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Old 02-10-2012, 10:21 AM   #1
AVANTI R5
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Default The death of displacement.



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It was a nice try. Those logical German engineers at BMW and Mercedes came up with logical naming strategies that would help those logical German car buyers immediately identify a car’s model and engine displacement just by the badge on the back.

Show Chris Cardork a Mercedes C280 and he’ll explain that “C” identifies the car as Benz’s small sedan, and “280” means it has a 2.8-liter engine. Ask Gary Gearhead what a 525i is, and he’ll use the “5” to identify it as BMW’s mid-size sedan, and the “25” to confirm that it’s 2.5 liters of piston displacement under the hood.

That naming scheme worked, most of the time, for a while. Of course, it took Mercedes a while to figure out that “300E 2.6” or “300SL-24” or “190E 2.3-16” or “450SEL 6.9” were a bit confusing. And BMW fibbed where it was appropriate (319i and 327i sounded strange, so we had instead a 318i and a 325e, which sounded better to the marketing folks.) But at least the marketing departments’ logic was, well, logical: the 1979 745i got its name thanks to a turbocharger that helped the 3.2-liter straight-six make about as much power as a 4.5-liter engine would have.

But now? Take four BMWs from the last couple of years with badges ending in 25, 30, 35, and 40, and there’s a good chance they all have a 3.0-liter engine under the hood. Likewise, a Mercedes GL450 doesn’t have 4.5-liter, just like an S350 doesn’t have a 3.5-liter. A Euro-spec SL500 has the same engine as our SL550: which is it—5.0 or 5.5 liters? Last year’s 528i had a 3.0-liter six, but year’s has a 2.0-liter four. At one point, a 550i had a 4.8-liter V-8; then it earned two turbos and dropped to a 4.4-liter. Even devout car enthusiasts can’t keep up with this insanity.

What happened? Well, the logical German engineers have now completely handed over the reins to the illogical marketing types. And if you’ve spent as much time in Germany as I have, you’ll know that Germans don’t excel at marketing.

Americans? That’s what we do best. So we need to help the Germans out here.

Here’s my solution: now that mainstream cars are moving toward in the direction of downsized, down-pistoned, turbocharged, balance-shafted, active-sound-managed, who-knows-what’s-under-the-hood-mobiles, let’s forget about displacement and talk about the only measure that matters: horsepower.

Under my rules, it wouldn’t matter that a BMW 325i had a one-cylinder or a V-12 under the hood. The “25i” would tell me that it had 250 horsepower. A 540i? 400 horsepower. A 730d? 300 diesel ponies.

Likewise, a Mercedes S500? 500 horsepower. A CLK200? 200 horses. An E320? 320. You get the idea.

Displacement isn’t, of course, totally irrelevant: a 400-hp turbocharged 1.0-liter 2-cylinder would certainly have a different personality than a 400-hp 8.0-liter pushrod V-8. But at least when I pulled up next to a Whiz-Bang OMG350 at a red light, I’d know that I’d need an OMG400 to beat him.


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Old 02-10-2012, 12:17 PM   #2
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More marketing department shenanigans, and the ease of alphanumerics to be skewed.

I am more concerned that companies are using alphanumerics too much, and running over each other's naming conventions (how many companies have an -R suffix, for instance?)

The demise of proper names is more unfortunate than whether a number refers to displacement or output.
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Old 02-10-2012, 12:39 PM   #3
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I hate how Mazdas insteads of being called the 3 series the became the
"mazda 3" so when you do a search on craigslist you end up with all the Mazdas in the world!
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Old 02-10-2012, 02:10 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by boxerinside View Post
I hate how Mazdas insteads of being called the 3 series the became the
"mazda 3" so when you do a search on craigslist you end up with all the Mazdas in the world!
It did not become the "Mazda 3", it became the "Mazda3". Your pain is self-inflicted.
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Old 02-10-2012, 02:23 PM   #5
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“C” identifies the car as Benz’s small sedan"

I always thought it stood for "crap"?
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Old 02-10-2012, 02:37 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stanley View Post
“C” identifies the car as Benz’s small sedan"

I always thought it stood for "crap"?
It does.. except when followed directly by the letter 'L', or the acronym AMG.
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Old 02-10-2012, 04:21 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Calamity Jesus View Post
It does.. except when followed directly by the letter 'L', or the acronym AMG.
or the numbers 63
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Old 02-10-2012, 04:34 PM   #8
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Quote:
at least the marketing departments’ logic was, well, logical: the 1979 745i got its name thanks to a turbocharger that helped the 3.2-liter straight-six make about as much power as a 4.5-liter engine would have.
I gotta admit, that was pretty funny...
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Old 02-10-2012, 07:54 PM   #9
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Default

Lexus has a decent foundation...

GS350 = midsize sedan 3.5L
LS460 = fullsize sedan 4.6L
GX460 = midsize SUV 4.6L
LX570 = fullsize SUV 5.7L

They sort of lose the plot with the ES350 and the RX350 not matching (which I think they should... same AT, same engine, same platform). The IS250 and IS350 are standalone. The CT200h fits alright (compact touring). The HS250h is an oddball. The hybrids do sort of make sense considering they usually have higher performance thanks to taking the 3.5L and adding electric motor to give it the higher numerical number (450h).

Infiniti's prefixes don't make any sense, but the numbers match.
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Old 02-10-2012, 08:30 PM   #10
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There's no justification for the RXh to have jumped from a "400" to a "450" in the last revision, though.
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Old 02-10-2012, 09:20 PM   #11
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Alpha-numeric names are lame, unimaginative, and "me-too."

I prefer Defender, Mustang, Prius, Wrangler, Elise, etc... .
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Old 02-10-2012, 10:35 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calamity Jesus View Post
It does.. except when followed directly by the letter 'L', or the acronym AMG.
Yeah, but have you seen the interior of the recently facelifted C-class? It's downright gorgeous.
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Old 02-11-2012, 12:48 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Stanley View Post
“C” identifies the car as Benz’s small sedan"

I always thought it stood for "crap"?
Merc A class anyone?
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Old 02-13-2012, 11:44 AM   #14
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it all started with the BMW Z3 2.3, which actually had a 2.5 liter engine. BMW wanted buyers to think they were getting a substantially larger engine when ordering the Z3 2.8 which really did have a 2.8 engine.

If I ever had the means to get a premium German sedan, I'd just debadge the trunk lid, and call it a day
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Old 02-14-2012, 11:10 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by plunk10 View Post
it all started with the BMW Z3 2.3, which actually had a 2.5 liter engine. BMW wanted buyers to think they were getting a substantially larger engine when ordering the Z3 2.8 which really did have a 2.8 engine.
What?


The 320i had a 2.0L engine from 1977-1979.. but from 1980-1983 it had a 1.8L that made a few less hp but better fuel mileage. BMW didn't want to give the US public an opportunity to judge the refreshed e21 by its loss of displacement by changing it to 318i... so it remained a 320i.

In 1987 the 325e was a 2.7L lean burn, long stroke engine that made less power than the 325i, but.. again, better fuel mileage. They didn't want to sell it as a 327i and have people trade in their 325i expecting a more powerful engine.

.. so, no.. it certainly didn't start with the Z3.
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Old 02-14-2012, 03:10 PM   #16
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Quote:
It was a nice try. Those logical German engineers at BMW and Mercedes came up with logical naming strategies that would help those logical German car buyers immediately identify a car’s model and engine displacement just by the badge on the back.

Show Chris Cardork a Mercedes C280 and he’ll explain that “C” identifies the car as Benz’s small sedan, and “280” means it has a 2.8-liter engine. Ask Gary Gearhead what a 525i is, and he’ll use the “5” to identify it as BMW’s mid-size sedan, and the “25” to confirm that it’s 2.5 liters of piston displacement under the hood.
I alway thought they were completly random.
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Old 02-16-2012, 11:18 AM   #17
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Today I passed a Corsica that had ABS.

Nick
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