The Virtual Driver

Sporty, solid and sexy — Audi’s S5 Sportback

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(July 21, 2018) “Great looking with an amazing body.” It’s a simple declarative sentence that could put you in front of a #metoo firing squad — if you weren’t referring to Audi’s S5 Sportback, that is.


From its introduction in 2007, the A5 has been a stunner. Designed under the watchful eye of Walter de Silva who, during his stint at Alfa Romeo (1986-1999), drew the delectable Alfa 156, a car that put Alfa back on the map stylistically, and brought lust back to the affordable sedan sector.

Dodge’s Demonic 2019 Challenger lineup

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(July 15, 2018) You may be getting tired of those Dodge commercials where Challengers and Chargers and even Durango SRTs do monstrous, smoky drifts through empty city streets. “Yes, Dodge is FCA’s performance brand. We get it,” you might think to yourself as the commercial runs.

Mazda takes a giant step toward HCCI

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(July 9, 2018) HCCI, Homogenous Charge Compression Ignition, is the holy grail of internal combustion in that gasoline engines would run like diesels on compression ignition, at much higher efficiency levels, and with lower pollution. The basic problem with HCCI, however, has been the inability to control the combustion process under changing conditions. Leave it to the boffins at Mazda to take a look at the problem from a less theoretically rigid angle to create a workable solution.

BMW hides its new sport coupe under a tech platform

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(July 6, 2018) The first generation 8 Series was introduced in 1989 as a top of the line coupe for the BMW brand, sitting above the 7 Series sedan in the same way the 6 Series sat above the 5 Series. More powerful, luxurious and expensive than the 6 Series, the V8- or V12-powered 8 Series suffered from slowing sales and falling demand, leading to its cancellation in 1999.

Ford, VW examine potential vehicle opportunities

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(June 28, 2018) The announcement that Ford and VW were looking at opportunities in the commercial vehicle market came as a surprise. Prior to the announcement, there were no indications the two OEMs were talking, much less that they had identified an area of mutual interest.

Ford's purchase seems smart, but what about underlying problems?

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(June 25, 2018) On the surface, it looks like a smart move. Not only does Ford’s purchase of the Michigan Central Station resurrect a dilapidated eyesore and promise to its former architectural glory, it continues the resurrection of Detroit (“America’s Comeback City” to use the local tagline), and creates a skunkworks for Ford’s “New Mobility” efforts away from the Old Think in Dearborn.

Sedans, SUVs and group think

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(June 20, 2018) In July 1990, Car Magazine ran a cover showing the front ends of various European cars with the headline: “Euro-car Clones: Who’ll Put a Stop to Dead-end Design?” It was a provocative question, one that took eight pages to answer, but its ultimate result was to give mankind the fish-mouth Ford Scorpio and oval grilles on every Ford that followed. Variety is, as the saying goes, the spice of life, but for all of the perceived variety in the auto industry, it is a business very much steeped in Group Think.

Making pickups lighter without aluminum

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(June 17, 2018) The 2013 unveiling of the Ford Atlas concept in Detroit sent shivers down the spine of the competition. It meant that, two years later, a 700-pound lighter, aluminum-bodied F-150 would be hitting the market. Early planning for the next generation Silverado and Ram was just starting, and Ford had thrown the competition’s engineering teams an unexpected curve. Lightweighting was already part of the agenda, but the coming F-150 made it the main focus.

BMW’s fourth-generation X5 gets grilled

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(June 13, 2018) As hard as it may be to believe, BMW’s X5 is 20 years old and about to enter its fourth generation. Built exclusively in BMW’s Spartanburg, S.C., assembly plant, more than 2.2 million units of the sport utility have been sold globally in that period, with more than 720,000 of those sales in the U.S. It was BMW’s first SUV, and has since been joined in Spartanburg by the X3, X5, and X6. A range-topping X7 will join the party soon.

Audi A4 provides insight into the frustrations of advanced systems

By Christoper A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(June 3, 2018) Allow me to set the scene. It’s midday. The sun is shining and the roads are dry. Temperature is in the mid 60s. I am driving in one of Detroit’s many suburbs, having just turned left to travel east down another two-lane road. There are houses on either side of the street, with a single story school administration building just ahead on the right.