It took a former Rolls Royce aircraft engineer to design. But this week, Yakima unveiled to the U.S. market what it is calling the quietest and most fuel-efficient roof rack ever made. At a press event in Snowbird, Utah, the day before the Outdoor Retailer trade show kicks off in Salt Lake City, the company previewed its “Whispbar” line of racks, which will come in multiple iterations and sold as a “sub-brand” through existing Yakima dealers.
To show off the sleek new line of racks, which have a tear-drop side profile like that of an airplane wing, the company hauled an 8,000-pound wind tunnel (photo below) to Utah for demonstrations on the trade show floor. “We’ll put the wind up to 100mph so you can hear the effect,” said Ron Ten Berge, a company VP.
Optimum aerodynamics, a clean aesthetic, and an easy-to-install setup are the main selling features of the Whispbar line, which includes racks that will sell for $349 and more. With high price tags and subtle, low-profile looks, the Whispbar racks will be marketed as a premium product toward people who drive the likes of Volvos, Audis, BMWs, and other fancy cars (but still want to haul bikes and kayaks somewhere on the weekend!).
Yakima claims the special bar cuts wind drag by up to 70 percent as compared to traditional round or rectangle roof bars. This can save fuel. Ten Berge said the rack will have the “lowest possible impact” on diminishing the gas mileage of a vehicle equipped with a wind-slicing Whispbar rack.
Yakima did not design the Whispbar line from the ground up. The back story is that Yakima bought a New Zealand company called Whispbar/Hubco in late 2010. That aforementioned Rolls Royce engineer? He was the man behind Whispbar/Hubco’s namesake line of racks, which have been sold in New Zealand and Australia since 2007. The same line is now for sale in the United States via Yakima channels, and Yakima rack components and attachments are compatible with the skinny Whispbar shape.
At the OR Show, I’ll be excited to see the wind tunnel in action and hear (or not hear?) the effect moving air has when it passes by these bars. More impressive to me than the aerodynamics, the Whispbar system promises a major upgrade in user-friendliness for installs. The rack foot and rack bars come sold together. Unlike many rack setups, where you need to buy bars, rack “feet,” car-fit pieces, lock cores, and other accessories separately, Yakima says Whispbar is more plug-and-play. “Two boxes,” Ten Berge promised. “That’s all you’ll need to buy.”
The Whispbar rack shipped to some Yakima dealers this month. It will be available widely this fall and winter at retailers throughout the United States.
—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com. Connect with Regenold at Facebook.com/TheGearJunkie or on Twitter via @TheGearJunkie.