The full-sized luxury market used to be a small pond before the Lexus LS appeared. Up to then all Mercedes had to worry about was the German brand known for their delightfully crude 2002. Jaguar? 1980s Jags spent so little time running they were more garage ornament than transportation. Fast forward to today and BMW is the new Mercedes and the full-sized luxury segment is getting crowded with entries from Audi, Porsche and an XJ that spends enough time running to count. Where does that leave the S-Class’ old foe? BMW tossed us the keys to their most popular 7 to find out.
What do you get when you add two doors to a 6-Series coupé? Last year the answer was: a 7-Series. Of course that was last year, now BMW has an all-new answer: the Gran Coupe. Of course, calling your latest sexy sedan a “coupé” is nothing new (Mercedes has done it since 2004), what is new is the process by which this “coupé” arrived. Normally manufacturers introduce a new sedan, then within a year they delete two doors, lop off some trunk, give it a sporty grille and launch it as a coupé and convertible. The 6-Series Gran Coupe (GC) on the other hand is what happens when you take a an expensive coupé and add doors. In BMW speak, this process created a four-door coupé. Confused yet? Allow me to explain: apparently all you have to do to create a coupé is remove the sashes from the windows. (This means that Subaru buyers have driven coupés all these years and didn’t know it.) Can the sexy 6-Series beat Mercedes at their own CLS game? Let’s find out.
When the “F01″ 7-Series arrived in 2008 followed by the “F10″ 5-Series in 2009, I saw the writing on the wall; BMW is the new Mercedes. My theory was “proved” after a week with the 2011 335is and 2012 X5M. BMW fans decried my prophesy as blasphemy. I repeated my statement with the 2012 328i and caught the eye of egmCarTech. A Mercedes fan tried to run me over in a parking lot. My colleagues in the press thought I lost my mind. BMW’s media watchers were eerily silent. A month later I was told that BMW would allow me a week in the all-new 2012 M6 Convertible. Would the most expensive M car change my mind or prove the point once and for all?
The 3 series has been the benchmark to which all manner of vehicles are measured. The comparisons go beyond the likes of the A4, C-Class and S60 and include things like M3 vs Camaro, 328i vs Prius. There’s a problem with your largest volume product being put on this kind of pedestal: how do you redesign it? Carefully, mildly, infrequently and only when absolutely required. With increased competition from the Audi A4, a redesigned S60 and Caddy’s new ATS, can BMW afford the same formula again? Michael Karesh got his hands on a 328i back in March, while I spent a week testing the 328i in its natural habitat: the California freeway. (Oh, and we spent some time on Lagua Seca as well.)
With each revision since 1990, BMWs have become more like Lexus. Meanwhile, Lexus (some of them, anyway) have become more like BMWs. With the latest iterations, have the 5-Series and GS met somewhere in a muddled middle, or does each retain a distinct identity?
Last month we reviewed the 2012 BMW 328i and found it less than ultimate as driving machines go. But the reviewed car was a “Luxury Line” sedan with an automatic transmission. For driving enthusiasts, BMW offers the new F30 with different options, among them a larger engine, a six-speed manual transmission, a “Sport Line” trim level, adaptive dampers, and staggered 19-inch summer tires. Check all of these boxes, and the next M3 might seem superfluous. Or not.
No car has defined and dominated a segment like the BMW 3-Series. It is the compact sport sedan everyone else has been gunning for since the origin of the line over 30 years ago. So when the 3er is redesigned, as it has been for 2012, everyone wonders: have they once again raised the bar, or have they lost their way, perhaps even choked? An answer, in two parts. First up: a “Luxury Line” 328i automatic. Next month: a three-pedal “Sport Line” 335i.
Wherever the hollow tubes of the InterWeb may reach, there you will find the argument that “it’s always a better idea to buy a CPO used car than a new one.” The mean transaction price of a new car in the United States is about $29,000. That kind of money will get you a loaded-up Camcord, a discounted LaCrosse, or any number of other mass-market sedans… but can it get you the BMW of your dreams? A friend and former co-worker of mine decided to find out, using his own time and money.
(Dramatic voice) This… is his story.
In an unusual twist, BMW decided to release the redesigned 650i coupé after the drop-top version we snagged last November. The reason for the coupé’s late arrival is simple; BMW tells us it accounts for only about 30% of 6-series sales. Two-door luxury cars usually drive better than their chop-top sisters, but if you have the cash to burn and care about driving, should you still go topless? Read More >
It seems unlikely that anyone in 2037 will be inclined to keep a 2012 BMW 650ci in such excellent condition as the 1987 635CSi pictured above -and even if such a thing happens, will said 650i make it that far into the future without a catastrophic electronics failure rendering it a two-ton paperweight? Although Jack and Steve have offered their own context on older cars, mine will be different. I’m still not yet legally able to rent a car on my own. This 635CSi was built before I was even born, so driving it gives me a glimpse into the past, but without the benefit (or handicap) of contemporaneous context.
Now that winter weather has (finally) come to Michigan, it’s time to look forward to spring, when roadsters will emerge from their long hibernation to frolic along twisty two-lanes. Don’t have one, and feeling the urge? More than with a midsize sedan or a compact crossover, a roadster is a very personal choice, as the contenders—Audi TT, BMW Z4, Chevrolet Corvette, Mazda Miata, Mercedes SL and SLK, Nissan 370Z, Porsche Boxster—vary in configuration and character much more than those in high-volume segments. If you know what you want in a roadster, the choice should just about make itself. So, what might lead someone to opt for the BMW?
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If you ask a certain segment of the automotive press, it seems that BMW is rapidly losing the plot. While I agree that BMW’s latest wares are bigger, heavier and more leather-clad than ever before, I can’t say thing is a bad thing in my mind. I upset a few people when I reviewed the then-new 335is by saying “BMW is the new Mercedes”. I’m not sure why noses were “rankled”, but there seems to be a large segment of TTAC’s readership that believe BMW has abandoned “sport” for “luxury”. Maybe they are right; the M3 and M5 have been gaining weight an alarming pace and now we have the X5M and X6M, a pair of 5,400lb SUVs wearing full-on M badges. The burning question at TTAC is: should the guy responsible for designing it be committed? Or should the vehicle be put in a straight-jacket for being a totally insane machine?
Full-size high-end luxury convertibles that don’t have budget origins are not as common as you might think (or like). E-Class Cabrio? Too cheap. A5 Cabrio? Same problem. So if you’ve $90,000+ burning a hole in your pocket for a topless two-door what should you get? Obviously Astons and Bentleys are out of your price range in this down economy (we all must economize after all), and you have trouble justifying the stretch to the Maserati GranTurismo Convertible’s $132,000 base price, that leaves BMW and Jaguar to battle in this broom-closet sized market. Whatever is the almost-wealthy shopper to do? Let’s find out
In the highly unlikely event that my father precedes me into the grave, I will have to come up with another way to describe him besides “the late Kevin Baruth”. The old man’s never been late for something in his life. Nor has he even been a terribly, shall we say, easy-going fellow. One of the medals he received in Vietnam was, if I recall correctly, for single-handedly halting the retreat of a disorganized Marine unit after the death of said unit’s commander and forcing them to turn around and advance towards the enemy. I have no trouble imagining how this might have happened; I’d rather shoot it out with a company of NVA regulars than contradict my father.
I mention all of the above for a reason. When I tell my friends that I learned how to drive in a black 1984 BMW 733i, they say, “That’s pretty cool.” When I explain further that it was the relatively rare manual-transmission variant, they say, “That’s even cooler.” It’s difficult to make them understand that it’s tough to learn how to drive in a stick-shift car, tougher to do it in a $36,000 ($77K in today’s money) BMW, and worse yet to do it with someone sitting next to you who might, just possibly, rip your head off at any moment.
Despite what Frank Greve might tell you, some automotive journalists (well, automotive writers anyway. Car writers. Hacks.) don’t have gleaming new cars dropped off curbside, with caviar and champagne in the cupholders and an eight-ball of coke in the glovebox. Instead, a jobbing freelancer such as myself usually has to hoof it on the ol’ public transit network to wherever the fleet cars are kept, staring out the window at people picking their noses in Toyota Corollas and pretending not to notice the pressure on my thigh as the portly, odiferous gentleman on my left overflows his seat.
This time though, BMW being so far out of the way, I grabbed a lift from a friend in a track-prepped, bright orange Lotus Elise. I have never indulged in methamphetamines, but now I no longer need to: never mind road feel, that car was effectively fifteen miles of licking the tarmacadam.
After such a Habanero sorbet, the drive back in the BMW was fairly muted. Ho-hum, another big heavy heffalump with a fancy badge on the nose and an options pricing list that reads like the GDP of Belgium. Right? Next morning at the on-ramp: um, actually no. This thing’s a rocket.