The Most Awesomest Engine Ever!

The V8 Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) is a magnificent piece of engineering and is probably the engine with the most character. But before we get into that, a brief history: The first known V8 engine was built in 1904 and was called the Antoinette. It was built by Frenchman Léon Levevasseur for use in speedboats and airplanes. It weighed 86kg and had a whopping 37KW (50HP). In the same year, the V8 was put into small-scale production by Buchet and Renault for use in their airplanes and racing cars respectively. 031d5c33974d7b993f08a6b419bff12a

In 1905, the first V8 used in a motorcar was a 3.5L in the Rolls Royce V-8 however, they built three cars before reverting back to straight-sixes. Officially, the 1910 De Dion-Bouton was the first car to use the V8 in large quantities and the 1914 Cadillac ‘L-head’ V8 was considered to be the first mass-produced V8 engine. This engine was assisted by Cadillac’s pioneering use of the electric starter motor.

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Since then, the V8 engine flourished in popularity in a range of different sizes and outputs. In the USA, V8s were abundant and aided to the creation of various motorsports – the biggest being NASCAR (which pretty-much only Americans watch). Australia decided to throw their hat into the ring with Holden stuffing V8s into many of their cars, resulting in the popular V8 Supercars racing competition.

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The V8 became so popular that people started putting them into cars that really shouldn’t have them. Ford did this a lot. In South Africa, a company did it with the Mustang’s Windsor V8 in the Capri and called it the Capri Perana. Another one of these swaps was with the Sierra XR8 – an incredibly boring hatchback-sedan-type thing with one of the best noises I have ever heard. It’s absolutely glorious!

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Europe – not wanting to be left out – produced some of the best V8s in the world, with my absolute favourite being the M156 which was the first in-house engine from AMG. The glorious grumbly noise from the naturally-aspirated engine is just awesome! The same goes for the slightly tuned M159 in the SLS AMG (my all-time favourite car). BMW also have a good history with their V8s, with the most popular versions being in the E90 M3 and the M5 from the E39 generation onwards (excluding the E60 because of the impostor V10).

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Jaguar was behind a little bit, but eventually they caughtb the train with their AJ V8 engines which were even used by Ford. Morgan simply decided to ask for engines and thus got a contract with BMW for their 4, 6 and 8 cylinder engines. Finally, Aston Martin used the  Jaguar engines for its Vantage up until 2018 when they got AMG’s 4.0L for the new model. For the 2020 model year, one can order a V8 Vantage with a manual, making it the only manual application of the AMG M177. Awesome!

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Ferrari had their go with the V8 and it worked out brilliantly. From the 308 GTB to the new SF90 Stradale, the V8 engine (along with the symphonic V12) is the exploding heart of the Prancing Horse. Their naturally aspirated V8s are some of the highest revving road-car engines and everyone was suspicious when Ferrari announced they were going turbo-charged. It worked however, and it worked so well that people who drive the cars fitted with these engines say they feel no turbo-lag. The new SF90 has recently set the fastest lap of the Top Gear Test Track, beating the time set by a 488 Pista by 1.4 seconds. Granted, it has the same engine and power-output, but it comes with three extra electric motors, boosting it to 735KW (986HP), around 200KW more than the Pista.

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Maserati has also had its history with the V8, harking back to 1964 in the 5000GT. The best of the lot though is the Tipo F136 engine which was a Maserati/Ferrari collaboration. It was used in almost all Maserati’s between 2001 and 2019 – from the Coupe, Spyder and GranTurismo, to the Quattroporte. It was even put in the GranTurismo-based Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione and gorgeous Disco Volante limited production car. Ferrari used it in the F430, California and heavily altered in the 458. The best sounding applications of the engine however, are in the GranTurismo S and the Quattroporte S, where it is 4.7 litres of harmonious glory. I make a point of it to own a GranTurismo in whichever racing game it is featured in just to listen to the noise.

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As we all know, Volkswagen owns many, MANY different automakers – particularly Audi, Porsche and Bentley – which uses the same 4.0l Twin-Turbo V8 in their cars, albeit in different states of tune. The coolest applications being in the Audi RS6 Avant, RS7 and new Bentley Continental. Porsche boosts their version of the engine with additional electric motors in the e-hybrid trims for the Panamera and Cayenne, reaching an awe-inspiring 500KW out of it. My question thus is, why not put those versions in the larger Audi RS models? Imagine an RS6, RS7, S8 or even a new R8 with that much power.

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The USA is probably the V8 capital of the world with both the crappiest V8s ever made and the most powerful by far. The go-to engine for hot-rodding pretty-much anything is the Chevy LS3 6.2 N/A V8. It is hugely popular and really reliable with its straight-forward and simple design. However, the most popular V8 currently for sale is the Hellcat. A 6.2L Hemi with a HUGE supercharger sticking out the top producing a ridiculous stock power output of 526KW(707HP) and 850NM. Ask a tuning company nicely (and with money) and they’ll put an even bigger supercharger on bumping a 1000HP (750KW). Shocked emoticon. Luckily, we get the Hellcat here in South Africa, but only in the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, which is awesome, but costs a lot of money.

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To think, in the late 70s (during the oil crisis) you could get a 5.0L big-block with an ‘atmospheric’ 112KW. My 1.6L Turbo has more power than that. Even the 4.9L Turbo Trans Am used in the filming of Smokey and the Bandit II needed nitrous oxide boosting to get the desired power out of it. How sad it that?!

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Here in South Africa, we have a surprising amount of V8s to choose from – AMGs, Ms, RSs, Rs, SVs, SSs, GTs and VXs. A few years ago, you could even buy the coolest bakkie (pick-up truck), the awesome Aussie Chevrolet Lumina SSV Ute. It had a 5.7L and later a 6.0L with 270KW in stock form. However, if you look for one online now, many of them are supercharged and pushing 400KW (according to the seller that is). Now the only V8 bakkie you can get, is Toyota’s incredibly generic and vastly outdated Land Cruiser 70 with the 4.5L turbo Diesel V8 – producing a pithy 150KW and 430NM – for the astronomical price of almost a million Rand. My dad’s Hyundai Santa Fé produces approximately the same power from its 2.2L Inline-4 Turbodiesel and didn’t even cost a quarter of that!

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I’d like to someday soon own a V8, preferably one with 300 plus KW. I have looked around and one could get away with it for under R400K. In that budget, you could get something like a Chrysler 300C SRT, a BMW E90 M3, a Mercedes C63 AMG W204, an Audi RS4 B6, a Chevy Lumina SSV, a Jaguar XFR and even a Maserati Quattroporte (with a lot extra money for maintenance). For a little more than the budget, you could get a Ford Mustang, which would be awesome, as the Coyote V8 grumbles like an American V8 should.

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V8s should make you feel special. They should excite your inner petrolhead and make you permanently go BWAHHHH! For me, when I drive behind a car that has a V8 and the person driving leaves his/her right foot on the accelerator just a bit longer than socially acceptable, I get all giddy. The other day, I was walking in town when a Mustang GT and a Jaguar XKR had an impromptu sound-off when they each pulled away from the traffic light. It was marvellous! The low bellowing of the Mustang’s V8 reverberating off the building’s windows and the XKR’s raspy V8 a few pitches higher was absolutely magnificent. Those 40 or 50 seconds of unadulterated noise made my day. I drove back home in the best of moods. I can only imagine my mood the day I actually get to drive something like that.

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All this being said, the V8 is fast becoming an extinct species. Governments and environmental institutions are hammering automakers to cut down on their emissions and thus those automakers downsize their engines. This has been happening for the past decade and it is terrible. The beloved Audi RS4 now comes with a Twin-Turbo V6. Big American barges like the Ford F150 Raptor and Lincoln Navigator are fitted with EcoBoost V6s. Performance cars are mutating into shadows of themselves with smaller engines. An excellent example is the new Mercedes C63 AMG. A test mule has been spotted going around the ‘Ring, but no one knows what drivetrain it’s got. The most likely is a 4-cylinder. I’d be really surprised if it retains its V8.

This whole situation is saddening. Yes, I know it’s all to save the planet and I’m all for saving said planet, but ease up a bit on the sports cars. Pretty soon, we’ll all be driving around in electric toasters with grumpy faces, because it doesn’t make a noise or is very exciting to drive.

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The only good thing about all this is that we will still be allowed to drive old cars that make stupid noises and burns petrol in glorious explosions whilst we laugh maniacally at the sheer awesomeness that is the internal combustion engine. I know it will be around for a little while longer, but we petrolheads will miss it. Like you’d miss an old loyal dog from your childhood.

So in an effort to not sound too much like Jeremy Clarkson in his review of the V12 Vantage, I’m going to end with this; whilst the magnificence that is the ICE is still around, let’s burn as much fuel making stupid noises as we can, shall we?

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©2020 Michael De Kock Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking petrolhead nerd, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.

The Old King is back, but is it Still the Best?

Good news! The new BMW M3 and M4 have been revealed and launched! Yay! I watched CARWOW’s video on it and I must say – both look good. The kidney grilles that put people off really look good on these cars and I personally hope they add them to more models – the 7 and the X7 would suit them.

Power comes from the new 3.0L Bi-Turbo Straight-Six, first launched in the X3 M and X4 M. Outputs are 350KW and 550NM for the ‘normal’ M3 and M4 whilst its 375KW and 650NM for the ‘Competition’ models. Currently, South Africa will only get the latter ‘Competition’ models, as is the case with M cars here. The M3 and M4 gets the same torque-converter 8-speed autobox just like with the M5, as well as BMW’s M X-Drive system. Just like the M5 and M8, you get the choice between 4WD and 2WD modes for when you wish to do some skids and ruin your tires.

Both cars also come with sports exhausts as standard in the ‘Competition’ guise, which sounds quite fruity on the video. Expect the pricing to be quite high, because it is a premium German product after all. Much is included in the price as standard, such as sportier suspension, the aforementioned exhaust and other features, however you’ll need to pay more if you want carbon-ceramic brakes, carbon trim on the exterior and M bucket seats.

The new ‘Isle of Man Green’ launch colour is quite different to BMWs of late, but rather surprisingly, I like it. Out of the two launch cars in the video, I was drawn much more towards the M3 than to the M4. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the new 4-Series as it looks like a mini-8er, but the M3 just looks cooler. Maybe it’s because the one in the video brags with the optional carbon pack and the front end is reminiscent of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio GTA, with the carbon intake slats on either side of the grille.

Apparently, orders are open and cars will be delivered in March next year. It’s quite a while to wait then. All-in-all, I really like both cars. The styling is excellent with the aggressive hood contours and rear wheel-arches protruding arrogantly. The M3 and M4 just look and sound like brilliant cars. We’ll have to see if they are still the benchmark for small, fast saloons when they get road-tested in a few months’ time.

CARWOW video: https://youtu.be/oLMJuwlJm-g

Mercedes Tablets for Everyone!

Today’s rant/blog regards Mercedes’ screen situation. Not the infotainment screens in the centre, but rather the instrument cluster screens behind the steering wheel. BMW, Audi and many other automakers are going the digital route for their instrument cluster as it is more convenient and can show a larger amount of data in a less restrictive manner. That’s fine. I have no problem with that. The issue I have is with the way Mercedes is doing it.

Look at the new Audis. Their ‘Digital Cockpit’ is brilliantly done. It still looks like an instrument cluster, but is modernised for the current era. BMW’s is more traditional with the half-digital, half-traditional setup. Mercedes’ take on the other hand, is awful.

When the current E-Class was launched (W213), I thought it was a really nice-looking car – and it is from the outside. However, I cannot stand the tacked-on instrument cluster screen – you know, the one that looks like a glued-in picture of tablet. It looks like a cost-cutting excuse, like Renault would do on its cheaper cars. Not only does it look stupid, it’s bloody ugly. And now that thought has trickled down to other Mercedes models like the A-Class, the new C-Class, the G-Class, the new S-Class and everything in-between.

Speaking of the new S-Class, I despise the interior, but only because of the ugly tablet-looking afterthought. The rest of the interior looks cool and futuristic, but it’s an S-Class! It should be luxurious and opulent and slightly vulgar, like a cheaper RR Phantom. The outgoing S-Class interior is beautiful with the four air-vents taking centre-stage, the swooping lines running the length of the dashboard and the inlaid wood veneer wherever you look. It’s awesome! The new S’ interior looks like an upscale version of the Tesla Model 3’s, which is – quite frankly – an insult, (The Tesla Model 3 has the most boring interior of any new car currently on sale.) I must say, I really like the new S’ steering wheel. It looks futuristic, yet uber-luxurious at the same time.

Yes, the new S has all sorts of clever tech as is its tradition, but the interior doesn’t match that of the exterior (which contrary to popular opinion I actually quite like.) I cannot wait for the AMG version.

So whilst I’m sure the new Mercs are brilliant in almost every way, I cannot get past that ugly, flat, tacked-on afterthought of an instrument screen. And worst of all, IT’S THE THING YOU WILL LOOK AT MOST IN THE WHOLE CAR! Given the choice, I would rather save the almost R2.2 million cost of the E63S and buy a second-hand C63 Black.

Plus I’d have a lot left for the inevitable fuel bill…

©2020 Michael De Kock

Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking petrolhead nerd, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.

Jaguar Electricity as Expensive as Their Electric Car

So, MyBroadBand has recently done a cross-country road trip with the Jaguar I-Pace (see link below) to see what it actually costs to run an electric car for such a long journey. They started at Jaguar-Land Rover in Constantiaberg which has the southernmost charging point in the country, and ended in Musina – the northernmost town.

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Long story short, it took them 22 hours to drive at an average of 92kph plus another 12 hours for charging, equating to a total of 34 hours to do the 2,063km. That is a long time. It’s like sitting on an 18 hour flight and finding out you have a 10 hour stop-over before flying another 4-and-a-half hours back home. (It happened to me.)

The trip cost the MyBroadBand team almost R2600 in just electricity alone. The team concluded that if they did the same trip in a diesel F-Pace, it would have been significantly cheaper which begs the question, are electric cars viable in South Africa, a county that hasn’t even embraced the idea of the hybrid yet? Lexus has tried for years to get South Africans to buy hybrids, but we just don’t. I don’t know exactly why, but I think it is because we simply see it as something too expensive with too much that can go wrong. Given the choice between a Jaguar I-Pace or a fully kitted-out Toyota Land Cruiser 200, the average South African would pick the Toyota because it’s higher up in the local motoring hierarchy.

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In terms of the motor-industry, South Africa is way behind. Norway’s government grants financial incentives to people for buying electric cars which has resulted in two-thirds of all new cars being bought by the Vikings being electric. There are so many electric cars in Norway that the government is considering adding taxes on them so that they can get at least some money back. Other European countries also offer incentives on electric cars. Even Jordan – which is a Middle-Eastern country – offers much less tax on hybrids than they do on normal cars and as a result 80% of the cars you see there are hybrids.

South Africa doesn’t offer any of this, so electric cars are stupidly expensive. The I-Pace costs R1.6m. For that price you could buy a Volvo XC90 T8 which has the same power, is vastly more practical and has a ridiculous range, thanks to its hybrid drivetrain. Plus you’ll still have R200k left over. Or you could buy a Toyota GR Supra. Or an F-Type V6 S. Or a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. For a little bit more you could get a diesel BMW 8-Series! Or, if you stretch it a bit more, you can buy a Land Rover Sport P400e, which does 4L/100km.

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There are so many better cars to choose from. And those are if you want yours new. For R1.6m you can almost buy whatever you want in the second-hand market. For instance, a quick search on Cars.co.za revealed a 2019 BMW M5 for the same price as that Jag. And also a 2018 Merc E63S! And if you go slightly older, you can get a 2014 Aston Martin V12 Vantage. Or a 2003 Ferrari 360 F1 Spider. Or a 2010 Bentley Continental GTC Speed.

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There are so many better and more interesting cars to buy other than that specific Jaguar. And some of them will even let you pay less at fuel stations. Plus you don’t have to hang around for hours wondering what to do with yourself whilst your batteries fill up with the imaginary magic juice…

 

Read about MyBroadBand’s cross-country road trip in the Jaguar I-Pace here: https://mybroadband.co.za/news/motoring/362430-what-it-costs-to-drive-across-south-africa-in-an-electric-car.html

 

©2020 Michael De Kock

 

Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking nerdy petrolhead, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.

Chronicles of an Eight-Year-Old Beemer

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You might remember one of my very first blogs, Chronicles of a 21-Year-Old Beemer (https://michaeldekock.com/2012/06/29/chronicles-of-a-21-year-old-beamer) from eight years ago. In that post, I had dreams of turning my dad’s little Beemertjie into a grand tourer or off-roader and fitting it with some kind of forced-induction. Yes, I was very naïve. This happened back in June 2012.

In 2013, we sold the Beemer to a guy from Polokwane who was a gardener. Right before he drove off with it, I told him in my best impersonation of Liam Neeson that if he ever takes the car ‘Spinning’, that ‘I will find him…’ He stopped by a week later to pick something up and I saw that he changed the rims from black steelies with hub-caps to the E30’s alloys. I didn’t like it. I thought about that car every day for two years. I still think about it at least once a week. Most recently, I thought of how cool it would be as a convertible here by the sea where I could have used it as a beach buggy. Anyway.

In early 2014, we moved to Cairo, Egypt, for four and a half years and returned in August 2018. I was 22 already and had been dreaming of a first car since I was 17. Well, a year and a half ago (on the 22nd of January 2019 to be exact), I finally got my first car and as you could deduce from the title, it was also a Beemer. I would never have thought that I would actually get a Beemer as a first car!

As per petrolhead custom, I started by looking at all the cars that were far outside my budget and moved downwards toward the cheaper ones. Whilst looking at BMWs, Volvos, Mercs, VWs and others, I kept having this depressing feeling that I was going to end up with a Ford Fiesta, Suzuki Swift or that dreaded Toyota Etios. I didn’t much like that feeling. But I persevered. I stayed clear of the Hyundais, as I find them really boring, but I knew they would be stupidly reliable. I liked the Kia Rio, but the newer model was too expensive. I then realised how expensive VW Polos were. It’s ridiculous!

In the end, I decided that I like the F20 BMW 1-Series and the hatchback Volvo V40. I checked a few Volvos out and one BMW. They were slightly higher than my budget, but I kept at it. In the end, I found a listing on Gumtree for a blue BMW 118i manual, almost the same Liquid Metallic Blue that our old 316i was. I called the dealership – who was incredibly helpful – and we drove through the next morning. I checked the car out, took it for a test-drive and instantly fell in love. We went to pick it up three days later. (We were so impressed with the dealer’s service that my dad called the same sales-person directly a few months later and bought his Santa Fé through him as well).

So here we are, a year and a half later and the Beemer is awesome! Allow me to provide the specs: it is a 2012 BMW 118i Sports-Line manual, not M-Sport. (I don’t know why there are two sporty trims.) It has a 1.6L Inline-4 (like the 316i) with a turbo (unlike the 316i). It produces 125KW and 250NM of torque through a 6-Speed Getrag manual. The engine is a joint BMW-Groupe PSA (Peugeot) endeavour called the Prince engine (known as the N13 at BMW). In BMWs, they make more power that in PSA’s applications and unlike PSA’s cars, it is mounted longitudinally instead of transversely.

In my experience with the car, the acceleration is good, but not fast. It’s not bad, but it is the in-gear acceleration that is really impressive. In 3rd going 50kph, put your foot down and you’ll be at 80kph really quickly. The cool thing about the transmission is that the gears are really long, so you can do 100km/h in 2nd if you want to. You can also short-shift into 6th doing 50km/h. As with many cars, the top gear – 6th in this case – is the economy gear, so it takes a while to accelerate when putting your foot down. However, in Sport Mode, shift down to 5th and you’ll be breaking the speed-limit in no time – not that I do that a lot, but I had two tickets in the first two months to show for this experiment.

I do have some complaints about the car though. The first not being a complaint with the car, but rather the person who specced it when they ordered it. It doesn’t have Bluetooth. The button is there and it looks like the previous owner used it, but it doesn’t work. I cannot find anything in the i-Drive system pertaining to Bluetooth either.

Another complaint is towards BMW. The Prince engine is relatively small and turbocharged, so you would think that it is relatively fuel efficient? Wrong. It is much thirstier than I thought it would be and much worse than what BMW claimed. Though I don’t drive all that much and a tank still lasts me around 450km with town driving.

It recently had its first service since I bought the car and I saved up quite a bit in case it was going to be ridiculously expensive, with it being a premium German automotive product. I was pleasantly surprised. It cost about a third of what I budgeted and everything seems to be fine.

All-in-all, I absolutely love my car. Every time the garage door is open, I catch glimpses of it parked there. When I drive it – even when I’m just cruising through town at 30-40kph in 4th – I love every moment in it. Many days I still cannot believe that I actually have a BMW as a first car! I love the feeling. It drives awesomely, it’s a pleasant and dynamic-feeling and it is rear-wheel-drive! I know in the real world it doesn’t really matter what the drivetrain is for most cars, but for a petrolhead it does. I dislike driving on gravel or dirt roads as I had a bad experience once, but when I do find myself on one, I cannot help but dump the accelerator and feel the back-end kick out. It is an awesome feeling. I just wish I could get access to a skidpan…

 

©2020 MICHAEL DE KOCK

 

Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking nerd, petrolhead, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.

A Muscle or not a Muscle – that is the Question

I have a question. It goes as follows… Do we still have muscle cars, as in the traditional recipe where you add a bunch of power and not much else? If so, are they still true muscle cars? The reason I bring this up is because the Ford Mustang is the best-selling sports car in the world. What happened there? The current Chevrolet Camaro is apparently a good sports car as well. Wtf? So that leaves the Challenger which, let’s be honest, is still very much a muscle car for the simple reason that it still goes fast in a straight line but gets silly when it sees a corner. So, is Dodge the only company to hold on to the physical idea of a muscle car? Seems like it.

Then we have the little problem that is the Corvette. From its launch till the C6 generation, it was considered to be a sports car. Right? Well, then the C6 ZR1 happened and it caused a bit of a scramble. Here you had an American car with a Supercharged V8 that had more power than a Ferrari Enzo. The Enzo is a super car. Does this make the Corvette a super car? Probably not but it does possibly put it into the category some petrolheads refer to as ‘Super Muscle’. It is not an official category and is only reserved for muscle cars with absurd power figures. The Dodge Challenger Demon comes to mind. As does the Hellcat and the Redeye. And the Hennessey Exorcist (pretty much anything made by Hennessey with their HPE1000 package).

Then the C7 rolled around and boy-oh-boy, the Z06 made as much power as the previous ZR1. Another problem. Do you put the Z06 into the super car category, or do you wait for the inevitable ZR1 and put that in instead, denoting the Z06 to stay with the sports cars? Difficult. The ZR1 did eventually roll out and it had a stupid amount of power. Again, super car or still just a sports car?The-2019-Corvette-ZR1

Chevrolet then went and made this whole situation worse by moving the engine placement of the C8 Corvette, making it even more of a supercar then before. And when the eventual Z06 and ZR1 versions come around in a few years’ time, they will no doubt be more supercar-ey than before. Hennessey has already revealed that they are making an HPE1200 package available for the C8 – which, as you guessed, gives it 1200bhp adding to the even more ‘all-over-the-place’ situation of the ‘Vette.Hennessey-C8-Corvette

Speaking of the C8 ‘Vette, when it was first revealed, I thought it was ugly and over-styled. That central carbon-fibre vent thing that goes over the doors looks stupid and oversized. The rear lights, whilst distinctly Corvette, are not very pretty and the front end looks a bit off. The interior is very driver-focused and the steering-wheel is square and stupid and I don’t like it. There are many things that make me believe that the C7 looks better in every single way. However, if I ever get the opportunity to drive one, I’d gobble it up like a chocolate éclair and love every second of it (I’d probably end up wanting one as well).

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So, to summarise this post… Dodge makes the only real muscle car and therefore wins the endless battle of the horsepowers, the Mustang and Camaro are in a completely new battle on their own and the Corvette is a muscle/sports/super car (whichever one you pick will probably be wrong).

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So, I’ve been putting this off for way too long. They are emerging and there is no way to ignore them any longer. Much like Thanos in Endgame, they are inevitable

I am, of course talking about… electric cars. Yes, the hairdryers with steering-wheels. The toasters with seats. The blenders with Google Maps. The pressure-cookers with CD players. Ok, I’ll stop. But I did think of them in that way. However, more and more companies are building their own ones, so people must be buying the bloody things.

These days, almost all the bigger manufacturers are making their own versions – not just Tesla. Audi has the e-Tron, Jaguar has the i-Pace, BMW has the i3, Nissan has the awful Leaf, Porsche has the Taycan with the silly naming strategy and even Mercedes now has the EQC (I’m not going to talk about Ford’s contribution to the mix as an electric Mustang SUV is the stuidest thing I’ve ever heard).

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BMW is also playing around with a full-size electric car idea and they built a prototype. It looks exactly like the current 5-Series, however it has 500KW and 10,000NM of torque. No, that’s not a typo. It’s ridiculous and I love it! Like when Chevy stuffed a 7.0L V8 into one of their Sparks.

Going off topic… Electric cars are – apparently – the future. As a petrolhead, this is concerning. Yes, electric cars have more power and more torque than normal petrol/diesel powered cars, but they don’t make any noise. You can’t change gears and the engagement factor is on the lower end of the spectrum. The whole point about being a petrolhead is to engage with your car and be a part of the whole motoring experience. It doesn’t matter if your car is a 30KW Beetle or a 1000KW Koenigsegg – you can enjoy it. ICE cars (Internal Combustion Engine) have character. Electric cars are basically laptops with wheels – literally in the case of the newest Tesla update where you can play a Mario Kart-esque game on the massive central screen.

Now don’t get me wrong. Teslas are cool. The styling is brilliant, the tech is amazing and the P100D Ludicrous+ models are stupid quick. I drove in a Model S in Amsterdam and it was awesome and I sat in a Model X (best windscreen I’ve ever seen) Amman, Jordan, but as with all electric cars, there is one problem with it. That problem is of course – range anxiety. Yes, in first-world countries like the US and most of Western Europe that isn’t such a big problem, as there are chargers and superchargers and stuff at almost every fuel-station. But in less developed countries, like South Africa, electric cars are still a bit ‘out of range’ because of the astronomic prices, charging logistics and – we as a nation don’t like them very much. Yes, Jaguar and BMW are selling their cars here, but it’s really expensive and only the rich can afford to buy one. I mean, South Africans haven’t even really accepted the Hybrid as a car yet. Lexus tried to change that with their range of hybrids, but have slightly given up on that as well. The only hybrid people buy here is the bloody-awful Prius. (There is one living down the street and I have to drive past it every day. My hatred for it is much like that for the Juke – screaming obscenities at it).

Then we get to the subject of supercars and hypercars. The electrification virus has infected them in spectacular fashion with cars such as the Rimac Concept-1 and the new Lotus Evija. More and more hypercars are also going the hybrid route such as the LaFerrari, P1, 918 Spyder and more recently, the Valkyrie, the AMG ONE and the new SF90 Stradale. It seems then that electrification – in one way or another – is the future.

Well, if this is the case, then I should probably choose one. I thought long and hard about this and I decided that if I ever had the money to afford of these SatNav-equipped dishwashers, I would buy a Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. It is exactly the opposite of an electric car. It uses so much petrol that even the Americans say ‘it’s a bit thirsty’. But is has a Hellcat engine and a supercharger whine that gives me special feelings in my nether regions. It is also practical, meaning you can scare the absolute crap out of your entire family and your dog at once.

2018 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

As an afterthought, James May recently bought a Tesla Model S 100D and a Toyota Mirai. His guess is that one of these two technologies could be the future – either fully electric like the Tesla, or Hydrogen Fuel-Cell-mated-to-electric-motors like the Toyota. It is quite the interesting experiment and I am looking forward to his continued videos on them.

Old is Good

I don’t want to sound like an old fart, but some things were better in the past. Yes, things now is cool in the way that everything is interconnected, meaning that your hairdryer can talk to your toaster, which in turn can talk to your fridge and then tell your car that you need milk, which adds it to a digital shopping list that you can view whilst watching TV or playing VR games… It’s pretty cool. I like it. But some things were better. In this instance, I will be using cars. Today, it is about how much power it has, how light it is, how many aerodynamic-ey flaps it has and how much downforce it produces. The McLaren Senna comes to mind…

Don’t get me wrong, I like the Senna. With its 4.0L Twin-Turbo V8 and enough fins and flaps to create 800kg of downforce. It is a magnificent piece of engineering. But that’s the problem. As Jeremy Clarkson once said about the MP4-12C, “It is an amazing car, but it’s got no soul”. This is the problem with many of the current top-ranking cars. They are brilliant, they go around corners in the best possible manner and reach speeds that would make a 1920s person laugh at the absurdly high number. But they are cold and clinical. They are ones and zeroes that work together nearly perfectly to attain ultimate performance.

This is all fine, but for petrol heads, it’s not enough. We like cars with character. We value the feel of a car above all. It doesn’t matter if the thing has 1 KW or 1000. If it has a good feel, then we love it. Things like the Bugatti Veyron are and always will be a feat of engineering. It was the car that changed the whole motoring world’s perception of what speed was. Yes, it’s fast and powerful, but it’s terrible (personal experience around Tsukuba on GT Sport). Then you get the Hennessey Venom GT. It has much horsepower and is scary as all hell to drive. It even tends to lose traction when passing 320kph – which from what I’ve read – is quite scary. Stuff like that give cars character. I was recently at the annual Cars in the Park held at Zwartkops Raceway. It featured many cool cars. Loud ones such as straight-piped Chevy Lumina Utes, classic and modern Mustangs, modded Nissan Champs and Morris Minors (meh). One of the cars that fascinated me most was the Ford Sierra XR8. Here you have a relatively boring, everyday Ford, but with the time’s Mustang 5.0L in it. It’s glorious!
I was at this weekend’s Hermanus Whale Festival as well. The Saturday morning there was a car show at the local primary school and there were a lot of really nice cars. Ford Falcons, Holden Monaro GTS’, Jaguar E-Types, MGB’s, an Aston Martin Vantage Superlaggera and a Pontiac Trans Am but to name a few. It was bloody brilliant. The event just re-cemented my personal theory that older cars were just better. Driving involved the driver, it made you hear the engine noise, it was meant to be an experience. Not like in modern cars that actively try to cancel out the sound, drive by themselves and stop you if you are trying to do something stupid (that last one is actually quite good, to be honest). They are safe for pedestrians if you miss a stop sign, they can alert you if someone around you is doing something stupid and it can actively avoid getting into a crash – like those many videos of Teslas accelerating away.

In old cars, you are forced to focus, to take in your surroundings and experience the car. It makes you want to master it, to learn all of its little quirks and to appreciate it for what it is. Not just some hunk of metal to get you from point A to point B, but rather an instrument that allows you to make automotive “music”. I absolutely love it – the feeling of driving an old car, the noise, the vibration, the gear-changes and the overall experience. I love it. Well the closest I have come was a 1991 BMW E30 316iM, but I absolutely loved it. I will buy me a new-ish first car and then start saving up for an older car, preferably something with a V8 of some sort… hopefully the fuel price in South Africa drops a bit…

Battle of the Muscle… Cars

The Muscles

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and Ford Mustang GT350R

Recently I’ve been watching videos revolving around the subject of the big three American Muscle Cars. I am of course talking about the Dodge Challenger, Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang. However, just naming them doesn’t really say anything as there are multiple versions of them – from awful (what I’ve heard) V6s and EcoBoosts, to engines with enough power to restart the rotation of the Earth if necessary.

Now, I can go on about those entry-level engines and recall a scenario in which I told myself that I would buy a Mustang EcoBoost as a first car, but then realising that I live in South Africa where petrol is expensive and that the base price is double than in the USA. I also read an article where two Brits (I think, can’t quite recall) got the big 5.0L Coyote V8 to be more efficient than the EcoBoost, leading to me deciding to throw caution into the wind and buy the cheapest second-hand Mustang GT I could find – if I had the money for it… of course.

But alas, this blog isn’t about those entry-level models, but rather about the top-spec factory-made versions of each. Those super versions that we all drool over. I am, of course, talking about the Mustang GT350R, the Camaro ZL1 and the Challenger Hellcat. I’m using the Hellcat instead of the Demon as example as it is only really made to do one thing – be fast in a straight, line like all pre-2015 muscle cars.

The last few years have produced some really good American cars with power figures that could put the Germans to shame. Of course, the ‘Muricans’ can’t match the Germans for quality, efficiency, looks, noise, attention to detail or any of the things that really matter. I think the Americans realised this, so they decided to just go mad with power. Literally. I applaud that. I enjoy that. As a result of this, you can get a Dodge Charger Hellcat – which is about the same size as an E-Class, 5-Series or A6 – with more power than a Lamborghini Aventador – for way less than the top spec of either an E-Class, 5-Series or A6. It’s ridiculous!

On top of that, there are many aftermarket dealers and tuners who will give you even more bang for your buck. Hennessey comes to mind. They offer packages which you can buy to spruce up your already overpowered car even more – most notably the HPE650, HPE800 and HPE1000 packages. And the cool thing is that you can have these on almost any of the American V8 cars on sale now. Fancy a base Mustang GT but feel it’s a bit underpowered? Get an HPE650 package. Did your wife say you need a family car, but you don’t want to sacrifice power? Buy a Chevy Suburban and ask Hennessey for the HPE1000 package. You’ll be able to do the school-run in record time and a puff of smoke. It’s absurd and I love it.

What was I talking about? Oh right, Hellcat, GT350R and ZL1. I can’t quite decide which one I like best. The current range really looks good from most perspectives, where there always had been something off about the previous models. The previous Mustang looked generic and bland, the Challenger apparently had an awful gearbox and wasn’t that comfortable and I had one major problem with the previous-gen Camaro that put me off of buying one immediately. The driver’s instrument cluster was stupidly designed. It looked awful and I couldn’t imagine staring at it whilst driving. Luckily, GM fixed it in the current one.

The current Challenger looks the part. Square look, big tyres, bulge on the bonnet, 520-odd Kilowatt and it just looks like an angry car – like Joey Tribbiani when someone ate one of his chips. The Camaro looks more like a sports car than a muscle car, which may put some people off, but it kind-of works – and has 480KW. The Mustang is almost a perfect split between the two, but it ‘only’ has 400KW. It would feel just as at home at a sports car meet as it would at a muscle car meet (hopefully minus the whole ploughing into pedestrians thing).

Now, if these are still too tame for you, there is always the ultimate – and aftermarket – versions of these cars as opposed to these super versions. There is the aforementioned Challenger Demon that does what it was built to do so well that it has been banned from taking part in it. Ironic. There is the Shelby GT350R and Super Snake that has a butt-load of power (and looks a bit scary). And finally, there is my favourite of the aftermarket ultimate bunch – the Hennessey Exorcist. I like it because it looks mean. I like it because it was built to put the Challenger Demon in its place. And I like it because its name is a joke and thus doesn’t take itself too seriously. Oh, and it has a thousand horses – or plus-minus 750KW – for less than a BMW M5! It’s… Silly.

So whilst I would have the Hennessey Exorcist in the ‘ultimate’ category, I can’t quite decide on a car in the normal “Are you out of your mind?” said the executive to the engineer-category. Seems like I’d just have to drive all three and then decide…

Ford, GM and FCA, let me have a go in your insane cars… please?

 

P.S. FCA announced the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye after this blog was written, so… tough. But I thought I’d mention it as it is a factory-spec car with close to 600KW. Absolutely bonkers! But oh, I love it so…

Trending Plague in Auto-Industry

In the last couple of years, a new craze has been building up in the car industry and it has been more noticeable in some countries than in others. We were on a two week road-trip through the UK recently, where we went from Dover, through Wales to the east of Scotland and ended in the Isle of Skye before driving down back to London. Over the last four and a bit years, I have also been to Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, Austria and France. Whilst in these countries, I noticed that this craze is not as noticeable. However in South Africa, it is growing at an alarming rate. Now, you might be wondering what I am going on about. The craze I am pouting about is that of the growing in popularity not only of the Sports Utility Vehicle – or the SUV, but more specifically, the ‘Crossover’.

Volkswagen makes the Crosspolo, which is the first of these idiotic things that I can remember becoming available in South Africa. At that time, everyone was still concerned with hatchbacks and bakkies, so the Crosspolo really didn’t make sense. Now however, everyone is after an SUV and if they can’t get one, they buy a crossover.

My problem lies with the crossover and how many of them are being marketed as SUVs with the biggest violator being that stupid Suzuki Ignis thingie with the 1.0L engine. It’s being marketed as an SUV, when it is, in actual fact, a compact hatch on stilts (but still has piddly little wheels). And then there is the sheer amount of the bloody things. It’s like every automaker these days has a sedan and a crossover version of their cars – from Hyundai to Renault, and even automotive giants such as Mercedes and Audi have joined the party. Volvo should also be accused, but they have been making lifted versions of their cars since anyone can remember, so they are excused. (Plus I quite like the V90 Cross Country. See my previous blog as to why – link).

A few years ago, Hyundai made the Tucson which is classified as either a large crossover or a small SUV. I can’t entirely decide. With this, other automakers started joining in. Kia produced the Sportage, Nissan the Qashqui, Renault made the Kadjar with the small engines and a bunch more that I’m not going to bother mentioning as there are thousands of the bloody things.

The reason I hate them is the fact that they are taking over the roads. It used to be only the medium and really large SUVs on the road that were vastly outnumbered by the hatches and sedans, but now the sedans and saloons had become endangered too. Everyone and their grandmother are driving either a bakkie, SUV or crossover and it is awful.

Personally, there are only four SUVs (that are actual SUVs and not ‘crossovers’) that I like. They are the big Range Rover in either TDV8 or the new P400e models, the brand new Rolls Royce Cullinan because it is just bloody pretty, the first-gen BMW X5, as it is a handsome brute – and finally my favourite of the lot, the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Now, whilst I’d have a diesel GC any day, my preferred trim choice is the impending Trackhawk. The Hellcat-engined one with the ridiculous stock power figures of 523KW and 880NM. I mean, it’s a silly, stupid thing that has way too much power, uses way too much fuel, makes way too much noise and is way too big, but it is currently one of the cars that I love most. I can just imagine it…

Pulling up to an intersection, waiting for the light to go green when a modified Golf GTi pulls up next to you and the ‘cool dude’ starts revving the engine wanting a race. You smile at him whilst activating the Trackhawk’s launch control. You put your foot on the accelerator and an unearthly rumble comes from the back of the car. The cool dude doesn’t hear it as his own car produces an ear-shattering racket from his home-made exhaust. The light goes green and you press your foot flat on the floor. The Trackhawk takes off exactly how an SUV shouldn’t. It reaches 100kph 3.5 seconds after it started moving, leaving the cool dude to gaze at you with his mouth open on the side of the road.

You drive further down the road when suddenly the Trackhawk stops working. It ran out of petrol as you just used it to utilise all the machine’s power and it is as thirsty as a boer who hasn’t had a beer all day (approx. 23l/100km). The Trackhawk limps to the side of the road which forces you to phone a friend and you realise that the engine is drinking your bank account dry, but you don’t care, because you have the biggest smile on your face.

And that fictional glimpse is the reason why I love this thing. It’s silly, ridiculous and completely stupid. But I love it! Plus, you get to scare four passengers and the dog in relative comfort.