MAX’S MONTHLY COLUMN: Engine size, the BMW M550d, and Max’s favourite car of all time

by | Feb 25, 2019

Max Berry

Welcome back to the 2nd edition of my, Max Berry’s column, here on the Spidersnet blog.  Here’s a question right; why is it still February? Every year I’m utterly bewildered as to why the first couple of months of the year last for so long. By no means am I wishing my life away, but annually I get a definite sense of time-warping, once the hangover from New Year’s Eve has faded off. This, along with people either “loving or hating” marmite will be a fashion which lives on, indefinitely.

Even in the year 3019, I’ve no doubt a human (providing we haven’t run out of oxygen or been invaded by other lifeforms) will say “why is it still February?”, as he, her or it hops out of their teleportation device on a cold February morning.

A topic which isn’t indefinite however, and will not still be pondered over in a thousand years’ time is engine block size. You see, since about the 1850s when a Frenchman called Etienne put together the world’s first internal combustion engine; the main way to ensure your vehicle was powerful was to give it a bigger engine block. The bigger the block, the more cylinders you could put inside – like giving a pencil sharpener more blades. 

Rather inevitably, 50 years later in 1903 this led to another man at Putney Motor Works making the world’s first V12 engine – 6 pistons on each side within their cylinders, churning out 150 red-blooded, full fat, very noisy horsepowers.

Writing this over 100 years later after various World Wars, the invention of the tea bag, Jägermeister and the internet; 150bhp from a V12 engine seems incredibly inefficient, but for its time it was a breakthrough. As early as 1916, motor car companies were bolting these engines into racing and super cars – turning petrol mostly into noise, with the odd break horsepower.

Sadly, in 2019 even the likes of V8 or V10 engines are being strangled in the name of our eco footprint. The internal combustion engine is still very much with us, but with the rise of purely electric car makers, mass market producers from yesteryear have had to change up their thinking…




Image courtesy of BMW.

The BMW M550d

Take the new BMW M550d. In years gone by, BMW would have stuffed a V8 under the bonnet, screwed in a simple turbocharger and be done with it. The 2018 update however has a straight six engine. But, and this is the bit you’re gunna like; they added four turbo chargers. Four. It’s madness, but because BMW are German and enjoy calculating things beyond belief, it’s worth it – throwing 400bhp at the rear axle. Having two high, and two low pressure turbos kills off lag, just don’t ask me why. This kind of stuff would have baffled our man at Putney Motor Works – considering BMW’s 3.0l 6-cylinder engine produces almost three times more power from half the number of cylinders. This means the M550d can launch from 0-60 in 4.6 seconds and is actually quite a monster.

It’s all well and good – pushing the limits of combustion power against the growing pressure of battery powered cars. But there’s no getting from the fact that the M550d is a straight six engine and not a V8. And that’s a bit like ordering a different t-shirt because the one you wanted was out of stock – it’s not a huge deal but a small part of you will feel repressed every time you wear it.

I’m delighted to report however that there are a few ways to avoid this repression. Bugatti make cars which frankly, aren’t designed to be bought. One of their latest models, the Chiron, has a W16 engine; that’s two sets of eight cylinders – like having two V8s sat on top of one another.

This gives the poor occupant 1,479bhp at their disposal – maxing out at 261mhp which is spiffing. The problem is, it costs 2.5 million pounds, and that’s a bit silly really – so here’s a much cheaper alternative…

Bugatti Chiron

My favourite car of all time: The Lamborghini Aventador SV

The Lamborghini Aventador SV is my favourite car in the world. It’s a lighter, harder version of the standard car and it’s fast; not quite as fast as the new breed of electric super cars; but that’s why I love it. It takes petrol, and petrol alone; and turns it into power and noise inside 12 cylinders laid in a V formation – just like the engine I mentioned earlier from 1903. 

Honestly, it’s a big, yellow, mostly carbon fibre insult to the whole idea of environmentally concerned product design. There’s no electronic witchcraft or pioneering battery power – just 740 charging Italian horsepowers, 4 wheels and a carbon fibre tub. Oh, and a jet-fighter style engine start button, beneath a red flip-cover which requires lifting before waking up your neighbours (see image below). That alone is enough to bring out the 10-year-old in all of us. I know this, because to my excitement – I got a go in one. Unfortunately only as a passenger because insurance companies don’t seem too keen on 20-year old’s driving such machines. 

Regardless, it didn’t disappoint.

Some of Max’s photos from his drive in the Lamborghini Aventador SV

Just opening one of the scissor doors and sitting yourself in the cabin is enough to relax your bladder. It’s madness. Everything is either bright yellow, or carbon fibre, the seats are closer to the ground than a lady-beaver’s beaver and my god is it loud. As a passenger while on the move it is genuinely scary. Like sitting on the floor of your under stairs cupboard with ACDC sat next to you playing live at full volume, while the local area is hit by a decent sized earthquake. You can forget any rollercoaster in the world; as an experience it should be classed as a drug. It’s like the engineers at Lamborghini have put on a pantomime just for you – a pantomime backed by the astonishing audio of the proper 12-piece choir, just behind your right ear.

From a more mature perspective, the Audi infotainment system is a bit crummy, headroom is non-existent for anyone over 6 foot and the rear visibility… well, it’s limited – to say the least.

But you know, it’s the stupidity of the SV that makes me respect it. As I’ve mentioned already, the vast majority of cars today are ever-increasingly built with our impact on the planet in mind – whether that means using a smaller engine block – or a completely different powertrain altogether utilising batteries. But the Aventador SV is not. It’s a V12 supercar – quite possibly one of the last we’ll ever see not only from Lamborghini, but the whole automotive industry.

And that, is why I love it.

That’s all from Max this month, but don’t forget to check out his YouTube Channel here.

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