Czinger 21C first ride review: 3D printed nonsense

As a passenger in a speeding car on a racetrack, I’m usually looking through the windshield and scanning the curves ahead, just like the driver. But as I’m being taken on a hot lap in the Czinger 21C around Thermal Club’s South Palm track by IMSA pilot Joel Miller, my view ahead is blocked – by the driver’s seat.

Unlike almost every other car out there, the 21C has a tandem seating arrangement, with a mostly glass canopy that looks like it’s straight out of a car. top gun fighter jet. From the backseat, my only option is to look through the long side windows into the corners, which is a pretty impressive sight, although it’s still a bit of a nerve-racking experience – on the straights we’ve hit over 150mph, and I have no clue what to do. it’s coming. But the seating arrangement isn’t even close to being the craziest thing about this American hypercar, which is one of the most interesting and innovative vehicles I’ve ever experienced.

On first inspection, the 21C might remind you of a LMP1 Le Mans prototype or some other kind of extreme racing car, but its styling is truly unique. The tandem cabin allows for a narrow body but wide stance, with the 21C’s body looking like it’s been wrapped up in a Formula 1 car. Drag is coming soon – and it features an extreme aero package that includes a front splitter with vanes and a massive top-mounted rear wing.

And yet, this isn’t a band-only special. The 21C is fully homologated for road use in the US, meeting all crash test standards and emission regulations.

The 21C looks amazing.

Czinger

The 21C has a single, large butterfly door on each side, and despite not having a B-pillar, it’s difficult to slide into any seat thanks to the extremely wide, high sills. The front seat is a super thin carbon fiber bucket, while the rear “seat” is molded directly from the chassis. The passenger also doesn’t have much padding or bumps to hold on to. I’m 1.50m tall and I have to bend over to get into a comfortable position, and with a helmet I don’t have much headroom. There’s plenty of legroom, at least with your feet propped up next to the driver’s seat.

A roller coaster for the road and track

Powering the 21C is a 2.9-liter, twin-turbo flat-crank V8 engine that was designed in-house by Czinger and is mated to a seven-speed sequential transmission that sends power to the rear wheels. On its own, the engine is already wild, producing 950 horsepower and revving to a redline of 11,000 rpm. But Czinger also combines it with an 800-volt electrical system, a 2.8-kilowatt-hour battery, an electric motor at the front axle and two motors at the rear axle. Despite all that, the 21C weighs less than 2,900 pounds.

Total output is 1,350 horsepower, though this first-ride prototype is under a few hundred horsepower. Czinger cites a 0-62 mph time of 1.9 seconds, and the 21C takes just 8.5 seconds to reach 186 mph from a stop, asking just 5.4 seconds longer to come to a complete stop from that speed. Top speed is 253 mph, or 281 mph for the low-drag car. Acceleration is immediate and intense, with the high-frequency V8 soundtrack augmented by the hum of electric motors. That kind of gut-punching physics rivals the feel of faster EVs, and the slowdown is just as jarring. The 21C’s brakes are carbon-ceramic, with 16.1-inch discs and six-piston calipers at the front and 15.3-inch discs with four-piston calipers at the rear. The 21C also uses regenerative braking which assists with deceleration and charges the battery via a motor-generator unit.

Talk to me, Goose!

Daniel Golson/CNET

Straight line speed is only part of the picture. The 21C produces 1,356 pounds of downforce at 100 mph and 5,512 pounds at 200 mph, and uses Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2R tires that are as close to a real racing tire as possible. The hybrid setup provides precise torque vectoring capabilities that really make the 21C feel like it’s on the rails when cornering – it’s like riding one of those high-speed roller coasters. There is no perceptible sense of weight transfer and zero skinny body; even when we hit the curb on the track, the 21C feels fully planted and stable. From the passenger seat, the 21C easily rivals GT3 race cars in terms of speed, grip and g-forces.

Open the large rear claw to reveal the engine and you’ll discover what really sets the 21C apart. Where you’d normally see a mess of straight lines and carbon fiber struts that make up the car’s frame, the 21C’s engine compartment looks almost organic. That’s because almost everything about the 21C was 3D printed with the help of artificial intelligence. Not serious.

3D printing the future

Czinger was co-founded and is currently managed by father-son duo Kevin and Lukas Czinger, the former of whom is also CEO of Divergent, Czinger’s parent company, a pioneer in 3D printing technology. Entering the company’s headquarters in Torrance, Calif., is more like entering Iron Man’s laboratory than a traditional car company. (Also gives shades of Westworldalthough Czinger’s robots and AI are not in the way of rebelling against humans.)

The company’s innovative Divergent Adaptive Production System essentially automates the design and development process for most 21C parts. Engineers connect the attributes and constraints that each component needs in a computer, from how much it must weigh and how it must fit and connect with other parts, to what kind of g-force it must withstand and how much it will cost to produce. AI software generates the perfect design by running thousands of simulations to optimize the shape and construction of the part, making it as strong as possible.

This takes a tiny fraction of the time it normally would, removing a lot of the engineering legwork and resulting in parts with a unique appearance that mimics many things found in nature, like the cell wall of a plant under a microscope or the tendons in a muscle. . Control arms, for example, are hollow with an internal structure that saves weight and increases strength compared to a normal vehicle arm.

It’s not your typical engine bay.

Daniel Golson/CNET

Since the DAPS features the design optimized for one part, they are produced by some of the biggest 3D printers I’ve ever seen. Czinger’s printers are some of the most advanced in the world, using 12 lasers capable of printing many times faster than other systems. AI also optimizes the manufacturing process so there is zero metal wastage in creating each part. Divergent also came up with the aluminum alloy used by printers. Currently, the only things that aren’t 3D printed are the carbon fiber body panels, wheels, leather and fabric interior components, suspension and the entire powertrain, but Czinger is working on adapting many of these parts. to printers too.

Divergent’s technology also made it easier and faster to improve the 21C throughout its development. The working prototype I’ve assembled is the only one Czinger currently has, and that’s partly because he doesn’t need to make another one. It only takes a few hours to design, perfect and print a new part where it used to take days. If engineers have an idea of ​​how to improve something, they simply have the AI ​​prepare the perfect solution, print it out, and put it in the car. This is the 10th iteration of the 21C since it was first shown in 2020, and Czinger is sure to keep improving before production begins.

But the real trick of the party, at least visually, is how everything is put together. Since even the most massive 3D printers can still make things that would fit in the space of a large oven, smaller parts need to be produced and combined to create a usable component. Czinger uses ultra-strong adhesives, also designed in-house by the company’s scientists, that can cure in just seconds and result in a stronger bond than existing solutions. DAPS also offers ways to connect parts to each other that do not require special brackets or mounting points, as each part is designed to organically fit together.

Robots!

Czinger

Instead of a traditional assembly line, Czinger uses a group of about a dozen robots, all arranged in a circle. One robot holds a component while others reach out to apply the stickers and glue other parts together. Once the robots have all the parts, it only takes a few minutes to assemble a part, such as the subframe of the car. And because the entire process is AI-optimized and doesn’t require special molds, dies or part assemblies, it’s easy for robots to move on to the next project with little downtime. The whole thing is pretty mind-blowing, especially when you see the production process up close.

what comes next

Just 80 examples of the 21C will be built at a starting price of around $2 million each, with about half the probability of being the low-drag model, and deliveries will begin next summer. The 21C is infinitely customizable, with owners basically specifying their cars exactly as they wish.

Czinger is already thinking beyond 21C. During Monterey Car Week, the next Czinger model will be unveiled. The company is also expanding rapidly, with its few hundred engineers and designers being augmented by some of the best of the Mercedes and Williams Formula 1 teams. a more mainstream model produced in a higher volume, although the company and the products it offers are still more McLaren than Mitsubishi.

Look how tiny the cabin is.

Czinger

Beyond just making Czinger an established name in the high-end automotive space, the real goal is for Divergent’s innovative processes to be licensed for use by other major automakers, something that is already underway with several brands. Using Divergent’s AI software and 3D printers would allow other brands to abandon or downsize large sections of their factories, eliminating the need for things like stamping lines. While final assembly of the 21C is done by hand, the manufacturing process can be easily scaled up and automated, with 3D printers and robots working in tandem with a more traditional assembly line.

What Czinger and Divergente are doing really looks like the future of car manufacturing. The DAPS process is faster, smarter and cheaper than traditional manufacturing and results in much less waste and better performance. It could be used to improve every kind of car on the road. It turns out that the showcase of this new technology is an absurd hypercar.

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