24 Apr, 2017
Mercedes S-class facelift (and new engines)

Enterring its 4th year of production, the current Mercedes S-class has received a mid-life facelift. Key changes concentrate on the nose, i.e. the front bumper intakes and headlights. Under the bonnet, the 5.5 twin-turbo V8 of S500 (S550) has been retired. Taking its place is the newer 4.0-liter unit. Despite of downsizing, it is tuned to produce slightly more power at 469 hp (+14hp) and 516 lbft (unchanged). Note that the car is now rebadged S560, resurrecting a nameplate that represented the ultimate S-class from 1985-1990. It is equipped with 4matic as standard.


The 4-liter twin-turbo V8 also powers the updated AMG S63. In this case, its output is in the same tune as E63 S, i.e. 612 hp and 627 lbft. That is 27hp stronger but 37lbft weaker than the old motor. The new engine is mated with a 9-speed MCT gearbox like the E63.

In the diesel side, Mercedes has finally improved its slightly underpowered diesel V6 to match its Munich and Ingolstadt rivals. The new engine is a 3-liter straight-6 ! It has 2 states of tune: in S350d it produces 286hp and 442lbft, while S400d produces 350hp and 516lbft. Both feature aluminum block and steel pistons, 2-stage turbocharging and for the first time the use of Camtronic VVL on Mercedes diesel engines.

The petrol six-cylinder will also switch to 3-liter straight-six. It will feature an electric charger beside normal exhaust gas turbo. However, it will be launched later in the year thus the final spec. has not been revealed. Expect at least 408 hp.

24 Apr, 2017

M4 CS (Club Sport) sits between the M4 with Competition package and the limited edition M4 GTS. Its engine is tuned to deliver 460 hp, 29hp up from the standard M4 and 10hp more than the Competition pack, but 40hp less than the GTS. However, its 442 lbft of max. torque matches the latter, even without the help of water injection. BMW didn't reveal what changes have been made to the engine, but a higher boost pressure is certain.

Equipped with DCT box as standard, the car is 22 kg lighter than the equivalent M4. Weight savings comes from carbon-fiber bonnet (in addition to CFRP roof), diffusers and rear spoiler, as well as lightweight seats, interior door panels and trims. The suspension setup is just the same as the Competition pack.

BMW claims it will do 0-60 in 3.8 seconds, two-tenths quicker than the standard car, and it matches exactly its arch-rival Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe. Unfortunately, its exhaust note is unlikely.

24 Apr, 2017
Mercedes A-class sedan concept

Mercedes showed a concept A-class sedan in last week's Shanghai motor show to preview the forthcoming production car, which will be built on the next generation MFA platform and sold in China as a rival to Audi A3 sedan and BMW 2-series sedan. It goes without saying that cars in this segment need to have a tail to sell well in China.

The design of the car is quite good, smooth and has plenty of Mercedes genes, if not as distinctive as the C-class. It is slightly shorter than the latter, but wider. No technical details have been revealed, but there should be few surprises.

24 Apr, 2017
Industrial News

New Honda Civic Type R retakes Nurburgring record

2 years ago, Honda Civic Type R turbo broke the Nurburgring lap record for hot hatches and FWD cars with a lap time of 7min 50.63 sec. Since then its time has been toppled by Volkswagen Golf GTi Clubsport S with a margin of only 1.4 second. Now the latest Type R has retaken the title at 7min 43.8s. What makes it faster? 10 extra horsepower, 12 kg less weight, 38 percent up in torsional rigidity, 34mm lower CoG and a multi-link rear axle.

14 Apr, 2017
Jaguar F-Type 2.0T employs MultiAir-style VVL

As many other motoring journalists reported a couple of days ago, Jaguar F-Type is adding a new 2-liter Ingenium petrol turbo engine good for 300 horsepower as an entry-level option. However, few noticed that the engine has a special feature: an electrohydraulic variable intake valvetrain that offers fully variable valve lift. After examining its photos and text description in the press release, I found its hardware is very similar to Fiat's MultiAir valvetrain, which is also electrohydraulic-actuated. First, let us have a look into Fiat's design:

< Fiat MultiAir

Now let's turn to the new 300hp Ingenium engine:

Isn't it very similar? In this engine, the intake camshaft does not actuate the valves directly. Instead, each cam lobe pushes a hydraulic pump through roller finger follower. It pumps the oil to push the intake valve. At the other end of the oil path, there is an oil chamber with integral solenoid valve. When the solenoid valve is closed, the oil cannot enter the chamber, thus it can go to the valve actuator only and realize the maximum valve lift (11mm). Conversely, when the solenoid valve is opened, oil can enter the chamber thus fails to push the valve actuator, resulting in zero lift or a complete valve closure. By controlling the timing of the solenoid valve opening, the engine can achieve fully variable valve lift.

Apart from VVL, the engine also employs dual-VVT, of course. They are configured such that, at low engine load, the intake valve opens later, closes earlier and low valve lift is used. At part load, it opens earlier, close earlier and medium valve lift is used. For full power, the intake valve opens for the longest duration and highest lift.

Although the concept is similar to MultiAir, the Ingenium employs DOHC, unlike Fiat which uses SOHC to drive both intake valves (through electrohydraulic) and exhaust valves (directly). This should allow the Jaguar engine to rev higher.

Like BMW's Valvetronic, Jaguar also uses the fully VVL function instead of throttle butterfly to control engine output (although the latter is retained), so that pumping loss is reduced under part and low load.

The result? 300hp is quite remarkable for a 2-liter four. Its maximum torque is also very good at 295 lbft, released from merely 1500 rpm - the latter is partly contributed by the use of a twin-scroll turbocharger. Compared with the existing entry-level F-Type 3.0 supercharged V6 with 340hp, the four-pot engine cuts fuel consumption by 16 percent, and the whole car is 52 kg lighter. Weight distribution is improved from 51:49 to 50:50 as a result. As for performance, its top speed is 7 mph lower at 155mph and 0-60 mph takes 0.4s longer at 5.4s. The car is sold for £50,000 at its home market, just £3600 less the V6. Technology isn't cheap.

14 Apr, 2017
Industrial News

WCOTY: Jaguar F-Pace

Another headline for the big cat. Jaguar F-Pace becomes the first SUV-crossover to win the World Car of the Year title, which is a big disappointment to AutoZine. Even more disappointing, second place VW Tiguan and third place Audi Q5 are also SUVs. Why not simply change the title to WSUVOTY?

12 Apr, 2017
Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

I doubt if I have ever seen any production cars as single-minded as this one. The new Dodge Challenger SRT Demon is NOT the GT3 RS version of Hellcat, which would have been far more versatile. In fact, it is designed purely for drag race. All mechanical changes are made to improve 1/4-mile standing start as far as possible, even at the expense of handling or overall performance in the real world. Let's start from the engine...

It is still the 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 like the Hellcat, but FCA gave it a larger (2.7 liters instead of 2.4 liters) supercharger which offers a higher (1.0 bar instead of 0.8 bar) boost pressure. A larger airbox is fed by the prominent scoop on the hood. The V8 is allowed to rev to 6500 rpm, 300 rpm higher than before. Its fuel pump is upgraded to supply more fuel. Its pistons and con-rods are stronger, too. Drinking regular fuel, it is already good for 808 hp and 717 lbft of torque, compared with 707 hp and 650 lbft of the Hellcat. When it is fed with special, 100 Octane fuel, the output is lifted to 840 hp and 770 lbft. Both easily crown it the most powerful production car in the world. By the way, "production car" here means a production run of 3300 units.

To aid drag race, Demon goes as far as using the air conditioning's refrigerant to help cooling the charger cooler of the supercharger. This allows the car to recover faster after each drag run.

Traction is another key issue for faster acceleration. The Demon uses Nitto NT05R drag race tires (but street legal). At 315/40R18, they are 2-inch smaller than the Hellcat's but 40mm wider. The contact patch area is increased by 15 percent, while total traction is doubled.

Meanwhile, the smaller alloy wheels are lighter, but they cannot fit the Hellcat's 390mm front brake discs, so they are downgraded to 360mm items. Nevermind, this car is all about acceleration, so who cares deceleration?

To cope with the extra torque, the automatic transmission's torque converter is upgraded. It is also designed for higher torque multiplication so to enhance standing-start acceleration further. The propshaft and axle are strengthened.

Drag race performance also dictates the suspension setup. To enhance traction, the springs are actually softened (by 35% front and 28% rear), ditto the anti-roll bars (-75% / -44%) and adaptive damper setting. In addition to reduced negative camber at the rear wheels, the rear tires can remain in contact with the tarmac under harder acceleration.

Handling in corners? Should be a nightmare, of course!

If you are hardcore, you can opt for weight-saving options which cut around 90 kg from the Hellcat's 2018 kg kerb weight. These go as far as ditching not only audio, sound deadening materials and the rear seats but also the front passenger seat!

The result? A muscle car claiming 0-60 mph in 2.3 seconds and quarter mile in 9.65 seconds at 140 mph. Mind you, it will lift up its front wheels during such a drag run.

No, that's not the car for our taste, of course.

7 Apr, 2017
Honda Civic Si goes turbocharged

As before, Civic Si is the last stop before the ultimate Type R. The new generation Civic Si is again available in both coupe and sedan forms. The outgoing 2.4-liter VTEC motor has been replaced with a tuned version of the 1.5-liter Earth Dream direct-injection turbo engine that produces 205 hp and 192 lbft, up 4 horses and 22 lbft from the old engine, although it is no where as willing to rev. Power goes through a 6-speed manual gearbox and a helical LSD to the front wheels. The suspension gets stiffer springs, anti-roll bars and bushings, while adaptive dampers are adopted for the first time. The stiffer upper control arms of the front suspension come directly from Type R. Besides, the car is fitted with larger front brakes and 235/40R18 tires.

6 Apr, 2017
Audi A8 turns to multi-material ASF

As shown in this picture, the next generation Audi A8, to be launched in July, turns to using multi-materials instead of aluminum to construct its ASF (Audi Space Frame) chassis. Aluminum content drops to 58 percent, while the remaining consists of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (the rear bulkhead), ultra-high strength steel (side rails, A and B-pillars), conventional steel and magnesium (front tower brace). Overall, its torsional rigidity is lifted by 24 percent, but the chassis also gains 50 kg.

1 Apr, 2017
HKG to take over Volkswagen

Exclusive News: Hybrid Kinder Group (HKG), the Hong Kong-listed, China-controlled automotive startup, is in secret negotiation to take over the Volkswagen group.

HKG was first known to the public just last month when it presented a plug-in hybrid kinder choculate saloon called H777 in Madagascar motor show (see news). Although the company has virtually no track records, in China it is reckoned to be the most promising new energy car maker since CYD (Copy Your Dreams), as it masters the state-of-the-art technology of choculate-fed range-extender. The company hires 1194 employees in Hong Kong, about 800 of whom are marketing guys or liars.

HKG H777 concept, whose H stands for Haven-has-a-place-reserved-for-me!

Signs about the acquisition plan leaked late last month as former Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech determined to sell his 14.7 percent stakes in Porsche SE, the holding company that controls 52 percent voting shares of Volkswagen AG, following a series of dispute with the Porsche family headed by his cousin Wolfgang Porsche. Since then Piech has been in talks with various potential buyers, ending up with an agent called LOCPG, which seemed to represent the central government of China.

According to insiders, Piech was deeply touched by the welcome dog meat feast he was served by the Chinese side since none of his relatives are willing to dine with him for many years. Besides, he was gifted a calligraphy penned by the head of LOCPG which is estimated to be worth HK$18.8 million (US$2.4 million), making him wished he should have learned calligraphy instead of building Bugattis. Moreover, Piech said the price offered by the communist party was simply irresistible, easily trumping Donald Trump's. Therefore, he signed the agreement shortly after drinking 3 glasses of Maotai.

Apart from Dr. Piech, all other members of the Piech family are going to sell their stakes to HKG as well. In addition, Mark Philipp, Ferdinand Oliver and Kai Alexander Porsche, the sons of "Butzi" Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, may join the departure, too. Butzi Porsche was the designer of the original 911 but during his life he was never assigned any management positions in the family business. It is believed that his sons thought their father did not get the respect he deserved. If they sell their stakes, HKG will be able to take a controlling stake in Porsche SE hence also the Volkswagen group.

Left: Ferdinand Piech;  Right: Mark Philipp, Ferdinand Oliver and Kai Alexander Porsche.

China has been pursuing to take a significant share in global car market in recent years. Under the 13th 5-Year Plan, its car industry is set to expand outside the domestic market and promote "The Chinese Dream". With unlimited support from the mother country, HKG is wealthy enough to buy not only Wolfsburg but also Bayern Munich or even Messi !

According to insiders knowing the matter, HKG chose Volkswagen purely because of the dieselgate crisis. The firm is confident that its choculate-fed range extender hybrid technology will be able to replace the troublesome diesel engines in Volkswagen's lineup. Hopefully this will boost the price of cocoa futures contracts the company has just bought. In shorter terms, HKG can share its common module cheating software platform with Volkswagen to help it pass emission tests. This software is fully compliant with the laws as it does not contain any cheating codes, although it leaves a backdoor for military-grade Chinese hackers to rewrite the engine control software to pass emission tests. Hopefully this will save enormous money and unlock the profit potential of Volkswagen.

Before ending up with VW, the senior management of HKG also considered General Motors seriously, but the latter's withdrawal from European market recently put them off, as this means they will not have free vacations to London, Paris and Milan to please their wives and mistresses. Moreover, its CEO, Wolfman Ying, reckoned the name of General Motors sounds too general, not special enough to catch the attention of Chairman Xi, so it is best left to Sergio Marchionne, who has been chasing the love of GM for life. In contrast, Volkswagen, or People's Car, sounds right to the taste of the Communist Party, according to Ying.

To apply for bank loans, HKG commissioned a numerology maestro to review the acquisition plan. He discovered that the Volkswagen logo secretly hides its destiny as a Chinese possession: by flipping its V and W upside down, it becomes the Chinese character for "People" ! As a result of the discovery, HKG has designed a new logo for Volkswagen:

The basic design of the new logo is largely unchanged, although its main color is altered for luck, something VW desperately needed. The big star in the middle represents Chairman Xi, who is surrounded by the people or body guards, depending on your view. The 4 smaller stars are said to represent Four Modernizations, a reminder that Chinese people have finally realized "the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation". However, another source close to the original designer said they are just added to fill up the space.

The biggest hurdle to the purchase is likely to be the so-called "Volkswagen Law" of Lower Saxony, the German state where Volkswagen headquarters located. It guarantees the state government, which owns 20 percent stake and holds 2 seats on the board, can reject any major strategic decisions. However, it is expected the Lower Saxony will not block the sale under the threat of embargo by China, because the people of Lower Saxony love to wear Chinese socks and underwear, cannot live without them.

Once the acquisition is completed, HKG will launch a massive reform called "Great Leap Foward". The core element of this reform will be replacing the German sausages with Lap Cheong in employee canteens, which is set to be the most ambitious cost cutting program implemented by Volkswagen in decades. However, this plan is likely to face strong opposition from the powerful labour union, which holds half of the 20-seats supervisory board.

To address the problem, HKG plans to revise the employee Code of Conduct with reference to the Basic Law of Hong Kong, which is probably the cleverest law in the world. Under the new CoC, Volkswagen employees will have freedom to choose what to eat, and the chefs will have freedom to decide what to cook, as long as the choices shall "demonstrate the love and loyalty to the company". In case of disputes, the CoC is always subjected to the interpretation of Beijing HQ, of course.

Brilliantly, depending on management needs the interpretation of CoC could be just as flexible as MQB platform. Sometimes for the interest of the company, "white" can be interpreted as "black", "deer" can be interpreted as "horse", the sum of 2 and 2 could be 5, and sausage could mean strictly Lap Cheong. This demonstrates an unprecedented level of customization to the taste of Big Boss. If a labour board member is found violating the interpretation, he will be consigned to history and end up in Lap Cheong, demonstrating his last love and loyalty to the company. Over time, only good guys will be left in the boardroom, and perfect harmony will be achieved. Hopefully this will call an end to the boardroom chaos troubling Volkswagen in the past 5 years.

As for the very important CEO position, HKG has already handpicked a perfect candidate:


Agent 777 might not be as romantic as 007 or as sexy as Scarlett, but she has wealth of experience in dealing with complicated situations and is highly capable to work under immense pressure, obviously. Most important, she never argues with Big Boss. Let us celebrate for the newly selected Chief Executive!

Happy April 1st and good luck Volks !

(Sorry, you need to be a Hongkonger to fully understand this article.)

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