The Truth About Cars » F10 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 14:03:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » F10 Look At, But Don’t Talk To, The New BMW M5 (F10) Thu, 16 Jun 2011 14:35:10 +0000

The BMW F10 M5 has been shot at the Nürburgring, shown as a “concept,” and has generally been exposed to expectant fans the world over. But even as it was caught prepping for US market duty in Southern California, the name of the game was “look but don’t talk.” We’ve discussed the anti-social tendencies of test mule drivers before, but for some reason it always seems to surprise the folks who come across a mule on the road. On the other hand, if you saw a brand-new M5 on the road with private plates, would you expect the driver to give you the time of day? I thought not.

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Review: 2011 BMW 5 Series (535i and 550i) Mon, 09 Aug 2010 17:46:56 +0000

Back in the 1980s, BMW was all about the compact, performance-oriented 3-Series. They also offered the 5 and 7, but these were greatly outsold by competing Mercedes. Seeking to expand well beyond its driving enthusiast base, BMW made its cars ever more stylish, luxurious, and laden with technology. Despite mixed reactions to the Bangled exteriors and iDrive, sales of the larger sedans grew even faster than their curb weights, and in recent years they have often outsold the E-Class and S-Class. A redesigned 2011 5-Series recently arrived at dealers. With the new car, has BMW further lost the plot, or rediscovered it?

With the new 5 and 7 BMW has returned to its old formula of “same timelessly styled sausage, different lengths.” The new F10 BMW 5-Series looks much like the F01 7-Series, only a size smaller. Which is still considerably larger than the previous generation (E60) 5-Series: the wheelbase has grown by three inches (bringing it within an inch of the E65 7-Series), the length by two, and the curb weight by about 400 pounds.

The styling of the previous generation (E60) 5-Series certainly had its critics, but I was not among them. It was the best of the Bangle-era designs. When fitted with the right wheels, it possessed a bold stance and aggressive edginess that the new cleaned-up 5 lacks. Looking at the new 550i fitted with the Sport Package, I kept wondering if it really had this package, for it doesn’t modify the lower body styling and its frilly 15-spoke alloys appear less sporty than the standard 18s.

The new 5’s interior styling has been similarly refined. The nav screen, though enlarged, is much more cleanly integrated into the instrument panel. A wider, shorter center stack angled six degrees towards the driver visually connects the instrument panel with the center console rather than visually separating the two. The new interiors still aren’t as driver-focused as those in classic BMWs, but they’re a definite step in the right direction. The main aesthetic fault: even more than the exteriors, the interiors’ designs are very conservative, and provide little visual excitement. Major gains have been made in ergonomics and usability. There are more buttons, so the much-improved iDrive doesn’t have to be used for as many things, but these buttons are logically grouped and located.

The standard driver’s seat in the 5 is serviceable for those who won’t be taking corners quickly. But the optional “comfort seats” included in the Sport Package are both much more comfortable and much more supportive in aggressive driving. They’re a must. One puzzling deletion: the comfort seats have lost their power-adjustable side bolsters in the new 5-Series. Apparently these are more needed for aggressive cornering in the 750Li, where they’re still included?

The specs suggest that the new 5-Series is about the same size inside as the old one. But, relative to the driver, the instrument panel is farther away, and so provides the impression of a larger car. A fan of compact cars, I prefer the cozier driving position of the E60. The rear seat remains sufficiently roomy and comfortable for adults, but the view forward is more constricted. The largest dimensional change with the new 5: cargo volume has grown by a substantial 4.4 cubic feet, to 18.4. This is a bit more than in the 7, and up with the best in the segment.

The BMW 535i continues to be powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six officially rated for 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. But not by the same 300-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six as last year’s car. In another strike by the bean counters, one of the turbos has been deleted, though that remaining is a twin-scroll design. I haven’t driven the old car recently, but at low rpm the new engine seems to have more lag and more of a boosted feel. Get on then off the throttle in casual driving, and the new engine is a noticeable split-second behind in both directions. From 3,000 rpm on up, though, power delivery is seamless. Even aided by a new eight-speed automatic, a gain of two ratios, acceleration doesn’t feel quite as strong as before. Credit here likely goes to the gain of 400 pounds rather than the loss of one turbo. A very quick car nevertheless.

With the E60, the 535’s twin-turbo six felt nearly as strong as the 550’s naturally-aspirated eight. What it couldn’t approach: the sound of the eight. For the F10, the V8 has lost 400 cc of displacement but has gained a pair of turbos to yield 400 horsepower and—even more noteworthy—450 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration ranges from effortless to astounding, depending on how deeply you plant the pedal. The 535i is plenty quick, but its engine is clearly working harder, and its boost builds less transparently. The traditional advantage of a V12 over a V8 has become the advantage of a twin-turbocharged V8 over a turbocharged six. Lost from the old 550: the turbocharged eight sounds relatively ordinary.

BMW deserves credit for continuing to offer a six-speed manual with both engines in the 5. Sadly, both of the cars I drove had smooth-shifting eight-speed automatics. The 550i had handy paddle shifters, but the shift lever summoned up quick shifts just as well in the 535i.

Even Hyundai can offer a quick luxury sedan these days. BMW’s key advantage has always been handling. At the event I attended, a Mercedes E350 was provided for comparison purposes. Its steering was far too light and vague, and its standard suspension permitted too much lean in turns and generally lacked composure. The optional sport suspension would have helped the handling, but not the steering. BMW didn’t have to stack the deck, but did anyway. In BMW’s defense, the 535i on hand also lacked an optional sport suspension. Even so un-optioned, the BMW handled with far superior precision and control. The electric power steering, a first for this segment, is on the light side, but is still much better weighted and more communicative than the system in the Benz. Between the chassis and the steering, you can delicately place the BMW exactly where you want it. Driving the car along a winding road involved little guesswork. As with other BMWs past and present, the car readily seems a tightly integrated extension of the driver.

This said, anyone who cares about driving will want the Sport Package, and perhaps also the Dynamic Handling Package. I say “perhaps,” because I drove no car with the former’s sport suspension but without the latter’s adaptive shocks (new to the 5) and active stabilizer bars. With these two packages, the midsize BMW feels tighter, if still not tight, quicker to respond, and even more precise. Conveniently located buttons can be used to vary the suspension, steering, transmission, and throttle programming between “Comfort,” “Normal,” “ Sport,” and “Sport+,” the last of which disables the stability control. Want some throttle-induced oversteer? Done. Even with the torquetastic rear-wheel-drive 550i, oversteer comes on gradually and proved very easy to modulate even with the stability control off.

Oddly, the ride felt the same to me in every setting, and much smoother than in past sport suspended 5ers. Noise levels are all fairly low, if not the lowest. All is not better, though. From the driver’s seat the new 5 feels larger and heavier than the old one. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise, because it is larger and heavier, and (as noted above) the driving position is that of a larger car. The new 5 doesn’t as evenly split the difference between the 3 and the 7. It’s more 7, less 3.

Even though the Bangle-era cars were very successful, BMW clearly attended to critics when designing the new 5-Series. The styling is cleaner, the ergonomics are much improved, and the chassis is more refined. No great leap forward has been attempted this time around, and the car is better in virtually every way as a result. By nearly any objective measure, these are excellent cars. So why didn’t I enjoy looking at them or driving them more? Somehow, when BMW ticked off the boxes of items in need of improvement, enjoyment wasn’t in the list. They’ve rediscovered the plot, but in letter rather than spirit.

Vehicles for this review were provided by a dealer-hosted Ultimate Driving Experience

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data

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Curbside Classic: The Ugliest Car Ever? 1977 Datsun F-10 Fri, 08 Jan 2010 20:55:00 +0000 a load of ugly coming your way

After two beautiful coupes this week, it’s time to get ugly. Seriously ugly, as in a serious contender for the ugliest car ever sold in the US. Yes, there’s competition for that title, one of which we’ve covered (Gremlin), and others we will soon. But let’s behold this Datsun F-10 Coupe, for which I am thankful that one is still around. It’s driver bought it new in 1977, and she’s still in love with her beautiful baby. Which raises the question: is ugliness in the eye of the beholder?

which is worse, front or back?

There has to be some truth to that, because some folk’s idea of ugly cars is so totally off base. Business Week recently carried a list of ten ugliest cars ever, and it included (get your meds ready): the Corvair(!), one of the most influential, revered and copied designs ever in the history of modern automobiles! They also listed the Vega, which was rather cute and well done, despite its other flaws. Just goes to show there’s no accounting for taste.

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It’s amazing how quickly a car company can fall off the pedestal. The Datsun 510 was hailed (still is) as a landmark in clean, timeless design, from a country that at the time was still finding its way stylistically. But only two years after the 510 arrived, Datsun was already going down a very different path stylistically. It started with the 1970 Cherry, the predecessor to this F-10. You can see two things going on in Nissan’s first FWD car, and one of the first from Japan. Its back half accurately predicts the very successful 240 Z but the front half is already going down the ugly road towards the F-10.

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The Coupe version of the first Cherry then adds a very high and bulbous rear end, and now the ingredients are largely in place. But what really makes the F-10 bad are the front and rear end details: the front looks like the designers went home one night, and the janitors cobbled something up out of junk and by beating on itwith an ugly stick. It’s about as bad as a front end gets on a car, no doubt.

(Update) I now realize our featured coupe has non-original or different black trim around its headlights. Here’s a wagon (not my pic) of the un-adulterated F-10 front end:

wearing its proper eye make-up (not my photo)

And lacking any other inspiration, the designers decided to mirror the front on the back end, with over-sized tail lights and a general lack of design acumen. I don’t know what Nissan was feeding its designers at the time, but the F-10 wasn’t the only recipient of its effects. The B210 was the RWD counterpart to the F-10, and it’s details are only slightly less ugly, but its proportions aren’t quite as bad. We’ve got some nice ones coming in a CC soon.

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My only regret is that I haven’t found an F-10 wagon, so that we could debate which one was worse. I couldn’t even find a decent color picture of one. But I knew someone who had one for years, and like the owner of this F-10, she loved it for the reliable and economical little hauler that it was.

Let’s get back to automotive aesthetics. It’s a funny thing about ugly cars, because even the ugliest can become endearing, because of their intrinsic qualities. The Citroen Ami 6 falls in that category. It was ugly as hell, but it was also so advanced, unique and eccentric, that I would love to have one. In the case of the Citroen, it was obviously designed by engineers who placed function over looks in every regard. That’s somehow honest and endearing.

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What’s really ugly is when designers try too hard to make something good looking, and cluelessly step on their own member in the process. I give you the Ssangyong Rodius, which sports a rear appendage of a hatch that looks like the ultimate bad photo-shop addition. Or the Cadillac Escalade EXT, which is just a bad dream come true. The Isuzu Vehicross falls into that category quite handsomely. I see more than a hint of the F-10 in the Vehicross, if we can blank out the large wheels.

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Much of aesthetics is context, and this is where the F-10 story gets interesting. As much as I like greenhouses with visibility, and can hold up the VW Passat/Dasher as an example of clean timeless 1970′s design, I also recognize that gun-slit windows may be here to stay, and the benefits of aerodynamic kamm-back tails are indisputable.  So as I sat looking at these pictures last night, I realized that from a side profile, the F-10 really is somewhat contemporary, and a prophet of things to come. Just blank out those ugly front and rear end details, and you’re looking at what could be a Prius coupe, circa 1975. Or even a predictor of things yet to come, like the Honda CR-Z. Have we uncovered the design inspiration of another new car?

More new Curbside Classics here

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