By Jens Meiners
Each week, our German correspondent slices and dices the latest rumblings, news, and quick-hit driving impressions from the other side of the pond. His byline may say Jens Meiners, but we simply call him . . . the Continental.
Next week, the inner circle of the powertrain engineering world convenes at the Vienna Engine Symposium. I expect this year’s meeting will again be exciting, as further advances in the internal combustion engine could render the complex and expensive efforts at electrification futile. Professor Hans-Peter Lenz from Vienna, who leads the Symposium, takes delight in the fact that “the EV hype is over and has been replaced by fact-based reporting.” He states that “every new engine generation achieves gains of about 20 percent in terms of efficiency, emissions, and power. This means that the efficiency of conventional powertrains grows at a higher rate than the progress of electric powertrains.”
Moreover, the argument that fossil-fuel supplies will run out within our lifetimes seems to be solidly demolished by the advent of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technology. (And oil is still going to be around as well.) At a recent BMW event, a German engineer roundly dismissed the hydraulic tech: “Fracking is not the way.” But this seems to be a specifically German perspective. It is the same country that’s shutting down perfectly good nuclear power stations without consulting its neighbors—because of a tsunami in Japan.
Speakers in Vienna will include Daimler’s R&D chief Thomas Weber, his BMW counterpart Herbert Diess, and Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn. Their appearance promises to provide rare insight in technological and corporate strategies. I am looking forward to this as an absolute highlight of the automotive year.
A New Unimog
Daimler is launching a face-lifted version of its Unimog truck, a commercial vehicle with both a cult-like following and unsurpassed off-road capabilities. (The former partly due to the latter.) The next Unimog will meet Euro-6 emissions regulations, it receives an upgraded electronics architecture, and revised styling inside and out. We will even see a huge, Mercedes-Benz SL–inspired grill grace the ‘Mog’s front end; testing is underway in Scandinavia.
Chinese-owned Volvo is serious about launching its Polestar high-performance line, and the S60 Polestar is the first full-on Polestar model to make it into dealerships. It is powered by a version of Volvo’s ubiquitous turbocharged straight-six, tweaked to produce 350 horsepower at 5700 rpm. That is 50 horsepower more than the regular S60 T6 and 25 more than the S60 T6 R-Design. Maximum torque is rated at “over 368″ lb-ft from 2800 to 4750 rpm. To squeeze out the extra power, Volvo has replaced the S60′s turbocharger and intercooler with bigger units and installed a free-flow exhaust system. The sedan’s Aisin-supplied six-speed automatic is unchanged. But Volvo has upgraded