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. Tue, 04 Aug 2015 17:00:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 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 » BMW http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/bmw/ BMW M Customers Surrender ‘Save The Manuals’ War http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/save-manuals-give-bmw-m-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/save-manuals-give-bmw-m-cars/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 22:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1124809 If the fight to save manuals is going to continue for much longer, it had better make gains in one of its historically important battlegrounds. Only around 1 in 4 new BMW M3 models have a manual transmission, according to the manufacturer. That’s a steep drop from the reported 53 percent of buyers who opted to row […]

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The new BMW M5. (09/2011)

If the fight to save manuals is going to continue for much longer, it had better make gains in one of its historically important battlegrounds.

Only around 1 in 4 new BMW M3 models have a manual transmission, according to the manufacturer. That’s a steep drop from the reported 53 percent of buyers who opted to row their own in the last-generation M3 sedan — and the news for the manual M4 doesn’t get much better.

Buyers are opting for a manual transmission in the hardtop M4 only about 17 percent of the time, according to BMW. That’s down from 40 percent of the previous generation’s M3 Coupe buyers, according to reports.

BMW won’t comment specifically on the production numbers and the transmission splits, which have circulated on forums in two different forms. Last year, Road and Track reported that 45 percent of every last-generation M3 was a manual.

Thomas Plucinsky, who is manager of BMW’s corporate communications in the United States, said the production totals “sounded right,” but wouldn’t specify if the transmission splits were correct and added that the automaker wouldn’t correct reports — even if they were wrong.

A BMW spokesman added further that the overall mix for the U.S. for the last-generation M3 was closer to 25 or 30 percent.

The final production mix according to the outside reports is closer to 44 percent before production of the convertible M3 ended.

The purported numbers by other outlets, which come from two different sources, represent a substantial decline for one of the few remaining bastions of manual transmissions: European sportscars.

Earlier this month, head of BMW’s M division Frank van Meel said that the future for manual M cars from BMW “doesn’t look bright.

“The DCT and auto ’boxes are faster and they have better fuel consumption,” he told Autocar.

In the United States, only roughly 1 in 10 M4 Convertibles are fitted with the six-speed manual gearboxes. Toward the end of its lifecycle, nearly half of the last generation of M3 Convertibles were fitted with manual transmissions.

“We have a very enthusiastic following for our brand, the reality of it is we make manual transmissions for this market. We see that our customers want manuals, we’re willing to fight for manuals for this market — as long as there’s a good business case we’ll make them,” Plucinsky said.

When asked if the number of manual transmissions sold today represented a good business case, Plucinsky added: “Today, yes it is.”

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Historic Acuras, Future BMWs Heading To Monterey http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/historic-acuras-future-bmws-heading-to-monterey/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/historic-acuras-future-bmws-heading-to-monterey/#comments Sat, 18 Jul 2015 19:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1119369 Acura and BMW are heading to Monterey Automotive Week with vehicular examples old and new. Both automakers will show vehicles at several events during the week, including The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, Gordan McCall’s Motorworks Revival, and Carmel-By-The-Sea. BMW will reveal two world premieres at its annual press conference at the […]

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Comptech Racing Spice Acura GTP Lights Race Car

Acura and BMW are heading to Monterey Automotive Week with vehicular examples old and new.

Both automakers will show vehicles at several events during the week, including The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, Gordan McCall’s Motorworks Revival, and Carmel-By-The-Sea.

BMW Concept Teaser for Monterey Car Week

BMW will reveal two world premieres at its annual press conference at the BMW Villa in Pebble Beach. The unnamed vehicles will be shown to the public later at The Quail, A Motorsport Gathering, Legends of the Autobahn Concours d’Elegance, Rolex Monterey Motorsport Reunion and Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Acura will have a much more involved presence at this year’s events as the premier automotive sponsor for The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering. At The Quail, Acura will showcase the new NSX along with examples of the first-generation supercar.

The Comptech Racing Spice Acura GTP Lights race car, pictured at top, will make its inaugural run at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. Also at the event, Gil de Ferran’s 2009 Acura LMP1 race car and the new NSX will also be on display.

HondaJet will sponsor Gordon McCall’s Motorworks Revival, featuring the new NSX and a replica of the 2015 McLaren-Honda MP4-30 Formula 1 car.

At Carmel-By-The Sea Concours on the Avenue, Acura will be the event’s exclusive sponsor, showcasing — surprise, surprise — first- and current-generation NSXs.

The events start August 10 and run to August 16.

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Journalist Puts BMW i8 On Its Roof in Mexico City http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/journalist-puts-bmw-i8-roof-mexico-city/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/journalist-puts-bmw-i8-roof-mexico-city/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 12:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1106401 In light of Bark M.’s post on the possible propensity of Fiesta STs rolling over while autocrossing, and TTAC’s tradition of commenting when autojournos manage to wreck press cars (disclaimer: I once brushed a Fiat Abarth’s wheel against a curb), we bring you this report from Wrecked Exotics. A so far unidentified journalist taking an early […]

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In light of Bark M.’s post on the possible propensity of Fiesta STs rolling over while autocrossing, and TTAC’s tradition of commenting when autojournos manage to wreck press cars (disclaimer: I once brushed a Fiat Abarth’s wheel against a curb), we bring you this report from Wrecked Exotics. A so far unidentified journalist taking an early production BMW i8 for a test drive near Mexico City managed to roll the gas-electric hybrid supercar, leaving it bottoms up.

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Cars with battery packs tend to have very low centers of gravity so it takes a bit of effort to roll them. From the photos published at Wrecked Exotics, it looks to me like the driver, who reportedly was uninjured in the wreck, may have misjudged a corner and hit a stone retaining wall, causing the car to flip.

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The other day, Matt Hardigree of Jalopnik posted a pretty detailed look at the business of providing press cars to journalists, including the fact that the cost to supply a single car to a single journalist for review purposes is non-trivial, averaging hundreds of dollars and sometimes running into four figures. My guess is that this will be a fairly expensive review for BMW.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Why Did The Airbags In This BMW X5 Deploy Without Warning? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/airbags-bmw-x5-deploy-without-warning/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/airbags-bmw-x5-deploy-without-warning/#comments Tue, 23 Jun 2015 12:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1096281 “I was pulling into a parking lot and I stopped so I could back into a spot. I had a friend of mine in the passenger seat. I backed into the spot, and was in a stopped position. I was in neutral (the vehicle is a manual 5 speed). My friend got out of the […]

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“I was pulling into a parking lot and I stopped so I could back into a spot. I had a friend of mine in the passenger seat. I backed into the spot, and was in a stopped position. I was in neutral (the vehicle is a manual 5 speed). My friend got out of the car, I had my door open as well. As my friend got out of the passenger side and was closing the door both airbags deployed.”

Not exactly what you’d expect, right?


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Over the weekend, I got a tip about a BMW X5 that experienced an unintended double airbag deployment. I reached out to the owner to get more details. It’s a 2002 X5 3.0i with the rare manual transmission. He bought it with 76,000 miles and a clean CarFax; in the past three years he’s taken it all the way to 155,000 on the odometer.

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He’s not the only person to experience this kind of issue: I was quickly able to find an instance of another no-impact deployment. Turns out, however, that it was a 2006 X5, which is the second generation of the model.

It’s easy to imagine any number of scenarios where a deployment like this could cause a major safety hazard; it’s a good thing it never happened when the X5 was testing at the Nurburgring, right? So far, BMW NA’s response has been to offer a free inspection. We’ll keep you posted on what happens next. In the meantime, if you have an X5, particularly one that is close to, or past, its tenth birthday, you might want to have the bags checked.

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Sixth-Gen BMW 7-Series Image Leaked Via Online Configurator http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/sixth-gen-bmw-7-series-image-leaked-via-online-configurator/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/sixth-gen-bmw-7-series-image-leaked-via-online-configurator/#comments Sun, 07 Jun 2015 12:41:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1086401 The image might be grainy making it difficult to see the details with clarity, this is the sixth-generation BMW 7-Series. Autocar was able to snap a screenshot of the new full-size luxury sedan as it popped up on one of BMW’s online configurators. According to the official teaser video, we should expect the new 7-Series […]

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The image might be grainy making it difficult to see the details with clarity, this is the sixth-generation BMW 7-Series. Autocar was able to snap a screenshot of the new full-size luxury sedan as it popped up on one of BMW’s online configurators.

According to the official teaser video, we should expect the new 7-Series to drop on June 10th – this coming Wednesday – equipped with BMW Laserlight technology (but not for America) and powered by a selection of gasoline engines ranging from a 3.0L I6 and 4.0L V8 to a 6.0L V12. A couple of turbodiesels –2.0L I4 and 3.0L I6 – are also expected.

Underpinned by a modified version of the platform doing duty in the 3- and 4-Series, the next 7-Series will additionally make extensive use of aluminum, magnesium, high-strength steel and carbon-fibre reinforced plastic in order to save weight.

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2015 BMW M235i Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-bmw-m235i-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-bmw-m235i-review-video/#comments Mon, 01 Jun 2015 11:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1076194 We’ve talked about BMW’s portfolio expanding faster than an American on a midwest diet before, but I’m going to do it again because it’s the key to understanding the 2-series in general and the M235i in particular. The M235i is not an M2, it is not a 235i M Sport, and it is more than […]

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2015 BMW M235i Exterior1

We’ve talked about BMW’s portfolio expanding faster than an American on a midwest diet before, but I’m going to do it again because it’s the key to understanding the 2-series in general and the M235i in particular.

The M235i is not an M2, it is not a 235i M Sport, and it is more than the former 135is. Are you confused yet? The M235i is the first of BMW’s “M Performance” vehicles which are not to be confused with “M Sport.”

Here’s how BMW’s new four-tier system works:

Things start with M Sport which is a “looks fast/handles well” package, then we get “is” which adds a dollop of performance, followed by the new M Performance where we put M in front of a three digit model number (M235i) denoting increased power, improved handling, improved braking and suspension tweaks, before going full-on-M.

In theory, the full treatment includes body modifications like wheel well enlargements, carbon fiber bits and a dual-clutch transmission. If you’re not totally confused yet, continue reading.

OK, so we have an M that’s not an M, but there’s more you should know. The only “35” version of the 2-Series is the M235i. While the other sport variants exist in BMW’s lineup, they don’t all exist in the same model, so there is no 235i M Sport and no 235is. The other thing to know is the 2-Series is very closely related to the current generation BMW 3-Series and 4-Series, sharing crash structures, large portions of the engine bay, suspension design themes and even interior components. In some ways you could even say BMW now has two different coupé and two different convertible versions of the 3-Series. That last part is important because the M235i weighs 3,535 pounds, just 100 pounds less than the 435i. More amazing is the four-door 335i is just 60 pounds heavier.

2015 BMW M235i Exterior-005

The Competition
The 2-Series lacks natural competition, but this time it’s not part of BMW’s diabolical plan. By shrinking the 3-Series and removing two doors, the 2-Series is the only RWD entry in a sea of European front drivers. While that’s not too much of a problem if you are buying a car for weekend wine tasting, it is a big differentiator when we’re talking performance metal. Therefore, I put the CLA45 AMG, Audi S3 and Euro-only RS3 in a different category. The forthcoming Mercedes C-Class coupé will compete with the 4-Series and the Porsche Cayman and Cayman S lack rear seats. If you want a small RWD luxury coupé with a back seat, this is it.

If you don’t like my re-categorization of the CLA45, ponder this: it’s the same size as the Volvo S60 Polestar, delivers similar horsepower and is based on a FWD vehicle just like the Volvo. Would you stick the S60 in the M235i mash-up? I thought not.

2015 BMW M235i Exterior.CR2-003

Exterior
Although related to the 335i and weighing about the same, the M235i is notably more compact. At 175.9 inches long, our tester was nearly eight inches shorter than a 3-Series sedan or 4-Series coupé. Think of the 2-Series as the modern 318i. The lower, wider, longer look of the 2-Series certainly looks more elegant and refined than the older 1-Series, but I always thought the cartoonish proportions of the 1 were part of the charm.

Like the 318i, the 2-Series is the discount entry point for traditional BMW shoppers. We have the familiar kidney grille up front and the classic BMW side profile with a long hood and a perky trunk. The biggest clue to the 228i’s low starting price is out back where we get one-piece tail lamps that are part of the body instead of the split design where half of the lamp is on the trunk. This design change reduces costs while simultaneously reducing the dimensions of the trunk opening.

2015 BMW M235i Interior-001

Interior
At $32,100, the 2-Series is one of the least expensive BMWs in the USA, so you shouldn’t be surprised that it also has one of the least luxurious BMW interiors. That said, the 2-Series’ interior is closer to the 4-Series than you’d think in overall materials quality and fit-and-finish despite being $8,200 less expensive. (What does that say about the 4-Seires?) Compared to your average mass market vehicle around $30,000, the 2-Series’ interior looks better put together, but the luxury move toward pleather in base models still strikes me as a false economy.

M235i models get BMW’s comfortable sport seats as standard with power adjustable side bolsters, 4-way lumbar and a manually extending thigh cushion for both the driver and front passenger. Taller drivers will want to consider deleting the sunroof as seat comfort is epic but headroom is limited. Surprisingly, there’s almost as much space in the back seat as you’ll find in the 4-Series despite the wheelbase shrinking a few inches vs its bigger cousin. In fact, the 435i’s spec sheet claims just 7/10ths of an inch more room. Although the size difference between the 2 and the 4 can be explained by the smaller trunk, it’s only about one cube smaller leaving me to wonder where the eight-inch-stretch goes.

If the 2 and 4 are similarly sized inside, why get the 4? It’s all about features. BMW doesn’t offer heads up displays, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping systems or radar cruise control on the M235i for any price. 2-Series models also lack the range of color and trim options and the optional all-around camera you find on the 4. Also, while BMW describes the leather the same way on both models, the leather on a dealer provided 428i felt softer.

2015 BMW M235i Interior-005

Infotainment
The 2-Series gets essentially the same infotainment options as the 3-series and 4-series. Like the 3 and 4, basic Bluetooth and USB/iDevice support is standard. For $500 BMW adds the ability to pair two phones at the same time, browse your Bluetooth media library, voice command contacts and music, and use the BMW Mobile Office software. (Calendars, voice memos, emails, tasks, etc.) This “Enhanced USB” package used to be bundled with BMW’s navigation software, but not for 2015. If you want all that functionality and navigation, add that to the $2,150 navigation package that also adds smartphone app integration. The current app suite allows you to Facebook, tweet and stream internet radio from your iPhone to the car’s radio. Although iDrive is the most expensive infotainment system in this small segment, the tasteful high-res graphics, fast interface and superior phone integration also make this the system to beat – if you can afford it.

Because of the 2-Series’ entry-level position in the BMW line-up, the up-level sound system delivers 360-watts and 12-speakers instead of 600-watts and 16 speakers as in the 4-Series.

2015 BMW M235i Engine.CR2-001

Drivetrain
228i models use BMW’s familiar 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder tuned to 240 horsepower and 255 lb-ft while M235i models get a tweaked version of BMW’s single-turbo inline six. The 320 horsepower is the same as the outgoing 135is while torque bumps up to 330 lb-ft. If you opt for rear wheel drive, both engines are mated to your choice of a 6-speed manual transmission or a ZF 8-speed automatic. Sadly, selecting BMW’s xDrive system nixes the manual.

The availability of xDrive in M Performance models can be seen as a way to placate all-wheel drive fans while keeping “true” M models pure. Purity aside, driving all four wheels is the fastest way to speed with the M235i xDrive scooting to 60 mph 2/10ths faster than the RWD model. Purists will likely want to wait for the M2 which should be tuned to between 360 and 370 ponies.

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Drive
The M235i offers an interesting dilemma for the driving enthusiast. If you want the fastest model, that’s the one with an automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The slowest is the rear wheel drive model with the manual. My how times have changed. What hasn’t changed is the most fun is had in the row-it-yourself rear driver. Our tester scooted to 60 in 5.0 seconds, which is a hair behind BMW’s quoted 4.8 seconds, mainly because traction is an issue and I wasn’t as willing to roast the clutch as some. Get the 8-speed auto and the sprint drops to 4.6 seconds. The AWD M235i xDrive will accomplish the task in 4.4. That’s faster than the S3 and, depending on the transmission, a hair faster than Mercedes’ CLA45 AMG. Thanks to the 200 pounds gained compared to the outgoing 135is, the M235i’s extra twist doesn’t compensate and it’ll be a hair slower. Want a Cayman that fast? Be prepared to shell out for a Cayman S, GTS or GT4.

Although the M235i weighs about the same as the 335i and the 435i, BMW manages to make it feel different out on the road. The quick steering rack, slightly shorter wheelbase and tweaked suspension design make the M235i feel more nimble. You’ll notice I said feel. If you put the same rubber on a 435i that our M235i wore, it’d likely post identical skidpad numbers. Anyway you slice it, the old 1M will out-handle the M235i. The combination of electric power steering and BMW’s variable gear ratio steering rack (dubbed Variable Sport Steering) can make the M235i twitchy and a hair lifeless at highway speeds. That said, the RWD M235i has more steering feedback and better poise than the front-heavy CLA45 or S3 can ever hope for. Adding AWD to the M235i doesn’t make it feel like a CLA45 or S3. The CLA45 and S3 have to keep the center coupling locked most of the time in order to avoid FWD dynamics, while the M235i xDrive keeps the power to the rear unless its needed up front.

2015 BMW M235i Shifter

All M235i models get BMW’s adaptive M suspension tuned more towards the daily driver side of things than I expected. Drop the suspension into Sport mode and things firm up, but no mode in this suspension will make it as hard as the M4, something I’m grateful for. While this also means a hair more tip, dive and body roll than a “true M car,” it means the M235i xDrive is a 4.4 second daily driver – rain or shine.

Because BMW has been slowly morphing into the new Mercedes, none of what I have said so far surprised me. What did surprise me was the M235i’s price tag. Priced between $43,100 for a base RWD model with either transmission and $55,825 for a fully loaded AWD model, the BMW seriously undercuts the spendy CLA45 AMG and is just $2,000 more than the slower Audi S3. The Porsche Cayman is almost as different from the M235i as the CLA45 AMG is, but be prepared to spend at least $20,000 more on a Cayman if you want similar performance figures.

2015 BMW M235i Exterior

BMW has created one of the best performance buys around with the M235i. But, if you’re looking for a light, “chuckable” BMW, you will need to keep waiting. The M235i is a hoot, but like most modern BMWs, it’s more grand tourer than sports car.

After a week with the M235i, one thought came to my mind: this is the perfect Mercedes SLK. It’s faster and more fun than an SLK 350, significantly less expensive without feeling that much cheaper, and has a usable back seat. This isn’t the raw and direct coupé BMW enthusiasts are longing for, and that’s exactly why I like it. As much as I appreciated my time with the 6-speed rear wheel drive M235i, I have to admit if my money were on the line I would buy the M235i xDrive. I still think that the myriad of BMW performance trims is insane and confusing, yet I have to wonder what a 500 horsepower M550i xDrive would be like.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.3 Seconds

0-60: 5.0 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.8 Seconds @ 106 MPH

2015 BMW M235i Cargo Pass Thru 2015 BMW M235i Engine.CR2 2015 BMW M235i Engine.CR2-001 2015 BMW M235i Engine.CR2-002 2015 BMW M235i Exterior.CR2 2015 BMW M235i Exterior.CR2-001 2015 BMW M235i Exterior.CR2-002 2015 BMW M235i Exterior.CR2-003 2015 BMW M235i Exterior 2015 BMW M235i Exterior-001 2015 BMW M235i Exterior1 2015 BMW M235i Exterior-002 2015 BMW M235i Exterior-003 + 2015 BMW M235i Exterior-005 2015 BMW M235i Gauges 2015 BMW M235i Gauges-001 2015 BMW M235i Interior.CR2-001 2015 BMW M235i Interior 2015 BMW M235i Interior-001 2015 BMW M235i Interior-002 2015 BMW M235i Interior-003 2015 BMW M235i Interior-005 2015 BMW M235i Shifter 2015 BMW M235i Trunk 2015 BMW M235i Trunk-001

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BMW Debuts 3.0 CSL Hommage Concept http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/bmw-debuts-3-0-csl-hommage-concept/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/bmw-debuts-3-0-csl-hommage-concept/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 18:25:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1073578 BMW has dug into its history books, picked out one of the prettiest, fastest, lightest cars of note, and built this as a tribute – the BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage Concept. Details are light at the moment as BMW has yet to send out a release, but the bustling crowd at the 2015 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este […]

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Fat Car, Erwin Wurm photo - flickr user russelljsmith

BMW has dug into its history books, picked out one of the prettiest, fastest, lightest cars of note, and built this as a tribute – the BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage Concept.

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Details are light at the moment as BMW has yet to send out a release, but the bustling crowd at the 2015 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este has already been afforded a first look of BMW’s latest concept. The new car features widened bodywork and a dramatic rear wing in the style of the original CSL.

We will have more on BMW’s latest Hommage as the story develops.

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2015 BMW X4 xDrive28i Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-bmw-x4-xdrive28i-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-bmw-x4-xdrive28i-video/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 12:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1044242 Lately, BMW has been accused of answering questions nobody was asking. Looking at things a different way, however, BMW has taken personalization of your daily driver to a level we haven’t seen before by making an incredible number of variations based on the same basic vehicle. Once upon a time, BMW made one roadster and […]

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Lately, BMW has been accused of answering questions nobody was asking. Looking at things a different way, however, BMW has taken personalization of your daily driver to a level we haven’t seen before by making an incredible number of variations based on the same basic vehicle. Once upon a time, BMW made one roadster and three sedans. If you asked nicely, they would cut the top off the 3-Series, add a hatchback, or stretch it into a wagon. If you look at the family tree today you’d see that the 2-series coupé and convertible, X1, X3, X4, 3-Series sedan, long wheelbase sedan, and wagon, 3-Series GT and 4-Series coupé, convertible and gran coupé are all cousins. (Note: I didn’t say sisters, but they are all ultimately related.) That’s a product explosion of 400 percent since 1993 and we’re talking solely about the compact end of their lineup. You could look at this two ways. This is insanity, or this is some diabolical plan. Since sales have increased more than 300% since 1993, I’m going with diabolical plan.

Exterior

The “same sausage in multiple lengths” concept has been a staple design philosophy of the luxury industry for decades, but BMW’s “something for everyone” mantra takes that to the next level. You see, the X4 and the 3-Series Gran Tourismo are two entirely different sausages that (although related) manage to look the same yet share very little. Stranger still, the same shape elicits two different responses from people. Some see the GT and think “that liftback looks practical and roomier than a trunk” and then they look at the X4 and say “that’s less practical than an X3, why would I want it?”

To create the X4, the X3’s rear was raked and the bumpers were tweaked but it still retains the same hood, headlamps and ride height. You’d think that would make it a crossover, but BMW prefers “Sports Activity Coupe.” Whatever. The GT is a 3-Series that has been stretched and a liftback grafted on. The GT is lower to the ground and actually longer than the X4, but the differences don’t stop there. The GT is built in Germany, the X4 is made in South Carolina. Like many Americans, the X4 is 2-inches wider, has a more aggressive look up front and weighs 200 lbs more. (Before you ask, I was born in Ohio and that describes me as well.)

The trouble with making so many models is that it makes comparisons difficult. (Or is that part of BMW’s diabolical plan?) Aside from the GT, the X4 lacks any natural competition, especially in our xDrive28i trim. The V60 Cross Country, Macan, allroad and Evoque all come to mind, but only the Macan uses a similar silhouette. The Volvo and Audi are lifted station wagons, the Evoque is much smaller and front wheel drive.

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Interior

The X4 shares the majority of its interior with the X3. Likely because the X3 and X4 are a little more recent than the current 3-Series, I found the interior to be more harmonious in terms of plastics quality. Instead of the iDrive screen perched atop the dash like in the 3-Series, it’s nestled into it. Perhaps because the X4 is made in America, the cup holders are larger, more functional and lack the funky lid 3-Series owners always lose track of.

Because the X3’s roofline was drastically altered to create the X4, BMW opted to drop the seat bottoms in order to preserve headroom. The difference isn’t too noticeable up front, but in the rear the X4’s seat bottom cushions ride much closer to the floor than in any of the competition. Despite lowering the seating height, headroom is still very limited in the back and best reserved for kids or shorter adults. This is a stark contrast to the 3-GT which has an inch more headroom in the rear, seat cushions that are higher off the floor, seat backs that recline and a whopping 7 inches more combined legroom.

At 17.7 cubic feet, the X4’s cargo area is about 33% smaller than the X3 [The Porsche Macan loses almost 40 percent of its cargo volume in comparison to its platform mate, the Audi Q5. -Ed.]. On the flip side, this is a hair larger than a 328i sedan and the cargo hatch is a more convenient shape. Once again, however, the 3-GT comes out more practical with a larger cargo hold and the same practical liftback for accessing it. Interestingly enough, the V60 CC and the Porsche Macan have cargo areas nearly identical in size.

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Infotainment

iDrive has long been one of my favorite infotainment systems and that continues with the latest version. Our tester included the full bevy of infotainment options including smartphone app integration ($500), navigation ($2,150) and the iPhone snap-in adapter ($250). If that sounds expensive, you’re right. However, it is less expensive than the options list on the Macan. Like Audi and Mercedes, BMW has inserted a cell modem into top end iDrive systems allowing online service access.

iDrive’s interface has received continual tweaks over the years to improve usability and I find the interface easy to navigate and intuitive. A little less intuitive is the finger-writing input method which allows you to “write” on the top of the controller knob to enter addresses. While that sounds like a good idea, I discovered it took 25% longer to enter a destination vs rotating the dial. All the latest in connected infotainment can be had in the X4 (for a price) including integrated Pandora, Stitcher, Audible, pass-thru voice commands for iOS and Android, and Wikipedia integration which will read Wiki articles to you via a built-in text-to-speech engine.

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Drivetrain

X4 xDrive28i models get a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder (N20) good for 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque at just 1,450 RPM while xDrive35i models get the 300 horsepower, 300 lb-ft 3.0L turbo (N55). Both engines are mated to an 8-speed ZF automatic and standard AWD. Sound familiar? That’s the same lineup in the 3-GT. Oddly enough you can get the X3 in RWD, but the X4 with its (in theory) sportier image is AWD only.

If you’re shopping for the X4 outside of the USA, you get more choice with an available 181 horse 2.0L gasoline turbo, a selection of diesel engines ranging from 187-309 ponies and a manual transmission on some engines.

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Drive

I’m no track junkie like Jack Baruth, but I do appreciate a well-balanced vehicle. That said, I am frequently distracted by straight line performance and “moar powah.” X4 shoppers will need to choose between these two. The 2.0L may be down on power vs the 3.0L , but it is also 33% shorter and 165 lbs 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 when you start pushing the X4 on your favorite mountain road. The lighter 2.0L model doesn’t feel as eager, but it does feel more composed and more willing to change direction. The 3.0L has more low-end grunt and a more refined sound, but because of the added weight, AWD and chassis tuning, it tends toward understeer more readily.

The key to understanding the X4 on the road is simple: it weighs only 20 lbs less than the X3 and despite the sheetmetal changes, the center of gravity isn’t all that much lower. As a result it drives almost exactly like an X3. Since the X3 is one of the most dynamic options in its class, that’s no dig. 0-60 happened in a quick 6.14 seconds in our tester(the 3.0L is a full second faster) and the lateral grip is impressive for a crossover. On the downside, the 3-Series sedan and GT will do everything a hair faster with better grip and better feel. BMW will swap out the 245 width tires our tester had for a staggered 245 / 275 tire package. I suspect that may give the X4 more of a performance edge on the less sporting trims of X3 or 3-GT, but fuel economy and your pocketbook will suffer. Thanks to the wide tires, the X4 took just 119 feet to stop from 60 MPH.

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The standard AWD system dulls what little feel you might otherwise get from the electric power steering system, but in return it allows drama-free launches on most road surfaces and plenty of fun on soft roads. Speaking of soft roads, the X4 reminded me a great deal of Volvo’s V60 Cross Country: both vehicles prioritize style over practicality and both are soft-road vehicles designed for folks that live down a short gravel road and commute on winding mountain highways. The suspension in all forms of the X4 is stiffer than I expected and the M-Sport is stiffer than I could live with long-term on the crappy roads in Northern California. If you’re contemplating the M-Sport, be sure to option up the adaptive suspension system. The $1,000 option doesn’t dull the X4’s responses, but when in the softer modes it may just save your kidneys.

Competition for the X4 is hard to define as I have said. On the surface of things, the styling premium over the X3 will set you back $6,200, but the X4 has around $4,200 more in standard equipment, like AWD and HID lamps, which drops the real difference to about $2,000. That may not sound like too much of a premium for the added style you get in the X4, but the 328i Gran Turismo, despite standard AWD and the panoramic sunroof, is about $2,500 less than the X4.

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Now we must cover the Porsche Macan. In the same way that the X4 is a less practical X3, the Macan is a less practical Audi Q5. If you look at the Macan closely, you’ll see almost the same profile as the X4. Dimensionally they are quite similar inside and out. However, the Macan’s conversion from the plebeian Q5 was much more involved. Porsche also starts their lineup with a 340 horsepower twin-turbo V6, 7-speed DCT, and made major changes to the structure of the Q5 platform. On top of that, they fit wider tires all around. Obviously our 2.0L X4 doesn’t compete with the Porsche, but the X4 with the turbo six is an interesting alternative. The X4 xDrive35i manages to be a hair faster to 60 in my limited tests (1/10th) thanks likely to the ZF 8-speed automatic. The BMW’s transmission is smoother, I think the exterior is more elegant and depending on how you configure your Porsche, the cost difference can exceed $10,000 in the X4’s favor. The Macan handles better and had a nicer and more customizable interior, but the options are so expensive that it’s easy to get a Macan S over $75,000 without really trying.

Although I like the X4’s interior more than the 3-GT, the  GT makes more sense to me. You get more room inside, it’s more nimble out on the road and the fuel economy in the real world is a hair better. The X3 is more practical and gives up little when it comes to performance and handling and the 3-Series sport wagon is probably the best blend of cargo practicality and performance handling. This brings me back to BMW’s diabolical plan: comparisons. No matter how I tried to define or categorize the X4, the competitive set was littered with BMWs. Aside from the xDrive35i being the value alternative to the Macan S, all that can be said of the X4 in the end is that it is a less practical X3 and a taller GT with a nicer dash.

Sound off in the comment section below: what would you cross shop with the X4?

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.4 Seconds

0-60: 6.14 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.83 Seconds @ 92.8 MPG

Average Economy: 23.8 MPG

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Review: 2013 BMW 335i M-Sport Steptronic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2013-bmw-335i-m-sport-steptronic/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2013-bmw-335i-m-sport-steptronic/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 11:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1047985 I don’t think that my review of the M235xi rustled too many jimmies among the B&B — but it did cause one of our readers to sit up straight in his chair and say, “Hey, I want this idiot to drive my car, just to uphold the honor of the mighty Roundel.” Or something like […]

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I don’t think that my review of the M235xi rustled too many jimmies among the B&B — but it did cause one of our readers to sit up straight in his chair and say, “Hey, I want this idiot to drive my car, just to uphold the honor of the mighty Roundel.” Or something like that. So what we have here is a fully loaded, fifty-seven-thousand-dollar Bimmer 3er, ready to rip around my modest suburb and show off a few party tricks.

Let’s get started.

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Looks proper, doesn’t it? The visual… stubbiness that afflicts the 2-Series is absent here, mostly because this is a very large car by BMW standards prior to the turn of the century. Some of the details are really nice — look at the three-dimensionality of the chrome grille and the overt sporting nature of the bodykit. The front end is clearly drawn to comply with European pedestrian regulations, but you’d never mistake it for anything but a Pontiac Grand Am BMW and more importantly, neither will your neighbors.

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I’d praised the interior of the M235xi, but not all of you agreed that it looked like a fifty-grand car. Well, this one is better, and there’s a distinct improvement in the materials quality across the board compared to the Two. The lower-spec 335i that I drove for R&T’s Sweet Science test had a two-tone interior that did not stand up to direct comparison with the opulent confines of the Q50 or the Eighties-Nippon-chic of the Lexus IS350. In the funeral full black of this example, with just the metallic blue trim stripe to distract from what would otherwise be a completely monochromatic cockpit, things are somewhat improved.

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We start the test drive with me occupying the passenger seat so the owner — let’s call him Chip, because that’s a great name for a 3-Series owner — tells me about his career and his relationship with the BMW marque. He’s younger than I am and this is far from his first BMW. It also wasn’t his first choice; he picked it because four-door M3s weren’t thick on the showroom floors when he was shopping. His next car will be the twin-turbo M3 DCT that has managed to capture my respect, but not my affection. Chip shows off the various features of the car, including a frankly fascinating display mode that shows you what cameras mounted on both sides of the nose can see. This is beyond brilliant for urban environments where you often have to poke your car’s front end out past a bunch of double-parked Range Rovers and whatnot. Every Viper and Corvette should come with these cameras.

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When it’s my time to drive, Chip puts the car into Maximum Sport mode, or some approximation of it. Launched from a stop, this Three feels a little more spry than the Two. I’d guess that the broken-in motor makes enough power to account for the frankly minor weight difference between an RWD Three and an AWD Two. The same comments — rapid but not DCT-accurate shifting, a willingness to sit at redline in manual mode, relatively close ratios — that applied to this transmission in the smaller car apply here. It’s so lovely, however, to not have that moronic front axle interfering. I could come to like this car for the way it torques its way out of roundabouts and the near-seamless shift from second to third when you’re trying to hustle on back roads.

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If only I could love the way this big Bimmer corners — but I cannot. It’s balanced and predictable, about as close to neutral as you can have in a modern street car, but again you’re steering by eye and ear, not by feel. I’m willing to put up with this shit in a C5 Corvette, because in a C5 Corvette you can lay waste to a wide variety of drooling mooks at pretty much any open trackday, but in a car that (cue the furious comments) is barely any faster than my Accord, I’m not as forgiving. What I will say is this. Given the usual caveats, such as “you can’t really learn much about a car’s handling on the street”, I think this car out-handles the M235xi. I was able to get a few miles per hour more exit speed on a few different corners and the drama quotient was very low. You can get all four tires squealing in a long turn and the 335i is very well-behaved while you’re doing it.

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I know what you’re thinking. RWD car out-handles AWD car. Film at eleven, right? But it’s more than that. It’s the way the steering ratio works with the longer wheelbase, it’s the better driving position, it’s the way you can adjust the car a bit without worrying about when the front axle will take an interest in your shenanigans and what it will do when that interest appears. You don’t need to go to a racetrack to feel the difference. If you think you need the “X” version of a BMW, you should drive both and decide whether you can live with what the tacked-on FWD does to the car’s dynamic qualities.

Now let us turn our hymnals to page 2002, like the man said, and take a look at the $14,000 worth of options:

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The base car is $43,150. That’s a bit of a deal, actually; I paid that much for a 330i M-Sport back in 2001 and it was a hundred horsepower south of this car. Not, mind you, that I wouldn’t rather have that 330i and a solid punch to the throat over the modern F-whatever Bimmers. The M-Sport package is $3,200. Yeah, you want that. If you stopped right there, you’d have a hell of a car. Cold Weather Package is $950, and it’s hard to do without it here in Ohio. And it has heated rear seats too, just like a Hyundai Elantra! The Driver Assistance Package is $1,900 and I’m not sure it’s worth the money, even if it has BMW NoseView(tm). The Premium Package is $2,200. BMW has some nerve to charge that kind of money for stuff my Accord V6 has standard. The Technology Package is an eye-watering 3,100 for a nav system and Bluetooth audio. Come on, man!

The automatic transmission is $500.00. Chip got it so his wife could drive the car. The last few women I’ve dated have been motorcycle owners or stick-shift Jeep Wrangler drivers so I wouldn’t have to make that choice, thankfully. The side window shades, which are very nice for children, are $575.00.

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The M3’s base sticker is $62,925 or thereabouts, but remember that you don’t get all this stuff with a base M3. What Chip’s constructed here is a very rapid, very comfortable, very well-equipped luxury sedan. It’s basically an old 535i with a 335i badge, minus the Bangle-era flame surfacing and the brilliant steering. Costs like one, too. The current Five feels like a Seven, and the current Seven feels like a Wal-Mart version of the Rolls-Royce Ghost with which it shares mechanicals, so this is all just fine. You can think of it as the opposite of the downsizing the domestic manufacturers did thirty years ago. Remember how the LeBaron became the New Yorker, and the Le Mans became the Bonneville Model G? This is the same thing, in reverse.

Just as the hasty downsizing left big Parisienne-sized holes at the top of automaker lineups, BMW’s commitment to fatkini-friendly proportions has left a very conspicuous empty space in their showrooms. Something the size and weight of the E36, maybe. The M235xi ain’t it. The upcoming smaller BMWs will be FWD. It’s amazing, really; BMW doesn’t make a proper 3-Series any more. Yet their sales continue to grow. It would be like if Jeep just canned the Wrangler, or if Ford stopped making the F-150.

Driving Chip’s 335i, I kept thinking of my old 330i M-Sport. The moment I saw it in the dealership lot, I knew I’d pay whatever it took to put it in my driveway. I had raw desire for it, the kind of thing that shakes you by the scruff of your neck, the way you feel when a woman in the fast-food line ahead of you turns to give you her profile and it’s simply perfect and in that moment you fall for her, the needle and the damage done. I liked this Estoril Blue sedan but I didn’t have any desire for it. Just as soon have an A4, or a Cheap-class, or my Accord. Just don’t care. Fifty-seven grand is a lot of money to not really care — but if something about this car does call to you, I beg you, leave that front differential at the Dingolfing plant, okay?

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Review: 2015 BMW M235xi http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-bmw-m235xi/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-bmw-m235xi/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 12:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1042962 Let the record show that ten years ago, BMW and I were definitely “in a relationship”, as Facebook would say. I was throwing a significant chunk of change every month at a 330i Sport sedan in Steel Grey with a five-speed manual. It was just the latest stage of a love story that began before […]

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Let the record show that ten years ago, BMW and I were definitely “in a relationship”, as Facebook would say. I was throwing a significant chunk of change every month at a 330i Sport sedan in Steel Grey with a five-speed manual. It was just the latest stage of a love story that began before I was old enough to drive but definitely picked up steam when I learned to drive in a manual transmission 733i.

Today? Well, the best that BMW and I can manage is probably an “It’s Complicated”, and if you want to know why, the car before you is a good example of nearly all the reasons.

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With leather upholstery, a navigation system, and keyless entry, this is a $50,200 automobile. It came to me courtesy of one of our partners in the April Fool’s Cannonball prank, Greg Ledet, who is a BMW aficionado and the owner of an automatic-transmission 335xi. You can read his opinion on the car at the end of this piece, and I think it’s worth reading because Greg is very much the buyer BMW is chasing now — a successful tech worker who charts his own course in life and considers automotive enthusiasm to be one of his primary defining personal characteristics. If Greg likes the car, then it will do well.

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I, on the other hand… well, I’d already driven a stick-shift M235i during PCOTY and my verdict was that “I get the distinct feeling that there’s a bit too much dignity, too much ball-bearing smoothness, to make this a true successor to the raucous 135i.” Adding all-wheel-drive and a torque converter to the M235i package does nothing to change my mind; rather, it dials the standard model’s boulevardier inclinations up to eleven.

On paper and on the road, this is a fast car, thanks to a 320-horsepower second-generation variant of the BMW three-liter turbo straight six and a curb weight in the 3500-pound range. There’s a “Launch Mode” that Greg demonstrates, a particular combination of the endless menu-based performance permutations found in the iDrive controls, and it’s capable of getting to sixty miles per hour in under five seconds. When I take the wheel, I notice with satisfaction that the Steptronic transmission can be placed into a very decent manual-shift mode. It won’t automatically upshift — I ran against the rev limiter for five long seconds to prove that to myself — and it shifts almost exactly when you request it. It’s probably the equal of the very responsive automatic in the Lexus IS350 F-Sport, and that’s saying something.

If only the engine had some character to go with its twist. After ten minutes behind the wheel of the M235xi, I was longing for my proletarian Accord V6 and its minivan motor, which delivers nearly the same power with a VTEC Earthy-Dreamy rush to the redline and a crisp manual shift at the “7” mark. The M235xi is fast but never exciting, even with the fake engine noises that mysteriously appear behind you when you’re pressing on.

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Of course, no Honda on the market, even the ones that say “Acura” on them, can deliver the legitimate this-is-something-special feeling you get when taking a seat behind the Bimmer’s chunky wheel. You could quibble with a few of the plastics but really, the one time you don’t doubt the value proposition of a fifty-grand miniature BMW coupe is when you’re just sitting in the thing. Even I, as the most brand-cynical human being in North America, can’t help feeling kind of cool in the M235xi. I love the fact that it’s easily recognizable as a BMW from the moment you open the door.

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On the move, that BMW DNA is less apparent. The controls are “dipped in treacle”, as the English autojournos say, responding with a heft and indifference that is more Lexus-like than an actual Lexus, the steering completely and utterly dead-feeling thanks to the powered front axle and the electro-magic assist, the brakes okay enough but nothing special despite the fixed-caliper street cred. There are no fewer than three “sport modes” in the iDrive but none of them feel sporting in anything but the most tacked-on fashion.

Approaching a few fast road corners in a row, the M235i gives little sense of its ultimate cornering potential. I hear rather than feel the front end lose grip, the same way you would in a C5 Corvette, only worse. Then the lights start blinking, even though they’re supposed to be off. When Greg tries a low-speed come-and-show-me power-oversteer maneuver, his command of the iDrive technicalities mean that none of the nannies show up for work — but that doesn’t stop the front axle from clutching-out and pulling the car sullenly straight. You could have a lot more fun in a raggedy old 325e. My 330i Sport was ninety horsepower down on this thing but I know which one I’d rather drive.

I want to love this BMW, but I cannot. On a daily basis, I’d rather operate my Accord, which returns nearly half again the 21.6mpg that Greg’s car shows in daily service, has better visibility, weighs three hundred pounds less, and drives like it weighs six hundred pounds less. Not to mention the twenty-grand price advantage. My old Audi S5 felt more alive to operate despite the V-8 hanging out over the front wheels and I suspect the current V-6 car is even better in that regard.

The very existence of this car is troubling, honestly. Does there need to be an automatic-transmission AWD variant of every single model in BMW’s lineup? Since when did BMW become Audi or even Mercedes-Benz? Trust me, the standard M235i stick-shift isn’t exactly a Lotus Seven in terms of the required hardcore driver commitment. We need a calmed-down version of that car like we needed Peter Cetera to go back and record all his late-era Chicago hits with more Muzak in them. (Which he did, by the way.)

The funny thing is that BMW can see the plain evidence of what customers want in used-market prices, and they can see the bulletproof residuals of the 1M and 135i Sport the same way Porsche can see 1998 Carreras selling for more at auctions than 2013 Carreras, and they’re absolutely uninterested in serving that market on a consistent basis. Sure, the M2 will eventually get here, but note that BMW put the effort into getting AWD and automatic transmissions into the Two wayyyy before they even dropped public hints about the M2.

Fifty thousand dollars is a lot of money, even in the post-QE world. If you have that much to burn or borrow, do yourself a favor and get the car that delivers M3-level power and 135i-level driver involvement. It’s called the Ford Mustang GT and you can use the ten grand you’ll have left over to get a nice winter beater. No, the Ford is not the Ultimate Driving Machine — but neither is this.

And now for Greg’s comments:

“’ve had the car for nearly a week now and I’ve put about 250 miles on it. Compared to my 2010 335xi, the 2015 M235xi is noticeably smaller and feels much better through the corners. With 320 horsepower compared to the 335’s 300, I was expecting the smaller car to be much quicker, but I was surprised to learn that the M235xi actually weighs about 300 lbs more than my 335xi (3695 lbs vs 3362 lbs). The car feels lighter and more balanced through the turns and it seems to push less than the 335, but that can probably be chalked up to the fact that my 335xi doesn’t have the M Sport Package or the adjustable suspension.

Would I buy the M235xi? Probably. I’ve actually speced one out and sent to my BMW salesman to see if there could be a deal made should we realize that the 335xi is finally done for. It is definitely on my list of cars that I want, but with a $50,000 sticker price and BMW’s notorious depreciation rate, I’ll probably wait and pick up a CPO vehicle in a couple years. Not only that, the “real” M2 is just around the corner. BMW has said that the drivetrain from the current M3/M4 will fit into the 2-Series without making any changes, so expect the M2 to be putting out around 400 horsepower while trimming 300 pound or so from the weight. If the M2 holds its value as well as the 1-Series M Coupe, I’d almost be silly to not pick one up.”

Well, there you have it! — jb

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Reithofer: Government Programs Key To BMW i3 Success http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/reithofer-government-programs-key-bmw-i3-success/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/reithofer-government-programs-key-bmw-i3-success/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 11:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028841 BMW’s i3’s success is helped by a number of government incentives in a few of the automaker’s key markets, according to CEO Norbert Reithofer. According to Automotive News Europe, Reithofer said that sales figures for the i3 are connected to political initiatives toward electric mobility, adding that when those initiatives are there, “the registration figures […]

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2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-007

BMW’s i3’s success is helped by a number of government incentives in a few of the automaker’s key markets, according to CEO Norbert Reithofer.

According to Automotive News Europe, Reithofer said that sales figures for the i3 are connected to political initiatives toward electric mobility, adding that when those initiatives are there, “the registration figures for the BMW i3 soar.”

The CEO cited Norway as an example, where the government not only has a charging infrastructure where owners can park and recharge for free, but does not levy sales or registration taxes on EVs. Those incentives have helped BMW move 2,000 i3s in 2014.

Meanwhile, significant financial subsidies in the United States, as well as privileges such as use of dedicated HOV lanes, led to sales of 3,000 units in California alone, a figure that is half of all i3s sold in the U.S.

Other incentives include looser licensing restrictions in Shanghai, circulation tax exemptions for 10 years from date of first registration in Germany, and company car tax exemptions for life in France.

Speaking of Germany, where 2,000 i3s were sold in 2014, Reithofer said his country’s government needs to “pick up the pace” in pushing electric mobility. Germany wants 1 million EVs on its roads by 2020, and has plans to offer additional incentives to achieve its goal.

In the meantime, BMW will introduce its DriveNow car-sharing service this spring, beginning in London. San Francisco will be the first U.S. city in the program by May, while the German cities of Hamburg, Berlin and Munich will join in July. The program is meant to help boost acceptance of electrification, and widening the tech’s appeal among younger drivers.

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Review: 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender aka i3 REx (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-bmw-i3-range-extender-aka-i3-rex-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-bmw-i3-range-extender-aka-i3-rex-video/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 16:24:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1018290 Some call it a hybrid, some call it an EV. Some have called it a REx, a BEVx, a landmark vehicle in EV production, and others simply call it ugly. One things is for sure however, the 2015 BMW i3 turns more heads in Northern California than a Tesla Model S. Not since I last […]

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2015 BMW i3 Range Extender
Some call it a hybrid, some call it an EV. Some have called it a REx, a BEVx, a landmark vehicle in EV production, and others simply call it ugly. One things is for sure however, the 2015 BMW i3 turns more heads in Northern California than a Tesla Model S. Not since I last drove the Jaguar XKR-S have I received as many questions while parked at the gas pump, or visited a gas pump so frequently, but I digress. In a nutshell, the i3 is technically a hybrid or an EV depending on the version you get.

 

BEVx

The “hybrid” i3 isn’t the kind of hybrid you’re used to, this is an all-new classification of car defined by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as a “Battery Electric Vehicle with Range eXtender” or BEVx. BEVx is the key to understanding why the i3 operates the way that it does and why the Euro version operates differently.

California has decided (for better or worse) that some 22% of cars sold in the state must be zero-emissions vehicles (ZEV) by 2025. While that sounds straightforward, nothing cooked up by the government and lobbyists can ever be easy. Rather than an actual percentage of cars sold, CARB created a credit system where an alphabet soup of classifications (PZEV, AT-PZEV, TZEV, etc) get partial credits and true ZEVs can get multiple credits. Into this complicated world came the unicorn that is the BEVx. Despite having a gasoline burning engine, BEVxs get the same credits as a vehicle with the same range and no dinosaur-burner. The distinction is important and critical. If the BEVx requirements are met, the i3 gets the same 2.5 credits as the i3 EV, if not it would get a fractional credit just like a regular Prius. The requirements are: the fossil fuel range must be less or equal to the EV range, EV range but be at least 80 miles, the battery must deplete to a low level before the generator kicks in and may not be charged above that level. In addition the fossil fuel generator or APU must meet CA’s SULEV emissions standards and have a long battery warranty. There’s one important catch: the carpool stickers. While BMW gets to have the i3 REx treated like an EV for credits, i3 REx owners are treated like hybrid owners for the carpool sticker program. The EV model gets the coveted (and unlimited) white carpool lane stickers, while the REx gets the same quantity-limited green stickers as the Chevy Volt. If CA follows course, the green sticker program will eventually sunset like the yellow-sticker hybrid program did in 2011.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-004

Construction

The i3 is about more than just ZEV credits, it’s about putting new materials and processes into production for real drivers to experience with some funky modern style tossed in for good measure. In some ways the i3 is a return to body-on-frame construction, you see this is not a 100% carbon fiber car as some have incorrectly said.

The i3 is composed of two distinct parts. On the bottom is the drive module which is an aluminum chassis that holds the drivetrain, suspension, battery and crash structures. Connected to the drive module is the “life module” which is made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic or CFRP. While obviously a little heavier than a car made entirely out of CFRP, the aluminum crash structure is more easily repaired in the event of a minor collision. The result is an EV that tips the scales about a cupcake shy of a Mazda MX-5 with an automatic transmission (2,634 pounds). Adding the range extender adds just 330 more. That’s about 370lbs lighter than the already impressive 3,000 pound (approximate) curb weight of VW’s new eGolf.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior Turn Signal

Exterior

Up front the i3 gets a familiar BMW roundel and a blue interpretation of the signature kidney grill. What’s different about the i3 is that the kidney isn’t used for cooling, even in the range extending version. The biggest departures from BMW norms however are the headlamps which lack the “angel eye” rings BMW has been known for and the high beams that are placed lower in the facia. (No, those are not fog lamps.) Regardless of the trim or paint color you choose, the hood, lower valance, side trim and rear hatch will always be black.

The side view generated the most head turns due to the undulating greenhouse and “pinched” look to the rear windows. I didn’t find the look unattractive, but it does reduce rearward visibility in what is ostensibly a practical city car. Out back the hatch is composed of two sheets of glass, one for the rear windscreen and the other forms the “body” of the hatch and actually covers the tail lamp modules creating a very sleek look. Turn the steering wheel and passers-by will immediately forget about the pinched greenhouse and focus on the tires. Yes, they are as skinny as they look, but the proportion is the real key to the “bicycle wheel” look as one passenger called it. Our tester was shod with 155/70R19 tires up front and 175/70R19 in back. For reference a Toyota Sienna uses a T155 tire as a spare. Thinking critically, there have been plenty of cars with tires this narrow, but I can’t think of a single one where the width combined with a nearly flat wheel that was 19 or 20 inches across.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Seats Doors Open

Interior

Freed from the usual front-engine, rear-drive layout of every other BMW, the Germans decided to reinvent the cabin. Because the drive module under the cabin houses the majority of the crash structure, the CFRP body was built without a structural pillar between the front and rear seats. The suicide door design means that getting in and out of the rear seat is surprisingly easy, as long as you haven’t parked too close to another vehicle. Without the transmission tunnel the HVAC system was pushed as far forward as possible allowing the driver and front passenger’s footwell to become merged. (There are just two floor-mats, one up front and one in back.)

The doors aren’t the only unusual thing about the i3’s interior, the design is decidedly Euro-funky. From the steering column mounted shifter to the “floating” iDrive display and glove box on the “top” of the dash rather than the front, the i3 designers went out of their way to think out of the box. The concept-car like theme doesn’t stop at shapes, the materials are a little unusual as well. The upholstery in our model was a wool/recycled-plastic blend fabric and the dashboard and door panels are made from a bioplastic reinforced with kneaf fibers (a kind of jute.) Front seat comfort proved excellent despite lacking adjustable lumbar support. The rear of the i3 was surprisingly accommodating, able to handle six-foot tall folks without issue. Because the dash is so shallow, a rear facing child seat can be positioned behind that six-foot person without issue. As with other small EVs on the market, the i3 is a strict four-seater. My only disappointment inside was the small LCD instrument cluster (shown below) which is notably smaller than the i3’s own infotainment/navigation LCD.

Under the hood of the i3 you’ll find a small storage area (also called a “frunk”) that houses the tire inflater and the 120V EVSE cable. The i3’s frunk is not watertight like you’ll find in the Tesla Model S, so don’t put your tax paperwork inside on your way to the IRS audit in the rain. Cargo capacity behind the rear seats comes in at 11.8 cubes, about the same as your average subcompact hatch. Getting the i3 sans range extender won’t increase your cargo capacity as the area where the range extender fits remains off limits from your luggage.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster

Drivetrain

Being a rear wheel drive electric car, the i3’s motor is located under the cargo floor in the back. With 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque on tap, the i3 is one of the more powerful EVs on the market. The light curb weight and gearing in the single-speed transmission allow a 6.5 second sprint to 60 in the EV and 7.0 in the REx. Powering all the fun is a 22kWh (18.8 kWh usable) battery pack in the “drive module” coupled to a 7.4kW charger capable of charging the car completely in just over 2.5 hours on AC. Should you need more electrons faster, you can opt for the new SAE DC-Fast-Charge connector capable of getting you from zero to 80% in under 30 minutes. 18.8kWh sounds much smaller than the  37kWh Tesla battery in the Mercedes B-class, but the i3 is much more efficient putting their range figures just 5 miles apart at 80-100 miles for the EV and 70-90 for the REx.

Next to the motor is the optional range extender. It’s a 34 peak horsepower 0.65L 2-cylinder engine derived from one of BMW’s motorcycle powerplants. Permanently to a generator, it can supply power to the motor, or charge the battery until it hits about 6%. The 1.9 US gallon gas tank is capable of powering the small engine for an additional 70-80 miles depending on your driving style. There is no mechanical connection at all between the engine and the wheels. Think of the battery as a ballast tank, you can pull 170 HP out whenever you want, but the supply refilling the ballast flows at a maximum of 34. This means that it is entirely possible to drain the battery and have just 34 HP left to motivate your car.

Battery Flow

Sounds like the Volt you say? Yes and no. The Volt is more of a plug-in hybrid with some software tweaks and the i3 is a range extending EV. I know that sounds like splitting hairs but some of this comes down to the way GM decided to market the Volt when it launched. The Volt’s transaxle and 2-motor/generator system is actually much closer to the Ford/Toyota hybrid design than anything else on the market. Because of that design it can operate as an EV, as a serial hybrid or as a parallel hybrid. Interestingly enough however, maximum performance happens in gas-burning mode, just like the plug-in Prius and plug-in Ford Energi products. With the i3 however, performance is always the same (unless the battery is totally dead.) Also in the Volt you can opt to “reserve” your EV capacity for later, and that isn’t allowed in US bound i3 models (you can in Europe) in order to get that coveted BEVx classification.

Technically speaking, it is possible for any hybrid (i3 included) to enter a “limp mode” where the battery is depleted and all you have left is the gasoline engine. The difference is what you have left when this happens. The i3 has far less oomph in this situation than even the 80 HP Volt, 98 HP Prius or 141 HP in the Fusion/C-Max Energi.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Shifter

Drive

The i3’s steering is precise and quick with just 2.5 turns lock-to-lock and the turning circle is 10% smaller than a MINI Cooper at 32-feet. Due to the combination of a fast steering ratio, narrow tires, electric steering assist and the incredibly light curb weight, the i3 can feel twitchy on the road, responding immediately to the slightest steering input. That feeling combined with low rolling resistance tires (that squeal long before they give up grip) make the i3 feel less capable than it actually is. Once you get used to the feeling however, it turns out to be the best handling non-Tesla EV currently made. Is that a low bar? Perhaps, but the i3 leaps over it.

BMW’s “one pedal concept” is the fly in the ointment. Here’s the theory: if you drive like a responsible citizen, you just use the accelerator pedal. Press on the pedal and the car goes.  Lift and the car brakes. Lift completely and the i3 engages maximum regenerative braking (brake lights on) and takes you to a complete stop. As long as the road is fairly level, the i3 will remain stopped until you press the go-pedal once more. On paper it sounds novel, in practice it annoyed me and made my leg ache. The reason is that in order to coast you either shift to neutral or hover your foot in the right position. If the i3 could adjust the “foot-off” regen, I’d be happy. Driving the i3 back to back with VW’s new eGolf didn’t make the one-pedal any better because the VW allows you to adjust the regen from zero to maximum in four steps easily and intuitively.

BMW i3 One Pedal Operation Concept Brake Neutral Go

The i3 EV’s wider rear tires mean that despite being RWD and almost perfectly balanced you get predictable understeer as the road starts to curve. You can induce some oversteer if you’re aggressive on the throttle, but BMW’s stability control nanny cannot be disabled and the intervention is early and aggressive. Toss in the range extender’s 300+ pounds and understeer is a more frequent companion. You can still get the REx a little tail happy if you try however. The i3 will never be a lurid tail happy track car like an M235i, but the fact that any oversteer is possible in an EV is a rare feat since nearly everything else on the market is front heavy and front wheel drive. Put simply the BMW i3 is the best driving and best handling EV this side of the Model S.

Now let’s talk range extender again. After hearing the complaints about the i3’s “limp” mode when you’re left with just 34 ponies, I tried to make it happen to see what the fuss was about. I hopped in the car with the battery at 6% and started off to work. Climbing from 700ft to 2,200ft worked out just fine at 45-50 MPH on a winding mountain road, going down from 2,200 to sea level at 60 MPH was uneventful as well. I hopped on CA-85 and set the cruise control to 65 since the rumor mill told me the top speed would max out at 65ish with the battery dead. 15 miles later my battery was still very much alive so I kicked it up a notch to 75 and switched over to Interstate 280 where rolling hills would tax the battery further. 20 miles later the range extender was humming like a dirt bike in my blind spot but I wasn’t slowing down. I decided drastic measures were needed. I kicked the i3 up another notch to [intentionally left blank] MPH and watched as the battery gauge ran to zero. Finally. Except it wasn’t that exciting. It didn’t feel like I hit the brakes, it simply felt like someone had backed off the throttle. It took me around 1.5 miles to drop from [intentionally left blank] MPH to 55 MPH which was more than enough time for me to put my tail between my legs and move four lanes to the right.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster-001

Hitting the “34 HP barrier” as I started to call it proved a little easier at closer-to-legal speeds when hill climbing, and the effects were a little more drastic. On a winding road where driving a car hard involves heavy braking before corners and full throttle exits, the i3 ran out of steam after 4 miles. The i3 then spent the next 8 miles with the go-pedal on the floor at speeds ranging from 37 to 50 MPH.

When running on the range extender, I averaged 60-65 miles before I refilled the tiny tank which came out to somewhere around 38 MPG. The number surprised some, but personally it sounds about right because the energy losses in a serial hybrid can be high (up to 20% if you believe Toyota and Honda). What did surprise me is just how livable the i3 REx was. Despite BMW constantly saying that the REx wasn’t designed to be driven like a hybrid, over 300 miles of never charging I never had a problem driving the car just like I’d drive a Prius, only stopping more often for fuel. Way more often. The i3 REx can drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles stopping every 60 miles for gas, I’m not sure I’d do that, but it is nice to know I could.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Dashboard

Starting at $42,400 in EV form and $46,250 for the REx model, the i3 has the same kind of sticker shock as all EVs. However if you qualify for the maximum incentives the i3 REx comes down to a more reasonable $36,250 which is a little less than a 2015 328i. That slots the i3 between the rabble and the Tesla and more or less the same as the Mercedes B-Class, the only real i3 competition. In this narrow category the i3 is an easy win. It is slightly more fun to drive than the B-Class, a hair faster, considerably more efficient, has the ability to DC fast charge and the range extender will allow gasoline operation if required. The i3 is funky and complicated and BMW’s 320i is probably a better car no matter how you slice it, but none of that changes the fact the i3 is probably one of the most important cars of our time. Not because the i3 is a volume produced carbon fiber car, but because we are likely to see may more “BEVx” category “range extending” vehicles in our future (for more unicorn credits) and this is now the benchmark.

 BMW provided the vehicle, insurance and 1.9 gallons of gasoline for this review.

 Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.0 Seconds

0-60: 7.0 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.5 Seconds @ 86 MPH

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BMW Brings i Series PHEV Tech To X5 xDrive40e http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/bmw-brings-series-phev-tech-x5-xdrive40e/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/bmw-brings-series-phev-tech-x5-xdrive40e/#comments Tue, 17 Mar 2015 10:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1023889 Having experimented with its i Series, BMW is bringing over its PHEV technology to its core collection, beginning with the X5 xDrive40e. Power for the PHEV crossover comes from a 2-liter four-cylinder using BMW’s TwinPower Turbo system paired with a synchronous electric motor integrated into the crossover’s eight-speed automatic. A combined 313 horses and 332 […]

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BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV 03

Having experimented with its i Series, BMW is bringing over its PHEV technology to its core collection, beginning with the X5 xDrive40e.

Power for the PHEV crossover comes from a 2-liter four-cylinder using BMW’s TwinPower Turbo system paired with a synchronous electric motor integrated into the crossover’s eight-speed automatic. A combined 313 horses and 332 lb-ft of torque are sent to all corners, helping to push the X5 from nil to 62 in 6.8 seconds. Top speed is limited to 130 mph, 75 mph in electric-only mode. Range is 19 miles on its 9-kWh lithium-ion pack.

Said pack reduces cargo space to 17.65 cubic feet with the rear seats up, 60.7 cubic feet with the seats down. The pack can be charged at home with the same charging units used by i3 and i8 owners, as well as through brake regeneration and at public charging stations.

Other features include an M Sport package, adaptive suspension, and bespoke offerings from BMW Individual.

No word on pricing or availability thus far, but European customers will be able to get theirs in the fall.

BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV 03 BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV 04 BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV 02 BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV 01 BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV 05 BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV 06 BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV 07 BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV 08 BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV 09 BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV 10 BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV 11 BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV 12 BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV 14 BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV 13 BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV 15 BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV 16

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BMW Files Two Patents For W3 Motorcycle Engines http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/bmw-files-two-patents-w3-motorcycle-engines/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/bmw-files-two-patents-w3-motorcycle-engines/#comments Fri, 13 Mar 2015 11:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1020937 BMW riders may soon find a W3 in place of a four-cylinder on their cruiser bikes. Autoblog reports the automaker has two separate patents filed for its W3 motorcycle engines, both meant to fill the same space as a traditional V-twin mill. Speaking of V-twins, one of the W3s is a modification of said unit, […]

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BMW riders may soon find a W3 in place of a four-cylinder on their cruiser bikes.

Autoblog reports the automaker has two separate patents filed for its W3 motorcycle engines, both meant to fill the same space as a traditional V-twin mill.

Speaking of V-twins, one of the W3s is a modification of said unit, where two cylinders share a crankpin while the third has one all to itself. The other W3 uses a fan design with pushrods controlling the valves.

As to where these engines might go if produced, a possible cruiser bike that could throwdown against the Ducati Diavel and similar cruisers would likely be the host for the W3s.

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FWD BMW 2 Series Models Too Small For USDM To Be Sold http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/fwd-bmw-2-series-models-small-usdm-sold/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/fwd-bmw-2-series-models-small-usdm-sold/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 13:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1020169 Hoping to drive home in a front-driven BMW 2 Series? You’ll have to settle for the RWD coupe, as the automaker has no plans to sell the former in the U.S. Automotive News reports the 2 Series Gran Tourer and Active Tourer — both based upon the UKL1 platform also underpinning the third-gen MINI Cooper […]

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BMW-2-Series-Active-Tourer

Hoping to drive home in a front-driven BMW 2 Series? You’ll have to settle for the RWD coupe, as the automaker has no plans to sell the former in the U.S.

Automotive News reports the 2 Series Gran Tourer and Active Tourer — both based upon the UKL1 platform also underpinning the third-gen MINI Cooper — won’t be leaving Germany for the U.S. market due to their small size.

Per a representative, the Gran Tourer’s 179-inch length and the Active Tourer’s 171 inches are too small for a three-row minivan meant for the market. Thus, the smallest USDM BMW will be the 175.5-inch X1 crossover, which will become FWD via the UKL1 platform when the next-gen model goes on sale later this year.

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Reader Review: 2015 BMW X3 28i http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/reader-review-2015-bmw-x3-28i/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/reader-review-2015-bmw-x3-28i/#comments Sat, 31 Jan 2015 17:30:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=991458 If you’ve been around the automotive journalism long enough (and by long enough, I mean like three months in total), you’ll begin to realize that a lot of press vehicles you drive aren’t indicative of what most people actually buy. Most test vehicles have five figures worth of options, with features that at most, an […]

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X3 Exterior

If you’ve been around the automotive journalism long enough (and by long enough, I mean like three months in total), you’ll begin to realize that a lot of press vehicles you drive aren’t indicative of what most people actually buy. Most test vehicles have five figures worth of options, with features that at most, an auto journalist will expend 50 words on. Meanwhile, on lots across the country, most dealers probably have one or two very loaded cars which end up being discounted heavily towards the end of the quarter.

My experience of full-optioned press cars had to do with a silver BMW 335i xDrive Gran Turismo at a local auto journalist event. While the base price of the car was $47,775, this car had almost $12,000 in options, or enough to buy an E36 M3 in good condition. “Let’s give it the more powerful engine, all-wheel-drive, the dynamic handling package, and the M Sport package” the person in charge of configuring the 3-Series GT must have thought, “at least auto journalists will say it handled very well and forget about the styling.” This car even had head-up display and the $650 M Sport brakes.

Even when I was searching for road tests of the X3 online, I good majority were reviews of the powerful xDrive35i version or for the new diesel model. So when I had access to a 2015 X3 xDrive28i for a few days, I leapt at the opportunity to write a review on it, because it was the version most X3 buyers purchased.

Now, this 2015 BMW X3 xDrive28i that I’m writing about is not a vehicle designated for press people. In fact, it belongs to my dad, and while he chose the color combination, I chose most of the options. As a result, I can’t blame whoever specs BMW’s press vehicles. So the fact it doesn’t have the navigation system, which saves me a paragraph describing it? My fault. That it doesn’t have heated seats? My lapse. The fact that it doesn’t have parking sensors or a rear-view camera? My bad. The fact that I still don’t know what the $500 “Enhanced USB/Bluetooth with Smartphone Integration” option does? I really need to get on that.

As for the things I am proud of, it’s the Deep Sea Blue exterior color and Oyster color interior. (A quick note on the Oyster leather: it’s surprisingly easy to stain, so be careful when wearing jeans or leaving a pen on the seat.) This one also has the Premium Package with a massive moonroof and keyless entry, the xenon lights, and the Harman/Kardon sound system. And all of it was available at an MSRP south of $50K.

Before reading the rest of the review, you might think, “He must have recommended this car to his dad if he’s writing about it! This is totally going to be a love story about the X3!” Believe it or not, I recommended the Jeep Grand Cherokee Ecodiesel, as a very well-equipped one came in easily under $50,000, got good fuel mileage, and I thought it handled very well for its size. But my dad drove it and dismissed it as too big.

Other cars considered were Lexus RX (too soccer mom-ish), Toyota 4Runner (too truck-ish), Toyota Highlander (this is for replacing the minivan). The Mercedes GLK, Audi Q5, and Range Rover Evoque were dismissed as my dad is a BMW person. (For background, the man kept an E39 530i running for 13 years, which is two more than the 1990 Accord he had.) I don’t think he drove any of those alternatives, and neither have I, so I won’t definitively say the X3 is the best out of all those alternatives.

First, I’ll focus on the interior, which is about the same size as the interior of the first-generation X5. It’s a pleasant place with chrome accents and wood trim in the right places. The Oyster interior helps considerably too. The cupholders are usable, which is important when coming from a car in which both cupholders (if you can call them those) are broken. The panoramic moonroof that’s part of the Premium package was great for the scenic photos when driving down Highway 1. In fact, the X3 managed to easily fit five adults and their luggage for a weekend. Moreover, the Harmon/Kardon sound system is a pretty good upgrade from the normal sound system.

However, if you’re over 6”3’, more than 200 pounds, and might need a third seat, don’t consider the X3. Otherwise, when sitting in the driver’s seat, your head will hit the ceiling and you’ll probably find the seat not wide enough. Additionally, while I wrote in the last paragraph that the X3 could seat 3 full-size adults, just make sure the cumulative weight doesn’t exceed 500 pounds. And if you’re a family of four who takes their dog with them on road trips, the X3 is not your car.

Though the options list is long, there’s surprisingly (for a BMW) a lot of standard features. The storage package, which includes cargo nets, a collapsible cargo box, and a reversible mat, is standard. So is the automatic climate control. Even the ambient lighting that I praised is standard. The tailgate and side mirrors are power-operated. However, the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel is not power-operated, which coming from the 530i, was a disappointment.

Whenever I discuss the exterior, I generally don’t focus too much on styling. But the X3 was facelifted for the 2015 model year, with most of the differences being on the front clip, with the headlights that connect to the grille. BMW offers two appearance packages: the xLine package and the M Sport body kit. Personally, I don’t like the look of the M Sport package (or sport packages in general), while the xLine has the silver trim bits for the faux off-roader look, which I don’t mind. There are also turn signals on the side mirrors. One thing I did like was the exterior lighting beneath the door handles when getting into the car. BMW got the ambient lighting very, very right. Also, the X3 comes with the foot sensor as standard

Regarding performance, I didn’t push the X3 to its limits because a) it belongs to my dad and not BMW of North America, and b) it has less than 1400 miles on the odometer so the drivetrain still needed to be broken in. It has a 2.0-liter inline-four with a twin-scroll turbo that makes about 240 hp. According the BMW website, it can go from 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, which is quicker than the 530i it’s replacing. On the highway, I never found myself complaining about lack of power, even when it was fully loaded with five people. If you need something faster, the xDrive35i with 300 horsepower is about $5,000 more.

I briefly played with the different powertrain modes, which were: Comfort, Sport, and Eco Pro. Eco Pro makes the X3 rear-drive only and ensures the transmission is in the highest gear possible for the best mileage. I found myself using it in high traffic situations, where quick throttle response wasn’t needed. Sport mode sharpened up throttle response, but I found myself never using it and suspect most owners won’t either. Usually I drove the X3 in its default mode, Comfort, in which I didn’t need to press the throttle closer to the floor and when all-wheel-drive was on.

For those of you contemplating the diesel version of the 2015 X3 (the xDrive28d model), I considered that one too. In fact, I even put a deposit on one until we were informed that Hawaii (no joke!) was allocated the last X3 diesel build slots for a 2014 delivery. However, since the diesel is $1,500 more expensive and the price of premium gas has gone down significantly, the normal xDrive28i is a viable alternative. Also, my dad test drove the diesel X3 (while I was in the back seat playing with the air vents) and found the power deficit noticeable compared to the normal version and noisy at lower speeds.

Ultimately, if you have $50,000 to spend on a luxury five-passenger crossover, you can’t go wrong with the X3. When we were buying the X3 at the end of last year, it became easier to find a 7-Series in a dealer’s inventory in Northern California than any version of the X3. It was even easier to find an Audi S4 than an X3. They’re that popular. So BMW must be doing something right with the X3 (or they’re exporting more abroad for higher profits, or the X4 took up a good portion of the assembly line) that people are snapping them up left and right.

In the end, I understand why. The xDrive28i is surprisingly well-priced as long as you don’t go overboard with the options.  It handles nicely, can accelerate quickly, has a pleasant interior, has four years of free maintenance, and can take a lot of cargo. My dad, and not me, made an excellent decision, and neither of us have any regrets. Except for the “Enhanced USB/Bluetooth with Smartphone Integration” option. I still haven’t figured that one out.

DSC_0174 DSC_0175 DSC_0177 DSC_0179 DSC_0184 IMG_20150130_201148 X3 Exterior X3 front X3 Rear

Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end, once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. He still prefers the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel.

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Land Rovers, Jaguars Et Al Leave Höegh Osaka After Month At Sea http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/land-rovers-jaguars-et-al-leave-hoegh-osaka-month-sea/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/land-rovers-jaguars-et-al-leave-hoegh-osaka-month-sea/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 11:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=991122 Having spent most of January on its side, the Höegh Osaka returned to Southampton, England Tuesday to unload 1,400 premium vehicles bound for Germany. According to The Daily Mail, the car carrier was intentionally run aground in the Solent off the Isle of Wight January 3 when it began to list at 52 degrees shortly […]

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Land Rover Hoegh Osaka

Having spent most of January on its side, the Höegh Osaka returned to Southampton, England Tuesday to unload 1,400 premium vehicles bound for Germany.

According to The Daily Mail, the car carrier was intentionally run aground in the Solent off the Isle of Wight January 3 when it began to list at 52 degrees shortly after departing for Germany through the English Channel. Around 1,400 premium vehicles were onboard, including Land Rover Defenders, Jaguar XFs, MINIs, a Rolls-Royce Wraith, and a Porsche Boxster.

Presently, each of the 1,400 vehicles aboard are being inspected for any damage, especially the type that would mean a final ride to the crusher. The final total won’t come until early next week at the latest, though a decision to follow in Mazda’s footsteps — the automaker scrapped 4,700 units aboard the Cougar Ace in 2006 — would prove costly; the total value of Höegh Osaka’s cargo stands at £30 million ($45 million USD).

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Toyota, BMW Working On Entry-Level MINI Minor Model http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-bmw-working-entry-level-mini-minor-model/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-bmw-working-entry-level-mini-minor-model/#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2015 12:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988994 Been waiting for a MINI that actually lives up to its name? Toyota and BMW are working on such a thing, called the Minor. Automobile Magazine reports the Minor is in the earliest phases of development, and would likely pull its looks from the 2012 Rocketman concept and the current Paceman crossover. Pricing would range […]

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Been waiting for a MINI that actually lives up to its name? Toyota and BMW are working on such a thing, called the Minor.

Automobile Magazine reports the Minor is in the earliest phases of development, and would likely pull its looks from the 2012 Rocketman concept and the current Paceman crossover. Pricing would range between $14,500 and $16,000.

As far as platforms go, the two automakers are going all in on a “bargain basement effort” for the Minor — including a reduction in size and content — instead of using a similarly sized platform like that of the Toyota Aygo, BMW preferring the Minor to not be a badge-engineered product developed and assembled elsewhere.

The new MINI would be one of five new models coming into the portfolio between now and 2018, including an all-new 2016 Countryman and a Superleggera roadster for 2018.

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Carlypso: PHEVs To Reach 1 Percent Market Share In Q1 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/carlypso-phevs-reach-1-percent-market-share-q1-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/carlypso-phevs-reach-1-percent-market-share-q1-2015/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988434 By the end of Q1 2015, PHEVs are expected to take 1 percent of the overall U.S. domestic market despite fuel prices continuing their downward spiral. Online used-car resell agent Carlypso reports that while just over 50 percent of U.S. new-car sales are focused on light-duty pickups, falling fuel prices haven’t done much to boost […]

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By the end of Q1 2015, PHEVs are expected to take 1 percent of the overall U.S. domestic market despite fuel prices continuing their downward spiral.

Online used-car resell agent Carlypso reports that while just over 50 percent of U.S. new-car sales are focused on light-duty pickups, falling fuel prices haven’t done much to boost sales during the January 2013 – December 2014 period from whence the report collected its data, based on a sample of 16.3 million units.

The report also looked at over 28 million car sales in the same period, finding that PHEVs and EVs like the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt and BMW i3 made up 217,217 — or 0.86 percent — of said sales. In December 2014 alone, the Leaf, Volt, i3 and Tesla Model S collectively made up over 70 percent of U.S. PHEV/EV sales, despite the average price at the pump hitting $2.43/gallon that month; the current average is $2.05/gallon, down $1.23 from a year ago.

Carlypso co-founder Nicholas Hinrichsen says the findings show that consumers aren’t changing their behavior with the pump, opting to buy whatever they want as far as features and branding are concerned. He added that a vehicle’s value and demand isn’t going to change with the oil market either, advising consumers to let investors worry about how much West Texas Intermediate will go for per barrel.

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BMW, Volkswagen Team With ChargePoint For Bi-Coastal Network http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/bmw-volkswagen-team-chargepoint-bi-coastal-network/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/bmw-volkswagen-team-chargepoint-bi-coastal-network/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=987810 More charging stations are on the way for EV owners, thanks to a new partnership between BMW, Volkswagen and ChargePoint. The first phase of the partnership will be 100 DC fast chargers running north to south between Portland and San Diego on the West Coast, Boston and the District of Columbia on the East Coast. […]

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BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf DC Charging

More charging stations are on the way for EV owners, thanks to a new partnership between BMW, Volkswagen and ChargePoint.

The first phase of the partnership will be 100 DC fast chargers running north to south between Portland and San Diego on the West Coast, Boston and the District of Columbia on the East Coast. Each station will have up to two 50 kW DC Fast or 24 kW DC Combo Fast chargers for most EVs like the BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf, as well as Level 2 chargers for all EVs. Access to each location is granted by a ChargePoint or ChargeNow membership card.

The new stations will be in metro and intercity locations — such as restaurants, malls and rest stops — spaced up to 50 miles apart for long-distance travel, joining a network of over 20,000 ChargePoint stations throughout the United States. The first location is online now in San Diego County, Calif., with the other 99 expected by the end of 2015.

Express Charging.Infographic.300dpi

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NAIAS 2015: BMW May Introduce AWD to M Division, No M Supercar In Future http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-bmw-may-introduce-awd-m-division-no-m-supercar-future/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-bmw-may-introduce-awd-m-division-no-m-supercar-future/#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 21:50:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=982377 With Mercedes-AMG models delivering their power to the road through all four wheels, BMW is considering doing the same for most of its M division. However, if anyone was hoping the Bavarians would also bring back the M1, you can breathe now. AutoGuide reports BMW has no plans to add an AWD system to the […]

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With Mercedes-AMG models delivering their power to the road through all four wheels, BMW is considering doing the same for most of its M division. However, if anyone was hoping the Bavarians would also bring back the M1, you can breathe now.

AutoGuide reports BMW has no plans to add an AWD system to the M3 and M4, since the additional weight of such a system would offset any gains the engineers made to shed weight on the two models.

However, for M models above the two, such as the M5 or M6, M Division product management chief Carsten Pries says if his division sees “further increases in terms of horsepower in segments above the M3 and M4,” AWD could be a possibility.

As far as an M1 or i8-based M8 goes, though, he says such a proposition is “very exciting” and “lucrative,” such an effort wouldn’t make sense on either a technical or commercial level. Instead, the focus is on bringing in more profit with models like the M135i, and those from the M Sport range:

[Cars like these] clearly give us an indication of how much demand there is to go up from a top model BMW model into the exclusive products of BMW M. Customers say ‘I want even more of this very emotional experience,’ and they ideally end up with an M Sport and then an M core model.

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NAIAS 2015: BMW 6 Series Reveals New Face For 2016 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-bmw-6-series-reveals-new-face-2016/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-bmw-6-series-reveals-new-face-2016/#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 19:20:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=981521 Behold the new face of luxury: the 2016 BMW 6 Series. Our brothers at AutoGuide report the facelift includes revised grill openings, a front apron with a single air intake opening, fog lamps whose decorative surround changes on the body style, and updated headlamps. Revised side view mirrors and a redesigned backside emphasizing the BMW’s […]

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2016 BMW 6 Series 04

Behold the new face of luxury: the 2016 BMW 6 Series.

Our brothers at AutoGuide report the facelift includes revised grill openings, a front apron with a single air intake opening, fog lamps whose decorative surround changes on the body style, and updated headlamps. Revised side view mirrors and a redesigned backside emphasizing the BMW’s wide track make up the rest of the exterior changes.

Under the bonnet is the same story from before: 315-horsepower six-cylinder or 445-horsepower V8, with RWD and AWD available for the 6 Series coupe, gran coupe and convertible. Those who opt for the 640i will have a standard sport exhaust system with switchable exhaust to enhance or reduce exhaust notes.

The revised 6 Series is set to arrive in showrooms Q2 2015.

2016 BMW 6 Series 04 2016 BMW 6 Series 01 2016 BMW 6 Series 02 2016 BMW 6 Series 03

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New Apps, Infotainment Systems Turn Up At 2015 CES http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/new-apps-infotainment-systems-turn-2015-ces/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/new-apps-infotainment-systems-turn-2015-ces/#comments Thu, 08 Jan 2015 14:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=973610 Autonomous alien luxury pods and royalty-free hydrogen patents aren’t the only things coming onto the stage during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Today, we’ll show you the latest and greatest from BMW, FCA, Audi and Ford, with the help from our brothers and sisters over at AutoGuide. BMW introduced non-contact gesture controls […]

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FCA Uconnect Access Services

Autonomous alien luxury pods and royalty-free hydrogen patents aren’t the only things coming onto the stage during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Today, we’ll show you the latest and greatest from BMW, FCA, Audi and Ford, with the help from our brothers and sisters over at AutoGuide.

BMW introduced non-contact gesture controls for its Control Display touchscreen infotainment system, allowing drivers to input a given address with directed gestures made between the instrument panel and gear shift, among other tasks. Another system, Touch Command, will use a standard Samsung tablet to handle all infotainment and comfort functions, and provides wireless access to all onboard electronics for all passengers.

Over at FCA, the automaker debuted new additions to its Uconnect Access suite of apps: Vehicle Finder, Send Destination to Vehicle, Monthly Vehicle Report and Vehicle Health Alert. All four allow owners to keep tabs on their vehicle’s systems, easily navigate to a given destination, and know where their vehicle is at all times. The new suite will debut in H1 2015 on select FCA products equipped with either 8.4A or 8.4AN Uconnect systems.

Audi showed off the new interior of the next-gen Q7 — set to bow in Detroit next week as a 2016 model — to the media in attendance at the 2015 CES. The dashboard arrangement is derived from the TT, featuring a 12.3-inch Audi Virtual Cockpit display with 3D maps and other important information. An additional pop-up central display uses a rotary knob and touch-sensitive pad to operate, while two large, removable, Wi-Fi-enabled tablets mounted in the back of the front headrests provide navigation info and entertainment for those seated in back.

Finally, Ford has added on AccuWeather and Life360 to the AppLink suite of apps on-board the new, QNX-based Sync 3 system. The Life360 Sync 3 app has a special Drive Mode feature that sends text messages to a driver’s friends and family so that they know not to contact the user while driving, with a follow-up text sent upon arrival at the user’s destination. AccuWeather, meanwhile, will use GPS to give minute-by-minute weather forecasts to help drivers better deal with and plan around inclement weather.

BMW CES 2015 01 BMW CES 2015 02 BMW CES 2015 03 BMW CES 2015 04 Uconnect_Access_Smartphone_App_ Vehicle_Finder Send_Destination_to_Vehicle_FCA Monthly_Vehicle_Health_Report Audi Q7 CES 2015 01 Audi Q7 CES 2015 02 Audi Q7 CES 2015 03 Audi Q7 CES 2015 04 Ford CES 2015 01 Ford CES 2015 02 Ford CES 2015 03 Ford CES 2015 04

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BMW Takes US Luxury Sales Crown Back From Mercedes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/bmw-takes-us-luxury-sales-crown-back-mercedes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/bmw-takes-us-luxury-sales-crown-back-mercedes/#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2015 12:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=972809 After a year-long battle for the top position on the U.S. luxury sales podium, BMW takes back the crown Mercedes-Benz won in 2013. Reuters reports the Bavarians moved over 9,000 more units by the end of 2014 over the wonder boys back in Stuttgart, coming out to a total of 339,738 for BMW, 330,391 for […]

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After a year-long battle for the top position on the U.S. luxury sales podium, BMW takes back the crown Mercedes-Benz won in 2013.

Reuters reports the Bavarians moved over 9,000 more units by the end of 2014 over the wonder boys back in Stuttgart, coming out to a total of 339,738 for BMW, 330,391 for Mercedes. Both automakers also experienced growth in U.S. sales during the last year, though BMW’s 9.8 percent boost over 2013’s numbers raced past Mercedes’ 5.7 percent increase.

Taking third on the podium was Lexus with 311,389 units sold in 2014, though its rate of growth bested the top two finishers at 13.7 percent over 2013.

Rounding out the rest of the U.S. mainstream luxury pack, Audi took fourth from Cadillac, the latter to be the only make to see a decline in growth in 2014, falling 6.5 percent to 170,750 units; Audi sold 182,011 over the same period, 15.2 percent more than it did in 2013.

Acura and Infiniti took sixth and seventh respectively, with 167,843 to 117,300 units moved. Both also experienced the lowest rates of growth in sales in the outgoing year: 1.5 percent in Acura’s favor, 0.8 percent for Infiniti.

Lincoln finished dead last with 94,474 units sold, but had the biggest rate of growth out of its fellow competitors compared to 2013 at 15.6 percent.

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Connected-Vehicle Tech Takes Center Stage At 2015 CES http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/connected-vehicle-tech-takes-center-stage-2015-ces/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/connected-vehicle-tech-takes-center-stage-2015-ces/#comments Tue, 06 Jan 2015 15:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=972098 You’ve seen the 2016 Chevrolet Volt at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show; now see what else automotive-related is debuting at the annual tech show in Las Vegas. Whether you have an iPhone 6 Plus or a Nexus 6, Volkswagen has you covered for connectivity. According to AutoGuide, the automaker unveiled its new App-Connect system at […]

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MirrorLink VW CES

You’ve seen the 2016 Chevrolet Volt at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show; now see what else automotive-related is debuting at the annual tech show in Las Vegas.

Whether you have an iPhone 6 Plus or a Nexus 6, Volkswagen has you covered for connectivity. According to AutoGuide, the automaker unveiled its new App-Connect system at CES 2015 with a demo in its e-Golf. The system also works with MirrorLink, found on smartphones like the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy Note, and Sony Xperia Z. Other demos involving the EV itself included its Intelligent Charge wireless charging system, and the Perfect Parking autonomous parking feature.

Sticking with VW, future BlackBerry spinoff QNX announced it would partner up with the brand in providing its technology for new 2015 models, including the Touareg, Passat and Golf. The system supports 3D Google Earth and Google Street View, and offers real-time traffic information, reverse camera display, and four-zone climate controls among its array of features. QNX is also in use by parent company Volkswagen AG’s Audi and Porsche brands.

QNX also unveiled its latest concept car at CES 2015. Based upon the Maserati Quattroporte GTS, the Snapdragon 602A-powered QNX Quattroporte Technology Concept Car introduces the company’s take on autonomous driving. The concept uses ultrasonic radar, LIDAR and cameras to navigate and anticipate obstacles, as well as provide warning to those inside via its high-res touchscreen display from the CLA 45 AMG QNX Concept. QNX also brought an updated version of its Jeep Wrangler Technology Concept Car to demo the company’s technologies via a virtualized driving environment.

Those of you dealing with “the second coming of the polar vortex” might be happy to know that one day, you’ll be able to start your car via smartphone. Valeo’s InBlue technology uses Bluetooth to not only accomplish said task, but to also unlock doors, allow for secure vehicle sharing, and access vitals like fuel level and where your car is among the many silver-backed crossovers in the mall parking lot. InBlue is also compatible with smartwatches, and could hit the market as early as 2016.

Finally, 100 select BMW i3 owners in northern California will take part in a pilot program by Pacific Gas & Electric Company and BMW to study electric-vehicle charging time management, with the aim of improving the grid and reducing total cost of ownership of EVs. The target is to give PG&E 100 kilowatts of capacity at any time, even while groups of EVs recharge their batteries; BMW will determine when an i3 is charged, though owners can override via the i3’s smartphone app upon notification. Each participant will be paid a $1,000 incentive for their time.

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