The Truth About Cars » bmw 3 series The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 13 Jul 2014 22:36:48 +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 » bmw 3 series Review: 2014 Lexus IS250 (With Video) Tue, 05 Nov 2013 20:58:43 +0000 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior

After taking a sales hit due to tsunami-related production woes, Lexus has been trying to regain their mojo with a new product offensive. Things started out with the new Lexus GS sedan that Jack Baruth and I loved on and off the track, followed by a revised RX. With the redesigned IS, the bulk of their lineup has been overhauled. Initially, I was a little concerned that the Lexus IS sedan would receive nothing more than a new nose and some LED lights for 2014 but the Japanese 3-Series fighter came out swinging when we were invited to the launch event earlier in the year. I came away impressed with the IS 350′s road manners, but most buyers will be shopping for the less powerful IS 250 and it’s taken us this long to get our hands on one.

Click here to view the embedded video.


Instead of refreshing the IS, Lexus decided to give their smallest RWD sedan a complete overhaul for 2014. Lexus crafted a new IS platform with a 3-inch longer wheelbase that addresses a big complaint about the old car – it was too small inside for American consumers. The result is an entirely new unibody that is three inches longer than the old model riding on a three-inch longer wheelbase. In addition to the stretch the 2014 model gets a hair wider, a hair taller and ground clearance drops by half an inch.

2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Front grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

In addition to the Lexus “Spindle” grille up front, the IS sports an entirely different side profile that is easily the most expressive in the small luxury segment. Although I like Cadillac’s new ATS on the outside, I think the IS provides a more balanced blend of aggressive and luxury styling cues from the angry front end, to the almost-Swedish shoulder bulges. Unfortunately I just haven’t warmed up to the Lexus daytime running lamps which are now divorced from the headlamps and have their own cut-out in the bumper cover. Lexus says they are styled after the Lexus “L” but they just look like Nike “Swooshes” to my eye. Even so, if it were my money to spend I’d be torn between the restrained but elegant BMW 328i and the aggressive but sometimes questionable IS 250. I like Cadillac’s angular lines, but I slot the design just below the BMW and Lexus in my mental tally. Add the F-Sport package to the IS 250 however and Lexus breaks the tie with a more aggressive grille. (In the picture above.)

2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Because the GS and LS share interior design cues I had expected the IS to follow suit, I was wrong. While the other Lexus models have opted for a more open and expansive interior theme, the IS feels tight and close to the driver. The feeling is amplified by a high beltline and a tall center console. If you like your car to make you “feel big,” then this is the sedan for you. Rather than the “double bump” style that seems to be popular right now, Lexus opted for a tall two-tier look with the infotainment screen positioned farther away from the driver than the gauges, and centered in the tall dashboard. Opting for the F-Sport package replaces the analog gauges with a configurable LCD cluster.

Cabin plastics in the IS lead the competition, especially those farther from the driver’s usual reach. While BMW cut a few corners with the current 3-Series by using hard plastics low in the dash, the IS maintains a quality feel no matter how low your hand wanders. As you’d expect from Lexus, one can still get acres of stained wood and soft leather. “Can” is the operative word here,since  real leather can only be found in the top two option packages in the IS, while all other models get Lexus’s faux-cow that is bonded directly to the seat foam to prevent stretching or folding as the seat ages. The imitation-hide is perfectly convincing and the only covering available in the IS 250 F-Sport.

Front seat comfort proved excellent during my week with the IS 250, easily besting the Audi A4, Mercedes C250, Cadillac ATS and the base seats in the BMW 328i – but if you want the best seats in this segment, you’ll find those in the Volvo S60 or the optional M-Sport seats in the BMW. Thanks to the wheelbase stretch, rear legroom is up by 1.6 inches over the last generation IS, while front leg room grows about an inch at the same time. The improved rear legroom is welcome as that has long been an IS shortcoming, but it’s obvious by both Lexus and Cadillac’s latest 3-Series fighter that nobody expected the 3-Series to grow as much as it did in this last generation. As a result the 328i beats the IS 250 by a whopping three inches of rear legroom. The Lexus does counter with a slightly larger trunk, but I found the overall trunk dimensions to be slightly more advantageous in the BMW balancing out the extra cube the IS offers.

2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Although I couldn’t find a single example on a dealer lot, the base IS with no options is the only way you can escape the infamous Lexus Remote Touch joystick. All other models use a small controller with haptic feedback to control a software interface originally designed for use with a touchscreen LCD. Regardless of the input method, all IS models get a 7-inch color LCD positioned far away from the driver. The base model sports a noticeable low resolution screen while all other models get a high resolution screen of the same size. The distance from the driver and the large plastic bezel conspire to make the screen look much smaller than it is. The problem is further compounded by the screen being actually smaller than the competition as well.

2014 brings some mild software updates to the infotainment software including a new home screen (shown above), HD Radio support and traffic information via HD radio instead of satellite so you don’t need an XM subscription to get a color-coded traffic map. If you can get beyond the input method, the system proved reliable and moderately intuitive. Overall however I am still forced to rank this system below BMW’s iDrive, Audi’s MMI, Infinit’s new two-screen setup, Volvo’s Sensus, and even Mercedes’ aging COMAND system. The only system to offend my inner-nerd more is with the Cadillac CUE system.

2014 Lexus IS 250 Engine, 2.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Operating by the “if it isn’t broken, don’t fit it” mantra, there are no significant changes under the hood for the IS 250 this year. That means we have the same 2.5L, direct-injection, 60° V6 engine as before, good for the same 204 ponies and 185 lb-ft of twist. (The IS 350 gets a 3.5L version of the same engine, making 306 HP and 277 lb-ft.) Just as before, we have a 6-speed transmission on offer (The RWD IS 350 gets a newer 8-speed), with AWD commanding $2,535 more. Should you opt for the F-Sport package, Lexus will add a sound amplifying snorkel to the intake plumbing to amplify the engine’s growl.

With everyone else moving to forced-induction four-cylinder engines, the smooth V6 engine is what sets the IS 250 apart. I know that calling a V6 “smooth” or, dare I say it, “buttery smooth” sounds like sacrilege, but since BMW no longer offers their naturally aspirated in-line 6 under the hood of the 328i, the refinement crown goes to Lexus.  There is more going on here than just the numbers however, because the small turbos not only deliver more torque, they do so across a much broader RPM range than Lexus’ 2.5L V6. Even the Mercedes 1.8L turbo in the C250 blows out more torque across a broader band than the six cylinder mill in the IS 250. For reasons known only to Lexus’ product planning team, the 220 horsepower IS 300h, which mates the same engine to Lexus’s RWD hybrid drivetrain, remains forbidden fruit on our shores.

2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


The IS’s 2.5L V6 may be down on power compared to the Americans and Germans but it is no contest when it comes to refinement or engine note. Sadly refinement isn’t what propels you to 60, so when the light turns green you’ll have a whisper quiet view of the competition’s rear bumpers. Our tester ran to 60 in 7.02 seconds, a full 1.3 seconds slower than the 328i and 1 second slower than the ATS 2.0T.  Even the 1.8L turbo in the Mercedes C250 and the bargain-basement BMW 320i beat the IS 250 to 60 MPH by a few tenths.

The responsiveness of the IS in tight corners demonstrates how much time Lexus spent engineering the 2014 model. The old IS came across as isolated, perhaps even sloppy, while the third generation chassis is sharp and crisp. Every system in the IS feels like a team player from the numb suspension to the transmission shift logic and the revised double-wishbone front suspension. While the IS isn’t the hard-core corner carving machine the ATS 2.0T is, the IS 250 feels more harmonious and balanced on the road. Oddly enough, the BMW is the wild card. The E90 3-Series (previous generation) was precise and engaging, but the F30 (current generation) has traded handling prowess for a softer ride and a ginormous back seat. Meanwhile the Audi and Volvo plow like a John Deere when they encounter a corner and the Mercedes feels just as you would expect: heavy and soft. That’s not to say the IS is the performance winner. The Lexus is a hair heavier in the nose than the BMW, so at-limits handling is not as neutral as the ATS and because of the power deficit, the 328i is faster around the track. While the Lexus feels more precise and engaging than the BMW, the 328i’s better weight balance means it is both faster in the straightaways and holds its own in the corners. How about the Cadillac? It beats both the Lexus and the BMW hands down.

2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-004

Without taking price into consideration, the IS 250 makes a compelling argument for those that value smooth drivetrains, excellent steering feel and chassis dynamics. If however you value performance, luxury amenities and cabin room, the BMW is your best bet. If you’re a BMW shopper that is after the “ultimate driving machine” then you need to visit the Cadillac dealer.

Reviews are nothing without pricing information however. The IS 250 is the cheapest car in this shootout by a long shot. The IS undercuts the BMW 328i by $3,600 (adjusting for feature content) and even manages to be $1,700 less than the BMW 320i. Option up the BMW and Lexus with navigation, sport pack and leather and the delta grows to more than $5,000. The story is the same with the Cadillac and Mercedes with the ATS ringing in $4,200 to $7,500 more and the C250 a whopping $5,500-$7,500 more. The Infiniti Q50 may seem like a natural competitor but Infiniti has yet to release a model that competes directly with the low output options in this segment.

After a week with the IS 250 and a few hours in the Cadillac ATS and 328i in the same week something dawned on me. Lexus and Cadillac have managed to do what they set out to: beat BMW at their own game. Cadillac has nearly replicated an E90 3-Series in terms of handling and chassis performance, Lexus has crafted a drivetrain and steering rack that are superior in smoothness and feel to what BMW is selling. But just when the competition caught up BMW decided to play a different game. By chasing luxury, roominess and fuel economy, BMW has shifted the focus away from driving dynamics. (Yep, I said that out loud.) And in the process BMW is laughing all the way to the bank. By chasing BMW Lexus has created the finest IS 250, yet the sales indicate what Lexus should have been chasing is the customer.  For a car guy like me, the way the IS 250′s systems seem to work in perfect harmony combined with the low sticker price make it a winner. For the average shopper however, Lexus is an 8-speed automatic and a four-cylinder turbo away from true competition.


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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.58 Seconds

0-60: 7.05 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.37 Seconds @ 89.1 MPH

Cabin Noise at 50 MPH: 66 Db

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 27.5 MPG over 591 miles

2014 Lexus IS 250 Engine 2014 Lexus IS 250 Engine, 2.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 Engine-002 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-001 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-002 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-004 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-005 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-006 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-007 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-008 2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-009 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-001 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-002 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-003 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-004 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-006 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-007 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-008 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-009 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-010 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior-011 2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 Trunk ]]> 113
Jaguar Will Take on 3 Series Segment & More With New Modular All Aluminum Architecture Tue, 10 Sep 2013 11:20:30 +0000 Jaguar has a core competency in aluminum architecture. XJ bodies being assembled.

Jaguar has a core competency in aluminum architecture that will be applied to their new sedan and crossover. Pictured, XJ bodies being assembled.

The mid-sized mass-market luxury car segment is defined by the BMW 3 Series. Jaguar once tried to enter that segment with the X Type, but the “mini XJ” never caught on, in part because it was derided as a badge engineered Ford Mondeo. According to Automotive News The C-X17 crossover concept revealed in Frankfurt this week is based on a new all-aluminum platform that will underpin a “range of future Jaguars”, the most important of which will be a mid-sized sedan to again take on the BMW 3 and its competitors. Jaguar has a core competency in aluminum construction and having the first all-aluminum car in the C and D segments will be a selling point for the new models. While Jaguar Land Rover’s current sales are the strongest the British car maker has had, JLR’s owners, Tata, are hoping that JLR will reach three quarters of a million units by 2020 and ultimately joining the ranks of automakers selling a million or more cars a year. To do that Jaguar needs a volume product, the most logical being a mid-sizer. With CUVs sales booming, a crossover based on the C-X17 will also help reach that volume. While differentiating between a Jaguar crossover and the Land Rover lineup will be an issue, Jaguar does say that the CUV will have some off-road capabilities.

Smaller displacement engines are seen as the auto industry’s future and JLR has invested $776 million in a new engine factory in Wolverhampton, England that will produce an all-new JLR designed four cylinder engine in both diesel and petrol versions that will likely be the standard powerplants in the vehicles based on the new platform. However, since a very large percentage of luxury cars sold in North America are currently sold with V6 engines, expect a version of Jaguar’s new V6 to be available as well. The availability of all wheel drive is critical for selling cars in the northern half of the United States, and Jaguar made a big splash this past winter about offering AWD on the XJ and XF, so you can likewise expect the new sedan to share the crossover’s AWD components.

Another current trend in the industry is modular architecture and Jaguar says that the new platform will be scalable, so it could in theory be the basis of cars the size of a BMW 5 or Mercedes-Benz E Class, or crossovers larger than the C-X17, which is about the size of an Audi Q5.

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Incentives, Inventories Still High For Cadillac ATS Tue, 06 Aug 2013 11:52:50 +0000 Cadillac_ATS_in_Red_at_NAIAS_2012

Back in April, we reported on relatively high incentives for the Cadillac ATS, which were discovered in the midst of some fact-checking on a blatant puff piece on the brand by Bloomberg. Months later, none other than Automotive News has caught on, with their own story about the baby Cadillac’s high pricing and the resulting incentives being offered.

To avoid the inevitable fan boy cries of “bias”, here’s the take directly from Automotive News

When General Motors launched the Cadillac ATS nearly a year ago, executives sent a bold message by pricing the newcomer in the same territory as BMW’s 3 series, long the compact-luxury segment’s top seller.

But at the dealership, the ATS hasn’t commanded 3-series prices, research data show. Through the first six months of the year, the average transaction price on the ATS was $39,459, vs. $44,764 for the 3 series, according to The ATS had heavier incentives, too: $4,088 per unit, vs. $3,555 for the 3 series.

One explanation seems to stem from Cadillac’s distribution strategy, which, we learned, involved sending units to key markets in wealthy ZIP codes where Cadillac is looking for growth. But these locales (places like Miami, wealthy areas of California etc) tend to favor import luxury brands rather than Cadillac, and sales are, according to our source, not meeting internal projections. This explains inventory levels, which have been consistently above 100 days of supply since we last checked in (there’s currently a 122 day supply of ATS’ right now).

Given the multi-decade timeline it takes to rebuild a brand, it will take Cadillac some time to pull themselves up, and good product is the first step of a long journey. However, these are the facts – there are significant rebates and inventory levels are high on a car that had outsized expectations. And it took months for mainstream outlets to notice what we did.

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3 Steps Forward, 2 Steps Backward Wed, 03 Jul 2013 16:04:29 +0000 nosetonose-sm

230 horsepower and 3362 lbs doesn’t sound very impressive on paper. But that’s the last reason anyone buys a BMW 328i. I admit that in my numbers-obsessed adolescence, I was skeptical of the promise of a silky-smooth I6 and the intangible promise of perfect poise and balance. Why not just go straight for the 335i? And then I drove one.

It turned out that yes, the 328i really did deliver on the much vaunted promise of being one of the finest sports sedans in the world. Since then, I have longed for a naturally aspirated, manual transmission BMW. The 328i has always held a certain appeal, though I wouldn’t turn down the E90 330i, with its juiced-up 3.0L I6.

The introduction of the turbo-four BMWs has added a certain urgency to that desire, and this article by Road & Track isn’t helping matters. The guys at R&T have come to the same conclusion that many of us have over at TTAC. For all its supposed pace and efficiency, the turbo-4 can’t compare to the purity and sophistication of the I6 powertrain and the hydraulic steering system. I’m off to find one on Craigslist, hopefully not in that eggplant color.

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Mercedes To Expand C-Class Lineup Mon, 15 Apr 2013 13:00:29 +0000

The next-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class, due in 2015, will be getting a full lineup of variants to help it better compete against the BMW 3-Series.

The next-generation C-Class will be built in Alabama, a first for a Mercedes-Benz passenger car. In addition to the sedan and coupe, convertible and hybrid variants will be offered, marking the car’s transition from M-B’s entry-level product in the United States to a more prestigious position in the lineup. While BMW outsold Mercedes by 5,000 units when only the sedan models were compared, the delta was closer to 20,000 units when all variants were included. But while BMW will offer a 3-Series wagon, Mercedes-Benz won’t be doing the same with the C-Class.

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Bloomberg Buries The Lede: Cadillac Puff Piece Can’t Hide ATS Incentive Spending, Lagging Sales Tue, 09 Apr 2013 14:59:11 +0000

TTAC readers looking for a more pro-GM news source may want to check out Bloomberg for their next dose of pro-GM news. A story on Cadillac’s revived fortunes contains all kinds of enthusiastic copy and positive quotes, but still manages to bury the lede way down at the bottom of the story.

Take this quote for example

“Cadillac’s performance certainly exceeded expectations, and the ATS was the driving factor,” said Jeff Schuster, auto analyst with LMC Automotive in Troy, Michigan. “They have a lot happening with their lineup and the vehicles are hitting with consumers.”

Joel Ewanick himself couldn’t have come up with a better quote to feed to the industry price. The ATS is a nice car by all accounts. First drive impressions were positive, despite one of the buff books binning one into the red Georgia clay. But scroll a little further down past the ongoing textual fellatio and you’ll find the golden nugget.

Cadillac’s pricing problems show up in the incentives it offers. GM’s average incentive spending on the ATS in February was $3,700 per car, compared to $333 in September, when the new model went on sale, according to TrueCar Inc., a Santa Monica, California, researcher that tracks auto sales.

Uh oh. $3,700 just months after their crucial entry-level car was introduced? A nearly tenfold increase in incentive spending in just a few short months? Not good news at all. The incentives do explain why the ATS had a nice bump in sales right around February. It’s unfortunate that GM would have to spend so much per car to move a product as nice as the ATS.

Of course, Bloomberg handily explains away the unpleasant incentive information with this quote

Those discounts should decline as Cadillac’s redesigned models attract new buyers. GM said more than half the ATS buyers are coming from competitors such as BMW, Mercedes and Lexus. GM aims to increase sales of Cadillac in the U.S. by more than 30 percent this year, Bob Ferguson, global head of the brand, told reporters in New York last week. 

A look at incentive programs in the Miami/South Florida region (using ZIP Code 33180) as a sample shows that the ATS offering more aggressive incentive programs than its competitors. BMW is offering 3.1 percent APR financing for the new 3-Series (save for the Hybrid at 1.9 percent) versus 0 percent for the ATS. Audi offers no finance incentives for the A4 at all. While the ATS gets a $299/month lease for 36 months with $2,199 due at signing, a similarly equipped 328i would cost $349/month for 36 months with $3,824 due at signing. An A4 2.0T can be leased for $309/month for the same term with $3,719 due. Mercedes-Benz was not offering 36 month lease deals at the time of writing. Only Lexus came close to matching Cadillac’s offer, with a lease on an IS250 involving $309/month payment for 36 months, with $3,209 due at signing and a credit for the first month’s lease payment – on a model that is due to be replaced any day now, where dealers are desperate to get rid of the stock.

The incentive picture makes the Q1 2013 sales snapshot above even starker. The 3-Series and C-Class are way out in front. The C-Class is leading the segment with 22,912 units sold, with the 3-Series in second place with 20,662 units. Cadillac is in third place, but is beating the A4 by just 45 units as of the end of March (9795 units of the ATS sold versus 9750 A4s). The Lexus trails in fifth place with 5173.

The unfortunate thing here is that the ATS itself isn’t necessarily the reason for its lagging sales and heavy incentive spending. Rather it’s the result of the continued degradation of the Cadillac brand in the eyes of the consumer over the past few decades. I’m far from the only person that believes the ATS to be a superior product to the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and there are plenty of knowledgeable  respected auto critics who feel that is is just as dynamically competent as the BMW 3-Series. But these two products are crushing the ATS in the sales race, undoubtedly on the strength of their respective brands. The unfortunate relaity is that most consumers don’t care about whether or not their car is The Ultimate Driving Machine; they just want a fancy badge to show off to other people. Until Cadillac’s brand is on par with the Roundel or the Three Pointed Star, this scenario of significant incentive spending and lagging sales will likely continue to play out, no matter how good the product is.


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Not An April Fool’s Joke: Rear-Drive, Manual, Diesel Wagon For Sale In North America Mon, 01 Apr 2013 16:15:48 +0000

Want a BMW manual diesel wagon for under $10k? You can buy one right now, on Ebay (via Bring A Trailer), and if you live in Canada, you can legally register it.

One gentleman in Germany is offering a 1997 BMW 325tds wagon with a 5-speed manual for sale. The seller is offering to ship the car to Halifax, Nova Scotia, a major eastern port and a country where the car can be legally registered. The 2.5L diesel engine puts out 141 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque, hitting 60 mph in a leisurely 9.9 seconds – between that and the very European cloth seats, I think I’d rather opt for a gasoline powered wagon, if I had my pick.

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BMW, Audi Ready Entry-Level Diesels Fri, 15 Mar 2013 16:14:34 +0000

Fans of the old BMW 335d won’t have to wait much longer for an all-new 3-Series diesel. On the other hand, Audi lovers will have to sit tight for an A4 diesel.

The next generation A4 will herald the fifth TDI in Audi’s lineup, when it launches with a 2.0L diesel engine for the 2015 model year. Rather than go with a two-year sales window for a current generation A4 TDI, Audi decided to wait until the next generation car and avoid the substantial homologation costs. The 3.0L V6 TDI was also nixed for similar reasons.

Luckily, BMW fans will get to see the new 328d at the New York Auto Show in two weeks time. Producing 180 horsepower and 280 lb-ft, the 328d will be available as a wagon, but no manual transmission has been confirmed. The previous 335d was offered only as an automatic.

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BMW 3-Series GT: The Latest Retina Burning Niche Product From Germany Wed, 06 Feb 2013 16:55:57 +0000

Despite being unable to eat, talk or sleep more than a few hours at a time, I have found something more agonizing than an adult tonsillectomy  the BMW 3-Series GT. Because we all know what a critical and commercial success the BMW 5-Series GT has been. At least Percocet can numb the pain of having sections of my throat burnt away by a cauterizing wand. Whoever buys this thing is doomed twice over by poor eyesight and awful judgement. Then again, maybe the reaction would have been better if it was badged as a Saab?

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Review: 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD (Video) Wed, 06 Feb 2013 10:15:05 +0000

BMW’s 3-Series is always the benchmark, always the target, and always on a pedestal. So when GM announced Cadillac would once again “complete head-on” with BMW’s money-maker, the world yawned. Then an interesting thing happened, publications started fawning over the ATS, proclaiming the 3-Series has met its match. Could such a thing be true? Even our own Michael Karesh was smitten by the ATS at a launch event. To find out how the ATS matches up with its German rival, Cadillac tossed us the keys to a loaded ATS 3.6 AWD. Can Cadillac beat BMW at their own game? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.


While the ATS fails to make a dramatic new statement of Cadillac’s “Art and Science” design, it is the most balanced rendition of the form to date. Compared to the 3-Series, the ATS strikes a more aggressive pose in the parking lot thanks to the hard lines and aggressive stance. Up front, Cadillac has kept the bold angular grille we’re used to, but ditched most of chrome bling found on other Cadillacs. Out back you’ll find a short trunk overhang with a perky tail light/spoiler and “mini-fins.” You may laugh, but I think the resurrection of Cadillac fins and funky tail lamps are some of the best touches on the ATS.

Does that make the ATS better than the 3 on the outside? Not for me, but your mileage will vary. The ATS is undeniably more expressive, flashier and aggressive compared to the plain-Jane A4, dowdy C350 or the elegant (but very reserved) 3. Oddly enough it’s BMW’s understated elegance and limo-like proportions that do it for me. What does that mean for you? If you’re a traditional BMW 3-Series shopper, then the  ATS is more likely to be your thing. If you’re after a soft entry level luxury sedan but the ES350 is “too FWD”, the 3′s long hood, soft suspension and graceful lines will seal the deal. In my mind the 3 and the ATS tie in this category.


The ATS wears, hands-down, the best production cabin GM has made. The styling may not be your cup of tea, but the interior possessed none of the strange quality concerns I noticed in the new XTS. Does that mean the Caddy has the best cabin in the segment? No, that award still ends up a tie between Audi and Volvo. However, the ATS’s cabin is nearly the equal of the 3-Series. Why nearly? It’s all about consistency.

Everything inside the BMW’s cabin is of a similar quality, from buttons on the dash to the headliner, everything is exactly what you expect from a $30,000-$55,000 car. The ATS on the other hand is full of “highs and lows.” Caddy’s highs include perfect dashboard stitching, comfortable seats and an excellent tiller. Sadly the gauge cluster didn’t get the memo. Instead of the SRX’s funky new three circle gauge cluster, buyers get the frumpy base gauges from the “this is your Grandfather’s Cadillac” XTS. Still, it would all have been OK if Caddy had offered the XTS’s  gorgeous full-LCD cluster as an option, but sadly it wasn’t to be. In our Facebook page’s weekly “hit it or quit it” contest, the ATS’s dials received a unanimous “quit it.” The fervor even spawned a Vellum Venom Vignette. What was all the drama about? Check out the day/night comparison below.

The ATS is available in an impressive array of interior colors, something lacking in many European sedans. While our tester arrived wearing a Germanic black-on-black-on-black ensemble, a quick trip to my local dealer revealed (thankfully) that the tasteful red and black interior and light grey interior with brown dashboard and door treatments were easy on the eyes and plentiful on the lots. Another rarity I noticed is a passenger seat with the same range of motion as the driver’s seat making long journeys more comfortable for your spouse.

When it comes to seating and cargo hauling, Cadillac benchmarked the last generation 3. As a result, front and rear accommodations are comfortable but snug with leg room coming in several inches behind the 3 and A4. The trunk also comes up short at 10.2 cubes vs the 12.4 cubes from the A4 and C350 or the ginormous 17 cubic foot trunk in the BMW. While the ATS represents huge strides in quality from GM, the tighter quarters and lack of consistency shown in cabin trappings gives the BMW the edge in this category.

Infotainment & Gadgets

Today’s compact luxury sedans come with more computing power than a 1990s dorm room. While the Euro players favor infotainment systems driven by a knob and button array, Cadillac has followed Lincoln’s lead with a 100% touch-screen driven interface called “Cadillac User Experience” or CUE. Caddy makes the system standard on all but the base 2.5 and 2.0 turbo models of the ATS although base shoppers can add it as a $1,350 option. The heart of the system is a gorgeous 8-inch LCD. Up till now, most touchscreen systems have used the older “resistive” touchscreen tech which uses a soft, matte plastic surface to detect digits. Displays like this (MyLincoln Touch uses this type of screen) can easily scratch and images can look “fuzzy” since you are viewing the image through the touchscreen layer. Cadillac stuck out their neck and used a more expensive “capacitive” touchscreen with a hard surface that is easy to clean, scratch-resistant, and delivers graphics that are crisper than any system I have seen to date. What was Caddy’s muse? Think iPad.

Cadillac tossed in “natural” voice commands for the entire system (including USB and iPod control), three high power USB ports (capable of charging an iPad), and smartphone app integration. If you want to know more about CUE, check out the video at the top of the review.

In comparison to BMW’s iDrive, the ATS’s touch buttons and iPadesque operation wow for a while, but proved less elegant and less reliable than iDrive after the first few hours. Keep in mind that CUE is in its first release while iDrive is the product of a decade of software development. The difference shows. While I haven’t seen iDrive crash since 2002, CUE crashed several times during the week. In addition, “multi-touch” gestures for “zooming” the map sound cool, but the response time was slow and the process proved more aggravating than useful. Cadillac’s mapping software is a notch below BMW’s in terms of visual appeal and the system just isn’t as intuitive as the latest build of iDrive.

Cadillac counters their “youthful” software with a bevy of standard and available features that you won’t find on many of the non-BMW competition including a full color heads up display, magnetic ride control, cross traffic alert, dynamic cruise control, collision prevention, and front and rear automatic braking in low-speed parking situations. When all the bells and whistles are tallied, the number comes out even, but BMW’s more elegant software gives the Bavarians the edge.


Competing with the 3 properly, means offering your wares globally and providing a range of small displacement and turbocharged engines. As a result, the drivetrain chart for the ATS starts with a brand-new high-compression 2.5L direct-injection four-cylinder engine designed to battle BMW’s budget 320i. While GM tells us the same engine will find its way under the hood of the Malibu and Impala, Cadillac’s version gets a power bump to 202HP and 192lb-ft with a high 7,000 RPM redline. While this is the engine of choice for rental cars and lease specials, it competes quite well with BMW’s discount 320i with 180HP and 200lb-ft of torque.

Competing with BMW’s 328i (and costing $1,805 more than the 2.5) is GM’s thoroughly redesigned 2.0L turbo. The direct-injection mill packs a serious punch with 272HP and 260lb-ft of twist compared to BMW’s 240HP and 255lb-ft. While Cadillac’s torque curve isn’t as low as the German’s, Cadillac has kept their curb weight low ringing in around 40lbs lighter than the 328i. The difference is small but shows Cadillac was paying attention.

If six cylinders is your thing, Cadillac will jam their 3.6L direct-injection engine under the ATS’s hood for an extra $2,200. The 321HP six-pot cranks out more HP than BMW’s 3.0L turbo I6 (300HP) but delivers less torque (274lb-ft vs 300lb-ft) and of course the lack of a turbo means the 3.6L engine has a torque peak instead of a plateau. Once again Cadillac counters by being lighter, this time by 94lbs.

Regardless of your engine choice, all engines use the same 6-speed GM automatic transmission. If you want to make your BMW owning friends scratch their heads, this is essentially the same transmission used in a variety of BMW 3-Series, X1 and X3 models before BMW started buying the ZF 8-speed. If you opt for the 2.0L or 3.6L engines, Cadillac will drop their AWD system ($2,000) or a Tremec 6-speed manual into the ATS, but sadly the options are mutually exclusive.

As much as I like BMW’s torque-happy 3.0L I6 turbo, Cadillac’s naturally aspirated V6 sounds better. The BMW is still faster to 60 (thank the torque deficit), but the ATS ties with the BMW in my book thanks to the combination of a great sound, no turbo lag and excellent power delivery characteristics. The small turbo match up is more cut and dry. GM’s turbo four cranks out more shove and matches the German mill in terms of refinement. Meanwhile at the bottom of the pile, BMW’s base 320i engine provides more useable power than Caddy’s base engine, but the 2.5L four has a better sound, no lag and is eager to rev.

Refinement and aural sensations are one thing, balanced performance is another and this is where the ATS shines (just not in a straight line). The ATS’s moves on the track are defined by several things: a suspension that is firmer than the sport line 3-Series, excellent weight balance, 225 width rubber on all four corners and “only” six forward gears. Starting with the transmission, while it has a negative impact on MPG numbers, having fewer gears translates into less “hunting” while craving your favorite mountain road. That brings us to the suspension and tires. You’ll find plenty of 335i “sport line” models on the showroom floor with staggered rubber (225 in front, 255 out back) which gives you a bit more traction in the rear for stoplight races. The unequal rubber also causes the 335 understeer a bit more when taking a corner sans-throttle, a situation most drivers find more predictable than oversteer. The ATS on the other hand is extremely neutral in almost every situation. Cadillac’s AWD system turns the moderately “tail happy” ATS into an Audi-esque corner carver sans Audi’s nose-heavy tendencies. Last, and least, the ATS’s steering feel matches or exceeds the feel in the 335i. Why least? Because anything with EPAS is going to be rubbery and numb. If you hadn’t guessed by now, the ATS is the performance winner.

According to my tally sheet, the ATS is one point behind the 3 as we enter the final stretch: pricing. The ATS starts at $33,095 and the new 320i undercuts it at $32,550. If that sounds bad for Cadillac, BMW cuts corners by making leather a $1,450 option among other “decontenting” tricks. For most shoppers the ATS 2.0 is going to be the starting point at $35,795, at which point the ATS is lower than the comparable 3-Series ($36,850) both on paper and at the check out counter. Load up your ATS to the gills with a V6 and AWD and you’re talking $54,000, about $4,000 less than a similar 335xi. Toss in inevitable GM discounts and cheaper financing, and the ATS is the value leader.

Checking back with the tally sheet reveals a dead heat. Is this where the import biased press says “being German gives the 3-Series an extra point“? Not quite. I’m going to resort to an entirely different cop-out: it depends on what you’re after. Huh? Personally, the ATS falls just sort of “beating” the 3-Series, but that’s based on my preferences. If however you’re a BMW fan boy who thinks the new (F30) 3-Series has gone soft (Trust me, it has. That’s why I like it.), the ATS is your “new” E90 BMW. Think of it as E91 by Cadillac. Seriously. The ATS drives like an E90 with a naturally aspirated engine and a slightly dulled steering response. What then is the ultimate driving machine? With BMW succeeding as the “new Mercedes” and Cadillac trying to be the new BMW, your guess is as good as mine. There is one thing I know for sure however: it’s a day to remember when we can talk about a BMW 335 and a Cadillac in the same sentence without any irony.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 1.92 Seconds

0-60: 5.2 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.66 Seconds @ 103 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 23 MPG over 598 miles


2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Rear Spoiler Brake Light, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Fins, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Finlet, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Infotainment, CUE, Cadillac User Experience, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Cargo Area, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, dashboard, CUE, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, front door, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, Dashboard, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Interior, rear HVAC vents, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Engine, 3.6L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Engine, 3.6L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 AWD, Exterior, Lights, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 68
BMW 3-Series GT The Latest In A Series Of Pointless Variants Mon, 03 Dec 2012 20:04:30 +0000

Despite the failure of the BMW 5-Series GT, BMW is determined to capture the economies of scale of its rear-drive platform and shoot for unprecedented volume by cranking out even more ugly variants of its core models. Case in point, the 3-Series GT.

The undisguised 3GT was shown over at F30Post, a popular BMW messageboard, and ostensibly caught while filming a commercial. Even though there will be a 3-Series wagon, the 3GT will be produced to occupy some kind of white space in the BMW lineup, perhaps the “sporty hatchback for people too embarassed to drive a wagon or an X3″ niche.

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BMW Shifts Units From Europe To U.S. Thu, 18 Oct 2012 16:40:29 +0000

Europe’s auto market implosion has led BMW to shift units earmarked for the continent over to the United States and China, where demand remains strong.

BMW Sales Chief Ian Robertson told Bloomberg that a recovery in Europe could take years, and that Europe’s crisis was having effects in other regions. “The slowdown in China is part of what’s happening in Europe,” Robertson said.

BMW’s global sales were up 14 percent in September, buoyed by the introduction of the new 3-Series. But the company must take measures to stop the bleeding in Europe, with Robertson remarking that a restructuring of its Spanish dealer network is under consideration.

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Review: 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T R-Spec Fri, 14 Sep 2012 15:59:15 +0000

What’s a Mustang? We know, but it’s not an easy question to answer. A Mustang is…a Mustang. It’s so thoroughly itself that there’s no need to define it as a variant of someone else’s car. All truly great cars are like this. Competitors might meet and even beat them in this or that regard, but until they develop identities of their own they’ll never possess the same allure. The Europeans practically have such cars in their DNA. The Americans and Japanese have stumbled over the goal line from time to time. The Koreans…well, the Koreans are still new. So what’s a Genesis Coupe?

At launch, the styling of the Genesis in both coupe and sedan forms betrayed the parent company’s lack of confidence and direction. Both cars were styled much like someone else’s car, a Lexus (itself still styled a late-model Mercedes) in the case of the sedan and an Infiniti in the case of the coupe. Neither car’s face projected a clear, distinctive identity or a connection with the parent company. With its 2013 refresh, the Genesis Coupe takes a step in this direction. The new face isn’t to everyone’s liking. But, dramatically styled around an oversized hexagonal grille, it’s bold, cohesive, like those on other new Hyundais, and not like anyone else’s. The Korean company clearly feels more confident. It’s now comfortable with people identifying the Genesis Coupe as a Hyundai.

Yet it remains unclear what the Genesis Coupe wants to be when it grows up. Many reviews compare the car to a Mustang or a Camaro. But the Gen Coupe doesn’t look like a pony, sit like a pony, walk like a pony, or talk like a pony. It’s not a pony. Aside from the new face, the car most resembles a G37 Coupe. Which is…what? Well, the Infiniti is itself a reflection of someone else’s car, specifically a BMW 3-Series, with more reliable bits (the first generation’s engine might burn oil and its suspension might chew tires, but its electronics are solid!) and a lower price. With the BMW ever deeper into its own identity crisis—driver’s car, or luxury car, or technophile’s wet dream?—the entire class could well be losing its center.

When considering which aspect of the G37 / 3-Series to pursue, Hyundai clearly didn’t decide on gadgetry. There’s Bluetooth and iPod integration, and Hyundai’s new telematics system with the top trim level, but nothing approaching the pervasive technological overkill of recent BMWs or the nanny infestation of recent Infinitis. You don’t need to RTFM to figure out how to operate the car. Perhaps Hyundai focused more on the 3-Series that used to be. If so, not a bad move. More likely, though, the Koreans were pursuing a much lower price point and a BMW-class armada of microprocessors wasn’t budget compliant.

Top trim Genesis Coupes are somewhat luxurious. But even with substantial upgrades for 2013 the interior remains well short of the Infiniti G37’s, itself no match for the BMW’s (until it’s next redesigned). The Hyundai’s interior is nice…considering the price. Even at the Hyundai’s price a power driver seat recliner (standard on a mid-level VW Jetta) might be expected, but remains notable in its absence. Opt for the performance-oriented R-Spec, and the seat adjustments are entirely manual. The seat itself is neither as substantial nor as cushy as that in a G37. One must conclude that, despite the premium aspirations of the Genesis sub-brand, the Genesis Coupe isn’t about luxury.

Despite sharing a name, the coupe has little in common with the sedan. The two cars don’t look alike, they don’t drive alike, they’re not contented alike, and they’re not priced alike. Why, then, do they share a name? When two dissimilar cars share a name, at least one will lack an identity among the broader public.

By process of elimination, the Genesis Coupe must be about the driving experience, the thing that originally made BMWs desirable. In some ways the Genesis Coupe comes closer to the 3-Series than the Infiniti intermediary. This is partly good, partly bad. The Genesis Coupe feels more composed and less tricky to drive than the G37. Especially with the R-Spec’s limited-slip differential, the Hyundai’s rear end can be provoked to rotate by your right foot, but it won’t deal out nasty surprises the way the Infiniti’s will. But, partly by the same token, the Hyundai doesn’t feel as direct or as visceral as the Infiniti. Driving the G37 is more of an experience. Like a BMW, the Genesis Coupe only begins to come alive when pushed, and feels better the harder it is pushed. Hyundai’s engineers have made much progress on this front. The Genesis Coupe won’t embarrass itself at the track, but due to the heavy, uncommunicative steering, the car never stops feeling larger and heavier than it is (182.3×73.4×54.5 inches, 3,492 lbs.) and than either target. While fun to drive along a winding road, it still seems less fun than it ought to be, as if Hyundai couldn’t quite commit to a sporty direction (or didn’t fully comprehend what fun feels like).

BMWs aren’t as visceral as they used to be largely due to the company’s pursuit of day-to-day livability. Premium aspirations aside, the same conflict doesn’t seem to have bedeviled Hyundai, judging from the Genesis Coupe’s behavior when it’s not being pushed. Though body motions are well controlled, the ride that felt okay during a preview drive sometimes proved irritatingly busy in daily life (if rarely harsh). The 274-horsepower turbocharged four that seemed to best suit the car earlier has a lumpy, “surge-and-lag” delivery through its midrange at part throttle. Far more than BMW’s new, less-powerful-on-paper 2.0T, this one’s clearly boosted. The vague, somewhat clunky manual shifter further impedes smooth shifts. Add it all up, and the level of concentration required to drive the Genesis Coupe smoothly takes the casual out of casual driving. Not so much that I’d call the Hyundai a bad car, not even close. There’s just not enough payoff of the daily deficit when you are able to really drive the car. It has fallen between the proverbial stools.

But the Genesis Coupe’s price can’t be ignored. It might not be all that special in itself. But a stylish coupe that warrants comparison with a BMW 3-Series yet lists for $27,375 with all available performance hardware, that’s special. With a manual transmission, Infiniti’s “3er for less” lists for nearly $18,000 more. In stark comparison to Hyundai, Infiniti requires a Premium Package to get the Sport Package and nav as well to get the stick. You end up with over $7,000 more “stuff” (as calculated by TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool), but this still leaves the Hyundai with a feature-adjusted price advantage of over $10,000. And maybe you don’t want the stuff.

The thing is, selling on price is exactly the position Hyundai has been striving to escape, and with more than a little success in other, paradoxically less pricey segments. If they’re to do the same with the not-quite-premium Genesis Coupe, they’ve got to decide what the car is really about. If it’s about luxury, it needs more content, better materials, and more refinement. If it’s about driving, it needs sprightlier moves, more direct communication, and, again, more refinement. If it tries to be both, but at an affordable price, it’ll end up where it is.

With either direction, to really come into its own the Genesis Coupe needs to capture the special magic that elevates iconic cars above the rest. It’s not possible to specify what the car’s character should be, except that it can’t be derived from somebody else’s. It needs to be something new, yet this newness can’t be forced. It can only come from someone who thoroughly and deeply understands what he or she wants, who wants a car that no one else is providing, and who can inspire the organization to create it. We’ll know it if and when we see it.

The cars discussed were provided by their respective manufacturers with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates, a provider of car reliability and pricing information.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Gen Coupe front, picture by Michael Karesh Gen Coupe front quarter, picture by Michael Karesh Gen Coupe rear quarter, picture by Michael Karesh Gen Coupe interior, picture by Michael Karesh Gen Coupe rear seat, picture by Michael Karesh Gen Coupe trunk, picture by Michael Karesh Gen Coupe engine, picture by Michael Karesh ]]> 72
The Great Ontario Drive Clean Swindle Wed, 18 Jul 2012 16:41:16 +0000

For one Canadian auto writer, an emissions test turned out to be a giant time-and-money-suck that should have never happened in the first place, all thanks to an unscrupulous mechanic. Is anyone surprised?

Matt Bubbers’ BMW E30 flunked the DriveClean test the first time around at a “national chain”. After paying the $30 test fee, Bubbers had to take his car to a specialist garage for a $30 “consultation”. According to the regulations, the car can get up to $450 in repairs to help it pass. If the car doesn’t pass on its second time around, it is given a”conditional pass”, meaning that Bubbers could renew his registration, but the car couldn’t be sold.

The E30 ended up passing, and the results looked great according to the test printout. So why the discrepancy? According to Bubbers

“The shop fails your car by not warming it up properly. Then they offer to repair it, up to a cost of $450. After the repairs, it may pass or it may not. If it doesn’t, you’ve just lost $450, plus the cost of two tests, plus the entire value of your car. And the shop makes a profit on the repairs.”

Par for the course in Onterrible.

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BMW’s North American Diesel Parade Continues On, With Fewer Cylinders Fri, 13 Jul 2012 15:30:16 +0000

The 335d may not have done so well in the United States, but BMW seems undeterred, and is set to launch yet another oil-burning 3er shortly.

Rumors of another diesel 3-Series began in the bowels of the internet rumor-mill, but ended up being confirmed by BMW. Sort of. initially reported the “news” based on a tweet (!) from Automobile’s Jason Cammisa, but a BMW spokesman ended up verifying the factoid, telling them

…the next BMW Advanced Diesel engine that will come to the US is the 2.0-liter  4-cylinder turbo-diesel. Specific timing and model applications will follow.

If the new engine doesn’t appear in a 320d, I’ll go out and buy a Jetta SportWagen TDI. Or a 320i.

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Junkyard Find: 1983 BMW 320i Sun, 20 May 2012 13:00:45 +0000 Between the old-timey 2002 and the hugely influential E30, there was the E21. Over in Yurp, BMW shoppers could buy 315s and 316s and 323s and I don’t know what all, but here in North America we know the E21 almost exclusively via the good old 320i. The 2002 overlapped E21 production by a couple of years; likewise, BMW showrooms in 1983 held the final examples of the 320i side-by-side with the brand-new E30-platform 318i. Here’s an example of one of those end-times E21s, spotted last week in a Denver self-service wrecking yard.
Either somebody pried off the little “i” on this emblem without leaving a mark, or we’re looking at a European-market 320 trunk lid. Such are the mysteries of the junkyard.
Almost 220,000 miles on the clock, extremely respectable for a Late Malaise Era car that probably got hooned every day of its life.
This car is fairly straight, a bit of rust but nothing too terrible. Looks like somebody grabbed the seats right away, perhaps the same BMW aficionado that picked this nearby 2002 clean.

16 - 1983 BMW 320 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1983 BMW 320 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1983 BMW 320 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1983 BMW 320 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1983 BMW 320 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1983 BMW 320 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1983 BMW 320 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1983 BMW 320 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1983 BMW 320 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1983 BMW 320 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1983 BMW 320 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1983 BMW 320 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1983 BMW 320 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1983 BMW 320 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1983 BMW 320 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1983 BMW 320 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]> 28
2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon Coming Here: Will We See A Diesel Stick-Shift? Sun, 13 May 2012 13:00:26 +0000

Even as the wagon Gods smile down upon on this Mother’s Day, BMW’s announcement of an all-new 2013 3-Series Wagon still has us waiting with bated breath with the announcement of not one but two diesel powertrains.

We will almost certainly get the 328i, with the controversial turbo 4-cylinder engine, but BMW also announced a 320d and 330d. A 335i is conspicuously absent, but with two torquey oil-burners, who cares? The 320d, with 181 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque returns 52 mpg. A 330d with 250 horsepower and 358 lb-ft of torque will also be offered, but BMW is being coy, stating that American spec models will be announced at a later date.

What will be offered is xDrive all-wheel drive, all the usual overwrought F30 3-Series gadgets, and a power tailgate similar to the 2013 Ford Escape, that can be opened be sweeping your foot underneath the rear bumper. And no, we’re not sure if the diesels will get a stick shift. The 328i will surely get a 6-speed manual as well as the 8-speed T1000 Cyborg Automatic.

133serieswagon01 133serieswagon02 133serieswagon03 133serieswagon04 133serieswagon05 133serieswagon06 133serieswagon07 133serieswagon08 133serieswagon09 133serieswagon10 133serieswagon11 133serieswagon12 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 133serieswagon14 133serieswagon15 133serieswagon16 133serieswagon17 133serieswagon18 133serieswagon19 133serieswagon20 133serieswagon21 133serieswagon22 133serieswagon23 133serieswagon24 133serieswagon25 133serieswagon26 133serieswagon27 133serieswagon28 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 89
Review: BMW 335i 6MT Sport Line Sun, 29 Apr 2012 21:45:27 +0000

Last month we reviewed the 2012 BMW 328i and found it less than ultimate as driving machines go. But the reviewed car was a “Luxury Line” sedan with an automatic transmission. For driving enthusiasts, BMW offers the new F30 with different options, among them a larger engine, a six-speed manual transmission, a “Sport Line” trim level, adaptive dampers, and staggered 19-inch summer tires. Check all of these boxes, and the next M3 might seem superfluous. Or not.

Red paint, blacked-out trim, and larger, five-spoke alloys dependably make a car appear sportier. It is somewhat shocking that 19-inch wheels now seem the appropriate size, aesthetically, for a 3-Series. Shod with them, the new car appears as compact as 3s used to be. The previous generation E90 looked good with mere 18s. The next M3 will likely wear dubs. Ever since reading a reader comment on Sajeev’s design critique, I cannot stop noticing the cut line at the leading edge of the hood. BMW’s previous practice of extending the hood all the way to the grille and headlights yielded a much cleaner nose.

Inside, the Sport Line is available with black, gray, or red seats, aluminum or black trim, and coral (more red) or black accents. Whoever ordered the press car went with the most conservative options, so we have classic black leather (that doesn’t look or feel much different from the standard leatherette) with bright red stitching to lend some visual interest. The aluminum trim on the center console was already knicked in a couple of places, suggesting either that it won’t hold up well or that journalists badly abuse the machinery. The Sport Line includes front bucket seats with bolsters that are both larger and (unlike on the current F10 5-Series) power-adjustable. For anyone who’ll be taking turns at speed, these are a must-have. As in the 328i, both the rear seat and trunk are much roomier than in past 3s. For those willing to forego these for a smaller, lighter, more agile car, it’s time for a four-door 1-Series.

Despite kicking out 60 more horsepower than the 328i’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four, the 335i’s 300-horsepower turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six does not feel much stronger. BMW’s official test track numbers back up this impression. Pair both engines with a manual transmission, and the six is only 0.3 seconds quicker to sixty, 5.4 vs. 5.7. What gives? Through the mid-range the 50-percent-larger engine is only about 15 percent more powerful, and this is partially offset by an additional 165 pounds of mass. Peak torque is 300 pound-feet with the six, 260 with the four. Only once over 5,000 rpm is the big engine significantly more powerful. Audi’s supercharged “3.0T” feels torquier. It’s time for a new BMW six that’s as power dense as the new four.

The six of course sounds smoother, but its soundtrack is all exhaust (no whirring mechanical bits) and almost generic. BMW has offered sweeter-sounding sixes in the past. When cruising the exhaust drones a bit much. The four’s much more varied repertoire is arguably inappropriate for a $40,000+ car, but is also more interesting.

The EPA ratings suggest that the six isn’t significantly less efficient than the four. Figures for the latter paired with the automatic transmission have been revised downward from 24 city, 36 highway to 23/33. The six with the same transmission? Also 23/33. And the heavier, all-wheel-drive 528i xDrive…would you believe 22/32? Me neither. Something ain’t right. I suspect only one powertrain was retested. You take a hit with the manual transmission. In the 335i it’s rated 20 city, 30 highway. In my driving, the trip computer reported numbers from five to ten miles-per-gallon lower with the 335i 6MT than with the 328i 8AT. While I was able to “Eco Pro” the latter over 40, it proved a challenge to nudge the former over 30. In typical suburban driving, the trip computer reported low-to-mid 20s in the 335i and high 20s to low 30s in the 328i. The harder you are on the gas, the smaller the difference between the two. Count on a sizeable difference on the highway with the manual transmission: it has a shorter top gear (0.85 vs. 0.67) AND a shorter final drive ratio (3.23 vs. 3.15).

Given the manual’s lesser efficiency and equal purchase price, is there a point to it? If you have to ask this question, then no, there isn’t. (I only asked it out of journalistic obligation.) My only issue with the manual other than the fuel economy hit is that second gear can be difficult to find on a quick downshift, a byproduct of locating the lockout-free reverse to the left of first.

With the Sport Line’s sport suspension and the “M Adaptive Suspension” set to “Sport”, the new 3 does feel tighter than the Luxury Line car, but still looser than I’ve come to expect from a BMW. In turns, especially those with imperfect pavement or where you’re being a little too aggressive with the accelerator, the rear end can bobble about a bit. Somehow the car’s line isn’t disturbed, only the driver’s confidence – and not by much. The bond with the F30 isn’t as immediate as with past 3s, but one learns that, when driven with a modicum of sanity, the 335i will go precisely where you want it to go. The misbehavior some people (who clearly don’t know what they’re talking about) refer to as ”snap oversteer”? There’s none of that. Get on the go pedal in a turn and the rear end slides out progressively. Left entirely on, the stability control will cut in too soon. There’s no need to deactivate it; the Sport+ setting puts the threshold about where it ought to be. The electric power steering is no more communicative here than in other recent BMWs. Perhaps BMW reasons that, since the car virtually reads your mind, there’s no need for it to converse. I’m not sure I’d drive the 335i better with more communicative steering, but I would enjoy the experience more. EPS notwithstanding, the 335i becomes enjoyable if you can really push it, the problem being that this is rarely a legal possibility in populated areas. During my week with the 335i I constantly felt like I had to back off just as the fun was starting. I didn’t drive the 328i and 335i with the same suspension, but as best as I can tell, the car feels heavier and less agile with the six, a typical consequence of adding 165 pounds over the front wheels.

One option not on the tested car: the $300 “variable sport steering.” This isn’t the complex active steering offered in the previous 3-Steries. Instead, the steering ratio quickens more rapidly as the wheel is turned. On center, the standard steering is 15:1, the VSS 14.5:1. By the time the wheel has been turned 100 degrees (roughly the amount needed to turn at a typical intersection) the standard steering has quickened to 10.1:1, but the VSS has reduced to an ultra-quick 7.7:1. Intrigued, I dropped by a dealer to sample a car with this option. As the specs suggest, the optional system doesn’t feel much different on-center or in medium-to-large radius curves. Only in tight curves does the steering feel noticeably different, and even then, it’s only really apparent after hopping back into the car without it. The largest difference will be felt in parking lots, where fewer turns are needed to maneuver into a space. Unlike with active steering, the character of the car isn’t dramatically affected. But since VSS is only another $300, I’d opt for it.

The upside of the F30’s less sporty sport suspension? The car rides more smoothly than previous sport-suspension equipped 3ers. I could live with the suspension set to “Sport” all the time, a good thing, as the car can bounce about far too much when set to “Comfort.” (Yes, you’ll need to switch it every time you start the car.) Given the underdamped nature of the default setting, the Sport Line’s standard suspension is probably the way to go. This will also save you $900. To save another $900, stick with the Sport Line’s standard 18-inch wheels. They look and handle about as good and ride significantly better. The 19s don’t ride harshly much of the time, but hit even a small pothole and it sounds like you’ve taken out a wheel. Non-run-flat tires would likely do better, but BMW does not offer them.

Equipped with most but not all options, the tested 335i lists for $55,745. Seem like a lot for a compact sport sedan? As just noted, you can save $1,800 by doing without the 19s and adaptive dampers. If you can live without nav and a head-up display (which would be more useful if it included a tach), then you’ll remove another $2,550. Keep cutting the non-essentials, add the optional steering, and you’ll arrive at a mere $47,195.

Still too steep for a vinyl-upholstered compact sedan? Well, there’s a good way to save another $3,700. The 328i is nearly as quick, is considerably more fuel efficient (despite similar EPA ratings), and handles better. Overall, even with the various sport options the new 3-Series feels a little soft and uninvolving for my taste. BMW focused on providing a very well-rounded car, and clearly left room for a future “is” or “M Sport.” Among the current offerings, the 328i Sport Line is the one to get.

BMW provided the tested car with insurance and a tank of gas. Erhard BMW of Farmington Hills, MI, provided the car with VSS.

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

335i engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 335i front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 335i front, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 335i instrument panel, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 335i interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 335i rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 335i side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 114
BMW Offering Stretch 335Li In China Mon, 30 Jan 2012 17:00:04 +0000

With Audi offering an A4L in China, BMW naturally has to get in on the act. Now that a new, locally made 3-Series is debuting, BMW will offer a 335Li for customers who want to be driven, rather than drive the…erm…Ultimate Driving Machine.

The car will be made in collaboration with local joint venture partner Brilliance. The 335i was apparently an import in previous generation, but the 335i will be made locally. While the A4L starts at RMB272,800 (about $43,000 USD), pricing for an E90 3-Series (not the F30 pictured above) starts at RMB299,800 ($47,000 USD) all the way up to RMB626,200 ($99,000) for an imported 335i. Expect the new F30 cars to start below RMB300,000.

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NAIAS: BMW ActiveHybrid 3, 335i “Lines” Mon, 09 Jan 2012 18:13:39 +0000

The new 3! All new! And it looks like it finally has some decent brakes. About three and a half inches longer, it’s also now finally available in Audi “Atmospheres” the Sportline / Luxuryline / Modernline trim levels that BMW has used, in one fashion or another, in Europe for Averylongtime.

Engine choices are what we expected, more or less: the two-liter four-cylinder turbo for the Increasingly Inaccurately Named Three Twenty eight Eye, a 306-horsepower revised turbo six for the 335i, and the ActiveHybrid. 335 horsepower was the number I heard during the press preview, along with 37mpg. It’s a tempting combo, for sure, and it underlines the previous BMW strategy undertaken with the X6 of making the hybrid a big power ride.

The new 3 is aggressive-looking and I’m pretty sure I saw (and photographed) some non-sliding-caliper brakes on the 335i. That’s a good sign for those of us who want to track these cars. Transmission choices are six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic for the non-hybrids, but the press conference was vague about the hybrid transmission.

Also at the show: the i8 from Mission:Impossible. As a concept car, it is certainly shiny.

IMG_5628 The female Olympian told a very touching story about being given a free car by her parents. IMG_5630 P90081502 P90081503 P90081504 P90081505 P90081506 P90081507 P90081508 P90081509 P90083254 P90083256 P90083257 P90083259 P90083263 P90083268 P90083272 P90083285 P90083286 P90083287 P90083289 P90083297 P90083298 P90083300 P90083301 P90083305 P90083306 P90083307 P90083309 P90083310 P90083311 P90083314 P90083316 P90083317 P90083319 P90083320 P90083323 BMW M5 BMW M5 BMW M5 BMW M5 BMW M5 BMW M5 BMW M5 P90083779 P90086646 P90086649 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 22
New or Used: A Flip of the E36 Coin Thu, 16 Jun 2011 23:43:44 +0000

Danny writes:

Dear Sajeev and Steve,

This is not necessarily a purchase conundrum, but I hope that you’ll help me anyway. I’m currently the owner of a lovely, well-kept 1998 BMW 323is Coupe (E36) that comes very close to fulfilling every automotive need of a frugal 24-year old single guy living in a big city—it looks good, it’s a blast to drive, it’s economical to run, and it’s pretty comfy to boot.

I picked it up about a year ago for just over 4 grand, and put about $1900 into it (a new set of Yokos and the replacement of a troublesome driveshaft). I’d love to keep the car into old age (it turned 130k on the clock yesterday), but two things give me pause. One: as much as I love the car, I don’t know if keeping it around will be worth the cost of upkeep (I’m mechanically savvy, but my “garage” is a cold pad of publicly-owned asphalt on a city street). Two: in all likelihood, I will be leaving my current city to start graduate school this fall (and will have no need for a car there).

I would hate to get rid of it—it’s been a joy to own and drive, and I know that if I sell it now, I’ll never be able to make back the money I put into it. I could conceivably leave it with a family member, and resume our relationship after I graduate, but that might not be worth the hassle. So what’s a fella to do?

Sajeev Answers:

There’s no doubt about it, E36s are sweet and you aren’t keeping yours.  No matter when you sell, you’ll never get your “investment” back from it. So go ahead and do it now, considering the time value of money and your needs in college. The only way I see things differently is if you answer these questions with a yes:

Will you move on, grow up, progress as a human being and regret not having this car around as a future project? Will you piss away far too much money finding another version of your true love a decade (or more) from now? Are you as nuts as me with my Fox Body Fords?

Steve Answers:

This is more of a coin flip. You need to first figure out what your family is willing to do. Would they be willing to drive it once every couple weeks for perhaps 20 miles or so? The cost of insuring this vehicle will go down dramatically if you arrange to have a low mileage policy with your insurance company. I know that USAA does this and I’m sure others do so as well. This is what I did when I flew around the country liquidating vehicles and it worked out.

I would estimate your costs may run right around the $1500 range if you have it driven on occasion. Storing it on blocks would be a lot less. But you have to find a place for that. Not an easy thing to do if you live in a county or city that prohibits it. I would ask yourself a simple question if the storing option isn’t available,. Am I willing to spend $65 a month for the next two years to keep this car? That’s a question only you can answer.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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And the Winner Is… Mon, 11 Apr 2011 03:12:00 +0000
For the second time in a row, a BMW E30 has taken the win on laps at a 24 Hours of LeMons race. Does that mean that the E30 is an inherently superior low-buck road-racing machine? Not exactly; of the 11 E30s at the Real Hoopties of New Jersey, only four cracked the top 20. What happened over the weekend was a combination of excellent, screwup-free driving by Team Cardorks/Invisible Pink Unicorn… and a pair of lead-destroying black flags on the Alfa Romeo Milano that led for most of the race.

The Cardorks’ 325e (this three-car team also brought a pair of Acura Integras, one of which came in 6th overall and had a best lap time a full 2.6 seconds quicker than the Invisible Pink Unicorn) was actually pretty terrible, as LeMons E30s go, but the team just kept on knocking out fairly quick laps and waiting for the leader to stumble. When that happened, they made their slim two-lap lead hold until the checkered flag waved. Congratulations, Team Cardorks!

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And the Winner Is… Mon, 28 Mar 2011 06:30:24 +0000
The Sears Pointless 24 Hours of LeMons race was all about a Nissan NX2000 versus BMW 3 Series versus Honda motorcycle-engined Geo Metro battle for quite a while, but black flags on the Nissan and the Geo gave the Spin-N-Out Burger BMW E30 the chance to grab the win on laps. Known as “the invisible E30″ for its smooth, penalty-free driving, POSRacing’s Spin-N-Out car (formerly known as the F’ed Up Express, winner of the 2010 Arse Freeze-a-Palooza LeMons race) takes home another well-deserved trophy. Congratulations, POSRacing!

The prize? $1,500 cash! Well, actually it was $1,500 worth of Russian rubles, in the form of two huge trash bags stuffed with 10-ruble notes. Who says racing doesn’t pay?

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And the Winner Is… Mon, 06 Dec 2010 07:30:45 +0000
The fourth annual Arse Freeze-a-Palooza is over, all the heaps have been dragged onto trailers and onto I-5 for the trip home, and a team that has flirted with victory for race after race has finally taken the win on laps in the 24 Hours of LeMons.

The POSRacing F’ed-Up Express BMW E30 has entered in all four California LeMons races this year, and the team placed 10th, 3rd, and 2nd in the first three (and spent a significant amount of time as the leader in each case). Finally, everything went right, and the team’s super-clean driving and reliable car enabled the F’ed-Up Express to cling by its fingernails to the slimmest of leads; in fact, the fuel-consumption calculations were cut so close that the engine started crapping out from fuel starvation during the final lap… with second-place Eyesore looming in the rear-view mirror a half-lap behind. Congratulations, POSRacing!

Meanwhile, the Eyesores are plenty happy with their second-place finish, because they have now clinched the 24 Hours of LeMons 2010 National Championship. The prize? A trip to some race in France!

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And The Winner Is… Sun, 21 Nov 2010 23:54:06 +0000

The LeMons Traveling Circus has just made its way to the French Quarter, so I’ll cut to the chase: the Race Hard Race Ugly BMW 325iS took the win on laps at the Circuit At Grand Bayou today. Margin of victory? 8.5 seconds after 24 hours of racing.
This is the third 24 Hours of LeMons win for the Race Hard Race Ugly team, which fields a pair of E30s, and the first for this car. The Warthog Racing E30, pictured in the background in the above photo, had slightly faster lap times but just couldn’t catch up by the time the checkered flag waved. By the way, the LeMons Supreme Court gave Race Hard Race Ugly eight BS Penalty laps (a matter of some unaccounted-for new shock absorbers); just one more and they’d have lost. The drivers made zero mistakes, the car never broke, and that’s how you win an endurance race. Congratulations once again, Race Hard Race Ugly!

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