The Truth About Cars » BMW The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Apr 2014 04:59:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » BMW Ur-Turn: Congratulations, You’ve Been Upgraded Mon, 14 Apr 2014 11:00:01 +0000 IMG_20140405_144902

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You like convertibles?”

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

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

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

“Okay, so you’re in a BMW.”

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

IMG_20140405_144902 IMG_20140408_163153 IMG_20140406_171905 IMG_20140408_163206 ]]> 102
BMW May Build Second NA Plant To Fend Off German Rivals Wed, 09 Apr 2014 14:04:23 +0000 BMW Spartanburg

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

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

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

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

]]> 25
2015 BMW M4 Convertible Is Best, Bro Fri, 04 Apr 2014 02:13:34 +0000 bmw-m4-convertible-21

Credit to BMW for taking 90 lbs out of the last M3 – this new droptop M4 sheds the weight of a small adolescent human, though at 4,055 lbs, it’s no lightweight. The M4 coupe weighs in at just over 3,500 lbs.

The twin-turbo straight six puts out 425 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, which is available from just 1,850 lb-ft of torque. Yes, the V8 is gone, but in the real world, the new six should be crushingly quick, unlike the melodic but rev-hungry bent-eight. 60 mph comes up in 4.2 seconds if you opt for the dual-clutch gearbox, or 4.4 seconds with the six-speed manual.

It’s easy to rag on the M4 ragtop (err..hardtop) for its porkier, more leisurely approach to performance driving. The stereotypical droptop M4 driver is more concerned with catching rays than clipping apexes. But that’s why they make the M4 coupe – and the delicious M3 sedan. bmw-m4-convertible-01 bmw-m4-convertible-02 bmw-m4-convertible-03 bmw-m4-convertible-04 bmw-m4-convertible-05 bmw-m4-convertible-06 bmw-m4-convertible-08 bmw-m4-convertible-10 bmw-m4-convertible-21 bmw-m4-convertible-25 bmw-m4-convertible-26 bmw-m4-convertible-29 bmw-m4-convertible-30 bmw-m4-convertible-34 bmw-m4-convertible-38 bmw-m4-convertible-39

]]> 22
Piston Slap: Fear No Polar Vortex! Wed, 02 Apr 2014 11:47:59 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Joel writes:

My family is a Volvo family. Volvos are from Sweden and they take winter very seriously. There are a number of ‘winter’ climate options that were, at least at one time, available on Volvo’s cars. For instance:

  • Parking Heater
    Sometimes known as a ‘Fuel Driven Heater’ or after one of the popular brands Webasto, Espar, Eberspacher.
    This is essentially a tiny gasoline or diesel (from the car’s fuel tank) furnace, mounted under the hood, that is plumbed into the car’s cooling system and hooked up to the climate controls. You start the heater remotely, and it heats the coolant and pumps it through the system, heating the engine and supplying heat to the cabin heat exchanger. Some can even use the car’s climate systems to turn on the blower fan and fully heat the cabin.
  • Pause Heater
    Sometimes known as a ‘Residual Heater’ or “Rest Heater’ on BMWs. This is an electric coolant pump, plumbed in with the cabin heat exchanger. When you turn the car off there is a lot of heat stored in the coolant, but only a tiny amount of it is left in the cabin heat exchanger. You press the ‘Rest’ button and the electric pump moves the coolant around so you can run the cabin heater for about 10 minutes after the engine is turned off.
  • Electric Cabin Heater
    This is an electric space heater that you place inside the cabin. Of course it’s got over-temp and tip-over systems so it won’t catch anything on fire.

Are any of these options available on ANY car sold in North America now?

Sajeev answers:

Questions like these remind me why I am so fond of the comments from the Best and Brightest in this series.  Because my knowledge of this topic is weaker than most, and PR folks aren’t lining up fancy new press cars in my driveway. But I got a plan, son. I got me some Google and we got the Best and Brightest, baby!

So anyway:

  1. Parking Heater: Well, Volvo’s still got it! But it’s a dealer installed accessory, if that matters.
  2. Webasto still makes one, fitting many a VAG product in Europe. I’d be shocked if manufacturers in North America follow suit, even if the concept’s proven itself in American RVs and 18-wheelers. No matter, Webasto’s own video implies it’s somewhat universal:

    Click here to view the embedded video.

  3. Pause Heater:  The BMW Rest system is/was a neat hallmark of the brand, but there’s conflicting info on the ‘net about whether it still exists in this age of i-Drive, start-stop equipped BMWs.  Perhaps a trip to your local dealership to question the i-Drive skills of a sales expert is in order!
  4. Electric Cabin Heater:  These are standard fare in every Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S, as they have no internal combustion to feed you hot air!  Cuz hot air is the job of their greenwashing-marketing departments! I kid, I kid!
  5. Even the darling of the Hybrid world, the Toyota Prius has an electric heater. It’s entirely possible that super-uber luxury cars use this electric helper and a conventional heater core from the cooling system.  But, but, BUT…many cars sport seat heaters, steering wheel heaters and (drum roll please) the new S-class has armrest heaters!

Considering the electrical load of trying to heat an entire cabin, don’t be surprised if heating your ass, your back, your hands and your elbows does the same thing but far more efficiently.  Get into those warm items and soon enough the conventional heater will have your back. And everything else. Literally.

Send your queries to 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.

]]> 22
QOTD: Italian Government Auctions 1,500 Cars. What’s Your Pick? Fri, 28 Mar 2014 22:28:45 +0000 20140328_italy2

Via Zero Hedge, we have a listing put up by the Italian government of 1,500 luxury cars that are being auctioned off. Italy, which is deep in the throes of austerity, is doing the wise thing from an optics perspective, as the cars have come to symbolize government waste and unnecessary opulence.

While most of the stock consists of diesel Alfa Romeo 166 and Lancia Thesis models, there are some oddities at both ends of the spectrum. Random Italian detritus, like the Fiat Croma and Lancia Dedra, populates the ranks as well, along with a few BMW 525d sedans. There are also a number of Maserati Quattroportes (apparently procured because they were the cheapest armored sedans available….right) as well as a Jaguar S-Type R.

You can peruse the Ebay listings here, and tell us what you’d pick out of the current lot of 25 cars. At first glance, the Thesis would have been my choice, but they appear to be automatics. The Alfa’s seem to be stick shift, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s a no brainer. If only they were wagons.

]]> 32
BMW To Bring X7 SUV To Spartanburg Tue, 25 Mar 2014 12:50:37 +0000 BMW Spartanburg

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

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

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

]]> 36
Fewer Than 4,000 Green Calif. HOV Stickers Remain Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:56:39 +0000 2012-Chevrolet-Volt-HOV-052_610x407

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

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

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

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

]]> 58
BMW Looking To Increase US Production For Sales Record Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:54:42 +0000 BMW X4 01

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

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

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

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

]]> 17
BMW, Mercedes Downsize Number Of Architectures For Future Vehicles Mon, 17 Mar 2014 13:01:18 +0000 bmw-2-series-active-tourer-11

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

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

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

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

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

]]> 39
New York 2014: BMW X4 Photos, Specs Revealed Fri, 07 Mar 2014 06:42:37 +0000 BMW X4 05

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

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

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

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

BMW X4 02 BMW X4 05 BMW X4 03 BMW X4 01 BMW X4 06 BMW X4 04 BMW X4 07 BMW X4 08 ]]> 25
Junkyard Find: 1974 BMW 2002 Thu, 06 Mar 2014 14:00:23 +0000 11 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI see a fair number of BMW 2002s during my trips to wrecking yards, but for some reason I’ve been hoarding the photos of the few that I photograph. We’ve seen this ’73, this ’73, and today’s ’74. I found this car in a Denver self-serve yard about four months back, which means it has been fed to The Crusher by now. Just as well— this car had some scary, Minnesota-grade rust.
02 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhen you see this on the fenders, you know the important structural unibody components probably aren’t so safe.
06 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinStill, this car was visiting Colorado state parks as recently as 2006.
05 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThanks to all the E21 320is in wrecking yards, there’s not much demand for used M10 engines. This one probably went to The Crusher along with the rest of the car.
01 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSomeone had already grabbed the instrument cluster by the time I got to this car.
12 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPlenty of Bondo to be seen.

01 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1974 BMW 2002 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]> 26
Geneva 2014: BMW 2-Series Active Tourer Tue, 04 Mar 2014 22:39:43 +0000 BMW-2-Series-Active-Tourer-01


Geneva marks the first in-the-flesh appearance for the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer, the brand’s first front-drive car that doesn’t wear a MINI badge. It’s honestly not a bad idea.


BMW-2-Series-Active-Tourer-01 BMW-2-Series-Active-Tourer-02 BMW-2-Series-Active-Tourer-03 BMW-2-Series-Active-Tourer-04 BMW-2-Series-Active-Tourer-05 BMW-2-Series-Active-Tourer-06 BMW-2-Series-Active-Tourer-10 ]]> 26
German Olympian Compares Team’s Bobsled to Trabant As BMW Spends $24 Million Building Americans’ Successful Sleds Sat, 22 Feb 2014 14:00:51 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

Unhappy with his team’s performance this year in general and at the 2014 winter Olympics in particular, a German bobsledder compared the team’s slow sleds to the Trabant, the primitive 2-stroke powered cars sold in the former East Germany. ABC News quoted bobsled pusher Kevin Kuske, who has won four gold medals at previous Olympics, as saying, “If in 2010 we were sitting in a Formula One car, then this time we were sitting in a Trabby.” At the same time, German bobsled enthusiasts are a bit unhappy with BMW because the German car company helped make the sleds for the America bobsledders, who so far have done well in Sochi.

Germany has traditionally been a power in the sliding sports but the national team is having a bad year. The Olympics have started poorly for German bobsledders, with their two-man teams missing a medal for only the second time since 1964. It wasn’t just that they were off the podium. The best German finish was eighth, a very poor showing for a team used to medaling. Some German bobsled enthusiasts are questioning the German bobsled federation’s ties to the Institut für Forschung und Entwicklung von Sportgeräten (Institute for Research and Development of Sport Equipment), FES, which built the bobsleds the German team uses. FES was established in the early 1960s by the East German government and according to Reuters the institute receives 90% of its funding from the German government. After reunification, the West German government and sports federations absorbed many elements of what had been East Germany’s extensive sports training apparatus focused on Olympic success.

It’s not clear if Kuske’s comment were a reference to the East German origins of FES or simply a joke comparing the slow sleds to a perennial “worst cars of all times” contender.

While the German team is unhappy, the American team is celebrating, having taken bronze in the men’s two-man bobsled event and silver and bronze in the women’s two-place competition. Making the Germans even more unhappy is the fact that a German company, BMW, had a major role in the American bobsledders’ success. BMW/Designworks USA, the automaker’s California design studio, designed and built the American team’s new sled and the company spent a reported $24 million on the project. BMW North America has a sponsorship deal with the U.S. Olympic team that runs through 2016 and the Olympics are an important part of their marketing effort. BMW North America also sponsors the Canadian Olympic team.

The American team’s previous sled had been built by NASCAR’s Bodine Racing, and a number of high performance automotive companies have contributed to the sport, with Ferrari helping the Italian team and McLaren the British team. The Designworks team came up with a bobsled that, to use Mr. Kuske’s metaphor, comes closer to a F1 car than to a Sprint Cup racer. It’s made of carbon fiber, which saved 15 lbs, and since bobsledding rules mandate a fixed weight for the sleds, the reduced weight of the basic sled allowed the BMW Designworks engineers to have some flexibility with weight distribution, lowering the center of gravity and yielding a better handling sled. Preliminary designs were tested with fluid dynamics in the digital domain, while full size models were fine tuned in a wind tunnel.

As mentioned, BMW’s sponsorship of the American and Canadian Olympic teams is an important part of their overall marketing effort in North America.  Commercials for the i3 and i8 EVs were debuted during the opening ceremonies on NBC and cars on BMW’s stand at the Chicago Auto Show had license plates decorated with the Olympic rings, an American flag and the slogan “Proud Partner”. A series of commercials, short films and advertisements, like the video at the top of this post, tying BMW to the American and Canadian Olympic teams has been produced.

Around the world, local subsidiaries of foreign owned automakers use sports, including sponsorships of Olympic teams, as part of their marketing efforts trying to portray them as community members and good corporate citizens. It’s of a part with publicity about how many Americans, or Australians, or Austrians for the matter are employed locally by those companies, or how much local content Camry’s built in Kentucky have. Doing that, though, has been a delicate dance when “Japanese quality” or “German engineering”, the engineering, manufacturing and design cultures of companies’ native countries, have been part of the marketing mix. The Olympics, with their heavy dose of nationalism, provide an opportunity for automakers’ foreign operations to show that they are part of their adopted countries’ local communities, but as BMW is finding out, it’s also an opportunity to offend the folks back home if one of their adopted countries’ athletes outperform those of their native land.

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

]]> 16
A 2nd Look at the 2-Mode Hybrid – It Could Have Saved More Gas Than The Prius Thu, 20 Feb 2014 13:00:21 +0000 2011-cadillac-escalade-hybrid-4wd-4-door-side-exterior-view_100325423_l

The photo illustrating Zombie McQuestionbot’s query about what would it take to get you to buy a hybrid was of a Chevy Silverado hybrid pickup truck. I bet some of you seeing that picture didn’t know that Chevy even sold fullsize hybrid pickups and those of you who are familiar with them, may have dismissed the concept. It was called the 2-Mode hybrid system, introduced with great promise and fanfare but in the end it became the Rodney Dangerfield of hybrid drives. That’s too bad. Had the 2-Mode system been embraced by consumers on a wide scale, it might have saved more gasoline than all the Chevy Volts and Toyota Priuses put together.

Actually, the Dangerfield crack isn’t fair to Jacob Cohen, who in real life had a long and illustrious career, once he got his big break on the Ed Sullivan show. In contrast, the 2-Mode hybrid has come and pretty much gone in half a decade. Maybe part of the problem was that instead of first bringing it to the market on pickup trucks, GM introduced it as a package on it’s big body-on-frame SUVs. Perhaps the image of something that consumes combustibles as conspicuously as a Cadillac Escalade does, kitted up with four foot long “HYBRID” decals, evoked too much cognitive dissonance for critics and consumers to swallow but as contradictory as the idea sounds and looks, it made some sense.

There was a time when, unlike Mr. Cohen’s comedic persona, the 2-Mode system actually got some respect. Enough respect that in 2005 both Daimler-Chrysler and BMW joined General Motors in partnering to bring the system to production. There are vehicles from all four of those manufacturers using the 2-Mode system on the road today. Automobile magazine even named it the technology of the year in 2007.


The 2-Mode hybrid system is based around what is a sophisticated electromechanical automatic transmission. General Motors has long had a core competency in the development of automatic gearboxes. GM developed the first mass produced fully automatic transmission, Oldsmobile’s Hydramatic, and the corporation currently has two divisions devoted just to developing and building transmissions, Hydramatic, which produces gearboxes for cars and light trucks, and Allison, which makes transmissions for big commercial trucks. It was an Allison development for city buses that was the basis of the 2-Mode hybrid.

Two-Mode Full Hybrid GM-DCX Cooperation

GM 2ML70 hybrid transmission

A conventional single mode hybrid system, like Toyota and Ford developed independently, uses a planetary gear arrangement to connect both a combustion engine and one or more electric motors to a single driveshaft. Conventional hybrids can run on pure electric drive, combustion drive, or a combination of the two. That mode is known as “input split mode”. A second hybrid mode called “compound split mode” is more suitable for highway speeds, and always uses the combustion engine to drive the wheels, aided by the electric motors.

2000px-6953409graph.svg (1)

Is “sophisticated” another word for “complicated”?

In the late 1990s, Allison developed a 2-mode hybrid transmission system for transit buses, now called the H 40/50 EP Series, that by now has been installed in over 5,000 buses around the world. Their latest hybrid transmission model is the H3000, for medium and heavy duty trucks.


Allison H40 EP hybrid transmission. Note “Electric Drives” embossed on the case.

With Toyota’s Prius gaining traction in the market and giving that company some green cred, GM decided to implement a variation on the Allison design that would initially be used in fullsize rear wheel drive body on frame trucks and SUVs and later developed in FWD form suitable for passenger cars. What would become known as the GM 2ML70 transmission (in the BMW ActiveHybrid X6 and the Mercedes-Benz ML450 BlueHybrid it’s called the Allison AHS-2) added four fixed gear ratios to the mix. It has two 82 kW (110 hp peak) three phase permanent magnet AC motors, three planetary gear sets, and four selectively engaging friction clutches. A dampener replaces a conventional automatic’s torque converter.

Two-Mode Input and Compound Split Transmission

The transmission operates as two different continuously variable transmissions in one case. Electronic controls coordinate the electromechanical symphony, switching between the two modes to provide the ideal power, torque and fuel efficiency for the circumstances. One feature of the 2-Mode system making it particularly suitable for pickups and SUVs is that it allows moderate towing capabilities. Another advantage is that by locating the motor/generators where they are in the power chain, it amplifies their torque output the same way a conventional transmission amplifies the torque of an internal combustion engine, allowing the use of more compact motors, making it possible to fit it all inside the dimensions of a conventional automatic transmission. A more complete explanation, courtesy of and Wikipedia is can be downloaded here (Word doc), and one suitable for transmission mechanics can be found here.

2000px-Two-Mode_Hybrid_Transmission_Schematic.svg (1)

GM and their partners were hoping for a 50% improvement in city gas mileage, with a lesser but significant increase in highway mileage. The system was introduced on 2008 Chevy Tahoes and Cadillac Escalades. Reviews from the time uniformly praise the system as working seamlessly and smoothly, yielding a real world improvement in fuel economy of about 25%.


Despite the technical success of the system and the significant fuel savings, a lot of observers scratched their heads at GM’s strategy. What was getting headlines at the time were hybrids that were earning EPA ratings with big numbers, not SUVs that got 20 mpg. A hybrid SUV seemed like a rolling oxymoron. The thing, though, is that there was some reason to GM’s strategy if you look at the American fleet. The pickup trucks upon which those hybrid SUVs were based represent the largest segment of America’s fleet of cars and light trucks. Fullsize pickups are the best selling vehicles in America and have been for decades. They’re also the part of the fleet that gets the worst fuel economy. Improving the fuel economy of pickups from 15 mpg overall to 20 mpg saves a lot more fuel than improving the mileage of a compact car by a similar percentage. The small car is already getting better mileage so the same percentage increase is a smaller amount of saved fuel. Over 100 miles, going from 15 to 20 mpg saves 1.66 gallons of gasoline. Over the same distance, going from 30 mpg to 40 mpg saves half that amount, 0.83 gallons.

BMW's version. Note the AWD transfer case.

BMW’s version. Note the AWD transfer case.

Getting American pickups a 25% real world improvement in fuel economy would save huge amounts of fuel. Because it was pretty much a bolt in replacement for a conventional Hydramatic product (the 300 volt battery pack was mounted under the back seat), implementation was relatively simple, also allowing for the use of normal all wheel drive transfer cases.

However, when the latest generation of GM fullsize pickups were introduced in late 2013, they didn’t include a hybrid variant and none is planned. GM also stopped development on a front wheel drive version of the transmission. Chrysler discontinued the few models offering the 2-mode system and in mid 2009, Daimler and BMW  withdrew from the partnership. The 2-Mode today, if it’s known at all, is known as a bit of a technological dead end, not a tour de force. Considering that the thing worked and indeed saved significant amounts of fuel, what went wrong?

Two-Mode Hybrid Transmission Display

In a word, money. Well, mostly it was money, in a variety of ways, but there were other factors. To begin with, the 2ML70/AHS-2 is possibly the most sophisticated transmission ever made for a passenger vehicle. It was expensive to develop (the operational software to coordinate all that activity can’t be very simple) and expensive to build, which is why GM solicited partners in the project. I’ve seen the figure $10,000 cited as the manufacturer’s cost for a single transmission. A hybrid Silverado started at just under $40,000, a substantial increase over a similarly equipped four door Chevy pickup with a conventional drivetrain, just as the United States was about to enter one of the deepest and longest economic recessions in its history. Also, the first 2 Mode vehicles were introduced to the market in late 2007, for the 2008 model year, as General Motors was already on its inexorable path to bankruptcy. During 2008 and then going through the bankruptcy many programs’ development budgets were slashed or, like the Cadillac V8, were eliminated altogether.

Money wasn’t the only issue. The 2-Mode system went into production the same year that GM revealed that they were working on the Chevy Volt, an extended range electric car. A lot of the public and media’s attention that the 2-Mode hybrids could have gotten went instead to the higher profile Volt project. Inside GM, resources were being shifted. As a matter of fact, some of the same engineers who developed the 2-Mode system were granted patents that are at the heart of the Volt.

In addition to the paradox of trying to market a big SUV or pickup as an environmentally conscious consumer choice, GM’s marketers faced the fact that the 2-Mode system worked well at saving fuel in real life, but didn’t show outstanding results on the EPA test cycle. The 2013 Chevy Tahoe hybrid was rated by the EPA at 20 mpg in the city and 23 highway, which doesn’t sound very impressive compared to 16/23 for the conventional Tahoe. Apparently, advertising a 25% increase in real world gas mileage isn’t as appealing as touting big empeegees. New ICE technologies like direct injection and variable valve timing have come onstream, and with 6, 8, 9 and 10- speed transmissions coming on line, V6 and even V8 powered trucks can get very impressive government ratings, without the added cost and complexity of the 2-Mode system.

Since then, hybrids of all sorts, including million dollar supercars like the McLaren P1 and the Porsche 918, have proliferated. The idea of a $40,000+ luxury hybrid SUV doesn’t seem so outlandishly contradictory these days. I was at a Toyota media ride & drive for the new Highlander that Bark M reviewed here at TTAC recently and they told us that the hybrid Highlander starts at $47,900. The idea of an Escalade or Tahoe hybrid seemed to offend some folks just a few years ago, but Toyota only offers the hybrid drivetrain on the Highlander’s most expensive, Limited, trim level. The 2013 Tahoe hybrid, in a bigger, more expensive class of vehicles, started at $53,620, not that much of a stretch from what a Highlander Hybrid costs just a year later. From behind the wheel of a new Highlander hybrid, the big GM hybrids seem less silly than they did just a few years ago. Maybe they were just ahead of their time.

I wouldn’t write the 2-Mode off as some kind of technological dead end. One thing that’s true after over a century of people making cars and trucks is that what is old often becomes new again. Technologies and designs formerly rejected can be improved and implemented as materials science and control devices improve. I won’t be surprised if we see the 2-Mode hybrid or something similar appears at some time again in the future.

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

]]> 70
BMW Set To Reveal First Front Wheel Drive Model At Geneva, 2-Series Active Tourer Fri, 14 Feb 2014 17:35:47 +0000 bmw-2-series-active-tourer-05

BMW’s first front wheel drive Ultimate Driving Minivan Machine is set to debut at Geneva next month. It rides on the BMW Group’s new UKL platform, which is also the same platform for Mini’s third generation Cooper and the next generation BMW X1. The top engine in the 225i is said to be a 231 horse power 2.0L turbo four cylinder, while a diesel powered 218d is optional; and power is routed though a standard six speed manual (yay) or automatic transmission for all engines.

The 2-Series moniker comes from its larger size and price over the 1-Series variants sold overseas.

The European model will go on sale soon after the Geneva debut to fight against other popular MPVs, such as the Mercedes Benz B-Class, Ford B-Max, Seat Alhambra, VW Touran, and Fiat 500L. We will not see the 2-Series Active Tourer until Stateside until 2015, where it will be a niche player in an essentially untapped segment.

Styling can be best described as the BMW of minivans, but is pleasant and well proportioned, keeping the family resemblance strong. Front overhang is minimal, and over all exterior dimensions are tidy at 170.9 inches in length, 61.4 inches tall, and 70.9 inches wide, and with a wheel base of 105.1 inches; aiming square at the Mercedes Benz B-Class. Interior room is said to be enough to seat five comfortably, and is highly configurable with not only a flat-folding rear seat, but front seat as well.

An all wheel drive model is expected to arrive later this year, as well. A future M-Sport package and hybrid model are in the pipeline as well.

The 2-Series is a big step in BMW product, expanding beyond what is typically defined as BMW’s idea of the Ultimate Driving Machine. But with the success of their X-series models, who can fault BMW for wanting to bring their vision to the MPV market?

BMW 2-series Active Tourer bmw-2-series-active-tourer-03 bmw-2-series-active-tourer-04 bmw-2-series-active-tourer-05 bmw-2-series-active-tourer-06 bmw-2-series-active-tourer-07 bmw-2-series-active-tourer-08 bmw-2-series-active-tourer-09 bmw-2-series-active-tourer-10 bmw-2-series-active-tourer-11 bmw-2-series-active-tourer-12 bmw-2-series-active-tourer-13 bmw-2-series-active-tourer-14 bmw-2-series-active-tourer-15 ]]> 63
Piston Slap: Singin’ the Topaz Blues? Wed, 12 Feb 2014 12:26:40 +0000

Matthew writes:

So I have a beautiful Topaz Blue 2001 BMW 325Ci with the sport package and Steptronic automatic. It has 226,000 miles but the tranny was rebuilt 19,000 miles earlier (warranty is good for 24,000), the shocks were updated with Koni FSD’s (installed myself) and some fresh Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric tires were added over the summer soon after the shocks. I spent well over $4000 on the car in the last nine months alone.

I hit a deer, crumpling the hood, right front headlight, radiator core support, radiator, etc, above the bumper. Insurance totaled it, so to repair I would have to give back $900 salvage value of the $5100 due me (post-deductible with some taken off for the high mileage) and repair the car with the $4200 remaining. Body shop says it can be done for $4000 with everything except the front bumper, which is intact save for 12 years of stone chips.

In the New York metro area (I live on Long Island), $5100 or slightly more will get you a nice 330Ci sport of equivalent vintage, an E39 530/540i M package or even a 740i sport with nearly 100k less mileage. Even a 2004 Jaguar XJ8 that needs a new nav/stereo/HVAC unit goes for $5500, and the unit can be had for $350 on eBay. Only problem is I don’t trust automatic transmissions after getting burned for $3000 on the last one, even though it held up for 207k. And even then, only reverse gear went out. Still required a rebuild, but could be driven to the shop.

So do I walk away from the car I know or roll the dice on something else?

Sajeev answers:

The question is: do you actually like this 3-series?

Or perhaps…do you like it more than the alternatives mentioned?

Your 3-series sounds easily repairable, and this platform is cheaper/easier to keep running compared to the E39, E38 and the Jaguar too.  I mean, none of these machines are an Accord…but you already knew that. And don’t care about keeping a fully depreciated, executive European machine up and running. So what should you do?

Not an easy question, mostly because of mileage.  I normally suggest to stick with the problems you know, as all of your choices are a huge financial gamble. But again, those 226,000 miles. But still, E38 BMW?  Come on, I love the E38 in theory, but you don’t hate your wallet/mobility that much…do you?

Enjoy a few more years with Topaz Blue, see if anything else attracts your attention next time fate puts you in a complicated position.


Send your queries to 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.

]]> 69
BMW Uses Olympics, Chicago Auto Show to Market i Series in U.S., Offers Loaners to Offset Range Anxiety Mon, 10 Feb 2014 12:30:12 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

BMW has reportedly spent billions of dollars so far on developing various aspects of its carbon fiber intensive and electric powered i series of cars. The Bavarian automaker obviously wants to get that money back and more so it is now using high profile events to launch the i subbrand in North America, including buying ads during the opening ceremony and other broadcasts from the Winter Olympics currently being held in Sochi, Russia. The first of three ads that BMW will be running during the NBC network’s coverage of the Olympic games is called “Hello Future” and uses a 1964 recording of futurist Arthur C. Clarke to promote the $136,000 i8 hybrid super car. A second ad for the i8 is called “Sighting“, showing people’s reaction to first seeing the car. The more mass market $41,300 i3 is being sold with “SHHH“, depicting a teenager using his father’s silent i3 to sneak a nighttime joyride with a girl he’s trying to impress. He gets the girl but dad has been tracking the car with BMW’s i remote app.

The Winter Olympics have some of the biggest television audiences of the year. The Chicago Auto Show has the biggest attendance of any car show in North America. The i3 and i8 were also a major focus of BMW’s display and press conference at the Chicago show. Journalists clambered all over and inside the i3, complete with production stickers on its hemp paneled doors, that was on the show floor.

The i8 is going on sale later this year and while it isn’t quite in production like the i3 is, by now BMW has enough preproduction and validation models made that instead of the charcoal grey i8 that they showed in Detroit, at Chicago’s McCormick Place a gleaming pearl white i8 coupe was behind glass barriers next to the i3.

While the i8 is more of a plug-in hybrid, the i3, even with its gasoline-powered range extender, has still compelled BMW to come up with a rather novel solution to range anxiety. Buyers of the i3 can reserve the use of conventional gasoline or diesel-powered loaner cars should they need one for a long distance trip.

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

]]> 5
BMW Answers Cadillac’s Vsport, Audi’s S Line With MPA Cars Mon, 10 Feb 2014 10:00:41 +0000 bmw m235i

When Cadillac brought out their Vsport editions, cars that have higher performance than stock models but not quite the full-tilt performance offered in the V versions, some saw it as a watering down of the V brand. Now BMW appears to be following Cadillac’s lead with M Performance Automobiles, or MPA. Automotive News reports that MPA cars will have greater horsepower and a more sporting driving experience but they won’t have all of the chassis and performance mods that the top of the line M high performance models have. They also won’t have the high price tags of the M cars. The idea is to offer enthusiasts a moderately priced model with more performance than the base car.

The MPA lineup will be introduced in the U.S. when the M235i goes on sale next month. The coupe is BMW’s new entry level car in the U.S. market, replacing the 1 Series two door. The MPA subbrand was launched earlier in Europe with diesel models that are not offered in the U.S.

The MPA versions will have revised interiors, performance tuning, a stiffer suspension and bigger brakes to go with exterior trim including a front apron. Door sills will have aluminum plates inscribed with the model designation.


]]> 34
Chicago 2014: 2014 BMW 740Ld Fri, 07 Feb 2014 05:51:28 +0000 2014-BMW-740Ld-xDrive-02

BMW has debuted a diesel-equipped version of its flagship 7-series sedan in the US. Jack will not be driving one.

The 2014 BMW 740Ld xDrive features a direct-injected, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder diesel expected to return a 25 to 30 percent increase in fuel efficiency. With its 8-speed automatic transmission, 255 horsepower and a blonde hair over 400 lb-ft of torque. The interior features are typical of BMW, featuring all the latest in optional Bavarian gizmos.

We’re told the base MSRP for this big body Beemer will be $83,425. Expect to see them in showrooms this spring.

2015-BMW-740Ld-xDrive-01 2015-BMW-740Ld-xDrive-05 2015-BMW-740Ld-xDrive-02 2015-BMW-740Ld-xDrive-09 2015-BMW-740Ld-xDrive-13 2015-BMW-740Ld-xDrive-11 ]]> 9
Piston Slap: Fix My Beeeemer, Sanjeev! Wed, 05 Feb 2014 12:41:57 +0000

Nitin writes:


I read your blog about the problem in BMW. I have a 2009 BMW 535i X drive with turbo. The car just ran out of warranty and has 45000 miles only. My car started having engine problems last week. First, the BMW said it needs new spark plugs as they were dirty. That cost me $740 dollars. That did not work. They said it needs new fuel injectors. That was another $2100 dollars.

I picked up my car yesterday evening and drove it on the highway. The problem is still not fixed. The Car is still shaking badly. I will have to get it back to service. I am afraid they don’t have a handle on this problem. I called another mechanic who works on BMWs. He mentioned the probable need for walnut shell blasting. What do you know about it? Do you know of any pending lawsuits regarding this problem? Would appreciate your insight.

Sajeev answers:

And here’s another reason why European cars should be leased, or sold immediately after the warranty expires…I mean, when you’ve seen people being burned by the fire so many times…WAIT YOU GIVE THAT BACK RIGHT NOW YOU LITTLE…

Sanjeev retorts:

Listen, Sajeev–if that really is your name–I am sick of hearing your reverse elitist, MBA-toting hipster bellyaching on cars you wouldn’t buy.  But should buy.  Your co-workers, your friends and even your family are ashamed that you bought (special ordered, no less) a Ford Ranger instead of getting the nearest 3-series with a premium package.

So stop being a disappointment to everyone and answer the question correctly.  Jerk.

Sajeev re-answers:

Perhaps I should start over. Direct injection problems are commonplace for many brands, and multiple fixes are used to cure the carbon buildup/misfire problems.  So maybe you did need spark plugs, as that was the most logical and cheapest place to start.  And from there…well, the spiraling cost is unfortunate because it seems they are “throwing parts at the problem” and hoping for the best.  Which is never pleasant for the customer, as they will never know the truth of the diagnostic tree behind their repair bill(s).

The walnut shell blasting thing is a very logical next step.  Perhaps it shoulda been the first step, considering the (low-ish) mileage on the plugs/injectors. But will it work?  Hopefully so.

Lawsuit? Perhaps…but it’s not worth your time because you can probably get something by reading this, especially the following quote:

“BMW will extend the emissions warranty coverage period to 10 years or 120,000 miles, whichever comes first, on affected vehicles in all 50 States. If the HPFP fails during the extended warranty coverage period, BMW will replace it with a newer-production version. Customers who experience long starting times or notice the Service Engine Soon lamp should contact an Authorized BMW Center to schedule a service appointment. Customers with further questions should contact BMW Customer Relations at 1-800-831-1117 or email”

Sometimes, even if this isn’t the source of your specific problem, BMW N/A will cut you a break in the name of customer goodwill.  Because you already spent a ton of cash with their dealership and they do feel bad about that.  Why would they feel bad? Because a few bucks back in your pocket might get you back in a newer Bimmer. Customer Retention is the name of the game, and it wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened.

So best of luck to you, from me and Sanjeev.


Send your queries to 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.

]]> 100
BMW’s Game Changer – A Vehicle That Is Redundant Before It’s Even On Sale Fri, 31 Jan 2014 18:25:29 +0000 2014 BMW 4 series gran coupé 4er


BMW’s new nomenclature dictates that coupes have an even numbered naming convention, while sedans get an odd numbered digit. But with the BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe, BMW has managed to disrupt the integrity of it right off the bat.

002 2014 BMW 4 series gran coupé 4er


The Gran Coupe, said to be the black car in the center of the photographs, is just a 4-door 4-Series with a sloping roof. But a 4-door 4-series is, of course, a 3-Series. Aside from the sloping roof and the presumably missing center seat in the back, how is this at all different from a 3-Series? What’s the selling proposition? At least the 6-Series GC has a competitive set in the Audi A7 and Mercedes CLS, while offering a distinctive package versus the 5-Series. This really doesn’t look that different at all. Then again, luxury niche customers have always been ignored by the Germans…

]]> 100
BMW to End Mini Production at Magna Steyr Fri, 31 Jan 2014 11:00:49 +0000 MINI Countryman cars being assembled at Magna Steyr's Austrian facility.

MINI Countryman cars being assembled at Magna Steyr’s Austrian facility.

The Kleine Zeitung newspaper reported on Thursday that the BMW Group will end contract production of Mini cars by Magna Steyr in 2016. Automotive News reports that the Austrian supplier currently builds the Mini Countryman and Mini Paceman. BMW will move production of the two models to BMW’s own Mini factory in Oxford, England, and to Mitsubishi’s former NedCar facility in the Netherlands, where the Dutch group VDL will start Mini production under contract later this year. Magna Steyr’s corporate parent, Magna International, said in a statement that its relationship with BMW will continue through a new vehicle manufacturing contract.

“The new production program would start following the end of production of the current Mini models Mini Countryman and Mini Paceman being assembled by Magna Steyr in Graz.” No details were given on specific models that Magna Steyr will be assembling under the new contract.


According to the Kleine Zeitung, Magna Steyr’s role will not be to build particular BMW Group cars but rather it will hold capacity for a variety of models as demand dictates. Those would likely be high-volume models like the BMW 5 series and 3 Series cars. The newspaper says that the contract will probably cover a volume of over 100,000 vehicles over 6 to 7 years.

Neither Magna Steyr or BMW has commented on the report.

Magna Steyr currently also assembles vehicles for Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot.

]]> 2
Hammer Time: What Hath Thou Wrought? Wed, 22 Jan 2014 17:07:14 +0000 07dts1

98 dealers are busy looking at 89 vehicles. Check engine lights are being scanned. The hoods are opened, engines are revved, and Bluetooth is the technology of the moment. Wholesalers, along with professional car buyers like me, are busy making arrangements with those dealers and individuals who want to buy an auction vehicle on the cheap.

There’s only one problem with all this. We’re on the eve of tax season. A time where everyone short on dough files a tax return on the expectation of a nice four-figured refund in early February. Millions of those refunds will eventually be used towards one of three purposes: paying down debt, purchasing electronics, or putting a down payment towards a nice used car that will likely be financed to the hilt.

The prices at this specific auction are always high. But today, they were in outer space.


It all started with #9. A rolling museum piece with only 56,812 miles. Yes, that

This 1994 Lincoln Mark VIII was the cleanest vehicle I have found of it’s ilk in nearly six years. The leather seats were pristine. The body was as smooth as can be with none of the bumper ridden scuff marks that are all too common in the last of the great Lincoln coupes. I was so enamored with it, that I posted the vehicle on Facebook for my fellow Lincoln enthusiasts to admire. One of which apparently goes by the name of Doctor V8.

It’s rare for me to find an old car at the auctions that was a showhorse instead of a workhorse. So naturally, like every other old vehicle I find, I try to get it out to the enthusiasts among us. After a short drive, I am at the auction at the crack of dawn downloading pictures to the doctor, in a climate that I can only describe as the Atlanta arctic.


mark83 mark82

Yes, that is ice forming on the hood. Atlanta is now nearly as cold as the rest of the east coast.

I told the doctor that I thought the price would go for a round $3300 on the block. Lo and behold, I got up to $3400 and of course, someone else out there outbid me at $3500. If this had been an LSC model of a 96′ vintage, I would have kept going. But a $3500 bid plus a $165 auction fee, plus my fee of $300 for inspect, appraising and buying the car (I gave him a discount) would have resulted in a 20 year old car with $4000 invested. That $4000 is before any unforeseen reconditioning costs, or the cost of shipping it out to Texas. It was obviously time to cut bait. An act that I was bound to repeat with several more cars that day including this one…


this one…


and this one… 02SantaFe


I just couldn’t get a break, and then of course, it happened.

There are cars that I will sometimes buy just for the learning curve that can come from actually getting it ready for sale. Sounds silly on the surface. But a lot of my early fortunes came from fixing unique problems on vehicles that don’t require as much of an investment as people think.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Administering the Gibbons method on the transmissions of 2000 to 2007 Volvos that have the number 60,70, or 80 in their name.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Replacing the resistors on the instrument clusters of Buick Centurys and Regals that no longer show their odometers.

These types of vehicles, and many others, don’t move that quickly on the lots. Especially these days. But if you focus on a few unpopular vehicles with a lot of high-end features, and try to hit em’ where they ain’t, you can lay the groundwork for doing well on the finance side of this business.  A loaded car that has been maintained well will almost always be taken over the plain jane cloth version of an older popular vehicle.

So every once in a blue moon, I experiment.


This is a vehicle that nearly everybody in my business is scared shitless over buying. Not because they have bought it. But it is more or less the triumvirate of challenge. Hard to fix. Gas guzzler. Volkswagen. I have never bought one of these before. But the more I looked online on the day before the sale, and the more I talked to one of the mechanics in my neck of the woods who specializes in Volkswagens and Audis, the more I liked the idea of testing the waters and seeing what happens.


So this is it. A 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 with an automatic and the 4motion all-wheel drive system. 155k and no announcements. I bought it for $2600 plus a $155 auction fee which was only $100 more than a plain jane 05 maroon Taurus with a cloth interior, 130k miles, and the Vulcan V6.


This car has the fuel economy of a minivan (18 city / 25 highway) and drives ‘heavy’ on the road. It’s actually not a bad vehicle from an engineering standpoint, and I think it has a compelling look to it when you see it in person. At least the color and the wheels are distinctive enough to attract eyeballs at a retail lot. However, as the great Robert Farago pointed out in his review of this vehicle, this car is pretty much the dowdiest V8 luxury car in the German fleet of that era.

If you are a road warrior in the rust belt who happens to know a VW mechanic and isn’t against buying a spare VW from a salvage auction company like Copart or IAA, I can see this car working out. Heck, you could probably sell off the parts through enthusiast sites and make your money back on the donor car with plenty of parts to spare for yourself.

I probably wouldn’t do it though. This uber-Passat came from an era with too many uber-cars that were simply under-engineered for the long haul. Pontiac Grand Prix GTP’s with combustible transmissions, Jaguar S-Type R’s with the potential for more high cost breakables than a pissed off bull in a Chinese pottery shop.

The Audi everything, the Mercedes everything else, the Northstar equipped Cadillacs, and of course the Beelzebub of all luxurious automotive devils, the BMW 7-series from that same era mid-200′s era. The whole heavy, straight line, high maintenance, high repair era of automobiles from the Bush era has given a lot of tinkerers the opportunity to be screwed once they realized that it truly takes a lot of experience and equipment to keep these things going past the 100k mark. Not to mention money for ever more rare electronics. Oh well.

There was one opposite side to that storm of deserved depreciation. This 1999 Toyota Land Cruiser.



250,000 miles divided by 50 verifiable visits to the Toyota dealership apparently equaled an $8500 net purchase at the auction. That price was $500 more than a 2011 Nissan Sentra S with only 67k miles, and $700 more than a 2007 Volkswagen GTI with 76k miles.


It even beat the holy water out of a 2003 Land Rover Discovery with 80k miles that went for $5700. The difference is that the Land Rover had the usual Christmas tree lights on the dashboard (check engine, ABS, traction control, hill descent, etc) while the only malady of the Land Cruiser was the odometer cluster that actually worked. This Land Cruiser will likely be exported and have it’s odometer rolled back. As for that Range Rover? It went to a specialist.

Apparently knowing how to fix em’ and offer them to an enthusiast audience has it’s benefits… and it’s pitfalls. What a hell of a way to start off a Monday. Anyone want a Passat?

]]> 95
NAIAS 2014: BMW 2-Series Is The Only Thing With A Roundel On It That I’m Interested In Mon, 13 Jan 2014 21:43:45 +0000 bmw-m235i-main

Even though the BMW i8, i3 and M3/M4 were the starts of the BMW stand (in that order), I was more interested in the upcoming 2-Series. Unlike the Mercedes-Benz CLA and the Audi A3, the 2-Series is rear wheel drive, as the future 1-Series moves to a front-drive platform shared with Mini.

The 2-Series looks to be about the size of the E46 coupe, with better proportions than the too-tall 1-Series. In this case, model bloat appears to work in its favor. Not only is it a more elegant design, but smaller adults may actually fit in the rear seats.

A BMW representative raved to me about the M235i, the fully loaded baby Bimmer with monobloc calipers, M fender badges, a twin-turbo I6 and, oddly enough, an automatic gearbox for the display model. Sitting to its left was a 228i, with the N20 four-banger and sliding piston calipers. The M235i, he told me, will hit 60 mph in about 4.8 seconds.

And the 228i? “About 5.1 is what we estimate.” So, inconsequential in the real world, but great for advertising and forum-bragging purposes. “But,” he countered, “by the time you option up a 228i, you may as well just get an M235i.”

I shrugged. Give me a plain jane 228i with the 6-speed manual. At roughly 3300 lbs and 240 horsepower, it’s enough grunt for me.

]]> 55
Piston Slap: Fabric Tops vs Polar Vortex? Mon, 13 Jan 2014 13:25:43 +0000 Josh writes:

Sajeev –

Great news! After research, waiting, and a little bit of compromise, I have finally bought my first ‘real’ car. Last month, I bought a ’05 BMW 645i convertible with very low mileage and a clean bill of health. It is wonderful and brings me a little joy every time I start it.

Bad news! The country is currently gripped in a cold snap the likes of which we haven’t seen in 2 decades, and also, by the way, I live in Denver.

While I am more than comfortable with RWD in the snow, and I am getting used to not having a real spare tire, I realized that I had not considered maintenance of the top in cold-weather conditions. It is currently parked outside, and while a carport is available if I want to go that direction, I am more concerned what the combination of H2O and low mercury will do, at least until I move to a place with a real garage again.

Any suggestions how I can extend the joy and minimize loss when it comes time to sell? Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Minimize the loss when it comes to sell?  Be more concerned with the litany of possible BMW E63 gremlins to keep at bay before selling it on to the next fan of such “real” cars.

And keeping the interior in tip-top shape, especially if you run everywhere with the top down.

But let’s talk about snow and convertibles: it could be a problem, considering last week’s polar vortex.  If wet snow and/or ice breaks tree branches and collapses roofs, they could bend your convertible’s metal frame.  Perhaps you could scratch plastic rear windows (not applicable here) with your ice scraper, too.

My advice is to keep the top free of snow accumulation so you’ll never worry about bent frame supports when hitting the switch.

Everything else?  Well, if you keep it around for years with no garage, the top’s gonna need replacement no matter what.  And considering the price of a re-pop top, there are far scarier powertrain/suspension/electronic replacement items on this Bimmer that I’d be worried about.

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom: 

Do not leave valuables inside your car in plain sight!  A bad idea with any car, but even worse  in a drop top.  Taking a brick to your window to steal your iPod  is one thing, but a knife to your fabric roof to grab spare change on your console is another.  Hell, I’d consider leaving your convertible unlocked so someone can easily open it, look around for something to steal, find nothing and NEVER slap you with a $1000+ repair bill for fitting a new top! 


Send your queries to 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. 

]]> 37