The Truth About Cars » BMW http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 26 May 2015 20:00:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » BMW http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com While You Were Sleeping: Cadillac ATS-V+, Holden Monza and Lamborghini Urus Receives Greenlight http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/while-you-were-sleeping-cadillac-ats-v-holden-monza-and-lamborghini-urus-receives-greenlight/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/while-you-were-sleeping-cadillac-ats-v-holden-monza-and-lamborghini-urus-receives-greenlight/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 12:01:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1075738 This edition of While You Were Sleeping offers up a bit more than usual. Instead of just overnight, we are going to try to cover as many topics from over the long weekend as possible with additional commentary. Here we go! Cadillac ATS-V+ to Feature LS7 V-8 Power (Motor Trend) According to MT, Cadillac will stuff […]

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Cadillac ATS-V

This edition of While You Were Sleeping offers up a bit more than usual. Instead of just overnight, we are going to try to cover as many topics from over the long weekend as possible with additional commentary.

Here we go!

Cadillac ATS-VCadillac ATS-V+ to Feature LS7 V-8 Power (Motor Trend)
According to MT, Cadillac will stuff the 7.0L LS7 from the Camaro Z/28 between the front fenders of a forthcoming ATS-V+. If true, the new model would be lighter and more powerful than the 3.6L TT V6 ATS-V. Also, I can’t think of another single vehicle on sale that would have engines spanning from 2.0 to 7.0 liters in displacement. Crazy.

Opel-Monza-Concept-17Exclusive: GM locks in Monza name for Australia (GoAuto)
The Monza could make a comeback as Holden applies for a trademark on the name in Australia. The Opel Monza concept made its debut at the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show.

stevens-creek-bmw-i-center-santa-clara-california-may-2015-opening_100511566_hFirst Standalone BMW Electric-Car Sales Facility Opens–In CA, Of Course (GreenCarReports)
California is the place to be if you are into electric cars. Now there’s a BMW dealership that’s converted its used vehicle showroom and service facility into an electric vehicle showcase, becoming the first full-service BMW i facility in the United States.

BYDBuffett-backed Chinese automaker BYD plans up to $1.9 billion placement (Reuters)
Chinese auto and battery maker BYD is looking to raise a lot of money. Stock trading had been halted as a stock offering is being put together and nobody from the company is talking on the record. Either the company needs cash to stay afloat or they’re looking to spend some coin on future product.

2014 Lamborghini Urus ConceptLamborghini Said to Agree to Produce New SUV in Italy
The new Lamborghini SUV has received the greenlight according to a report from Bloomberg. The decision was made after a tax break deal between Lamborghini and the Italian government was agreed. An official announcement is expected to be made tomorrow. Lamborghini could hire up to 500 additional workers to build the new model. The Urus will help Lamborghini attain its goal of doubling sales.

Chevrolet Cobalt SedanLaw expert: Feds may push GM guilty plea (The Detroit News)
In the past, the Justice Department has allowed corporations to pay massive fines in place of a guilty pleas for indiscretions and foul deeds. General Motors might not get that option due to delays in recalling faulty ignition switches.

More to come throughout the day as we get caught up.

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

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Fat Car, Erwin Wurm photo - flickr user russelljsmith

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

fat-car-by-edwin-wurm222.jpg

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

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

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BMW X2 Green-Lit For Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/bmw-x2-green-lit-for-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/bmw-x2-green-lit-for-production/#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 17:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1070866 X is giving it to us again: BMW has green-lit production of the X2 crossover, slotted between the upcoming second-gen X1 and current X3. The X2 is based upon the UKL platform underpinning the X1 and 2 Series Active and Gran tourers, Autocar reports. Power will come from three- and four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines, […]

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2015 BMW i3 Range Extender BMW logo

X is giving it to us again: BMW has green-lit production of the X2 crossover, slotted between the upcoming second-gen X1 and current X3.

The X2 is based upon the UKL platform underpinning the X1 and 2 Series Active and Gran tourers, Autocar reports. Power will come from three- and four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines, including a performance-oriented B48 engine for an M Performance variant of the crossover, with output expected to hit 300 horsepower. Front- and all-wheel drive will link the power to the road.

Styling is said to follow in the footsteps of the X4 and X6 — four doors and a slanted hatchback — while the interior will be shared with the second-gen X1.

The publication’s sources state the concept version of the X2 will make its global debut as early as next year’s Geneva Auto Show. Prototype testing is set to begin by the end of May. North American sales are not known as of this writing, though the United Kingdom will get theirs starting in H2 2017.

[Photo credit: Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars]

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BMW CEO Harald Krüger Overshadowed By Predecessor’s Success http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/bmw-ceo-harald-kruger-overshadowed-by-predecessors-success/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/bmw-ceo-harald-kruger-overshadowed-by-predecessors-success/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 17:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1067418 As BMW AG’s newest CEO, Harald Krüger’s main challenge is to helm the company in the shadow of newly appointed chairman and former CEO, Norbert Reithofer. The concern comes amid Reithofer taking his place as the company’s chairman — succeeding Joachim Milberg in the role — without first stepping away from the company for two […]

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BMW 650i Grand Coupe

As BMW AG’s newest CEO, Harald Krüger’s main challenge is to helm the company in the shadow of newly appointed chairman and former CEO, Norbert Reithofer.

The concern comes amid Reithofer taking his place as the company’s chairman — succeeding Joachim Milberg in the role — without first stepping away from the company for two years as recommended by the German Corporate Governance Code, Bloomberg reports. The move leaves Krüger little room to move BMW toward his vision, especially as the industry itself is undergoing significant changes.

Krüger is also taking over as CEO at a time when the company’s fortunes in China are turning for the worst, following the nation’s own economic slowdown delivering a slump in profits for BMW’s joint venture during Q1 2015. Additionally, the new CEO will have to determine where to take Reithofer’s previous projects — mass-produced carbon fiber, i Series et al — especially when it comes to cost.

Finally, Krüger will be in charge of an automaker whose sales were boosted 55 percent from 1.4 million to 2.1 million vehicles annually, with an improved pretax margin of 9.2 percent from the 6.3 percent margin in 2006 when Reithofer became CEO. Bankhaus Metzler analyst Juergen Pieper said Krüger will have a tough act to follow with the new chairman, especially as Reithofer moves into his new role without delay, a move supported by majority shareholders the Quandt family.

[Photo credit: BMW]

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Piston Slap: Panther Love Crashes a Monsoon Wedding? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-panther-love-crashes-monsoon-wedding/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-panther-love-crashes-monsoon-wedding/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 12:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1066258   TTAC Commentator thirty-three writes: Hi Sajeev, Not sure if this fits into your usual line of questions, but I’m looking for suggestions on renting a car for my upcoming wedding. My problem is that here in Vancouver, BC, I can’t find anyone who rents premium vehicles like a Benz or a Jaguar. Really expensive […]

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True Love = Panther Love (photo courtesy: detroitweddinglimo.com):

TTAC Commentator thirty-three writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Not sure if this fits into your usual line of questions, but I’m looking for suggestions on renting a car for my upcoming wedding. My problem is that here in Vancouver, BC, I can’t find anyone who rents premium vehicles like a Benz or a Jaguar.

Really expensive cars are available (e.g. Ferraris, Maseratis), but I just want a luxury sedan that will seat 5 comfortably. I only need it for one of the five days. Yes, it is an Indian wedding.

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Are you sure about that?

But here’s the real question: why can’t I be okay with renting a limo like every other wedding?

What makes your wedding so special?

Well for starters, it’s your wedding. And many Indian communities (especially in wealthy cities with large Indian populations) demand a big deal from their ceremonies. It’s an obligation to friends, family and the community. Special events, top drawer venues, open bars everywhere, international guests, 1000+ attendees for the reception, etc. So wanting a nice car, especially when making a show for family members that care about such things, isn’t really a big deal…right?

WRONG SON: I demand you rent a Lincoln Town Car limo.

How dare you consider true love sans riding in Panther Love?

Even more off-topic: I do not understand the cash sucking, humility negating one-upmanship present in many weddings, especially those of my people. I’m (admittedly) a horrible Indian when it comes to ceremonies, but I digress…your problem has two easy solutions:

  1. Buy a used “premium vehicle” and sell it in 2-3 months. That shows far more commitment to our ceremonies, too! Why, you could have one of those 2+ week ceremonies with the keys to a premium machine in your pocket!
  2. Embrace Panther Love and rent a Town Car Limo. Or an Escalade/Navigator limo if all else fails. Just don’t let me catch you in some abomination like an MKT: Vishnu (or whatever religion applies here) would like, totally, disapprove!

The perpetually single guy demands you rent a Limo, hopefully with white wheels. Off to you, Best and Brightest!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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While You Were Sleeping: Viper ACR Pricing, BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage and Turbocharging All The Things http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/while-you-were-sleeping-viper-acr-pricing-bmw-3-0-csl-hommage-and-turbocharging-all-the-things/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/while-you-were-sleeping-viper-acr-pricing-bmw-3-0-csl-hommage-and-turbocharging-all-the-things/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 10:47:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1067114 The Viper ACR will be able to take on other track-ready specials for thousands less. 2016 Dodge Viper ACR Price Starts at $117,895 (AutoGuide) For a track-ready Viper, anything under $120,000 is a bargain. General Motors recalls 523,000 Malibus, pickups (USA Today) 470,000 2011-2012 Chevrolet Malibus get a front seat seatbelt recall while the new mid-size […]

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2016 Dodge Viper ACR

The Viper ACR will be able to take on other track-ready specials for thousands less.

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Von Kuenheim: BMW Will Never Market A Pickup Truck http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/von-kuenheim-bmw-will-never-market-a-pickup-truck/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/von-kuenheim-bmw-will-never-market-a-pickup-truck/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 20:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1066962 BMW owners looking to add a Bavarian-badged pickup will need to look elsewhere, as the automaker has no intention to market such a vehicle. The declaration comes from BMW Group Asia, Pacific and South Africa senior vice president Hendrik von Kuenheim, Motoring.com.au reports. Von Kuenheim spelled out why utes and trucks will never have a […]

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BMW 2002 Truckamino Circa March 2009

BMW owners looking to add a Bavarian-badged pickup will need to look elsewhere, as the automaker has no intention to market such a vehicle.

The declaration comes from BMW Group Asia, Pacific and South Africa senior vice president Hendrik von Kuenheim, Motoring.com.au reports. Von Kuenheim spelled out why utes and trucks will never have a place in his company’s collection:

There is huge potential in pick-ups. In North America you look at the Ford F-150 pick-up it is the best-selling car.

You can do it but then you cannot be BMW. You have to be a different company, but this company is not ready to change from the ultimate driving machine and the ultimate successful company in luxury to a mass manufacturer who goes after the volume of pick-up trucks.

He did acknowledge BMW’s ongoing presence in the crossover/SUV market, as well as the introduction of front-wheel drive and three-cylinder engines to the brand, yet reiterated the fact those moves were accomplished by remaining true to its core values “of joy, dynamics and innovation.”

The proclamation follows an announcement in March by Mercedes of its intent to build a 1-ton pickup based upon the Nissan Navara, set to hit most showrooms around the globe by early 2019 as the GLT-Class.

[Photo credit: Drew Stephens/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0]

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No Fixed Abode: Return Of The King http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/no-fixed-abode-return-king/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/no-fixed-abode-return-king/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 12:10:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1065490 So here we are, celebrating forty years of the “Dreier”, or 3-Series, depending on how Euro-wannabe you wannabe. Since I don’t wannabe, I’m going to call it “39 Years Of The 3 Series”. After all, we didn’t get the 320i in the United States until the 1977 model year. When it did arrive, it was […]

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325e

So here we are, celebrating forty years of the “Dreier”, or 3-Series, depending on how Euro-wannabe you wannabe. Since I don’t wannabe, I’m going to call it “39 Years Of The 3 Series”. After all, we didn’t get the 320i in the United States until the 1977 model year. When it did arrive, it was a thermal-reacted boondoggle with a tendency to rust out from under the feet of the unlucky first owners.

Although it looked like a million bucks, particularly in “S” trim, and it was one of the dream cars of my pre-teen years, I cannot allow any of you Millennial readers out there to come to the mistaken belief that the E21, as adapted for the American market, was anything other than a shitbox with the lifespan of a fruit fly. It was also easy meat for a Rabbit GTI in any venue from the stoplight drag to the road course. It was, however, expensive, costing about as much as a base Cadillac Coupe de Ville, so at least it had that going for it. The most damning thing I can tell you about the 320i is this: I worked for David Hobbs BMW for much of 1988, and although the newest 320i was just five years old at that point, I never saw one come in for service, and we never took one in on trade.

The “E30″ 318i that appeared for the 1983 model year was a major improvement over its predecessor in everything from climate control to rust resistance, but it was “powered” by the same 103-horsepower, 1.8-liter, eight-valve four-cylinder that made the badge on the back of the 1980-1983 320i a comforting lie. I put “powered” in quotes because the E30 318i struggled to break the 18-second mark through the quarter-mile in an era where the Mustang and Camaro were in the low fifteens and even a 1981 Dodge Omni 024 “Charger 2.2″ could rip the mark in 17.2 seconds. That’s right: if you were in a brand-new BMW and a three-year-old Dodge Omni pulled up next to you at the light, the only thing that could save you from an ass-kicking would be a swift activation of the turn signal.

But then, one day about halfway through the first year of the 318i’s lukewarm tenure in North America, things changed.

The Three’s big brother, the E28 528e with its low-rev, 2.7-liter “eta” straight-six putting out just 127 horsepower, was a real whipping boy of the automotive media at the time. The spell cast by David E. Davis, Jr.’s infamous near-advertorial for the original 2002 had finally faded to the point where criticizing BMW became not only possible, but profitable. After all, there were plenty of would-be BMW competitors like the Pontiac 6000STE and Dodge Lancer out there, and there was a lot of magazine ad space to be filled. So the same press that had pretended not to notice the unique ability of Seventies Bimmers to go pop-crackle-BOOM fell all over themselves to attack the 528e.

 

By Cchan199206 (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

1983 BMW 528e by Cchan199206 (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

True, as far as sports sedans go, the eta-motored Five wasn’t very inspiring. It was the default transportation choice of realtors, yuppie wives, and financial-industry people with children. Pretty much everybody you see driving a Lexus RX350 nowadays would have driven a 528e back then. Some nontrivial percentage of them even took it with a stick, because the Eighties were an era where both men and women were still expected to know how to operate a “standard shift”. My mother had a clutch pedal in her car, as an example, until 2007, long after she was diagnosed with terminal sarcoidosis and well after her sixtieth birthday. Ships of wood, men of iron, you get the idea.

The problems with the 528e were all neatly solved by the arrival of the brilliant 533i and the even more brilliant 535i and the sublime 535is and the even more sublime E28 M5, which ushered in the kind of Golden Age at BMW that had previously only existed in the hyperbolic imaginations of autowriters and ad copywriters. The mere existence of the 533i had serious implications for 528e sales because it cost more and therefore was more attractive to realtors and yuppie wives and financial-industry people with children. This meant that production of the US-only eta motor wasn’t going to be as high as it had previously been, unless BMW could find another place for it.

 

BMW 325e by IFCAR (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

BMW 325e by IFCAR (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

And thus we arrive at the 325e, which was introduced halfway through the 1984 model year as an upscale companion to the 318i. In addition to the 127-horse eta motor, the 325e had a lot of standard equipment and a leather interior in place of the vinyl found in its four-cylinder sibling. Car and Driver called it “smooth as a jet” and recorded a quarter-mile of 16.3@83mph. Finally, a Three that could at least nip at the heels of five-liter Mustangs.

More importantly, this was finally the 3-Series that delivered what the 320i had promised when it arrived seven and a half years before. It was luxurious, quiet, effortlessly rapid in traffic, and able to outhandle most of the competition. To drive a 325e in 1984 was to be at the apex of small German cars. You didn’t have to rev it to go quickly – hell, you couldn’t rev it, really. Just snap off shifts at the four-grand mark and watch everything around you disappear into the mirror. The same kind of easy torque that causes people to wax rhapsodic about diesels today was standard equipment thirty-one years ago in the eta-motored Three. It also marked a new seriousness on BMW’s part regarding the American market; there had been a six-cylinder variant of the E21 in Europe for nearly its entire lifetime, and the E30 had a 323i variant from Day One over there, but the company had never bothered to provide one for us.

The arrival of the 325i two years later, with its high-revving Euro-spec six, cemented BMW’s market position and enthusiast prestige for years to come. The four-cylinder variants that followed, the M3 and the sixteen-valve 318is, acquired devoted followings of their own, but it was the 325e and 325i that changed the image of the E30 from “gutless yuppie-mobile” to “legitimate sporting sedan”. These were the cars that formed the basis of BMWCCA racing for years and made the Spec E30 class a viable proposition.

From 1984 to 2012, the naturally-aspirated six-cylinder BMW Three of between 2.5 and 3.0 liter displacement was, to quote a thousand advertisements and editorials, the benchmark by which entry-level sports sedans were judged. It was a product of consistent and admirable excellence, a pleasure to drive and a privilege to own. There were often faster or more stylish options on the market, but none of them had the staying power of the Three.

The first lap I ever took around a racetrack was behind the wheel of my brand-new 330i Sport, as was the first flag I ever took as an autocrosser. During the year I worked for David Hobbs I drove plenty of eta-motored Threes, including a BBS-and-Bilstein-equipped 325es that shocked my teenaged self with its lateral grip and responsiveness. But the strongest memory I have of those cars was a rural day in Ohio back in the summer of 1989.

It was Orientation Day for parents and students at Miami University. My father’s schedule didn’t permit him to waste his time attending such an event, so he commanded that I attend it alone. When I protested that my red Marquis couldn’t possibly make the 117-mile trip to Oxford, Ohio, he handed over the keys to his black 325 and told me to return it at the end of the day.

It wasn’t a 325e, just a plain 325, the vinyl-interior model that replaced the 318i in 1986. No options, no gingerbread, just two doors, five speeds, and a fresh set of Michelins on the fourteen-inch alloys. Down Route 70, I stretched the Bimmer’s legs past 120mph and used the shoulder where I had to. I arrived at school about ninety minutes after leaving the house. Dad was right about the orientation; it was mostly hand-holding shit for kids terrified of the idea that they’d be living away from home. So at around two in the afternoon, I pointed the black BMW’s big chrome bumper out of town with the intent of beating my inbound time. Could I make 117 miles, some of it two-lane, in seventy-five minutes?

I chirped second leaving the last stoplight at Miami and never looked back. Up Route 127, the 2.7 stuttered against the rev limiter in third as I pulled across the double-yellow and blasted past the slow-moving tractor-trailers. When I pulled up in front of the house, the brakes were hot and the fuel tank was empty, and the little digital clock to the right of the tape player said 3:35. Not the 3:28 for which I’d hoped, and a few minutes above my target time. I told my friends, but they didn’t believe me. In 1989, that kind of pace was more the stuff of legends than anything else. And that was appropriate, because that squared-off coupe was, indeed, legendary in its own time, and to this day.

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Piston Slap: E39 Perfection or Unloved Lockstep Leasing? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-e39-perfection-unloved-lockstep-leasing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-e39-perfection-unloved-lockstep-leasing/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 13:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1065546   TTAC commentator nutbags writes: Hi Sajeev, I have been a long time reader and occasional commenter and thought I might write in for once. How many other readers have experienced this? I know you have Panther love in your system for many good reasons. Have you experienced this? Does this detract from the love? Now […]

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coloribus.com

Except Invincibility! (photo courtesy: coloribus.com)

TTAC commentator nutbags writes:

Hi Sajeev,
I have been a long time reader and occasional commenter and thought I might write in for once. How many other readers have experienced this? I know you have Panther love in your system for many good reasons. Have you experienced this? Does this detract from the love?

Now for the real question: I am a middle-aged guy with a wife and two teenaged kids. Recently the owner of my company, who knows my love of most things automotive and has been paying my auto lease (provided I keep the payment below about $350/month) for about 18 years, gave me a proposition.

He stated that I could lease another new vehicle with the same dollar limit or buy a used vehicle with a limit of about $15,000. The one catch is the used car has to last about 5 years and be my daily driver; I’m not sure why but that is his stipulation. My leases during this time have been some decent rides (’00 Passat 1.8T 5MT, ’03 Accord SE-L 5MT, ’06 Accord V6 6MT, and currently ’12 GLI 6MT) but now it is time for my next vehicle.

The only used car that really interests me is the E39 BMW 5-series. Decent ones seem well within the budget, but would this car make it the 5 years without a huge outlay of cash to keep it running? Or should I just stick to leasing new? New considerations are: GTI, GLI, Focus ST, Mazda3 (5-door), or Mazda6. All can be had with a manual transmission and all have received good reviews. So what are your thoughts, B&B?

Thanks and keep up the great work,
Nutbags

Sajeev answers:

First question: That link refers to the 3V motors, which were never installed in Panthers due to Ford’s insistence on letting this platform rot in neglect. I changed spark plugs on 2V 4.6’s that supposedly strip out their threads, but I didn’t screw them up. My trusted, local wrench agrees, suggesting the motors were “unforgiving to sloppy labor” instead of being a guaranteed fail. I’m changing the plugs in my father’s 2006 Town Car this week, so I’ll report back if I screw it up this time.

Second: you got some nerve to even consider an E39 as a daily for the next 5 years. Job security and any needy 15-ish year old premium car is a contradiction, considering repair costs, service complexity and availability of E39 parts. Because this isn’t even a 2000 Lexus ES, much less a new one.

Granted the E39 (M5 or 540i 6-spd Sport Package) is one of the few sedans from the last 20 years I’d love to own AND look respectable; mostly because a used Panther won’t pass muster with friends, co-workers/customers and random judgmental onlookers. Well, except for the Mercury Marauder.

Whatever: start test driving the future leased vehicle of your dreams. I reckon you’ll get either the GLI or the Mazda6.

They are E39-ish. They will do. Go have fun!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Shock, Horror: U.S. BMW X4 Sales Are Rising Higher http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/shock-horror-u-s-bmw-x4-sales-rising-higher/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/shock-horror-u-s-bmw-x4-sales-rising-higher/#comments Fri, 08 May 2015 15:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1063498 It’s only been on sale ten months. But those who hoped BMW wouldn’t be able to repeat the X6’s moderate levels of success will be disappointed to hear the BMW X4 just recorded its best U.S. sales month so far. 920 copies of the X4 were sold in April 2015, April’s total was 89% better […]

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2015 BMW X4

It’s only been on sale ten months. But those who hoped BMW wouldn’t be able to repeat the X6’s moderate levels of success will be disappointed to hear the BMW X4 just recorded its best U.S. sales month so far. 920 copies of the X4 were sold in April 2015,

April’s total was 89% better than the average monthly total from the first-quarter of this year. Moreover, April’s X4 U.S. sales total was 54% better than the total from the prior month, when the U.S. new vehicle market was 6% larger. Indeed, the X4’s April total of 920 units was 12% greater than the total achieved by BMW USA in December of last year, December being the month for luxury auto sales in America.

Just days after TTAC’s managing editor mentioned the rate at which Porsche Macans are flying out of showrooms – not that the Macan is the highest-volume vehicle by any means, not even among Porsches – the realization that X4 sales are rising higher makes a measure of sense. True, the X4 is not the shockingly effective all-arounder that the Macan is. But in 2015, as a general rule, auto consumers love SUVs (and the various spin-off names of the SUV class: crossovers, CUVs, utilities, tall wagons.) Added to that, auto consumers love luxury branded vehicles. Auto consumers also love BMWs; after all, BMW was America’s best-selling premium auto brand in 2014 and only trails Mercedes-Benz by a hair through the first-third of 2014.

2015 BMW X4 red

But the X4? Is it simply selling more often now than when it first originated because Americans love SUVs, especially luxury SUVs, and especially BMWs?

Like the X6 and the discontinued Acura ZDX, the X4 is a more costly, less flexible version of a more mainstream luxury utility vehicle. In the X6’s case, the donor vehicle was the X5. The ZDX was the second-gen MDX’s offspring. The X4 is a more costly, less flexible version of the BMW X3. And one might have naturally assumed that in stark contrast to the less-is-more formula that works for so many a special edition Porsche sports car, the less-style-equals-more-ugly conundrum of the X4 would see the BMW suffering the ZDX’s fate.

Yet nearly one year into its tenure, the BMW X4 is selling better than at any point in the model’s brief history.

And in April, the X4 sold 59% more frequently than the Acura ZDX did in its best-ever month.

 

2010 Acura ZDX

2010 Acura ZDX

Lovers of taste can be grateful, however, as the increasingly popular X4 is still really not all that popular. Only one out of every ten BMW SAV sales in April involved an X4. (Only one in five involved the more expensive X6.)

BMW’s more conventional X1, X3, and X5 combined for a 19% year-over-year loss in April and are down 25% year-to-date in an SUV/CUV market that was up 15% in April and 13% year-to-date. The addition of the X4 and improved X6 sales don’t alter the fact that BMW utility vehicle sales are still down this year: 6% in April; 17% year-to-date. More specifically, the X3’s decline (32% in April; 40% YTD) hasn’t been completely made up for by the X4, either. Meeting global demand for luxury SUVs isn’t an easy task at the moment, as the United States isn’t the only market with a hankering for vehicles like the X3, which is in short supply.

 

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 AMG Coupe

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe

Regardless, with the X4’s moderate level of success, don’t be surprised if automakers delve deeper into this bizarre niche. Indeed, we’ve already seen that the next M-Class (to be called the GLE) will offer a so-called coupe version; an X6 fighter. Let’s just hope they find a way to make them all a little prettier.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and Facebook.

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Autoleaks: BMW M2 Specs, Colors Revealed In Forum http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/autoleaks-bmw-m2-specs-colors-revealed-forum/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/autoleaks-bmw-m2-specs-colors-revealed-forum/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 18:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1063642 Via a forum member’s inside sources, specs and colors for the upcoming BMW M2 have made their way onto the Internet. 2 Addicts member Dackelone posted info on what colors would be available at launch in November, as well as what to expect out of the N55 3.0-liter turbocharged I6 under the bonnet, AutoGuide reports. […]

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BMW 2 Series Coupe

Via a forum member’s inside sources, specs and colors for the upcoming BMW M2 have made their way onto the Internet.

2 Addicts member Dackelone posted info on what colors would be available at launch in November, as well as what to expect out of the N55 3.0-liter turbocharged I6 under the bonnet, AutoGuide reports.

Based on Dackelone’s sources “deep within BMW HQ,” the N55 — used in a number of BMW models since 2009 — will put 365 horses and 343 lb-ft of torque to the back, and has an “over boost” feature good for 25 lb-ft of extra torque throughout the low- to mid-range within the RPM band.

As for the colors, only four will be available at the start: Alpine White, Black Sapphire metallic, Long Beach Blue metallic, and Mineral Grey metallic. Other colors may turn up later, though Dackelone is collecting suggestions via poll.

[Photo credit: BMW]

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Buick Regal Tops Among Those Traded-In After One Year Of Ownership http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/buick-regal-tops-among-traded-one-year-ownership/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/buick-regal-tops-among-traded-one-year-ownership/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 19:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1062954 In a hurry to trade your new Buick Regal for something else? You’re not alone, as the sedan joins a handful of models traded-in after a year of ownership. Per a report by iSeeCars.com, 2.7 percent of vehicles bought new end up on the used lot after being on the road for one year, Forbes […]

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2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-003

In a hurry to trade your new Buick Regal for something else? You’re not alone, as the sedan joins a handful of models traded-in after a year of ownership.

Per a report by iSeeCars.com, 2.7 percent of vehicles bought new end up on the used lot after being on the road for one year, Forbes reports, with trade-in rates as high as 11 percent for a specific model.

The models brought back to the sales lot run the gamut, from $18,000 subcompacts to $45,000 luxury sedans. The Regal tops the list with 10.7 percent of owners exchanging their keys after a year, the Chevrolet Sonic takes second with 8.9 percent, and the BMW X1 at a close third with 7.8 percent. The Dodge Charger, Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan, Chevrolet Cruze and Nissan Frontier also make the list.

As for why the sudden change of heart, quality or the perception of quality played a key role; the aforementioned models were rated poorly by owners surveyed in J.D. Power’s 2014 U.S. Initial Quality Survey. ISeeCars.com CEO Phong Ly says those issues usually involve technology, such as connected-vehicle systems, voice command, and Bluetooth connection, and aren’t so much “problems” as they are difficulties with said technologies.

Those looking for a deal on those models will likely be happy with what they find on the used lot, though. The 2014 Regal with average mileage comes with a price tag 32.2 percent less than new, while the C-Class and Charger lost 31.0 percent and 28.4 percent in new-car value after a year, respectively.

[Photo credit: Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars]

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BMW Delays Decision On Factory Amid Russia’s Economic Crisis http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/bmw-delays-decision-factory-amid-russias-economic-crisis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/bmw-delays-decision-factory-amid-russias-economic-crisis/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 18:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1062874 The ongoing economic crisis suffered by Russia has given pause to a decision by BMW to build an assembly plant in the ailing nation. CEO Norbert Reithofer said Russia is “a challenge” for his company to overcome, Automotive News Europe reports, leaving the execs to wonder “how things will go on there.” The company’s sales […]

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A BMW In Moscow Circa January 2014

The ongoing economic crisis suffered by Russia has given pause to a decision by BMW to build an assembly plant in the ailing nation.

CEO Norbert Reithofer said Russia is “a challenge” for his company to overcome, Automotive News Europe reports, leaving the execs to wonder “how things will go on there.” The company’s sales in the market fell 14 percent over Q1 2015. The overall market itself dropped 36 percent over the same period, with the luxury market buoyed by wealthy consumers investing in hard goods.

While BMW is backing off on its decision to build a factory, rival Mercedes-Benz – whose sales climbed 9 percent over the first quarter – is looking over three potential sites in Russia for a new factory.

At present, BMW’s Russian market models are assembled from kits by manufacturer Avtotor in Kaliningrad under contract.

[Photo credit: BMW Russia/Facebook]

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While You Were Sleeping: Macan is So, So Hot, BMW M7 Rumors and Jefferson North Update http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/sleeping-macan-hot-bmw-m7-rumors-jefferson-north-update/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/sleeping-macan-hot-bmw-m7-rumors-jefferson-north-update/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 10:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1062578 The Macan has given Porsche its best month ever in America. If this was the Cayenne, I’d be furious. Truth is the Macan is actually really damn good. Porsche just had its best month ever in the US, and it’s thanks to one car (BusinessInsider) The Macan SUV is taking Porsche dealer lots by storm and […]

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2015 Porsche Macan S

The Macan has given Porsche its best month ever in America. If this was the Cayenne, I’d be furious. Truth is the Macan is actually really damn good.

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2015 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-lexus-350-f-sport-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-lexus-350-f-sport-review-video/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1056498 BMW moved over 140,000 3-Series’ last year in America. They didn’t do this by being the most luxurious option or by being the best handling option. (The truth is hard to hear, I’m sorry.) Instead, BMW did this by doing exactly what shoppers asked for; luxury car buyers want a comfy ride with a luxury logo […]

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2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Exterior -002

BMW moved over 140,000 3-Series’ last year in America. They didn’t do this by being the most luxurious option or by being the best handling option. (The truth is hard to hear, I’m sorry.) Instead, BMW did this by doing exactly what shoppers asked for; luxury car buyers want a comfy ride with a luxury logo on the front, good fuel economy and to read reviews that extol the track-day virtues of their car of choice. The average buyer will never be on a track, but it’s critical to know your car belongs there.

What BMW dealers don’t want you to know: there are two sedans in this segment that are arguably better on the track than a 328i or 335i and we’re talking about one of them today, the IS 350 F Sport.

Exterior

Lexus’ exterior styling used to strike me as graceful, sophisticated and reserved. Apparently, however, the front end got no respect on the Autobahn, so the F Sport nose was created. While I can’t say if it commands more respect in Germany, the ginormous grille on our IS 350 F Sport looked ready to devour small children and subcompact cars alike. While some folks have said they dislike the gaping maw, I actually like it. What I’m not a fan of are the separate headlamp and “Nike-swoosh” daytime running lamp modules; I find the look a little discordant. Whether you like it or not, you have to admit this front end is more dramatic than anything on offer from BMW, Mercedes, Audi or Infiniti.

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Out back, less has changed, with the rear being more reserved than the front. But it’s the side profile where things really divert. The IS is 3.5 inches longer than the last generation model and most of the increase goes to the rear seat area – although, some of it also goes to the trunk, making the IS look more balanced than before. Thanks to pedestrian impact regulations in Europe, the front end has become blunter (just as we have seen from the Europeans lately), which actually helps the front 3/4 view. I think the Cadillac ATS is the most attractive sedan in this segment, but the IS in F Sport trim leaps up the scale to number 3, just behind the ATS and 3-Series.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Interior -005

Interior

While BMW and Audi have opted for an open and expansive interior theme, the IS feels tight and close to the driver by design with a high beltline and tall center console. F Sport models get a configurable LCD disco dash instead of the white-on-black gauges we normally expect from the brand. Similar to Volvo’s new LCD instrument cluster, the display can seem a little lost in the binnacle as the binnacle normally houses a wider traditional dial cluster. Since Cadillac has yet to move their large LCD instrument cluster down-market to the ATS, there really isn’t any competition for this display at the moment.

As you’d expect from Lexus, one can still get acres of stained wood and soft leather, but neither are standard. Like most entries in this segment, leather is reserved for specific packages and wood is an optional upgrade. Front seat comfort proved excellent during my week. The sport seats easily bested the Audi A4, Cadillac ATS and the base seats in the BMW 328i or Mercedes C300. Wider folks should know that the bolstering is pronounced and the F Sport trim doesn’t have an option to delete the sport seats.

Thanks to the wheelbase stretch, combined legroom is up by 2.6 inches inside which places the IS towards the top of the group in total legrooom. Nobody expected the BMW 3-Series to grow as much as it did in its latest incarnation, which becomes quite obvious when you run the numbers. The 3-Series boasts the second best legroom figures behind the much larger Infiniti Q50. The Lexus offers a slightly larger trunk, but I found the overall trunk dimensions to be more advantageous in the BMW.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Interior -003

Infotainment

The 2014 redesign of the IS brought a raft of new features from traffic maps on non-navigation equipped models to predictive traffic, improved voice recognition and smartphone integration. Alas, the lord giveth and he taketh away. Along with the new software comes Lexus’ Remote Touch input device, or as I prefer to call it: the Lexus joystick. I find little joy in the mouse-like controller, but it is better than the trackpad you find in the NX. The controller is the textbook example of the difference between an intuitive input method and one that is optimized for use in a car. The joystick is intuitive, it’s just not well suited to a vehicle as it requires much more eye-off-the-road time. I grabbed a few friends and had them perform a few identical functions in the Lexus and a BMW with iDrive while I watched their eyes. It simply takes longer for you to find what you need in the Lexus system. Oddly enough, the same Lexus software without a touchscreen is one of the least distracting available, but you can only get that in the GX and LX. If you don’t buy navigation, you still get the 7-inch screen but trade the joystick for a rotary knob.

Lexus doesn’t offer any sort of heads-up display a la BMW, but you can gadgets like radar cruise control, Mark Levinson branded audio system, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Engine-004

Engine

Standing somewhat alone in this segment is a 100-percent naturally-aspirated engine lineup. While everyone but Infiniti has moved to a turbo four to fill the bottom end, Lexus has stuck with their tiny V6. (I’m not counting the 2.5-liter four-banger in the base ATS. Why? Who would?) Displacing 2.5 liters and sporting direct injection, the IS 250 is good for 204 ponies and 185 lb-ft of torque. [It’s the least powerful V6 currently on sale. -Ed] While many in the industry would once have complained about a base luxury model without an inline-6 engine, this V6 now competes with four-cylinder engines. Although a V6 isn’t as balanced as an I6, it’s miles ahead of an I4. The model we tested is the 3.5-liter V6 IS 350. Adding a liter bumps power to 306 and torque to 277. For reasons known only to Lexus’ product planning team, the 220 horsepower IS 300h remains forbidden fruit on our shores.

Lexus tends to be a cautious company when it comes to adopting new technology and, as a result, the 2.5-liter V6 and AWD models of the 3.5-liter have to make do with ye olde 6-speed automatic from Aisin. If you get the RWD version of the IS 350 that we tested, you get Aisin’s new 8-speed auto, a variant of the transmission used in the Corvette and select Cadillacs.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Instrument Cluster_

Drive

The naturally aspirated engine lineup is the first thing you will notice about the IS out on the road. Much like the 3.6-liter V6 in the ATS and the 3.7-liter V6 in the Q50, power builds in a linear fashion. This is quite different from the C400, 335i and other turbo entries which typically have torque and horsepower “plateaus” with sharp drops on either end. 0-60 acceleration in our F Sport tester came in at 5.6 seconds – not a bad time by any stretch. However, Volvo’s front-wheel-drive S60 T6 Drive-e will do the same sprint in 5.4. The purist in me prefers the feel and unadulterated sound a naturally-aspirated engine delivers, but the pragmatist in me realizes the C400, 335i, S4 and S60 T6 will all beat the IS to the freeway ramp. Opting for Lexus’ AWD system improves grip, but the loss of two gears causes the 0-60 time to stretch to 5.7 seconds, getting close to the less powerful BMW 328xi. AWD shoppers also have to live with an odd hump in the front foot-well caused by the transfer case and driveshaft to the front axle.

The responsiveness of the IS in tight corners demonstrates how much time Lexus spent engineering the suspension. The old IS came across as isolated, perhaps even sloppy, while this chassis is sharp and crisp. Every system feels like a team player, from the suspension to the transmission shift logic and the revised double-wishbones up front. The IS quite simply delivers the best feel in the corners and out on the track with every system tuned to near perfection. (Bear in mind we still have electric power steering, so it’s all relative.) The IS actually manages to feel a hair more precise, although not as engaging, than the E90 3-Series (previous generation). The F30 (current generation) has traded handling prowess for a softer ride and a ginormous back seat. And therein lies the rub: the change has improved BMW’s sales rather than stopping the gravy train. 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. The purist in me prefers the crisp handling and impeccable feel of the IS on a track. The pragmatist in me is keenly aware that feel doesn’t actually get you around a track. That’s where power comes in. Because of the power deficit, the 335i, S60 T6 AWD, C400 and S4 are all faster around your average track. If you’re talking autocross, the IS has a chance, but even the Volvo will beat it around Laguna Seca.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Headlamps

Competition

Comparing the IS 350 with the 335i seems like the natural thing to do – after all, they both have “3” in the model number – but a more apt comparison is the 328i. The IS 350 slots between the 328i and the 335i in both price and performance, but price is critical. Meanwhile IS 250 performs more like the 320i than the 328i.

The IS 350 F Sport manages to be a hair less than a comparably equipped 328i M-Sport, which is an excellent start. Despite costing a fraction less, the Lexus delivers considerably more refinement under the hood, better acceleration and more driving feel in the twisties. Our F Sport was notably less expensive than a Mercedes C300, and even when you add AWD to the Lexus, it’s still the more willing partner on your favorite mountain highway.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Exterior -006

Audi’s A4 ends up being around the same price as the IS 350 while Volvo’s S60 is the discount option. Both the Audi and the Volvo start as FWD vehicles but add AWD to compensate for their front heavy designs. Unless you step up to the considerably more expensive S4, the Audi comes across as underpowered and all versions of the A4 feel nose heavy in comparison. The Volvo has a similar weight issue up front but the Swedes will happily drop a powerful turbo engine under the hood, mate it to AWD and sell it for less than the Lexus. The resulting S60 R-Design will out-pace the IS 350 F Sport but the experience will be much different. The Volvo will be understeering like mad in the corners; the IS will feel balanced and poised. Unfortunately, the Lexus’ driver will have to enjoy the feel while looking at the S60’s tail lamps.

The Infiniti Q50 is the often forgotten competitor. Nissan’s luxury arm has never quite reached the same status as Lexus as far as brand perception – perhaps that’s why. Never the less, the Infiniti has good looks and a low price tag on its side. Even the $37,150 base model starts with a 328 horsepower 3.7-liter V6. It’s still slower than BMW’s 335i, but at 5.2 seconds to 60, it is among the faster options. If you want more power and better economy, Infiniti will sell you their hybrid version that scoots to highway speed in 4.9. Comparably equipped, the Q50 is about $2,000 less than the F Sport we tested, making it the best RWD deal in this segment.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Exterior -011

After a week with the IS 350, I’ll admit I was torn. The way the IS drives and feels on my mountain road commute is incredible. The way the IS feels on a track is alluring. And the value proposition is undeniable. Lexus’ well deserved reliability reputation and generally lower operating costs means the IS will cost less to own. All these things should mean my purist and pragmatic boxes will be well and truly checked. The Lexus has the luxury and track-day-diary cred to compete with the competition, but the infotainment system in the IS and slower 0-60 time keep the Lexus from being my choice in this segment. If my money were on the line, I’d live with Infiniti’s questionable steer-by-wire system and get the Q50S hybrid instead. You get more room inside, a 0-60 time matching the 335i and 31 MPG. While the IS 350 F Sport represents a good value against BMW’s volume 3-Series model, they still have nothing to compete properly with the 335i. Yes, the IS 350 F Sport feels better and road holds better than a comparably equipped 335i. But, as BMW has recently shown, perhaps going around a corner perfectly isn’t all that important after all.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 5.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.8 Seconds at 100 MPH

Average Observed Economy: 20 MPG over 674 miles

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Oh, So This Is Why BMW Thinks The Sports Car Market Isn’t Going To Recover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/oh-bmw-thinks-sports-car-market-isnt-going-recover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/oh-bmw-thinks-sports-car-market-isnt-going-recover/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 14:08:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055089 It’s been five months since BMW’s sales boss, Ian Robertson, made news by questioning the long-term viability of the sports car. “The sports car market is roughly half of what it used to be. Post-2008, it just collapsed. I’m not so sure it’ll ever fully recover,” Robertson said. BMW, of course, is the maker of […]

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BMW Z4

It’s been five months since BMW’s sales boss, Ian Robertson, made news by questioning the long-term viability of the sports car. “The sports car market is roughly half of what it used to be. Post-2008, it just collapsed. I’m not so sure it’ll ever fully recover,” Robertson said.

BMW, of course, is the maker of the Z4, a car which generates only one-tenth the volume now that it did when launched as a successor to the Z3. In other words, it’s not much wonder BMW wonders whether outright sports cars have a future. 

Just how bad has the Z4’s situation become? Only 802 were sold in the first-quarter of 2015, down 6% compared with the same period one year ago. The Z4 accounted for just 1% of BMW brand volume over the last three months; just 1.5% of BMW passenger car sales. Naturally, roadsters aren’t typically major contributors to an automaker’s volume, but the Z4 was at one time. During a five-year span from 2003 onward, the Z4 was responsible for 5% of the brand’s U.S. sales.

USA Sports Car sales chart BMW Z4

It’s not as though BMW hasn’t significantly altered the Z4 to make it more appealing to a broader cross-section of the buying public. Previously a softtop convertible or a hardtop model, the Z4 has used a retractable hardtop since the 2009 relaunch.

Sales hardly perked up, however, and have only declined since. Only 2010’s marginal 7% increase and 2006’s 22% jump interrupted a streak that saw Z4 sales decline in nine of the last eleven years.

All of this brings us to the month of March 2015, the first time in a year that Z4 volume climbed beyond 300 units. Yet on a year-over-year basis, even March’s 422 sales revealed a 29% decline. Z4 volume has decreased in nine of the last 14 months; Z4 volume has increased only eight times in the last two years.

Yet while reports of sports car death seem to make a special amount of sense when BMW’s delivering the reports, it’s not as though Z4 rivals are contradicting Robertson’s theme.

The Audi TT’s U.S. volume has declined in nine of the last twelve years.

Mercedes-Benz SLK sales in America decreased in six of the last nine years.

Porsche Boxster sales in 2014 fell 15% in 2014 after rising to an eight-year high in 2013, but 2014 volume for the Boxster and Cayman, combined, was down 26% compared to the Boxster’s total from 2002.

The Nissan Z’s 2014 U.S. sales tally was less than one-fifth the total achieved in 2003.

One key exception: although the Chevrolet Corvette’s average U.S. annual volume dwindled to 14,230 units between 2009 and 2013, GM sold more than 34,000 Corvettes in 2014, the best year since 2006.

Since the quote from Ian Robertson was given in November, U.S. Z4 volume has fallen 5%.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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No Fixed Abode: They Paved Manuals, and Put Up a Four-Door Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/no-fixed-abode-paved-manuals-put-four-door-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/no-fixed-abode-paved-manuals-put-four-door-coupe/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 12:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1051649 I come to bury Derek Kreindler, not to praise him. No, wait. I come to praise Derek, not to bury him. Scratch that. I come to agree with Derek, and to disagree with him. And to agree with him again. Wait a minute, it will make sense. One of the several admirable ways in which […]

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inteior

I come to bury Derek Kreindler, not to praise him.

No, wait.

I come to praise Derek, not to bury him.

Scratch that.

I come to agree with Derek, and to disagree with him. And to agree with him again. Wait a minute, it will make sense.

One of the several admirable ways in which my erstwhile boss and even more erstwhile employee diverged from conventional auto-journo thinking was his relentless focus on the real reasons behind automobile manufacturers’ product-planning decisions. Every time some writer for Social Justice Hooning And European Vacations trotted out the usual complaints about the lack of brown diesel-powered, stick-shifted, MB-Tex-interior, E30-sized station wagons, Derek would unleash hell on the poor fellow, pointing out that American consumers get the model mix they’re getting because it is the model mix for which they have voted, again and again, with their wallets. He never tired of forcibly redirecting the assignment of responsibility for today’s tepid dealership inventory from the OEMs to the buyers.

In doing this, he was breaking the fourth wall of automotive journalism a bit. Everybody in the business talks to the same product planners and has access to the same numbers, but nobody wants to annoy the reader by pointing out his culpability in the disappearance of enthusiast-focused automobiles. It’s a funny double standard. You’re allowed to injure the customer by pretending that the Porsche IMS issue and a hundred other similarly offensive quality problems don’t exist, you’re allowed to screw him over by puff-piecing junk product, but you’re not allowed to add insult to those injuries. Instead, the writer conspires with the reader after a fashion, by pretending to believe that the reader is ready to buy a brown diesel manual wagon the moment one appears. This gratifies the reader, who as a consumer of automotive media fancies himself to be quite different from the two million other people who took delivery of a CR-V-shaped nonentity-mobile in the past year. All those other people bought CR-V-esque things because they are idiots, but he did so because the hipster wagon of his dreams did not happen to be available. This mild conspiracy is widely held to benefit all parties involved and it leads to many people writing very complimentary things in the comments section – but Derek didn’t play that.

Young Mr. K’s refusal to give new-car buyers a pass on that matter, even if they were valued members of the B&B, was both admirable and charming. Yet as a grizzled old veteran of the showroom sales floor, I have to wonder if all of the blame for – say, the existence of the BMW X4 – can be placed directly on the shoulders of the American middle class. Could there be another reason that we, the *ahem* enlightened cognoscenti showing our black fleece in uneven and miniscule distribution among endless flocks of white sheep, cannot get the cars that we are truly ready to buy?

Or, to strip the veneer of genericity from the question – why the fuck did I have to buy a two-door car in order to get a manual transmission in a Honda Accord V6?

08accordex-l-v6_27.jpg

Let’s apply Derek’s reasoning to that question. Is it because nobody wants a V6 manual Accord sedan? I doubt that. Somebody wants it. I want it. I’ve talked to other people who bought a stick-shift coupe or an auto sedan because they couldn’t have the manual sedan they wanted. The problem is that we, the Would-Be Stick Sedan Buyers Of America (WBSSBOA), are not Honda customers. We think we are, and the auto-journo-industrial complex pretends that we are, and the TV ads pretend that we are, but we are not.

We are the customers of Honda dealerships. Honda dealerships, in turn, are the customers of Honda. When Honda sells a car to the floorplan bank of a dealership, son, that car is sold in Honda’s eyes and it doesn’t matter if it sits behind the detail shop for seven years before getting a temp tag on it. In practice, of course, dealerships almost always move the metal sooner than that, even when the metal is garbage. And in exchange for agreeing to borrow money to buy millions of dollars’ worth of inventory that they then have to sell using regional TV spots and newspaper ads and free popcorn and deceptive business practices and whatnot, the dealers get to tell Honda just how the fuck it’s gonna be. Their power is not absolute – note that you can now have A/C and/or a stereo factory-installed in a Honda, which breaks the heart of the scumbag dealers who loved the profit from those add-ons the way John Bonham loved alcohol – but it is formidable.

1995 Ford Explorer

Now let’s sit down for a moment so Uncle Jack can tell you a story. In 1995, I worked at a very small Ford dealership. We had room on our lot for fewer than 200 cars and trucks of all kinds, period, point blank. But you can bet your sweet bippy that at least ten of those trucks would be absolutely identical Explorer 4WD XLT 945A package trucks in Medium Willow Green. Why? Because we could sell every one we got. If an eleventh Explorer 4WD XLT 945A package truck in Medium Willow Green showed up and we didn’t have room for it, we’d make the service employees park down the street.

How many Explorer Eddie Bauer trucks did we have? Never more than two, and usually none. It was simple. The Bauers didn’t sell in volume significant enough to justify keeping one in stock. Ninety-five percent of the people who came on the lot looking for a Bauer could be moved to an XLT 945A. The reverse was not true, because the Bauer cost so much more to lease due to its lack of “top to bottom sticker discount”, a concept on which I shall perorate further some other time.

“But Jack,” you say, “why didn’t you keep five Willow Green XLTs in stock and five Bauers (or, G-d help me, Limiteds) in stock?” Good question. The answer is simple. We could never be assured of a constant allocation stream for Willow Green XLTs. So we needed to get every one we could get, even if it meant occasionally having fifteen in stock, because that way we didn’t ever face a situation where we sold six of them in a weekend (happened All. The. Time.) and had none left. Faced with a choice between the certainty of selling a Willow Green XLT and the possibility of selling a red Bauer, we chose the XLT, in bulk, constantly.

Every Ford model had the equivalent of the Willow Green XLT. For the Escort, it was the cheapo LX hatchback in Jade Green. For the Taurus, it was the GL sedan in silver. For the F-150, it was the XLT supercab in red. We could not afford to be out of stock on these items. Being out of stock on these items would lead to losing the customer to another dealer who had these items in stock.

As a result, our under-200-unit dealership lot, viewed from the air, had a very monocultural look to it. We really only sold about twenty different combinations of model and equipment. Everything else was a special order. If you special ordered, you could have that black Explorer Limited 2WD. But you’d wait. And this is America, where people don’t wait.

Skoda Showroom, UK

If you go to Europe, on the other hand, you’ll see that car showrooms are just that — showrooms. You look at the car they have, then you order the car you want. You are the customer. The dealership is the delivery method. This method is so radically different in all of its implications for the underlying business practices that I feel it should be repeated:

And swear I meant that there so much that they give that line a rewind

In Europe, You are the customer. The dealership is the delivery method.

In America, the dealer is the customer. And the dealer wants quick-turning inventory. He does not have a lot of space to store that inventory and he doesn’t have unlimited funds with which to purchase it. Therefore, it isn’t just important a potential in-stock unit have a buyer; it’s important it have a buyer right now.

Let’s say that Honda brought the V6 manual sedan back. And let’s say that they needed a minimum production run of 10,000 in order to make it worthwhile. That’s about eleven units for every Honda dealer in America. Can the dealers sell eleven manual V6 sedans each in a year? I bet they could. But they would rather have that spot for an automatic I-4 sedan, because that car is a guaranteed quick sale. They can sell that spot in the lot more than eleven times a year with an I-4 automatic EX. And here’s the thing: they can use that spot on their lot for an I-4 EX in another color, which keeps customers on their lot. Customers like seeing all the available colors of a car in stock. It helps sell cars that aren’t in that color, because it creates the illusion of choice. Towards that end, we always had one white XLT 945A next to the green ones – so people could look at it and then buy the green one. So the reason you can’t get a manual V6 sedan is simple: the dealer loses money keeping it in stock, even if/when it sells, compared to the potential for stocking more popular choices in that space.

Why can’t you special-order a V6 manual sedan? The same reason Honda wouldn’t sell me a brown V6 manual coupe, even if I paid extra and waited for it. Manufacturers are extremely allergic to small-batch production. Honda does not want to sell 2,000 special-order manual V6 sedans a year. It creates an entire extra model to EPA certify and put in the brochure and observe for recalls. It’s too much hassle. Similarly, they don’t want to sell 500 brown V6 manual coupes. Better to force that small buyer group into just a few colors.

“But Jack,” you’re saying, “you’re describing conditions that have been in place for thirty years. What’s changed?” Well, what’s changed is the model mix, particularly at manufacturers like BMW. It’s exploded. They used to make one 3 Series – the 320i – and it had two doors, no choice. Now they make so many variants of the Three that some of them are called Fours and others are called X3s and others are called X4s and cut-down ones are called X1 and 2 Series.

The BMW dealer of 1980 just needed space for a few 320i coupes. Today’s BMW dealer needs guaranteed in-stock inventory of no fewer than a dozen highly popular variants of the 3 Series. When the X4 debuted, your local BMW dealer needed to make room on its lot to stock, say, five X4s in silver with Premium and cold weather packages. Where’d that space come from? Did it come from high-profit stuff like the 760Li or M6 Gran Coupe?

Of course not. It came from oddballs, the 328i Sport manuals, the Z4s, the non-DCT M3s. The space came from inventory that doesn’t have a guaranteed turn. The same is true for the V6 manual Accord, which used to be available for sale even though it was low-volume. That space can be better used for the HR-V or a Pilot Touring or any of the dozen-plus other vehicles Honda didn’t sell in this country twenty years ago. Where do you think the space for the repugnant CLA comes from at your local Benz shop? Not from gloss-black S-Classes with basic option packages. Not from GLE350s or whatever they’re called now. It comes from manual SLK250s and C250 Sports.

Is there a fix for the situation? In the short term, absolutely not. In the long term, it is possible that local assembly and more flexible supply lines could reduce the wait time for new-vehicle orders to a window that the average American could accept. Say, one week. I think if BMW could deliver a 3-Series to its customers seven days after they specced it out, as many as half of those customers would choose a custom order. Too bad that scenario won’t come true until long after the last vestige of character has been entirely removed from all available automobiles. By the time Honda can just-in-time me a brown V6 manual Accord with cloth interior and 17″ wheels, it won’t be possible to make one.

In the meantime, what can you do? It’s simple. Buy something weird. Order something the dealer doesn’t have. A different color. An odd combination of options. A lime-green coupe with a brown interior. Vote with your wallet for something else. Doesn’t matter what it is. Because when you order a car from the factory and refuse to consent to taking a dealer-traded vehicle or the next-best thing they have in stock, you become something you’ve never been before.

You become an automaker’s customer.

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Crapwagon Outtake: The Ultimate … Machine http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/crapwagon-outtake-ultimate-machine/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/crapwagon-outtake-ultimate-machine/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 11:15:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1050441 Insert your own preferred derogatory descriptor in the title. The E36 M3 – lauded as a wonderful driver’s car, yet derided as a watered-down car unworthy of the ///M badge. Built in reasonably high numbers, this M3 will never be as collectible as it’s predecessor, the Mighty E30, nor as beastly as the E46. I […]

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Insert your own preferred derogatory descriptor in the title.

The E36 M3 – lauded as a wonderful driver’s car, yet derided as a watered-down car unworthy of the ///M badge. Built in reasonably high numbers, this M3 will never be as collectible as it’s predecessor, the Mighty E30, nor as beastly as the E46.

I think that’s ok.

While this generation of M (at least in North America) is indeed down on power compared to later models, there is still plenty of bargain performance to be had. Bargain, that is, for those who can handle most of the maintenance and repairs themselves – and also have backup transportation should when the water pump decide to disintegrate.

This example on eBay carries the Luxury Package, which replaces the cheap leather door cards with slightly less cheap leather door cards. The seats look to be nicer, too, than the standard M3.With fewer than 50k on the odometer, this E36 M3 looks pampered and ready for another lifetime of cheap hoonage.

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Piston Slap: The One Strike Luxury Car Policy? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-one-strike-luxury-car-policy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-one-strike-luxury-car-policy/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 12:57:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1047945 Sam writes: Hi Sajeev, My wife is interested in upgrading from her Subaru Legacy to a more luxurious make. Nothing crazy, we’re talking BMW 428 or Audi A5 range. Her requirements include automatic transmission and the usual ‘winter package': AWD, remote start, heated seats (and steering wheel, ideally), etc… She wants something mid-sized with a […]

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Take two… (photo courtesy: fakeposters.com)

Sam writes:

Hi Sajeev,

My wife is interested in upgrading from her Subaru Legacy to a more luxurious make. Nothing crazy, we’re talking BMW 428 or Audi A5 range. Her requirements include automatic transmission and the usual ‘winter package': AWD, remote start, heated seats (and steering wheel, ideally), etc… She wants something mid-sized with a comfortable ride. Enough punch to feel fast without needing to actually be fast.

Here’s the hitch: when it comes to car problems, she has a “one-strike and you’re out” policy, so reliability is a big concern. We’ve never had anything fancier than Chevies or Subarus, but have heard plenty of horror stories about BMW transmissions or Audi electrical gremlins or Volkswagen, well, everything.

What would you and the B&B recommend in the semi-luxury coupe range (sub $50K) that provides a modicum of Fahrvergnügen while providing the best chance of avoiding the dealership’s repair shop? Suggestions are appreciated!

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Your wife’s (impressive) “one strike” policy is in direct conflict with her wish for a more premium, luxurious make. But premium cars have good warranties with nice loaner cars for 4 years or 50k miles: plenty of time to reconsider the “one strike” policy!

At a macro level, I doubt any one German brand is much better than the other. Even a particular body style has variances: some power trains are trouble prone, DSG gearboxes need specialized attention at regular intervals, and in-car technology can be buggy and glitchy. Hell, do you remember the drubbing Consumer Reports gave Ford for MyFordTouch? Keep this in mind with any option you consider on any car.

Focus on the vehicle and its options. You both must test drive the ones you like, research the past history – via recalls and more importantly, model specific forum feedback – and see if you both are comfortable taking the plunge. In general, buying the most common platform (A4, 3-series, etc.) with the least unique parts will net you a more reliable, durable and cost-effective vehicle after the warranty expires.

I promise you that you’ll learn a ton about your future vehicle purchase by reading the forums for owner feedback.

Some within the Best and Brightest grimace at the usual stereotypes I (and others) spread to Germany’s latest iron, because HPFPs, Sensotronic Brake Control, etc. are the past. So let’s see what the B&B consider the ideal luxury performance whip for your situation!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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

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

Exterior

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

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

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

IMG_9786

Interior

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

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

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

IMG_9794

Infotainment

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

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

IMG_9807

Drivetrain

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

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

IMG_9779

Drive

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

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

IMG_9839

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

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

IMG_9826

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

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

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

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.4 Seconds

0-60: 6.14 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.83 Seconds @ 92.8 MPG

Average Economy: 23.8 MPG

IMG_9778 IMG_9779 IMG_9780 IMG_9782 IMG_9785 IMG_9786 IMG_9788 IMG_9794 IMG_9795 IMG_9796.CR2 IMG_9797 IMG_9801 IMG_9802 IMG_9803 IMG_9804.CR2 IMG_9805 IMG_9806 IMG_9807 IMG_9809 IMG_9813 IMG_9815 IMG_9816 IMG_9818 IMG_9819 IMG_9820 IMG_9823 IMG_9826 IMG_9830 IMG_9831 IMG_9835 IMG_9838 IMG_9839 IMG_9840 IMG_9843 IMG_9845 IMG_9847

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4-Door Is Providing A Big Sales Boost To Mini USA http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/4-door-providing-big-sales-boost-mini-usa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/4-door-providing-big-sales-boost-mini-usa/#comments Wed, 08 Apr 2015 13:19:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1039849 With one of the most detailed monthly sales reports of any auto brand competing in the United States, Mini revealed their March 2015 sales in a breakdown that included door counts. Not since Volvo’s monthly report divvied up the V60’s sales by regular and Cross Country variants has a numbers addict been so pleased. Excluding […]

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2015 Mini Cooper 4-DoorWith one of the most detailed monthly sales reports of any auto brand competing in the United States, Mini revealed their March 2015 sales in a breakdown that included door counts.

Not since Volvo’s monthly report divvied up the V60’s sales by regular and Cross Country variants has a numbers addict been so pleased.

Excluding the 540 leftover niche versions of the second-gen BMW Mini – Convertible, Roadster, Clubman, and Coupe – and 1654 sales of the high-riding Countryman and Paceman, Mini’s core Hardtop model was up 429% to 3635 units in March 2015; up 319% to 8224 units in the first-quarter of 2015.

42%, or 1509, of the March sales were produced by the 4-door. Precisely four out of every ten Mini Cooper Hardtops sold so far this year were 4-doors.

Mini USA sales chart 2015 Q1The year-over-year results of the 2-door model are skewed by the fact that there was little overlap between the outgoing and incoming models. At this time last year, the 2-door’s demand had mostly dried up, as had much of the inventory. Thus, sales of that model alone are up 151% this year; up 209% in March.

But with its somewhat awkward stance and $1000 premium, the 4-door has quickly become an integral part of the Mini lineup. First-quarter sales of the 4-door were greater, albeit marginally so, than first-quarter sales of the brand’s other 4-door, the Countryman, sales of which tumbled 25% over the first three months of 2015.

2015 Mini 4-door and 2-doorAs for the defunct Clubman, its monthly sales average between 2011 and 2014 of 425 units pales in comparison to this new 4-door’s early 1100-unit monthly average.

To what extent some of these 4-door buyers would be choosing the new 2-door if the 4-door wasn’t available, we can’t fully know. But assuming they wouldn’t, assuming they’re considering the 4-door because they wanted a Mini with extra cargo capacity and a usable rear seat that isn’t a Countryman, we can say the brand’s 2015 Q1 results wouldn’t look quite so impressive without the latest variant.

Mini brand sales are up 48% to 12,777 in early 2015. Excluding the 4-door, Mini sales are up 9.5% to 9483.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Bark’s Bites: The Good, The Not-As-Good, and The Ugly: Part Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/barks-bites-good-not-good-ugly-part-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/barks-bites-good-not-good-ugly-part-two/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 14:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1033097 In our first installment, we focused on Daimler, Mazda, and the Volkswagen Group. Today, we’ll focus on BMW/Mini, Subaru, and Hyundai/Kia. But first, let me address a couple of the comments about the cars the B&B said I got wrong: I stand by my comments about the Golf. One commenter said the Golf was just […]

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BMW-M235i_mp2_pic_107451

In our first installment, we focused on Daimler, Mazda, and the Volkswagen Group. Today, we’ll focus on BMW/Mini, Subaru, and Hyundai/Kia. But first, let me address a couple of the comments about the cars the B&B said I got wrong:

  • I stand by my comments about the Golf. One commenter said the Golf was just the “GTI with less power, and less handling ability.” Well, duh. That’s like saying the Focus and Fiesta are the same cars as the FoST and the FiST, but with less power, and less handling ability. The power and the handling ability are what make the GTI special. Granted, the VW dealer network is wretched, so one can excuse the poor sales numbers of the Golf overall, but the Golf is actually outsold by the GTI. I can’t think of another example of a higher-cost, performance variant of a car outselling the base model—even the base Impreza, which I virtually never notice out in the wild, outsells the WRX and STI 2:1.
  • I don’t think the C-Class is a bad car at all—I just think it’s fighting an uphill battle against the 3-Series. That being said, I definitely need to get some seat time in the new C-Class, as Mercedes has yet to deliver a press vehicle to my front door. Any readers who have one and would like to have it reviewed, let us know and I’ll get to you.

That being said, I continue to welcome your comments and dissenting opinions. Now, let’s move on.

BMW/MINI

The Good:

Let me be clear: I’m not one of those who thinks that BMW has “lost it’s way.” You know who likes the “good old days?” Two kinds of people: People who forget what life was like before the Internet and young punks who want to seem ironically cool while they lament the loss of the E30 that they’ve never even seen, much less driven, on their Twitter feeds.

Newsflash to any twentysomethings pining for the days when BMW apparently had a roadmap out of Munich: the old days kinda sucked. Zero to sixty to less than eight seconds was considered “fast.” A “hot hatch” made 110 horsepower. Crash test ratings were horrific. Anything that was faster than a 2015 Subaru BRZ was so damned expensive that 90 percent of Americans couldn’t have afforded it. Trust me—you’re better off living through your windshield than your rear-view mirrors when it comes to cars.

As such, the M235i is proof that the boys in Bavaria still know exactly what they’re doing (although most readers here know me as a Ford fanboy, in the interest of full disclosure, let it be known that I once put down a $5K deposit on a 2008 135i, but that’s a story for another time). You think you want an E30 M3? No, you don’t. You want an M235i. It’s the spiritual successor to that legendary 192 horsepower machine, but in addition to being well-balanced, it can also break the five second barrier in the sixty miles per hour dash.

Speaking of the M3, the new M3/M4 combo is skull-crushingly fast.  Yes, it’s bigger and heavier than the E30 and E36 were. So? The new M3 is just flat-out better than any of its predecessors. Yes, it’s probably gotten too expensive—but we’ll talk more about that in a second.

I had the purely effervescent joy of driving the M6 Gran Coupe around Nelson Ledges before it’s official launch to the public. I drove my Boss 302 to the track that day from Kentucky, and before I got into the big Bimmer, I took a few laps around the circuit in the Mustang. Now, keep in mind—the Boss 302 is provably faster around most tracks in America than the E92 M3 was. The Boss was hitting the kink at about 128 MPH, which was downright ass-puckering. The M6 Gran Coupe—the big, fat, unwieldy M6—hit it at…wait for it…141. Even more impressive was the relative ease with which it did so—there was absolutely none of the drama that was associated with the 302. While some people might appreciate a bit of drama on a racetrack, I gotta tell you that when you’re driving somebody else’s $145K car, you appreciate a lack of it.

Meanwhile, you can complain about the turbo 4-bangers all you want (you can still get an inline six, you know). You can complain about the proliferation of models all you want (they still make a 335i sedan). I’m still gonna put the 3-Series in the “Good” category, if only because it’s still the standard bearer for the segment. You don’t like it? What would you rather have? An A4? A C-Class (based on yesterday, maybe)? An IS? A G? Nah. The 3-Series is still the king.

The Not-As-Good:

It’s hard to not appreciate the MINI Cooper Hardtop for what it is. I know that they have wretched reliability. But, damnit, I still find myself trolling Craigslist for well-loved early examples. In many ways, the proliferation of hot hatches available in the USA today has made the MINI Hardtop somewhat irrelevant—is there anybody who’d take a MINI over a GTI/FoST?—which is why I had to drop it down to Not-As-Good. But it’s a fine line.

Now, if you want to complain about the turbo 4 in the 5-Series? All right, I’ll listen to you. In fact, I agree with you. I can’t get behind a $50k+ car that rocks a four-cylinder. The Fiver has never felt like it was the right car for the segment, and this F10 generation is just…meh.

The Ugly:

Every MINI that isn’t the Hardtop. Seriously. Just stop all that nonsense.

The 7-Series has always felt like the big brother who has the little brother who’s the star athlete—it’s the Cooper of the Manning Family. There’s nothing wrong with the Siebener, per se—it’s just not the icon of the brand. The S-Class owns this segment, and it often feels like BMW has given up on competing.

Once there was a car that was so ugly, everybody died. I’m talking about those god-awful GT models. I just don’t get it. Maybe there’s a market segment that this car is filling, but I don’t know what it is.

Here’s the biggest ugly thing about the BMW brand in 2015—the sticker prices. I visit BMW dealers weekly, and I see prices on the window stickers that are just downright mindboggling. With reported lease numbers approaching seventy percent, the astronomical prices barely matter. As such, it’s not uncommon to see as many as three different prices on one car—just last week in Indiana, I saw a 328i in the showroom that had $43k on the sticker, $40k on the stand next to the car, and $37k on a tag hanging from the rearview mirror. Oh, and then it said $359 a month on the windshield. There’s a real push-and-pull between the desire to maintain an upscale brand, yet keep moving 100K 3/4 series a years.

Whew. Okay, let’s move on. Damn, I forgot the X5. Throw it up there in the “Good” for me, would ya? Thanks.

SUBARU

The Good:

The WRX/STI combo has made Subaru relevant to enthusiasts for over a decade, now. I remember driving my 2000 Hyundai Tiburon to a Subaru dealership in 2001, begging them to give me a decent trade value toward one of the original, bug-eyed WRXes. Even if they could have made the numbers work, there’s no way that I could have afforded the insurance. But everybody my age (I was 23) desperately wanted one. Almost fifteen years later, the WRX (and now, STI) are still limited to about 300 HP, so they’re no longer “fast” by today’s standards (which is kinda mind-boggling, if you think about it), but they’ve reinvented themselves as affordable alternatives to the pony car. As the Evo walks the plank, the WRX/STI keeps the Japanese rally car dream alive for kids playing Gran Turismo everywhere.

The Outback and Forester continue to sell in surprising numbers—in fact, if you combined the two of them (and who among the non-Subaru faithful can honestly tell the difference, anyway), they’d be the 8th best selling vehicle in America. You can’t help but love them when you drive them—there’s really nothing else like them. If you want an Outback or a Forester, you probably aren’t really shopping anything else.

The Not-As-Good:

The Legacy. You know, if Subaru could just build a competitive mid-sized sedan, they’d have a shot at some real market share. Unfortunately, they can’t. It’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong about the Legacy—there’s just nothing particularly right about it. The best they can hope to do is compete with the bottom tier of mid-sizers, like the 200 and the Malibu.

The Ugly:

The Emperor’s New Clothes are completely off at this point. The BRZ is selling in numbers that the Lincoln MKS scoffs at. Unfortunately, the BRZ/FR-S combo really are the spiritual successor to the RX-8—underpowered, overhyped, and dead in the water in four years. It’s hard to imagine anybody picking this car over any of its competitors. If you’re still waving the flag for this car, you’re simply delusional.

HYUNDAI/KIA

The Good:

The Hyundai Genesis sedan is remarkable. If you shop the V-6 against the similarly priced competition (Buick Lacrosse, Lincoln MKS, Ford Taurus, Chevy Impala), there’s really no case to be made for anything else. The real competition is the Chrysler 300C—and I would pick the Genesis every time. You can tell I really love a car when I make it the star of a Sunday Story.

The Kia Soul is one of my favorite cars, anywhere, period. I’d gladly roll down Hamsterdam Avenue in a Yellow Soul +. It obviously doesn’t have any sporting intent whatsoever, but who cares? The Soul picked up the ball right where the first-generation Scion xB dropped it, and they’ve been running with it ever since.

The Not-As-Good:

As far as looks go in the midsize category, the Kia Optima is the most attractive option. Unfortunately, at some point, you have to stop admiring it from the outside and actually get in and drive—and that’s where the Optima falls down a bit. The four-cylinder Optima is painfully slow in comparison to the similarly engined Accord or Mazda6. Braking from higher speeds is a bit of an adventure, too. However, the Optima is probably the smoothest riding of any of the midsizers on the market, and tech-savvy people who don’t care much for driving will like it. I can’t quite convince myself to call it “Good,” but neither is it “Bad.”

The 2015 Elantra GT is a decent car, and it’s much better than the 2001 Elantra sedan that Mrs. Bark once owned. I drove it from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Chicago last week, and I was neither inspired to hate it or love it. Which means that it probably belongs right here.

The Ugly:

Oh, Hyundai…what have you done with the Sonata? Four years ago, I used to search for the previous-gen Sonata on rental car row—now I avoid the new one like a crazy ex-girlfriend. It’s pokey. It’s ugly. It doesn’t turn. It costs too much. I hate it.

That’s it for today. I fully intended to get to Honda and Nissan, but here we are at 2000 words. Oh, well. We’ll get to them, and maybe Toyota, too, in our next installment.

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BMW To Double i8 Production To Meet Demand http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/bmw-double-i8-production-meet-demand/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/bmw-double-i8-production-meet-demand/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 11:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1032553 Been waiting a while for your BMW i8? You might not be waiting for too much longer. Autoblog reports production of the hybrid supercar is increasing from 10 units a day to 20. Demand for the i8 has led to waiting lists as long as four months for customers wanting to take home the $135,000 […]

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BMW i8

Been waiting a while for your BMW i8? You might not be waiting for too much longer.

Autoblog reports production of the hybrid supercar is increasing from 10 units a day to 20. Demand for the i8 has led to waiting lists as long as four months for customers wanting to take home the $135,000 vehicle.

The i Series overall has done well for itself in 2014, BMW stating that it sold over 18,000 i3s and i8s that year; a third of those sales went to the United States. Sales of the i8 amounted to 555 units in the same period, with an additional 198 sold during the first two months of this year.

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The Best (Volume) Or Nothing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/best-volume-nothing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/best-volume-nothing/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:50:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030497 A few days shy of April 1st, Mercedes-Benz has announced that they will build a luxury pickup truck for world markets. While M-B clearly has their eye on the VW Amarok, not to mention the countless markets where a pickup truck is a logical next step up from one of their vans, the whole thing […]

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mbtruck

A few days shy of April 1st, Mercedes-Benz has announced that they will build a luxury pickup truck for world markets.

While M-B clearly has their eye on the VW Amarok, not to mention the countless markets where a pickup truck is a logical next step up from one of their vans, the whole thing has the undeniable stench of “fuck it, we’re all out of ideas”.

The German luxury brands have been on an insatiable quest for volume over the past few years, and it’s led them down a strange path; front drive minivans, coupe-like SUVs, compact cars.

There is no bigger advocate in the automotive media for products that have a solid business case, but at a certain point, you have to wonder where the erosion of brand equity begins. In the world of quarterly results and responsibility to shareholders, these new products are a good idea. But when your barista is leasing a CLA at $299 per month, the very notion of luxury and exclusivity is gone.

Personally, I think the end game is going to be the inevitable rationalization of their model lineups, with unnecessary variants getting the ax. But go ahead, tell me why I’m wrong.

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

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2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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