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Chevy Technology Series Part 1: Powertrain

ENGINEERING ELEVATED TO SWEET SCIENCE

Chevrolet’s 100th birthday was properly celebrated. For that we say “thank you.” Now, on to our second 100 years. No company can live on its past accomplishments — in the automotive business, forget the philosophy that suggests you are only as good as your last product. In this industry, you’re only as good as your next product. Over the next six months, we’ll tell you what Chevrolet is doing now, and what we have planned for the near and not-so-near future. Never has technology played a more critical role. And never has Chevrolet had such a superior technology story to share.

We won’t bore you. Not in these pages, nor in the driver seat of new Chevrolets. No matter what you’re driving right now, you’ll never think of Chevrolet the same way again. If we learned anything at our 100th birthday party, it’s that Chevrolet climbed to the top by delivering what its customers want and need. Sometimes even before they know it.

Birth of the Small Block V8

That was the case in 1955, when Chevrolet delivered the 265-cubic-inch small block V8. The ’55 V8 was available in two versions — standard was a 162-horsepower model with a 2-barrel carburetor and single exhaust. Even then, though, Chevrolet was thinking performance, as the optional engine had a 4-barrel carburetor, dual exhaust and 180 horsepower. Modern, compact and startlingly powerful, no one knew then just what long legs the engine developed by engineering superstar Ed Cole would have – that the basic architecture Cole helped develop would still be powering our fire-breathing flagship, the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, with its 638-horsepower LS9. There is no way Cole could have imagined that last year, we’d build our 100 millionth small block.

“Chevrolet has never shied away from new technology,” says Jim Campbell, Chevrolet vice president for performance vehicles and motorsports, “but we embrace, and recognize, what works.” The differences between the V8 in the 1955 Chevrolet and the sophisticated Corvette’s LS9 are significant, but there are undeniable constants — the 90-degree configuration and the 4.4-inch on-center bore spacing. “We have continued to develop and innovate the small block V8 to deliver the unique combination of performance, durability and efficiency,” says Campbell.

The small block’s success reminds us that simple, elegant solutions often set the highest standards. With technologies that include aluminum block and cylinder heads, a forged steel crank, forged titanium connecting rods, titanium intake valves and hollow-stem sodium-filled exhaust valves, Corvette’s handcrafted LS7 and LS9 V8 engines deliver massive output in a compact, efficient package.

The Small Block V8 Races to Victory

The small block V8 has long been the engine of choice for racers, ranging from Saturday night short-trackers to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series™ competitors, where Chevrolet has won the last nine Manufacturers’ Championships. Capitalizing on the technology-transfer benefit from racing, the factory-backed Corvette Team will again compete in the American Le Mans Series this year, with a trip to France for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Corvette has taken seven class victories. The 2012 racer is the revised C6.R, with a naturally aspirated V8, based on Corvette Z06’s 7.0-liter V8, reduced to 5.5 liters per the sanctioning body’s rules.

None of this should suggest that the curtain is closing on the small block V8. We are now developing the fifth-generation V8, or “Gen V,” as it’s called inside the walls of our powertrain development center. Expect higher compression and the fuelsaving, power-producing direct fuel injection across the board.

Make no mistake: V8 engines are a major reason why Camaro and Corvette accounted for one out of every three sports cars sold in the United States in 2011. And the popularity extends far beyond our borders. The Chevrolet Camaro Convertible was named “Muscle Car of the Year” by Evo Middle East, a monthly auto magazine based in Dubai. “We liked the style and presence of the Camaro, the V8 engine and its effortless ability to cruise or light up the rear tires, depending on our mood,” said the jury.

It’s a small world.

V6: Intersection of Power and Efficiency

Penske Racing IndyCar® driver Helio Castroneves, who has won three Indianapolis 500 races, will go for a fourth this year, powered by a Chevrolet IndyCar V6. Chevrolet, which earned 104 wins and seven Indy500® victories, returns to open-wheel racing with a vengeance in 2012 with an engine co-developed by Chevrolet and partner Ilmor Engineering — a twin-turbocharged, direct-injected V6 that, on most tracks, is expected to be as fast or faster than the V8 it replaces.

This reconnection with IndyCar racing and the Indianapolis 500 brings Chevrolet back to the track where the company’s co-founder, Louis Chevrolet, began competing in 1909. IndyCar “will be a showcase for the efficient and powerful engine technologies that parallel new Chevrolet vehicles,” says Chris Perry, vice president of Chevrolet marketing.

So far, the reports are positive. “I love the engine,” Castroneves says. “Power is linear through all the gears, and our fans will love the speed and the sound. It’s a step forward.”

Camaro — High-Tech V6 Delivers

Racing a V6 provides a remarkable technology test bed for passenger-car engines, where the Camaro V6 is making a mark. The Camaro LFX V6 pumps out 323 horsepower and offers up to an EPA-estimated 30 mpg on the highway — using regular gasoline. For 2012, there are new cylinder heads with integrated exhaust manifolds, connecting rods that are both stronger and lighter, and new higher-flow fuel injectors. Along with 4-valve-per-cylinder technology, direct injection and Variable Valve Timing, the V6 happily revs up to a 7200-rpm redline, with an 11.5:1 compression ratio.

It wasn’t long ago that the power output from today’s Camaro base engine would have ranked with previous performance V8s: In 2002, the Chevrolet Camaro Z28, with its 5.7-liter V8, had 310 horsepower, and the top-of-the- line SS had 325 horsepower.

Deserving of praise too are the V6 engines in Chevrolet crossovers, like Traverse and its 3.6-liter V6. Direct injection and Variable Valve Timing enables it to offer an EPA-estimated 24 mpg on the highway, remarkable for an eight-passenger vehicle.

Sonic 4-Cylinder — Innovation Drives Performance

The challenge, says Bob Benedict, assistant chief engineer for the ECOTEC® 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, is obvious: Make Chevrolet’s smallest engines deliver what is expected from a 4-cylinder — economy, reliability, useful power — along with meeting Chevrolet’s other central mandate: It should be fun to drive. “That’s a goal, and I think we’ve addressed it,” Benedict says. “And then some.”

A prime example is Sonic — opt for the 1.4-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, and you have a very gutsy 138 horsepower and a remarkable 148 lb.-ft. of torque, with that peak torque measured at just 2500 rpm. This unexpected lowend power is delivered through an available 6-speed manual transmission or 6-speed automatic — surprising features in Sonic’s price range.

Cruze Eco — MPG and the Fun Factor

Cruze Eco, with the smooth-shifting 6-speed manual transmission, is rated at a stunning EPA-estimated 42 mpg on the highway, with an unexpectedly high fun-to-drive factor. But Cruze has a dedicated sporting side as well: It took the World Touring Car Championship Cup in 2010 and 2011, the first-ever Chevrolet vehicle to win such honors in an FIA-organized series.

Malibu — Two New Options

As the role of the 4-cylinder grows, it must also evolve to serve multiple platforms. This Fall, the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu will offer a new ECOTEC 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 259 horsepower, which is more muscle than any V6 ever offered in the Malibu — expect a brisk 0-to-60 mph time of just 6.3 seconds. By Summer, Malibu will also be available with a new ECOTEC 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that pumps out a healthy 197 horsepower. Both engines benefit from direct injection.

Malibu represents a leadership position for Chevrolet on an international basis. The 2013 Malibu is Chevrolet’s first truly global midsize sedan, and it will eventually be sold in nearly 100 countries on six continents. Front and center in the Malibu technology lineup is the Malibu Eco with eAssist. Available now, this combines start-stop technology with regenerative braking and a lightweight lithium-ion battery to provide an electric boost when needed. Mileage is rated at an EPA-estimated 25 mpg city, 37 highway.

Regardless of the number of cylinders, the engines in Chevrolet vehicles are at the sharp end of the sweet science of powertrain technology. As for what’s next — well, that’s coming next month when we tell you about our interest in electric, hybrid, hydrogen, compressed natural gas and diesel propulsion — plus a couple of surprises.

    


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