Thursday, 26 November 2009

Mercedes-Benz W212 E-Class launched in Malaysia

It's finally here, the all-new E-Class (W212) being launched by Mercedes-Benz Malaysia (MBM) at a glitzy evening function at the Palace of Golden Horses. To begin with only the E300 V6 will be available for sale immediately, priced at RM458,888.

The mass-market E200 CGI (estimated to retail about RM370k) will only be available sometime April 2010, along with the E250 CGI (circa RM410k) at about the same time. Both variants will have the same 1.8L lump in different state of tune and turbo-boost - along with direct injection - churning out 184hp/270Nm and 204hp/310Nm respectively. In contrast the E300 is powered by a naturally-aspirated 3.0L V6 pumping out a combo of 231hp/300Nm. Both the 4-cylinders E-Class only make do with 5 A/T 'box while the V6 will sport Merc's 7G-Tronic.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

2010 Hyundai Sonata 2.4 to have 201ps/250Nm GDI engine

To help meet its goals of environmental leadership, Hyundai Motor Company unveiled the 2.4 Theta II GDI, its first Gasoline Direct Injection engine before an audience of engineers attending the Ninth Annual Hyundai-Kia International Powertrain Conference.

Representing the biggest advancement in fuel injection, an ‘80s technology that replaced the carburetor, GDI puts Hyundai at the cutting edge of engine design and management by achieving three seemly incompatible goals: GDI lowers emissions while raising power output and improving fuel economy. Prior to GDI, a gain in one area came at the expense of the other two.

With a compression ratio of 11.3:1, the 2.4 Theta II GDI delivers 201ps at 6300rpm and 250 Nm of torque at 4250 rpm in its Korean domestic market specification.

“The Theta II GDI convincingly demonstrates Hyundai’s advanced powertrain engineering capabilities,” said Dr. Lee Hyun-Soon, Vice Chairman and Chief Technology Officer.

One serious limitation of conventional fuel injection is that as engine revolutions increase, the valve opening and closing times get progressively shorter, thus reducing the time available to inject fuel. GDI avoids this problem altogether by positioning the fuel injector in the most optimal location, directly inside the combustion chamber to offer unparalleled precision. With this shorter and more direct path, far greater control is attained over the combustion process: A high pressure fuel pump injects the fuel at pressures of up to 150 bar, in precise amounts and intervals.

The injection is split into two phases to achieve optimum combustion: in the first phase, the pilot injection and ignition trigger the piston's downward power stroke. Then, in the main injection phase, during the piston's descent, more fuel is injected and is ignited. This split-injection technique reduces loading on the catalytic converter and helps lower emissions. This is particularly beneficial during cold starts when emissions are highest because the catalyst has not reached its optimal operating temperature. Split-injection enables the catalytic converter to reach the optimal operating temperature faster thus reducing emissions by 25 percent during cold starts and meet’s California Air Resources Board’s ULEV-2 and PZEV standards.

GDI’s other benefits include improved dynamic performance and better mileage. Compared to a conventional engine of the same displacement, GDI delivers 7 percent more torque at low revolutions and 12 percent more torque at the high-end for better take-off and overtaking performance. Perhaps best of all, a vehicle equipped with a GDI engine will get about 10 percent better mileage than a vehicle equipped with a conventional multi-point fuel injected engine. Precise mileage figures will be announced when retail sales begin.

GDI has been applied to the second generation of Theta: Theta II features numerous design enhancements over its predecessor starting with the application of a three-stage variable induction system (VIS) which improves engine "breathing," automatically adjusting the volume of the air sucked into the combustion chamber to create the optimal air-to-fuel mix under different engine load conditions.

Further performance gains were made possible by incorporating Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (DCVVT) which improves engine breathing on the intake and exhaust sides for better fuel economy and lower emissions. Depending on engine load and speed, DCVVT can extend or shorten the duration of the valve opening and closing for more power and lower emissions. And the DCVVT system is governed by a new steel chain with an innovative roller and tooth designed for silent operation and durability.

While DCVVT and VIS improve power output, engineers have also come up with several important weight saving innovations. Special attention was focused on the bulkhead, the area of the aluminium cylinder block accumulating the highest stresses: Reinforcement yielded a stiffer block without incurring a weight penalty. A redesign of the crankshaft (semi-eight-balance type) led to an equally important weight reduction. The catalytic converter is also lighter thanks to a new canning process which allows for the use of thinner gauge stainless steel and requiring far less welding.

Another major engineering challenge was to reduce internal friction to attain better fuel economy. Friction reduction measures include a revision of the piston pin from a fixed-type to a full-floating design which cuts down on friction between the piston and cylinder wall. And under the piston crown, engineers have added a cooling jet which sprays oil over the piston walls reducing friction and contributing to an improvement in fuel economy.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Andropause Rx: A Porsche to restore low testosterone?

Scientists have conducted a rather interesting study, according to an article posted at Zeintec (Zei-News) online newsletter.

A group of men were first given ownership (for a full hour) of a £75,000 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet, followed by ownership (for a full hour) of a sixteen year old Toyota Camry, which definitely fell into the ‘beaten-up-family-car’ category.

Before the drive began in the Porsche, tests were conducted on saliva samples from each man and a testosterone level was noted. After the men took a drive through the country side, alone in the car with no witnesses, there was a significant increase in these levels! To take it a step further, the levels increased even MORE when the man drove through a town or city where there were plenty of female onlookers to fluff their tail feathers for.

BUT when the man took an hour drive in the Toyota, there was no increase in their testosterone levels and sadly, some men even showed a slight decrease!

For a man, owning a Porsche would be the equivalent of having the brightest feathers amongst your peacock rivals! It is common knowledge that a low testosterone level in a man can lead to a decrease in health; bad moods, sleep difficulty, putting on weight and a low sex drive...So the conclusion we come to: driving a Porsche is great for your health!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Perodua Viva Elite

Today I shall get down-to-earth, back-to-basics with this car review. No other car epitomize this better than Perodua Viva Elite. It is by no means bargain-basement cheap, considering that Perodua is considered a national car maker and is afforded tariff exemption, special tax incentives et al.

Not paying much attention to this Perodua model initially, I was surprised at how decent this rebadged Daihatsu Charade (of previous generation) can be. Things that matter like ABS, twin SRS airbags are there. Even the wing mirrors are electrically foldfable. Hear this UMW Toyota: (well, they are of the same core business group anyway), where's the electric folding mirror action for the RM175k Toyota Prius?

Then there's also adjustable seatbelt anchorage points on the B-Pillars. Similar items in Toyota Avanza and even Nissan Grand Livina? No.

Though the seats are not the last word in comfort - its flanks support and backrest are a little thin/stingy but the thigh supports are surprisingly adequate (at least for my short stature) i.e. ant-posterior length-wise up to the mark. Once again, even the ever popular (D-segment!) Toyota Camry is a little shortchanged here. Serious.

Drive wise, there is nothing much to complain about. It's sprightly enough, light footed and willing on the move. There's even 4 -speed auto now, versus the Kancil 850 EZ which my better half owned 8 years ago. Idling vibrations is still noticeable, even though idling engine speed is pretty high at 1000rpm. The instruments panel are simple, clean and easily legible. something that the other 'major' national carmaker needs to learn for its Neo model or even its new, I meant Exora.

The chassis gets a tad floaty as you breach our national highway speed limit but I guess flogging it to, say 130 km/h is much akin to wearing your Croc sandals to do snorkeling.

Funnily, the alloy wheels managed to look like wheel caps, which is something rather 'bizarre' considering that some good wheel caps can mimic otherwise these days!
In contention for a NST-Maybank COTY award 2009, whether the Viva Elite will present better value than the Hyundai i10 remains with the end-user. While the little Hyundai does handle better and has a better interior, the Viva's trump cards are its features.

At the end of the day, most motorists at this entry-level budget segment will likely emphasise on Viva's resale value in the future as a key consideration factor in their purchase.
Or perhaps another choice may be the newly relaunched, facelifted and renamed Naza (Kia) Picanto?

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

2010 Porsche Boxster Spyder

Porsche AG is at it again. This time around the boys at Zuffenhausen sprinkle their special edition magic on their facelifted (2nd generation 987 series) Boxster S, creating another Spyder variant: aptly named the Porsche Boxster Spyder.

Powered by the similar state-of-tune 3.4L naturally-aspirated Boxer-6 found in the Cayman S, the Boxster Spyder has a peak output of 320hp instead 310hp in the standard Boxster S. The Spyder will zip from standstill to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds when specified with Porsche Doppel Kupplungsgetriebe (PDK) twin-clutch gearbox, along with the (extra cost option) Sports Chrono Package. Terminal velocity is a lofty 267 km/h. In comparison, the standard Boxster S does the same century sprint in 5.0 seconds. Just how well the lightened and simplified pull-over canvas roof takes to this Vmax is anybody's guess. Yes, the regular electric folding top has gone the way of weight saving.

The most noticeable differences on the Spyder are the new 'double-bubble' rear deck, reprofiled front bumper, a set of newly designed alloy wheels and a large fixed rear spoiler.

Also obliterated in the interest of excess fab shedding are the standard Boxster's daytime running lights and fog lamps. The cabin has been stripped out of any "excessive" equipments like audio system and air conditioning. Both these items however, can be refitted as cost options! The interior also gets a pair of seat-belt like strips as door pulls instead of the regular metal door opening handles. In addition, there is also a pair of sport bucket seats of lightweight carbon-fibre construction.

After all these 'dieting' measures, this special edition Boxster manage to shed 80 kg off a regular Boxster S. To be exact, the Spyder tips the weighing scale at 1,275 kg.

Reliving a legacy harking back to the days of the iconic Porsche 550 Spyder from the 1950s, the 2010 Boxster Spyder essentially replaces the standard Boxster's electrically retractable soft-top with a simple and lightweight pull-over contraption that hooks up onto the windshield frame. It also sports rear double-humps just distal to the roll-over hoops, with a sloping contour reminiscent of the Carrera GT.

The new Boxster Spyder is slated for worldwide launch sometime February 2010. Base price starts at €53,100 (US$78,400) in Europe. Would the price be hovering near a standard Cayman S with PDK (RM665,000) if this is at all made available in Malaysia next year?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Open-Top Ponder: 2001 Porsche Boxster or new Mazda MX5?

Click on all images to enlarge

This is one of those shootout that was hatched out-of-the-blue following a friendly request from the guy you see above. He has been a true roadster fan - who has contemplated a Rover MGF at one point - and probably still is but is caught in a dilemma between a four dour sedan practicality (e.g. Mercedes-Benz W204 C-Class) and a strictly 2-seater drop-top.

Since both of these cars are price circa RM200k, they make a nice comparo: albeit one is almost a decade old and the other one being brand new!

The Mazda is no pushover despite its diminutive 2.0L powerplant. In fact, I was truly impressed with its 50:50 weight distribution affording it superb chassis balance. Its steering is nicely quick and accurate too, having a longitudinal front engine paired with rear wheel drive. driving the iconic Mazda Miata is a revelation reminiscent much of a BMW in character. Well maybe this is where a Japanese car (thus far) gets closest to BMW in driving dynamics. the suspension and chassis strength are superb, coping up brilliantly even if you couldn't brake in time for a speed hump. No issues of bottoming out or rippling motion over bad surfaces.

I would not comment much on the Boxster 2.7 except for its superb squatting stability you get around corners and the inimitable Boxer-6 burble and howl. Anything more than that, I'd be accused of boasting about my own ride.

After doing this 'shootout', it made me wondered why I didn't go for a new MX5 instead. The 22-second 'transformer' roof's definitely more secure and provides better insulation all around since it is after all a metal hardtop. Hmmm...Then again, my red little Boxster has recently transformed into a Cayman (or a Coxster as Jeremy Clarkson calls it!) of late :)