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. Sat, 02 May 2015 15:15:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 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.

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

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

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

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.4 Seconds

0-60: 6.14 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.83 Seconds @ 92.8 MPG

Average Economy: 23.8 MPG

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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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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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Question Of The Day: Should I Blow My Tax Refund On This http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-blow-tax-refund/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-blow-tax-refund/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 13:30:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1027945 So, let me be clear: I have a very good, brand new car. I have no real need for a second car, no place to park a second car and no desire to take on a project. But god damn it, I want this. The car in question is a 2003 BMW 325xi Touring. It […]

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103605_f93624f11fc1a244a63ac5be0ac46a8a

So, let me be clear: I have a very good, brand new car. I have no real need for a second car, no place to park a second car and no desire to take on a project. But god damn it, I want this.

The car in question is a 2003 BMW 325xi Touring. It has a clean CarProof (Canadian version of a CarFax) and it’s a manual. On the other hand, it has 328,000 km (203,000 miles), and since it’s an auction, you don’t exactly have time to contemplate whether this is a good idea or not.

But, I’ve always wanted a BMW manual wagon, and I have a decent tax return on the way. What do you say, B&B?

 

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

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

 

BEVx

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

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

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-004

Construction

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

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

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior Turn Signal

Exterior

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

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

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Seats Doors Open

Interior

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

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

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

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster

Drivetrain

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

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

Battery Flow

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

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

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Shifter

Drive

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

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

BMW i3 One Pedal Operation Concept Brake Neutral Go

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

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

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster-001

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

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

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Dashboard

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

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

 Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.0 Seconds

0-60: 7.0 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.5 Seconds @ 86 MPH

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Before The i3, There Was The E1 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/i3-e1/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/i3-e1/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 13:27:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1025089 Tomorrow, we’ll have a review of the BMW i3, BMW’s first mass market electric car. Developed in just 10 months, the E1 used an aluminum spaceframe with plastic body panels – remarkably similar to the i3s use of advanced materials and construction given that the E1 was developed in 1991. BMW claimed that the rear-drive […]

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Tomorrow, we’ll have a review of the BMW i3, BMW’s first mass market electric car.

Developed in just 10 months, the E1 used an aluminum spaceframe with plastic body panels – remarkably similar to the i3s use of advanced materials and construction given that the E1 was developed in 1991.

BMW claimed that the rear-drive E1 was good for 150 miles from its relatively puny (but today’s standards) 32 kW electric motor and 19  kWh sodium-sulphur battery – which weighed 400 lbs.

The lone E1 ended up catching fire while charging, taking part of a building with it. But like the Geo Storm that ended up previewing the Chevrolet Volt, the E1 ended up leading the way for the Mini E, BMW ActiveE and the latest i3 and i8.

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Mini Superleggera Gets 2018 Production Nod to be One of Brand’s Superheroes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/mini-superleggera-gets-2018-production-nod-one-brands-superheroes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/mini-superleggera-gets-2018-production-nod-one-brands-superheroes/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 15:20:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1024281 The UK’s CAR magazine is reporting that the Mini Superleggera roadster, first shown as a concept at last year’s Villa d’Este concours in Italy, has been given the go-ahead for production by BMW management, slated to begin in early 2018. The news isn’t much of a surprise. The concept car was a joint project of BMW […]

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Full gallery here

Full gallery here

The UK’s CAR magazine is reporting that the Mini Superleggera roadster, first shown as a concept at last year’s Villa d’Este concours in Italy, has been given the go-ahead for production by BMW management, slated to begin in early 2018. The news isn’t much of a surprise. The concept car was a joint project of BMW and the Touring Superleggera design and coachbuilding firm. When it was introduced, BMW board member Peter Schwarzenbauer, who is in charge of Mini, Rolls-Royce and BMW motorcycles, indicated that the Mini marque, seen by some as carrying brand extension to the point diminishing returns with their proliferation of niche vehicles, would instead be concentrating on a handful of what he called “super heroes” and that the Superleggera had the potential to be one of those models going forward.

Schwarzenbauer’s remarks were followed by design patent applications that indicated that while the concept’s spare, aluminum interior, and frameless speedster glass wouldn’t make it to production, most of the concept’s styling features, including the Union Jack shaped taillights and the ’50s looking fin, will.

Original BMW sketches

Original BMW sketches

While the concept featured a through-the-road plug-in hybrid all-wheel-drive system with an electric motor driving the front wheels and an ICE powering the rears, the production version will be based on the BMW corporate platform for small FWD and AWD cars and be powered by three and four cylinder combustion engines.

Patent drawings revealed in December

Patent drawings revealed in December

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

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

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BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV 03

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Editorial: The Ultimate Driving Machine Is Now A Crossover – But Not For Long http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/editorial-ultimate-driving-machine-now-crossover-not-long/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/editorial-ultimate-driving-machine-now-crossover-not-long/#comments Tue, 10 Mar 2015 14:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1003866 There’s been a lot of hand-wringing about the introduction of the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer, and its larger minivan sibling, the Gran Tourer. I was in the midst of preparing an editorial on the introduction of the Gran Tourer, a front-wheel drive minivan based on the Mini-derived UKL platform, when I saw news that the […]

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There’s been a lot of hand-wringing about the introduction of the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer, and its larger minivan sibling, the Gran Tourer. I was in the midst of preparing an editorial on the introduction of the Gran Tourer, a front-wheel drive minivan based on the Mini-derived UKL platform, when I saw news that the X1, my current favorite BMW, is going to be based on UKL as well. Apparently, it will also look “more like an X car.” When the current X1 dies, it will mark the end of an era for BMW.

The genesis for this editorial was initially rooted in my difficulties with writing a review for the 228i that I just drove at a launch event for that car, and the all-new X6M. Both cars provided a glimpse into the future of the BMW brand – and the future direction of my current favorite BMW, the X1.

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The base 2-Series is supposed to embody the best of what BMW has to offer, but it falls far short of that promise. In the interest of disclosure, the 2-Series I drove was a 228i cabriolet, with an 8-speed automatic. Not the most sporting variant available, but it did have the M Sport package, and the 1-Series droptops I’ve driven haven’t been terribly different from their hardtop siblings.

Unless the 2-Series Coupe is some kind of head and shoulders improvement above and beyond the coupe, I’m dumbfounded as to how the 228i could have garnered so much praise. It’s not particularly fast, despite the normally proficient N20 4-cylinder and 8-speed automatic. In “Comfort” mode, the slippery feeling reminds one of a Toyota Camry, while the ride remains on the extreme wrong side of “firm”. In “Sport” mode, the performance is only marginally improved, while the ride turns truly punishing. Even on the relatively smooth roads around Austin, Texas, the ride quality was comparable to a three-quarter ton truck with blown shocks. Maybe it’s the run-flat tires, or the “sport” chassis tuning or the characteristically hard BMW ride. Either way, it’s not particularly fun or thrilling. It’s a definite step back from the 1-Series, which was at least a reasonably fun car to drive, even if it had its detractors.

In my opinion, the best small BMW, the one that most embodies the “Ultimate Driving Machine” ethos is actually…wait for it…the X1. If you told me that 6 month ago, I wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, I didn’t, and it caused a major fight between myself and my then-girlfriend.

After taking a job transfer to Indianapolis, she decided to sell  her 2009 Acura RDX. When she told me the X1 was high on her list, I hit the roof, thanks to a combination of relationship stress and endless enthusiast mockery of the baby Bimmer CUV. I thought it was a silly vehicle sold only to badge snobs and the terminally self-conscious. I didn’t believe her when she said she liked how “sporty” it felt. Although I suggested more sensible alternatives, she ended up with the white X1 shown above.

On my first visit to see her in Indy, we ended up taking the X1 down to Nashville for my birthday weekend, and to break the new car in. As usual, the driving fell to me, and I had to eat a family-size portion of crow. The X1 was quick, comfortable, quiet, got great fuel economy and actually felt like a BMW, thanks to the hydraulic steering and the sharp, nimble responses – two qualities that are notably absent from the 2-Series. The tall tires and long travel suspension gave the kind of ride I was used to from my father’s old E39 530i; just a little firm, not punishing but not squishy or coddling.

It held all of our gear as well as a 6-foot tall picture that she found at an antique shop. My one complaint is that there’s no manual option. But the 8-speed ZF auto is so good that I can’t ever say I actually wished for a manual option – and the number of buyers lusting after a stick X1 can be counted on one hand. Even with two pedals, it is currently the only BMW that evokes memories of my old E30 ice racer, my father’s E39 530i, the brilliant E46 330i Sport that Jack owned or any number of past models that we consider classics.

IMG_0013

But BMW is a publicly traded company. Its sole obligation is to deliver value to its shareholders, rather than operate as a charity to produce widgets for car enthusiasts. The way to do this is to build X Cars, like the X6M you see here. Even though it has no real purpose than to advertise just how much money you paid for something with no real utility, this kind of fashion statement is very much en vogue not just in America, but the all important emerging markets where this kind of car can be exported from its South Carolina factory and sold at many multiples of its American MSRP. Then again, I’m told that the X1 is one of BMW’s most profitable products. On the retail side, it makes more money for dealers than a 7-Series.

What can we expect from the next X1? Well, it won’t have the X6M’s blinding pace or surprising dynamic poise – nor will it have the old school charm that makes it such a diamond in the rough in the context of BMW’s throroughly sanitized current lineup. Instead, it will probably be a bit like a smaller, front-drive X4, but with the bones of a Mini Countryman. I can’t say that sounds entirely compelling but hey, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been wrong about a BMW crossover…

 

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Book Review: End of the Road: BMW and Rover- A Brand Too Far http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/book-review-end-road-bmw-rover-brand-far/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/book-review-end-road-bmw-rover-brand-far/#comments Tue, 17 Feb 2015 16:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1001754 Sometimes, the automotive marques we all know and love have to go bust. Such was the case of Duesenberg, Oldsmobile, Hispano-Suiza, and Talbot-Lago despite their heritage and today’s strong collector-car market for those brands. Unfortunately, in the 2000s, Rover had to join them. However, it wasn’t without a fight, as detailed in End of the […]

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800px-Rover_75_Tourer_2001_rear

Sometimes, the automotive marques we all know and love have to go bust. Such was the case of Duesenberg, Oldsmobile, Hispano-Suiza, and Talbot-Lago despite their heritage and today’s strong collector-car market for those brands. Unfortunately, in the 2000s, Rover had to join them. However, it wasn’t without a fight, as detailed in End of the Road: BMW and Rover- A Brand Too Far. The book explores BMW’s massive investment in the Rover Group throughout the 1990s and how it became disastrous for all parties involved. Through piecing together news reports about BMW and Rover during the period and conducting interviews with people involved in the sale, the book gives a hard look at the relationship between the Rover Group and BMW during the 1990s and why BMW ended up paying a large amount of money to get rid of Rover in 2000.

At the beginning, the authors, business journalist Andrew Lorenz, and academic Dr. Chris Brady, give a profile of Rover before its sale to BMW in 1994. Then, Rover was a subsidiary of British Aerospace, who had bought the Rover Group from the British government in 1988, which at the time was going through its own troubles with its aircraft operations in the early 1990s. In order to survive, British Aerospace had to get rid of its non-core businesses, of which Rover was one. Therefore, the Rover management began looking for buyers of the car company. Volkswagen was interested in adding Rover; however, they were coming off badly from the 1990s financial crisis and couldn’t match what BMW paid.

The buying of Rover by BMW was overseen by then BMW CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder, whose goal was to increase the volume of cars made by the BMW Group. Throughout the 1990s, automakers realized they needed to grow in order to survive. That sort of reasoning led to automaker purchases such as Volkswagen taking a large stake in Skoda, Daimler buying Chrysler, and Renault eventually forming an alliance with Nissan. BMW’s purchase of Rover was seen as significant in that it was a midsize automaker (at the time) buying what was more or less another midsize automaker.

During the time of the sale, Rover’s cars were largely Hondas underneath the skin, utilizing Honda platforms and many Honda parts. Honda owned twenty percent of Rover as well. It had a profitable side in the form of Land Rover, but that was included with the Rover sale just so the company could be sold. In fact, Honda was the preferred buyer during the sale of Rover, but Honda didn’t want to buy Rover outright, just increase its ownership stake. Their own valuation of Rover was much lower than the 800 million pounds that BMW was willing to pay. The sale  also included the MG, Mini, Triumph, Riley, Wolseley, Austin, and Morris names (BMW still owns Austin and a couple of others).

Initially, BMW took a very hands-off approach to the running of Rover. They expected the existing British management to take the Rover brand upmarket. As BMW had little experience running factories outside of Germany, that was seen as a mistake by Lorenz and Brady. In the authors’ view, that kept BMW from experiencing firsthand the weakness of the Rover brand. To illustrate some of their points in the book, the authors reference the five-part BBC documentary When Rover Met BMW. Though the documentary was started before BMW ownership, BMW still allowed the documentary to continue filming after the sale. In it, Wolfgang Reitzle, who had then become the chairman of Rover, was seen as irritated with Rover management, especially when stuck in traffic with one of Rover’s managers. Lorenz and Brady characterize the documentary as giving “the television audience a rare insight into a struggling merger.”

As things became worse at Rover, BMW began to bring in its own staff to the UK. Land Rover quality was a huge problem, and warranty repairs represented another financial loss to the company with Pischetsrieder referring to it as ‘a scandal.’ BMW managers also worked hard on the Rover branding, attempting to take it upmarket and working hard on the Rover 75 (above) to help re-launch the brand. By 1997, Rover was costing BMW over 600 million pounds a year. Rover also got a new chairman, Walter Hasselkus, who had come up the ranks at BMW for turning around its once-struggling motorcycle division. Other joint ventures were considered, such as one with Chrysler, which resulted in a joint venture engine plant in Brazil. (That plant ultimately made engines for the Mini and some versions of the PT Cruiser.)

A strengthening British pound, which significantly increased the prices of Rovers in Europe, and would severely hamper Rover sales abroad, did further damage to BMW’s Rover strategy. I talso meant that the possibility of exporting Rovers to the United States would be in jeopardy. Furthermore, BMW had to deal with the British political situation with regard to Rover’s Longbridge plant, an immense part of the economy for the West Midlands region of the UK. Such was the case when BMW asked for 200 million pounds of aid to keep Longbridge open; however, the government didn’t wish to provide the funds necessary because of the optics of the situation. Additionally, any possibility of a further tie-up with Chrysler was halted when Daimler bought them. The lukewarm launch of the Rover 75 was perhaps the final straw. Despite critical acclaim, it never achieved financial success.

Eventually, the Rover purchase resulted in major executive upheaval for BMW. At the top level of BMW, factions between executives had formed. One was behind Bernd Pischetsrieder and putting more resources into Rover, while the top-level faction was led by Wolfgang Reitzle, the number two man at BMW who was in charge of marketing and product development who wanted to shed Rover. On February 5, 1999, Bernd Pischetsrieder and Wolfgang Reitzle ended up resigning on the same day as the Quandt family (BMW’s owners) and BMW chairman Eberhard von Kuenheim felt they were distracting the company with their politics. Such was the impact the Rover purchase had on BMW that something drastic had to be done about Rover.

Surprisingly, the book argues that much of Rover’s troubles wasn’t due to the unions. Sure, there were more employees than were needed considering Rover’s sales, but the British workers’ unions knew largely what was at stake and knew what footing Rover was standing on. In 1999, the unions agreed to a 35-hour workweek without cutting any jobs and agreed to a reduction in their pay raises for the next few years. This was accomplished without protests and strikes, as the workers knew the company was on the line. In fact, other automakers were surprised by how British unions agreed to such low terms, as when such provisions were implemented in BMW’s German factories, a six-week strike took place, while the British agreed to the terms in two months after they were proposed.

Overall, End of the Road: BMW and Rover- A Brand Too Far is a good, short read for those who want to know what happened behind-the-scenes during the last major attempt to get Rover and its brands back on their feet. It will explain the reasoning behind Land Rover sale to Ford and BMW’s retention of MINI, which has paid off in dividends for BMW during the last ten years. It explains why Rover Group eventually ended up being sold to the state-owned Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) after passing through the hands of a private-equity consortium called Phoenix, which took many of the liabilities from the Rover deal that BMW no longer wanted. In the end, the book provides a very comprehensive look into an automotive merger gone wrong for everyone involved.

Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end, once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. Since he’s writing about Rover, he needs to inform you of his search for a good P38 Range Rover and is hoping that you might know of one for sale.

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

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X3 Exterior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Land Rover Hoegh Osaka

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

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

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

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

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MINI-Rocketman-Concept-2012-widescreen-01

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

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

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

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

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QOTD: When Did BMW Lose Its Edge? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/qotd-bmw-lose-edge/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/qotd-bmw-lose-edge/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 17:11:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988002 Twenty years ago, BMW was the coolest automaker in the world. I know this because I – as a young lad of less than ten, growing up in the 1990s – desperately wanted my father to purchase a BMW. And he – as a rational, middle-aged man in his 40s – ended up in a […]

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bambam

Twenty years ago, BMW was the coolest automaker in the world. I know this because I – as a young lad of less than ten, growing up in the 1990s – desperately wanted my father to purchase a BMW. And he – as a rational, middle-aged man in his 40s – ended up in a Camry with cloth seats and a tape player. He wasn’t the BMW type. He wasn’t cool enough. Back then, few were.

Remember the BMW of yore? The sharknose 6 Series. That late-1990s 7 Series (E38) that looked like the kind of thing the devil would drive, if he was late to a board meeting in Hell. The beautiful mid-1990s 5 Series (E34), and the perfect late-1990s 5 Series (E39) that followed it. The Z8. The Z3, which – although it hasn’t aged well – came out to universal acclaim in the mid-90s, and made its way into a Bond movie soon after. And then there was the 3 Series: the E30. The E36. The E46. The brand’s bread-and-butter, perfectly executed, perfectly sized, perfect to drive.

Little did we know, it was the brand’s all-time peak.

Twenty years later, here we are: the BMW of now. Gran Coupes. Gran Turismos. xDrive35i. Sports activity vehicles. iDrive. And a front-wheel drive electric car with a trim level called Giga World. I swear that if a meeting ever took place between the two BMW eras, 1990s BMW would punch 2010s BMW in the face and give it a wedgie while it was lying on the ground.

Things have gotten so bad that there’s kind of a running understanding among modern car enthusiasts that BMW has turned to crap. It’s like when you’re on a boat, and you’re rapidly taking on water. Nobody says you’re taking on water, but it’s plain to see: there you are, in the middle of the ocean, with minnows swimming around your ankles.

Essentially, the problems are as follows: the cars are bloated. The segments make no sense. The names are bizarre. And what the hell is the 2 Series Active Sports Tourer? Is that a joke? Are we supposed to pretend that thing simply doesn’t exist?

So my question today is: what the hell happened? Where did BMW go wrong? When did the once almighty BMW, the ambassador of cool, the diplomat of debonair (eh? EH?!), finally go off into the deep end and lose the plot? I’ll give you my theory – and below, you can submit yours.

My theory: it wasn’t a car that caused BMW to lose it. It was an all-out, no-holds-barred sales-chasing mentality; the kind of mentality Chrysler has with the rental fleets. I think it was this strategy – and not the vehicles themselves – that led to the decline of BMW. Essentially, it was the moment the automaker went from “How can we make this car cooler?” to “Why don’t we have a vehicle in the all-wheel drive rhombus segment?”

Of course, the “sell everything” mentality dramatically affected the products. Out went the careful styling decisions and the restrained lineup; in came segment-busting products and low-payment lease deals. The 3 Series grew huge. The X1 came into existence. And the 5 Series went from “desirable and stealthy” to “enormous and anonymous.”

But in my opinion, none of that would’ve happened if BMW had remained happy with the status quo: build cool cars, and sell a lot of them. Not tons of them, mind you. Not zillions. Not eleven crossovers and twelve variants of the 3 Series. But enough cars to generate a big profit while retaining the “cool guy” image.

So, what say you? Where do you think BMW took a wrong turn?

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

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BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf DC Charging

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

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

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

Express Charging.Infographic.300dpi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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