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Thread: Super saloon

  1. #1
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    Default Super saloon

    Published April 12, 2008

    Super saloon

    They may look like ordinary saloons from the outside but under the bonnet, they are anything but. SAMUEL EE drives three of the most interesting sedans to be found on the market today


    HOW can a compact sedan evoke deep desire? Is it possible for a 320i-lookalike to seduce? The simple answer is: yes, if it's an M3.


    Super seductive: The M3 has the combination of pace and space, of strength and subtlety which manages to stir feelings of yearning more commonly experienced when viewing a sexy Italian exoticar

    At first glance, the fourth-generation M3 may appear to be a generic version of BMW's entry-level sedan. But look more closely and you will realise that instead of ubiquitous four-cylinder blandness, this is a seriously accomplished alternative.

    The M3 sedan from BMW's motorsport division arrived here last month and is the second body style after the M3 coupe, which has been in Singapore since last November. The saloon has the same visual cues as the coupe, like the slimmer headlamps, massive 'power dome' bonnet bulge and 'side gill' air intakes on the front fenders. But at the back, the boot lid and tail lamps are taken straight from the 3 Series sedan, although with the addition of two purposeful pairs of exhaust pipes.

    The M3 saloon's body is largely similar to that of a conventional 3 Series, which means it lacks the M3 coupe's carbon fibre reinforced plastic roof and has its price tag cut by $18,000. But both have a four-litre V8 engine driving the rear wheels.

    The saloon's performance is hardly understated even if the four doors make it a little more discreet. The 420 horses may even encourage rarely exhibited driver behaviour.

    For example, the exhaust growl has a delightful spit that makes you want to drive around with the windows down so you can hear it more clearly (there is no noticeable V8 burble though). The precision of the short throw six-speed manual transmission also makes you want to shift gears for no apparent reason. And the elasticity of the V8 power plant keeps inviting you to blip the throttle just so you can engage in unnecessary spurts of acceleration.

    Where the third-generation M3, with its straight-six 3.2-litre engine, felt more hyperactive and much more intense, the new M3 comes across as more refined. It also feels like it has more useable power than the old M3, which enjoyed being revved harder. But it is still very fast. In fact, acceleration from zero to 100 kmh has been improved from 5.2 seconds in the old M3 to 4.9 seconds now (it's 4.8 in the coupe).

    Despite the increase in pace, the M3 remains a confident drive. It is stable and reassuring at speed, with steering that is accurate and well-weighted. It has a solidness seemingly hewn from rock and is unflappable going over irregular surfaces fast.

    For enhanced driver involvement, it is possible to adjust the steering's level of power assistance as well as choose from three suspension settings with the EDC or Electronic Damper Control. There is also a 'Power' button that increases the throttle response.

    Yet, with all these options in their highest setting, the M3 is hardly uncomfortable, which goes to show how grown-up it has become. With the arrival of a seven-speed double clutch transmission later this year, the transition to automotive adulthood should be complete.

    Still, it is difficult not to wax lyrical about the BMW M3. It manages to stir feelings of yearning more commonly experienced when viewing a sexy Italian exoticar.

    Perhaps it's the combination of pace and space, of strength and subtlety that is attractive. One thing is for sure, the M3 Saloon is a very special car.

    BMW M3 Saloon

    Engine: 3,999cc V8
    Gearbox: 6-speed manual transmission
    Max power: 420 hp @ 8,300 rpm
    Max torque: 400 Nm @ 3,900 rpm
    0-100 kmh: 4.9 secs
    Top speed: 250 kmh
    Price: $333,800 (with COE)
    Distributor: Performance Motors, tel: 6319-0100

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Super saloon

    Published April 12, 2008

    A better Jetta


    VOLKSWAGEN has a system that can make a car with a little engine take off like a jet plane. It's called twincharging and involves the use of a supercharger and a turbocharger.


    Plain Jane turned Mad Max: The Jetta may not have many redeeming aesthetic qualities but floor the accelerator and it blasts off like a jet plane

    This TSI technology has been used on the Golf hatchback and is now being applied to the Jetta sedan, a booted version of the Golf. The Jetta may not have many redeeming aesthetic qualities, but with its 1.4 TSI, this plain Jane is transformed into mad Max.

    Floor the accelerator and the front-wheel-drive Jetta TSI zooms off like it has rocket boosters.

    The supercharger provides the small 1.4-litre engine with low speed oomph below 2,000 rpm before the turbocharger - which is prone to turbo lag below that engine speed - takes over.

    The result is all the power you need plus the seemingly contradictory ability to achieve good fuel economy. Under a combination of urban and highway driving, the Jetta TSI can turn in consumption of 7.3 litres per 100 km, or 13.7 km per litre. This is 8 per cent better than a Jetta with a two-litre turbocharged engine.

    VW engineers were able to reach this higher level of fuel efficiency because when the load is low, neither charger is in operation. Also, they say that the 1,400cc engine itself has a low-enough displacement to ensure that it stays economical even with twincharging.

    The only drawback is despite the supercharger working at low engine speeds, the Jetta TSI still exhibits some lag before the power comes in with a bang. This on/off effect needs getting used to but the brilliant dual clutch direct shift gearbox helps to make it a smoother drive.

    The Jetta TSI also costs more than a normally aspirated Jetta 1.6 automatic - almost $13,000 extra. Sadly, power never comes cheap.

    Volkswagen Jetta 1.4 TSI

    Engine: 1,390cc supercharged & turbocharged
    Gearbox: 6-speed DSG transmission
    Max power: 170 hp @ 6,000 rpm
    Max torque: 240 Nm @ 1,500-4,750 rpm
    0-100 kmh: 8.1 secs
    Top speed: 220 kmh
    Price: $96,400 (with COE)
    Distributor: Volkswagen Group Singapore, tel: 6474-8288

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Super saloon

    Published April 12, 2008

    Sporty luxury


    FOR some, a two-litre Japanese sedan is the ultimate expression of middle-class respectability. Combined with an adherence to 'the bigger, the better' rule of thumb, it should come as no surprise then that the new Honda Accord has created a stir in this segment.


    Setting benchmarks: The new Accord is bigger, more comfortable and has a more pronounced exterior styling

    To say the eighth-generation Accord has grown is an understatement. It is almost freakishly large. The model is the biggest in its class - with a wheelbase of 2,800mm - and longer, wider, taller and roomier than its two closest rivals, the best-selling Toyota Camry and the Nissan Cefiro. In fact, the Accord is so big that its overall length surpasses that of the most popular Continental competition - the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series.

    Whatever opinion you may have of its styling, you must admit that the car has presence. Its interior is less successful, though. The super spacious cabin has the same plasticky finish as most Japanese cars, although thankfully, it doesn't look as cheap. The design of the meters is simplistic at best and the expanse of buttons and knobs that passes for a centre console is equally uninspiring.

    But what the Accord lacks in form, it more than makes up for in function. It is filled with features not found in the competition, like the reverse side mirror, power lumbar support and an excellent six-speaker sound system with USB interface that allows an iPod to be connected and controlled directly.

    Most impressive, though, is the car's handling. The chassis and body are more rigid than before, and the engine and fuel tank were lowered to reduce the centre of gravity by 18mm. As a result, the floor is lower and it is no exaggeration that the car corners flat. At the same time, ride comfort has improved and a new suspension set-up soaks up bumps like a giant sponge.

    The variable gear ratio steering is also impressive - it is responsive and avoids feeling nervous at high speed. Even the driving position for taller occupants is better, with a four-way adjustable steering wheel.

    There are three engine sizes - 2.0, 2.4 and 3.5 litres - and all are mated to the smooth five-speed automatic transmission with shift-hold control that cuts unnecessary shifting on winding roads.

    The entry-level two-litre should be especially helpful in a segment the Accord once dominated a decade ago. It performs adequately but does not have the 2.4's better mid-range torque. Honda says 80 per cent of the parts for the 2.4 engine are new because it was designed for 6 per cent more power and an 8 per cent improvement in fuel economy. The 2.4 model also has more equipment, like a pair of steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, rear electric sun-blind, fog lights and bigger wheels.

    But mainly, the new Accord is significant for setting new benchmarks in performance and comfort. Previously, the model was designed solely as a sporty sedan with superior driving performance. To win over a wider group of customers, Honda had to inject a heavy dose of luxury into its DNA in the form of a bigger body, more comfortable cabin and more pronounced exterior styling. It looks like it has done a very good job.

    Honda Accord 2.0 / 2.4

    Engine: 1,997cc / 2,354cc
    Gearbox: 5-speed automatic transmission
    Max power: 156hp @ 6,300rpm / 180hp @ 6,500rpm
    Max torque: 189Nm @ 4,300rpm / 222Nm @ 4,300rpm
    0-100 kmh: 11.1 secs / 10.6 secs
    Top speed: 200 kmh (limited)
    Price: $98,800 / $106,800 (both with COE)
    Distributor: Kah Motor, tel: 6841-3333

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Super saloon

    Published April 12, 2008

    Smoothest operator


    YUP, the top-of-the-line Honda Accord V6 has the distinction of being a front-wheel-driven car with one of the biggest engines available - 3.5 litres. But it is also a car that brims with technology.

    The previous V6 Accord had a three-litre engine, but Honda engineers decided to enlarge the unit of the new one to 3.5 litres in order to make it more powerful. Yet the Accord 3.5 manages to achieve significantly better fuel economy. The more than 10 per cent improvement is due to VCM or Variable Cylinder Management.

    VCM stops the operation of two or even three of the engine's six cylinders when possible, like when the car is cruising, thus limiting fuel use. When this happens, the word 'Eco' lights up on the instrument panel.

    The automatic noise control system also quietens the cabin by generating a noise-cancelling tone (a reverse phase signal) from the audio speakers and reducing the muffled engine sound emitted by the unused cylinders.

    The V6 also has a premium audio system with a rear-mounted subwoofer. Compared with the 2.0 and 2.4 models, the system has more power and higher quality speakers.

    Honda Accord 3.5 V6

    Engine: 3,471cc V6
    Gearbox: 5-speed automatic transmission
    Max power: 275 hp @ 6,200 rpm
    Max torque: 339 Nm @ 5,000 rpm
    0-100 kmh: 7.6 secs
    Top speed: 200 kmh (limited)
    Price: $125,800 (with COE)
    Distributor: Kah Motor, tel 6841-3333

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