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Auto blogMon, 08 Apr 2013 09:30:00 EST
While every team on the Formula One grid is worried about making a good showing in this year's championship at the same time as they develop a brand-new car for next year's championship, Bernie Ecclestone and F1 circuit promoters have a different concern: how next year's cars will sound. The current cars use 2.4-liter, naturally-aspirated V8s that can reach 18,000 revolutions per minute and employ dual exhaust, next year's engine formula calls for 1.4-liter turbocharged V6s that are capped at 15,000 rpm and are constrained to a single exhaust outlet. Ecclestone and promoters like Ron Walker believe the new engines sound like lawnmowers and that the less thrilling audio will keep people from coming to races. If Walker's Australian Grand Prix really is shelling out almost $57 million to hold the race, every ticket counts. As a fix, according to a report in Autoweek, Ecclestone "suggests that the only way to guarantee [a good sound] may be to artificially adjust the tone of the V6s."
However, neither the manufacturers nor the governing body of F1, the FIA, think there will be a problem. Ecclestone fears that if the manufacturers "don't get it right" they'll simply leave the sport, but the only three carmakers and engine builders left next year, Renault (its 2014 "power unit" is pictured), Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari are so embedded that it would stretch belief to think they'd leave the table over an audio hiccup - if said hiccup even occurs. And frankly, these issues always precede changes to engine formulas, as they did when the formula switched from V10 to V8; fans, though, are probably less focused on the engines and more on the mandated standardization of the sport and the spec-series overtones that have come with it.
No one knows yet what next year's engines will sound like, but we've assembled a few videos below to help us all start guessing. The first is an engine check on an Eighties-era John Player Special Renault with a 1.5-liter V6 turbo, after that is Ayrton Senna qualifying in 1986 in the Lotus 98T that also had a 1.5-liter V6 turbo, then you'll find a short with a manufactured range of potential V6 engine notes, and then the sound of turbocharged V6 Indycars testing last year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Any, or none of them, could be Formula One's future.
The Aston Martin Lagonda SUV concept revealed at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show didn't earn the plaudits the company is used to when it reveals new models, and it has lived an uncertain life ever since. Thought to have been scrapped along with the entire revival of the Lagonda brand, then thought to have been resurrected due to Chinese, Middle Eastern and Russian demand, another year passed before we heard more definitive talk about an Aston Martin expansion when AutoCar reported that the Lagonda could be built on one of Mercedes-Benz's AMG SUV platforms.
A report in Automotive News Europe indicates plans have gotten serious, its unnamed sources saying that the English carmaker is talking to Daimler "to extend their cooperation to building an SUV." Neither Daimler, Aston Martin nor Investindustrial, the managing partner among Aston Martin's ownership consortium, would comment. But with Investindustrial having pledged to expand the range, competitors like Bentley, Maserati and Lamborghini getting into the SUV racket and clear demand from current and future customers, it's easy to believe Aston Martin is working hard to put the pieces together.
One further potential bump on the road to an Aston SUV is the company's search for a new CEO. Ulrich Bez relinquished to top spot at the company at the end of 2013, and Aston reportedly will not finalize its model strategy without a new CEO in place.
Mercedes-Benz has something special planned for the Shanghai Motor Show - a new CUV concept that we first saw when it leaked on the internet yesterday. The GLA Concept compact crossover will hit the show stand with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque mated to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission and 4Matic all-wheel drive, and likely previews a new production model that we've already spotted testing.
That's not news, but the laser-based headlamps with video-projecting capability certainly are. Mercedes-Benz says the array can project any image or video onto a screen, which is handy since there are a pair of HD cameras mounted to the roof rack. The cameras can be removed and taken with you on all sorts of adventures. The lamps also feature a visible cooling system comprised of a series of fans, and the system helps give the headlights their "sparkle" effect.
Step indoors and the GLA offers up the interior of a high-quality crossover, complete with contrasting leather and plenty of aluminum. The automaker says the cabin was inspired by saddle craftsmanship with "more than 65 feet of hand-stitched seams to hold the raw edges of the leather together."