The Truth About Cars » 6MT The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:47:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » 6MT Autoblog Finds The New M5 6MT To Be Quite Unsatisfying At Nine-Tenths Thu, 11 Oct 2012 13:00:31 +0000

We haven’t had the chance to thrash the newest M5 around a racetrack yet, but Autoblog has been granted the privilege of running “nine-tenths” around both the Ascari course (in the DCT) and Laguna Seca (in the new six-speed manual variant). What do they have to say for themselves?

In his article on the new six-speed manual M5 — a variant that, like the six-speed manual E60 M5 before it, is exclusively supplied to the North American market as a concession to the BMWCCA Club Race crowd — Michael Harley is not enthusiastic about the “enthusiast” M5.

we were very involved as all four of our limbs were tasked with an individual role. The 6MT required us to become an integral part of the car – both microprocessor and hydraulic actuator – and our attention had to be diverted from the apex and exit markers to get the shifts just right. We were plenty quick in the 6MT (thankfully, gobs of torque allowed the M5 to run most of the track in third gear), but we lost precious time on a few shifts and had to really concentrate on nailing the downshift into second gear at Turn 11. It was also much more nerve racking flying one-handed through Turn One at 100-plus mph…

While there is nothing physically wrong with the manual box, rowing one’s own gears is based on a technology that peaked in the mid-1990s (think Acura NSX, Mazda MX-5 Miata or Honda S2000), and it really isn’t going to get any better…

the M5′s 6MT is a Frankensteinian adaptation to the platform incapable of handling the same stress as its dual-clutch sibling – that’s a fact…

While our enthusiast-rich blood craves involvement, in this particular situation, it became painfully clear that the computer-controlled 7DCT is the M5′s better transmission.

The guy writes like he’s Seb Vettel adjusting the fuel map in the middle of 130R or something while holding Lewis Hamilton exactly 1.2 seconds behind him to simultaneously conserve his tires and preserve the DRS distance. Is it really that difficult to drive a manual-transmission vehicle around a mostly empty racetrack? What would happen if the M5 had a regular old Blaupunkt FM radio with a knob?

we were very involved as each finger was tasked with individual control of the knob surface. The FM radio required us to become an integral part of the car — both frequency-locking quartz crystal and amplitude/quality evaluation microprocessors. It was nerve-racking trying to dial in the perfect sound for Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me” while at the same time inching forward in traffic.

Mr. Harley seems surprised and hugely impressed by the fact that the DCT gets around the racetrack quicker. He shouldn’t be. That’s been true of automanual transmissions more or less since the F355 F1 first made its way into the nightmares of Ferrari mechanics. He does, however, condescend to recommend something for the throwbacks who can’t stand to have a computer changing gear: they should go buy an E39 M5 with a stick-shift.

For better or worse, Mr. Harley’s autojourno privilege is on stark display here. Many prospective M5 buyers don’t want the choice of a clutch and stick for lap time, on-road pleasure, or even enthusiast credential at the Cars and Coffee. They want it because even after fifteen or so years of automated non-epicyclic transmissions, the technology is still fragile, difficult, expensive to repair, and resale poison everywhere the buyer has a choice. The people who are considering dropping $90K on these cars aren’t all lease-and-dump trustafarians looking to make a splash in the campus parking lot. Many of them are long-time BMW fans who keep their cars a long time. The pages of Roundel are filled with one-owner M cars from the Nineties, and they are also filled with llistings for SMG or DCT-equipped M cars selling for a considerable discount from their stick-shift kin.

Your humble author was a CCA member from 2001, when he got his first new Bimmer, to 2011, when he completely gave up on the brand. During that time, I came to know the mindset of M-car purchasers. Many of them look at automanuals as expensive transmission replacements waiting to happen. They don’t care about lap time — the ones who do care are running hopped-up E36es with numbers on the door. They want a durable, exciting sedan that makes them feel like an Autobahn dominator while they commute in bumper-to-bumper traffic. They want that car to last, they want to be able to enjoy it the whole time, and they want to get real money for it when they sell.

For those reasons and many others, BMW’s decision to bring the “throwback” transmission to us here in the States is a genuine, and useful, nod to the company’s emotional core. Mr. Harley is correct — at the awesome track velocities he and his compatriots achieve, the manual falls down. In the real world, however, it stands tall.

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Review: 2012 Hyundai i40cw BlueDrive (Euro-Spec) Thu, 22 Dec 2011 18:19:49 +0000


Editor’s note: be aware that the images are extremely large, in order to show off TTAC’s rare opportunity for amazing photo shoot locations.

What makes a flagship? It’s a question that gets to the heart of one’s philosophy as a car reviewer, and no better example exists to explore the issue than Hyundai. Here in the US, Hyundai’s unquestionable flagships are the large, rear-drive Genesis and Equus, well-equipped traditional luxury bruisers at a value price. And though these plush-but-understated cars sell well enough in these economically uncertain times (and they certainly help Hyundai embarrass the likes of Cadillac, which still lacks a true, large, rear-drive flagship barge), they don’t completely fit with the brand values that Hyundai has ridden to prominence across the globe. They’re not wildly efficient, they lack Hyundai’s dramatic “fluidic sculpture” design language, and they’re dreadfully conventional in light of Hyundai’s professed mission to promote “New Thinking, New Possibilities” in the automotive space. Indeed, they’re almost the last throwbacks to Hyundai’s old image of slightly stodgy cars that simply beat the competition hollow on value.

But if we look past the undeniable market logic to offering the Genesis and Equus in the US, it becomes clear that Hyundai has another flagship that almost perfectly captures the reasons the Korean brand has become such a force in the global car business in recent years. Though it might not be the right flagship for the US market, the Hyundai i40cw is far closer to representing the platonic ideal of Hyundai’s brand than any other car the brand offers. And as such it’s also just a damn good car.

Larger than Elantra but slightly smaller than Sonata (neither of which is available as such in Europe), the i40 is the largest family car offered by Hyundai in continental markets (Genesis is sold there only in Coupe form). And as if to confirm the model’s European focus, the i40 has been launched first as the slickly-styled wagon you see here, although a sedan version will launch next year. Based on the Sonata’s platform, the i40 is 5 cm shorter and has a 2.5 cm shorter wheelbase, bringing it more in line with the European D-Segment than America’s voluminous crop of family sedans. Still, the quarters are far from cramped; though the sleek roofline emphasizes style over space, there’s plenty of room for two six-footers in the backseat and less claustrophobia than you might think. Though clearly aimed at Europe, the i40cw isn’t fundamentally doomed to stay there.

The i40cw’s exterior styling is, in this reviewer’s opinion, the best example yet of Hyundai’s distinctive design language, and the car stands out even among the slickest of Euro-confections. But such determinations are fundamentally subjective; the interior of the i40 is much easier to praise in a purely objective manner. Though the design is not a major departure from the Sonata’s, it’s a little more expressive and gives a much higher impression of quality. Center instrument panel controls are more tightly clustered to create room for the larger display screen, and the design eliminates much of the Sonata’s cheaper looking and feeling materials. This pattern continues throughout the i40′s cabin, with great swaths of solidly-located, soft-touch plastics accented by minimal amounts of relatively high-quality faux-aluminum. In comparison with the brand-spankety new Euro-spec Volkswagen I drove in my second week in Europe (look for a review of that very soon), the i40 meets and in some respects even exceeds what you find in Euro-market benchmark vehicles.

As might be guessed from exterior images, outward visibility is somewhat compromised in the i40, especially in blind spots and the rear-view. But the slightly more compact dimensions and a suite of electronic gizmos that might seem like overkill in a car of this class more than overcome any downsides. Forward vision is excellent, and as I learned during a pitch-black ascent of an alpine pass, fully automatic headlights, which sense obstacles one either side of the car’s hood and adaptively add illumination where needed, keep the driver well-appraised of any obstacles and help navigate narrow roads and tunnels with ease. Parking sensors and a backup camera make parking a snap, even in spots and garages built for cars much smaller than the i40. Add an excellent navigation system (which need only update its information for Italian roads), and comfortable (if somewhat lacking in side bolstering) seats, and the i40 makes for a near-perfect European road trip vehicle.

Further making the case for its touring capabilities, as well as exemplifying Hyundai’s emphasis on efficiency, our 1.7 liter diesel drivetrain matched with a superb six-speed transmission kept the hits coming (if any part of the i40 should come to the US but probably won’t, it’s this slick six-cog box). Though making only 136 HP, Hyundai’s shockingly refined oil-burner churns out a far more respectable 243 lb-ft of torque, and hauls the 3,500-ish lb i40 to 100 km/h (~60 MPH) in a respectable 10.6 seconds. Though not fast by US standards, and demanding of a bit of gear-rowing to keep up a brisk pace, performance is more than adequate for a family car of its class. Let’s just say I had no problem cruising at  175 km/h (108 MPH) on Germany’s unlimited autobahns (although revs were a bit high at that speed), and managed to easily snag a speeding ticket after forgetting that Austria’s autobahns are not similarly lacking speed limits.

More importantly in countries where the i40 cost nearly €100 to fill with diesel, efficiency is exemplary. At 140 km/h (~86 MPH), where the i40 seems most comfortable making rapid touring progress, the onboard computer clung tenaciously to a 6 liters/100km readout (39.2 MPG), and shorter bursts on the German autobahn only brought it as low as 6.5 l/100km. Moreover, on interurban “B Roads,” mileage improved to between 5 and 5.5 l/100km (as good as 47 MPG), and thanks to the equipped “BlueDrive” technology (mostly a smooth stop-start system, as low-rolling-resistance tires were replaced with winter rubber), urban observed economy didn’t take much of a hit. We weren’t able to do any remotely scientific efficiency testing, but based on my impressions, this is a car that Hyundai could almost advertise in the US as a “40 MPG anywhere” family car. Suffice to say, we toured from Munich into the depths of Austria’s Salzkammergut, to Vienna, to Venice, back to Austria (including a side trip involving the afore-mentioned nighttime alpine ascent) and on through to Munich on less than two tanks of diesel.

Dynamically, the trip was far from a thrill-fest, as even Hyundai’s European offerings slightly lag the established competition in ride and handling. But compared to US-market Hyundai’s it’s still a big improvement: the suspension is more planted and the steering more feelsome than any US-spec Sonata. Conveniently light around town, the steering firms up nicely as you push on, but ultimately the i40 feels more comfortable making efficient rather than frantic pace. The nose is quite heavy thanks to the diesel lump, and the front suspension could use a bit more damping, or possibly a mild sport mode just to firm things up a little when the mountain roads call you onwards. But ultimately the engine delivers its torque in a fairly utilitarian manner, and in concert with a undertuned suspension, attempts at Alpine hoonery are soon abandoned in favor of gawking at the spectacular views. But for a visiting American, the i40 never ceased to feel like a competent, comforting ally in everything from cramped cities to unlimited autobahns.

In short, the i40 is not only a near-ideal family touring car for exploring the European continent, but I also came away with the impression that it’s Hyundai’s spiritual flagship. Expressive good looks on the outside meets a Winterkorn-scaringly high quality interior. Instantly-at-your-ease performance meets great fuel economy. Boatloads of sensible technology meets smart packaging and a unique aesthetic. Which leaves only Hyundai’s most traditional brand value: value. And here too, the i40cw lives up to its ascendant brand’s formula for success. Our “Style”-trimmed, 1.7 CRDi BlueDrive with “Plus Package” and Navigation costs a whisker over €33,000… but don’t go calculate that directly into dollars, as purchasing power adjustment puts the dollar and Euro on similar footing, practically speaking. A mid-trim Passat “Comfortline” TDI wagon with none of the Hyundai’s tech options costs about the same in Germany, offering a little more power, a little less (rated) efficiency, and (absent optional trims) less of a an impression of interior quality or slick exterior looks. In other words, the i40cw is a rolling object lesson in the priorities that Hyundai has ridden to world-class status, and the brand’s truest flagship.

Hyundai Germany provided the vehicle, insurance and one (expensive) tank of diesel for this review.

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