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Tuesday 20th December 2011


PH Blog: viva V8s!

Global warming and all that? Yes, that'll be our fault


For all the talk of engine downsizing and eco doom it seems there an awful lot of big V8s around still. Good! And in an effort to score some more PH-worthy transport following the departure of my brilliant but somewhat modestly engined VW Caddy I seem to have had three in a row. All of them very different. But all of them rather wonderful!

Eight cylinders, two turbos, lots of fun
Eight cylinders, two turbos, lots of fun
The first, and the most new-school, was the E63 AMG wagon (and, yes, as Garlick pointed out on a previous thread this is an acceptable, if not compulsory term for Merc estates) with its new 5.5-litre twin-turbo lump. This, of course, replaces the old 6.2 and shows just how complex a modern V8 has to be to stand a chance of social acceptability these days. So that means piezo-based direct injection, variable cams, 'smart' ancillaries, two turbos, air/water intercooling and more besides. I remember chatting with the AMG engineers when I first drove this engine on the CLS63 and, refreshingly, for all the tech on the engine one of the things that got them most exercised was making sure it sounded proper.

Not the easiest when you add turbos of course, but they seem to have done a cracking job and the AMG thunder is present and correct, now overlayed with just the faintest rush of forced induction and a bit of a crackle on upshifts. It doesn't quite match the raw savagery of the outgoing 6.2, but equals the immense pulling power of the old M113 5.5-litre Kompressor V8 with vaguely acceptable running costs too. And it's obviously relatively easy to turn it up a bit too, which makes the near six grand Mercedes charges for the 557hp Performance Pack Plus hop-up seem even more outrageous.

Attention seekers apply here
Attention seekers apply here
I swapped the E63 for the 458 Italia we took down to Sunday Service. And the contrast couldn't have been greater between AMG's classic chugging V8 rumble and the 458's flat-plane howl. It looks great too with the two red crackle-painted intake plenums topping the throttle bodies and 'Testarossa' cylinder head covers. I drove the MP4-12C briefly the previous week too and though it sounds a lot better now and has that 'swept away on boost' sensation you'd expect, the 458 engine still has bags more charisma. Which is what you want out of a supercar.

And now? Well, waiting for me at Ferrari North Europe was my transport for the next couple of weeks - a V8 supercharged Range Rover Sport. More the old-school chugger compared with the polar opposite AMG and Ferrari engines, the JLR V8 has a lot of the feel of the aforementioned AMG Kompressor 5.5. It also gives the Range Rover a lovely V8 woofle like that of traditional Rangies. Going straight to that from the 458 it did feel like I was going to topple over the first time I went round a corner, but I've got used to it now.

Chalk and cheese anyone?
Chalk and cheese anyone?
And with Yorkshire beckoning for the festive season I'll be hoping for a white Christmas being as how, for the first time in living memory, I've actually got something approaching appropriate transport. Well, if you can still call a 500hp petrol V8 4x4 appropriate.

Dan

Author: Dan Trent

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45 comments on this story

Last comment was by urquattro
on 22nd December 2011