Cooley On Cars
2016 Nissan Maxima, the 4-door sports car -- with a straight face? (CNET On Cars, Episode 83)Nissan gets a little breathless about the new Maxima, we explain the newest way of arranging a combustion engine, then we run down the top 5 auto tech trends.
Nissan Maxima, what's in the name? A posed piston engine. Wrap your head around this arrangement. And my top five future car tech trends that are happening now. It's time to check the tech. [NOISE] We see cars differently. We love them on the road, and under the hood, but also check the tech and are known for telling Telling it like it is. Ugly is included at no extra cost. [MUSIC] The good, the bad, the bottom line. This is CNET On Cars. [MUSIC] Welcome to CNET On Cars, the show all about high tech cars and modern driving. I'm Brian Cooley. Well, if you think back to the early 80s, you'll think back to the Nissan Maximum. The first edition, kind of a gaudy, baroque thing. But it was when the name was coined. And then it suddenly got cool around 1989, when it became something much more credible, a 4DSC, they called it, a four door sports car. And they weren't really kidding. After that came about twenty years of forgetableness for the Maxima, at least among enthusiasts until lately. Now it's back in its eighth generation and hold everything. It may deserve that 4D SE title again. Let's find out as we drive the latest Maxima and check the deck. [SOUND] The Maxima is part of a class of cars that one would call most improved. Avalons are no longer driven just by your grandparents, Impalas no longer just by bitter city employees. And the Hyundai Azera, well I'm not sure who drives that. [SOUND] Now we have an SR, it's the sportiest trim of the Maxima. Means two major things, some advanced [INAUDIBLE] control and delete the panoramic sunroof. You cannot get one on this car to reduce the center of gravity and also to give it a little more torsional stiff. [MUSIC] And this new Maxima is about 2.2 inches longer than the last generation, but from the side it looks two yards longer. Partly because of how they got this rising arch here from the cowls of the front of the car. The chin sticks out a bit as and check out that whole side profile of the greenhouse. It's very low and elongated. Everything here says long. And low. [SOUND] [MUSIC] One of the first things I noticed getting in this car is we've got a whole new menu and interface for Nissan. This is very tablet like, you can go between different screens. The second thing you notice is the fact that it's got really quick response, it's one of the crispest Fastest responding touchscreens I've seen. The whole thing is canted seven degrees toward the driver. About the only place where the touch response falls down is, as with almost every car, engine zoom is crap. And you can customize the layout, so this isn't just the way it has to be. Once you go to the Edit menu level, you've got a lot of power to change whatever is on each of these screens, and there's a bunch of them. But beyond this tablet-like interface is actually kind of a dearth of apps like Pandora and Yelp and things like that. However, you do have an icon that's promising. It's the NissanConnect app. And what's under there is the opportunity to use Google online search. I like that a lot. You know me, I just can't make peace with the kind of Fisher Price look of Nissan maps. I just don't like the rendering, I don't like the type, I don't like much of anything about the look, but they're getting better. 235 2nd Street, San Francisco, California. 235. And I gotta say the voice response in this system's really quick and crisp. Backup camera's pretty routine on this car. YOu do get an around view surround monitor if you go to the platinum level, but not on the SR. [MUSIC] When I say Nissan You'd think three and a half liter V6, and you're still right. But now, just touching the 300 horse power barrier, though with 261 pound feet of torque as before. Controversially, in anything called a four door sports car, your only gear box choice is the CVT. This is one of the most powerful cars to make that a rule, by the way. Zero to 60, just over six seconds. 22/30 MPG. The first thing I noticed that get my attention right off the bat by putting the shifters where they ought to be. On the call, I'm not flying around with the wheel all the time. Thank you Nissan. The steering is kind of delightfully heavy. I was expecting something over assisted to be honest. I'm not quite sure why, it's just was. I could almost feel some of you cringe when I said this car's got a CVT and front wheel drive. You can get out of front of it pretty easy with aggressive driving. As you can imagine they've got synthetic gear points in it. So it's not just slushing up and down all the time, it does have set points And those can be changed by normal and sport mode here on the console. When I go to sport, I change the throttle response, how aggressive it is. I change where those shirt points are. Kicking [UNKNOWN] higher and holding them longer. I also change the steering response, and I get more engine throat in the Have it. [NOISE] Kind of a nice growl there, a little bite coming in. They pipe a little engine sound through it. Now as I mentioned there's a variety of interesting chassis technologies going on with this Maxima. You've got one that will take road undulations and deal with them by using point braking. To pull the car back down and level it out as well as give it a more compliant ride. It's an interesting technique I don't think I've encountered before. We've also got a vibration damping cross member in the front. Because this car Car's gotta stiffer suspension as an SR, especially when you're in sport mode. You can get some kinda nasty noise vibration harshness transmitted into the cabin while that active cross member supposedly cancels that out. They've gone out of their way here to balance sporty handling with a compliant ride. Now as you may have noticed that we talked about the body, this car has got these very long, elongated Greenhouse openings where the windows line up. Its great outward visibility because it pushes those windows so far back, there's hardly any depillar on this car. It's a very front powered feeling car, though. I can lift up the nose, Kind of pigeon toe the front tires they feel like and lose some traction there pretty easily. That's the problem with putting 300 horse through the front two wheels only. The Nissan does no options on the new Maxima. You buy a trim level and our guy, the SR, is the sportiest and the second from the top at about 38,600 with destination. [INAUDIBLE] So the only thing I'm gonna add is a dealer installed 4G hot spot and Telematics package. So you got a hot spot for five devices in the car, powered by a pretty good 4G connection, and the ability to do some remote control of your vehicle, which isn't all that interesting. But it's the only way you can get it on this car. All in, we're a little over 39,000 four-door sports car, my ****. They oversell it by saying that. However, it's a sedan with an edge, and that, itself, is an accomplishment. [SOUND] [MUSIC] Find the full review on the new Maxima from the Roadshow scene over theroadshow.com, CNET's all new automotive website. When we come back, we'll talk about opposed piston engines. Why would they do that? And how? When CNet On Cars returns. [MUSIC] [BLANK_AUDIO] [SOUND] [MUSIC] Most combustion engines in cars have row of cylinders containing pistons that move up and down, punching back and forth toward or away from a fixed cylinder head at the top. At the other end, the pistons connect into a crank shaft via a connecting rod. The opposed piston opposed cylinder, or OPOC engine, is quite different First, each cylinder has two pistons in it. Secondly, those pistons punch back and forth against each other rather than a cylinder head. One design by a company called EcoMotors puts the crank in the middle. The pistons connect to it via either a short connecting rod for an inside piston or a longer connecting rod for an outside piston. Another design by Achates Power connects each piston to one of two crankshafts at the outer edge of the engine and combines power from the two cranks via a set of gears. Both Ecomotor and Achates use a 2-stroke engine design. That means an engine with fewer parts that takes less room and creates power every other time the piston moves versus every fourth time it moves like in your car. The engineering challenge, though, is that two strokes traditionally are dirty and burn a lot of oil. Another OPOC design from Pinnacle Engines tries to solve for that by being a four-stroke engine. All of these OPOC designs are different from the flat-4 and flat-6 engines you find in a Subaru or a 911. Those engines just layout the cylinders in a flat array. But they still use a single piston per cylinder, and still work that piston against the face of a cylinder head. An interesting variant of the OPOC engine is one deployed as a linear generator. Where the two combustion driven pistons punch back and forth against each other as we've seen. But instead of turning a crank shaft, they slide spring-loaded magnets back and forth to create electricity. You're likely to hear more about these engines in the last half of this decade, so here are four concepts to bear in mind. They are more thermally Thermally efficient, because they don't have a heat sapping cylinder head. They have double the number of pistons in a cylinder, to pursue more power generating devices in less space. These are engines that seek to have fewer parts, and therefore less weight. And their generally flat packaging is something carmakers are interested in, as opposed to traditional tall, bulkier engines. [MUSIC] Welcome back to CNET on Cars, coming to you from our home at the Mt Tam Motor Club. Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm Brian Cooley. Time for my favorite part of the show, taking some of your emails. Let's see, this first one comes in from Will [SOUND] who says, we're seeing more and more cars with cylinder deactivation technology to deliver more efficient driving, but how does it work? Do the cylinders actually stop moving? Is this some sort of physical connection from one bank to another or some kind of electronic shutdown? While sonar deactivation has been around for quite a while, it's been done different ways. Let me tell you what the current state of the art is. It's sort of a misnomer. Cylinder deactivation deactivates the entire cylinder piston assembly, but it is not piston deactivated. The piston inside the cylinder keeps going up and down. There's a mechanical connection there that is simply too hard to break. It would require some Jules Vernian apparatus to cause that to disconnect and literally stop moving. Instead what we do is we turn off the fuel going into the cylinder, and we turn off the spark that is firing the fuel air mixture. Mixture in the cylinder, it's now an inert cylinder-piston-valve combination. Now the piston is still moving up and down inside the cylinder, which can cause drag in two ways. First of all you've got the piston rings, those are causing friction on the cylinder wall, can't get around that. But what you can do, is you can park the valves open because modern cars have the, These elaborate, addressable valve trains that can tell the valves, stay open in a breathing mode, so at least that dead cylinder isn't putting all the work into compressing air all the time, which would cause a lot more drag on the engine. Overall this system, while not perfect, Can rake some really good MPG gains. [SOUND] Okay, the next email comes in from Eric And who says he's trying to keep his 03 Camry going to at least 200,000 miles. Good, but he's wondering about a few technologies he'll find on a new car if he can't make the old Camry last that long. First of all, he says, are today's CVT, continuously variable transmission reliable? Would I buy one myself? Hm. interesting. Next he asks what happens to an LCD display in the dash when it fails? Does the whole dash unit have to be replaced? And third he asks, how does lane departure work in snow or in conditions where there are no visible road Markers. Okay, three things here, Eric. Let me take them one at a time. First of all, when it comes to CVTs, these used to get a lot of sneers from driving enthusiasts and car buffs. Not so much any more. Today CVTs are totally mainstream. They're not used in every car, but you will find them in far more than just low power econo boxes now. That's where they started. This is a technology that doesn't actually have gears. It has expanding pulleys and metal belts. They used to be very sort of floaty, rubbery, and slippy when you drove them. Now, you'll find one in vehicles as disparate as a four wheel drive Jeep Patriot on one end, or a 268 horsepower Subaru WRX. X on the other. The ones I drive lately tend to be a lot better. They tend to have synthetic gear and shift points that are much more satisfying. They have a little more bite when you step on the accelerator. So the CVT is here forever as a Part of the transmission ensemble, and they seem pretty robust. [MUSIC] Now, your next question is about LCDs in the dash, which is typically a big touch screen, sometimes not, if it's a German car. As far as I know, these are integral parts to the entire head unit. Should that LCD get broken or cracked or just fail, you don't replace the entire dash. But depending on your car, you may have to replace the entire head unit, which is the big box of gut behind it which extends way back into the dashboard and connects with tentacles electronically with many other parts of your car. Many GM cars would be an interesting car bout. Their screen is often separate from the head unit, and motorized. Now, I've never had to replace one. I'm gonna assume it's gonna be a whole head unit replacement. Maybe some designs are different and the screen itself can be done cost effectively. But that would be make and model specific. So I don't know exactly. But your third question is about snow. And adaptive driving systems, especially lane keeping. That's a big problem so far. It also affects the future of self driving, not just current driver assist cause they use a lot of the same sensors. Most of the driver-assisted technologies out there break down once you've got heavy rain, nasty hail. snow on the road coming down in front of your sensors, whether it's cameras or other sensors they're using. Lane keeping is done largely with cameras that look at lane line markings Read those and then tell the car to steer within them. If you can't see the lane lines, how do you tell the car where to steer? Current systems simply cannot and don't work in the snow. I can tell you this. We recently heard from Ford that they're working on what we believe is the first system that can work in snow by reading the contours of the road and other visual queues that tell it where it is. It may not be quite as precise. But it might find its way well enough. We'll let you know when our Hands on a system like that. But that's not in production just yet. [SOUND] Okay, stand by. When we come back, my top five technologies that are utterly changing the future track of automotive engineering when CNET On Cars returns. [BLANK_AUDIO] [SOUND] [MUSIC] Welcome back to C net on cars I'm Bryan Cooley with the top five list of I got to say up front Is very much in my opinion but I think you'll find this illuminating. It's my top five automotive engineering trends. These are trends that are long term. That are really shaping the industry right now. Not one given product or technology. Let's get started with number five. And here, I'm gonna start off in the seller admittedly with electrification of cars. Now, I'm gonna raise you lot of greenies here right now. But now that I do really like electric cars, I just think of the smallest of these by trends because they remain a sliver of automotive sales, that's a given and we don't get have vision into a major breakthrough in batteries tech that will get people over the hurdles, ever driver now that they have about buying Which is charge time and range, of course. Tesla Model S, Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, these have all been home runs within EV parameters. Once we get a major breakthrough in battery or maybe soaring gas prices again one day, the whole market may change for the better. [SOUND] Number 4 is a old chestnut. It's the internal combustion engine. Now you're probably thinking what is new about that? Just about everything. Go back a few years and the human cry was, the combustion engine is sunsetting. We had soaring gas prices. We had the arrival of electric cars. We had governments willing to throw money at anything with a battery in it. But then guess what happened. The internal combustion engine got massively high tech. Turbos, direct injection, computerized valve trains. Four cylinders instead of six or even eight. Cylinder deactivation, auto start stop, high compression ratios, Atkinson cycle layouts. And I'm leaving a few out. We've got so many hot new technologies in the combustion engine, it's gonna keep firing on all cylinders for quite a while. Number three you already know in your bones. It's connectivity. Your car is becoming a mobile, connected digital device as well as a transportation platform. Whether it's 4G and Google Services Phone interfaces like CarPlay and Android Auto. Your favorite streaming services, built-in dash by the factory, for an ODB two dongle under the dash. Connectivity is enabling things in your car that range from infotainment, to remote access, to new ways of ride and car sharing and new ways of rating, pricing, and delivering Insurance. This is the big future of how your car is the latest data probe in your life. And if that makes you queasy, you can always drive a 67 like I did. [MUSIC] Number 2 is a big one, a mega trend. This is going to be autonomy, adaptive driving systems now Partial autonomy in the future, and substantial self-driving not that many years out. Nothing out there will so impact the number of fatalities, the number of injuries, the logic of how we use our cars, and even the layout and shape of our cities and suburbs as this one will. It's also the one that most Divides driver opinions makes Republicans and Democrats looks like they're in love with each other. [SOUND] [MUSIC] My number one automotive engineering trend for today and many years out might surprise you, It's taking out weight. Now that used to mean back in the day, just buying a smaller car not a palatable choice to most people. Now it means the use of amazing new material. Aluminum, carbon fibre, low weight high strength steel. Using CAD design to make structures that weigh less, do more, and are stronger at the same time. When a car is lighter, it gets better MPG. As a result, spews fewer emissions. It accelerates faster, brakes more quickly, corners more effortlessly, and puts less wear on its own parts, like shocks and brakes and tires. This is the holy grail with every automotive engineer Engineer I talk to. Less car is more and we're in a golden era of really making a difference there. [SOUND] Thanks for watching. Hope you enjoyed this episode. You know a lot of this show is built around your emails so keep them coming at OnCars@cnet.com. I read every one, reply to as many as I can't. I'll see you next time we check the deck. [MUSIC] [SOUND]