Koenigsegg FreeValve: New Life For The Gas Engine
For more than a century, the internal combustion engine has relied on the ungainly camshaft. This spinning rod with variable lobes sits atop the engine, where it opens and closes intake and exhaust valves during the combustion cycle. But the camshaft has a limited range of motion, so its control over the valves is imprecise. This is the root of engine inefficiency. In April, Swedish supercar-maker Koenigsegg debuted the world’s first camless engine—the FreeValve—on a Chinese Qoros concept car. FreeValve forgoes the camshaft for electro-hydraulic-pneumatic actuators. They attach right to intake and exhaust valves, so engineers can control combustion within each cylinder. The design gets more power—imagine a four-cylinder getting 250 horsepower, sans turbo—and greater fuel economy out of otherwise standard engines. Cams, may you rest in peace.
McLaren 570S: A Drivable Supercar
You don’t need an airfield to open up the McLaren 570S. A 562-horsepower engine hits 60 miles per hour in less than three seconds (and tops out at a modest 204 mph), while its carbon-fiber cabin keeps the ride stiff on tight turns. $184,900
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV: The EV for Everyone
Affordable electric vehicles have struggled to break the 200-mile-range barrier. General Motors (no, not Tesla) is getting there first. It all comes down to the battery: The Bolt’s 288-cell, 60-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion powerhouse is heavy in nickel, which boosts energy density and extends range to 238 miles. Liberal use of aluminum in the hood, doors, tailgate, and suspension keep the car from getting weighed down. $37,495
4moms Self-installing Car Seat: Foolproof Infant Seat
Nearly half of all infant car seats are improperly installed, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. 4moms’ rear-facing seat makes installation idiot-proof. The base contains 20 sensors, including accelerometers and gyros, that work with motors to level the seat and tighten the straps. As long as the carrier is snapped onto the base, it will continually recheck the fit. It’s also comfy: The ergonomics are on par with top baby carriers. $500
2017 Audi SQ7 TDI: Full Turbo, No Waiting
Powerful as it is, a turbocharger lags before kicking in; it’s asleep until exhaust builds up to spool its turbine, blasting pressurized air into the engine. The Audi SQ7 TDI uses a 7-kilowatt electric motor to spin its turbine. Inspired by Formula 1, the system hits 70,000 rpm in less than 0.25 seconds. For now, the electric-powered compressor (EPC) is Europe-only. We can’t wait for it to leap the pond. $100,000 (€89,900)
Airbus APWorks Light Rider: 3-D Printed Motorcycle
Helping offset the heavy battery in the APWorks Light Rider is a fully 3D-printed body. The prototype bike’s skeletal aluminum frame cuts the weight to a svelte 77 pounds—a 30 percent dip on conventional manufacturing weight.
2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R: Lightest Feet on a Car
Mustangs once shared parts with burly pickup trucks. Now, the classic pony wears ultralight carbon-fiber wheels. The 19-inch rims on the Shelby each weigh some 15 pounds less than regular aluminum wheels. Less weight speeds acceleration, and greater rigidity improves handling. Don’t worry about lightenin’ ’em up: They’re insulated with a ceramic coating similar to the space shuttle’s. $63,995 (wheels $3,433-$4,053 each)
HERE HD Live Map: The Most Detailed Map
Autonomous cars need maps that plot every lane marker, guard rail, and speed-limit change ahead. The dynamically updating HD Live Map from HERE—a spinoff of electronics-giant Nokia—has already logged 1.8 million miles in the U.S. and Europe. The company’s fleet of cars maps roads to an accuracy of 10 centimeters—three to five times better than GPS. Next year, HERE will start adding data from real drivers into the mix.
2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class: Car Talk
When cars chat with each other, they won’t look like Pixar characters. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V) will be standard within a decade, letting cars share alerts—some fool who ran a red light ahead—over encrypted radio signals. Mercedes isn’t waiting. The E-class sends traffic updates via 4G to a cloud server, alerting E-class drivers headed in that direction in seconds. It’s a Benz-only network—but one that helps make roads safer. $53,075
Tesla Autopilot: Your Robot Driving Buddy
A fatal crash this spring cast a shadow on Autopilot. But when used properly no system maneuvers better in highway traffic. The hardware is simple: a camera, bumper-mounted radar, and 12 front-and-rear ultrasonic sensors. The genius is the software: Over-the-air updates and input from the fleet help the system hone its skills, such as automatic lane changes. $3,000-$3,500 option on Model S & Model X
Read about the other Best of What’s New winners from the November/December 2016 issue of Popular Science.