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Automotive Section


BMW

BMW 328i xDrive Touring a sporty crossover alternative

In an era where SUV's and crossovers dominate the utility market, there's still a classification of vehicle that offers most - if not all - of that utility while still imparting the driving experience of a sports sedan. Unfortunately, this small niche seems to get ignored in the North American market, with only a few entries still available.

I'm talking about "station wagons," also known as "touring," "estates" or "shooting brakes" in other parts of the world. Today's wagons are a far cry from those 1960's land barges with their rear-facing bench seats and stuck on fake wood accents. Today's wagons, at least as far as those from the German Big Three are concerned, are just as great to drive as their more "trunk-ated" versions and, in fact, thanks to a bit of extra metal and other stuff at the back, may even offer slightly better weight distribution than their sedan counterparts - though with the penalty of higher overall weight as well. more...

Small BMW coupe an open air delight - mostly

BMW's 2 series is yet another example of how the German automaker can get away with calling itself "the ultimate driving machine." That's because, like most of BMW's vehicles I've been fortunate enough to spend time with, it's wonderful to drive, offering handling and performance that are the stuff of dreams (if you've never driven a Porsche, anyway!) and I can see easily why people love being behind their steering wheels.

Alas, there's another important aspect of modern cars in today's ultracompetitive market, and that's the experience of living with them - how do their interfaces work and how easy are they to learn? - and in that respect BMW still has a way to go.

It's a shame. I love driving BMW's but really can't fathom the company's thinking in how they design the occupant interfaces. But let's talk about the great things about this car before I start dumping on it. more...


BMW 4 series Gran Coupe: a five door two door?

BMW has created a very nice driving machine in their new for 2015 4 series Gran Coupe. Alas, despite being one of the "ultimate driving machines," the car still leaves something to be desired as a vehicle to live with. And what's with the model designation?

When Shakespeare wrote "What's in a name?" he was referring to the surnames of his star crossed lovers Juleo and Romiet, but these days – if he were alive and a car guy – he might ask the same about BMW's current model naming conventions. That's because until recently the 4 series was just a two door 3 series, but BMW split the series in two, with the 3 referring to the four door sedan version and the 4 being the two door coupe.

Yet the 4 series Gran Coupe is not only a four door model, it's also a hatchback, sometimes called "five door." So why wouldn't it be the 3 series Gran Coupe? Beats me. What's in a name, eh?

Maybe they want their model names to be as confusing as their interfaces… more...


New BMW X5 actively sports its utility

What BMW calls the world's first Sport Activity Vehicle is back with a third generation model the company says sets the standard for luxury, versatility and driving dynamics yet again.

If not for the SAV designation, however, you'd be hard pressed to see how the new X5 is different from a garden variety SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle). As Star Trek's Spock has been said to have said: "A difference that makes no difference is no difference." Or as Shakespeare wrote: "What's in a name?" So whether it's an SAV or an SUV doesn't really matter, the rose smells just as sweet. What does matter is whether or not the X5 does its job as a vehicle well, and whether or not it does its job as a BMW - the supposedly ultimate driving machine - well.

Fortunately, the answer to both questions is "yes." The X5 gets you and your stuff around well, and it does so while feeling every inch the BMW. For better and for worse. more...


BMW 435i xDrive - ultimate driving but ultimately annoying

Say what you will about BMW's new naming conventions, the German company still makes vehicles that are terrific to drive.

Case in point: the 2014 435i, which used to be the 335i and which still rewards enthusiasts even though they may have to suffer somewhat for their Bavarian art.

The 435 isn't exactly merely a re-badged 335 coupe, but it's mostly that - and that's okay: the 335 coupe was a terrific place for BMW to start. I remember fondly a week's worth of seat time on one a few years ago, and this one is even better - mostly. And now that they're calling the two door 3 a 4 (just like the two door 5 series is, basically, the 6 and the two door 1 series is about to morph into the 2 series), "odds" are your BMW coupe will be "even" more easy to tell apart from its sedan siblings. more...


BMW X1 xDrive35i – a powerful, un-SUV-like ride

Up the engine size in BMWs X1 "sports activity vehicle," and you have a "crossover" that feels a lot like the kind of "ultimate driving machine" on which the German manufacturer prides itself. And how can that be a bad thing?

The X1 definitely looks and feels like what other carmakers call an SUV – for "sport utility vehicle" – but it drives more like a sports sedan than much of the competition does. Add the typical SUV's higher driving position, which lets you see over traffic better than a car does (though the X1 isn't that tall compared with most SUV's), and the typical SUV's extra storage space, and you have a pretty nifty vehicle that's quite practical and.

Sounds like the proverbial "win-win scenario." more...


BMW X3 – a vehicle that sports activity

"Joy is a journey that has no end." So proclaims BMW's Canadian website when you surf over to where the X3 resides on it.

This might come as a surprise to those whose joy comes from staying put someplace, or those who've driven with a back seat driver – but it's a pretty good car nut sentiment. Nevertheless, as nice as an X3 may be, my idea of a vehicle in which to experience the joy of an endless journey is slung a tad lower and probably has an engine in the middle or the back.

That isn't the X3's mandate or manner, of course, and marketing language should always be taken with a huge grain of salt. Heck, BMW doesn't even use the word "Utility" to describe what otherwise would clearly be an SUV. Instead, the X3 is a "Sport Activity Vehicle" so I guess if you dare fold down that back seat and put groceries in it you'd better watch out of the police. Putting an inflatable raft or a kayak in there's probably okay, though. more...


BMW 3 series – still the "Ultimate driving machine?"

The "ultimate driving machine" is back with a new generation, and it will undoubtedly arouse the usual lust in BMW fans and wannabe fans. And it's very nice to drive.

Not as nice to live with, however, but much of my angst in this department can be fixed, apparently, at your local BMW dealer. More about that later.

For 2013, the BMW 3 series has been redesigned and fortunately it's still a very handsome vehicle. It's actually the nicest looking 3 of the past couple of generations, modern and classy. more...


Bavaria Takes on the Cute Ute Market

BMW's entry into the small sport utility market is the new X1, a vehicle recognizable instantly as a BMW, which should come as a relief to BMW fans around the world. It's  all BMW, too, but smaller and more affordable than the company's established X3 and X5 SUV's.

The X1 isn't meant for serious off-roading, but its competition isn't either, really. It should be fine in normal mud and snow, however, its rear-biased all wheel drive coming in handy when the roads get lousy. Available in Canada only as a turbocharged two liter four cylinder version, its engine is rated at 241 horses @ 5,500 rpm with torque of 258 @ 1,250 revs. That may not seem like a lot, but it was plenty for the sample X1 BMW provided to get around handily in our winter driving test. more...


BMW X5 - Activity Utility

BMW's big "SAV", the X5 has just received a makeover, moving the vehicle up and out in size and capabilities – and utility. The X5 has grown in length and width, allowing BMW to now offer an optional third row of seats; yet to look at the X5 casually it doesn't appear that much different from the original model.

My tester had the 3.0 liter dual overhead cam (DOHC), 24-valve inline 260-horsepower 6-cylinder engine, with BMW's Valvetronic and Double-VANOS steplessly variable valve timing.  It's rated at 260 horses at 6600 rpm and 225 lb-ft of torque at 2750. more...


BMW 3 Series Coupe - a Turbocharged Turn-on

It's been a while since anyone referred to a BMW as being drop-dead gorgeous, but one look at the 335i coupe shows the German automaker hasn't lost its ability to design a real looker. 

BMW has taken its share of abuse over the past few years for the overall "rumpiness" of its current generation 7 and 5 series sedans; even the otherwise lovely 3 series sedan's weakest link is its rear end, though it's the best of the bunch.  But this new sedan is even better: it's low, long, sleek, and just plain beautiful from stem to stern and beam to beam. Even its bum!

And, even more important, it's an exhilarating car to drive! more...


BMW 5 Series Wagon – Hauling more than Your Stuff

BMW doesn't appear prone to the "middle child blues." And that's good news for drivers!

Middle children, according to popular myth, are often the most unhappy of a family's siblings. They struggle for recognition, overshadowed by the eldest child's maturity and experience, while competing for attention from parents forced to concentrate on the youngest child's often more pressing needs.

Not so for BMW's middle child sedan, however. more...


Lots of "Whee" from BMW's 3
New 3 an Ultimate Drive

BMW's 3 series is living proof that the company's slogan "the ultimate driving machine" isn't just hype.

Not only that but, except for its tail light design, the newest version of the 3 has managed to avoid the controversial dumpy rumpiness of recent BMW exteriors, as exemplified by the current 5 series sedan and the first iteration of the current 7.

For what more could anyone ask? more...


BMW 750Li
Luxury, Indeed

BMW took its share of abuse from some reviewers when it unveiled its current generation 7 series a few years back.

The car, which in its previous “in-car-nation” had been quite a handsome set of wheels, suddenly became dumpy and awkward-looking, with a face and a butt only its designer could love. And inside, its new iDrive system integrated far too many functions into an ultra high tech but ultimately frustrating interface.

Since then BMW has worked to make the car more attractive and, at least as far as the exterior is concerned, has succeeded very well. And the iDrive system is apparently much better than it was originally – though if my experience during a week of driving the big Bimmer is indicative, it may be best if the company would go back to traditional buttons and knobs. more...


MINI COOPER S
Mini car - Maxi fun!

It may be called a Mini, but the driving pleasure is nothing short of Maxi.

This flatulent little road rocket provided the most fun I’ve had behind the wheel in quite a while, is cute as a bug’s ear and can actually seat four people in a pinch – no pun intended.

When BMW brought back the long dead Austin Mini a few years ago, they weren’t just joining the retro car fad; they were exhuming an innovative little car that started a revolution with its transversely-mounted engine and front wheel drive configuration. Its low weight, low center of gravity and delightful power to weight ratio made it a favorite at race tracks and rallies, as well as in the daily commute.

The new Mini takes that revered base and builds it into a modern car that brings the joy of the old Mini back and is surprisingly practical if you aren’t hauling sheets of plywood. more....


Jim Bray is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. His columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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