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.

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.

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.

 

 

The Cars of Cairo

In March of 2014, we arrived in Cairo. It is a big city on the Eastern edge of the Sahara, with the Nile River going straight through it. But it’s mostly desert. The city, and indeed the country, has had some political trouble in recent years and the government was changed a couple of times in way too short a time, but otherwise things are fine. Apart, of course, from the sand, garbage, awful roads, lack of enforcement of road laws, lack of rain and the general dustiness of it all. My dad calls it The Sandpit.

In the three years since we’ve been here, I have been in many different places in this city. Some of them very clean – such as the Cave Churches of Mokattam (which is strangely enough surrounded by Garbage City) and other places that are dusty and filthy as heck. One 700 year old building my mother and I visited in City of the Dead, had about 700 years worth of dust in it. The floor has these nice patterns of circles and triangles, but the only way to see it is to move about two centimetres dust with your shoe. Ironically enough, there was a broom in the corner of the room. (Probably also 700 years old…)

So now that I’ve established that Cairo should be renamed to Dustyville, let’s get on to what this blog is about. At the moment, Cairo’s streets are filled with the likes of boring cars such as the  Hyundai Verna and Chevy Lanos, with the odd imported Ford Expedition here and there. Our neighbour is the CEO or CFO or something of one of Egypt’s biggest telecommunications corporations, so he actually has some nice cars. They include a Bentley Flying Spur W12, Porsche Cayenne S, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Porsche Panamera 4S, Subaru WRX STi Sedan, BMW 435i Gran Coupe, BMW 650i Gran Coupe, BMW X4 X-Drive35i, BMW X6 X-Drive50i, a Kia Sedona minivan, a Lamborghini Gallardo Performante Spyder  and a big Dodge Ram 1500 Hemi. I’m pretty sure he also owns a Maserati Gran Turismo S as it stood outside his house for a few days once. But that’s the nice new cars of Cairo.

During the many ‘troubles’ Egypt has had, especially the 2011 ‘trouble’, some expatriates left Cairo in a hurry and never returned. This means that many of them left their cars as well, which is quite saddening. Most of these cars are crappy boring sedans or hatches, but some are really quite cool.

Up until a few weeks ago, there was a beautiful blue Mercedes 230E Automatic (banner car) parked in our street. My guess is that it was probably from the 1970s. But it has stood in that one spot of a few decades as the tyres really weren’t tyres anymore and the rims were about four centimetres deep in the tar. Other than the wheels, the car overall was quite nice still. The interior looked to be all original and the leather wasn’t broken or anything. If done correctly, restoring it would be a fun job and one might even make some nice money from it, if one decided to sell it that is.

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In the same street was an old Morris Minor. The bohab (doorman/guy who looks after a building) said that it was a Bentley, but it was a Morris. It was permanently under a tarp, but was open to the public when it too was trucked away.

Next up is my  favourite of these abandoned cars. It is a late 1970s or early 1980s Porsche 911 Turbo. It is also permanently under a cover, but I managed to see a bit of it. It’s silver with very nice rims. Although, one of the rims is completely shattered, which is difficult to think how one would have done that. But yes, I really like that Porsche. I wouldn’t mind at all to take it back to SA and fix it up.

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In a different street, there is a massive 1970s/80s GMC pick-up truck, but it has a caravan/motorhome attachment on its bed. It looks menacing and awesome. Massive wheels and tyres too. One could go almost anywhere with it.

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In the same street is an original Toyota Land Cruiser from the 1970s. It has four doors and a two-tone paint job. Beige and a brown. It looks like the 70s on wheels. It just needs a couple of peace symbols and Flower Power stickers. But it is really cool.

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Also in the same street is a Subaru BRAT. A BRAT! It’s so cool! It even has the two backwards-facing seats in the bed. It is in very good condition too, but I have only seen it in that one spot for the past year or so, so I don’t think anyone drives with it – which is unfortunate. But it is a really cool car.

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In a street not too far from where we live, is a house with a bunch of Land Rovers. It had about ten or so Defenders and Range Rovers, but there are only five left – three Defenders and two Range Rovers.

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There is this one cool Range Rover parked under a tree. It’s a 1970s or 80s model, but it has two doors. However, this one has been converted into a racing car. Something like a rally or a Dakar car, or maybe just to battle the dunes of Egypt. The interior is stripped out and the rear is completely empty. But most of the parts still seem to be there. I couldn’t get the bonnet open, so I don’t know if the engine is still there, but it is still a cool car. I would love to have a slightly customised two-door Range Rover in SA. I’d just need a sponsor for the fuel…

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There are two other cars which I unfortunately don’t have photos of as they are parked in a place where you cannot stop to take a picture – because Cairo. In Zamalek, the one is under a tarp, but judging from the wheels and the overall shape under said cover, it looks to be a Model T Ford or maybe something very similar. But its wheels are big and black, so my guess is a Model T. The other car is just down the road. It is a 1932 Mercedes Roadster. It’s beautiful. It’s beige and brown with a (formerly) white top and wire wheels. It is a lot smaller than I thought those old roadsters were, but it is even prettier than on a photo.

The last car I saw that is worth speaking of is a 1983 Chevrolet Corvette C3. It is one of the last ones produced as it had a bunch of limited edition badges and stuff on it. It was really nice to see and it was the first Corvette I ever saw. Luckily someone was driving it as I saw it once and never again. Unfortunately I cannot find the photos I took of it, but it’s a C3 Corvette, everyone knows a C3 Corvette, right?

It is my personal belief that there are a few million Dollars’ worth of abandoned and rare cars all over Cairo – and probably Alexandria and some other cities and towns as well. Many of them are almost broken beyond repair, but if you can buy them, ship them, restore them and sell them, I bet you could still make a few bucks. I would love to do that (mostly with that Porsche), but unfortunately my dad said that it won’t fit in the suitcase. I could always try though…

Car Names: Magnificent and Boring

I’ve been thinking a lot about names recently, specifically car names. Most car manufacturers use names to distinguish between the various models of cars they produce. However, some carmakers are so exclusive that they just assume that you know their cars. Manufacturers such as Bentley and Rolls Royce. These two carmakers do no tell you what model their cars are, so if you are a non-car-freak, then you wouldn’t have a clue if it’s a Bentayga, Ghost or Silver Shadow. I love this.

Then you get carmakers who give their cars silly names, for instance, the Opel/Vauxhall Adam. Seriously? Adam? Where’s Eve? There are also those companies in China that blatantly copy popular carmaker’s models like the Range Rover Evoque. In China, there is a car called the ‘Land Wind’ which looks exactly like an Evoque. And there is an X5 which isn’t an X5, but which is an X5. BMW even sued the company over their non-X5 X5 and lost, because the court said that the ‘CEO’ (non-X5 X5) doesn’t look at all like an X5. (It does.)

But back to the topic at hand. Names are important. It will have to stand the test of time, and many have. Toyota and Nissan have accomplished this with the Supra and GT-R badges and Ford has done even better with their Mustang. Dodge has their Charger, Chevy has its Corvette and Lada has its Niva. (The last one is just for sh*ts and giggles.)

Some of the most unimaginative names are probably from the Germans. Yes it is all in the name of efficiency and such, but it’s really boring. 1-Series, 2-Series, 3-Series, A-Class, B-Class, C-Class, A1, A2, A3. It’s so boring. And in their sport models they just add M, AMG and RS respectively. It the same with Jaguar and Volvo with the XF, XJ, E-Type, XC90, V60 and S90.

Now, I have to say that my favourite car name is probably the Atom from Ariel. It is awesome! Imagine sitting in a British pub and you and your mates are talking about the cars you drive. “Yeah, I drive a Vauxhall Maloo GTS” and “I drive an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde” (another awesome name) and then you come along and say, “I drive an Atom”. A freaking Atom! How cool would that be?!

Now, if I ever had a car company of my own and I was in charge of naming the models, I would go the same way as the Germans. Regardless of what the company’s name is, the models will be correspondent to amount of cylinders the engine ha, i.e. 4, 6, 8, etc. Then, depending on aspiration, it would receive a T/TT (turbo/twin-turbo) or an S (supercharged).

The normal, everyday model would probably be the (company name) 4T or 4TD and the big supercar being the 12TT.

So yes, even though I went on about how boring some car manufacturers’ models are, I would also go that way.

(Yes, I am boring. My favourite colour I grey, for Pete’s sake!)

 

 

Four Litres for Everyone

Today I would like to talk about the three big German automobile manufacturers. This excludes Volkswagen, but also doesn’t as Audi is owned by them. The problem I have with them is the fact that their new performance V8s, respectively from Rennsport, AMG and the M-Division, are almost the same.

Audi was the first to introduce their engine a few years ago in the RS6, RS7 and S8. AMG introduced theirs in the AMG GT as a replacement to the brilliance of the M156 and M159 engines. The M156 is my favourite engine and I would put it in an older Merc if I could.

Anyway, these manufacturers used to have diversity in their performance engines by having big 5.0L V10s, 6.2L V8s and 4.2L V8s – all naturally aspirated. These are brilliant engines. I actually have been in an RS5 doing lots of revs on a very short piece of road.

Now we will have three executive saloons with the same displacement engines. Not to mention that this is from the three biggest competing manufacturers. Now I understand the reason behind it all. The respective regions have their own emissions regulations and so forth, thus manufacturers are trying to get as much power as they can out of smaller engines. Heck! Volvo is saying they want 400+KW out of four-pot engines!

I am for saving the planet and all that, but these are cars – things that make people like me very happy. My mother just rolls her eyes and smiles when I put my foot down in our 3.0L V6 Pajero. It is not the best sounding car in the world (it sounds like a hair-dryer at low speeds), but hearing the engine work at high revs makes me happy. Having these smaller engine cars will be better.

My question is just, won’t it be boring?