There are certain events on my calendar that I look forward to year after year. SEMA is the light at the end of the tunnel, the last hoorah for the year. Besides partying for five days straight into the wee hours of the morning, SEMA gives me the opportunity to get story ideas for the following year. For me, SEMA is like an oversized Wal-Mart with thousands of new products and hundreds of exhibitors.
My coworkers often joke about the size of my shopping cart this year. As I am the hunter/gatherer type, searching and harvesting for any new gizmo or accessory to test or preview in the magazine. This year was sort of a disappointment in my eyes compared to previous years.
First, I would like to point out the good things I saw at SEMA. Design Engineering Inc. unveiled the C02 driven turbocharger. Still in the developmental stages the C02 turbocharger is spun by compressed air, which is capable of producing two to three psi of boost pressure. By incorporating a staged system, after running the turbocharger, the leftover gases are still extremely cold which can still be used to chill the charge air and fuel rail before discharging on the intercooler for further cooling benefits.
We went to check out the DEI booth for the company's revolutionary product. DEI has tested the system on Dave Buscher's RWD Eclipse dragster with positive results and plans to further research the possibilities of the C02 turbo system. We can't wait to try out the new system once it's operational.
If you are a 350Z owner and a horsepower junkie you will be glad to know that there are nearly a half-dozen supercharger or turbo kits now available for the Nissan. The two, new forced-induction kits we found to be exceptional are the Turbonetics' single-turbo system and APS' twin-turbo kit. Both kits generate about 360 to 375 horsepower to the rear wheels on 91-octane juice through the factory exhaust.
We took a spin in the Turbonetics 350Z and will be the first to tell you the system is flawless. Unlike other turbo or supercharger kits available on the market that utilize an aftermarket piggyback computer for fuel enrichment the Turbonetics kit comes with a reflashed ECU for complete engine management. This is one reason why the Turbonetics system drives like a stock car until the hammer is dropped. When you do hold on it is because the single turbo spools up quickly and tire spin is inevitable.
APS' twin-turbo system is also an impressive system, the company claims 400 horsepower with 93-octane fuel. The turbos are big enough to supply enough airflow for 600 ponies with the right fuel and tuning.
In the electronics department we were most impressed with Pioneer's Avic-N2 unit, the successor to the Avic-N1. The Avic-N2, like the Avic-N1, is a head unit that offers DVD, navigation and audio capabilities but takes it one step further with real time traffic updates. The Avic-N2 is capable of informing the driver where an accident has occurred and give the driver alternate routes.
By utilizing XM technology the Avic-N2 relays accident and congested traffic information, cutting your commute time. For those who have already purchased the Avic-N1 and can't live without the traffic feature don't be upset because Pioneer is going to offer upgraded software and hardware for the N1 unit. The only drawback is that in order for the traffic software to work you need a subscription to XM.
Now on to what we saw that was bad at SEMA. We are still seeing a bunch of knock-off companies at SEMA, which in our eyes do not bring any benefit to the industry. However, this year we noticed the number of knock-off companies was reduced compared to previous years but the numbers is still staggering. The copycats, which we like to call them, do not help to elevate the industry but in fact hold the industry back.
The truth of the matter is legitimate companies are scared to release new products at SEMA because they are worried that a knock-off company will copy the product and bring the inferior product to market before ample testing. If a consumer purchases the inferior product and something goes wrong it leaves a bad taste in their mouth, no matter what company it comes from. The backlash can hurt the product before the legitimate company can release the part. The copycats can prevent the industry from taking evolutionary steps forward.
And lastly, the ugly part of SEMA is the number of cars at SEMA that do not belong there. I am talking about a bone stock car with wheels and lowering job but nothing else. This is not a car show even though it feels like one. This makes our jobs harder to locate the truly unique rides at SEMA. When you have to look at 10 cars and only find one out of the bunch that is worthy of acknowledgement it can be frustrating and time consuming. For those guilty parties please do everyone and favor and leave your bone stockers at home or at least put some more accessories on to make it worth our while.