The Truth About Cars » BMW http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Apr 2014 04:59:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » BMW http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/bmw/ Ur-Turn: Congratulations, You’ve Been Upgraded http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ur-turn-congratulations-youve-been-upgraded/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ur-turn-congratulations-youve-been-upgraded/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 11:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=797370 IMG_20140405_144902

Friend of TTAC Anand Ram writes about getting more than he bargained for at the Avis counter.

There’s an explosive truth I want to share: We writers don’t make a lot of money. While you gather yourself from the recoil of that bullet, here’s another: It doesn’t really stop us from wanting nice things.

Perhaps, then, the choice for this young writer’s first ever rental car makes little sense: Luxury.

Well, “luxury.” I’m not a car guy. I can name several pricey models, but I’ve driven around in my dad’s Toyota Corolla for most of my life. I know how a BMW 328i differs from a 335i in literal terms, but not on the road.

So my latest vacation to Florida was an opportunity to try something a little fancier. After a few clicks around rental sites, I decided on Avis. I reserved a “Lincoln MKS or similar” for 5 days, amounting to $459 with a discount. My wife, to her credit, only called my purchase ridiculous and unnecessary. Most husbands would call that a victory.

One turbulent plane ride later, we landed in Orlando fairly late at night. Tired and cranky, we made our way down to the Avis booth. There, the cheerful, young woman behind the counter chatted us up. Eventually I realized it was an upsell.

“You like convertibles?”
“No.”
“Really!?”

I don’t fault her–hustling is a valuable skill, but I was not in the mood. To be frank, I’m also not a convertible guy. I prefer, as I said, luxury. Quiet, smooth, comfortable. Politely–as Canadian as I could be at 11:30 PM–I told her as much. She left and came back with some keys.

“Okay, you’re in a Lincoln Navigator and–” I looked at my wife with wide eyes and turned.
“Sorry, the SUV?” I interjected. “I thought I rented a car?”
“We don’t have that model right now.”

That wouldn’t do. Alongside my father’s Corolla, I had also driven his Toyota Sienna for a number of years. That heavy beast turned me off the concept of big SUVs and vans. Also, driving on unknown roads in a monster like a Navigator didn’t interest me – never mind the gas bills I’d be facing. So our friendly Avis associate went off to see what she could do. She came back with more unexpected news.

“Okay, so you’re in a BMW.”

Did I mention I have the lousiest poker face in the wold?

“Sorry, what…uh…what model was that?” A question you’d call nonchalant, because of how obvious it was.
“5 series.”

The only thing that made this Indian writer happier was that the upgrade came at no extra charge. You can reserve a BMW 528i from Avis, but it costs twice what I paid–as does the Navigator. But there it was: A freshly washed white example.

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A thousand thoughts through my head, but what really stood out was how it excited me. I was smiling as I got in. Coming from a Corolla, the 528i may as well have been a space shuttle.

Of course, it only took a minute to shake all that off and actually get to driving the thing. I couldn’t tell you what that 2.0 liter engine was doing or how it did it (I may not know a lot about cars, but I remember when the letters on the back represented the size of the engine), but the end result was a very enjoyable ride.

The leather-wrapped wheel didn’t have the heavy German feel that I was expecting. Neither the brakes nor the throttle were overly sensitive. The trunk was more than adequate for our suitcases and carry-ons. The seats had more adjustment positions than I knew what to do with. I was finding reasons to call this the car my wife and I should buy–even going so far as to say it was the practical choice.

Although I my flight ended in Orlando, I still had to make my way to Tampa. Normally, any drives longer than 45 minutes make me sleepy. In the BMW, a two hour drive felt like nothing. Quiet, smooth and comfortable. The world rarely gives you what you ask for.

Florida’s roads, seemingly wider than what we see here in Toronto, were perfect. Even the Sunshine State’s states of no sunshine–the occasional torrential downpours–didn’t feel as scary. The car held its own in 30 to 40 minutes of zero visibility rain, never a lost sense of control.

The only strange part was the Start-Stop system, something I had never experienced before. Every time the car stopped, the entire engine cut out, in an effort to save fuel. A strange feature, considering I rarely stopped for that long, and even if I was down for a little bit, the engine would come back to life to power the A/C. Eventually, I chose to disable that function and enjoyed the experience a lot more.

Now, if I gush about how the car felt to drive, it’s because I, admittedly, know very little about good cars. But when it comes to good consumer technology, I’m in my wheelhouse.

Which is why I found the navigation system a mixed bag. The screen was quite large and easy to read, with a useful split-screen function. It wasn’t a touchscreen, though, and that’s just something that a tech guy like me expects –  especially since so many affordable cars now have them.

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It was controlled by a dial next to the gear shifter, with buttons to directly switch between radio, phone, navigation and menus. Depress the dial in to select, move to the left to go to a previous menu, turn it to scrub up and down options. This was the spaceship part–but the tedium in plotting a course made me realize how few cars get navigation right.

The actual route guidance was fantastic, with flawless turn-by-turn directions. Another helpful element was a distance and direction display next to the speedometer, in case my eyes wandered. The voice input, however, was garbage. Trying to speak out an address in Orlando gave me a suggestion in California.

But as nice as the 5-Series was, I couldn’t make heads or tails of the secondary controls. In that rainstorm, I was constantly frustrated with trying to figure out the wiper speed controls or how to turn them off. The handbrake pushed up, down and also had an auto function. And the most frustrating of all: the bloody indicators.

Push up to turn right, push down to turn left. Actually, push slightly up to flash to the right twice. Push harder up to keep them flashing, then pull down slightly to cancel it. I was lucky I didn’t get pulled over for confusing traffic behind me. There are certain things that don’t need improving.

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Despite the minor gripes, I loved driving that car. It made me feel like a big shot. I told my mother to pretend I was the doctor she thought I’d be at one point. Of course, being Florida, there are Jags and Lamborghinis around to really remind you of the small fish you are. That didn’t change how I felt. I was still smiling.

But starting at $51,000, it will never be more than a vacation for me.

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BMW May Build Second NA Plant To Fend Off German Rivals http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/bmw-may-build-second-na-plant-to-fend-off-german-rivals/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/bmw-may-build-second-na-plant-to-fend-off-german-rivals/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 14:04:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=791289 BMW Spartanburg

In its battle against Mercedes-Benz and Audi for record sales, BMW is mulling over the possibility of a second plant in North America.

Bloomberg reports the automaker would place its second factory in Mexico, with two sites under consideration. The decision to expand will take a few months according to BMW production chief Harald Krueger, Should the move be given a green light, the Mexican plant is likely to build the 3 Series.

The second factory would add to the long-term growth strategy BMW is using to fend off its German premium market competitors in a heated battle for records global sales, fueled by growing demand in the United States and China. Mercedes will add the C-Class to its Alabama facility in June with a new plant in North America due near the end of this decade, while Audi is in the middle of setting up shop in Mexico with a $1.3 billion plant set to produce crossovers beginning in 2016.

Previously, BMW announced it would invest $1 billion to expand its South Carolina plant by 50 percent in 2016, as well as add the X7 large SUV to the X Series lineup currently produced in the plant.

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BMW To Bring X7 SUV To Spartanburg http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/bmw-to-bring-x7-suv-to-spartanburg/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/bmw-to-bring-x7-suv-to-spartanburg/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 12:50:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=780505 BMW Spartanburg

BMW’s Spartanburg, S.C. plant, home of the X Series, will soon have a new member joining the family, in the form of the X7 fullsize SUV.

Automotive News reports BMW will announce the X7′s arrival later this week, and will spend heavily to prepare the plant for production of the three-row, seven-seat vehicle in a bid to chase a global sales record for themselves, with output expected to increase to 400,000 units annually from the current increase of 350,000 per year.

Though BMW remains mum, the majority of X7s are expected to remain in the United States, with production starting as soon as 2017. Meanwhile, the new X4 will go into production this year.

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Fewer Than 4,000 Green Calif. HOV Stickers Remain http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/less-than-4000-green-calif-hov-stickers-remain/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/less-than-4000-green-calif-hov-stickers-remain/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:56:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=776521 2012-Chevrolet-Volt-HOV-052_610x407

For potential California PHEV owners, time may soon run out to obtain the Green Clean Air Vehicle Sticker issued by the California Environmental Protection Agency for HOV lane use, as only 3,770 of the 40,000 stickers remain available.

Inside EVs reports a huge spike in applications for the green stickers since the start of 2013, with 12,000 issued last year, and 8,000 more since January. This is in contrast to 2012, when around 500 stickers per month were issued in the first seven months of the year.

The stickers, meant for AT PZEVs such as the Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt, will likely be gone by the time BMW brings the i3 extended-range model to the United States this summer, and in spite of the automaker’s best efforts, only the pure-electric i3 will be eligible for the White Clean Air Vehicle Sticker issued to as many approved EVs, fuel-cell- and CNG-powered vehicles — like the Tesla Model S, Ram 2500 and Honda FCX Clarity — as can be registered.

Both green and white HOV stickers are set to expire New Year’s Day 2019, extended from the same date in 2015.

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BMW Looking To Increase US Production For Sales Record http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/bmw-looking-to-increase-us-production-for-sales-record/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/bmw-looking-to-increase-us-production-for-sales-record/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:54:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=776457 BMW X4 01

Chasing after a sales record and a 10 percent rise in pretax profit for 2014, BMW looks to increase output at the automaker’s Spartanburg, S.C. plant.

Reuters reports the plant is undergoing the necessary work needed to increase annual production of the automaker’s X Series from 300,000 to 350,000, with BMW chief executive Norbert Reithofer explaining that the U.S. market was one of great potential; thus, the plan to increase capacity. This would be in addition to the 400,000 units BMW aims to assemble in China after necessary investments raised capacity from 300,000 a year ago.

Though Reithofer remained mum on exact figures for how many of the SUVs will exit Spartanburg, as well as whether or not the automaker will introduce the X7 large SUV, he reiterated BMW’s goal of selling over 2 million units this year, having come close with 1.96 million in 2013. He also expects “group profit before tax to rise significantly” this year in spite of “ongoing volatile business conditions.” BMW COO Friedrich Eichiner later clarified Reithofer’s statement, claiming the figure to be “somewhere in the range of a high single-digit and a double-digit amount.”

Augmenting the expanding production, 12 new models are set to debut in the second half of 2014, including the 2 Series, 2 Series Active Tourer, and the i8.

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No Replacements For MINI Coupe, Paceman, Roadster http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/no-replacements-for-mini-coupe-paceman-roadster/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/no-replacements-for-mini-coupe-paceman-roadster/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 12:38:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=774977 2012 Mini Coupe

BMW’s MINI may not replace the Coupe, Paceman or Roadster when their day comes, opting to focus on three “pillar” models that allow the brand to be “more relevant to more people,” according to MINI head of product management Oliver Friedmann.

Automotive News Europe reports Friedmann’s first priority for MINI “is to roll out a portfolio that has strong pillars,” with each pillar being clear in what it means to the overall brand. With the original hatchback and Countryman identified as the first two pillars, a potential third pillar could come in the form of a compact model based upon the Clubman concept shown in Geneva.

As for the Coupe, Paceman and Roadster, Friedmann says the trio aren’t a priority to the brand at this time, with the possibility all three may end up in the crusher of history in the near future.

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BMW, Mercedes Downsize Number Of Architectures For Future Vehicles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/bmw-mercedes-downsize-number-of-architectures-for-future-vehicles/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/bmw-mercedes-downsize-number-of-architectures-for-future-vehicles/#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 13:01:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=773881 bmw-2-series-active-tourer-11

In order to accelerate development of new models while also cutting costs, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are downsizing the number of architectures to be used in future vehicles in their respective lineups.

Automotive News Europe reports Mercedes will be down from nine platforms five years ago to four platforms by 2016, with the first — the MFA — already in showrooms as the CLA; the MFA-underpinned B-Class and GLA will arrive in United States showrooms later this summer. The move would allow Mercedes to move safety systems from their flagship S-Class to lower classes more quickly than in previous years.

Meanwhile, BMW will go from five to two platforms — one for RWD, one for FWD –between its namesake brand and Mini. The latter debuted with the redesigned Mini not too long ago, and will also underpin the 2-Series Active Tourer officially unveiled in Geneva last week.

As for the RWD platform, BMW R&D board member Herbert Deiss says it will arrive in 2016 under the next-generation 7 Series. Both consolidations were brought to life to allow more affordable expansion of each brand’s lineup.

BMW’s i Series will not take part in the consolidation, nor will Rolls-Royce.

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Audi Takes Lead From BMW In Global Premium Car Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/audi-takes-lead-from-bmw-in-global-premium-car-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/audi-takes-lead-from-bmw-in-global-premium-car-sales/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 18:17:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=770714 2015-Audi-A3-beauty-exterior-005

For the first time this year, BMW loses the best-selling premium brand crown to a rival as Audi squeaks past the Bavarians in the first two months of 2014 to take the title.

Automotive News reports Audi delivered 242,400 units in January and February of this year, 383 more than BMW; at the same time last year, BMW led Audi by 429 units in their nine-year period of dominance over the global premium car market.

Audi CEO Rupert Stadler appeared not to be impressed by the news, however, as he noted in the brand’s annual press conference this week:

We’re ahead of our two main rivals in the first two months, but this doesn’t really interest me much. Our focus is on further growth.

Said growth aims to be driven by the introduction of 17 new or revamped models this year — including the A3 sedan roll-out in the United States and China, as well as the refreshed A3 hatchback and TT — as part of a five-year, 22-billion-euro investment in the brand, with goal of surpassing BMW once and for all in global sales by 2020.

BMW sales chief Ian Robertson, for his part, was confident his employer would take back the crown soon enough:

The innovative new models coming out this year, such as the 2-series Active Tourer and 4-series Gran Coupe, will give us the momentum to keep growing in 2014.

The new models will likely help the Bavarians rule the market for a 10th consecutive year, selling a projected 1.77 million units in 2014 over Audi’s 1.66 million and Mercedes’s 1.56 million according to IHS Automotive. However, previous reports indicate that the United States will not receive the 2-Series Active Tourer, which is taking heat for its front-drive layout.

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New York 2014: BMW X4 Photos, Specs Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/new-york-2014-bmw-x4-photos-specs-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/new-york-2014-bmw-x4-photos-specs-revealed/#comments Fri, 07 Mar 2014 06:42:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=767129 BMW X4 05

Ahead of its debut at the 2014 New York Auto Show, BMW has revealed photos and specs of their X4 crossover.

Automotive News reports the X4, underpinned by a slightly longer and lower X3 architecture — will be sold in the United States with the automaker’s xDrive AWD system mated to two turbocharged options: the xDrive28i 2-liter four pushing 240 horsepower, and the xDrive35i 3-liter six driving 300 horses. Both will be paired with an eight-speed automatic accessed via flappy paddles.

Standard features revealed include variable sport steering — with matching sports leather steering wheel — performance control and rear parking assist.

The X4s will exit the BMW factory in Spartanburg, S.C. this spring with a price of $45,625 for the 28i, $48,925 for the 35i

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Toyota to Debut Supra Concept at 2014 Detroit Auto Show http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/toyota-to-debut-supra-concept-at-2014-detroit-auto-show/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/toyota-to-debut-supra-concept-at-2014-detroit-auto-show/#comments Thu, 19 Dec 2013 10:30:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=683370 1993_JZA80_Toyota_Supra_SZ

The last time Toyota debuted a concept thought to be the return of the Supra — the FT-HS, to be exact — the end result was a three-pack of boxer-powered, rear-driven madness with a low price point. Could Toyota’s latest upcoming concept for the 2014 Detroit Auto Show finally be the one?

According to insiders within Toyota, the rear-driven supercar concept was conceived in the automaker’s California-based CLATY design studio. Alas, no images have been leaked to the automotive press so far, nor word of what might be under the bonnet beyond rumor of a hybrid drivetrain made for high performance. Said drivetrain could also be the first product from the partnership struck between Toyota and BMW earlier this year to share car-building and hybrid tech for their respective entrants into the sports car game.

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Turbos, Diesels Rule Top 10 Engine List in 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/turbos-diesels-rule-top-10-engine-list-in-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/turbos-diesels-rule-top-10-engine-list-in-2014/#comments Fri, 13 Dec 2013 11:30:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=678850 Audi 3.0 TFSI Engine

‘Tis the season for year-end Top 10 lists celebrating and lamenting all things in the world of life, and the automotive industry is no exception. Ward’s Automotive has announced its list of the 10 best engines for 2014, and it’s a turbodiesel-intercooled festival of power this year.

The winners on the 20th anniversary of this list are as follows:

  • 3.0L TFSI Supercharged DOHC V6 (Audi S5)
  • 3.0L Turbodiesel DOHC I6 (BMW 535d)
  • 3.0L Turbodiesel DOHC V6 (Ram 1500 EcoDiesel)
  • 83 kW Electric Motor (Fiat 500e)
  • 1.0L EcoBoost DOHC I3 (Ford Fiesta)
  • 2.0L Turbodiesel DOHC I4 (Chevrolet Cruze Diesel)
  • 6.2L OHV V8 (Chevrolet Corvette Stingray)
  • 3.5L SOHC V6 (Honda Accord)
  • 2.7L DOHC H6 boxer (Porsche Cayman)
  • 1.8L Turbocharged DOHC I4 (Volkswagen Jetta)

Of note, Ford’s three-pot EcoBoost marks the first time an automaker won a spot on the list with only three cylinders, while Fiat scores a first-time win with its 83 kW electric motor found in the 500e. On the other end, only two engines from last year’s list returned — Audi’s 3.0-liter TFSI and Honda’s 3.5-liter V6 — while six of the 10 are oil-burners, a first for Ward’s.

General Motors scored two wins this year for the first time since 2008 with the Cruze’s 2-liter turbodiesel I4 and the new Corvette Stingray’s 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8. Among trucks, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is the sole winner, based on the strength of its 3-liter turbodiesel stump-puller.

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BMW to Turn FWD Up to Eleven With UKL1 Chassis http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/bmw-to-turn-fwd-up-to-eleven-with-ukl1-chassis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/bmw-to-turn-fwd-up-to-eleven-with-ukl1-chassis/#comments Fri, 06 Dec 2013 15:31:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=672834 BMW Active Tourer Concept

If thought of a front-driven ultimate driving machine seems like either the best thing ever or a nightmare, then BMW Sales and Marketing board member Ian Robertson has some good/bad news for you: 11 BMWs and MINIs will soon arrive in the showroom, all underpinned by the UKL1 FWD/AWD chassis.

Though the UKL1 already made its debut last month as the next iteration of the MINI, Robertson confirmed that the first BMW to wear the chassis — the Active Tourer, to be exact — will bow sometime early in 2014. He says that not only will the production version of the mini-crossover be the Bavarian’s first-ever front-driver, the Active Tourer will also sport their first-ever three-pot behind the famous kidney grill.

Regarding the 11 UKL1-based models overall (cut down from a proposed 20), eight MINI variants are expected to come down the ramp, including a Mazda MX-5 fighter and a saloon tailored for the Chinese market, as well five- and seven-seat versions of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, an SUV slotted underneath the X1, and supermini aimed at Audi’s A1.

The BMW Group as a whole has enjoyed a record year in sales, with 1.6 million total units through October 2013 heading out to the motorways of Europe. Robertson adds that his employer moves 300,000 MINIs and 200,000 1 Series annually, and is confident that the UKL1 will do just as well.

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Rental Review: BMW Z4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/rental-review-bmw-z4/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/rental-review-bmw-z4/#comments Fri, 29 Nov 2013 16:13:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=666818 image

A business trip sent me to Tampa last week. I had decided that I would rent a car for my own use while I was there. The plan was to visit family in Fort Myers and then drive back to Tampa for the meeting. After a particularly bad day at work prior to leaving for Florida, I decided on the plane that I would upgrade to a convertible. You know, as a gift to myself. From myself.

Me: What convertibles do you have available?

Rental Car Guy: (Looks at the computer, makes a phone call, and asks for something “sporty”) There’s a Chrysler 200 and a BMW Z4.

If he had said anything other than a 200 I would have picked the more reasonable choice. A Mustang? Right on. A Camaro? I’m there. I would rather drive anything other than a 200. Renting a BMW wasn’t something I had considered but it seemed like a really good idea.

Me: How much is the Z4? A million dollars?

Rental Car Guy: Not quite.

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Twenty minutes later, I’m standing beside a 2012 BMW Z4 Sdrive28i watching two guys from Budget try to figure out how to put the top down. Twenty five minutes later, I’m trying to put the top back up so I can get my car charger out of my suitcase. Twenty eight minutes later, I’m trying to put the top down again. The men that took me to the car had left and there was a woman sitting at the key booth watching me get in and out of the car and futz with the persnickety trunk.

“Do you need help?”

“Erm…No?” There’s a tray in the trunk and anything being stored has to be underneath it and the tray has to be pulled down and locked before the top can go down. Eventually, I figured out that the tray may look like it’s locked in place but, according to my own personal, highly scientific study, 79% of the time it is not. That’s a lesson that I learned, and I learned it about four times.

With the top down, the trunk will hold a carry-on and not much else, but I didn’t get the Z4 for the trunk space.

I did however, get it because it is a convertible. It was cloudy when I left the airport but the purpose of me getting the Z4 was to see the sky, so I ignored the clouds and headed from TPA to Fort Myers. The trip is about 120 miles and it involves crossing the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Halfway across the bridge it started to rain. The shoulder was narrow and I didn’t think about pulling over. I did think about trying to slow down enough to put the top up, but considering the average speed of Florida drivers (roughly equaling infinity plus one), I decided to just drive faster. I was able to personally verify that driving fast will sort of prevent rain from coming into a convertible, but as soon as I slowed down at the end of the bridge, the inside of the car got damp and I had to wipe down everything.

I like buttons in cars. Buttons in general actually; they’re instant gratification — press a button and something happens. As soon as I got out of the rain and into the bulk of the trip, about seventy miles on 75 South, I started pressing buttons. iDrive has several different menus: media, radio, navigation, telephone, preferences, etcetera, that are accessible while driving. I had no problem driving and entering in my destination address at the same time. I wasn’t confident in BMW’s navigation system so I was using Google maps from my phone (the directional devil that you know is better than the one that you don’t). For a while I forced them to compete until I eventually turned off the BMW voice and just used its display maps.

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After the dashboard buttons were conquered, I moved on to the seat adjustments. Without seeing the button that I was pressing, I hit what I thought to be the lumbar adjustment. It turned out to be the memory button for the seat. The seat went back until I couldn’t touch the gas, and the side view mirrors pointed downward. (I am going to assume the previous renter was an extremely tall, short-waisted man.) I’d done it; because of my awesome button pressing abilities, I’d managed to find the one button that should not be able to be pressed while the car is in motion. I spent several minutes afterwards fixing the position of the mirrors and was slowed down by the fact that the side view and rear view mirrors are auto dimming. They looked and acted like crappy window tint. I would much prefer being blinded to mumbling about not being able to see anything behind me.

The next day, after a completely pointless and infuriating meeting, I was able to drive the Z4 and get a better feel for it. I found a mostly empty park with lots of roads that had lots of speed bumps. It turned out that the Z4 could get from 10 MPH to 50 MPH to 10 MPH in between bumps. After the park, I drove around Clearwater. Traffic wasn’t conducive to flappy paddling, but I did my best to annoy everyone around me. I would slow down enough to get a good amount of room in between my front bumper and the car ahead, red line it, and then shift. I never was able to get it up to eighth but fifth gear was good enough for having fun purposes. Flappy paddles + traffic = plenty of fast stops. After the first fast stop, my purse with its eight Chapsticks/lip glosses and $15.94 worth of loose change ended up on the floor of the passenger seat. After that, it got tucked behind the passenger seat on a 4” shelf that’s good for little else. After subsequent fast stops, a cheese Danish slid out from under the seat. Apparently tall, short-waisted man had an affinity for prepackaged pastries. I took a picture of it and then put it back under the seat. A friend called me chicken later for not eating it, but I stand by my decision.

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The rental ended up being $211.00 for the day or four times what the midsized would have cost and about three times more than the 200. It was more than I what was planning on spending (and sadly not able to be 100% expensed), but insofar as it was at least three times better than the Chrysler 200 would have been, I feel it was money well spent.

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BMW Drops the Top in LA With 4 Series Convertible Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/bmw-drops-the-top-in-la-with-4-series-convertible-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/bmw-drops-the-top-in-la-with-4-series-convertible-coupe/#comments Wed, 20 Nov 2013 20:17:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=657746 2014 BMW 4 Series Convertible 01
BMW may have given the world a fair glimpse at the 4 Series convertible coupe last month, but the Germans have opted to make the LA Auto Show the perfect stage for the ultimate sunning machine’s public debut.

The 4 Series convertible coupe, replacing the 3 Series by moving up one number — in line with BMW’s new naming scheme of coupes bearing even numbers, sedans odd — along with gains in width, track and wheelbase, comes with a three-piece retractable hardtop that will welcome the sun in 20 seconds. As for the times when the rain, sleet or snow turn up, interior lighting in the roof along with a soundproof headliner will keep all cozy.

Under the hood, expect to find either a 2-liter turbo-4 pumping out 240 horses and 255 lb-ft of torque (428i), a 3-liter turbocharged I6 with 300 horsepower and torque to match (435i), or a diesel channeling 184 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque (420d).

Sending the power to the back is accomplished via either a six-speed manual standard on all versions of the convertible, or a choice of eight-speed automatics ranging from fully automated to paddle-shifted; all transmissions come with BMW’s start-stop technology standard.

Finally, for those who prefer the power to go through all four corners, BMW will introduce the xDrive system as an option for the 428i variant in the spring of 2014.

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Toyota Teams With BMW to Deliver Ultimate Hybrid Supercar http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/toyota-teams-with-bmw-to-deliver-ultimate-hybrid-supercar/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/toyota-teams-with-bmw-to-deliver-ultimate-hybrid-supercar/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2013 11:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=644570 2014 BMW i8

When Toyota teamed with General Motors, they gave us the Vibe/Matrix twins. With Subaru, a trio of rear-driven sports cars with boxer power up front. So, what will Toyota deliver in its partnership with BMW? How about the ultimate hybrid supercar based off the bones of the Lexus LFA, for starters.

In an effort to join the ranks of Ferrari, Porsche, McLaren and even Mercedes-AMG in the eco-friendly supercar sweepstakes, Toyota will jointly develop a halo car with BMW that aims to take the ideas behind the LFA, swap its V10 for a hybrid powertrain, and package the deal for around $300,000.

For Toyota, that means teaching the Germans how to weave carbon fiber and offering its expertise in chassis craftsmanship, as well as its research in high-performance hybrid technology. On the other side, BMW offers mass production capabilities to make as many plastic and carbon fiber baskets as desired, as well as an array of engines that offer the same amount of power as the LFA’s V10, but with less cylinders, a smaller size, fewer emissions, and better mileage, such as the M5′s 4.4-liter 552-horsepower turbo V8.

No matter what happens, Toyota is wasting little time getting started (it took a decade to bring the LFA from the light table to the showroom); the word on the street is that a BMW i8 is residing in the automaker’s testing grounds near Mt. Fuji, undergoing stress tests in regards to its carbon fiber frame and emissions trials on the plug-in hybrid’s engine.

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BMW Focused On i Subbrand Over Short-Term Monetary Gains http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/bmw-focused-on-i-subbrand-over-short-term-monetary-gains/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/bmw-focused-on-i-subbrand-over-short-term-monetary-gains/#comments Tue, 05 Nov 2013 14:25:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=642577 02-2014-bmw-i3In lieu of short-term monetary gains over their competitors at Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen (via Audi), BMW is spending its earnings on building up their i sub-brand through the city-focused i3 and the plug-in hybrid supercar i8.

As a result of their focus on the cutting edge, and in spite of demand for the brand’s 3 Series, the German automaker posted a 3.7 percent decline in third-quarter earnings, pulling in $2.6 billion this time around. In an effort to stay ahead of their hard-charging competition (both of whom aim to bury BMW in the sales war by the end of this decade), BMW will introduce 25 new models during the 2013 and 2014 model years, 10 of whom are completely new. In contrast, Mercedes aims to release a baker’s dozen of all-new Teutonic goodness by 2020, while Audi plans to add a few more numbers to its Q series of SUVs.

Regarding the i3, 8,000 orders have already been sent to dealers in the United States, Europe and China, prompting BMW to make more of the EV in time for its debut in European showrooms November 16; American and Chinese customers will get theirs sometime in the first half of 2014. The price of admission for the i3 on our shores will be $41,350, with an optional 650cc 2-cylinder engine — whose sole purpose to keep the electric power going for an additional 80 to 100 miles on top of the 80 to 100 miles the electric-only model travels — priced around $4,000.

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BMW 2 Series to Debut in 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/bmw-2-series-to-debut-in-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/bmw-2-series-to-debut-in-2014/#comments Fri, 25 Oct 2013 14:16:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=634377 BMW M235i HR 01

Yesterday, we brought to you a few leaked shots of the high-performance BMW M235i. Today, we have a plethora of official photos, plus more information about the 2 Series set to make its debut during the 2014 North American International Auto Show prior to going on sale in the first quarter of the new year.

As noted by Automotive News, the 2 Series — consisting of the aforementioned M235i and the 228i (no 220i or 220d — for diesel — for the U.S. market) — will take the place of the 1 Series coupe that first turned up on lots in 2008. While both come turbocharged, don’t let the M badge of the former fool you: it’s an M Performance model, with almost all of the goodies that make for a high-performance BMW minus the rest of the ingredients that would otherwise make it an M2.

Speaking of performance, the M235i is set to send 322 thoroughbreds around the final turn through a 3-liter I6, while the 228i does the same with 240 horses through an 2-liter I4.

The price of admission: $44,025 for the M235i, $33,025 for the 228i.

The nomenclature given by BMW follows a new trend for the German automaker, where coupes and convertibles take the even numbers — such as the upcoming 4 Series coupe and convertible — while sedans take the odd numbers; don’t ask where the Z4M or X Series fits into any of this.

Regarding the 1 Series, a front-wheel drive sedan is expected to arrive in 2017, based upon the architecture that will pull together the upcoming Mini set to debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.

BMW M235i HR 01 BMW M235i HR 02 BMW M235i HR 03 BMW M235i HR 04 BMW M235i HR 05 BMW M235i HR 06 digital post production: Ole Bunger
www.pixoleb.com digital post production: Ole Bunger
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www.pixoleb.com digital post production: Ole Bunger
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BMW’s M235i Revealed Via Leak http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/bmws-m235i-revealed-via-leak/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/bmws-m235i-revealed-via-leak/#comments Thu, 24 Oct 2013 10:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=632978 M235i-01

BMW’s replacement for the 1-Series has been revealed in its M form courtesy of leaked photos posted to an online forum after a dealer presentation, according the lads at Autocar.

The M235i seen in the photos is as how the smallest BMW will appear when the 2-Series debuts in showrooms next year, with the 220i and 220d filling out the ranks. The M variant will be driven by a turbocharged 3-liter I6, pushing 322 horses out the back door with 332 pounds of tree-pulling power from 0 to 60 in just under 5 seconds; top speed is 155 mph.

The 2-Series overall is longer than the 1-Series it will replace, providing more comfort and cargo room for potential buyers to consider. The collection has been engineered to accommodate both rear- and four-wheel drive, as well.

 

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Review: 2013 BMW X6M – Swansong Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2013-bmw-x6m-swansong-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2013-bmw-x6m-swansong-edition/#comments Fri, 05 Jul 2013 17:43:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493559 2013 BMW X6M Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

With Mercedes cranking out AWD versions of their AMG products and Audi finally bringing their AWD “RS” products to America, it was only a matter of time before BMW have in and added some front-wheel motivation to their M5. Just kidding. BMW maintains that the M5 will forever retain RWD. This means the M5 will focus on dynamics and not acceleration. BMW’s answer to this deficiency since 2010 comes in the form of the X5M and X6M cousins.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Why are we looking at the 2013 X6M when 2014 is bringing an all-new X5? Easy, the X5M won’t roll into town until the 2015 model year we’re told and the X6 has yet to be officially refreshed putting its new body back to the 2015 model year in all likelihood. If you want a fast AWD BMW and can’t wait for the refresh, act now.

What is the X6M? I’m glad you asked because I still haven’t decided. BMW would like you to think that it is a new class of vehicle called the SAC or “Sports Activity Coupé.” For some reason I have trouble calling a 5-door crossover that weighs a feather under 5,400lbs a “coupé,” but that’s just me. On a technical level (and to answer the real question at hand) the X6 is an X5 without the third row of thrones and a “liftback” and not a hatchback profile. The steeply raked rear window and overall shape of the X6 make it look smaller on the outside than it is. The X6M is one inch shorter than the M5, four inches wider, nine inches taller, and a full 1,000lbs heavier. 2013 BMW X6M Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Identifying the X6M from the “common” X6 is fairly easy. BMW swaps the hood for a version with a “power bulge” (not functional as far as I could tell) and a new bumper with openings large enough to swallow a Geo Metro. Out back we have quad exhaust tips and aero treatments that scream “look at me!” The most important difference is almost lost in the X6M’s proportions: this SUV wears some seriously wide 315/35R20 rubber on 11-inch wide allow wheels. More on that later.

Interior

For a vehicle with a $92,900 starting price the spartan interior of the X6M surprised some of my passengers. It shouldn’t. The X6 wears the same 7-year old interior as the 2006-2013 X5 with only minor tweaks which you’ll mostly find in the back. Up front we have the same injection molded dash as the X5 and X5 but BMW swaps the wood out for brushed aluminum. Call me an old man at heart, but I think a dark stained wood package would be better suited to the X6M’s sports/luxury mission.

2013 BMW X6M Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Front seat comfort is excellent, but again it should be in something this spendy. The comfort level is thanks to BMW’s 20-way power “M sport” seats which allow the seat to contort in more ways than you would think possible. (BMW makes these same seats available on nearly their entire lineup and it’s worth the cost to upgrade.) Out back you’ll notice something is missing at first glance. The X6M is a four-seater by default. If you want the middle rear seat that was lost in the X5M to X6M transition, you’ll have to pay an extra $350 on-top of the $4,050 premium for the X6M’s sloping backside. Apparently stye doesn’t come cheap.

About that liftback; from the X6M’s profile you might assume cargo area would be limited, but at 25.6 cubic feet the luggage compartment is more than adequate for a party of 5. (Although notably lower than the X5M’s 35 cubes.) You might also mistakenly assume the X6M would have more interior room than the M5 sedan but you’d be wrong there too. The M5 somehow offers more legroom and headroom front and back than either the X5M or X6M, something to keep in mind if you’re SUV shopping simply because you’re a tall person.

2013 BMW X6M Exterior LED Headlampsm, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

iDrive has come a long way since its introduction, and although complicated at times, it’s still the ultimate in-car attraction for my inner nerd. Keep in mind that the Swansong edition X6M doesn’t get latest version of the system found in the new 3-Series. The key differences are improved integration with the heads up display and a media button on the iDrive controller reflecting the relative importance of CDs and media devices in this century. Don’t fret, the older iDrive system runs the same software as the new version meaning the X6M still has all the smartphone app integration you can handle and now fully supports voice commanding the tunes on your USB/iPod. Like the rest of the BMW portfolio, you can Tweet, Facebook, Wikipedia and SMS message while you drive (with the $250 apps option). Compared to Audi’s MMI, iDrive lacks the Google satellite view mapping but the system is more responsive, more intuitive and more polished. I’d like to compare it to Mercedes’ COMAND but that would be like comparing a Space Shuttle to the Model T. For our in-depth look at iDrive, check out the video review.

Drivetrain

By now the suspense is killing you. After all, we haven’t even mentioned the M engine under the hood so here we go: Turbo lovers rejoice! Squeezed under the bulging hood beats a 4.4L twin-turbo V8 engine cranking out 555HP and a mind numbing 500 lb-ft of torque. While this engine is quite similar to the X6 xDrive50i’s 4.4L twin turbo V8, there are some significant differences, most notably the broader torque curve. The “pedestrian” 4.4L engine delivers 450lb-ft from 1750-4500RPM while the M-mill broadens the torque plateau to 1500-5650 and the difference is marked behind the wheel. Power is routed to all four wheels via a heavy-duty ZF 6-speed automatic transmission, BMW’s full-tine AWD system and of course, a torque vectoring rear differential. I have seen complaints from the forum fan-boys whining that BMW didn’t put their dual-clutch M transmission under the hood of the X6M, I have to agree at some level.

2013 BMW X6M Engine, 4.4L twin-turbo V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

So why not an AWD version of the DCT tranny? In a word: towing. Despite the insane power numbers the X6M is rated to tow a stout 6,600lbs. With more torque on hand than most diesel engines, the X6M had no trouble towing a 5,000lb load that we hitched up making the X6M the second most practical performance vehicle I’ve ever tested right behind the X5M. As if common sense wasn’t enough, the manual reminds you to not use launch control while towing a trailer.

Drive

Let’s get some numbers out of the way. The X6M clocked a 4.04 second sprint to 60 with launch control, 4.3 seconds without and 4.5 seconds without launch control and not using the M power mode. What’s the difference? Aside from crisper/faster shifts, launch control adjusts the stability control system and allows the turbos to spool up to reduce turbo lag on launch.  To put that in perspective, the last M6 we had our hands on ran to 60 in 3.75, last month’s CLS63 AMG did it in 4.1, and the high-power Jaguar XKR-S finished the task in 3.83.

2013 BMW X6M Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

What does that have to do with the X6M and why are we comparing sports cars and an SUV? Because of how close those number are. How is that possible with the X6M weighing so much more? It’s all about the grip. 0-60 testing a two-wheel drive high horsepower vehicle takes a certain amount of time and finesse. The X6M needs only a heavy right foot. Aside from the straight-line fun AWD brings, BMW’s torque vectoring rear diff makes the X6M feel incredibly confidant on winding mountain roads. The system allows nearly 100% of the power that would normally be sent to both rear wheels, to be directed to one wheel causing the X6M to rotate with near psychic precision. While TTAC doesn’t have access to a 300ft skidpad, you may be surprised to know that most publications that do record higher horizontal Gs in the X6M than in the M5 and M6. Say what? Thank those insane 315 width tires for that.

For most drivers, the X6M is going to be easier to drive hard on or off the track, up to a point. That 5,400lbs has to be kept in mind and when you have the X6M on very tight corners the curb weight becomes more noticeable. Even so the X6M and X5M are entirely capable of keeping up with the likes of a Porsche Cayman S given the right driver and the right road. Speaking of Porsche we haven’t said anything about the Cayenne yet. There are three good reasons for that. First, Porsche wouldn’t loan us one making the X6M win by default. Second, the Cayenne really competes with the X5M since it’s a traditional SUV shape. And last, the Cayenne Turbo S lists for nearly 50% more than the X6M. Ouch. Yes, the Cayenne is an incredible machine and in truth is the only real competition for BMW’s insane crossovers, but with price tags like that, we should be asking: is the BMW competition for Porsche? Probably not.

Over 816 miles we averaged a surprising 15.4 MPG in the X6M. Surprising how? Because that’s 1.4 MPG more than the EPA combined number BMW advertises, it’s also not terribly far off the 16.5 MPG we averaged in a week in the BMW M5.

2013 BMW X6M Exterior, Rear tires, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The X6M is quite simply one of the finest BMWs available for sale. I just don’t understand why you would buy one. Sure it’s fast and handles well, but so does the X5M. My problem with the X6M isn’t the X6M itself, it’s that the X5M exists which is a far more practical crossover with none of the drawbacks the X6′s squashed posterior causes. All of that is before you even consider the $4,400 premium you have to pay for a 5-seat X6M over the 5-seat X5M and the loss of head and legroom over the M5. The X6M is absolutely incredible machine, but I can’t help thinking it’s a product searching for a market.

 

 

BMW Provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 1.66

0-60: 4.04 (4.3 without launch control, 4.5 when not in M-Mode)

1/4 Mile: 12.44 Seconds at 113 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 15.4 MPG over 816 miles

 

2013 BMW X6M Engine 2013 BMW X6M Engine-001 2013 BMW X6M Engine, 4.4L twin-turbo V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X6M Exterior LED Headlampsm, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X6M Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X6M Exterior-004 2013 BMW X6M Exterior-003 2013 BMW X6M Exterior-002 2013 BMW X6M Exterior-001 2013 BMW X6M Exterior-006 2013 BMW X6M Exterior-007 2013 BMW X6M Exterior-008 2013 BMW X6M Exterior-009 2013 BMW X6M Exterior-011 2013 BMW X6M Exterior-016 2013 BMW X6M Exterior-015 2013 BMW X6M Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X6M Exterior, Rear tires, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X6M Exterior-017 2013 BMW X6M Exterior-012 2013 BMW X6M Exterior-018 2013 BMW X6M Exterior-019 2013 BMW X6M Exterior-020 2013 BMW X6M Exterior-021 2013 BMW X6M Exterior-022 2013 BMW X6M Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X6M Interior-001 2013 BMW X6M Interior-002 2013 BMW X6M Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X6M Interior-008 2013 BMW X6M Interior-004 2013 BMW X6M Interior-005 2013 BMW X6M Interior-007 2013 BMW X6M Interior-006 2013 BMW X6M Interior-009 2013 BMW X6M Interior-010 2013 BMW X6M Interior-011 ]]>
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Review: 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/review-2013-bmw-x1-xdrive28i-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/review-2013-bmw-x1-xdrive28i-video/#comments Tue, 11 Jun 2013 13:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490737 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I know a guy who used to own a BMW 318ti. Like most 318 shoppers, he paid way too much because it had a roundel on the front. At some point he realized that 25-grand (in 1997) was an awful lot to have paid for an asthmatic 138-horsepower rattletrap and sold it. Likewise, the fog lifted at BMW and they refocused on volume models. Then came the 1 series, a fantastic little car that hasn’t exactly set the sales charts on fire. The Germans are a persistent people, so for 2013 they are fishing with fresh bait. Click through the jump as we look at the cheapest BMW in America, the 2013 BMW X1.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

OK, so BMW would prefer that I called the X1 “the most affordable” BMW in America, but I suffer from political incorrectness. So what is the X1? It’s a crossover of course. While that term has become synonymous with “ginormous FWD soft-roader” the X1 is more of a “true” crossover in that it looks like a cross between a pregnant 1-Series and a mini X5. The result is a handsome BMW version of the Subaru Outback or Volvo XC70. (The X1 is a cousin of the 1-Series (E87) and 3-Series (E90).) Since wagon’s don’t sell well either, BMW stretched the X1 vertically and called it good.

Unlike the X3 and X5, the one thing BMW didn’t do was shorten the hood. As a result, you might almost call the X1 BMW’s latest hatchback. Only that wouldn’t sell as many X1s either. Get it now? Speaking of the X3, the X1 is 6.5 inches shorter and 3.5 inches narrower than its larger cousin.

I should point out a few things before we move on. First up, BMW’s rear hatchback design makes the X1 look less like a Volvo wagon, but also reduces practical load space. My only other quibble outside is that the wheels look a bit small for the X1. What’s your opinion? Sound out below.

 

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

European car companies are accused of making the same sausage available in different lengths. That’s obvious outside as well as inside the X1 where you’ll find the same shapes and many of the same controls/screens found in other BMW products. This parts bin approach pays dividends for the X1 where you get the same shifter and iDrive controller found in six-figure BMWs. (How those six-figure shoppers feel about this is anyone’s guess.) Once you’re done playing with the high-rent knobs, your hands will discover where BMW saved money: plastics. Instead of the soft molded instrument panels used in other BMWs, the X1 gets a hard plastic unit. The black upper portion of the dash has then been coated with a thin layer of soft material to improve feel, while the rest of the dash remains hard. This is an interesting choice when even Buick and Chevrolet have ditched their hard plastic interiors for squishy bits.

Germans car engineers don’t understand America. Sure, they understand driving dynamics and styling, but the Burger King drive-thru is incomprehensible. It’s obvious they are making effort to understand ‘mericans, bless their little hearts, but I think a US field-trip is in order for the guy who designs center consoles in Bavaria. Go to the south, my friend, go to the south. When the X1 arrived, I was starving. Being a lover of convenience, I headed to Taco Bell. It was at that point I noticed I had only one cup holder. Behind my right elbow. After consulting the instruction manual, I found the other one. If you look at the picture below, you’ll see it: a funky little thing that inserts into a slot in the center console to the right of the shifter. When it’s not inserted, you have an odd hole with a springy-cover concealing its depths. When in place, you have a cup holder positioned to splash its contents on your snazzy iDrive knob. You will also have a passenger complain their knee hits it all the time. Want to jam a enormous southern-style Styrofoam drink in your X1? Good luck. BMW: you got the X5 and X6′s cupholders so right, what happened?

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i, Cupholder, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Cupholder woes aside, there is little to complain about inside the X1. Front comfort is excellent, even in the base model with an 8-way manually adjustable seat. Our X1 was equipped with the $3,000 M-Sport package which brings aluminum trim, a black headliner, steering wheel mounted shift-paddles and BMW’s excellent sport seats. The optional thrones contort in more ways than I can describe and are one of the most comfortable seat designs in any $30,000-40,000 vehicle. If you can’t find a comfortable position, go see a back surgeon. Something that isn’t standard however is leather. If you want real cow, be prepared to pony up an extra $1,450. If that surprises you, it shouldn’t. Even Lexus is ditching real moo in their latest designs.

Most cars get less comfortable as you move rearwards, and that is certainly true of the X1. Back seats are firmly padded with little bolstering and very straight backs. Thankfully, the seat bottom cushion is not as close to the floor as many small crossovers, although the lack of padding made passenger’s legs just as tired on a one-hour car trip. On the flip side the rear seats recline to soften the blow. Rear legroom and headroom are excellent thanks to the X1′s upright profile and BMW and getting in and out of the X1 is made easy by large door openings. The ever-efficient Germans made the rear seats fold in a 40/20/40 manner allowing you to insert IKEA flat packs and four passengers at the same time. Behind the seats you’ll get 25 cubic feet of cargo room if you load the X1 to the ceiling, and 56 cubes if you fold the rear seats flat. That puts the X1 behind other small crossovers like a RAV4 or CRV but decidedly ahead of a 128i coupé.

2013 BMW X1 xDive28i iDrive, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

The X1 gets the latest generation of BMW’s iDrive. The system builds upon the previous versions in small, but important ways. Keeping up with the times, BMW has swapped the CD button for a “Media” button which makes accessing your USB and iDevices easier than in the past. Unlike the 328i we recently tested, the X1 gets a single USB port. Likely because of cost cutting, BMW located the solitary USB port and Aux input at the bottom of the center stack instead of hiding it neatly away in the armrest of glovebox. If you want to know more about iDrive, click on that video at the top of the review.

Unfortunately not all the iDrive fun is standard. BMW is bundling the smartphone apps, navigation and voice command system for your music devices into a single $2,250 premium package, or a $6,150 “ultimate” package which also bundles power front seats, keyless entry, parking sensors, ambient lighting, satellite radio, auto dimming mirrors and a panoramic moonroof. Of course, adding this package increases the cost of your X1 by 20%, but “least expensive BMW” is a very relative term. Still, iDrive’s tasteful high-res graphics, fast interface and superior phone integration make this the system one of the finest on the market, and I would buy the $2,250 package before I added things like leather or HID headlamps ($900) to my ride. Since this is the bargain Bimmer, you won’t find radar cruise control, collision warning, adaptive suspension systems, heads-up displays or fancy lane-keeping assistants. For the purists in the crowd this is welcome news, but it’s still easy to option your X1 from a base price of $30,800 to around $50,000. Be mindful of that options list.
2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Engine, 2.0L Twin-Power Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Part of what went wrong with the 318 was the drivetrain. Instead targeting a high fun/dollar ratio, BMW went for “low bottom line” and used an asthmatic 138HP four-banger. Learning from that lesson, BMW fit their new 2.0L N20 turbo engine and 8-speed automatic in the sDrive28i and xDrive28i. Producing 240HP from 5,000 to 6,000RPM and 260 lb-ft of twist from 1,250 to 4,800RPM that’s more oomph than the 3.0L inline engine under the hood of the 128i.

More important than the power number is the weight. A base RWD X2 is 3,527lbs, only 240lbs heavier than the considerably less powerful 128i coupé. Even our heavier AWD X1 sports a HP to weight ratio better than the smaller and more expensive two-door 1. As a result, performance is more than adequate with a 6.5 second run to 60 (2/10ths faster than a 128i) but decidedly “un-BMW” in terms of power delivery. The torque “plateau” starts early but drops precipitously after 5,750 RPM is a stark contrast from BMW’s 3.0L that comes alive at high RPMs (and screams like a banshee). Proving that BMW loves America, we get an optional powertrain not available anywhere else. For $38,600, BMW will jam a 300HP 3.0L (N55) twin-scroll turbo six under the hood. Sadly the quick shifting 8-speed transmission is lost in the process (you get the old 6-speed) and BMW still won’t offer a manual X1 in the USA.

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The N20 isn’t just 33% shorter than the N55, the whole drivetrain is 165lbs lighter. In addition, the 2.0L sits behind the front axle instead of above it. The effect of the weight reduction and nose-lightening is obvious on the track where the X1 is incredibly nimble. That nimble feeling is especially pronounced in the RWD X1 sDrive28i thanks to a somewhat unusual weight balance with less than 50% of the weight on the front wheels. In contrast, the AWD xDrive28i BMW lent us for a week has a near-perfect 50.6/49.4% (F/R) weight balance while the more powerful 3.0L turbo model is nose heavy at 52.1/47.9 %.

Since our X1 was an M-Sport model, our 18-inch wheels were shod with grippy 255-width rubber. To put that in perspective, 255s are rare enough in full/mid-sized crossovers and unheard of in the compact crossover segment. With the front wheels turned slightly, the X1 looks like a kid wearing his dad’s shoes but the extra rubber pays dividends when you encounter a corner. The unexpectedly high grip combined with a neutral chassis dynamics makes the X1 predictable and confident on the road. In many ways the manners of the X1 reminded me of the (much larger) X6M. Just a little. In an unusual move, BMW fits AWD X1s with hydraulic power steering while the base RWD sDrive28i uses BMW’s lifeless electric assist. The difference isn’t night and day, but the hydraulic unit does have more steering feel. Be warned however that neither power steering system provides as much assist as the competition, so your arms may get tired after a long trip on a winding road.

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior, Wheel, M-Sport, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Speaking of the RWD model, BMW claims it will get 23/34/28 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) and adding AWD to the 2.0L turbo drops those numbers to a still respectable 22/33/26 MPG. Over 544 miles, I averaged 22.9MPG, largely due the way the X1 devours mountain roads. That oddly brings me to the Mini Countryman, which is really the only competition for the X1 (since the VW Tiguan doesn’t play in the upper-crust playground). This is a perfect example of the right hand stabbing the left hand. The Mini Countryman is a nice enough vehicle, but driven back to back the X1 is a hoot-and-a-half while the Mini’s FWD manners, less powerful engine, similar MPGs and skinny tires register half a hoot. Now I know why the Mini doesn’t come up as a competitive vehicle on BMW’s website.

The 318 proved, there’s more to life than a low sticker price. The X1 proves that given time BMW can make a compelling entry-level vehicle. The X1 is more than just the least expensive BMW on the lot, it may well have the highest fun/dollar ratio of any modern BMW, especially in the $33,800 X1 sDrive28i M-Sport trim (damn that’s a long name). It’s also one of the few vehicles I would actually buy if my money was on the line.

 

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • Most fun I’ve had for $30-large. OK. 45-large.
  • Get a BMW with hydraulic power steering while it lasts.

Quit it

  • Too many hard-plastics on the inside for a car that costs this much.
  • The Germans still don’t know what cupholders are for. Maybe its time for a field trip?

 

BMW Provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.42

0-60: 6.55

1/4 Mile: 15.08 Seconds @ 92.6 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 22.9 MPG over 544 Miles

 

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Cargo Area 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Engine 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Engine, 2.0L Twin-Power Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior-001 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior-004 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior, Wheel, M-Sport, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior-007 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior-006 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior-008 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i iDrive-003 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i iDrive-002 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i iDrive-001 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i iDrive 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior-010 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior-009 2013 BMW X1 xDive28i iDrive, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-001 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i, Cupholder, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-003 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-004 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-010 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-009 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-008 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-006 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-005 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-011 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-012 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior-013 ]]>
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Review: 2013 BMW 750Li – Video http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/review-2013-bmw-750li-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/review-2013-bmw-750li-video/#comments Wed, 06 Mar 2013 13:30:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=479030

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.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Luxury cars are status symbols. Status can be two things however, buying something unique or showing that you can afford the same sedan as that guy from the country club. With that in mind, sales are important. In 2012 BMW nearly beat Mercedes in America shifting 11,098 7-Series vs 11,794 S-Classes making the 7 a popular and safe bet. If you’re looking for something less common, Audi shifted 6,002 A8s, the XJ  hit 4,852 while that Japanese entry that rocked the boat in ’89 had a slow year at 8,345. Porsche moved 7,614 Panameras proving that you don’t need 5-seats to move your six-digit roller.

Because full-size luxury cars are low volume but important for brand image, frequent makeovers are more common than redesigns. Like many of its owners, the 7-Series went under the knife for a face lift, resulting in a blunter nose and larger grille openings along with redesigned front and rear lamps.

Interior

Mercedes ditched the short-wheelbase S-Class in America but can still get your Beemer in different lengths. BMW tells us the long-wheelbase 750Li (as tested) is the most popular flavor so that’s what we requested. Our tester started at $90,500 and mildly optioned it landed in our driveway at $113,000. Despite being a refresh year, little changed on the inside in terms of style and parts. Still, the dashboard and doors were slathered in hand-stitched leather goodness and nary a seam was out of place. Compared to the Mercedes, the 7 feels like it is assembled from a more expensive parts bin but if you need better bits, BMW is happy to up-sell you things like a ceramic iDrive knob for $650. Jaguar and Porsche earn higher scores in this area thanks to better material, but you’ll pay dearly for them. Meanwhile Lexus delivers 95% of the interior elegance for 80% of the price.

Unless you’re slummin’ in the “discount” $73,600 740i, all 7s come with 20-way power front seats with four-way lumbar, extending thigh support, “butterfly” airline-style headrests and seat backs with adjustable curvature. They may not be as cushy as the Barcaloungers in the S-Class, but they win the award for contorting in the most directions possible. If you can’t find a comfortable position, you’re not human. Mercedes and Jaguar tout massaging thrones, but BMW’s active contour seats are more my style. Like the anti-fatigue seats in the Ford Taurus, the system uses air bladders in the seat to improve blood flow and reduce that “numb butt” feeling on long trips. (It also feels like someone is slowly groping your bottom, you know, if you’re into that.)

Interior parts quality usually declines as you move rearwards, but not for the high-rollers. The rear doors, center console and controls are all just as nicely finished as those up front and all 2013 models have standard 4-zone climate control. For an extra $3,700 (standard on the 760) the optional “luxury rear seating package” gives the rear passengers 18-way power/memory seats that heat, cool and massage your royal personage. Reclining rear seats aren’t new, but BMW takes the range of motion to an all-new level. As you’d expect, legroom is good in the 750i and excellent in the 750Li matching the XJL for most rear legroom and beating everyone else. If getting a decent massage in the rear seat is on your must-have list, buy your driver the Lexus, as it’s shiatsu massage system uses rollers instead of air bladders and gives a much deeper rub.

Infotainment and Gadgets

Luxury sedans are prime gadget breeding ground thanks to owners with disposable cash. This year brings BMW’s latest version of iDrive (4.2), hands-free trunk operation and an “attention assistant” to tell you when you’re sleepy. Of course if you were in Europe you’d also have access to “dazzle-free high beams” which shade the vehicles in-front of you from your high beam allowing it to stay on for the rest of your field of view. Sadly the DOT has decided the fancy lights aren’t allowed in America.

The newest iDrive replaces the CD button with a  “Media” button, adds voice recognition commands for searching your USB/iDevice, mildly tweaked menus and mapping software with improved 3D graphics. I find BMW’s latest iDrive iterations to be one of the more intuitive and feature-rich systems available at any price. Sadly the latest heads-up display in the 3-Series that shows infotainment details hasn’t made it to the 7 yet. Now that BMW has patched the glaring hole that was the lack of iDevice/USB voice commands, I have nothing to complain about other than the $3,700 price tag on the Bang & Olufsen sound system.

Debuting in the 7-Series is a new take on rear seat entertainment. Up till now, RSE systems have been kept  mostly separate from the infotainment system up front. Even the latest Jaguar/Land Rover vehicles which use similar graphics on the headrest screens don’t interact with the system in the same way users up front do. BMW’s new system uses 9.2-inch LCDs attached to the front seats that “float” as BMW calls it, but that’s not the interesting part: the system uses an iDrive controller and accesses the car’s central iDrive system. The twin displays aren’t the same aspect ratio or resolution as the front, but rear users have essentially the same level of iDrive access as the front allowing you to enter a navigation destination, change the media source, access BMW Connected apps and control media devices. The only thing I found odd is the rear seat user can’t control a USB/iDevice plugged in up front and vice versa. The price tag on this rear seat love? $2,800.

Like Audi and Mercedes, BMW offers an expensive night vision system. The $2,600 system uses a FLIR camera and image processing software to detect pedestrians and highlight them in yellow on the iDrive screen. It will also place a yellow pedestrian icon in the gauge cluster. Because we’re in America and our lighting laws are stupid, the system won’t shine a spotlight on the pedestrian’s legs like it would in Europe. (No, I’m not kidding about that one.) Of course, I find that the best way to detect pedestrians is to simply look out the window. My advice to Americans: save your cash or spend it on the less expensive but much more useful full-range active cruise control.

Drivetrain

There is no doubt the Germans lead the pack when it comes to engine options, the 7-Series offering a single turbo inline-6, two twin-turbo V8s, a ridiculous twin-turbo V12 and tree-hugging hybrid.

Not originally planned for the American market, the base 740i and 740Li are the result of dealers wanting a less front-heavy 7-series lower 7-series price point. The twin-turbo 3.0L N54 I6 is out in favor of the newer twin-scroll turbo N55 engine. Power is up slightly compared to the N54 and the update adds “Valvetronic” which is BMW’s variable valve timing and lift system that also acts as the engine’s throttle body.

The 750i and 750Li, get an updated 4.4L twin-turbo V8. The new N63B44TU engine (the TU part is what’s new) gets Valvetronic and tweaked software programming to boost power from an already strong 400HP to 443. Torque takes a similar jump from 450lb-ft to 479lb-ft from 2,000-4500RPM. The power increase shaves nearly two-tenths of the 750′s sprint to 60 vs the 2012 model.

Instead of a twin-turbo V8 hybrid, BMW has downsized to a 3.0L turbo inline-6. The system uses a pancake motor between the engine and transmission to boost the same N55 engine as the 740i to 350HP and 360lb-ft. Fuel economy increases from 19/28MPG to 22/30 vs the 740i. You can expect a return on your investment sometime around the 12th of never when you consider the $10,700 premium.

If you need more cylinders, there is a twin-turbo V12 which adds more weight to the nose in exchange for 535 ponies and 550lb-ft of stump-pulling from 1,500-5,000RPM. Despite the numbers, the V12 isn’t the performance choice because of the added nose weight and long wheelbase, that’s where the Alpina B7 comes in. The B7 is a 750 that’s been tweaked by BMW’s a boosted version of the 750′s 4.4L twin-turbo V8 putting out 540HP and 538lb-ft of twist.

All engines are now mated to ZF’s 8-speed automatic sending power to the rear wheels or to all four if you check the xDrive option box. For 2013 BMW has decided to program 740, 750 and B7 models to essentially decouple the engine and transmission when you lift off the accelerator pedal. The effect is like shifting to neutral and can be disabled by keeping the car in Sport or Sport +. BMW has also fitted the I6 and V8 engines with their mild start/stop system which uses a heavy-duty starter and a glass mat battery.

The 7-Series used to have the reputation of “the driver’s luxury car” but BMW’s mission has changed. That’s not to say that BMW is emulating Lexus, but our 750Li with dynamic dampers and rear air suspension felt far more isolated than the XJ Supercharged or a Panamera S. Even the badly broken pavement and pot-holed off-camber turns in the Sierra Nevada foothills were unable to upset the supple ride. Of course, a luxurious ride is at odds with crisp handling, but that is a “problem” every luxury sedan must contend with. Where does the BMW land vs the competition? Firmly in the middle. The BMW 750 uses 245-width rubber front and rear, notably smaller than the S550′s 255-width tires and the XJ’s staggered 245/275 setup. This coupled with the 4,745lb curb weight meas the 750 can’t pull as many Gs on the oval as the lighter XJ or Panamera. It also means the 750 has a harder time applying its power when compared to the competition with staggered rubber.

Don’t mistake me, the 750 is no slouch on the road. Mash the go pedal from a stop and our 750Li blasted to 60 in 4.95 eerily quiet seconds, only a few tenths off a Mustang GT (with a professional shifter at the stick.) 8.35 seconds later, the Bavarian heavyweight crossed the quarter-mile at 107MPH. Shoppers should take two things from this: First, the 750Li is a few ticks behind the lighter XJ Supercharged and second, there isn’t much of an exhaust note. You see, the turbos that give BMW’s 4.4L engine its epic shove are in the exhaust stream and that means BMW had two choices, make it quiet or live with the turbo-song. (That’s why the M5 plays canned V8 noises through its stereo.) If you want your luxury car to look and sound mean, the Panamera screams like a banshee at WOT and the XJ Supercharged and Supersport growl like a monster in a horror flick.

Although the optional active four-wheel steering ($1,750) and active roll-stabilization ($2,500) make the 750 more dynamic on the road, nothing will change the fact that the 750 is a large, softy sprung sedan with numb electric power steering. The Audi A8, despite being redesigned to put the engine farther forward in the body still has a 55/45 weight balance and front-heavy (albeit predictable) driving dynamics. While we’re talking about the Audi, it’s important to remember that there is no RWD version of the A8. Of course it goes without saying that the S550 is still Buick soft and the air-ride suspension makes it somewhat ponderous over bumpy roads. The Lexus LS 460 may be the slowest of this bunch as it’s the only one left with a naturally aspirated engine, but thanks to a relatively light curb weight and balanced chassis it has some of the most direct road feel and manners of the group.

After a week and 836 miles with the 750Li I have to admit I was smitten, but despite BMW advertising the 7-series as “the driver’s luxury car,” it had little to do with the way the 750 drove and everything to do with the back seat. Sure, the 750 is fast, sure it’s impressively nimble for a vehicle that’s one cheeseburger away from 5,000lbs, but honestly if driving feel and handling ability were your top concerns, buy the Jaguar or Porsche. If you’re after the best back seat experience, but the 750Li, it’s a better place to spend your time than a number of ultra luxury sedans I could mention. Where does that place the 750Li vs its nemesis the S550? On top for a variety of reasons. The 750Li is more engaging to drive than the S550 yet also offers a higher level of gadgetry and creature comforts. Mercedes promises the all-new 2014 S-Class will shake up the luxury market when it lands next year, but until then the Jaguar XJL should be at the top of your list followed closely by the 2013 BMW 750Li.

 

Hit it

  • Best Rear Seat Entertainment system available. Period.
  • BMW’s full-color heads up display

Quit it

  • Night vision. It’s kind of “gimmicky” and your cash is better spent on BMW’s excellent full-speed adaptive cruise control.
  • V12 – nose heavy and seriously, the twin-turbo V8 is incredible.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 4.95 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.3 Seconds @ 107 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 21MPG over 836 miles

BMW Provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtsy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtsy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Rear Seat Entertainment, iDrive, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Rear HVAC controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Rear seat controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Rear iDrive Controller, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Gauge cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Gauge cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, infotainment, iDrive, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, infotainment, iDrive, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Radio and HVAC Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Shifter and iDrive, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Front Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Passenger Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Door switches, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Trunk, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Engine, N63B44TU, N63 4.4L Twin-Turbo V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Engine, N63B44TU, N63 4.4L Twin-Turbo V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Hit it or Quit it? Hit it or Quit it? Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/review-2013-bmw-640i-gran-coupe-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/review-2013-bmw-640i-gran-coupe-video/#comments Thu, 08 Nov 2012 14:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=465269

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.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

BMW’s engineers started with the 6-Series coupé and stretched the body 4.4 inches and the wheelbase by 4.5 inches. They kept all the stretching work in the middle of the 6 meaning the bumper covers are interchangeable and the parts that were changed stay true to the sleek 6-Series profile. Of course, BMW’s 5, 6 and 7 are all brothers from the same mother, and logically the 6 is the middle child in many ways. The GC’s curb weight and exterior dimensions certainly slot between the 5 and 7, but 6 is all about the sexy profile.

Quibbles about door counts and naming conventions aside, there’s something about the proportions and low-slung style that set my loins on fire. I had feared the 6′s perfect two-door dimensions would be destroyed by the additional entry points, but I was wrong. After mulling the GC over for a while, I came to the conclusion that while it isn’t as sexy as a “real” coupé, it is more elegant and certainly better looking than the 5 or the 7.

Interior

While the 6-series’ imposing dashboard and low seating position (shared with the coupé and convertible) made me feel “small” (at 6-feet tall and 200lbs this is no easy task), it also serves to highlight BMW’s impeccable attention detail. I have a sneaking suspicion that the only reason BMW designed the dashboard and center console to meet the way they do is to show off their french seam precision. BMW borrowed the 10.2-inch iDrive screen from the 7 series, but instead of placing it in a binnacle of its own (as in the 5 and 7), the high-resolution LCD gets perched high on the dashboard in a prominent satin-nickel frame. This is easily the most luxurious and elegant cockpit BMW has ever made, and that includes the new 7-Series.

Our tester came with optional 24-way front thrones which contort in more ways than a Cirque du Soliel artist. Upgrading from the 10-way seats opens the door to ventilated anti-fatigue cushions which use air bladders to cut road-trip butt-fatigue. They work as advertised but the feeling of having your backside slowly groped takes some getting used to. Should faux-suede and snazzier leather be your thing, BMW would be happy to slather the ceiling in acres of Alcantara, broaden your hide palate by an extra 6 colors and toss in more exclusive wood for the princely sum of $8,300. It’s good to be king.

Rear seat room is the reason to buy a GC over the regular 6, but it’s also the reason to buy a 7. Of course the 6 and 7 have different missions with the 7 targeted as much to those that drive as those that are driven. In the GC there is no question the driver’s seat is for the guy that owns the car. That being said, rear seat room in the GC is surprising good compared with the CLS but, rear legroom lags behind the Audi. All three can swallow four adults in comfort, but the GC with its optional four-zone climate control and attention to detail in the back will make your rear passengers feel more special. What sets the GC apart is the middle rear seat. Yes, it’s a joke for adults with nowhere to put your legs and the hump is so exaggerated your shoulders hit the ceiling, but child seats fit perfectly and thanks to the wide body, it was possible (but not comfortable) to fit one child seat and two adults in the rear. Try that in a CLS or A7.

Infotainment & Gadgets

Like the coupé and convertible, the GC can be had with more gadgets than a Best Buy checkout isle. The gizmos range from radar cruise control, lane departure warning, self-parking and pre-collision warning systems that are becoming commonplace to the unique full-color heads up display and FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed) camera system with pedestrian detection. Of course they are expensive, so if you love gadgets and can’t afford a six-figure car, don’t stop at the BMW dealer.

iDrive has come a long way since its introduction, and although complicated at times, it’s still the ultimate in-car attraction for my inner nerd. For some reason the latest version of the system (found in the new 3-Series) hasn’t found its way to the 6 yet. The key differences are improved integration with the heads up display and a media button on the iDrive controller reflecting the relative importance of CDs and media devices in this century. iDrive still offers one of the better iPod/USB device integration systems in the luxury market although no iDrive version sports voice commanding your iDevice music library ala Cadilla’s CUE or Lincoln’s SYNC. Like the rest of the BMW portfolio, you can add the $250 apps package to your GC allowing you to Tweet, Facebook, Wikipedia and SMS message while you drive. (For our in-depth look at iDrive, check out the video review above.) Compared to Audi’s MMI, iDrive lacks the Google satellite view mapping but the system is more responsive, more intuitive and more polished than MMI. I’d like to compare it to Mercedes’ COMAND system but that woud be like comparing the GC to the Model T.

Drivetrain

Until BMW introduces an M version of the GC, there are two engines on offer. Both mills were both borrowed from the 7-Series rather than the 5-Series to help set the GC apart. The 640i GC uses BMW’s new “N55HP” 3.0L twin-scroll turbo inline-6 that has been tweaked from the “N55″ engine in the 535i to deliver 315HP at 5,800RPM and 330lb-ft of twist from 1,200 to 5,000RPM, an increase of 15HP and 30lb-ft. Meanwhile, the 650i GC brings BMW’s 4.4L twin-turbo V8 to the party. Of course, as with the I6, the V8 has also had its power bumped to deliver 445HP and 480lb-ft of twist, an increase of 45HP and 30lb-ft over the 550i. Both engines are bolted to ZF’s 8-speed automatic and the 650i can be equipped with an optional $3,000 AWD system to help apply those 480 torques to the tarmac. If you opt for the fire-breathing V8, you’ll want that AWD option. Trust me. The ZF 8-speed is as up-shift happy in the GC as it is in the other BMW models and this does take a toll on spirited driving. On the up-side the 640i GC manages an EPA 20/30MPG score while the more powerful 650i GC somehow eeks out a 17/25MPG rating. During our week with the 640i GC we averaged the same 24MPG that BMW claims for the EPA combined MPG figure.

Drive

The last time I had a 535i on the track I was disappointed. In the relentless pursuit of creating the perfect Mercedes, the BMW felt nose heavy and lethargic, especially when driven back-to-back with the Lexus GS and the current Mercedes E350. Despite being heavier than the 535i and being closely related, the 640i GC was surprisingly neutral in the bends with a pleasant and predictable tail when your right foot gets happy. Of course expectation management is important, so you need to keep in mind the 6-Seies in any flavor is a quintessential GT car with grippy rubber, a heavy nose, soft suspension and plenty of shove. Because the GC leans more toward relaxed driving, the light and numb steering didn’t bother me much. Of course with electric power steering being all the rage among the luxury car set, everyone is this numb. The BMW however has two tricks up its svelte sleeve that compensate for the lack of feel in my mind: a self-parking system that will parallel-park your ride automagically and suspension tuning that can make this 4,200lb whale dance. In sport mode.

The GC proved a faithful companion in most driving situations with a glassy-smooth ride on the highway and roll-free corner carving in the mountains. If you want even more roll reduction BMW would be happy to sell 650i shoppers an active rear roll bar for $2,500. Into each life a little rain must fall and so it was with our week and the Gran Coupe. Driving in suburbia brings a questionable active suspension tuning choice to light: the rear suspension bottoms out easily in the softer “comfort” and “normal” modes. Driving at 20MPH over “road humps” or  “undulations” (not speed bumps) caused the suspension in the GC to bottom out, even when I was the only cargo on board. The 6-Series coupé suffers from this problem as well to a degree, but it required 4 passengers and some cargo before it is obvious. The GC however exhibited this unfortunate tendency across a wider variety of road types and situations. While not exactly a solution, simply putting the adaptive suspension system into “Sport” mode solved the complaint. (Admittedly sticking to the 15 MPH speed recommendation worked as well, but no other car I have tested in the last 2 years has had this problem.)

Suspension complaints will likely subside when you plant your foot on the throttle. 315HP motivating 4,200lbs may sound like a leisurely activity, but the 640i GC scooted to 60 in an impressive 5.3 seconds (1/10th faster than the A7) thanks to the torque plateau and the fast-shifting ZF transmission. If that’s not fast enough for you, the 650i burnt rubber while taking 4.4 seconds and the AWD 650i xDrive pounded out the same task in an eye-popping (and drama free) 4.1 (2/10ths faster than the CLS and very close to the CLS 63 AMG). Because our love/hate relationship continues with Porsche, a Panamera was unavailable for direct testing but based on some quick tests with dealer-provided Panameras, the 640i and 650i are a few tenths faster than the Panamera and Panamera S while the Panamera Turbo and Turbo S win awards for the most insane four-door coupés.

Why all this talk of Porsches? It would be easy to think BMW had the A7 and CLS in their sights when crafting the Gran Coupe. Until you see the price tag. The 640i starts at $76,000, $18,000 more than an A7. If that’s not sticker shock, consider that adding $32,000 of options takes surprisingly little effort. If you’re looking at the CLS 4MATIC or the Audi S7, then the 650i xDrive is a quasi-competitor but starting at $86,500 and ending north of $123,000, it’ll set you back $14,500-$32,000 more than a comparable CLS and $10,700-$34,000 more than an S7. With prices like this and one of the best interiors this side of Aston Martin it’s obvious that BMW had different competition in mind: the Panamera and beyond. For only $2,000 more, the Panamera delivers a nicer interior, a brand with more sporting pedigree and the option of even more powerful engines at the expense of looks. Seriously, saying the Panamera is less attractive from some angles is being kind. While it may sound crazy to call a BMW fitting competition for a Maserati or even the budget alternative to the Aston Martin Rapide, this is the new Mercedes we’re talking about. Just don’t call it a sedan.

BMW provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 5.3 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.75 Seconds @ 103 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 24.1 MPG

 

2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Gran Coupe Logo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, LED headlamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, LED headlamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Engine, 3.0L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Engine, 3.0L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Engine, 3.0L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, active grille shutters, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, cargo room, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, rear seats folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, doors, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, 24-Way seat controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, driver's side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, center console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, iDrive controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, iDrive Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, iDrive Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, Leather Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, Leather Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: 2012 BMW M6 Convertible http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/review-2012-bmw-m6-convertible/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/review-2012-bmw-m6-convertible/#comments Thu, 23 Aug 2012 13:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=456668

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?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The previous 6 suffered from Chris Bangle’s posterior, a design that was either loved or hated. The new 6 replaces the awkward trunk with curves and creases that seem to please everyone. Despite being lower and wider than a 650i with plenty of unique sheetmetal, the casual observer was unable to tell just how much was altered to create the M6. Who knew the M6 would be a sleeper?

BMW continues to employ a soft top with “classic” 6-Series buttresses on either side of the rear glass, bucking the retractable hardtop trend that’s sweeping the three-pointed star. Aside from the weight benefits, the canvas lid maximizes trunk space, has less impacted on weight balance when the top is down, and most importantly: it operates at speeds up to 25MPH. Compared to the Jaguar XK-R, the M6 is larger and more aggressive. Thankfully, as aggressive as the M6 looks, the profile and details are more elegant than the Mercedes SL63 whose hood vents and trunk spoiler look overdone.

Interior

Inside the changes to the 650i donor car are less dramatic and limited to trim tweaks, lightly restyled seats, new steering wheel, and M-themed shifter. Despite sharing heavily with the plebeian 640i, the cabin is completely at home in a $120,000 luxury coupe with perfect stitched dashboard seams and soft leather everywhere. The only problem I found is the steering column shared with the lesser models. The M6′s airbag is considerably smaller, perfectly round and in the center of a thin three-spoke tiller making the rectangular plastic steering column extremely visible.

During my week with the M6 I acted as a quasi-pace-car driver for a 40-mile charity walk. Four of us spent two 10-hour days driving from one stop to another and hours in the seats getting sunburnt waiting for the walkers to arrive at the next stop. Normally four people jammed into a luxury convertible would be a trying experience, but  the M6 was surprisingly comfortable with a useable back seat and supportive front seats. In comparison, the XK’s rear seats are more of a joke than an actual feature, the Mercedes SL doesn’t have any back seats and the Maserati GranCabrio has a similar amount of legroom but awkwardly angled seat backs.

Infotainment & Gadgets

As with most modern BMW products, the M6 comes with BMW’s standard 10.2-inch iDrive system. Unfortunately the minor tweaks made to the new 3-series have not made it to the 6-Series meaning you still have a CD button rather than a media button and the head-up display won’t show you infotainment info. If you want to know more about iDrive, checkout our video on the 2012 650i or click on over to the 650i Coupe and 650i Convertible reviews.

For some reason, BMW’s excellent radar cruise control is not available on the M6, but the rest of the 6-Series’ gadgetry can be added. Our M6 was equipped with the $4,900 “Executive Package” which included full LED headlamps, a heated steering wheel, satellite radio, anti-fatigue front seats, soft-closing doors and BMW’s “apps” package for iDrive. Should your gadget-love know no budget; lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, all-around video camera and electronic speed limit info can be had for $1,900. Ventilated front seats are a $500 stand alone option, as is the $2,600 night vision system with pedestrian detection. The essential option is the $3,700 Bang & Olufsen sound system. The standard 12-speaker BMW audio system is balanced strangely toward the bright side of normal. If you’re throwing down six figures on your topless weekend car, checking this option box won’t hurt.

iDrive alone puts the M6 at the top of the gadget lover’s list, but let’s compare anyway. With a starting price over $30,000 higher than the M6, the SL63 brings active lane keep assist and radar cruise control to the party but lacks BMW’s night vision, all-around camera, anti-fatigue seats, LED headlamps and, let’s face it, COMAND should be sent out to pasture. The XKR-S looses this battle as well with a $20,000 premium, Jaguar’s aggravating infotainment system, and no gadgets to speak of.

Drivetrain

With CAFE regulations looming, twin-turbo engines are the latest craze for luxury marques and even BMW’s mighty M division has caved. The result is a step backwards and forwards with the bespoke V10 replaced by a modified version of BMW’s 400HP 4.4L twin-turbo V8 (N63). The same basic engine (S63) first debuted under the hood of the 555HP X5M and X6M. For M5 and M6 duty, BMW tweaked the engine by adding Valvetronic, increasing the compression ratio from 9.3:1 to 10:1 and bumping peak boost. The result is a minor increase in horsepower to 560 and a flattening of the power curve from a peak at 6,000RPM, to a plateau from  5,750-7,000. Torque remains steady at a stump-pulling 500lb-ft but broadens to 1,500-5,750RPM. BMW revised the 7-speed “M-DCT” dual clutch transmission from the last M5/M6 and tossed in a new electronic rear differential. While not strictly a drivetrain change, BMW swapped the floating rear subframe for a fixed unit to improve handling and power delivery.

In comparison, the Jaguar XKR-S delivers 550HP and 502lb-ft of twist from its blown 5.0L V8 and the all-new Mercedes SL63 offers your choice of 530HP/557lb-ft or 590HP/664lb-ft from AMG’s new 5.5L twin-turbo V8. Jaguar has continues to stick to the tried-and-true ZF 6-speed automatic while Mercedes continues their love affair with their 7-speed automatic sans torque converter. While each of these transmission types has an advantage, BMW claims their M-DCT transmission shifts in half the time of the competition.

Drive

It often takes a week for me to decide how I like a car. With the M6 it took 50 miles. Why? Because of how well BMW has blended savage acceleration with a soft luxurious ride and comfy seats. The M6 has turned into the ultimate road trip convertible.

Don’t get me wrong, the M6 is a serious performance contender. Bury the throttle and 60 passes in 3.75 seconds followed shortly by a blistering 11.89 second 1/4 mile at an eye popping 123MPH. These numbers are without launch control which, strangely enough, elevated our times by about 3/10ths. Just let the nannies do their thing. The numbers below show the M6 “suffers” slight turbo lag from 0-30. From 30-60, the M6 is a beast taking 0.70 fewer seconds than the XKR-S. By 120MPH the lighter weight of the Jaguar helps it stay right on the heels of the BMW. By the end of the 1/4 mile, the BMW finishes ahead by a car length. My seat time in the SL63 was limited and we weren’t able to get it out on the track, but don’t expect it to be much faster to 60. Despite the serious power advantage, the rear tires are skinnier than the Jag or BMW and traction is king.

2012 Jaguar XKR-S           2012 BMW M6 Convertible

0-30: 1.18 Seconds                 1.8 (Thank the turbos for that)

0-60: 3.83 Seconds                 3.75 (It’s all about the torque curve baby)

0-120: 11.84 Seconds             11.80 (curb weight means something)

1/4 mile: 12.0 @ 122 MPH       11.89 @ 123 MPH

A word about 0-60 numbers. With high horsepower cars, traction is the limiting factor. Because road surfaces, tires, etc. vary greatly. Our track times cannot be directly compared to other publications as they are not performed on the same surface – nevertheless, we’re all in the same ballpark. We use a 10Hz GPS meter for our testing. According to the manufacturer,accuracy is  +/-0.2MPH on 0-60 runs and +/-0.4MPH on 1/4 mile tests. According to our drag-strip verification, the system is within +/-0.3MPH over a 1/4 mile.

Out on the track, the XKR-S and M6 are well matched. While the XKR-S is a bit heavier in the nose and has narrower tires up front, the rear seems to find grip more easily and the steering is more direct and responsive. The English competitor is also 429lb lighter with a firmer suspension, less body roll and an absolutely savage 0-30 time. The M6 counters with lightning fast dual-clutch shifts and seemingly endless mid-range power. For 2012, BMW polished M-DCT’s software and the result is one of the smoothest “robotic manuals” I have ever driven. I’d like to compare it to the Mercedes SPEEDSHIFT transmission in the SL63, but I still have harsh-shift related whiplash from my test drive.

On the broken roads of Northern California, it’s a different story. BMW’s adaptive suspension makes the M6 more composed than the SL or XKR-S on broken pavement, even at higher speeds. It’s not that the Jag or Merc are unrefined by any measure, its that the M6 rides like a 7-Series while it handles like an overweight M3. Thank you modern technology.

The softer ride and number steering mean the M6 is less engaging in the bends. On the flip side, the M6 is a car you can drive every day while the SL63 and XKR-S exact some practical compromises. The M6 is the more comfortable car, it seats four and the monstrous trunk can hold luggage for 3 easily. What the BMW can’t counter is the visceral roar produced by Jag’s 5.0L V8. The M6 in comparison is quiet, some might even say demure.

 

If you want the best track car, get a GT-R. It will “out everything” the M6 on the track. If you want the best sounding V8 engine, get the XKR-S. If you want the sexiest coupe, get a Maserati. If you want the best all-around sports luxury coupe, look no further than the BMW M6. I admit that after a week with the most expensive M, I am smitten. But have I fallen for the M6 for all the “wrong” reasons? I value the M6′s perfect interior, comfortable seats, electronic do-dads and LED headlamps over straight-line or corner performance. In other-words, I elevate all the values I was raised to associate with Mercedes-Benz. But here in front of me is a BMW that embodies all the luxury I demand yet sacrifices only a smidgin of track performance in the process. I will leave the discussions of branding to more qualified writers, but I will say that nobody I met felt the Mercedes SL brought any more cachet than the M6, despite its price tag. Mercedes has been put on notice. BMW’s M6 reigns alone as the king of the German luxury coupe. AMG: you have been found wanting. (You know, except for that whole SLS thing.)

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BMW provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 1.8 Seconds

0-60: 3.75 Seconds

1/4 Mile:  11.89 Seconds @ 123 MPH

Average fuel economy: 16.1 MPG over 825 miles

2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, backup camera, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, exhaust, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, rear, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, rear, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, wheels, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, headlamp, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, BMW logo, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, M6 logo, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, engine, 4.4L twin turbo, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, engine, 4.4L twin turbo, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, window switches, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, steering wheel controls, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, steering wheel controls, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, shifter, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, iDrive controller, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes2012 BMW M6 Convertible-023 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, start/stop button, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, seat controls, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, back seat, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, aerial view, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, head up display, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, Heads up display, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, gauges, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, iDrive, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, iDrive, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, iDrive, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, iDrive, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, door sill, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, shifter and key, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, steering wheel, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Monroney Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: 2012 BMW 328i Luxury Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/review-2012-bmw-328i-luxury-take-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/review-2012-bmw-328i-luxury-take-two/#comments Wed, 01 Aug 2012 13:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=453998  

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.)

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

If you’re not a BMW fan, you might mistake the 2012 3-Series for its predecessor, or at the least assume this is just a different trim level of the same. Despite practically nothing being shared with the outgoing model, the exterior looks like a simple facelift with new front and rear bumpers. According to BMW, that’s just how the target demographic likes it. Since the sheetmetal is pleasing to the eye, who am I to disagree?  If you compare side profiles, you’ll find the 3-Series’ wheelbase has been extended two inches while the entire car has been stretched by four inches. The cabin-stretching results in a more balanced and elegant look than before. If you’re into BMW trivia, because of the 3-Series’ perpetual growth, the 328i is just one inch shorter than a 1998 5-Series. Aficionados will bemoan the loss of LED turn signal lamps. Why BMW chose to move one step backwards we don’t know, but their loss won’t bother many shoppers.

In an attempt to create multiple personalities for the 3-Series, the same basic sedan can be had in five different style packages: Modern, Luxury, Sport, M-Sport, and the base model. Exterior differences boil down to different bumper covers, wheels, a sport suspension upgrade on the Sport trims and different answers to the eternal question: to chrome or not to chrome?

Interior

I never cared for BMW’s “double-bump” dash look that put the infotainment screen in a binnacle of its own. Apparently it didn’t do anything for the BMW’s engineers either. For 2012, your choice of standard 6.5-inch or 8.8-inch iDrive displays is permanently fixed to the center of the dash, sans “hood.” The look is reminiscent of the last generation of pop-up Volvo Nav system, sans-pop and is far more pleasing to my eye. The new screen and the Jaguar-like volume of real-tree are clues to the baby Bimmer’s refocused mission: luxury and technology.

2012 brings more wood, metal and plastic trim options than ever before. Also on offer are several finishes for the portions of the interior you see above in matte chrome. Base models continue to come with BMW’s “leatherette” seating surfaces in two shades, while real-cow surfaces are offered in 7 shades with available piping and contrasting stitching. The front seats in our “Luxury line” tester were extremely supportive during a 4 hour road trip and selecting the “sport” seats allows a range of seat contour adjustment that is class leading. Thanks to the wheelbase stretching, rear leg room is up by a quoted 3/4 inch but the adjusted seating positions (slightly more upright) and the shape of the front seat-backs makes the rear larger. Trunk space has grown more considerably to 17 cubic feet, notably larger than even the American-sized trunk in the Lincoln MKZ, despite the considerable intrusion from the trunk hinges.

Infotainment & Gadgets

The 2012 3-Series gets the latest generation of BMW’s iDrive. The system builds upon the previous versions in small, but important ways. Keeping up with the times, BMW has swapped the CD button for a “Media” button which makes accessing your USB and iDevices easier than in the past. You’ll also find an additional USB port in the glove compartment enabling you to have two USB/iDevices plugged in at the same time with an additional device plugged into BMW’s “dock” in the center armrest.

BMW has also taken the next logical step and integrated the infotainment system with the optional heads-up display. While some may look at this as an all-new distraction, if you’re going to be browsing your playlist, you might as well do it while looking at the road. The full-color image is projected onto the windshield from an in-dash LCD that makes the electrofluorescent HUDs used by GM and Toyota look like a 1980′s flash back.

 

Our 328i tester had the “BMW Apps” package, a $250 option on-top of the $2,150 navigation system and $650 “enhanced USB” and BMW Assist (both of which are required to “app” yourself.) If you’re not a gadget freak like I am, app integration won’t matter much to you. If you like the idea of being able to download an app to enhance your infotainment system years after you buy your car, then apps are for you. The current app suite allows you to Facebook, Tweet and stream internet radio from your iPhone to the car’s radio. The twist for 2012 is an all-new Wikipedia app (that can be used on previous generation BMW vehicles with the app option as well). While this may sound silly, the Wiki app integrates with your GPS to find Wiki articles about nearby points of interest. Once a POI is selected, iDrive will download the Wiki article and using text-to-speech, it will read it to you as you roll. While Ford MyTouch has vastly superior voice command options, iDrive’s tasteful high-res graphics, fast interface and superior phone integration make this the system to beat.

If these gadgets float your boat, they can be combined into one package for $3,100 and includes 4 years of the basic BMW Assist (BMW’s version of OnStar). Before you get too excited by the advertisements however keep in mind you have to pay an extra $199 a year for the “convenience” features of BMW Assist like Google send-to-car and the BMW concierge service.

No new European car would be complete without a bevy of luxury and convenience features, especially not the new 3-Series with its new luxury direction. The extensive list includes: blind spot monitoring, top-view camera, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, lane departure warning, collision warning, radar cruise control, speed limit help, keyless-go, variable steering, adaptive suspension and automatic high-beams. The 328i may start at $36,500, but its easy to option your entry-level 3-Series up to its $57,000 max if you’re nor careful.

Drivetrain

BMW has long been known for their silky-smooth inline sixes, but you won’t find one under the hood of the 328i. Instead, you’ll find the latest fruit of BMW’s direct-injection-turbocharged love affair: the N20. On the surface there is nothing special about BMW’s all-new, all-aluminum 2.0L turbo engine. After all, everyone from Audi to Volvo has a new 2.0L turbo four-banger, so what’s the big deal? Aside from the shock of finding an engine with 33% fewer cylinders under the hood of a 3-Series, not much, and that’s the big deal. Producing 240HP from 5,000 to 6,000RPM and 255 lb-ft of twist from 1,250 to 4,800RPM, this engine is significantly more powerful than the old 3.0L N52 six cylinder, all while being 20% more fuel-efficient and better in just about every way. Due to the nature of a gasoline direct-injection system, the N20 sounds like a quiet diesel at idle. Thankfully, inside the cabin you’d never know since BMW balanced the N20 extremely well and installed so much sound deadening material that you can’t hear the engine in normal driving.

Drive

You may not be able to hear the N20, but you can sure feel it. The Kansas-flat torque curve that drops precipitously after 6,000 RPM is a stark contrast from the old 3.0L engine that loved to sing at high RPMs. While some may miss the power delivery style of the old naturally aspirated six, the N20′s curve is a better match for the ZF 8-speed and average drivers.

The N20 isn’t just 33% shorter than the old N52, it is also 50lbs lighter and sits behind the front axle instead of above it. The effect of the weight reduction and nose-lightening is obvious out on the track where the 328i felt much more nimble than the 335i when driven back to back. The difference was far more pronounced than I had anticipated. In my book, the increased nimbleness is worth the reduction in thrust. While I’m sure my 335i laps were faster, the 328i was more fun. It’s easy to forget how hose heavy the 335i is until you have an identical car with a few pounds removed from the front.

In the 328i’s natural habitat, the urban jungle, you may find the new Start/Stop feature something of a mixed bag. As you would expect, the system turns the engine off while the transmission is in Drive, is stopped and the driver’s foot is on the brake. As you would expect this results in real improvements in city mileage, but there us a problem. The system is far from smooth.

At the heart of the BMW Start/Stop system is a beefier starter and a “glass-mat” 12-volt battery designed to handle the frequent starting. When the engine is warm and the cabin heating/cooling demands are in the right range, stopping at a light will be followed by a less than graceful shudder as the engine turns off. Next, the car turns the HVAC blower down to a gentle breeze to keep the electrical draw low. (Without a hybrid style battery, capacity is fairly low.) The car will automatically start the engine when you release the brake (or when the car decides the engine needs to run for cabin cooling.) Engine restarts are far from seamless with engine cranking, a shudder and a delay to forward progress while the ZF 8-speed’s hydraulics re-pressurize. Passengers used to smooth start/stop cycles in hybrid cars found the start/stop cycles “abrupt” and “jarring.” I found the fuel savings worth the commotion, but if your tastes differ, BMW offers an “off” button. If you live in a hot climate like Phoenix, don’t expect the system to start/stop too often.

After handing the keys for the BMW back something dawned on me. I’d miss the 328i. That’s not a statement I make lightly, or often. Previous 3-Series sedans just didn’t press the right buttons for me, but somehow the this one managed to poke just about all of them. The combination of handsome looks, good fuel economy, nimble handling and gadgets galore is a siren call for gadget geeks in their 30s. The problem? Is the 328i worth the premium? Or should you just buy a Volvo S60 or Audi A4? Unless you’re the kind of shopper willing to put down 5-Series money for a loaded 328i, then the A4 and S60 will deliver 95% of the experience for less and throw in AWD for your troubles. If however you value driving enjoyment, a slick nav and a gorgeous HUD, then the 3-Series is for you. The 3-Series’ benchmark status? Completely safe. For now.

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BMW provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 1.65 Seconds

0-60: 5.72 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.25 Seconds @ 100.6 MPH

Average fuel economy: 32.8 MPG over 1,124 miles

 

 

2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, wheels, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, BMW Logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, headlamp, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, 328i badge, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Engine, 2.0L TwinPower Turbo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Engine, 2.0L TwinPower Turbo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, Dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, Dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, Dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, shifter and iDrive, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, iDrive, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, iDrive, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, iDrive, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, iDrive, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, iDrive, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, heads-up display, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, heads-up display, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i Monroney Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Comparison Review: BMW 528i xDrive vs. Lexus GS 350 AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/comparison-review-bmw-528i-xdrive-vs-lexus-gs-350-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/comparison-review-bmw-528i-xdrive-vs-lexus-gs-350-awd/#comments Sun, 06 May 2012 19:21:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=443098

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?

With the latest, “F10″ 5-Series, BMW softened the car’s lines, returning it at least halfway to the cleaner look of the E39. There’s nothing here to turn people off, but not much to turn them on, either. I personally prefer the tauter, more athletic appearance of the E60, despite its aesthetic excesses.

The first Lexus GS was designed by Giugiaro to be a Jaguar. But Jaguar didn’t want it, and Lexus did. [Update: a commenter notes that Italdesign has debunked this widespread belief. Though the world saw the Jaguar first, the firm designed the GS earlier.] The second GS’s more aggressive appearance was clearly an in-house effort. With both the third and latest generations of the car Lexus has claimed a new, distinctive design language (“L-Finesse” and “Waku Doki”), but each has nevertheless, like the second, appeared vaguely German. Viewed from the side in Luxury trim, the 2013 GS 350 looks much like a pudgier F10 5-Series, itself a pudgier E39. Medium red does not flatter the car.

Opt for the F-Sport (with a more aggressive fascia and gray 19-inch wheels) in silver, and the new GS looks much better.

Inside, the cars remain dissimilar. Though BMW interiors have become more artful over the years, their ambiance remains more businesslike, even severe. The GS’s interior looks and feels softer and more conventionally luxurious. One odd touch: a partially upholstered (in insufficiently convincing vinyl) instrument panel has padding in the areas farthest from the passengers. Done right, an upholstered instrument panel takes an interior up a notch or two. This one isn’t done right.

Much more important and done right: the highly adjustable seats included in both the F-Sport and Luxury Packages are far superior to the smaller, oddly contoured front buckets in the previous GS. They’re also both more comfortable and more supportive than those in the BMW. The Lexus approach to four-way power lumbar adjusters, with independent upper and lower adjustments, yields a better shape than a single bulge that can be shifted vertically. No longer offered in the BMW, but included with these seats in the Lexus: power-adjustable side bolsters. You sit a little higher relative to the instrument and door panels in the Lexus than in the BMW. Both have roomier, more comfortable rear seats than their predecessors, rendering the LS and 7-Series less necessary. Not so comfortable in the Lexus: a large bulge beneath the driver’s right calf (to accommodate the AWD system’s transfer case). A folding rear seat to expand the trunk is available in the BMW, but not in the Lexus.

BMW has continued to refine its iDrive control system, and the latest iteration’s simpler navigation poses little challenge. Lexus’s “remote touch” system, with a mouse-like force feedback controller, while niftier has a steeper learning curve. Theoretically, with more flexibility it should get you where you want more quickly, but in practice this is too often not the case. Specifying firmer feedback reduces, but doesn’t eliminate, the number of inadvertent selections induced by bumps in the road. Even then, navigating in two dimensions (versus the one-dimensional lists in the BMW) requires more conscious thought and manual precision. Both systems employ large displays capable of displaying two screens simultaneously, but that in the Lexus is a couple of inches larger. Unfortunately, BMW also felt the need to reinvent the shifter. The Lexus’s conventional lever feels better and is easier to use.

For 2013, Lexus offers only one non-hybrid engine in the GS, a normally-aspirated 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. The 2012 BMW offers three turbocharged engines, with four, six, and eight cylinders and 240, 300, and 400 horsepower, respectively. While the six might seem the closest match to the Lexus, a case can be made for the tested four-banger. At lower rpm it’s about as powerful as the 3.5 and the 528i’s price is much closer to that of the Japanese car.

Before driving the 528i, I wondered whether a four-cylinder was up to the task of motivating a two-ton sedan in a manner worthy of the “Ultimate Driving Machine” label. Well, power isn’t an issue unless you require an especially energetic shove in your lower back. The four gets up to any legal speed nearly as quickly as the six. Character could be more of a stumbling block. The 2.0-liter engine doesn’t idle nearly as smoothly as the six and at low rpm sounds surprisingly like a diesel. The action of the automatic start/stop system sends a mild shudder through the car. Adding insult to injury, the eight-speed automatic tends to lug the engine unless in Sport mode. But select Sport mode and the transmission holds a lower gear even when cruising, severely impacting fuel economy. At higher rpm and with a heavy foot the four sounds much better, but still not quite in character for a luxury sedan.

The Lexus’s engine delivers its power much differently. While I wouldn’t call it “torqueless”, it’s not a neck-snapper off the line. But cross 4,000 rpm and power jumps dramatically (in a style reminiscent of Honda’s high-performance VTEC engines). At the same point, the engine’s aural output also gets louder and fuller, with a tuned character intentionally similar to that of the IS-F. Credit (or blame) a “sound symposer”, a tube that channels sound from the engine’s intake to the cabin. Some might find this sound overly massaged, but I personally enjoy the livelier sound and feel of the Lexus engine more than those of the Germans’ boosted mills.

While Lexus offers an eight-speed automatic in some models, the 2013 retains the old six-speed. Between this and its larger engine, the GS 350 AWD’s EPA ratings (19 city, 26 highway) don’t approach those of the 528i xDrive (22/32). In casual suburban driving with the engine warmed up the trip computer reported about 22 in the Lexus and about 25 in the BMW. Drive more aggressively and the difference between the two narrows a little, with the Lexus falling into the high teens and the BMW dropping to just below 20. Take full advantage of “Eco Pro” mode in the BMW, which yields a Prius-like throttle response, and the gap widens. I observed an average as high as 30 in the BMW (vs. a high of 25 in the Lexus). But I also observed an actual Prius tailgate then pass me. The GS also has an “Eco” setting, but its impact is much less dramatic.

Even with the optional Sport Package’s dampers set to “Sport” the new 528i feels a little soft and sloppy. There’s some float following dips and bumps and a surprising (if still moderate) amount of lean in turns. Mild understeer is the defining trait. While the 550i xDrive retains the character of a rear-wheel-drive car, the four-cylinder, with two-thirds the torque, can’t produce the same effect. Body motions in even the Luxury Package GS are better controlled, and the F-Sport feels tighter still. All-wheel-drive limits the influence of your right foot on the attitude of the chassis in the Lexus much like it does in the BMW—neither car employs an active rear differential or torque vectoring. Steering is nicely weighted in both cars, but with a firmer feel in the Lexus.

Yet the BMW remains the easier car to drive quickly along a challenging road. Additional bobbling about notwithstanding, the 528i can be more precisely placed through turns. Its steering seems little more communicative, yet the driver receives more nuanced information, much of it through the ears and seat rather than through the fingertips. Even in F-Sport form, the Lexus insulates the driver more. There is an upside to this last difference: going down the road, the more refined GS sounds and feels more upscale and more luxurious. The F-Sport rides more firmly than the basic car, but remains far from punishing. A sound meter might detect little difference between the BMW and the Lexus, but the quality of the noise that gets through is another matter. Where BMW might have simply aimed for low decibel readings, Lexus has carefully tailored the noise that reaches your ears to convey a sense of luxury and quality.

As tested, the Lexus were priced at $58,997 (F-Spot) and $59,759 (Luxury). These two packages cannot be ordered together, so you must choose between the former’s more attractive exterior and firmer suspension and the latter’s softer leather and additional amenities (articulating upper backrests, memory for the front passenger seat, automatic climate controls and heat for the rear seats). I’d readily opt for the former. The BMW 528i, equipped more like the F-Sport, listed for $61,125. Both cars are available with quite a few additional options, including adaptive cruise control, head-up displays, night vision systems, premium audio, and (with rear-wheel-drive only) four-wheel active steering. Run both cars through TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool to adjust for unshared features, and the difference comes in just under $2,000. Probably not enough to be a factor at this level—but recall that the BMW is the 528i, not the 535i. For the latter, add $4,100.

Despite their convergence, drive the BMW 5-Series and Lexus GS back-to-back and they remain dramatically different cars. Despite a softer, less direct feel than past 5ers, the BMW still provides the driver with a larger amount of more nuanced feedback than the Lexus does. Meanwhile, the Lexus continues to more thoroughly insulate the driver (and passengers). For this and other reasons, the GS 350 also looks and feels more luxurious. Of the three cars reviewed, the GS 350 F-Sport best combines performance and luxury. It’s a very pleasurable car whether driven aggressively or casually. Lexus clearly goes further beyond objective criteria to the subjective experience of how the car looks, sounds, and feels. The largest advantage of the BMW, one for which the marque hasn’t been known in the past, is fuel efficiency. You can, of course, get the GS in hybrid form, but only if you’re willing to give up all-wheel-drive—and an additional $10,000.

Phil Coron of Meade Lexus in Southfield, MI, provided the Lexus GS 350 F-Sport. He can be reached at 248-372-7100.

Lexus provided the GS 350 Luxury, while BMW provided the 528i, in both cases with insurance and a tank of premium gas.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online source of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

528i and GS 350, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i GS 350 side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i_GS_thumb GS 350 front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 front, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 F-Sport front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 F-Sport interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 F-Sport rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 F-Sport rear seat, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 Luxury rear seat controls, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 rear seat, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 split screen, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 trunk, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 view forward, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i front quarter 2, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i front, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i instrument panel, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i rear seat, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i trunk, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i view forward, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh ]]>
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