To so-called “motor heads” – those who love high-performance petrol power – the note of a burbling exhaust from a well-tuned and potent automobile can sound like music.
So imagine the dismay some car fans may feel if the Chevrolet Corvette is one day forced to employ stop-start technology.
Given federal fuel economy and emissions rules to take effect later this decade, this is a distinct possibility said Tadge Juechter, Corvette chief engineer, speaking to Edmunds.
Already the 2014 Corvette uses cylinder deactivation to cut its 6.2 liter V8 into an effective 3.1-liter V4 when needed. Combined with a host of other efficiency tech, the 7th generation 460-horsepower Corvette with manual 7-speed gets a relatively astonishing 17 mpg city/29 mpg highway, according to the EPA.
Of course cylinder deactivation means many of those ponies are momentarily held at bay, but Juechter said he has seen actual highway efficiency knocking on the back door of hybrids.
“I tell people the real car can get what the label says,” Juechter said. “I have gotten a lot better than the label. Driving up north in Michigan, I have gotten 38 mpg, cruising along in the new Corvette with the cruise set at 63. You are idling essentially in four-cylinder and I got 38 mpg over a 25-mile moving average.”
This beats the 16 mpg city/ 26 mpg highway rating for the 2013 ‘Vette, but as for stop-start tech, GM decided against it this time around with the 2014 car’s redesign because it would impugn the image of the America icon.
“It is more mass and more cost,” Juechter told Edmunds of heavier battery, electronics, and starter motor needed for stop-start. “It is very disconcerting to have your lively, great-sounding engine stall every time you come to a stop. The real customer value, the real environmental value is zero. So you are hauling around all that stuff to get a better label value (for mpg on the window sticker). It wasn’t worth it.”
As you may ascertain, GM would only do such a thing like a kid dragged to a scrubbing.
But Juechter conceded the day of full boulevard bragging rights as they have been known may be beginning to wane as GM “may” need to add stop-start which would shut down the engine at a stop to save a bit a fuel, Prius-style.
“But is that something we lead in [with the redesigned car],” Jueger asked rhetorically. “Or is that something we do when we are forced to do? It is possible.”
The result of technology that would re-start the engine when the driver’s foot comes off the brake and heads toward the accelerator would be perhaps a 2 mpg savings, Jeuger said.
And this is just the beginning of what some may view as a castrating effect on the modern muscle car by future regulations of which Juechter said “eventually you are going to see a bunch of compromises.”
Presently the Corvette is not set up to accommodate the larger battery and electric motor that would allow for stop-start, and, Jeuger said, GM has no plans to ever make a hybrid version of its Corvette.
This is where the automaker stands, facing the winds defiantly as it can, even as Porsche has announced it will offer hybridized variants of all its muscular German icons this decade, and Tesla is creating a new sound evocative of high-performance: silence.