Castrol Syntec - Top Shop Challenge
Rules have been drawn up and invites sent out: the Castrol Syntec Top Shop Challenge is on. The Challenge is an engine build-up competition between seven magazines: Eurotune, Import Tuner, Lowrider, Modified, Super Street, Turbo and us, Sport Compact Car. Each magazine will team up with a shop and will be responsible for selecting an engine and building it to the limits of the rules.
Those basic rules are:
* Production engine from a production-based car
* 100-octane fuel
* Spec Castrol Syntec synthetic oil of shop's chosen weight
* Only one forced induction system permitted (OEM counts as one)
* No methanol, external intercooler cooling, or water injection
* Custom parts are allowed
* No muffler during testing, but header must fit a production chassis
After each engine is finished, they will be given a total points score based on peak horsepower and torque per liter of displacement (turbo/supercharger entries are given a 2X displacement multiplier), power under the curve, surviving a 30-minute drive cycle, and a subjective judging panel for quality and craftsmanship. All testing will be handled on an engine dyno.
When it came time to pick an ally, our choice was easy. We called Cosworth Engineering. With experience in the WRC, Formula One and Champ Car series, Cosworth's prowess is second to none. It also produces a full range of performance parts aimed at the Ford Duratec, Mitsubishi 4G63, Subaru EJ20/25 and Nissan VQ35 engines. We're going to be building a naturally aspirated, high-compression VQ35 engine (at least 11:1 and 400bhp) using many off-the-shelf Cosworth parts anyone can buy over the phone. We'll be covering the build-up on our ultimate naturally aspirated VQ in upcoming issues, as well as keeping you up to date on the progress of all the underbody lighting and panty-loving tuner mags.
And the best part is, the winning engine in the Castrol Syntec Top Shop Challenge will be given away to one lucky reader. For more details on the contest and how to win our Cosworth engine, visit www.SyntecTopShop.com
Proves Green Can Be Mean
Mitsubishi's Concept-RA coupe concept may give some clues as to the next-generation Eclipse. While maybe not the prettiest model to bow in Detroit, the Concept-RA apes all the recent design cues from Mitsubishi's Lancer and adds a healthy dose of Speed Racer styling. The front fascia takes the gaping corporate grin to an illogical extreme and sets the tone for the muscular bodylines that give the RA its squat, aggressive stance. The interior is typical concept car chic, with flowing curves, brushed aluminum controls and a gauge cluster straight out of Philip K. Dick's frontal cortex.
Under all that sci-fi-inspired bodywork lies a 2.2-liter turbodiesel, with MIVEC4 controlling the 16 valves and dual overhead cams. The engine is visible through the hood and uses a piezo-electric injection system with a variable diffuser/variable geometry turbo to make 201bhp and 310lb-ft of torque. Harnessing that power and sending it to all four wheels is the Evolution X's Super-All Wheel Control system that utilizes active steering and suspension inputs along with ACD, AYC, ASC and 'Sport' ABS to provide a balance between sporting driving and emergency avoidance.
Mitsubishi is trying to prove that high-mileage motoring and performance driving aren't mutually exclusive. The Concept-RA could be a significant step in that direction.
MAZDA'S Furious FURAI
Most concepts appearing on rotating show stands are nothing more than aspirational exercises. Mazda's Furai is the exception. This is the fifth model to benefit from Mazda's Nagare (or 'flow') design language, under which lies the 2005 Courage C65 chassis campaigned in the LMP2-class of the American Le Mans Series.
Mazda's North American design head, Franz von Holzhausen, teamed up with Swift Engineering to form a body that creates around 80 percent of the downforce of the original racer. Air is sent down through a roof-mounted intake and mixes with E100 ethanol in a three-rotor 20B engine mounted amidships, producing 450hp.
The styling of the Hakaze, Nagare, Ryuga, Taiki and Furai concepts provide a glimpse into Mazda's future design direction. And the Furai might be an indication that Mazda is looking into another run of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Mazda Refreshes The RX-8 For 2009
In the ramp-up to the Detroit Auto Show, rumors swirled about what would become of the aging RX-8. A clean-sheet redesign? An optional supercharger? A three-rotor Wankel? Unfortunately, none of the above. Mazda trotted out what is essentially the same RS model that debuted at the Tokyo Auto Salon a few days earlier, with a new front and rear bumper, restyled air dams, a set of biggie-sized exhaust pipes and some new rolling stock.
For 2009, the RX-8 gets the aforementioned exterior changes and a refreshed version of the Renesis rotary producing 232bhp when mated to a six-speed manual-or 212bhp when attached to Mazda's six-speed automatic with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. A new instrument panel with a 'variable red-zone' integrated into the tach keeps tabs on coolant temps and shows when the rotary mill is ready for flogging. Owners opting to swap their own cogs get a new differential that lowers the ratio from 4.444 to 4.777.
Mazda has added some chassis bracing and a trapezoidal strut tower brace to increase rigidity, while revisions to the rear suspension attempt to keep things solid at speed. New front and rear seats accompany a few small tweaks to the interior to help make the 2009 RX-8 more driver-focused.
The real news comes in the form of the R3 package, which harks back to the options offered on the FDs of yesteryear. The R3 offers Bilstein shocks and front suspension crossmembers filled with urethane foam, along with 19-inch forged aluminum rollers, high performance rubber, a 300w Bose audio system, Recaro sport seats, and a keyless entry and start system.
Lexus LF-A RoadsterDrops Its Top In Detroit
The LF-A Roadster carries the same front/mid-mounted 5.0-liter V10 found in its coupe counterpart. With similar slippery styling, the super-cabrio can reach speeds in excess of 200mph. All 500 ponies are dispatched into a driveshaft encompassed by a torque tube that prevents chassis flex as power is sent to a rear-mounted transaxle. An adaptive rear wing ensures the LF-A won't get airborne at speed, while cool air collected from the ducts aft of the doors is sent through two rear-mounted radiators positioned under the trapezoidal taillights.
There's still no word on when the LF-A will finally make it to market. That's fine by Honda, since that company is still agonizing over the design of its NSX revival.
Mitsubishi Unveils Lancer Ralliart In Detroit
Of all the press conferences at the North American International Auto Show, none mattered more to enthusiasts on a budget than Mitsubishi's, where the wraps came off the 2009 Lancer Ralliart. The 4B11T-powered sedan laid waste to years of neglect in a segment dominated by Subaru's Impreza WRX and foretells good things for tuners unable to pony up for the new Evolution X.
The Ralliart slots neatly between the 169bhp Lancer GTS and its big bro Evo, producing 235bhp and 253lb-ft of torque from the detuned, turbocharged 2.0-liter four (for comparison, the 2008 WRX is making 9bhp and 27lb-ft less). That grunt will be channeled through an Evo-derived, six-speed Twin Clutch-Sequential Sportshift Transmission (TC-SST)-complete with paddle shifters-and sent to the ground through an all-wheel-drive system with an active center differential, a rear mechanical limited-slip differential, and a helical LSD up front. Just like Evos of yore, Ralliartists can select between three different driving modes: tarmac, gravel and snow.
Changes to the exterior further differentiate it from its siblings, with a vented aluminum hood (an obvious nod to the Evo), a new front bumper, rear air dam, spoiler and a dual outlet exhaust. Inside, optional Recaro thrones speaks to the Ralliart's dynamic poise and, when not tackling the twisties, an available 30GB hard drive, sat-nav, and a Rockford Fosgate 650w audio system will keep passengers entertained.
There's no word from Mitsubishi about whether or not a manual version of the Ralliart will be released, something that could be an issue for owners trying to extract every bit of power from the blown four. The Lancer Ralliart will go on sale this summer as a 2009 model. Expect pricing to be in line with Subaru's WRX, somewhere in the mid-$20k realm.
Rumors & Lies
* While Lexus IS-F owners are just beginning to take delivery of their shiny new M3/C63/RS4 fighter, reports are surfacing that Toyota is developing a more hardcore version of its high-power sedan. The IS-F/R (yeah, we just coined that) would get a bump in output from 417 to 429bhp, along with a torque boost of 4lb-ft. While that's a nominal increase over the standard model's Yamaha-developed V8, the major performance advantages will come from a 200-pound diet. This might be the version that puts the IS-F on the map.
*The Dodge Demon Concept proved that Chrysler has ideas beyond big V8s and homely sedans. When the two-door convertible concept debuted in Geneva last year, it appeared to be a viable contender against the Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky and even Mazda's MX-5. Not any more. Dodge is attempting to keep costs and emissions down if and when it brings the Demon to market, so the automaker is looking to underpin the roadster with a Chinese-built, front-wheel-drive platform instead of something with a rear-drive flavor. While that might make the price of entry lower than some of the other drop-top offerings, poor build quality could make it an undesirable proposition before it even reaches the showrooms.
* The Volvo C30 has yet to prove its cred in the hot hatch segment, but if the upcoming Focus RS-which shares a platform with the C30-is any indication, good things might be on the way from Sweden. Word is that Volvo might be trying to provide some competition to the Volkswagen R32 by fitting the turbocharged 2.5-liter in-line five from the new RS into the C30's engine bay. That means around 280bhp channeled to the front wheels through an electronically controlled LSD, with the possibility of Volvo utilizing its new PowerShift dual-clutch gearbox. If we're forced to admire another generation of the Focus RS from afar, this might be the answer to our prayers-assuming it even makes it Stateside.
* No matter how much power people try to extract from their engines, at the end of the day, weight remains the ultimate buzzkill. Nissan recognizes this and will attempt to reduce the average weight of its vehicles by 15 percent by 2015. This weight reduction is an effort to simultaneously increase performance and decrease emissions over its 2005 range. With aluminum prices at an all-time high, innovative metal blends and more carbon fiber may become standard on new Nissans.