Tag Archives: Power To Weight Ratio

Preview: 2012 Porsche Cayman R

PALMA DE MAJORCA, Spain – With the new Cayman R, available in Canada as a 2012 model, Porsche has borrowed just about every page from its Boxster Spyder playbook to create the lightest and fastest Cayman ever. The power-to-weight ratio is the end-all of automotive performance, so making the car lighter while giving it more power will significantly improve its dynamics. This is precisely what the engineers at Porsche have done with the Cayman R, which is 55 kilograms lighter than the Cayman S. And its engine develops 10 more horsepower for a total output of 330 hp. The Cayman R’s chassis is also 20 mm lower and its centre of gravity is 22 mm lower than the Cayman S. And its engine develops 10 more horsepower for a total output of 330 hp. The Cayman R’s chassis is also 20 mm lower and its centre of gravity is 22 mm lower than the Cayman S. The numbers might not read like much, but, believe me, this new car raises the bar significantly in terms of performance. Here at the RennArena race track, the Cayman R proved to be totally at ease, thanks to its perfectly weighted and exceptionally communicative steering. With the optional ceramic brakes, the braking action was stellar, with immediate response and very good pedal feel, while the standard locking rear differential made for quicker corner exits. The Cayman R is available with a standard six-speed manual gearbox, which delighted thanks to the very precise, short-shift lever throws. But Porsche’s latest track-day weapon can also be had with the seven-speed double-clutch PDK gearbox, which now features proper steering wheel paddles that are set up exactly like those on its competitors – upshifts selected via the right paddle and downshifts via the left. Porsche has finally seen the light and ditched the previous arrangement consisting of awkward and counter-intuitive steering wheel buttons.

Acceleration times are quicker with the PDK gearbox, but the Cayman R is more satisfying to drive with the manual transmission.

Aside from a few laps of the race track, most of my time with the Cayman R was spent driving on the extremely slippery, wet roads of Palma, which compared with snowy or even icy roads in Canada. Under these conditions, the car’s electronic aids proved to be very useful, especially given the fact that it comes standard with a locking rear differential and high-performance tires.

The electronic stability control was very busy on the drive up mountainside switchbacks – not only when power was applied but also during the turn-in phase to help overcome the prevalent understeer. Applying power at mid-corner, with the locking rear differential sending power to both rear wheels, had the electronic stability control working to effectively control acceleration.

Under these treacherous conditions, the challenge was to drive just fast enough to remain below the threshold where the electronic stability control kicks in. This was easier said than done, given the peculiar pavement I was driving on, but I was secure in the knowledge that the electronics were constantly on the alert should the need arise.

With its standard fixed rear wing and more pronounced front spoiler, the Cayman R certainly looks the part and can easily be differentiated from a run-of-the-mill Cayman or Cayman S.

Inside, the extreme weight-saving measures mean the car does not have regular door handles but red cloth pullers. It’s also devoid of an air conditioning system (which can be added as a $2,010 option) or even a radio (a basic unit can be added as a no-cost option). The standard one-piece sport bucket seats are very form-fitting and can be adjusted fore and aft. Wide adjustable seats are available from options list.

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Sonata Plays New Tune

It used to be the Japanese who kept upping the ante in the mid-size car segment – now it’s the Koreans. To be specific, it’s Hyundai and the new 2011 Sonata, which has just aced the opposition in the high-stakes midsize market that still accounts for 20% of all new vehicles sold in North America.

In their publicity materials, carmakers often get carried away, but I think Hyundai has it right when it says, “Taken to a new level of style, luxury and refinement, the all-new Sonata will undoubtedly be the sedan against which others in its class will be measured.”

Our test car is Sonata GL. And, while at the low end of the Sonata lineup, it’s far from a “base” model. The GL can be ordered with either a six-speed stick or a six-speed automatic, which also adds heated front seats. No options are available on GL, but standard equipment includes air conditioning, power locks/windows/heated mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering, cruise control, anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, six airbags and electronic stability control with traction control.

So you get a lot for your money. But to keep it under $25,000 a few corners had to be cut. For instance, there’s no keyless ignition (which Toyota even offers on the compact Corolla) and the driver’s seat lacks power adjustments.

If you can’t live without those things, there are better equipped GLS  and Limited models. And moving up to get more equipment doesn’t cost a bundle – a loaded Sonata Limited with touchscreen navigation, leather, heated rear seats, push-button start and sunroof lists at just $30,999.

Unlike many of its competitors, the new Sonata does not have an optional V6. Across the lineup, power is provided by a peppy DOHC 2.4- litre inline four with direct fuel injection. The all-aluminum engine produces 198 hp, which Hyundai says is best in its class. And thanks to the best power-to-weight ratio among four-cylinder family sedans, the Sonata wins the 0-100 km/h sprint against its competition with a time just over 8.0 seconds.

Still, this is much more of a family sedan than a sports car, with Hyundai engineers – properly, I think – putting a premium on smoothness, predictable handling and a quiet cabin.

A turbocharged version as well as a hybrid will join the lineup later. With a shape that looks fresh out of a wind tunnel, this is the best looking Sonata ever, with none of the bland sameness that resulted from everyone in this segment copying the Camry and Accord.

Instead, the Sonata makes its own fashion statement (inspired perhaps by the Mercedes-Benz CLS – another four-door sedan with coupe-like styling). Outwards vision hasn’t been impeded by the design, nor has rear seat passenger room or trunk space, with a capacity of 462 litres.

The car’s quiet, comfortable ride is amazing considering its low price and the fit and finish – both inside and out – and the use of quality materials is impressive.

Controls are ergonomic and easy to use and there are so many places to stash stuff I may have missed one or two. The driver and front passenger have access to three storage trays, a large bin under the centre binnacle big enough for an SLR camera, a two-tier bin under the centre armrest, and the usual twin cupholders, glove box and door pockets with bottle holders.

The old Sonata was good, and offered great value for the money. But the new one is better, with the bonus of a stunning new shape Hyundai calls Fluidic Sculpture.

No doubt about it: with the 2011 Sonata Hyundai has dealt itself another winning hand.

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1966-1967 Chevy II SS327: 350 hp

Muscle cars were mostly intermediates with big-block engines. Customers thought big was better. Engineers knew otherwise, knew that a high power-to-weight ratio was the key. In 1966, Chevy was the only maker with a small block that would really run (the 271-hp 289 Ford was a stone). The 350-hp 327 in approximately Corvette tune, dropped into a Chevy II, didn’t have the juke-box magic of a 409 or a 427. Still, that combination made for one of the sneakiest muscle cars ever built.

In those days, you tended to hunt for strokes in bigger iron, in GTOs and 4-4-2s. You might not notice a Chevy II in traffic until he got half a car-length on you. Even in a boss machine, you might have to run to 80 or 90 mph to get it back. That’s how fast those Chevy IIs were. My memory says ETs in the upper fourteens and speeds in the middle nineties, which was very quick in 1966. I vividly remember a Chrysler test of a 350-hp Chevy II and the resulting panic: the Mopar 340 small block as originally planned for a smooth, quiet at idle, tractable in traffic. Most of the moving parts inside were different from the official race hardware, but they were far more rugged than the usual high-performance street components. Hemi cars had specially reinforced bodies, too. Chrysler did the job right and priced the Hemi option accordingly – $907.60. In 1966, that was about half the price of a new VW.

In C/D’s first Hemi road test (April 1966), we said: “A quick stab at the throttle pedal – in any old gear -will send the tachometer needle flying around the tach like a teeny little Fiat Abarth, or a Ferrari. It just doesn’t feel like a seven-liter engine-except for the fact that you’re suddenly doing 120 and you don’t know how you got there.” The test page reported a quarter-mile elapsed time of 13.8 seconds at 104 mph.