30 Jun, 2016
Citroen C3

The third generation Citroen C3 counts on a funky styling to improve its sales. It is heavily influenced by the company's C4 Cactus, not just in terms of exterior design but also the interior packaging. Outside, there are trademark "airbump" rubbery paddings on the doors and many tough-looking plastic claddings at both bumpers and wheel arches to deliver an SUV-like styling. The headlight design, with main beam placed under the daytime running lights, is very much Cactus. Ditto the blackened A and B-pillars and "floating" roof. BTW, I find it also has quite a lot in common with Fiat 500L, especially the use of "squicles" and the taillights.

Citroen said the car measures 3.99m in length and 1.75m in width but without revealing its wheelbase. That should be marginally larger than the outgoing C3 but comfortably below C4 Cactus. Obviously, it is built on the same B-segment platform of Peugeot 208 and Cactus. Expect it to be considerably lighter than the old car. It is served with some familiar power units, including 1.2-liter Puretech 3-cylinder in naturally aspirated form (68 hp and 82 hp) and turbocharged form (110 hp), as well as a pair of 1.6 HDi turbo diesel with 75 hp or 100 hp.

The interior majors on style, space efficiency and ease of use. It also emphasizes customization, with many choices of trims, colors and equipment. Hopefully it will return higher profit margin.

29 Jun, 2016
Porsche Panamera Mk2

The first generation Porsche Panamera is quite dull to look and to drive. In the second attempt, Porsche has at least corrected the first fault. If you look at its side profile, you will find the new Panamera much sleeker. Both its roof line and shoulder line are curvier. The tail gets slimmer and the overall look of the back end is more akin to 911. The reshaped side window looks more like 911 as well, although it necessitates an extra quarter window. Meanwhile, the more pronounced rear fenders look sportier.

The car has grown a little in all dimensions. Now it measures 5049mm long (+79mm), 1937mm wide (+6mm), 1423mm tall (+5mm) and 2950mm in wheelbase (+30mm). I suppose most of the extra length goes to the rear overhang, which not only improves the rear end design but also boosts luggage space by 50 liters to 495 liters. Aerodynamic drag is unchanged from the old car, which means 0.29 for most models and 0.30 for Turbo.

The new car is known to be based on the new MSB platform which will be shared with Bentley. However, it is not a revolutionary design. Much of the chassis is made of steel, with aluminum used as supporting role in areas such as crash structure, subframes and suspension towers. The body shell is mostly aluminum, including the roof, bonnet, tailgate and fenders. A Panamera Turbo tips the scale at 1995 kg DIN, the same as the outgoing Turbo S which had the same power output.

At launch, there are 3 models: Panamera 4S (powered by V6 turbo), 4S Diesel (V8 turbo diesel) and Turbo (V8 turbo). They can be distinguished from the front bumper design as well as the rear spoiler. Speaking of rear spoiler, it normally recesses flush at the tail and raises at speed. It is much larger than the old car's thus makes the car look even more like 911. On Turbo, the rear spoiler can be extended horizontally to increase downforce further.

The Turbo employs a new 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, as we have seen last month at Vienna Motor Symposium. It is a reduction of 0.8 liter from the old engine, but it produces no less power, i.e. 550 hp at 5750-6000 rpm and a maximum torque of 568 lbft at 1960-4500 rpm. The V8 has its two twin-scroll turbochargers mounted inside the hot V-valley for compact packaging and reduced turbo lag, something pioneered by BMW's V8. It also features cylinder deactivation technology to save fuel. The Turbo is good for 190 mph and 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds when equipped with Sports Chrono pack (i.e. launch control). As before, the Turbo has 4WD fitted as standard.

Panamera Turbo

The cheaper Panamera 4S is also 4WD. Its 2.9-liter (2894 c.c.) twin-turbo V6 comes from the same modular family of the V8, which means 90-degree V-angle, an additional balancer shaft and hot-V architecture. It produces 440 hp at 5650-6600 rpm and 406 lbft at 1750-5500 rpm, not quite in the same league as the Ferrari-built 2.9-liter V6 on Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio (510 hp and 442 lbft). The car tops 179 mph and achieves 0-60 mph in 4.1 sec with launch control engaged. At 1870 kg, it weighs exactly the same as the old Panamera 4S with 3.0 twin-turbo V6.

Panamera 4S

That's not all. Porsche also offers a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 diesel for Panamera 4S Diesel. It's the first time the car receives a diesel V8, but it's not an entirely new engine either, because Audi offers a similar 4.0 V8 diesel for its SQ7. In that car, the V8 is served with e-booster (electric compressor) to produce 435 hp and 664 lbft of torque. The Porsche gets conventional exhaust gas turbochargers, even though it is a sophisticated sequential twin-turbo system with 2 VTG turbos, so it is a bit less powerful at 422 hp / 3500-5000 rpm and 627 lbft / 1000-3250 rpm. Performance is 177 mph top speed and 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds. Expectedly, the car is very heavy at 2050 kg.

All 3 engines mate with a new 8-speed PDK twin-clutch. Don't be too excited with its increased ratios, because it still reaches top speed at 6th, whereas 7th and 8th are overdrive to save fuel.

The suspension is mostly the same as the outgoing car, but the optional air suspension has been upgraded to a 3-chamber design (like Mercedes E-class) for 60 percent increase of air capacity. Again the car is served with PASM adaptive damping, PDCC active anti-roll bars and PTV-Plus torque vectoring. The only new feature is rear-wheel steering, like 911 Turbo, which should make the Panamera more agile than its size and weight suggested. Porsche now links all these systems together to something called "4D Chassis Control" system.

The interior design and packaging is not a big departure from the old car. It remains strictly a 4-seater. The extra wheelbase should boost rear legroom, but the more sloping roof line might hurt rear headroom (we shall see if it's true). Expectedly, the infotainment system has been upgraded, now features a 12.3-inch screen on center console and another screen at the transmission tunnel for rear passengers.

Overall, the new Panamera is mechanically similar to the first one, but its looks and efficiency are both significantly improved.

25 Jun, 2016
Mercedes-AMG GT R

This is the faster, more track-oriented version of AMG GT. Headline figures are 585 horsepower (up 75 hp from the existing GT S), 516 lbft of torque (up 37 lbft), 198 mph top speed (up 5 mph), 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds (down 0.2s) and 1555 kg DIN kerb weight (down 15 kg).

Let's start with its aerodynamics. From these pictures you can see its nose is heavily revised. The grille is reshaped and gets larger to aid cooling. It also gets some vertical grille elements which are reminiscent of the 1952 300SL Panamericana race car. The lower intakes also get larger. The front air splitter is set lower and more pronounced. At both sides of the bumper are two narrow, vertical intakes which draw air to form "air curtain" around the front wheel arches to reduce drag and turbulence. At the rear, the most obvious change is the fixed carbon-fiber rear spoiler. The exhaust is now centrally mounted to make space for 2 large diffusers at either side of it. Between the taillights there is an additional air outlet opened to release hot air.

The AMG GT R also features active aerodynamics. At the bottom of the front overhang there is a movable carbon-fiber flap which can be lowered if the road is absolutely flat (it is activated at Race mode above 80 km/h). This create venturi effect and guide the underbody air flow more effectively to the rear diffuser. The result is 40 kg more downforce at top speed. Overall, AMG claims the car makes 155 kg of downforce at top speed and a drag coefficient lower than the standard car. I would say the latter is not too difficult to achieve considering the standard car has a poor Cd of 0.36.

You might notice the car looks wider than before. Yes, the bespoke carbon-fiber front fenders and aluminum rear fenders increase its width by 46 and 57 mm respectively to house wider tracks and tires. BTW, the tires are now stickier Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 of size 275/35ZR19 and 325/30ZR20, which are 10 mm and 30 mm respectively wider than the standard car's. They are shod around lighter forged alloy wheels.

The engine is still that 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8. New turbochargers lift its maximum boost pressure from 1.2 to 1.35 bar. Accompanied with revised exhaust ports and compression ratio etc. account for the increased output. The engine breathes through a new lightweight titanium exhaust. Power is coupled to a lighter twin-mass flywheel and 7-speed twin-clutch transaxle. Shorter ratios of the top gear and final drive result in quicker response and explains why its top speed is only 5 mph higher. The traction control is improved to 9-way adjustment.

The torque tube linking between engine and transaxle is now made of carbon-fiber instead of aluminum in the case of the standard car. The transmission tunnel is reinforced by carbon-fiber elements to increase the chassis' torsional rigidity by 7.5 percent. The diagonal braces in engine compartment have been converted to carbon-fiber as well.

The suspension of GT R keeps the forged aluminum control arms and knuckles etc. but it turns to manually adjustable coil-over spring units to alter roll and dive characteristics. Continuously adaptive dampers remain. The rear suspension is added with active rear-steering for the first time in any Mercedes models. Hopefully it could lift its handling to match Porsche 911 Turbo S. Also like 911, it gets adaptive engine and transmission mounts to limit movement of these heavy components at hard cornering.

Braking is provided by "composite" discs (i.e. steel disc with aluminum hub) in size of 390 mm front and 360 mm rear. Ceramic brake is optional.

The car has its fine static balance of 47:53 unchanged. With more power and grip, better braking, suspension and aerodynamics, expect the car to set very good Nurburgring lap time. Stay tuned.

3 Jun, 2016
New Audi A5

They might look like facelift of the outgoing car, but the Audi A5 (silver car) and S5 (red car) pictured here are actually brand new. Audi decided to play safe this time around. It keeps the old car's proportion and its "sexy" waistline (as described by ex-design boss Walter de Silva) intact. What it improves are the details, especially the new hexagonal front grille, which also gets slimmer, wider and mounted lower. The bonnet now curves more dramatically downward to the grille. At the back, the key changes are the slimmer taillights. Not much else.

Despite the same shape, refinement to the details enables the new car to achieve a class-leading aerodynamic drag coefficient of 0.25, beating even Mercedes C-class Coupe (0.26), although it doesn't quite match the A4 and Mercedes CLA180 (both 0.23).

Expectedly, the new A5 is built on the MLB Evo platform of A4. It employs mainly high-strength steel and a small portion of aluminum parts in its construction. The whole car is said to be 60 kg lighter than before. Size-wise, it grows a little. Overall length is increased by 40 mm, while wheelbase is stretched by 12 mm. However, its 2763 mm wheelbase remains considerably shorter than those of BMW 4-Series (2810 mm) and Mercedes C-class Coupe (2840 mm), so don't expect an accommodative rear seat. That said, the rear seat is now 40/20/40-split for easier access to the boot, whose volume is increased by 10 liters.

As shown in the picture above, its interior is carried over from the A4, including the "virtual cockpit" integrated instrument display. This could be the car's strongest attraction.

The engine range also mirrors its sibling. There are 3 petrol engines: 190 hp 2.0TFSI (Miller-cycle), 252 hp 2.0TFSI and 354 hp 3.0TFSI V6 (for S5). Also 3 diesel engines: 190 hp 2.0TDI, 218 hp 3.0TDI V6 and 286 hp 3.0TDI V6 - note that the last one is 14 hp more potent than the equivalent offering on A4. They are served with either 6-speed manual or 7-speed S-tronic gearbox, but the S5 and 286 hp diesel are so torquey that they need an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic by ZF.

The S5 is good for 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, an improvement of two-tenths. Unsurprisingly, it is fitted with crown-gear Quattro system as standard. The same goes for the 286 hp 3.0TDI. Lesser engines are served with either FWD or the new fuel-saving Quattro Ultra.

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