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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG 2011

First introduced in 2004, by tradition, if I have to interpret what CLS stands for it could be Coupe, Long Wheelbase, SuperLeicht or Super Lightweight. In other words, a CLS is an executive coupe or a four-door coupe as referred by local marketers to make it easy for their prospective customers. Not to be confused with a CL-Class, the full sized coupe that is based on S-Class.


Technically known as the C218 which is a backward count of the older C219 makes learning this particular breed a little more confusing but given with a 6.2L AMG M156 V8 engine, I don't think anyone would really care. I shall say this one is a civilized monster in complete tuxedo. Interior and other amenities will truly spoil a passenger with top-of-the-line creature comfort. As usual Mercedes-Benz didn't cut corners in all its safety features that can potentially save the next Queen Of England. It includes a "Pre-Safe" system that which predicts an impending collision. The air suspension has three settings; "Comfort", "Sport 1", "Sport 2", self-cleaning bi-xenon headlight. There's no need to slam the trunk shut as it comes with a push-to-close button that closes gently and firmly.

Formally launched in the Philippines last 14th of July 2011. Fortunately, I was one of the invited guests to witness the unveiling of such a lovely car which again raises the bar of the definition of the word "lovely".


It's truly a simple ceremony for a not-so-simple car graced by the who's who of...alright I don't want to be in a chair of a lifestyle magazine writer, I'll leave this stuff to them.


But with all the pickings and trimmings of the cost-cutting Western World falling in this direction, a CLS 63 AMG for the Philippine market...hell, WHY NOT????



Thanks to Andros Villaraza of CATS for the inviting us to this great event.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Booze Is For Humans

I really don't get it why E10 gasoline or gasohol was shoehorned into our major pumps without really spending some brain horsepower before really putting in to the market. There are conflicting information between automotive manufacturers and E10 vendors on what is actually good or bad for the consumer. First, E10 is a mixture of 10% alcohol and 90% gasoline produced for to increase profit and lower costs of oil companies, IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ENVIRONMENT. It was part of a damage control measure to avert the 1973 Oil Crisis in which the OPEC or the Oil Petroleum Exporting Countries imposed an oil embargo to stop the U.S. from supporting Israel in the Yom Kippur War. E10 was not made to make your car run better, in fact it was made to make car's life shorter so that customers can replace their cars every three or five years ensuring consistent sales for the car manufacturers who despises classic car enthusiast groups.

Alcohol-laced gasoline is not allowed to be used in any type of aircraft, which means E10 is not allowed too. In short, if it's bad for the airplane, it's bad for your car. E10 will degrade car's performance and it will not improve fuel consumption. Oil companies like Caltex, Shell, Petron and Total just simply ignore these facts until there's a formal complaint! Even if some car manufacturers has recommended against E10 use for their older models. For a keen eye, one will notice that most fuel pumps around Metro Manila today has the label saying "E10 Bio-ethanol, recommended for fuel injection engines", in other words, E10 is not good for carburetor-based engines and this includes some W123 with M102 carb engines.


Though there were workarounds with this E10 issue such as employing the use fuel additives that cleans the fuel lines, remove moisture, retains performance and so forth, but a religious car keeper has to really stock up tons of this addictive additives before leaving home.

Of course we love our classics and modern classics, they're built like tanks. Given that booze is for humans, now, we have to remind our rides to never drink and drive too.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Way Around

I'm always skeptic about other people's technology regardless whether it's big or small. Whether it's from Steve Jobs or Eric Schmidt, I'm not easily mesmerized or bedazzled by those fancy touchscreens and gizmos that talk for the reason that I hack and tinker with one of those on a daily basis. Plus the fact that these things rapidly goes out of style in a matter of months if not years. Just take for example the first generation iPod integration that was introduced in W203 and its other Mercedes-Benz contemporaries, by today's standards they are already out of style. But iPod integration is no big deal. I'm more concerned about on-board SatNav (Satellite Navigation) systems that occupies almost 50% of the center console.

SatNav or by its more popular term, GPS, during its early adaptation by Mercedes-Benz and other European marques were cumbersome (you need DVD for the navigation computer), bulky, two-dimensional and far from being useful and the fact that it's not ready for the world, if there's a Philippine map available I don't think it's usable and price-wise practical. So bringing a grey market W211 in the Philippines with a SatNav is like having a flower pot in your dashboard.

My first experience with GPS was when a colleague lent me a Garmin nuvi 205 that I can use to navigate around the Greater Washington Area (Maryland, DC, North Virginia). Of course, that's East Coast, you can always expect a good amount of detail and accuracy when cruising around interstates, streets, suburbs and so forth. What I want to see if it is going to be as usable if I bring one back to the Philippines.

So here comes Garmin Nuvi, mine is 205W. Unlike the Jurassic-era and period-uncorrectable Comand SatNav, Garmin nuvi GPS modules does not put my W201 out of style. Because it's detachable, it can be mounted in the windshield or dashboard, it doesn't ruin the classiness of the interior specially the W124 or W210. And my next big question is will it work in the Philippines, specially in the chaotic streets of Metro Manila? Lo and behold, it does.

And there are two Philippine maps to choose from, the one from Roadguide and the other from I prefer the latter because it is updated almost daily, the streets and points-of-interests are more detailed.


It provides audible turn-by-turn instructions and recalculates when you miss a turn, just like how it works in the United States. It shows how fast you're going and your estimated time of arrival to destination.

7.8km to National Highway

It's First World navigation to Third World streets.

550m to turn right

With the confusing maze of the streets in Metro Manila, when asking directions from inside your Benz cockpit is risky, it pays to have a GPS attached without ruining your style.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

From Blizzard and Back

Happy New Year. Fortunately, we made it out of Washington-Dulles International Airport as scheduled and just in time for Christmas in the Philippines. A quick shot of what I have observed in the areas of Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and New York; there are so many W211s, SL55 AMGs, W204, W221, a few classics such as W201, W123, W124 and W126 all running steadfast in the highways of I-270, I-495 and I-95. What's really interesting are the W123s which all runs too well in this bitter cold weather. In fact, the W123s are so reliable, you won't find them in the junkyard.

One of the junkyard I spotted was Crazy Ray's located at Mt. Airys. Unsurprisingly, there are more BMWs than Mercedes-Benzes in the lot.

There are couple of W201s I stumbled upon and their condition is still roadworthy by Philippine standards, so it was really a suitable donor car for Klaudia.

I think the trip down to the junkyard is my "disneyland" while I was in the U.S., even the parts from these cars are still "brand new" by Philippine standards, it's sad that I don't have enough time to really take and pull off a lot of parts as I can plus the burden of Blizzard 2009 really put a lot to stand still.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Hate Makati

Rest assured the rest of the country will never be like that. Bumpy roads, traffic jams, stressful environment. Greenfield City is the best environment for locators and techno startups. Situated really farther south from Makati, the roadworks here is totally awesome for speed freaks like Bill, Steve and me.

From Susana Heights, Greenfield City is less than 10 mins. at varying speeds of 120~140kph depending on the road traffic, toll booth is right after Sta. Rosa Exit. From the toll booth is a spirited but not Sunday driving.



Preparing for my stress-relieving sprint.

Really now, "Ganito ba sa Makati ngayon?". While the rest of the country's roads are improving by global standards, Paseo De Roxas can't be even at par.


This place reminds me of Jurong Science Park, gloomy. But seeing other left-hand Euros eliminates the discomfort brought by that memory.


The difference between Greenfield City and Jurong Science Park is that here you don't need to worry about speed cops, you'll die here if you're not in control. That's quick justice.

Sa ibang bahagi ng bansa ganito, sana sa Makati ganito rin!

Do you believe it's a weekday?

Don't be carried away, we're still in the Philippines. It's just we're not in Makati.


It's not even a ghost town, just check the full parking space which tells me that the crowd here is of a different subculture who just hit a jackpot somewhere nearby and enjoying it while they kill me with envy.


I don't want to leave this place. But I promise I'll be back for more, for good.

At the horizon is the Philippines' second largest beer brewery, Asia Brewery

Klaudia, one of the most well-balanced car ever built in the world, is waiting for her two victims, both a Vios.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Klaudia's Northern Journey

So our Hong Kong trip was postponed with that H1N1 threat, and instead of putting the scheduled vacation (very well-deserved) aside, we decided to do last minute hunt for a nice vacation spot. Without any advanced bookings, we decided to hit north with very little preparation except for Klaudia's rear suspension job. Other than that everything remained status quo, no oil checks, no tire checks, no water checks, no electrical checks.

It was Sunday morning when we started to drive north from Susana Hts. in SLEX to Manila, of course, the shortest way to start Northern journey is at any nearest point from Kilometer Zero (Rizal Park, Manila), not the dog-legged C-5-EDSA-Balintawak which is a journey by itself. I'm surprised a lot of shuttle service and utility drivers today doesn't know this logic, that the shortest point between northern tip of South Luzon Expressway and southern tip of North Luzon Express (NLEX) is within the Manila area of Paco, Pandacan, Gov. Forbes, Dimasalang, La Loma, A. Bonifacio and finally the Balintawak entry of NLEX. If you can recite the commonly-known route points from South which is via EDSA it is longer than what I've listed. And that's twenty years of driving in and out of Manila.


Long journeys will always have its share of almost axle-busting experience and the only two places Klaudia had it were in Makati and Manila area. These two cities are both moving backwards in terms of road improvements compared to the place we've been and to the place we're going. Rough roads in the city doesn't worth shutter counts in this journey. This should be fixed with taxpayers' money as soon as possible.

But since modestly-living Filipinos (those who drives and declare themselves poor in the surveys) has a very short and forgiving memory once they're through with this rough ordeal. To me, rough road in a city is a sign of deliberate insult for the powerless, voiceless and selfish middle-class.

Enter the North Luzon Expressway, the last time I drove this stretch was seven years ago and in fairness, a lot has improved. There's really no excuse to ignore the signs, and I don't think bashing drivers who can't understand English is discrimination, they should have passed the English-written driving tests in the first place, else, they will end up driving on the passing lane below speed limits which a lot of brand-new compact Japanese sedan owners do and when you flashed them to get out of the way, they will even hit the brakes, good enough to return the favor with a dirty finger for a very "educated" driving. Too bad, the infrastructure has improved, but most drivers hasn't.

Land Cruiser Club

After a smooth NLEX drive, Klaudia finally got a taste of SCTEX concrete. I hate being a cynic in the wrong place, but SCTEX is a proof of receipt that my tax was well-spent at the national level, not the mythical "...ganito kami sa Makati ngayon..." propaganda, fortunately, some part of the country is not like that.


At this point, we already know where we're going; The Camayan Beach Resort in Subic Bay. It has been more than 10 years since the U.S. Military left, and much of what remained is still intact and well-maintained from roads to lush vegetations. The route via SCTEX has made this journey even more interesting.


And I will agree that this is indeed a world-class expressway, and hopefully with the tightly-enforced world-class driving.


A glance at the control tower of Subic International Airport which is mainly an air cargo terminal is a sign that we're close to destination in half-hour or less.


But we still have to negotiate some twisties along the way, which Klaudia handled gracefully the way she does for the past 25 years.


And finally, at the former, largest U.S. Naval facility in Southeast Asia, The German has arrived.


From South to North, Klaudia clocked 3 hours with one gas stop.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Shock And Awe

Recently, restoration, I mean rehabilitation activities for Klaudia has been around the powerplant and the latest involved upgrading the engine with a belt tensioner vibration damper or in other places it's called tensioner shock absorber. What the belt tensioner shock absorber actually do is to prolong the life of the belt tensioner by taking in excessive vibrations. Excessive vibrations can cause belt slapping that can result in a split-second of a slack, this is triggered sometimes when A/C compressor kicks in. This moment of slack can possibly make the compressor and its sensors go crazy that may behave with a prolonged shut-off interval which can make the engine operate in higher temperature levels or at worse, overheats. In other words, this is a chicken-and-egg problem. In addition to this, premature belt fatigue and squeaking is more frequent and damaging to the early M102 installations. Early W201 models with M102 engine from 1984 to early 1985 does not have this feature. Obviously, for Klaudia this is a major but simple feature "upgrade", something AMG has never thought of because the patent is owned by an American. And this is the one rudimentary component that never gets the credit of putting 190E in the "tank" status in its glory days.

Now that Klaudia is settled with the engine shock. It's now time to focus on the other vibration handling components which is known as the suspension system. 190E was among the early adapters for multi-link suspension even before it became a buzzword in the Japanese area of rice responsibility. In this project, Klaudia was treated with a pair of brand new Bilstein B36-1389 Heavy Duty Shock Absorbers.

The major parts were acquired from ENKAT (Evangelista, Makati City)


Then drove a few kilometers further South to reach JP Wheels at Paranaque City. JP Wheels was the shop who did Lavramon for Klaudia and very happy about it. JP Wheels veteran technicians quickly went through the job.


While getting ready for the camber alignment as well, The old and dysfunctional Sachs has to go.


In layman's term, camber alignment/correction is the process of making sure the tires are standing straight up the vertical axis, I hope the last two words aren't too technical.


Dismantling an old shock and removing the old busted spindle bushings are not really simple tasks, but definitely doable and these guys have been around the business long enough to know how the previous owner totally sucked up.


The cheap Sachs is gone and now here comes the Bilstein.


Putting all these together is really fun to watch.


After swiping the plastic and went home. The ride is no longer "sporty", if you know what I mean.


The Bilstein Heavy Duty Shock Absorbers suits my daily driving needs, it doesn't have to be a sleeper, all I need is just a steady ride and a smart stance. And Bilstein delivered the punch. As I have read from some people these type of shock absorbers are rough, but I guess it's relatively subjective.


Job well done for JP Wheels.