26 Oct, 2016
Mercedes-AMG E63

The new E63 is surprising in a good way. We all know under the trend of reducing CO2 emission AMG is replacing its widely used M157 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 with the newer but smaller M178 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 which started life in the AMG GT. Can AMG manage to keep horsepower with a smaller engine? That will be a test to the new E63, because it is the first model seeing the change. Until now, the most powerful version of M178 is the one on AMG GT R, which produces 585 hp and 516 lbft of torque, less than the outgoing E63 S (585 hp and 590 lbft).

Fortunately, AMG managed to squeeze more from the 4-liter unit again. On the new E63 S, it produces 612 hp and 627 lbft of torque, although the latter arrives 500 rpm higher (at 2500-4500 rpm). This allows the new car to outperform the old one, claiming 0-60 mph in 3.3 seconds (vs 3.5 sec), while top speed is still capped at 186 mph.

Meanwhile, the cheaper E63 produces 571 hp and 553 lbft, again more than its predecessor. It is regulated at 155 mph and 0-60 mph takes a tenth longer than the S model.

In fact, to enable the extra output, the V8 has undergone a surgery. Its two turbochargers are replaced with twin-scroll units - I suspect they get larger thus needs to cut turbo lag. Unlike the arrangement in BMW V8 and Audi V8, each turbo continues to serve only one bank of cylinders, i.e. cylinder 1 and 4 supply one of the scrolls, while cylinder 2 and 3 feed another scroll. From our analysis in Technical School, you will find this arrangement does not fully optimize efficiency, because there are still interferences between the exhaust pulses of cylinder 1 and 4, and between 2 and 3. However, by separating the scrolls, it does manage to avoid the interference between pulses from cylinder 2 and 1, which would be otherwise separated by only 90 degrees. This means, while it is not as effective to reduce interference as the cross-bank turbocharging of its rivals, it is still an improvement from the single-scroll turbo used in other versions of M178.

On the plus side, assigning each turbo to work with one cylinder bank allows a simpler and more compact intake manifold arrangement compared with cross-bank design. This may allow the AMG engine to use larger manifolds to improve breathing.

Another change to the V8 is the addition of cylinder deactivation for the first time. It utilizes Mercedes' Camtronic variable valve lift mechanism to do so. Cylinder 2, 3, 5 and 8 feature 2 sets of cam profiles, one for normal lift and another for zero lift, which shuts down the valves completely. Besides, ignition and fuel injection to these cylinders will be cut, effectively turning the V8 into a V4.

Another significant change is the 4-wheel-drive system, which is not only made standard but also renamed to 4matic+. Until now, the 4matic system uses a planetary center differential to split torque, normally 33:67 or, in the case of the latest E43, 31:69 front to rear. The new 4matic+ replaces the center differential with an electronic-controlled coupler (likely to be a multi-plate clutch) to engage the front axle on demand. This means, its torque split is actively variable, and it is able to deliver 100 percent torque to the rear wheels if it disconnects the front axle completely. This allows the new car to introduce a Drift mode to please keen drivers on track. However, I don't expect the front axle to receive a lot of torque permanently in normal driving because that could cause wear and overheat problems to the coupler.

The rest of the car is more predictable. The transmission is again MCT, but it is now derived from the 9G-Tronic automatic with the torque converter replaced with multi-clutch device, so it offers 2 more ratios. As before, the rear axle is served with a mechanical LSD for the E63 or an electronic LSD for the E63 S.

The suspensions are beefed up with wider tracks, more negative camber, stiffer bushings and hollow anti-roll bars, but it retains the E-class' 3-chamber air suspension. The front suspension features forged aluminum wishbones, strut rod and spring link to reduce weight. The body shell is reinforced by 4 additional struts, 2 at the engine compartment and 2 at the rear. The tires are 265/35ZR20 (front) and 295/30ZR20 (rear), each of them 10mm wider and an inch larger than the old ones. On the S model, the front brakes employ 390 mm compound discs and 6-piston calipers, while the rears are 360 mm and single-pot. Carbon-ceramic brakes remain optional.

Until the arrival of BMW M5 later next year, the AMG E63 S will be the car to beat in the luxury sports sedan class.

13 Oct, 2016
BMW 5-Series G30

The 5-Series has always been an important member of BMW, contributing a substantial part of sales and profit to the group. The last generation, F10 5-Series broke sales record again, registering over 2 million units of sales during its 6.5-years lifespan, up from 1.4 million units of E60, 1.47 million units of E39, 1.3 million units of E34, 722,000 units of E28 and 700,000 units of the original E12. As a result, BMW has very high expectation for the new G30 model, so high that it will add a third production plant at Graz, Austria, beside the main plant at Dingolfing, Germany, and Shenyang, China (which produces only LWB version).

In terms of looks, the new G30 continues the evolutionary styling approach. Much of its genes are shared with the latest 7-Series, including the wider version of kidney grille. Compared with the last car, it appears to be slightly sleeker again. The bonnet looks longer and the cabin is set more reward, visually at least. Most surprising, its drag coefficient is improved to a record 0.22, beating Mercedes E-class and Audi A4 (both 0.23). This must thanks to the use of active shutter grille, underbody sealings and careful management of turbulence around wheel arches.

Size-wise, the car grows very slightly from the F10. It measures 4935 mm in length (up 36 mm), 1868 mm in width (+6 mm) and 1466 mm in height (+2 mm), while wheelbase is extended by only 7 mm to 2975 mm. As before, the new chassis is a mix of high-strength steel and aluminum, but the percentage of lightweight materials has increased so that BMW claims it is up to 100 kg lighter than the last generation. The key load-bearing structure is made of high- and ultra-high-strength steel. Aluminum serves as the material for engine cross-member, rear side-members, bonnet, boot lid, doors and roof. The dashboard cross support is made of magnesium. However, it doesn't employ carbon-fiber as in the case of the 7-Series because of cost concern.

The double-wishbone front suspension and 5-link rear suspension of the old car have been carried over with further improvement, primarily to add rigidity while cutting weight, thanks to higher aluminum content. In addition to the weight saving at electric parking brake (which integrates with brake calipers), wheels and tires, unsprung weight is reduced by a further 9 kg, benefiting ride comfort. As before, adaptive dampers and active anti-roll bars are available, but it refuses to follow Mercedes and Audi to adopt air suspension.

To improve handling further, you can opt for xDrive 4WD system or active rear-wheel steering.

The range of engines are not exactly new because most of them have been used in the 3 and 7-Series. They consist of the modular family B48 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, B58 3.0-liter 6-cylinder, B57 2.0-liter 4-cylinder diesel and B57 3.0-liter 6-cylinder diesel, in addition to N63 4.4-liter V8. All petrol engines feature direct injection, double Vanos, Valvetronic and twin-scroll turbo (the V8 gets 2 of them, of course). The diesel engines employ 2500-bar common-rail injection and VTG turbocharger. They mate with either 6-speed manual or 8-speed ZF automatic transmission.

The models and engines are listed below:


2.0 turbo diesel
190 hp
295 lbft
7.3 s
107 g/km

2.0 turbo
252 hp 258 lbft 5.9 s
126 g/km

3.0 turbo diesel
265 hp
457 lbft
5.4 s
118 g/km

3.0 turbo
340 hp
332 lbft
4.9 s
150 g/km

540i xDrive
3.0 turbo 340 hp
332 lbft
4.6 s
156 g/km

M550i xDrive
4.4 V8 twin-turbo
462 hp
479 lbft
3.9 s
204 g/km

M550d xDrive 3.0 4-turbo diesel
400 hp
561 lbft

2.0 turbo + motor
252 hp
310 lbft
5.9 s
46 g/km

What about the range-topping M5? It is expected to use a revised version of the existing 4.4 V8 that produces the north of 600 hp. We shall see the car later next year.

Inside, the 5-Series' interior looks remarkably close to that of the 7-Series, which is probably a good news because it looks upmarket. It is also served with many gadgets from the larger car, such as front seats with massage function, an i-Drive system capable to recognise gesture or voice commands, as well as countless of semi-autonomous driving aids. In terms of cabin space, it guarantees more rear legroom, and the rear bench is finally shaped to take 3 adults in comfort. At the back, the boot is enlarged slightly to 530 liters. Overall, the G30 brings few surprises, but it improves on every respect such that it is hard to fault.

7 Oct, 2016
Goodbye Ford Falcon!

Finally, the day has come. The last Ford Falcon has rolled off the production line at Broadmeadows plant this morning, signalling the end of Ford's car production in Australia which started from 1959. The first Falcon was built in 1960, and this blue Falcon XR6 is the 3,578,689th. Sales of the Falcon peaked in 1995 at nearly 90,000 units, but since then it has been declining to less than 6,000 units last year, and this year is about the same. Sadly, the Australian large family sedan has always been a good car. Being spacious, robust, powerful and rear-drive yet cheap to buy, it should be a dream car to keen drivers. Somehow, the world has changed, and the car did not adapt quick enough. Furthermore, Australia is no longer a cost-effective place to build cars. Both causes lead to the end of a great era.

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