also. At least, the coupe did. I would assume the sedan did as well.

  16. Tom Cain Says:

    Formula E was interesting and a good start. They need to get faster and probably will. Chuck, all FE races are street races. The biggest change I want NOW is for the TV production to lose that highly annoying background “music” loop that ran throughout much of the race.

  17. Drew Says:

    As John noted, 4WS was an option on the full-siezd GM pickups. I believe it was also available on the Suburban. High cost/price relegated it to a niche offering and eventualy cancellation.

  18. bobD Says:

    To follow on to #11, is this an Opel design or a rebadged van from someone else? It doesn’t make sense for Chevy to rebadge the Nissan NV200 for their 2015 commercial van if there was a similar van internal to GM.

  19. Al Bryson Says:

    The car is a Lotus Europa.

  20. MCampbell Says:

    @10, one of the tenants of the Formula E series is to stage all races in cities.

    The technological achievement of Formula E is something they should be proud of but they need to work on the race-ability of the car to make the actual event more interesting.

  21. Jim Haines Says:

    Europa but I don’t know if it has the Cosworth ford twin cam in it or the plain Renault 1.6

  22. AndyW Says:

    In high school, my shop teacher had one. It was so low that the trans tunnel was at chest height. It made for akward shifting.

  23. Ken Says:

    Lotus Europa

  24. MJB Says:

    I thought for sure that mystery Lotus was some sort of chop-job. I don’t mind being the only one to say that I think it is rather hideous looking.

  25. Paul Says:

    Lotus europa.. too easy. Mark2 twin cam, you can tell by the “sail panels”…

  26. Mike Says:

    The Lotus Europa was a very fast slalom car. Not that great for getting in and out of and most certainly not great for the propensity it had for cracks in the fiberglass. All that said the John Player Special (named after a brand of English cigarettes) was at one time the car of my dreams

  27. bill stamp Says:

    lotus Europa saw one driving in 1971? on mich ave. detroit

  28. Chuck Grenci Says:

    More (of my view) on the Formula E. My dislike of street racing is the ‘tunnel-vision’ it creates, less chance for passing (knowing a miscue is likely into an armco barrier, and my comment on changing cars (mid-race); I think they need to develop a quick change battery (instead). I agree with most of the earlier posters, at least there is room for improvement (hope I didn’t come across too negatively).

  29. Buzzerd Says:

    Formula E- you would think they could come up with some kind of quick change battery. If they can’t do it for a race car how will they ever do it for the street.
    4 wheel steering- most people aren’t exactly driving there two wheel steered cars to the limit so the benefits aren’t really appreciable.

  30. HtG Says:

    26 Street racing has always been flawed. Monaco was where qualifying for race order was invented, since passing was so limited. I guess bringing the racing to where the people are makes plenty of sense. (personally, I don’t like it when someone clouts a barrier and then there’s 20 minutes of safety car) This E-series also has some names driving the cars which has to help. But isn’t it 11 weeks until the next event?

  31. Tim Lynch Says:

    Lotus Europa
    If it was black (with gold pinstrips) they would have added “JPS” to it. As John Player Cigarettes were racing sponsors for Lotus.

  32. Neil Says:

    That is a lotus europa. Looks like an S1 early model.

  33. docman Says:

    Lotus Europa Special twin cam

  34. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I remember Lotus Europas from when I was in Scotland in the navy. A junior officer at my station had one.

  35. cwolf Says:

    Waddya think your going ta do with all that Hellcat HP, unless you race it?
    Nah! Just give me one of the 250 Holden Utes saved for the Aussies. It lacks 150 Hp of the Hellcat, but it’s only the size of the old Ford Ranchero. Heck, ya can buy 20 cases of Forsters from the the corner market and be back to the game before the comercial ends. G’day mate!

  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    28, The next one is 22 Nov. in Malaysia.

    Will the Monaco E race use the same course as F1?

  37. Kit Gerhart Says:

    27, Four wheel steering made more sense on extra long pickups than it does on cars, but as GM found out, it wasn’t such a big hit, even on the trucks.

  38. Kit Gerhart Says:

    31, I suspect people will be disappointed when 0-60 and quarter mile times start being published for the Hellcat cars. There is a lot of power, but the cars are heavy, so there will probably be cars with less than 500 hp turning better numbers. Still, 707 hp is impressive, and is getting a lot of press.

  39. HtG Says:

    At the risk of sounding sexist, I read a book.

    It was a marketing book called, What Women Want, where this industry consultant describes a difference between men and women, and their toys. According to P. Underhill, women can be better appealed to by showing them how the product will fit into their lives, whereas men want to read specifications and stats. The author had nothing to say about guys comparing, but it’s pretty clear who the Hellcat is aimed at.

  40. Craig Shoemaker Says:

    I believe the car is a Lotus Europa Twincam Special S6. I also believe this is a U.S. spec car, because of the the side marker lights.

  41. Jerrym3 Says:

    Hey John,

    The car you showed in your “Barn Find” is a late 60′s early 70′s Lotus Europa. That particular car is probably a later model dressed in “John Player” graphics. I feel that the car was most likely repainted a custom blue with those graphics since most of the “specials” were usually painted black or British Racing Green with the gold pinstripes. I think there may be a few painted in a burgundy red with the same graphic package. John Player Tobacco was the primary sponsor of Team Lotus racing back in the 60′s & 70′s.

    The Europa was Lotus’ first mid engined street car. The first cars were powered with Renault engines, but, most of the cars sold on the U.S. were powered with Ford engines.

    The Lotus lineup at that time consisted of 3 main models.
    1 The ELAN
    2 The ELAN PLUS2
    3 The EUROPA

    The EUROPA was replaced with the ESPRIT in 1977.

  42. Rick Nieuwendyk Says:

    Definitely looks like an old Lotus Europa!

  43. Eric Brunner Says:

    The cut down rear sides of the car give it away as a twin cam Lotus Europa. If the sides came straight back, it would have the Renault engine.

  44. Bob Says:

    I recognized it right away. Lotus Europa.. I used to play with a hot wheels Lotus Europa as a kid, I’m pretty sure it got buried in the sandbox never to emerge again.