German Tuners Pour Power Into Top Cars
here are a several highly-skilled specialist engine tuners in Germany, including AMG, which is now part of DaimlerChrysler, and which is now producing its own V-8 engine. This is claimed to be the most powerful production V-8 in the world. Then, there is Alpina which has had a long association with BMW, such that some of its models are actually built on the BMW production lines. The latest BMW Alpina is the B5 with a supercharged 5.0 liter engine developing 500 bhp, making it as powerful as the BMW M5.
Another big name in tuning in Germany is Brabus. Like the other two, Brabus also improves the suspension, wheels and brakes for sporty drivers. They don't just put a very powerful engine in an ordinary car ? their models usually combine different modifications to turn them into sports cars, even if they don't look sporty.
Brabus has been tuning Mercedes-Benz cars for over 20 years, and this year it is really pouring the power. All its engines meet current emission regulations despite the massive power outputs of some of them.
Not even the mighty Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren escapes their attention, despite the fact that it develops 626 bhp in standard form. Actually, the increase is not very great, with a boost to 660 bhp at 6,500 rpm. The wheels and tires are also different, but this is intended as a track car ? the open exhaust is too noisy for the road. It accelerates to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, and has a top speed of 210 mph. Wow!
445 BHP IN MERCEDES-BENZ SLK
Brabus has also turned its attention to getting the most power possible from the Mercedes-Benz SLK sports car, which is quite a small car, and a good deal smaller than the flagship SL coupe. In standard form, the most powerful SLK has an AMG 5.4 liter V-8 which is quite big for this size of car.
Brabus has been able to squeeze a 6.1 liter V-8 into the SLK ? it is based on the AMG 5.4 liter V-8. The engine is bored out and has a long stroke crankshaft to get 6.1 liters, and it will set you back about $38,000 ? that?s just for the engine, the bits that go with it and installation.
What do you get? A powerful engine producing 445 bhp at 6,000 rpm compared with 360 bhp ? quite a lot of for a compact car like the SLK. And quick: Brabus quotes a 0-60 mph time of 4.3 seconds. Top speed is limited to 190 mph, compared with a limit of 155 mph for the standard car. I doubt it will do more than 190 mph anyway, but by putting a limiter on the engine management system Brabus implies it will go faster.
OR 193 BHP FROM A SMALL ENGINE
On the other hand, if you want an SLK, but want a small powerful engine, then you could buy the Brabus modified SLK 200 Kompressor. The engine is already supercharged, so with minor modifications power is increased from 163 to 193 bhp, and torque boosted to 192 lb ft ? an increase of 10%. That's quite a modest gain, but thanks to the mid-range power, it will perform almost as well as the SLK with the standard 3.5 liter V-6 engine, which will probably use more gas.
Even further down the field, Brabus offers a special version of the smart Roadster, now going out of production, as it is not making money. The tuned version produces 100 bhp up from the 80 bhp of the standard car ? and the extra power makes a big difference to the car.
There?s no doubt that these firms know how to go for power! But how are tuners able to make such big changes these days? It all results from the low cost of modern computer controlled machine tools, which can make a batch of ten components at almost the same price per part as for 1,000.
Twenty years ago, even the racing car makers could hardly afford to make special crankshafts for a few engines ? and if they could it would have taken six months to get them. Now, once the machine is programmed, it can work on its own and turn out a one-off in a matter of hours. This is one of the hidden ways in which these small companies are able to produce their own specialist components or even engines, and thus give enthusiastic drivers more performance.
About the Author: John Hartley is editor of http://www.fast-autos.com, an online magazine devoted to fast cars and supercars. He has written from many of the world's top auto magazines, and has written about 10 books about cars and the auto industry, including 'Suspension and Steering Q&A' and 'The Electronics Revolution in the Motor Industry'.