Before this year is out, Audi will introduce an executive-class vehicle with glass-fiber reinforced polymer (GFRP) road springs that are 40% lighter than their steel equivalents. This reduction in unsprung weight can be significant. Audi estimates that an executive-class car’s steel spring weighs 2.7 kg (5.95 lb), while a GFRP spring weighs just 1.6 kg (3.5 lb). Thus changing the vehicle’s four springs from steel to GFRP reduces weight by 4.4 kg (9.7 lb), of which about half is unsprung weight. Each reduction in unsprung weight helps the suspension react more quickly to road surface changes.
By Christopher A. Sawyer
Following the modern path of dribbling press releases out in order to get the most column inches of coverage, Volvo recently released information on the safety and convenience technology to be found in the 2015 XC90 that debuts at the Paris Motor Show in September. The all-wheel drive, seven-passenger SUV is the first vehicle off Volvo’s modular SPA architecture, and will use the full suite of boosted, 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engines.
Magna International, Inc.’s latest rear seat design may have a name — “Sedan Slouch” — that conjures up images of slacker teens in the back of a four-door car, but the idea behind it makes sense. Currently, fold-flat rear seatbacks cannot be reclined; the rear passengers are forced to deal with a seatback angle set at the factory. This is due to the lack of room behind the seatback. It would be necessary for the rear seat to slide forward for the seatback to be reclined. Magna’s Sedan Slouch design does just that. It slides the lower cushion, or “squab”, forward, taking the lower seatback with it. The pivoting upper latch rides along a track in the rear bulkhead, making sure the seatback is not only tied into the structure, it follows the prescribed arc for smooth operation as the lower cushion moves forward. Activating the latch releases the pivot and allows the seatback to be folded forward, while returning seat to its upright position reengages the latching mechanism. As you might expect, lower cushion travel is limited. — CAS
By Christopher A. Sawyer
First, Ford stunned the industry with the announcement that its mega-successful F-150 pickup would be shifting from steel to aluminum body construction. (Ford doesn’t break out specific models like the F-150, but a good rule of thumb is that it accounts for about 2/3, or about 534,000 units, of Ford’s 800,000-unit F-Series sales volume.) Then came rumors that GM would be following Ford’s lead, despite just launching a two-truck strategy built around conventional full-size pickups and lighter, more fuel-efficient midsize pickups. The only company that seemed wedded to steel was Chrysler, whose all-steel Ram 1500 is lighter than most of its competition. Yet even that bubble was burst when a study by Drucker Worldwide claimed that 70% of new pickup trucks will be aluminum-bodied by 2025. Suddenly it looked like the only large-scale steel on future pickups would be in the frame.
Brembo has released an animation showing how Formula One's new hybrid braking system works. It's a fascinating look at a very complex piece of technology that may have implications for future high-performance hybrid sports cars. — CAS