Auto blogFri, 08 Aug 2014 17:44:00 EST
BMW is putting a lot of its chips on the success of its forthcoming front-wheel drive models, and it's making a big bet on the company's future in hoping that customers will accept them. Its front-driving UKL platform is underpinning not just the current crop of Minis but a host of BMW vehicles too. The rollout starts with the 2 Series Active Tourer in Europe later this year. But the Bavarian brand confirms to Automotive News Europe that the next one is the X1 crossover, slated to come to Europe next June. It will also be joined by the X2 next summer, confirming earlier rumors about the fashionable CUV's existence.
As the previous spy photos suggest, the X1 is even smaller than the current model, and it supposedly uses the same crop of turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder and 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines as Mini. But according to Automotive News Europe, the little guy is getting an extended, three-row version for the US, Russia and China. Like with the X4 or X6, the X2 shares most of the mechanical parts with its more conventional-looking sibling but features sleeker styling.
To make all of these UKL-based models possible, BMW is sharing development among them as much as is practical. According to Automotive News Europe, the next generations of the Mini Countryman, Clubman, X1 and X2 share the same electrical systems, drivetrains and more. Adding in the Active Tourer and still mysterious Family Active Sports Tourer to the mix, and the result is a big gamble that needs to go Bimmer's way.
The Nürburgring Nordschleife has the reputation as one of the most difficult tracks in the world to master - deservedly so. With 14 miles of roadway and about 160 corners over a massive amount of elevation change, the amount of grip can change from turn to turn. As the driver of the famous BMW Ring Taxi learned this weekend after a shunt into the barricades, the 'Ring can bite unsuspecting pros just as easily as amateurs.
The video of the incident below shows the M5 oversteering right into the wall as a phalanx of Porsche models arrive behind it. According to Bridge to Gantry, a website that specializes in news about the 'Ring, the taxi's passengers were picked up by another Ring Taxi and driven off with a fantastic story to tell their friends back home. "The accident happened at low speed, there were two passengers in the car, but no one had at any injuries," said BMW spokesperson Cypselus von Frankenberg to Autoblog via email.
The crash also closed track for over an hour to clean up and to haul the stricken BMW away. When a driver making a living from driving lap after lap at the Nordschleife has a crash even as seemingly minor as this one, it just goes to show why the course has the nickname 'The Green Hell.'
BMW seems willing to exploit every automotive niche it can find with creations like the four-door, 'crossover coupe' X4 and X6. Of course, these designs come with a compromise. That svelte fastback means that they just can't haul as much cargo as a more traditional, boxier hatchback. Fortunately, students at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research might have a novel solution: the engineering graduate program has turned the crossover into a unique pickup.
Dubbed Deep Orange 4 concept, this functional prototype has an enclosed cargo area with a sliding glass panel that opens up to expose a pickup bed if more room is needed. Think of it as the GMC Envoy XUV of German crossovers. This isn't just an X4 with its roof hacked off, though. The students actually started with an X3 and grafted on this top later in addition to the two barn doors for access to the bed.
To make this project even more impressive, this pickup-crossover could conceivably be produced. The graduate students conducted an in-plant analysis of BMW's manufacturing abilities and went back to the university to create a plan for a low-volume vehicle that could actually be built. "The students working on this phase of the project did an excellent job of keeping costs down while finding optimal integration opportunities," said Rich Morris, vice president of assembly at BMW Manufacturing, in the university's release.
The stream of segment-busting BMW variants is showing no signs of letting up, and with the latest addition now upon us, questions have been circulating as to whether the Bavarian automaker would do an M version of the new X4 crossover. The jury may still be out on that proposition, but the latest intel suggests that, while a full-on X4 M may not be in the cards, a next-best-thing X4 M40i is in the works. And that appears to be what we're looking at in this fresh batch of spy shots.
Spotted for the first time undergoing testing in Germany, this X4 is tipped to be the next addition to the M Performance line that's already given us near-boiling models like the M135i and M235i on the one hand and the diesel-powered M550d, X5 M50d and X6 M50d on the other. Power in this case is tipped to come from the same 3.0-liter turbo six as the upcoming M2, producing between 360 and 380 horsepower.
Unlike the current top-of-that-specific-line X4 35i, which has two tailpipes on one side, this partially-camouflaged prototype has one pipe protruding from each corner of the rear bumper, but looks like it could easily accommodate twin pipes on both sides. Expect commensurate suspension, brake, rolling stock, aero and trim upgrades to come as part of the package, though they likely won't be quite as substantial as those applied to the X5 M and X6 M.
If you were to plot the general opinion about hybrids since their introduction among auto enthusiasts, the resulting graph would likely be shaped somewhat like a "V." In the beginning interest was high, simply due the novelty of these new powertrains, then the line would gradually fall as the models got the stereotype of being boring commuters. Today, though, things might be back on the upswing. Vehicles like the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 and BMW i8 are showing that a hybrid doesn't have to be synonymous for dull. In its latest video, Xcar Films aims to find out if BMW's electrified sports coupe actually earns the brand's old moniker as the ultimate driving machine.
While the focus here is on what the i8 is like behind the wheel, one of the main highlights for the viewer is the interesting ways that Xcar shoots the BMW. It's not necessarily a beautiful vehicle, but seeing it in motion reveals all sorts of little intricacies that still photos don't pick up. For example, our eye catches the flying buttresses and little crevices scooped out of the corners when we get a look at the rear. It's just a fun car to look at.
With its 1.5-liter, turbocharged, three-cylinder engine and electric motor, the i8 positions itself as the future of automotive performance. But its intriguing looks and cutting-edge use of carbon fiber would be wasted if the coupe didn't drive well. We won't spoil the final verdict, though, you'll have to watch the video above.
Truth be told, I've never really found the modern BMW 6 Series to be a particularly attractive car, in Coupe, Convertible, or sedan Gran Coupe forms. This current generation certainly looks a whole lot better than the Bangle-fied Six that came before it to my eyes, but on the whole, I find much of the car's design to be fussy and awkward. There's a new 6 Series on the way, scheduled to arrive sometime in 2017 or 2018, but to hold us over until then, BMW is freshening its current range, as evidenced by this convertible prototype our trusty spies recently caught testing.
Will the changes to the current 6 Series be an improvement? Perhaps. Up front, there are restyled headlamps and a new front bumper, and at the rear, BMW has redesigned the LED taillamps to bring them more in line with the rest of the company's offerings. Aside from those modest tweaks, we don't expect much more to change on the Big Six - the interior will likely carry over with some minor tweaks (or new colors), and it's possible the powertrains could be massaged gently for gains in either power, efficiency, or both.
Whether you think this new look is pretty or not, this freshened 6 Series will likely debut sometime next year, while BMW's engineers and designers craft the all-new version. See it from several angles in our gallery, above.
Wed, 30 Jul 2014 20:01:00 EST
There's no doubt that Tesla is downshifting while Fisker has been grinding its gears. But it wasn't always that way.
In the wake of Tesla's recent success, it's easy to forget that there were once two California electric carmakers with bright futures.
Last month, we went behind the scenes of the filming of BMW's new Driftmob, web video, bringing you one post from the practice sessions, and another from the shoot itself, which took place in an enormous traffic circle in Cape Town, South Africa. Today, BMW has launched the final version of Driftmob, and it's pretty damn cool.
The plot is pretty simple: just like a flashmob, in which people invade a location and perform choreographed dances to music, much to the delight of surprised onlookers, the "driftmob" features a quintet of red M235i coupes that take over a traffic circle and perform choreographed dances - sideways - to the delight of onlookers. The only differences are that, in this case, the onlookers are mostly paid extras (though there were many unwitting passersby that joined the crowd at times) and the only music is a constant squealing of tires-a sweet song if we ever heard one. Then, after about two minutes of tire-smoking shenanigans, the coupes vanish.
As promised, we will have a more detailed, behind the scenes story about the filming of the video, including insights from Rhys Millen, Samuel Hübinette, Dai Yoshihara, Rich Rutherford, and Conrad Grunewald, the five guys who executed these remarkable stunts. Meanwhile, we hope you enjoy the short flick.
Jay Leno puts eight wheels on display this week for Jay Leno's Garage from a quartet of retro-inspired BMW motorcycles. They are the creations of husband and wife team Larry and Carol Romestant, who build each one in their home garage.
Larry is a former aerospace engineer who loves BMW bikes, especially the K models. Now, he's combining his passion with a real talent for fabrication to build his own cycles with his wife. With Larry and Carol the only ones working on these projects, it takes them six to nine months to build each one. In addition to the old-school looks, the motorcycles are supposed to be a bit more user friendly than stock. For example, one of them ditches the standard five-speed gearbox in favor of a six-speed unit to be a little more comfy when cruising at high speeds.
Since there isn't enough time to take all four of them for a ride, Jay picks his favorite to test out on the open road. Scroll down to see which one he chooses.
On the prospect of a new BMW M1 based on the company's new i8 hybrid, the jury has been in and out so much that we can't even tell which way it's likely to go. However, the latest reports coming in from Germany suggest that BMW may have something else up its sleeves. Rather than make a conventional gas-powered version of the i8, Germany's Auto Motor und Sport says BMW will make a more powerful one.
Tentatively dubbed i9, the hybrid sports car is rumored to pack a six-cylinder internal-combustion engine instead of the i8's turbo three. Coupled to more potent electric motors, it would figure to produce even more than the 357 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque already on tap in the i8, with further weight reductions to offset the bulkier engine.
Auto Motor und Sport says the mooted model will be produced to celebrate the Bavarian automaker's 100th anniversary and eclipse the i8's performance, with a projected 0-60 run in under four seconds en-route to taking the gloves off to crunch the Autobahn in electric bliss. The new i flagship would be another member of the company's growing electrified family, joining the existing i3 hatchback, upcoming i5 minivan and possible i8 Spyder down the line.