30 Aug, 2017
New Bentley Continental GT

Bentley unveils the new generation Continental GT. Styling of the new car is clearly inspired by the EXP10 concept car, especially its more sculpted front end with Jaguar-style quad-headlights. However, turn to the side and you will find the beautiful profile of the outgoing car is kept intact. As before, the Continental GT is a huge 2+2 grand tourer. Its overall length is kept unchanged, but the body gets 11mm wider, and its wheelbase is stretched by 110mm, thanks to reduced front overhang.

This new proportion is made possible by the switch to Porsche MSB platform, which underpins also Panamera. The old Continental GT was built upon Audi's Quattro system, so its entire engine sat ahead of the front axle, which made the car nose-heavy. In contrast, the MSB has its front axle pushed forward by 135mm, so the engine sits closer to the firewall. Weight distribution is therefore improved from 56:44 to 53:47 for the W12-engined model (V8 should be better still). As in Panamera, the new 4WD system uses a multiplate clutch to engage the front axle on demand, so in normal driving the car is largely rear-drive. Hopefully this will greatly improve the car's handling and feel.

At launch only the range-topping W12 engine has been unveiled. In fact, it already debuted on the Bentayga SUV, so we should be familiar of its new features: cylinder deactivation (which shuts down half the cylinders on light load), direct and port injection, automatic stop-start... all these help reducing fuel consumption by 16 percent. Meanwhile, output is lifted to 635hp and 664lbft, guaranteeing a top speed of 207mph and 0-60mph in 3.6 seconds. It is not quite as fast as the current Supersports though. As in Panamera, the transmission is now an ZF-built 8-speed twin-clutch, replacing the torque-converter automatic.

The chassis is a mixture of steel and aluminum, while the entire bodywork is made of superformed aluminum sheets. The body-in-white is 80kg lighter than the old car's steel construction. The whole car is 70kg lighter, but it still weighs some 2250 kg. The Panamera-sourced suspensions consist of double-wishbone up front and multi-link setup at the rear, supplemented with 3-chamber air springs, continuous adaptive dampers and electrically actuated active anti-roll bars.

Inside, the design is overhauled. Craftsmenship is still the highlight, but technology is expectedly improved as well. Above the center console is a 12.3-inch touchscreen. It is actually part of the 3-face rotary device, which can be transformed to a wood panel or 3 analogue gauges showing useless information (i.e. outside temperature, compass and timer). Very flamboyant, isn't it? A bit sad to me, the dashboard architecture is clearly based on Panamera's, lacking the character of the old car.

29 Aug, 2017
BMW i3s: a sportier i3

BMW i3 is getting a sportier, if not exactly "hot hatch" version, i3s. From this picture you can see its front end is facelifted (like the regular i3), its wheel arches get black extended sections to accommodate the 40mm wider track as well as the larger and wider wheels and tires (195/50R20 instead of 155/70R19). The suspension is also retuned and lowered by 10mm. At the back, the electric motor gets stronger, providing 184hp and 199lbft instead of 170hp and 184lbft of the standard i3. The larger 94Ah / 33kWh battery is now standard on both cars. The i3s is quoted to do 0-60 mph in 6.6 seconds, 0.3s faster than before, while top speed is lifted from 93 to 100 mph.

24 Aug, 2017
Ferrari Portofino replaces California

Ferrari California T is to be replaced with the new Portofino, which is named after an Italian village. From these pictures, you can see it is just a small evolution. The general profile, basic construction and the folding metal roof are retained. The car is marginally longer and wider than before. Exterior styling gets sharper, more aerodynamic efficient and has stronger family resemblance with 812 Superfast. The aluminum spaceframe chassis is said to be substantially lighter, thanks to new production technology, but Ferrari did not say how much weight is shaved.

The 3855 c.c. twin-turbo V8 is retained, but gets new pistons, con-rods, intake and exhaust to deliberate another 40 horsepower, resulting in 600hp at 7500 rpm and 560 lbft of torque at 3000-5250 rpm. That's 10 ponies fewer than the version used by GTC4 Lusso T. Again variable boost control limits the torque at lower revs and gears to give a more linear feel. Ferrari said the car sprintsf from 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds, a tenth faster than the old car. Top speed is raised by 3mph to 199mph.

The chassis is improved by dual-coil magnetorheological dampers and E-Diff 3, the latter now cooperates with the new electric power steering whose gear ratio is 7 percent faster than its hydraulic predecessor.

Inside, the Portofino gets a vastly updated interior, especially its 10.25-inch touchscreen which is shared with GTC4 Lusso. The air con and power seats are also upgraded. A new wind deflector cuts buffeting and wind noise substantially.

24 Aug, 2017
Industrial News

Audi A4 40TFSI ? Audi adopts new nomenclature

For more than a year, Audi has been selling an A4 with "40 TFSI" badge in Hong Kong. What? When did it put the twin-turbo V8 into the A4? In fact, the car is powered by a 2.0TFSI engine with 190hp. It is confusing... Now Audi is taking this nomenclature strategy global. From now on, the number will reflect output power instead of engine capacity, so it will be more friendly to electrified models coming in the future. For example, the 30TFSI or 30TDI badge is used for cars offering between 110-130hp, while the top 70TFSI represents more than 544hp:

30: 110-130hp
35: 150-163hp
40: 170-204hp
45: 230-245hp
50: 286-313hp
55: 333-374hp
60: 435-462hp
70: 544hp+

22 Aug, 2017

BMW has announced the new M5. Headline is the adoption of 4WD as standard in a bid to fight against Mercedes-AMG E63. The so-called "M xDrive" system uses a multiplate clutch to engage the front axle on demand, or simply leave it alone in RWD mode. In combination with active M differential, handling should be better than ever.

However, the 4.4-liter cross-bank twin-turbo V8 is carried over with only some minor modifications. The turbochargers are said to be new, the fuel injection pressure increased, the cooling and lubrication are enhanced, but the output number is a little disappointing. Earlier reports said it could produce at least 612hp to match E63 S, and some even mentioned 680hp. The actual number is 600hp, only 40hp more than its predecessor, or exactly the same as the last M5 Competition pack. It is released between 5600 and 6700 rpm. Peak torque does improve, from the old car's 501 lbft or competition pack's 516 lbft to 553 lbft, and it is available from 1800-5600 rpm.

Apart from 4WD, another big change is replacing the old twin-clutch gearbox with a version of the ZF 8-speed automatic, which proves that how good torque converter autos these days are. Don't worry about its response, because the new M5 is quoted 0-60 mph in merely 3.3 seconds, 0.9s faster than the old car! It is now leveled with arch-rival E63 S. As for top speed, the standard car is still regulated at 155 mph, while those taking the driver's pack will be upgraded to 190 mph, as usual.

Despite of the addition of 4WD hardware, the new M5 is 15kg lighter than before at 1855kg (DIN). This must thanks to the lighter construction of the new 5-Series donor. Its wider front fenders are made of aluminum (as are the bonnet, boot lid and doors, like the regular 5er), while the roof is carbon-fiber. A lighter lithium battery is used and it is placed at the boot for improved weight distribution. In the chassis, there are some additional reinforcement bracings at the engine compartment and rear subframe. The suspension are stiffened and fitted with adaptive dampers, but overall speaking the new M5 is quite conventional, with little to surprise.

18 Aug, 2017
BMW Z4 Concept

Roadster fever has been cooling down over the last decade, but BMW is not going to surrender yet. To make possible a reasonable economy of scale, it partners with Toyota for the development of its next generation roadster. The result is first previewed with this new Z4 concept, while the new Toyota Supra is expected to be unveiled in Tokyo motor show later this year.

Compared with the existing Z4, the new car looks longer and wider, whereas its styling theme follows closely the recent 8-Series concept, which means far more stylish than the odd-looking old car. Expect the production car will ditch the 20-inch wheels for smaller items, the windscreen will be more upright and finished with thicker frames, and the minimalist door mirrors will become conventional, but otherwise most exterior styling details will be carried over to production.

However, the most significant change should be the replacement of metal folding roof with conventional fabric soft top, following the industrial trend to cut weight and minimize the loss of trunk space.

As usual, BMW is not revealing technical details of its concept car. However, the production Z4 is expected to offer engines similar to the 2, 3 and 4-Series, including 2.0 Turbo four-cylinder with 184hp and 252hp, and 3.0 Turbo six-cylinder with around 340hp. Higher tuned version of the straight-six, probably with 370hp like M2, is likely to happen, but a true M-power unit is unlikely.

18 Aug, 2017
Industrial News

German may ban petrol and diesel cars

German chancellor Angela Merkel reveals the government's intention to ban cars powered by internal combustion engines, probably in line with France and UK, which have proposed the deadline at 2040. Sorry to hear that, because we love Porsche flat-six and AMG V8 so much!

Ferrari likely to scrap plan for new Dino

The rumor about a new entry-level mid-engined Ferrari, aka new Dino, has been running for a few years. FCA boss Sergio Marchionne once confirmed it will be built, but now he said otherwise. In a recent investor meeting, Mr. Marchionne said there is internal debate whether the car should be introduced, and he feared that lowering the price point would not be beneficial to Ferrari. Obviously, some engineers want to build it but the boss prefers to build Ferrari's first SUV crossover instead. Regarding the SUV crossover, he said "it will probably happen but it will happen in Ferrari's style". How to make an SUV in Ferrari style? I have no idea at all.

Mazda Skyactiv-X: world's first HCCI engine

Mazda announced that it is putting the world's first HCCI engine to production from 2019. HCCI (Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition) gasoline engines use high compression ratio to ignit the gas-fuel mixture without the need of spark plugs, much like diesel engines. This will result in leaner mixture, which saves fuel, and much reduced NOx emission because of the lack of high-temperature spark flames. However, at full load, especially when the engine is cold, the combustion tends to be unstable. To address this problem, Mazda's Skyactiv-X engine keeps spark ignition to work under this situation. The question is whether the transition between spark ignition mode and HCCI mode smooth enough for practical use, which we should see in a couple of year's time. No other technical details of the Skyactiv-X engine has been revealed. It only said fuel consumption is reduced by 20-30 percent compared with the current Skyactiv-G, and is therefore comparable with Skyactiv-D.

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