Old tech & new materials intricately combined for insane speed: the ingenuity of the top fuel dragster.
The violence of the launch was astonishing. Vibration short-circuited my senses, and the acceleration clouted my helmet back against the car's roll cage. For 200 feet, I couldn't tell where I was. I'm not used to feeling fear while in a carI've cornered 185-mph Ferraris at top speedbut this dragster scared me. After a couple of runs, they told me, I'd get used to it: The car would go straight for 200 feet until I could see.
Tricked-up right out of the factory, and aimed young.
Build a car well, and it'll be successful (see Toyota Camry). But create a culture around it, and it'll be a legend (see Corvette, Viper, Mustang). So it was just a matter of time before Ford and Honda looked at the growing numbers of buyers modifying their products and wondered: "How can we get a piece of that?"
Most tire buyers stick to vanilla choices, but you can get versatility and durability. Here's how to pick the right rubber for your roads.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That sums up the mentality of most replacement-tire buyers. But there are downsides to conventional all-season tires. Cold weather, for instance, can stiffen them so much that they struggle to keep their grip. And besides, specialty tires just make sense sometimes. A run-flat, for example, is a great insurance policy if you often travel through remote areas. And if you have a souped-up sports car, why not run it on the most responsive rubber you can buy? Here are the pros and cons of each of the four major tire types.
Any car can use a little augmentation-for style, power, performance.
1. CLEAR THE REAR Clear taillights became popular because of their simplicity-customizers found the existing mix of red, white, and amber distracting. Sets from American Products Co. fit most small cars (prices vary); be sure to install tinted bulbs so the lights glow red or amber. www.4apc.net
Transportation: An escalator with spring in its steps.
Escalators run at one speed: slow. But they could become high-speed transports if research at Mitsubishi pans out. Engineers there have invented a way to increase an escalator's speed by 50 percent on straightaways while maintaining a safe, slow pace at entry and exit points. The trick: Large-diameter pulleys at the escalator's edges force the rollers supporting the steps to take wide turns, slowing them down. Mitsubishi hopes to commercialize the variable-speed escalator within two to three years.
There are a lot of great vehicles coming out for 2003, but here are four reasons to wait.
Gone are the days when tinkering under the hood made new-car ownership fun. Because of the complexity within today's automobiles, we do most of our tinkering on the outside: specialty tires, performance-enhancing add-ons, slamming electronics. Automakers, meanwhile, feed this hunger with vehicles that continue to set new standards for versatility: We may not change our oil as much anymore, but we can alter our suspension settings for off-road boulder hopping.
The new H2 is no military machine, but it can travel in the same circles.
I was concerned, I'll now admit, that the all-new Hummer H2 would be a wannabe dressed in battle fatigues. And I had good reason: To keep the price only a notch or two above reasonable, the H2 is built on GM's full-size truck platform. Nothing wrong there, provided your aim is to build a Chevy Tahoe.
Auto hacking: If it's an Integra, it may have been eaten by a Civic.
For the second year in a row, the most frequently stolen car in America is the Acura Integra. According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, the vehicle is heisted more than twice as often as the Jeep Wrangler, its closest contender (see chart). Why the Integra?
The future of tow tech
MasterCraft's prototype X-Trek is the most radical ski boat we've seen, from a left-side steering wheel to a rear-facing spotter seat. The helm layout, with a claw-like equipment tower as the centerpiece, means a clear line of sight for the driver, centered weight distribution for those behind the boat, and more interior space. Add a 2-foot platform in back (making it a cinch to gear up) and you have a vision of the future. There are no plans for production, but we suspect the concept's features will be pilfered for next-gen MasterCraft boats.
A helmet for protection and direction
Hoping to recapture those 2 to 4 seconds it takes to refocus on the road after a rider glances at the dash, the prototype Blue Eye helmet from DesignWorks/ USA and BMW features the world's first motorcycle head-up display. The 320- by 240-pixel color LCD is positioned 2 inches from your eye, close enough so it's out of focus. But the info on the display is focused at infinity, so it remains clear as you look down the road. No production plans yet.
The 2003 Mercedes-Benz CLK
Take the big Mercedes-Benz CL coupe, add a K-for kurz, German for short-and bingo, a smaller, sportier version.
The all-new Nissan 350Z packs in a lot of technology at a little price.
Nissan has just pressed the sports-car reset button. The new 350Z, hitting dealerships now, marks the return of the high-value, high-tech, high-performance sports car, complete with hot engine, stiff and light structure, good balance, and sophisticated underpinnings. It's also a head-turner. The base model starts at just $26,000; the tricked out top-of-the-line iteration goes for $34,000. That's Boxster power at a Miata price. Here's a look at the technology that makes it possible.
2003 Volkswagen Passat W8
How do you cram eight cylinders into a six-cylinder compartment? If you're Volkswagen, you create a new category of powerplants: The W8 is shorter overall than conventional V8 engines.
We prove that pickups and SUVs don't have to guzzle gas.
The Hypothesis When it comes to gas mileage, it's not only what you drive but how you drive.
The Challenge Over 195 miles of interstate, get better gas mileage from a full-size truck than a midsize car. Use any means necessary to improve the truck's mileage, but leave the car untweaked. (We added 600 pounds to each to simulate three passengers and their stuff.)
The Cadillac Escalade EXT and Lincoln Blackwood defy description-and, arguably, common sense.
Pickup trucks far outsell cars. SUVs are still hotter than the asphalt at Daytona. Many of Lincoln and Cadillac's current customers also own another automaker's truck. If you're one of these companies' top executives, how can you not decide to start building pickup trucks?