BMW – Automobile Magazine http://www.automobilemag.com No Boring Cars! | Reviews, Auto Shows, Lifestyle Sun, 23 Jul 2017 08:11:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 New BMW 3 Series Edition Production Launch Starts with a Look in the Rearview Mirror http://www.automobilemag.com/news/bmw-3-series-production-starts-with-a-look-in-the-rearview-mirror/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/bmw-3-series-production-starts-with-a-look-in-the-rearview-mirror/#respond Fri, 21 Jul 2017 22:47:30 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1177411 Before the new Edition variants of the BMW 3 Series sedan and wagon make their way from the company’s Munich plant, BMW stopped to snap a few family photos. Check out these cool shots of a first generation 320i (E21) model in a beautiful shade of Inca Orange with its descendant a 3 Series Sedan...

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Before the new Edition variants of the BMW 3 Series sedan and wagon make their way from the company’s Munich plant, BMW stopped to snap a few family photos.

Check out these cool shots of a first generation 320i (E21) model in a beautiful shade of Inca Orange with its descendant a 3 Series Sedan (F30) in an Edition Sport Line Shadow with a contemporary splash of Sunset Orange paint.

The original 3 Series replaced its predecessor, the popular BMW 02, in 1975. Things got even more interesting in the fall of 1977 when the straight six-cylinder was introduced.

Back then, options included a 5-speed manual or a 3-speed automatic transmission, air-conditioning, vent windows, sport seats, and four radio options — 8-track stereo, anyone?

The E21 had a very successful run into the early 1980s, when the now-coveted E30 3 Series replaced it in 1982. Flash forward to the present day and more than 15 million 3 Series cars have been sold since its debut four decades ago.

BMW’s latest 3 Series models are available in Edition Sport Line Shadow, Edition Luxury Line Purity, and the Edition M Sport Shadow trim.

They can be ordered in addition to the existing equipment lines and in conjunction with all available engines according to BMW.

The Edition Sport Line Shadow and the Edition M Sport Shadow add black inserts for the headlamps, dark taillight clusters, black surrounds for the kidney grille, black inserts for the lower air intake, chrome black exhaust tailpipes, and 18-inch light alloy wheels.

Additionally, the M Sport Shadow includes a M Sports suspension, M aerodynamics, and M light alloys.

If you want satin-finished aluminum bits, the Edition Luxury Line Purity is for you. Side window surrounds, air intake inserts, kidney grille bars, rear bumper cover, exhaust tailpipes, and 17-inch alloys offer plenty of aluminum flair.

Inside, sports seats in fabric or leather are offered with interior trim in Dark Aluminum Carbon with Pearlescent Chrome accentuating strips for Edition Sport Line Shadow.

The Edition M Sport Shadow gets the same treatment, but features leather sports seats with blue contrast stitching, M steering wheel, anthracite roof liner, and M doorsill trims.

Inside the Edition Luxury Line Purity offers leather trim in optional Cognac, precious wood trim with accentuating strips in Pearlescent Chrome.

BMW says that all edition models are equipped with an instrument panel with new, distinctive contrast stitching, and an instrument cluster with an extended range of features.

In addition, LED headlights and fog lamps are now standard for the special editions. Pricing has not been announced and BMW has yet to confirm whether or not these editions will go on sale in the U.S.

Check out the photo gallery of the old and new models for a side-by-side comparison. Both look really good to us but if we had to choose — the one with two-doors, window vents, and Inca Orange paint looks like a keeper.

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BMW M8 GTE Race Car Conducts Successful First Track Test http://www.automobilemag.com/news/bmw-m8-gte-race-car-conducts-successful-first-test/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/bmw-m8-gte-race-car-conducts-successful-first-test/#respond Thu, 20 Jul 2017 21:22:39 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1177565 BMW recently teased its new M8 GTE race car with a sketch, and now the automaker gives us our first glimpse of the 8 Series-bodied racer in the (camouflaged) sheetmetal. The automaker confirmed the M8 GTE will make its racing debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona next January. BMW Motorsport says it conducted a three-day...

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BMW recently teased its new M8 GTE race car with a sketch, and now the automaker gives us our first glimpse of the 8 Series-bodied racer in the (camouflaged) sheetmetal. The automaker confirmed the M8 GTE will make its racing debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona next January.

BMW Motorsport says it conducted a three-day test of the new race car last week at the Lausitzring in Germany. Piloting the M8 GTE were BMW works driver Martin Tomczyk and BMW DTM driver Maxime Martin. BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt also attended the test, and said in a release, “the first impression of the BMW M8 GTE out on the track is a very positive one.”

The race car might give us some clues about the production 8 Series and the M8 performance variant it will eventually spawn. Other than the front splitter, different front valance, and massive heat extractor vents in the hood, the front end of the M8 GTE doesn’t look that different from the concept that debuted in Italy earlier this year.

Its profile is also similar to the concept’s, featuring a raked roofline and distinctive greenhouse. The powertrain of the production M8 is still unknown, but the race car could use a modified twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 carried over from the current M6 GTLM racer.

The M8 GTE heralds BMW’s return the FIA World Endurance Challenge, and hence the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it hasn’t fielded a factory-backed car since 2011. The M8 GTE will begin its 2018 racing season at the Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 27, 2018.

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Road Trips and Dealer Visits Galore for Our Four Seasons 2017 BMW M2 http://www.automobilemag.com/news/road-trips-dealer-visits-galore-four-seasons-2017-bmw-m2/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/road-trips-dealer-visits-galore-four-seasons-2017-bmw-m2/#respond Sat, 15 Jul 2017 04:01:27 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1175842 Cold and slush did little to cool our love affair with our Four Seasons 2017 BMW M2, which powered through a Midwestern winter as chariot on several big road trips. Over thousands of miles from Florida, all the way to Toronto, and across Michigan, the M2 proved itself a versatile long-distance companion. For a rubber-roasting sports...

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Cold and slush did little to cool our love affair with our Four Seasons 2017 BMW M2, which powered through a Midwestern winter as chariot on several big road trips. Over thousands of miles from Florida, all the way to Toronto, and across Michigan, the M2 proved itself a versatile long-distance companion. For a rubber-roasting sports car of this ilk, it’s been a pleasant surprise.

The M2’s first big outing was to Canada, where yours truly piled on more than 600 miles of mostly highway driving. My girlfriend Michelle and I loaded the trunk with a pair of suitcases and backpacks, which fit easily without needing to fold down the rear seats. From Ann Arbor, Michigan it’s about 4.5 hours to Toronto, not including the requisite stop at Tim Horton’s for the all-important Timbits and hot chocolate. The ride is a largely monotonous haul flanked by farmland and windmills, which offered up plenty of time to take note of the M2’s interior.

Now nicely broken in, the M2’s leather seats were both comfortable and supportive throughout the drive. I was able to dial in the lumbar support and side bolstering to stay nice and snug behind the wheel, repositioning the adjustable thigh-pad periodically to prevent my right leg from cramping up. We even managed to keep all of the wet road grime safely from the carpet, thanks to the WeatherTech mats I was able to reuse from our departed Four Seasons 2014 BMW M235i. The heated seats get toasty right away, and the heated steering wheel is a big help in cold weather if you can find the switch for it hidden on the left side of the steering column.

After many miles on the move, the M2 takes a load off in the shadow of Toronto’s opulent Casa Loma.

Although BMW is pushing its tech features more in the 5 and 7 Series than in the 2, our M2 does have a few party tricks beyond smoky burnouts and snappy gearshifts from the dual-clutch. First is the on-board WiFi, which I happily used on the trip in concert with the Pandora app. The interface of BMW’s iDrive system is still not as user-friendly as that of the phone, but it’s works and lets you keep your eyes somewhat ahead. More importantly, the hotspot helped avoid roaming charges on my phone for international data usage.

The M2 is also equipped with lane-departure warning and a forward collision warning system, both of which come in handy on long road trips. The forward-collision system warns you at first with a red illuminated car icon in the instrument cluster, which is a nice, gentle way of telling you to stop tailgating. The lane-departure warning system alerts you via vibrations on the steering wheel (there’s no actual intervention if you veer off), but the warning should be a bit more aggressive – sometimes I wasn’t even aware the system was try to alert me until I hit the rumble strip.

Later, the M2 went on its second big adventure, venturing all the way to Amelia Island, Florida to join in on the 2017 Automobile All-Stars festivities, making its way through several climates along the way. On the return trip, the M2 was able to sink its teeth into some twisty roads in the Carolinas, both in the Pisgah Highlands and up the Tail of the Dragon. In 40-degree weather, these winding paths were mostly deserted, leaving plenty of space for the M2 to give its Michelin winter rubber a workout.

After returning back to Michigan, the M2’s service reminder came on at 11,879 miles. In addition to the oil change, filter, and inspection (all covered under warranty), we opted to have a small scrape on the front fascia repaired. Our dealer referred us to Automark Collision in Farmington Hills, MI, which mended and repainted the bumper at the eye-watering cost of $1,112.69, mostly because of the labor-intensive procedure. That’s less than an all-new bumper, but certainly not easy on the checkbook, either. We continued the upkeep by remounting the OEM summer tires on the M2’s 19-inch wheels to the tune of $100.00 at our local tire shop.

Shortly after receiving its summer shoes, the M2 headed back south to meet its predecessor, the 1M. Then, once the weather finally cleared up, I started getting the itch to hit the track and signed up for SCCA Track Night in America at Gingerman Raceway. Ahead of the event, I took the M2 in for a brake inspection (all fine) and fluid change at the dealer, which tacked on another $139.82.

Thrilled to be back out on a racetrack under the sun, I approached my first session at Gingerman with a smile plastered on my face. Once the tires were warmed up, I booted the throttle and charged the M2 up Turn 2. An immediate downshift from the super-slick transmission was followed by a mild but still immensely enjoyable bit of oversteer coming onto the straight before Turn 3. The torque is fantastic. The brakes are stout and get better throughout my run. The steering is precise. I wonder how much this car would be worth by the end of our 12 months with it. By the end of the first session I’m already working through where I may have braked too late or turned in too early, and I’m listening eagerly for the announcer to call my run group for the second session.

Then, that infuriating light on the dashboard. Two laps into my second session, going 90 mph down the back straight, I see the tire-pressure light pop on along with a warning message on the center screen advising me to slow down and investigate. Part of me thinks it’s just the system overreacting to the bit of air I let out of the tires to bring them closer to recommended operating pressure when hot, but the more cautious voice in my head says I better pit and have a look. Parked in the paddock, I hear the faint hiss of air and know my day is likely over just as it was starting to get going. Damn. A shard of metal I must have picked up somewhere in the paddock had wedged itself deeply in the driver’s side rear tire.

At least the tire didn’t blow while I was on the track. But with just a can of fix-a-flat in the trunk instead of a spare, I was soon on the horn with BMW roadside assistance. To their credit, BMW roadside sent out a truck within an hour or so. Before long, I was taking the ride of shame out of Gingerman’s front gate on the back of a flatbed. By then it was almost 8 pm, meaning every local shop was closed, leaving me no option aside from a dealership in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There, I met up with contributing editor Marc Noordeloos, who kindly agreed to handle the tire replacement the next day (in exchange for him keeping the car for several weeks, of course). All told, the damage was $335.87 — $290.87 for a new rear tire from Tire Rack (delivered the next day from nearby South Bend, IN) and $45.00 to get it mounted and balanced.

The M2 has taken these hiccups in stride and come out on the other side none the worse for wear. We’ll have much more to report after Noordeloos’ month behind the wheel, so stay tuned.

Our 2017 BMW M2

MILES TO DATE 16,646
PRICE $57,545
ENGINE 3.0L DOHC turbocharged 24-valve I-6/365 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 343 lb-ft @ 1,400-5,560 rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe
EPA MILEAGE 20/26 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 176.2 x 73.0 x 55.5 in
WHEELBASE 106.0 in
WEIGHT 3,505 lb
0-60 MPH 4.2 sec
TOP SPEED 155 mph

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Four Cool Things About the 2017 BMW i3 with Range Extender http://www.automobilemag.com/news/four-cool-things-2017-bmw-i3-range-extender/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/four-cool-things-2017-bmw-i3-range-extender/#respond Wed, 12 Jul 2017 02:30:15 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1174130 It’s the shape of the 2017 BMW i3 that made me want to not like it. I like sleek, sporty cars — ones that with flat, pointy noses and windshields so raked back they slip right under wind resistance — and the i3 looks more like a brightly colored toaster. A fancy, $48,000 BMW-branded toaster...

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It’s the shape of the 2017 BMW i3 that made me want to not like it. I like sleek, sporty cars — ones that with flat, pointy noses and windshields so raked back they slip right under wind resistance — and the i3 looks more like a brightly colored toaster. A fancy, $48,000 BMW-branded toaster from the Jetsons’ kitchen, sure, but it’s hardly racy.

I wasn’t expecting to have much fun, but getting behind the wheel changed my mind. Here are a few things about the range-extender equipped i3 that pleasantly surprised me.

1. The interior is absolutely stunning.

The cabin of the i3 looks like an office in a tony architecture firm where you could really get some great design work done. Bare eucalyptus wood grain flows in a wave over the i3’s dash and under the sharp, freestanding infotainment screen. Part of the dash closest to the windshield is covered in what looks like textured charcoal fabric, though it’s actually plastic. The doors and manually adjustable seats are covered in tweed with tan leather patches, like a seasoned English professor’s favorite sport jacket. (According to BMW, the leather is dyed via a natural process with olive-leaf extract at their most environmentally friendly auto plant.) The cabin looks like it belongs to a much more expensive vehicle, with similarities to the futuristic i8.

2. Mashing the throttle produces a sweet thrill.
The great thing about electric motors is that torque is immediate — and the i3 has 184 lb-ft of it. Step on the gas in Comfort mode and you’ll get pushed back in your seat. The surrounding traffic feels like it’s moving in slow motion, and you are a blur of color. Top speed is a reported 93 mph, though if you’re in EcoPro mode, speed is limited to 75 mph. The limit is fine, because EcoPro adds time to a charge, but unlike EcoPro Plus, you can still use the air-conditioner, radio, etc.

3. Charging is easy.
The charging pack comes with a 110-volt plug, so ordinary home sockets do the trick — slowly. It took me overnight to get a full charge. My sister in Phoenix, Arizona, has a 2016 i3 she uses as her daily commuter, for which her husband installed a quick charger in their garage. It takes her three to five hours to get a full charge from empty.

Fortunately, the i3 has impressive regenerative powers. It is possible to go shopping and out to lunch and return home with the same amount of range you had when you left. That’s not just due to braking — regeneration happens any time you’re moving, all the more when your foot is off the accelerator. I discovered that with enough space, the car will stop at a light without having to apply the brakes.

4. The range extender cures range anxiety.
I live 24 miles away from AUTOMOBILE HQ. In Los Angeles, that’s a lifetime. I spend about three hours a day commuting, most of it on Interstate 405, one of the most congested freeways in the U.S., and I live in fear of breaking down. The range extender, which converts the i3 from an EV to a PHEV, assuaged my worries. I knew that if I got close to the end of the line, I could cruise directly to a regular gas station.

The two-cylinder, gasoline-powered engine drinks from a fuel tank that holds 1.9 gallons and kicks on when the charge drops below 6 percent. It doesn’t directly power the car, but instead sends power to a generator, which delivers electricity to the motor and battery. The range extender means the i3 can go for 180 miles, an additional 66 over its 114-mile electric-only range. With recharging and the i3’s respectable regenerative powers, however, it’s possible to go a long time without the engine turning on.

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BMW 2 Series Manual is Lost Only in Translation http://www.automobilemag.com/news/bmw-2-series-manual-lost-translation/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/bmw-2-series-manual-lost-translation/#respond Thu, 29 Jun 2017 22:50:52 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1173454 What made the news item so hard to believe was that BMW could not give us a manual gearbox-equipped Four Seasons M2 to test because of supply. Too many paying customers were demanding them, the company’s North American division told us. On Thursday morning wire services reported that BMW’s finance chief, Nicolas Peter, said the...

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What made the news item so hard to believe was that BMW could not give us a manual gearbox-equipped Four Seasons M2 to test because of supply. Too many paying customers were demanding them, the company’s North American division told us.

On Thursday morning wire services reported that BMW’s finance chief, Nicolas Peter, said the company would cut the number of engine and equipment options in order to save money on the manufacturing process, so it could free up capital to pay for development of electric, autonomous and connected cars. The stories said Peter singled out BMW 2 Series manuals sold in the U.S., and that “We have over 100 steering wheels on offer. Do we need that many variants?”

Well, no, to the steering wheels. But the 2 Series is BMW’s most engaging drivers’ car extant. It is the last Bimmer that should go without a manual option.

The Peter interview in Munich came from the German business newspaper Handlesblatt, and was poorly translated, according to a BMW North America public relations exec. Those 100 steering wheels and the 2 Series stick shifts were no more than examples Peter used to make his point. As Automotive News notes, the issue with the manual transmission is “the cost of certifying components in each market.”

Foreign and domestic automakers must meet federal emissions and safety standards before they can sell cars and trucks in the U.S. The process for certification requires that every drivetrain variant must be tested. An all-wheel-drive 3.0-liter stick must get a separate certificate from a rear-wheel-drive 3.0-liter stick, which must get a separate certificate from a rear-wheel-drive 3.0-liter automatic, for instance. If you’ve wondered why your favorite European brand won’t see you a diesel stick-shift station wagon, the reason is that profits from a few hundred sold would never pay for the million or so dollars of certification costs.

The good news is that once you get a certificate for each of the manual variants, they’re good for the lifecycle of the car and its powertrain. There’s no financial savings from certification in dropping manuals from any of the current versions of BMW 2-, 3- or 4 Series, including the M2, M3, and M4 coupe and convertible. We can’t vouch for the next generations of those models, however — we’ll never see a brand-new BMW M5 manual again.

Manuals lost their price, performance, and fuel efficiency advantages years ago, of course, and autonomy will kill them off for good. Our Four Seasons BMW M2’s 20/26 EPA fuel mileage equals the six-speed manual version’s highway number, and is 2-mpg better in the city. A few of us aren’t swayed by such pragmatic reasons to kill off the manuals. We’d rather select our own shift points rather than program in a dynamic drive mode to do it for us.

It’s not an “age thing.” My 17-year-old nephew now drives my wife’s old Mazda2 five-speed, wouldn’t trade it for an automatic, and would like to own a BMW some day. And though BMW North America assures me there will be 2 Series manuals for the foreseeable future, the next generation is not guaranteed.

BMW models run on a seven-year cycle. The 2 Series just got a refresh for 2017, and it has three model years, including 2018, before an all-new model comes in. Those 2021 BMW 2 Series will need to be certified, again, and stick-shift variants will need to justify their certification cost with enough sales to eek out a profit margin. BMW says it has a healthy manual take-rate on the 2 Series, though it doesn’t release percentages.

Meanwhile, the BMW 3- and 4-Series have about a year before their replacements start to arrive. Their manual take-rates, ravaged by non-enthusiast premium car buyers over the years, are undoubtedly much lower. If the next-generation 3 and 4 aren’t offered with three-pedal manuals, that will make it tough for our friend, BMW Chief Financial Officer Nicholas Peter, to justify engineering a manual for just one line, the 2 Series plus maybe the very low-volume Z4 replacement. Think about that when your local BMW dealer tells you there are no 330i manuals in stock in the entire tri-state area, and you’ll have to wait eight weeks or more if you order one from the factory.

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BMW Introduces Black Fire Edition X5 and X6 M http://www.automobilemag.com/news/bmw-introduces-black-fire-edition-x5-x6-m/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/bmw-introduces-black-fire-edition-x5-x6-m/#respond Thu, 29 Jun 2017 18:32:26 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1173254 Launching this August, BMW will offer both the X5 M and X6 M SUVs in the company’s latest special edition dubbed, the Black Fire Edition, and will continue the company’s “success story in the Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) and Sports Activity Coupe (SAC) sectors.” While nothing has been done to either car’s engine, and why...

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Launching this August, BMW will offer both the X5 M and X6 M SUVs in the company’s latest special edition dubbed, the Black Fire Edition, and will continue the company’s “success story in the Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) and Sports Activity Coupe (SAC) sectors.”

While nothing has been done to either car’s engine, and why would you when both make 575 horsepower from their 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8s, both the exterior and interior of both the X6 M and X5 M have been murdered out and given a racier appearance.

Both the X5 M and X6 M receive a special shade of black paint, called Sapphire Black Metallic, which also includes both car’s normal brightware, such as the double-kidney grille, and carbon-fiber mirror caps. Each car also receives a set of forged staggered 21-inch M alloy wheels, finished in the special Sapphire Black Metallic paint and completes the car’s menacing looks.

Inside, BMW lathered both the X5 M and X6 M with a host of motorsport goodies, including M multi-functional seats, Alcantara upholstery, aluminum shift paddles, and M’s multi-functional Alcantara steering wheel with a light-blue leather accent signifying BMW’s history with motorsport.

The car’s interior is finished in contrasting Black and Mugello Red Merino leather, which also includes the center console.

Additionally, customers will also get special Black Fire Edition logos on each car’s dash, indicating each car’s uniqueness.

As mentioned earlier, BMW will begin to make the Black Fire Editions available this coming August, although the company has yet to disclose pricing on the upcoming special editions.

The standard BMW X5 M costs $100,700, while the X6 M costs $104,400, and we expect the Black Fire Edition to tack on at least another couple thousand dollars on top of that given the nature of the M Performance parts additions.

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BMW 2 Series to Lose Manual Option in U.S. http://www.automobilemag.com/news/bmw-2-series-to-lose-manual-option-in-u-s/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/bmw-2-series-to-lose-manual-option-in-u-s/#respond Thu, 29 Jun 2017 17:30:32 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1173312 BMW will discontinue the manual transmission option on the 2 Series coupe in the U.S. to cut costs. According to a report from Reuters, the move will help cut certification costs in the U.S. market. In addition, BMW finance chief Nicolas Peter stated that BMW will streamline its manufacturing processes by offering fewer variants of its future...

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BMW will discontinue the manual transmission option on the 2 Series coupe in the U.S. to cut costs. According to a report from Reutersthe move will help cut certification costs in the U.S. market. In addition, BMW finance chief Nicolas Peter stated that BMW will streamline its manufacturing processes by offering fewer variants of its future vehicles to offset high development costs.

In addition to the discontinuation of the manual-equipped 2 Series in the U.S., BMW has also stopped offering a manual on the 5 Series, including entry-level diesel variants in other markets. Peter also hinted that the next generation of its midsize luxury car will likely have less diesel-powered variants. As BMW offers many variants and equipment options, there’s plenty of fat that can be cut.

BMW Group is currently in the midst of developing its EV, autonomous, and connected vehicle technologies alongside tradition cars with combustion engines to meet emissions tests that are constantly getting more stringent. Part of the increase in costs has to do with China pushing to meet its electric vehicle quota aggressively, which made European automakers accelerate electric and hybrid vehicle development. Reuters reports that in 2016 BMW spent 5.5 percent of its revenue on research and development. Peter also revealed that in the next three years, BMW will continue to spend between 5.5-6 percent of its revenue in developing eco-friendly vehicles and autonomous driving tech. However, the production site of an all-electric Mini hasn’t yet been decided but the Oxford facility is one of the contenders, with a final decision to be announced this year.

BMW’s sales, pre-tax profit, and earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) has increased this year by around 8-10 percent. Much of that boost is due to the recently launched 5 Series, which has done well in sales. Double-digit growth in the Chinese market is still on track and with the launch of the X1 and 5 Series long wheelbase, it will continue to see more gains in the market. Europe has also seen some growth but the demand in the U.K. is slowing down. The U.S. market will likely remain stable or shrink a little, Peter told Reuters. He also revealed that the automaker is in the process of cutting down vehicle inventory in the U.S.

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Five Things to Know About the New 2018 BMW X3 and BMW Plant Spartanburg http://www.automobilemag.com/news/five-things-know-new-2018-bmw-x3-bmw-plant/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/five-things-know-new-2018-bmw-x3-bmw-plant/#respond Wed, 28 Jun 2017 18:54:52 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1172640 SPARTANBURG, South Carolina — It’s BMW’s biggest production facility in the world. It’s where all BMW X vehicles save the X1 are built. It’s an American success story. It’s the BMW Group Plant Spartanburg, and during the first live reveal of a new vehicle ever held here — the refreshed 2018 BMW X3 — BMW...

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SPARTANBURG, South Carolina — It’s BMW’s biggest production facility in the world. It’s where all BMW X vehicles save the X1 are built. It’s an American success story. It’s the BMW Group Plant Spartanburg, and during the first live reveal of a new vehicle ever held here — the refreshed 2018 BMW X3 — BMW officials from CEO Harald Krüger on down made it abundantly clear that the German automaker remains fully committed to the facility, to the region, and to the U.S.

Even if you don’t watch the news, it’s probably not lost on you that slogans like “Made in the USA” and “America First” matter greatly in today’s frenzied political climate. Given the pomp and circumstance surrounding BMW’s event here, and the announcement that it will invest some $600 million in the Spartanburg facility over the next several years, it isn’t lost on them either. BMW built a record 411,000 vehicles here last year, with some 70 percent of them being shipped to 140 markets worldwide. They are quite proud of the fact that they are the largest automotive exporter in the U.S. by value.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of BMW announcing its intention to build the Spartanburg facility, which has grown from 570 employees when the first 318i rolled off the line in September of 1994 to 9,000 today. It also plans to add 1,000 more as production of the all-new X7 full-size SUV ramps up in 2018. In that first year, BMW produced a total of 28,000 vehicles. Last year, that number was reached every 20 days, with 1,400 vehicles coming off the line every 24 hours.

1. Not skin deep

As a new 2018 X3 rolled up the ramp at the press conference, we immediately noticed the exterior differences over the outgoing model. BMW likes to call its X models “Sports Activity Vehicles” and the latest version of BMW’s compact crossover certainly has a more athletic look for all those sport activities it will be presumably be engaging in. While its exterior dimensions are virtually the same, the new X3’s wheelbase has been extended by 2.2 inches, giving it a more firmly planted stance as well as the illusion of greater length.

“We lowered the roof, and now it has a sportier line from the front axle to the A-pillar,” Arno Keller, the X3’s project leader, explained to us. According to Keller the result is improved aerodynamics which aids overall performance. For the first time, an M Sport package is available for the X3 that includes larger air intakes, side skirt trim, and a diffuser-style rear apron, all of which are designed to improve downforce.

The front fascia features a larger, three-dimensional look kidney grille and new headlights and running lights. At the rear are new taillights, twin exhaust pipes, and a downward sloping roof spoiler that cumulatively add to the vehicle’s overall more aggressive, muscular, and yes, sporty mien.

Krüger explained during the press conference that many 3 Series customers are moving to the X3 in search of more commanding seating position and better ride experience in rougher terrain. Given that BMW moved 44,196 X3s in the U.S. in 2016, an increase of 38.4 percent compared to 2015, it seems like that’s the case.

2. Why Spartanburg?

Outside of the traditional, genteel Southern “handshake deal” mentality and the eagerness of South Carolina’s government to see BMW break ground here, the Spartanburg area is home to more than 60 colleges and universities. By our count at least a quarter of those have the word technical in their title. South Carolina is a state with a trained and eager workforce, making it relatively easy for the German automaker to attract new talent.

Said technical college folks have made a big impact at the plant over the years. Some of the most advanced and downright coolest tech we’ve ever seen utilized on an assembly line is being used by BMW employees screwing together the X models at Spartanburg. We saw one worker tooling a present-generation X3 wearing a Robocop-like exoskeleton made of a system of springs and pulleys to assist with repetitive motions and overhead activities. No, it didn’t move his arms for him, but it aids movement by 30 to 35 percent, reducing fatigue.

Spartanburg’s physical location is crucial as well. The port of Charleston is close, with some 86 percent of the vehicles BMW ships out of the U.S. from Spartanburg moving through there, making vehicle export easier (the other 14 percent move through other southeastern ports). Distribution to BMW’s 657 U.S. dealers by truck isn’t an issue and the expansion of the Greenville-Spartanburg airport aids the cause as well.

It all adds up to a boon not only to the local economy but the U.S. as a whole. According to an independent study to be released in July by the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business, for every job at the BMW Plant Spartanburg there are four to five jobs indirectly created in the region. BMW supports some 70,000 direct and indirect jobs in the U.S., and the Moore School estimates the multiplier effect adds another 50,000 when you take into account jobs not directly related to the automotive sector.

3. Is the M the X-factor?

The addition of the X3 M40i to the X3 mix marks the first time an M Performance variant will be available for the model. It ramps up everything, harnessing BMW’s TwinPower turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six that makes 355 horsepower between 5,500-6,500 rpm and 369 lb-ft of torque. That means 0 to 60 mph happens in 4.6 seconds thanks in part to an 8-speed Steptronic Sport transmission featuring launch control. The X3 M40i also comes with an updated xDrive all-wheel-drive system that now throws more power to the rear.

Overall weight has been reduced, but only by about 120 pounds. The use of aluminum, plastic, and carbon-fiber elements helped, but the bigger 19-inch wheels (20- and 21-inch wheels are optional) and other performance elements put weight back on. Regardless, adding the M Performance version was an A+ choice in our book.

4. What’s inside counts

The X3’s all-new interior is focused on details. X3 badging is everywhere. If you look closely enough, you’ll see it stamped into the sheet metal where the B-pillar meets the roof just in case you forgot what you were driving. The dash is Germanic-ly Spartan but elegant, with a well thought out center stack starring the 12-inch infotainment display. Good use is made of the center console — this might be the most integrated we’ve seen cupholders in a while. They’re a necessary evil, but as placed here they don’t take up too much unnecessary room.

The entire dashboard package has been lowered, making the cab feel brighter and increasing visibility. The larger heads up display is the same version used in the 7 Series, as is the optional digital gauge cluster just beyond the new sportier steering wheel. Acoustics inside the cabin are reportedly greatly improved as well. Reduced wind noise and city noise will no doubt make for a more pleasant interior experience.

5. Made in the USA

The X3 will be made at the Spartanburg plant, mostly. Due to its worldwide popularity, it will also be produced in China and South Africa. We were told Spartanburg simply can’t produce all of them and given that Spartanburg is already near its 450,000 vehicle capacity even before the X7 comes online, it’s easy to understand why. Everyone’s going to have to wait until November of this year to get their global little hands on one.

It’s not only the volume question dictating production location, but also the hefty tariffs that are slapped on U.S. made cars heading to European markets. We’re not going to get political here, but for the record, present at the X3 press conference were South Carolina’s Governor Henry McMaster and Senator Lindsey Graham. Neither of them had anything to say about the new X3 we were all there to see, but a lot to say about a certain someone in a big White House in Washington D.C., about the importance of globalization, and easing export restrictions on the automotive industry.

Beyond the near term concerns around jobs and investment and the like, the future of the automobile in general is in flux as well. With myriad new technologies emerging seemingly daily, it’s increasingly hard for automakers to predict who will be buying what in five or 10 years. Hybrids, diesels, plug-in hybrids, EVs, autonomous vehicles, combustion engines (are jet packs next?) — any manufacturer is going to have to be increasingly flexible. According to Krüger, they have to deliver everything.

Forward thinking is a must, and while BMW predictably won’t provide any details, there are reportedly some 14 all-new and revamped BMW models heading for production in the next several years. Some of those, like the new X7, will be rolling out of South Carolina. For BMW, Plant Spartanburg is a huge piece of its global production puzzle, and everyone seems to be pretty happy that the X seems here to stay in the good old U.S. of A.

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Electric Car Built From Recycled Trash Beats Tesla Model S Range http://www.automobilemag.com/news/electric-car-built-recycled-trash-beats-tesla-model-s-range/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/electric-car-built-recycled-trash-beats-tesla-model-s-range/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 20:58:00 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1169552 Recently, a man with a homebrewed, $13,000 electric car called the Phoenix drove over 380 miles on a single charge, leaving a Tesla Model S that was along for the drive in its electron-laden dust. The man who built the car, Eric Lundgren, CEO of IT Asset Partners, says it’s a world record for road-going...

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Recently, a man with a homebrewed, $13,000 electric car called the Phoenix drove over 380 miles on a single charge, leaving a Tesla Model S that was along for the drive in its electron-laden dust. The man who built the car, Eric Lundgren, CEO of IT Asset Partners, says it’s a world record for road-going electric vehicle range (a Guinness World Record certification is in the works). And it was all done with a car built from trash.

AUTOMOBILE Magazine: Tell us about the record attempt.

Eric Lundgren: We drove the car from my headquarters in Chatsworth, CA to just north of San Diego, then headed back up toward the office. The brand-new Tesla P100D died in Fox Hills. We literally had to push it to the supercharging station because it didn’t make it. It traveled 318 miles. The Phoenix still had juice.

When we got back to the office with the Phoenix, we’d been driving for 8 hours and it still had charge. We went back out and drove loops on the freeway to see how far it could go. When it finally died, it had traveled 382.3 miles. To put this into perspective, if I charged up four Nissan Leafs and ran each until they died, getting into a new one each time, I would have still driven farther in the Phoenix.

AM: You’re the CEO of IT Asset Partners, so recycling is your day job, as well as your hobby. Is it really more of a passion — or even a mission — for you?

EL: It’s both a passion and a mission. It’s not a job at all. For me, this is my life, it’s what I was built to do. It’s what I live for. I live for it because I’ve seen the negative repercussions of e-waste being handled in an improper manner around the world. I spent six years in India and China, and I’ve seen what happens when the U.S. exports its e-waste to these countries around the world. It’s like when you sweep dust under the rug. It’s out of sight, but it’s still there.

In our own backyards here in the U.S., 85% of our e-waste is either exported or ends up in our landfills. Toxic chemicals leach out of them into our ground water. The end result is that 80% of harmful chemicals and toxins in our landfills come from electronic waste.

Today we don’t have a real, efficient solution for e-waste. The 15% that goes to recyclers just gets crushed or smelted for commodity value. That’s not an efficient solution, so they can’t go after the other 85%.

Manufacturers keep trying to make things cheaper, using cheaper commodities, whereas electronics recyclers are seeking more expensive commodities, because that’s what they’re trying to extract. Consumers bought the product, and want to do with it what they will. Corporations don’t care because they can’t make money recycling. ITAP has come up with hybrid recycling, which is the reuse of the components within broken or obsolete electronics.

An example would be: recyclers look at a paper cup, and say, “It’s worth a fraction of a penny”, and I say, “Can it still be used as a cup?” If so, it’s worth 3-4 cents — things are much more valuable when they can be used for their utilitarian purpose rather than their materials.

If your car breaks, you don’t just throw it away. It goes to a salvage yard, where all the valuable components are stripped and re-used or recycled before the raw metal is finally crushed and recycled, too. When it comes to consumer electronics, we literally throw them in the dirt.

I’m not an environmentalist, I’m not some guy that screams “Go green!” I’m a social entrepreneur. I believe in efficiency, in providing more for people — more value, higher quality electronics. I don’t believe in using less. If we’re efficient with our waste, we can have more, rather than less. The byproduct of hybrid recycling is actually a cleaner more environmental solution for our planet — but that’s a byproduct, and a byproduct of efficiency in general.

We’ve been doing this hybrid recycling with cars for 100 years, but with electronics, when you drop your cell phone in the sink or you crack your tablet screen, for whatever reason, when your consumer electronics break, we just discard them. Even if it’s part of the 15% of electronics that make it to a recycler today, it just gets shredded for its plastic and metal value, throwing away all of its utilitarian value as an object. Even while they’re destroying these components, the world is demanding more of these same components — including lithium ion batteries. We’re literally raping the earth for the minerals to make these batteries, and then recyclers are taking that exact same battery, that’s still working, and destroying it.

AM: Why an electric car? What makes an EV a good demonstration of your hybrid recycling principles/advocacy?

EL: You can’t really talk about hybrid recycling because it’s complicated. You have to show it. That’s why we built the Phoenix: to show people that in e-waste, there’s a lot of value. When used in the correct application, you can use this recycled material from old, broken, obsolete electronics to set world records and beat the latest and greatest brand-new technology.

I didn’t realize how great a demonstration it would be. I thought maybe we’d keep up with a Leaf or a Volt, but no, we smoked every single vehicle. My engineers are working on pushing the Phoenix beyond 400 miles, and it’s going to happen next month.

I don’t want to start a car company, I just want to demonstrate what’s possible with EVs and to show the value in hybrid recycling. I don’t want to be a car manufacturer. I want car manufacturers to look at what I’m doing and start doing hybrid recycling. Tesla could save $83 million per year just by adopting hybrid recycling.

The cells found in Tesla’s electric cars and power wall are omnipresent today. They’re the building block for all kinds consumer electronics. So when I open up that Tesla battery pack and test all of the cells — when Tesla says that battery is bad, what it’s saying is 80% of the cells are perfectly good, but it’s not suitable for automotive use anymore.

Let’s say there are 10,000 cells in a 100-kWh battery. I can take 8 of those cells, put them in a plastic case with a five-cent transistor and a cable, and provide you, the consumer, a charger that can charge your iPhone 7 Plus 1.5 times. I can take 16 of those and make an e-bike, 24 and make a Segway or a hoverboard. I can take 40 and put them with a used solar panel and a 1W micro LED (like your phone’s flash), and what I’ve just built is a solar power array – for $30 – that’s capable of taking a house off the grid in Cambodia, where 25% of wages are spent on kerosene to provide electricity for the home. I’ve given them a 10-year replacement for burning harmful, carcinogenic chemicals in their homes. And what did I do all of this with? I did it with America’s trash. Things we’re literally throwing into our landfills.

AM: Why a BMW as the starting point for the Phoenix?

EL: We walked into a scrapyard just north of San Diego on the one day I had free, and I basically said show me all of the salvage cars you’re about to crush. He showed me a line, and it was the second one in the line, and I just went, “That one!” There was no rhyme or reason, we just wanted to use a car that was going to be destroyed. That was the first one we saw that was a car, not a pickup.

So we took that car, dragged it to a flatbed — it didn’t even have wheels — brought it to our facility, and realized not all of the parts were good, so we found another E39 for $600, and out of the two cars we created the Phoenix. That’s why it has mismatched doors. We are going to paint it though. The controller came out of a 1994 electronic forklift.

Of course it’s not as stylish as a Tesla. We built it in 35 days out of trash. Tesla spent $1.5 billion; my R&D budget was Keystone Light. We built the car outdoors, in the rain, under a tarp, on a budget of less than $13,000. It has the largest battery pack of any road-going car to date, until Tesla’s semi truck, but even then, not by much. The pack is made from all types of batteries, and they have the same service life as the new ones. This car will still be on the road in 10 years. We got the motor out of a car that was barely used.

AM: What car do you drive daily?

EL: A Tesla P90D and a BMW i3. I got really furious when I got the BMW and realized I can only go 90 miles — or 45 miles if there are hills.

AM: Do you foresee a future where, in 30 years, when Teslas and other first-generation EVs are “classic cars,” this sort of electric hot rodding will be commonplace, like modifications and upgrades are in current car culture?

EL: One hundred percent yes! This industry is in its infancy. Currently you have a lot of people converting old hot rods into EVs. EV West used my recycled batteries in the newest Top Gear to make a converted Ferrari beat the newest Ferrari out on the track [That episode hasn’t yet aired – Ed.]. Those batteries came from recycled electronics.

I foresee, in the future, Teslas costing $20,000-25,000. The Tesla I drive today that cost me $150,000, I see that costing $25,000 within the next 7-10 years. All the same bells and whistles, everything, because it’s technology. I lease mine because I’m not buying a car, I’m using a piece of technology.

The culture is already out there today, in a way. Someone just cracked the controller for the Tesla motor and now you can use the Tesla motor in another car. They’ve cracked the cooling system programming, the drivetrain programming. As these parts become available, people are going to find ways to hack and combine these systems into cool new vehicles.

Once EVs take off, you’ll have access to all kinds of parts and I see a whole industry evolving, similar to the salvage yards for conventional cars today.

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2018 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Turismo Picks up Where the 5 GT Left Off http://www.automobilemag.com/news/2018-bmw-640i-xdrive-gran-turismo-picks-5-gt-left-off/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/2018-bmw-640i-xdrive-gran-turismo-picks-5-gt-left-off/#respond Tue, 13 Jun 2017 22:01:11 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1167945 Conspicuously absent from the 2017 arrival of the G30 5 Series was any word of the alternative bodystyles BMW has recently become known for. Now, following the announcement of the 2018 6 Series Gran Turismo, we know why. Billed by BMW as “all-new,” the 6 GT likely rides on a modified version of the G30...

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Conspicuously absent from the 2017 arrival of the G30 5 Series was any word of the alternative bodystyles BMW has recently become known for. Now, following the announcement of the 2018 6 Series Gran Turismo, we know why.

Billed by BMW as “all-new,” the 6 GT likely rides on a modified version of the G30 chassis, though its wheelbase is identical to that of its 5 Series Gran Turismo predecessor. The 6 is 3.8-inches longer overall, however, but all other dimensions, inside and out, are within an inch.

Only one flavor will be offered in the U.S.: the all-wheel-drive 640i xDrive. Powering it will be the B56 3.0-liter, twin-turbo I-6, tuned to make 335 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque — 35 hp and 332 lb-ft more than the 5 GT’s N55 unit. An 8-speed automatic with slightly taller gears handles transmission duties.

Despite its near identical size, the 4,409-lb 2018 640i GT weighs 221 lbs less than the all-wheel drive 535i GT and a whopping 531 lbs less than the V-8-powered 550i GT. With a 51/49 weight distribution, the 6 is slightly more front heavy, but still balanced on the whole. Those needing extra agility from their two-ton liftback can opt for the Dynamic Handling Package, which adds a two-axle adaptive suspension (a rear-axle-only air suspension is standard), adaptive steering system with four-wheel steering, active roll stabilization, and dynamic damper control.

Between the extra power and removed weight, the new 640i GT is considerably quicker, with 60 mph coming in just 5.1 seconds. By comparison, the 535i GT needed 6.0 seconds flat, while the 445-hp 550i GT needed 4.7 seconds to get there. Fuel economy figures have not yet been announced, but shouldn’t be substantially different from the 20/29 mpg city/highway rating carried by the 2017 540i xDrive sedan, which uses the same powertrain. The 535i GT, by comparison, achieved 18/26 mpg city/highway.

Matters improve substantially on the visual front as well. The 5 GT’s awkward proportions make way for much more pleasing sheetmetal, aided by the 1.0-inch reduction in height, the wider grille and headlamp design borrowed from the G30 5, new sideskirts, and a lower, swoopier decklid. 12 exterior colors will be on offer with three wheel choices in two sizes (19- and 20-inch), with 21-inch wheels available from the accessory catalog.

Inside is the same cockpit that’s found in the new 5. Among other details, it features the same three-spoke steering wheel, 10.25-inch screen, head-up display, and driver-angled center console. Sports seats wrapped in Dakota leather with power adjustable side bolsters are standard, as is a panoramic sunroof, while Nappa leather is offered as an option. Also available is a 16-speaker Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system that will massage (or violently assault, depending on your musical tastes) your ears with 1,400 watts of power.

Additional pizzazz is on offer via two packages. For the sporting-oriented, the obligatory M Sport package adds 19-inch M wheels that can be upgraded to 20s, a body kit, M steering wheel, and aluminum pedals. Those in need of more style can select the the Luxury Package, which adds chrome trim and a power-adjustable rear seat.

Last but not least, the 2018 640i serves as the launchpoint for BMW’s new name for its driver assist suite: Active Driving Assistant. Standard on the car are blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, pedestrian detection, front collision warning, and rear cross-traffic alert systems. Adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and front cross-traffic alert systems can be added via the optional Driving Assistant Plus Package.

The 2018 BMW 640i xDrive GT will arrive in U.S. showrooms in the fall with a starting price of $70,695, a $7,000 increase over the 2017 535i xDrive GT justified in part by the new model’s extra standard equipment. Additional variants should arrive in the coming years, along with other new 6 Series body styles. While the convertible will likely become an 8 Series like the coupe, the Gran Coupe will likely stick around.

2018 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Turismo Specifications

ON SALE Fall 2017
PRICE $70,695 (base)
ENGINE 3.0 twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve I-6/335 hp @ 5,500-6,500 rpm, 332 lb-ft @ 1,380-5,200 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD liftback
EPA MILEAGE 19/28 mpg (city/hwy, est)
L x W x H 200.9 x 74.9 x 60.6 in
WHEELBASE 120.9 in
WEIGHT 4,409 lb
0-60 MPH 5.1 sec
TOP SPEED 130 mph

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