Thursday, April 22, 2010

Healthy Car Diets

A debate which has gone on between car enthusiast since, the invention of the automobile, is the argument that lowering the curb weight on a car increase the engines horsepower. In terms of ratios, the most agreed upon number is 10:1, meaning that for every ten pounds of weight you shed off a car, the engine is now capable of generating one more horsepower. In my personal opinion, I do believe weight loss plays a pivotal role in giving your car the extra edge against other competition on the street. I have actually experimented with lowering the weight on a vehicle to see if there are any performance benefits.

I previously owned a 2008 Volkswagen R32 which produced 250 hp at the crank, accompanied by 236 torque. The first modification that was done to the vehicle was the replacement of the bulky stock wheels. The stock wheels weighed nearly 26.8 pounds each wheel, bringing the grand total to about 108 pounds for all four wheels. I decided to buy O.Z. Racing wheels as replacements for the stock wheels fro two reasons; they are a very strong design and weigh nearly 10 pounds lighter, per wheel, compared to the stock wheels. The O.Z.'s were the Ultraleggera model wheel which has a fork like design that uses a minimal amount or metal, reducing weight. Each Ultra weighed about 17.1 pounds, a significant amount less than each stock wheel. Just by replacing the wheels, I lowered the cars curb weight by about 40 pounds.

The second modification I did was replace the stock exhaust system with a lighter, less restrictive system made by MagnaFlow. MagnaFlow offered two types of cat-back exhaust systems for the MkV R32, one with a resonator (dampens exhaust noise) and one without a resonator; naturally I chose the one without the resonator. As compared to the stock exhaust, the MagnaFlow weight 11 pounds less! Now that eleven pounds doesn't sound like a lot but you must also remember that the exhaust added performance by being less restrictive. It was less restrictive in the sense that all of the piping was nearly and inch wider in diameter compared to the stock exhaust piping, the muffler was smaller, and the MagnaFlow was non-resonated.

Overall, I shed about 51 pounds of weight off the car which, in terms of the weight loss to horsepower gain ratio, gave the engine about 5 more horsepower. I never put the vehicle on a performance dyno before or after I installed the after market parts so I cannot technically say that there was any particular increase in horsepower. However, I can honestly say that I did notice a little more punch when stomping on the gas peddle, particularly when accelerating from a standstill. In conclusion, I am a firm believer in putting your car on a diet if you want to be able to compete on the streets or on the track. Pulling a little bit of weight away here and there wont ever hurt the car, in fact, it made mine look and sound like something truly special.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Audi RS 5

In the history of Audi, many of there most well known sports cars donned the "S" denotation before the numeral that represented the particular model vehicle (i.e. A3 - S3, A4 - S4). Because of the immense popularity of their S model vehicles, naturally Audi would come out with an S version of their newest and quite possibly, most beautiful car ever, the A5 - S5. The handsome coupe is available with either the 2.0 TFSI four-cylinder or the 3.2 FSI six-cylinder in the A5 model or a 4.2 FSI eight-cylinder in the S5 model. Now all of these different trim and performance levels will surely suite a wide range of enthusiasts, however, some will be needing deeper pockets than others. With all the success in A5 sales, and the popularity of the S5, many have been wondering if Audi will roll out an RS 5. Long have the Audi RS model vehicles been fan-favorites and only owned by few, due to the rarity of the models and limited production. The RS models take performance to a whole other level, far beyond that of a standard Audi model and even an S model.

Thus far, not much information has been leaked on the RS 5 for the exception of a few astonishing numbers. As compared to the Audi S5, which boasts a plentiful 354bhp, the RS 5 will be producing 450bhp! It will skip along 0-60 in about 4.6 seconds which, interestingly enough, is only about one tenth of a second faster than the S5. The RS 5 will use a 7-speed twin-clutch transmission, similar to VW's DSG design (Road&Track). Since it would appear that the extra 96bhp found in the RS 5 doesn't move the car any quicker than the S5, what is the real selling point? Audi has stiffened the shocks and thrown on a few sway bars to help the AWD coupe corner, and run the slalom, a hair quicker than its younger brother. One interesting added feature worth noting would be the deployable trunk spoiler on the RS 5. Once 75mph is reached the spoiler raises a few inches off of the trunk and then retracts when speeds are dropped down below 50. Don't get too excited because the spoiler is mainly for shock-and-awe purposes seeing that it's size helps to provide almost zero pounds of downforce even at 75mph.

Unfortunately, you will not see the RS 5 in America since Audi has decided to only keep it on the other side of the pond. I wouldn't fret too much since the car isn't that much more of a performance beast than the S5 and looks nearly identical. I also must not forget to mention that the RS 5 is nearly $45,000 more than the S5, topping out at around $105,000. So you are getting less performance than a BMW M3 but paying the price of a BMW 750i? Doesn't sound like anything Americans would be interested in; Europe can keep the gorgeous, overpriced, underpowered coupe.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

5.0 Litre Eater

The Ford Mustang has played a large role in shaping American muscle car heritage since 1964, when it first rolled out of Dearborn, Michigan. From that time on the Mustang had gone through major changes in terms of styling and performance. Whether it had the tire-smoking power of the Cobra or the economical gas mileage of the V6, the Mustang always made a statement with every new model produced. One particular aspect of past and, now soon to be present, Mustangs was the ever-famous 5.0 litre V8.

The 2011 model Mustang GT will be powered by a revamped version of the old 5.0 litre V8 that was last used in the 90's model Mustang GTs. The new V8 will produce nearly 416bhp and 390 torque which are not small numbers by any calculation! Note: Ford has yet to release the 0 to 60 time. However, the real question on everyones mind is how the new Stang will stack up against its famed rival, the Chevrolet Camaro SS. In the past, the Mustang GT usually came up short in terms of overall performance but made up for it by sporting a fresher look and nicer interior. With the launch of the new Camaro, Chevrolet has truly produced one of the most attractive vehicles ever to be labeled American muscle. The SS packs one hell of a punch with its 426bhp V8 that is accompanied with nearly 400 pounds of torque.

Now in terms of horsepower, the two cars are not that far apart, however, when comparing the overall engine size, the Chevy may be in a league all of its own. The Camaro's V8 is a 6.2 litre which surpasses both Toyota's iForce V8 (5.7 litre) and Dodge's Hemi V8 (5.7 litre) that are found in there full-size pick-up trucks! Now some enthusiasts would say that given the small difference in horsepower, 10 to be exact, the cars will perform about the same. This may be true to some extent but you cannot tell me that the extra 1.2 litres found in the Chevy are simply left on the side of the road somewhere. You will truly feel that extra 1.2 litres when burning-out from traffic light to traffic light or showing your, ever-appreciating, neighbors how many doughnuts you can do on the street in front of your house. Maybe Ford has finally pushed hard enough to bring the new 2011 Mustang GT 5.0 up to the Camaros SS's level. However, isn't it nice to know that you have a few more litres on the Stang ready to race you to the next traffic light?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

BMW E46 M3

I want to take the time to give recognition to a automobile that will forever hold a place in the history of touring cars, the BMW E46 M3. Not only is this my all-time favorite car it is also one of the most well respected touring cars ever made. The E46 M3 was in production from 2001 to 2006 and was the most popular selling M in the history of BMW's existence (BMWUSA). Over the course of the cars existence there was the standard hardtop and convertible models as well as a GTR and CSL model as well. The most popular of all the models was, of course, the hardtop. This was also the last model M3 that can strictly as a coupe, unlike the E92 M3, which has a four door model. The E46 model certainly embodies everything that a pure bread luxury-sports car is and always will be.

The body design of the E46 grew from the E36 body design, found on all M3s made from 1992 to 1999. The overall shape of the E36 model was a bit boxy from the front to the rear. The boxy shape of the E36 was scrapped in 2000 and the release of the E46 model had critics raving. The front end shared the same circular headlights as the E36, but were now encased in a rounded rectangular housing; this helped accent the vehicles lines. Along with the redesigned headlights, the fenders were flared to give the car a wider looking stance front to back. One significant redesign found on the E46 was the addition of the chrome side grilles which complimented the 19" optional chrome wheels (available with the sport package). Moving toward the rear of the car, the taillights were tweak a bit but still retained the classic Bimmer look. To conclude our tour of the exterior we must mention the most recognizable aspect of the E46 M3, the quad tailpipes located at the center of the bumper. The E36 model sported the generic dual tailpipes offset to the left but the E46 had been given twice the amount of pipes and the location of them made for a very F1-style design. In fact, the center-set design of the E46 M3's tailpipes was so popular that it was carried on to the new E92 model M. Note: the interior remained basically the same for the exception of a optional navigation in-dash navigation system.

The E36 M3 made for a nice track car and was also the first M3 to be powered by a six-cylinder (BimmerWorld). The tradition was renewed in the E46 model, which had a very similar inline-six that had been tuned to produce 333bhp with 269 torque. The overall handling and engine performance helped the E46 M3 finally make a name for BMW's M line, winning countless awards over the time of its production. The engine mated with a six speed manual transmission, or the less popular SMG (Sequential Manual Gearbox), made for a smooth ride around town but was easily capable of tacking down nearly anything it faced on the track. The naturally aspirated engine found in the E46 was one of the best engines ever made in terms of the size to power ratio and is capable of sustaining nearly 1000bhp. Not that it is at all necessary, but a vast range of after market performance parts are available for the E46 model from a range of manufacturers.

In conclusion, the BMW E46 M3 has been put through the paces time in and time out and has passed with flying colors. Even though the model has not been produced since 2006, the car is still one of the most sought after sports cars on the market today and still turns heads when cruising down the street. Whether you plan on tracking the car or just using it as your daily driver, the E46 M3 will behave nothing short of touring-car royalty.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid

Circa 2007, when Mercedes remodeled their ever-famous S class, they may have built the most attractive super sedan on the market. With its eye-catching looks, smooth ride, and over-the-top interior styling, the car was almost perfect... The real issue, besides the outrageous price tag, was the V8 or V12 gas-guzzling monsters that resided under the hoods of a majority of the S classes. After seeing all of the beautiful lines on the exterior of the car and experiencing the luxury of the interior, any practical person would still say that averaging about 18 mpg (that's the V8) is horrendous considering the price of gas is not going to drop anytime in the near future. Hearing a load of grief from countless enviro-friendly consumers, Mercedes may have finally come up with an automobile that will silence their voices; the new 2010 S400 Hybrid.

The new S400 may look nearly identical to the S550 inside and out but is certainly worlds apart. The S400 will not be powered by the enormous V8 found in the S550 but by a less powerful but a whole lot more fuel efficient, V6 Hybrid. There is nothing screwy about the V6s internals because it is built and runs just the same as any other V6, however, it is mated with an electric motor. The fact that the engine has not been tampered with in order to somehow fit another electric motor or ion battery inside should be a relief to those who are skeptical of new technology. The electric engine is powered by a lithium-ion battery and is truly the first of its kind. The pair produces upwards of 295bhp accompanied by 284 torque, no small numbers indeed! Now it must be said that the overall performance of the S400 is in no way comparable to the S550's V8, however, it does pack quite a punch when you put your foot down.

The new hybrid design in the S400 actually restores energy when you stop at a traffic like or stop sign due the engines "stop-start system" (MBUSA). This adds to the already impressive gas mileage achieved by the V6. The average mpg for the S400 is an astonishing 22.5 mpg; very impressive given the overall size and weight of the vehicle. Now yo may think that high gas mileage equals miserably slow 0 to 60, the Merc does it in a respectable 7.2 seconds. Another interesting spec to note is that the hybrid technology found in the S400 is the first to use a lithium-ion battery as its powertrain. Times certainly are changing and Mercedes seems to be headed down the right track with this new automobile. If you recall what I had said earlier about the only real issue with the S class Mercs is the terrible gas mileage; problem solved! It is also important to mention that the vehicle's MSRP is $87,950; just a small price to pay on the way to environmental cleanliness. On a final note, the car is truly a work or art in the sense that you can still get a ritzy Benz and help save the environment too, but don't think they wont make you pay for it!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Leno Camaro

For as long as muscle cars have existed the powerful V8s hiding under the hoods have made a name all for themselves in terms of overall horsepower and torque...and poor gas mileage. This holds true for the new Chevrolet Camaro SS, with its 426bhp engine producing nearly 400 torque. The SS, being the most powerful trim level for the new Camaro, averages about 19 mpg which isn't all that bad considering all that power. But in contrast to the SS model, the LS and LT model, which are powered by V6s, average an astonishing 23 mpg! Even if you decide to be a bit more mindful of the economy and purchase a V6 powered Camaro you wont be disappointed with the overall performance considering both the LS and LT models have 304bhp and 273 pounds of torque. Now I'm certainly not saying that driving the V6 is more of a thrill than the eight cylinder, however, the overall handling of the V6 dominates that of the V8. The two extra cylinders found in the eight add significantly more weight to the front of the care which causes a few handling issues; in fact the V6 out performs the V8 in many handling tests (Edmunds). So the real question is do you prefer overall power or overall handling; or what if you could have both?...

GM has teamed up with the late night legend and major car enthusiast himself, Jay Leno, to build a Camaro that will surely break the muscle car mold. What has been name the "Leno Camaro" was first seen at the SEMA auto show this past year and got a whole lot of buzz. Now of course from the exterior the Leno Camaro has all the hood intakes, over sized air-dams, and shiny wheels you would expect to see on a concept but its one particular modification that had people really wondering whats going on under the hood. The front fascia is nearly twice the size of the one found on the standard Camaro, and for good reason. The V6, yes I said V6 and not V8, found under the hood has been gracefully modified to run with two Turbonetics T-3 turbochargers. The twin-turbo V6 puts out 425bhp (torque figures not mentioned) which is only one shy of the monstrous V8 found in the SS. The kicker is that you are getting all the same V8 power with the gas mileage of a six cylinder!

Unfortunately the Leno Camaro will most likely never see production because it will share the same power as the SS but have a higher price tag. However, GM has made a move in the right direction given the oil "crisis" and looming economy which will inevitably push gas prices up come summertime. I have to say that a true muscle car should have a huge gas-guzzling V8 under the hood but, speaking realistically, that is going to be out of the question in a few more years. People, no matter how much they love hearing the roar of a V8 when shredding the tires off in a burnout, will come around and realize that it is truly impractical and uneconomical to own Detroit muscle. Thanks to GM, we now have a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of muscle car survival!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Synchrorev Match Transmission

This past year Nissan has released the 370Z to continue on the famed heritage of the past Z series automobiles. Along with a redesigned exterior, technically advanced interior, wider wheel base, and a bit more power, comes a very unique technical achievement. The newest Z, like past Zs, has the option of being purchased with a sports package which gives you the usual stiffer suspension, bigger wheels, and spoiler. However, there is one more added option that comes with the sport package that hasn't been seen on any past Zs, or any other vehicle for that matter; that is Nissan's new Synchrorev Match Transmission (SRM).

The new SRM system does exactly what it sounds like and matches your rpms to the proper power range when downshifting. For those who are unfamiliar allow me to explain; when downshifting in a manual car it is best to "blip" (apply a small amount of power) the throttle in order to make the shift smoother. People who are accustomed to driving manual cars know that finding the perfect rpm while downshifting isn't as easy as it sounds. The SRM transmission in the new Z does all the work for you; all you need to worry about is using the clutch and actually moving the shifter, all the rpms are matched perfectly when moving down through the gears. Not only does the SRM transmission help to smooth out your downshifts but it also helps quicken upshifting. It uses the same technique as it does down shifting by holding the rpms up higher in range so no power is lost when banging through the gears.

Now this advancement in technology surely helps the common driver with everyday upshifting and downshifting and its proven itself on the track, however, some enthusiasts still don't buy into it. Many "drivers" say that the SRM transmission takes away some of the overall skill in being able to drive a stick. They also state that half the fun of driving a stick is having complete control of the vehicles power when moving up or down through gears and when braking in hard corners. Nissan's answer to these individuals can be found in any of the 370Zs that lack the sport package but this is to say that you will be missing out on the stellar 19 inch RAYS wheels, Bilstein suspension, and deck spoiler. my best guess is that the SRM transmissions will be standard throughout Nissan's lineup or at least be an available option. All in all, the SRM transmission is a fantastic innovation in automobile technology and will surely be sought out by other car manufacturers; but for now, Nissan holds the key to an aggressive yet smooth shifting ride.