i8 sounds positively F1-ish under WOT

Image courtesy of Topspeed.com

Image courtesy of Topspeed.com

A few days ago, a video showing one of the most widely anticipated cars in BMW‘s history hit the net.  Originally posted by the guys over at Bimmerpost, the rare video highlights a hard acceleration in Sport mode from a standstill in a pre-production i8 that is being used for testing.  For what it is, this thing really gets up and goes.

Apparent in the video is the gauge cluster that rapidly climbs to 130 kph (80 mph).  With a projected 0-62 time of 4.4 seconds, the i8 shouldn’t have a problem getting to 80 faster than most get to 60.  On first glance, the LCD display is a tad reminiscent of the one found in the Lexus LFA.  Since the motor in the i8 won’t exactly rev from idle to a 9,000 RPM redline in 0.6 seconds, the futuristic styling most likely relates back to aesthetics and it’s Eco-friendly mission.

It is fairly common knowledge to BMW and car enthusiasts that the company sometimes uses a technology called ASD (Active Sound Design) in select vehicles.  Originally debuting in the BMW M5, it is currently used in models such as the M135i, M3, M4, M5, and M6.  The technology aims to bring more engine noise into the passenger compartment, reminding those inside of it’s readiness and ability to perform.  In generating its signals, ASD takes its cues from the firing sequence of the engine and the frequency range of the exhaust system. This gives the driver an extremely accurate impression of current engine load and an even more intense sensation of the car’s performance characteristics.

However, the Active Sound Design system on the i8 goes a step further.  Interestingly enough, ASD will be audible from the exterior as well.  For example, the dual outlets in the back aren’t both used for exhaust.  The left side actually acts as an external speaker for the ADS system.  The right exhaust pipe is the one used for regular engine emissions.  The exterior and interior system does not come with an option to disable it.  Luckily, the i8 in the above video had all ASD disabled for the purposes of testing, thus giving us a clear idea of the natural sounds that the car emits.  It’s a rather remarkable feat to make the i8’s three cylinder turbocharged engine sound more like an F1 car than a hybrid when mashing the accelerator.

Butterfly doors and some impressive performance numbers aside, the EPA rating may be a tad bit more admirable at the end of the day.  With a starting price of $135,700, deliveries of the 90+ mpg i8 will begin in the United States in June of this year.

New 2-Series Active Tourer FWD platform could be the future for BMW

Image courtesy of globaltrademag.com

Image courtesy of globaltrademag.com

BMW and MINI have announced plans to consolidate the number of vehicle architectures they presently utilize.  Only two of their five platforms will be used moving forward, an attempt to speed development, reduce costs and reach a sales goal of two million units per year by 2016.

UKL is BMW’s front-wheel-drive platform which will underpin its third generation MINI family as well as BMW models such as the upcoming 2-Series Active Tourer and redesigned 2016 X1.  In total, the platform will be used for at least five and up to 15 models.  A new rear-wheel-drive platform will eventually be used for all of the automaker’s rear-wheel-drive models, debuting in two years with the redesigned 7-series sedan.  The BMW i3 electric and i8 plug-in hybrid are not part of the architecture consolidation.

Furthermore, to reduce costs even more, all BMW vehicles will share the same electronic systems and components.  “There is a cost disadvantage for the smaller cars but it allows us to bring all of the technical features we have in the 3, 4, 5 and 7 series down into the Mini and smaller cars,” said Herbert Diess, BMW Board Member for Research and Development.  He went on to say that BMW’s cars always shared some components but made it clear that “we are making it even more synergetic, which does not mean the cars will be more similar.”

BMW X4 acts as baby X6


Image Coutesy of Autoblog.com

Bridging the gap between the X3 and the larger X5 and X6, the all new BMW X4 is the newest member of BMW’s compact crossover SUV family.  Although some may consider it the baby brother of the X6, the X4 takes its power and other design plans from the smaller X3.  Engine options include the 240-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter N20 four cylinder as well as the 300-hp, turbocharged 3.0-liter six cylinder.  Mated to an eight speed automatic transmission, the X4 will reach 60 mph from a dig in 6.0 seconds and 5.2 seconds respectively.  There is a high probability that a turbo diesel will also become an option, most likely from the 2.0-liter turbo diesel found under the hood of the X3 xDrive 28d.

Besides slightly less ground clearance, a lower and more sloping roof line, and a few tweaks to the front fascia, the X4 takes most of its other styling ques directly from the X3.  Especially prominent from the side, the X4 looks much more like the X6, a look that BMW wanted to, and did, achieve.

Adding to the sporty styling of the X4 are the five spoke 18-inch wheels wrapped in 245-series tires.  With agility in mind, BMW decided the all wheel drive system with Performance Control coupled with variable-effort steering tuned for sporty and direct handling will make the X4 much more nimble on its feet during regular and spirited driving.

The X4 xDrive28i will come with a $45,625 price tag while the X4 xDrive35i will ring in at $48,925.  An M Performance derivative will most likely become available in the near future.  With a projected 350-hp coming from the motor and some additional sportiness in the styling department, the X4 M will most definitely leave the Audi SQ5 and the Range Rover Evoque in its dust.  Expect to see the X4 in showrooms around the United States later on this year.

German magazine creates gorgeous rendering of BMW-Toyota joint sports car

BMW-Toyota Sports Car Rendering

Image Courtesy of Autozeitung Magazine

We’ve already known for some time that BMW and Toyota were teaming up to create a sports car. Most likely, the car on the Toyota side was going to be the Supra, teased by the gorgeous FT-1 Concept. As for the BMW, that’s been kind of left up to our collective imaginations. Thankfully, a German auto enthusiast magazine called Autozeitung has much better Photoshop skills than we could ever dream of and created one hell of a rendering of a sports coupe.

This coupe, rumored to be the successor to the Z4, possibly under the Z3 historical moniker, or, under the Z5 moniker, could come out as early as 2016. Whatever it’s called, we hope that it’s going to look something like this rendering, because it’s flat gorgeous. The article claims the new car will be powered by BMW’s familiar turbocharged 3.0-liter Inline-6. It would also use next-generation lightweight materials ushered in by the i3/i8 to make the new car as fast as possible.

While BMW is remaining mum at the moment, we can only guess based on Toyota’s gorgeous FT-1/Supra. Judging by that concept car, we have nothing to worry about because BMW’s designers can hit it out of the park.

BMW unveils new DTM-spec M4


Image Courtesy of Jalopnik – BMW debuts brand new M4 DTM car

While we’re still mourning the passing of one of the most successful racing cars in the history of DTM, BMW has softened the blow by rolling out its successor. Plus, it gives 4 Series owners and fans a reason to tune into some of the best racing in the world. As a soon-to-be 435i owner myself, I will certainly be cheering for this car a bit harder than usual.

While a new car in racing is a yearly event, having a new car take the place of something so iconic as the M3 in DTM is something different. This is especially true when BMW just sent the M3 off to pasture with five race wins and a series championship in 2013. Hopefully, the M4 will be able to follow in the M3’s footsteps. After all, the new car will have some quite large shoes to fill.

The car pumps out 480 horsepower mated to a six-speed sequential gearbox. While that power number is not much more than what a standard M4 would get you right out of the box, the DTM car, with its stripped interior, race-built suspension, slick tires, etc. would mop the floor out of any street-legal M4. In all, the DTM-spec race car weighs about 2,300 pounds – significantly lighter than the street car’s 3,351 pound curb weight. With the driver the race car weighs 2,477 lbs.

Its official race debut is set for the opening round of the DTM series on May 4th at Hockenheim.

BMW may severely ramp up carbon fiber production

BMW Carbon Fiber Components

Image courtesy of Autoblog – BMW planning to ramp up carbon fiber production, creating CF wheels, steering wheels, prop shafts and more.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find an auto enthusiast who doesn’t like carbon fiber. Unfortunately, the lightweight material used to be so expensive and time consuming to produce, its only applications were in racing teams, airplanes and super cars.

Now that we’ve reached critical mass with EPA fuel mileage and safety standards, the only way to currently create more performance is to lower weight. With these developments, the material has become so ubiquitous in the performance and luxury car market, that you can’t really get away from it – not that you’d really want to.

Well, carbon fans, you might get more in the near future.

BMW is about to ramp up its carbon fiber production, creating full carbon fiber rims, steering wheels (which are currently only available as specialty parts) and propeller shafts. These parts will be used in hi-po models like the M3, M4 and M5 and undoubtedly trickle down to the M-Sport lines as time goes on. Parts like seat frames and spare wheels can also be made from the material to save weight. These weight-saving parts could also be used on hybrid cars like the i3 and i8.

With the weight loss, the performance gain is obvious. The CF rim is a full 35% lighter than a forged alloy rim and even 25% lighter than hybrid alloy rim. There is one caveat: because there is currently no approval from the European Union, there is not yet a timeframe for production.

2015 BMW M3 and M4 official pricing announced

2015 F82 M4

Image Courtesy of Autoblog.com – 2015 BMW M4

Everyone may already know about the redesigned BMW M3 and the debuting M4, but now you can finally start the budgeting process because the pricing guide has been released to dealers. The 2015 F80 BMW M3 starts at $62,000 while the F82 M4 starts at  $64,200. If you’re looking to opt for the full BMW experience in Munich, the base price starts at $57,710 for the M3 and $59,755 for the 4, plus airfare, of course.

Notable standard features include the carbon fiber trim, Bluetooth, heated seats, and, of course, a manual transmission. The most expensive feature is the M Carbon Ceramic Brakes. These race car-ready stoppers will set your wallet back $8,150.

Second on the list is the Executive Package, which includes a heated steering wheel, keyless entry, rearview camera, heated rear seats (on the M3), HUD, and your choice of leather for $4,300 on the F80 and $4,000 on the F82.

The next most-expensive option is the DCT. The seven-speed M Double-Clutch Transmission with Drivelogic comes in at $2,900. This feature will save you 0.2 seconds on your 0-60 times, but for our money, we would rather keep the third pedal and allocate the cash toward the Adaptive M Suspension ($1,000) and the Driver Assistance Plus package ($1,900). However, a lot of M3/M4 buyers will probably go for the easy-to-use DCT.

Speaking of the Driver Assistance Plus package, it includes Active Blind Spot Detection, Active Driving Assistant, Side and Top View Cameras and Speed Limit Info. The Speed Limit Info option in particular is particularly nice because it feeds the speed limit to your HUD at all times, keeping you under the speed limit – no matter where you are.

For the complete pricing list, visit Bimmerpost.com.

BMW enters the FWD market with 2 Series Active Tourer

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer

Image Courtesy of The Car Connection.com – The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer will be BMW’s very first foray into the front wheel drive market.

We probably should’ve seen it coming. With how well the front-wheel drive CLA-Class and related GLA-Class have done for Mercedes-Benz, it was probably only a matter of time before BMW created a FWD car of its own. Well, the day has come and BMW, a company that built its reputation as a rear-wheel drive sedan maker, now has a front wheel drive car.

The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, as it’s called, is set for launch later this year and will also land on our shores next year. The styling is quite functional, read: boring, but has all of the traditional BMW cues that potential buyers love. We suspect that if you were looking straight onto the 2 Series Active Tourer, you probably wouldn’t realize that it was a five-door hatchback. After all, it’s got the kidney bean and the dual circular headlights, so it’s all BMW.

It will be 170.9 inches long with a 105.1-inch wheelbase, making it quite compact. Despite the diminutive dimensions, it will have plenty of room thanks to the high roofline. It will allow for 16.53 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seats up and a huge 53.3 cubic feet with the seats folded down.

In Europe, you get three engine choices. The 218i Active Tourer will get a 1.5-liter turbo’ed three cylinder, good for 134 horsepower and 48 MPG. The 225i will get a 2.0 four for 228 horsepower and 39 MPG and a 218d diesel engine for 148 horsepower and 57 MPG. When it comes across the pond, we suspect either of the 218’s to not make the trip to the USA. In our eyes, the diesel is most likely to stay in Europe.

So where does this car leave BMW’s so-called edict for even/odd – coupe/sedan distinction? I mean, this car is about as far from the M235i as it gets. Well, I guess we should file this car about where the 4 Series Gran Coupe went – it’s in the shut up BMW owner/blogger and enjoy the excellence of BMW engineering column.

Or in this case, it’s in the “Hey, even middle class people want BMW’s too and we’re going to sell the hell out of them because they’re practical” column. I guess I can live with that, too. ‘Cause you need hatchbacks so BMW can afford to build real M’s.

AWD Showdown – BMW 435i xDrive vs. Audi S5

BMW 435i

BMW 435i has one natural rival in the wild – the Audi S5

Yes, yes, we know what you’re thinking. This comparison review will mean absolutely nothing because A. As a BMW news blog, we’re inherently biased against Audi and B. Since we’re based in California, xDrive/Quattro and all other AWD/4WD systems known to man are patently useless to us. Well, you have us on both counts.

However, since I am a native Midwesterner who regularly drives back to the promised land for Christmas / New Year’s as well as Thanksgiving, an all-wheel drive system with all-season tires was a prerequisite. As was a manual transmission, since I am a, well, you know, a car enthusiast like anyone reading this blog. However, I can also tell you that I was going to give both cars a fair shake no matter what my job description was.

So here we go – AWD to AWD, stickshift to stickshift, all-season tires to all-season tires, xDrive to Quattro.

Being back in the Midwest, I took the both cars out in the middle of the snow to check out how well their respective all-wheel drive systems would do in the bad stuff. Overall, the snow totals were about 2″ and the plows had not been deployed. In other words, it was a great time to see just how good the xDrive and Quattro systems truly were.

Audi S5

2014 Audi S5 is certainly a good car, but was surprisingly out of control in snowy conditions

2nd Place: Audi S5

Yes, yes, Audi fans, scream bias all you want, but when the white stuff is on the ground and you’re looking for a car that’s not going to send you into a tailspin, the Audi S5 is not the way to go compared to the 435i xDrive. Even as a BMW enthusiast, this was not what I was expecting. Going into the test, every piece of literature I have ever read raved about Audi’s Quattro AWD system.

While the Quattro system mated up to all-season tires certainly had enough traction to motivate the Audi S5 – even in a couple of inches of snow, handling was quite different. Even in the least aggressive setting, the car did not respond to sudden input and was more than happy to slide in slushy conditions. There were multiple times when the traction control system kicked in when the same place the traction control system did not in the Bimmer. Beyond that, the BMW was not as ready to slide as the S5 – something that was not expected going into the test. The S5 was certainly a better place to be than most RWD cars, but just not as good as the xDrive BMW.

The Audi S5 Interior isn't a bad place to be, it just wasn't as engaging of a place as the BMW 4 Series. However, I do love that steering wheel.

The Audi S5 Interior isn’t a bad place to be, it just wasn’t as engaging of a place as the BMW 4 Series. However, I do love that steering wheel.

I will give points for the size of the S5’s interior. As a large guy (6’6″) it was wider and had more shoulder room than the BMW. However, the seats had less bolstering than the BMW. Also, while the interior was relatively attractive, it was also relatively drab compared to the BMW. Other auto magazines call this “overstyled.” Perhaps it’s just my style as I did prefer the 435i‘s interior to the S5’s dark and cavernous interior. That said, I did like the carbon fiber in the S5. That, and I absolutely love the flat-bottom steering wheel. If I could put that steering wheel in the BMW, I would be ecstatic.

BMW 435i M Sport

BMW 435i M Sport – I also drove a BMW 435i M Sport, but after being covered in snow and ice, it wasn’t exactly pretty to look at.

Winner: BMW 435i xDrive

Even as a BMW enthusiast, this was the one test where I was not expecting BMW to walk away with the victory. After all, Audi has built quite a brand on decades of racing experience with the Quattro. Still, the 435i xDrive was solid as a rock in the snow. Despite aggressive inputs at speed, the rear end did not slide out, and the traction control did not kick in on the least aggressive setting. When I tried it on the Sport setting, the 4 Series was more than happy to wag the tail out especially with so little traction, but it felt more ‘sure’ of itself when there was very little traction to go around.

It was especially surprising how much steering feel there was compared to the S5. After driving the S5, the BMW truly felt much more alive – even with very little feel to go around with so much snow on the ground. The only danger that I foresee with this car is that it’s a bit too confidence-inspiring in the snow. Luckily in Valencia where I spend 11 months of the year, I don’t have to worry about that, but when I am with family back in Indiana, I might try to drive a 435i xDrive should it find a way into my garage.

Inside, the car is very inviting. Even with the base interior, the inside of the car wasn’t nearly as dark as the Audi. I loved the silver switchgear and accents running along the dash. Even in base form, it was much more attractive than the S5. That said, BMW could learn a thing or two about how to construct a sporty steering wheel. Audi’s wheel really is the business.

Now, these cars may be neck-and-neck in the dry, but when it’s snowy outside, I’d much rather be in the BMW.

BMW X5 gets its fair share of M Performance Parts

BMW X5 M Performance Parts

Image Courtesy of BMW – BMW X5 gets M Performance Parts to bridge the gap to the X5M

Whether you like it or not, those of us who prefer three pedals to two are getting fewer and farther between. In some parts of the country, the same could almost be said for SUVs compared to sports cars and sports sedans. Luckily for us, BMW has always placed an emphasis on steering feel. The BMW X5, while still and SUV in all of its practical glory, still has good handling for its size.

Now, with BMW’s new M Performance Parts package, you can make your practical X5 look less like a soccer mom-mobile and more like a badass machine. Well, as far as any SUV will go. The M Performance Parts package gets carbon fiber pieces like mirror caps, front splitter pieces, rear diffuser and rear aero flaps to show off your sporting acumen. While weight savings is probably in the ~10 pound range, it’s all for the look.  In addition to the carbon bits, there’s also a rear spoiler, high-gloss black kidney grilles and 21-inch wheels.

If you’re looking for a power upgrade, and if you’re reading this blog, you most certainly are, there’s the M Performance Power Kit to go with the M Performance Parts package. This kit does a bit more than just make your X5 look like a poseur-mobile.

With the kit, the standard X5 xDrive35i’s 3.0-liter turbo inline-six will get a faster throttle response, plus an additional 20 horsepower and 32 lb-ft of torque. With the additional power, you’re going to get 320 total horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. While that’s certainly still a wide way away from what a true X5M will give you, it’s certainly an improvement and places you with SUVs like the Range Rover Sport in terms of pounds per horsepower.

Plus, it wouldn’t be a BMW without a handling upgrade. You can also get the M Performance Brake Kit. This final kit adds six-piston brake calipers with 19-inch steel brake rotors. Yes, you read that correctly, 19 inches. These brakes are essentially carryovers from the last generation X5M.

Not bad for a soccer mom machine, eh?