Thursday, December 31, 2009
10:09 AM adi dimansyah No comments
The Honda Civic is an auto bogus by Honda. It was alien in July 1972 as a two-door coupe, followed by a 3-door auto adaptation that September. With the axle agent adjustment of its 1169 cc agent and advanced caster drive, like the British Mini, the car provided acceptable autogenous amplitude admitting all-embracing baby dimensions.
10:06 AM adi dimansyah No comments
The Nissan Pathfinder and Terrano are mid-size SUVs. Where as the Pathfinder is awash in North America, the name aboriginal alien in 1986, abroad in the apple the agent was accepted as the Terrano. Currently, the Pathfinder avalanche amid the Xterra and Murano in the lineup. The aboriginal bearing Pathfinder/Terrano belvedere is accepted as the WD21. The additional bearing Pathfinder belvedere is accepted as the R50.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
7:23 PM adi dimansyah No comments
Sigh. Another day, another 500+ horsepower supercar to babysit for a week. Such is my lot in life. Obviously I'm joking, to a degree. To be honest, I wasn't that particularly jazzed about the Audi R8 with the defanged Lambo LP560-4 V10 shoehorned behind the seats, especially as I had prior knowledge that the more proper six-speed manual R8 5.2 FS I was supposed to get had been unceremoniously replaced by the slusher, R-Tronic version. Before continuing one sentence further, am I aware that I sound like the world's most spoiled rotten brat? Oh yes.
But see, the thing is, I've driven the regular-strength V8 R8 and you know what? There's nothing wrong with it. Perfectly neutral handling, 420 eager horses and looks that kill, or at least attract eyeballs like nothing I've seen this side of pornography. While more horsepower is always welcome, the notion that the 5.2-liter V10 "only" makes 105 ponies more combined with the extra weight just didn't set off any great alarm bells of excitement. I'll put it to you like this: I was much more excited when the 2010 Nissan GT-R showed up at my door.
It's now seven days, four tanks of gasoline and 870 miles later. I drove the wheels off the world's most expensive Audi, thrice. On every type of road, over every type of surface, never venturing more than a few miles from home. I mention that last bit because discounting long trips, I've never put so many miles on a press car. Has my tune changed? Is the ten-cylinder R8 worth the $25,000 price premium over it's "lesser" sibling? Perhaps most importantly, is the Audi R8 5.2 FSI an actual, honest-to-goodness everyday supercar? Jump and find out. And if you don't feel like jumping, please for the good of your eyes, take a few minutes to peruse the gallery, as it is one of our finest ever.
There are two ways to tackle this review. The first would be to make as if I'm texting my 18-year-old soon-to-be sister-in-law: OMG! OMG! OMG! The other would be the responsible, semi-journalistic approach where for every high point, I balance it with some bad news (0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds and 3.7 mpg while doing so). For the sake of informativeness, I'm choosing the later. But let me just say one thing before we start: OMG! OMG! OMG!
Let's get this part out of the way now. There are several problems with the R8 5.2 FSI. The first is the name. R8 5.2 FSI sounds like what NASA might name a new star and is only half as sexy. The easy solution would have been to call it the RS8, but I've long ago stopped trying to make sense of Germanic automotive nomenclature (BMW X6 xDrive35i springs to mind). And since the average man on the street (and that street is probably Rodeo Drive) has zero clue what 5.2 FSI means, Audi stuck several "V10" emblems on the coupe, in case said man wants to know why your R8 costs $25,000 more than his.
The R-Tronic transmission is really terrible. Still. After 20 minutes in city traffic, I arrived at a fellow auto scribe's house and told him to drive because I simply hated the car. In full automatic mode, the R8 lurches between gears worse than any autobox I've ever experienced. Here's the awful kicker, in manual mode it's just as slow and lurchy. You have to hit the "Sport" button to get kinda quick gear changes. Compared to say the real dual-clutch in the Nissan GT-R, Audi's R-Tronic feels at least one generation behind the times. At least. Also, the GT-R's paddles are column mounted (where God and those red-color loving Italians intended them), whereas the Audi's move around with the wheel.
There are almost no situations where it's a good idea to be changing gears mid-turn, and quite a few where it's dangerous to do so, especially because wheel-mounted paddles make it all too easy to accidentally swap cogs. And these feel like they're the same paddles on the A3. The A3 that has DSG mind you, unlike the sinfully more expensive R8 5.2 FSI. And the R-Tronic transmission (only six-speeds, by the way) is a $9,000 option. That said, when the engine revs up to around 5,000–8,000 rpm, Audi's claimed gear change time of one-hundredth of a second is (almost) believable. Luckily there's an easy fix for this: get the gated manual.
Speaking of the A3, our R8 came with over $7,000 dollars worth of interior "enhancements." Going from least to most, $1,300 for an Alcantara headliner, $2,500 for carbon fiber sigma interior inlays and $3,500 for the enhanced leather package. All that filthy lucre gets you an interior that feels like... a tarted-up Audi A3 with a $1,300 alcantara headliner. In case you didn't know, you can't tell the difference between real and fake carbon fiber just by looking or touching, as they both look and feel like plastic. Also, if that's "enhanced" leather, I'd hate to have to sit in the cheap stuff. And the less said about the useless, illegible navigation system the better.
But the major issue with the R8 5.2 is the engine. Now, there is actually nothing in the world wrong with a V10 that puts out 525 horsepower, 391 pound-feet of torque and revs to 8,750 rpm faster than you can say "direct injection." Especially one that seems to get off on exploding unburned gasoline in the exhaust headers when you come off the throttle. But... that very same engine makes 552 horsepower and 398 torques when "Lamborghini" is stamped on the valve covers. While you're chewing on that, let me share our R8's price tag: $172,250 (base price is $155,000 + $2,100 gas guzzler + $1,100 destination + all the extras).
What I'm getting at is that Audi has to find buyers comfortable with spending seven
Now that all that's out of my system, OMG! OMG! OMG!
Let's start with the looks. In my mind, the R8 still isn't an attractive car, but it sure is something to look at. It's the kind of vehicle a Cylon would drive. To a strip club. Angry, alien, outlandish. Short of the TT and the Bugatti Veyron, there's nothing else (save old Karmann Ghias) that looks anything like it. Not that this is objective in any way, but more heads were turned by this Sepang Blue R8 than by any other car I've ever driven. Retina-searing yellow Lamborghini Gallardos included.
In case you come across both a debadged "regular" R8 and a V10 version and want to spot the differences, here's what they are. The V10 has three black plastic strakes across the rear fascia, while the V8 has four. Huh? Why would the more expensive model have fewer anything than the lesser model? Look closely at the new car's rump and you'll notice a big fat vent in the rear valance. That hole is to vent hot air away from the twisted exhaust headers. Take a second peak and you can actually see the collectors snaking down towards the bottom of the car. This is nothing but pure speculation on my part, but it wouldn't surprise me if the V10 mule that burned down to its aluminum frame on the Nürburgring didn't in fact have the V8's sealed rear end. More empirically, you can feel the heat flowing out of the twin slots after the R8's been in park for 30 minutes.
Speaking of venting, the V10 model has faux-ovoid exhaust tips like the RS4 and RS6. Faux because if you look past them you see the two actual exhaust tips (the Lexus IS F pulls this same trick). The big R8 also has flared side blades, which I quite like, In the same way that I like the asymmetrical sill-air scoops on the Murcielago LP640-4. Awkward for a very good reason – pulling more cold air into the famished engine. The rear portion of the underbody is also different from the V8, looking as if it might provide some downforce. Up front, the headlights are different and then, of course, you have have the 24 LED daytime running lights on each side, there to symbolize Audi's dominance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. To steal a line from Clarkson, that bit of trivia is sure to impress your date...
Finally, we come to driving. The quickest way to sum up the R8 5.2 FSI is to call it a big, fat, fast Porsche Cayman S, which, please believe me, is a huge compliment, as the Cayman S is perhaps the best handling car I've ever driven short of something severe and doorless like a Lotus Se7en. The big, mid-engined Audi has absolutely no understeer. Shockingly, and quite seriously, none. I know this because after 45 minutes of straight-up canyon terrorism, I got the brakes to fade. I panicked, dug deep into the ABS, then turned the wheel hard to the left – a classic recipe for understeer if there ever was one. To my massive surprise -- I was anticipating that nasty feeling of skipping along on the right front tire -- the R8 just turned. Impressive for any car, but in one that weighs 3,726 pounds? One word: wow.
In big powerful monsters like the Nissan GT-R and Chevrolet Corvette Z06, the handling is without question great. That said, they will understeer when pushed. Even the incredible-for-its-price Mazda MX-5 Miata will plow like a farmer if you cross it up enough. Not the R8. Other modern cars that don't understeer? Porsche Boxster, Porsche Cayman, a couple of $200,000+ supercars, and that's about it. Again, hugely impressive. However, the steering feel is a little numb (like a certain Nissan, you just sort of saw at the wheel and the car goes exactly where you point it). There's basically no feedback, either. This is a little surprising as fully 90 percent of the R8's power is routed to the rear wheels, though I suppose when you have the wheel cranked in anger, some computer is telling the tranny to mete out more juice to the front wheels. Anyhow, she handles like a peach. An angry, tarmac-ripping peach.
The chassis magic doesn't stop there. The R8 is so well set up, balanced and over-tired (Pireli Pzero 235/35/19Rs up front, 295/30/19Rs out back) that not only is the grip seemingly never ending, but you have to really work hard to induce oversteer. 8,000 rpm and some janky, ill-advised steering wheel inputs seems to do the trick. Back to the grip for a moment, it's just tremendous, and rivaled only (in my mind) by the Nissan GT-R, the latter being the best road-hugger I've ever driven. One way to look at the R8 5.2 FSI is 9/10s of a GT-R for double the money. However, another is to understand that Nissan sells the GT-R for half of what it cost them to build and this here Audi is about 98/100s as good to drive. Maybe 99...
Finally, there's the thrust from that mighty, though slightly devolved V10. It's epic, though certainly not as quick in a straight line as the LP560-4 Gallardo. In fact, we know that the Lambo will beat the Audi to 60 mph by three-tenths of a second. And if you can tell the difference between 3.4 and 3.7 seconds, you're a liar. Or very close to one. At the end of the day, a 3.7-second blast to 60 mph is only achieved using the car's launch control (sport suspension on, sport transmission on, hold down the ESP button for about six seconds, left foot on brake, right foot floors the throttle, side-step the brake pedal, buh-bye) and doing that more than once is clutch-homicide. Bottom line, does the V10 R8 feel supercar fast? Yes, it most certainly does.
The real story is what the R8 5.2 FSI feels like when you've just blipped the motor up to 8,000 rpm and have the steering wheel rheostated at 45 degrees before dusting off a sharp turn. It's beautiful. It's glorious. It's wondrous. It's revelatory. Forget all that nonsense I spewed earlier on – nothing but words. Like any supercar – and oh, my yes this sucker is super – all you want to do is push harder and dig deeper. Everyday? I should be so lucky. And I truly wish that every pistonhead everywhere could experience the R8 5.2 FSI on their favorite road approaching full clip. Because as far as cars go, this $172,250 seems like money very well spent.
7:21 PM adi dimansyah No comments
When Porsche introduced the Cayman in 2006, one thing was abundantly clear: Porsche had muzzled its midship coupe to prevent cannibalizing 911 sales. Despite a more favorable weight distribution and an unflappable chassis, the Cayman lacked the power to exploit its excellent underpinnings, even in "S" guise. So like its Boxster sibling, the Cayman was destined to play second fiddle to Porsche's iconic rear-engine flagship. From a business perspective, Porsche's decision made sense. For enthusiasts, it was yet another bitter pill from Zuffenhausen.
When the Cayman underwent a refresh, there was always hope that a turbocharged variant would be included in the line-up. Predictably, that never happened. So the Cayman continued to stand on the lower/middle rung of the Porsche ladder, offering less power and a lower price than the 911. The Cayman could dance. It just needed an extra bit of oomph.
That's where Mike Levitas comes in. Mike is the brains behind TPCRacing of Jessup, MD. Born of a family of automotive tinkerers, Mike spent most of his formative years learning about turbos and turning that knowledge to race cars – fast, reliable race cars that won championships. Like most other Porsche enthusiasts, Mike thought the Cayman could use more power. Turbocharged power. But unlike most of the marque's devotees, Mike made it happen.
Levitas began producing race cars back in the late Eightes, and over the course of the next decade and a half he managed the turbocharger programs for the Nissan 300ZX, Mazda RX7, Lotus Esprit and Consulier GTPs in the IMSA Supercar Series. Mike's background and advanced aeronautical training eventually led him to build some of the best Porsche race cars around. Porsche Club racing, Motorola Cup action, and a brief dip into Mercedes sedans eventually led him to the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series.
In 2000, TPCRacing began racing under its own banner, racking up more than 20 class wins (including one at Daytona in 2006) and an unprecedented 1-2-3-4 sweep of the driver's championship. The team was so dominant that the lead car during that championship season never missed a podium. With all of that race history as a test bed, TPC thought it was time to offer some of its accumulated wisdom to the masses.
TPCRacing is now known as one of the premier outlets for readying your Porsche for track duty. Turbochargers, suspension upgrades and computer reflashing are all available to professional and club racers. And for those who'd like a little more performance out of their daily drivers, TPCRacing has you covered in spades. While most of the company's work is devoted to 911s, TPC thought the Cayman needed a little something extra as well. They picked up a Guards Red 2006 Porsche Cayman S a couple of years ago and went to work.
The result is the TPCRacing Cayman S Turbo Kit. Producing around 485 horsepower, it's packing more ponies than – until recently – nearly any vehicle in Porsche's lineup, save the GT2. And that's only with 5.5-pounds of boost. With such a low amount of pressure, the turbo kit puts barely any additional stress on the stock internals of the 3.4-liter flat-six.
TPCRacing sells its Cayman Turbo Kit (with intercooler) for a buck less than ten grand. It includes nearly everything needed for installation: a cat-back exhaust, turbocharger, liquid-to-air intercooler, new intake plenum, all brackets/plumbing/fitting/hardware/clamps, upgraded injectors and custom silicone piping. The ECU needs to be shipped to TPC for reprogramming, but anyone with a fair amount of mechanical aptitude can do the installation. The total tab for our tester was about $12,000 according to the owner. Of course, he also went nuts with suspension, brakes, wheels, tires and body mods that more than doubled that figure.
A few extra bits are recommended by TPC, although they're not included in the kit. Pop for a set of GT3 spark plugs as well as the factory Porsche front-center radiator and associated ducting and brackets, and it will add around $750 to the tab. Tiptronic cars can skip that last item, as they're already equipped with the front-center radiator. The downside for Tiptronic owners is that the installation requires modifications to the transmission mounting brackets as well as relocating the transmission oil cooler.
TPC is also working on a non-intercooled Turbo Kit that eliminates the need for the liquid-to-air intercooler as well as the front center radiator and all the additional plumbing and water pump. Boost levels are a bit lower, but so is the price – an estimated $7,490.
We got a chance to sample the full-on intercooled turbo kit and, needless to say, it's like no Cayman we've met before. It's a mid-engine Jekyll and Hyde. In normal commuter duty the TPC drives exactly like any other Cayman on the road. That's to say it has near perfect handling, with some of the best brakes and most precise steering ever engineered into a road-going vehicle. But dip into that throttle a bit deeper and... whoosh! As if a giant hand dropped down from the sky and gave you a gentle shove, you're hurtled along into extra-legal speeds in seconds.
There's no drama, only a throatier roar from the exhaust that fades as the RPMs drop. Although not quite as transparent as the factory turbo setup in the 997 Turbo, it feels just as fast. The power is available at seemingly any RPM too. There's a progressive feel rather than the expected lag and burst of traditional tuner turbos – further proof that Mike and his crew know more than a thing or two about balancing linear performance and potent thrust.
Our seat time was all too brief, but it was more than enlightening. Levitas is a manic bit of energy, equal parts mad scientist and grassroots racer. Two of his customers, David and Kevin, happened to be computer engineers and even they were hard pressed to keep up with Mike's constant stream of technical babbling. The one thing they definitely picked up is Mike's passion for his work and ability to build an impeccably well-thought out and professional turbo kit.
Our sentiments and disappointments were echoed by several of Mike's customers. While most would prefer a factory Cayman Turbo, Porsche didn't build one. That left the door wide open for tuners and TPC happily stepped in to fill the void. For around $12,000 over the price of a Cayman, customers can have a unique, track-friendly daily-driver that's ready to trounce its rear-engine grandfather, while still costing less and retaining its reliability. That's a 400-hp formula we can get behind. Now we just need to start trolling Craigslist for used Caymans...
7:20 PM adi dimansyah No comments
Normally when an automaker updates a model, even if it's just a quick cosmetic change, the earlier version is treated like cheek meat – nobody wants it unless it's a real good deal, and the dealers just want them gone. Mitsubishi evidently thinks its home-market will be kinder to the compact crossover-ute-thing we know and love as the Outlander.
While a new Evo-esque beak has been grafted onto our Outlander for 2010, the softer, older version will continue to be offered to JDM buyers alongside a more cosmetically aggressive model. To avoid confusion, a country-specific rhinoplasty-enhanced model will be branded Outlander Roadest (note that the fascia and, grille and foglamps are all distinct from the U.S. model), while the older bodywork model will continue on as just plain "Outlander." Regardless of the looks, both iterations will get a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine as standard, good for 148PS (about 146 horsepower). The offal-likeness is in play with pricing as well, with the new-old Outlander selling for just ¥1,995,000 (about $22,000) while the Roadest will command ¥2,475,900 ($27,100).
7:13 PM adi dimansyah No comments
With the adoption of front-wheel drive as the mainstream power delivery system of choice, the semi-annual ritual of swapping snow tires has largely disappeared for most Americans. In many northern areas, all-wheel drive has become an increasingly popular choice when offered as an option. But as much help as putting power through all four wheels can be, it simply can't substitute for a good set of snow tires.
Ultimately, grip comes down to four patches of rubber and if they're unable to make solid contact, the number of drive wheels becomes irrelevant. This became abundantly clear this past weekend while driving a new 2010 Subaru Legacy. The Legacy is a plush, roomy mid-size sedan with excellent outward visibility and Subaru makes an excellent symmetrical all wheel drive. Unfortunately, its all-season tires lacked traction. Read on after the jump for more.
On dry pavement all-wheel drive can be a major boon by splitting the tractive workload and leaving the front wheels to take handle steering. In the snowy conditions we endured this past weekend, it can also help claw its way through the snow. However, most cars can put out more drive torque than the tires can transmit. That means it's not at hard to spin up all four wheels when accelerating, at least until the traction control kicks in.
Now as much as we enjoy to exploit slip angles, it's best to keep the car within the limits of adhesion. Lack of grip is a fundamental problem with all season rubber and all-wheel drive won't help you get around an icy corner or halt forward progress at a stop sign. Without traction, the Subaru still had trouble turning and it was pretty easy to get sideways before the stability management kicked in.
The only solution to is fit tires that maximize grip in these conditions. All the major tire manufacturers produce winter tires and we highly recommend them to anyone living in areas subject to snowy winters no matter how many wheels are driven. The easiest thing to do is just by an extra set of rims and have the tires mounted. When winter arrives, put on the snows and stack the summer tires in the corner of the garage or basement, then reverse the process in the spring. It's money well spent, and certainly cheaper than body repairs and hiked up insurance premiums.
6:24 AM adi dimansyah No comments
In backward 1998, an all-new archetypal was launched. Not alone did the car advance the birth of antecedent S-Class sedans, but the W220 additionally had to annul some of the abrogating elements of the antecedent S-Class. The W220 faced annealed antagonism from rivals like the Audi A8 Mk II, BMW 7 Series Mk IV, Jaguar XJ Mk III, and Lexus LS/Toyota Celsior Mk III.
6:21 AM adi dimansyah No comments
The Toyota RAV4 (pronounced "rav-four") is a bunched crossover SUV congenital and marketed by the Toyota Motor Corporation. It was alien in Japan in 1994 and in Europe and North America in 1996 to baby to consumers absent a agent that had best of the allowances of SUVs, such as added burden room, college visibility, and the advantage of four caster drive, forth with the maneuverability and ammunition abridgement of a abate car. The aboriginal success of the RAV4 paved the way for added bunched SUVs such as the Honda CR-V, the Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute/CX-5, and the Subaru Forester. Its name stands for "Recreational Activity Vehicle, 4-wheel drive," although not all models accept four caster drive as this is alternative in some countries.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
11:53 AM adi dimansyah No comments
The Ancestry Edition includes P225/60R18 all-season touring tires and different 18-inch chrome clad auto with achievement suspension, performance-shifting five-speed AutoStick®, acknowledging achievement council accessory and a achievement bankrupt sound. The autogenous appearance SRT-inspired advanced seats with tri-color ancestry brand on the bench backs, an absolute autogenous two-tone blush aggregate and an upgraded 368-watt Boston Acoustic seven-speaker complete arrangement with subwoofer. It additionally appearance a new Smoke Translucent accomplishment on the high council caster and aperture cull handles. The Chrysler 300C Ancestry Edition is offered in three exoteric colors: Brilliant Black, Cool Vanilla and, at added cost, Inferno Red Crystal Pearl, the first, accurate red alone accessible on this Chrysler 300 model.
11:51 AM adi dimansyah No comments
Buyers accept a best of two four-cylinder gasoline engines to ability the new Chevrolet Aveo. The aboriginal has Multipoint bang and a accommodation of 1,150 cm3. It generates 53 kw/72 hp and develops its best torque of 104 Nm at 4,400 rpm. Like its bigger 1.4-liter sister, it comes as accepted with a five-speed chiral manual and complies with the Euro 4 emissions accepted due to appear into force in 2006. The four-valve 69 kW/94 hp agent with a best torque of 130 Nm at 3,400 rpm has two aerial camshafts and a capricious about-face assimilation arrangement that ensures decidedly aerial air throughput at low agent speeds, accordingly additionally ensuring a aerial torque level.
11:48 AM adi dimansyah No comments
The third bearing GS was aboriginal awash in 2005 as a 2006 model, with the anatomy codename GRS190. The archetypal calendar included the GS 300, with a 3.0 L V6 3GR-FSE engine, and the GS 430 with the aforementioned 4.3 L V8 acclimated in the antecedent model. The GS 300 has a direct-injection agent for all markets except for Continental Asia. The 3.0 L agent is additionally begin in the Toyota Mark X as able-bodied as the Zero Toyota Crown. A 4WD advantage was fabricated accessible in the GS300 only.
11:43 AM adi dimansyah No comments
The engines - both 140bhp and 189bhp versions - are already amid the best 1.8-litre ability units and they abide unchanged. Both are 1.8-litre accommodation and action Variable Valve Timing-intelligent (VVT-i) on the 140bhp adaptation and Variable Valve Timing with Lift-intelligent (VVTL-i) technology on the 189bhp version.
11:40 AM adi dimansyah No comments
Details of the fourth bearing Eclipse were appear during backward 2003 and 2004, and the car was apparent at the 2005 Detroit Auto Show. Features of the new archetypal accommodate a 263 hp (193.9 kW) 3.8 L MIVEC V6 and a 165 hp (123 kW) 2.4 L I4, both acquired from the 2004+ Mitsubishi PS belvedere family, with which the Eclipse shares abounding automated components. Like the 2004 Galant, the new Eclipse is FWD only, although a abstraction archetypal has been produced by Mitsubishi and Ralliart with an AWD platform, the 4G63 agent from the Lancer Evolution, and added advancing anatomy administration with carbon fibre. The V6 produces 263 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.
Friday, December 25, 2009
11:55 AM adi dimansyah No comments
The GTC amalgamation includes Ferrari's fourth bowl blended anchor arrangement (the aboriginal 3 actuality featured on the Challenge Stradale, F430 and Enzo) as able-bodied as a added performance-tuned abeyance system, low-restriction bankrupt system, and different 19 in wheels. The new brakes are based on the company's Formula One technology. They use 15.7 in discs with six-piston calipers in advanced and 14.2 in discs with four-piston calipers in the rear. The amalgamation is priced at US$23,500.
11:47 AM adi dimansyah No comments
2:26 AM adi dimansyah No comments
BMW's storied history of building roadsters dates back to the original 328 of the 1930s. However, there have been gaps in the brand's open-top lineage, including one extended stretch through the '60s, '70s and '80s. After a dalliance with the bizarre European market Z1, BMW finally got serious about roadsters again in the '90s with the introduction of the Z3.
Earlier this year, the Munich brand introduced what's essentially the third generation of its modern mainline roadster (discounting the aforementioned low-volume Z1 and the Z8) in the shape of its all-new Z4. Upon its introduction, the esteemed Mr. Harley took our first crack at the new "E89" at its Southern California launch last spring and came away with mixed feelings.
To be fair, whenever an automaker builds a new model, there's always a distinction between what the engineers and designers expect of it and what consumers bank on. There's also a big difference between spending a few hours on a prescribed driving route under controlled conditions versus living with a car as a daily driver for a week or longer. So we wanted to spend time with the Z4 on more familiar turf to see what life is like with BMW's newest roadster.
Aside from the Z4's new styling, the most notable change from the previous "E85" generation is the adoption of a retractable hard top in place of a fabric roof. In general, we're not big fans of hardtop convertibles due to the additional space they consume when folded – not to mention the additional weight they carry around. The new Z4 is about five inches longer overall than the last generation, and most of that length has been added to the rear end to accommodate the tin top.
Fortunately, the staff at BMW's DesignworksUSA studio have done an admirable job of maintaining the classic long-hood, rear cockpit proportions in this new iteration. In general, this new Z4 is a huge aesthetic improvement over its predecessor. Elaborate surface development was the order of the day the last time around, but to many eyes, the Z3's sheetmetal seemed to go every which way without much coherence. This time around, there's a more clearly defined flow to the Z4's curves and creases, with forms over the fenders and flanks evoking muscles stretched over a skeleton.
Much to our chagrin, Michigan's rainy skies afflicted much of our time with the Z4, meaning that we had to keep the roof up. However, this situation did help demonstrate that hard-hatted convertibles do offer a couple of functional advantages over fabric lids. When driven in the rain, the Z4 remained as tight and dry as any coupe with a permanent roof. The slim C-pillars also meant that apart from the headrest on the passenger seat and the fixed roll hoop immediately behind it, rearward visibility was outstanding.
Raising or lowering the roof proved to be as simple as holding down a switch at the leading edge of the center console for about 20 seconds. From outside the car, the stowing process appears decidedly convoluted as the rear deck opens, the rear window lifts up and all the assorted bits and pieces fold themselves away. The complexity of these tops always give us pause as a long-term ownership consideration, but we've yet to see any evidence of reliability issues with this top, so perhaps it's just our inner Luddites that long for the simple manual Z-fold of, say, a Mazda MX-5 Miata.
Our tester was a base sDrive30i, and as an entry-level model, our Bimmer was devoid of many higher-end toys like satellite navigation, which in turn meant that it had no iDrive controller. As much as the latest iteration of this all-in-one GUI controller has been improved, we were actually quite happy to have a driving environment free of such complexities, as going without seems more in keeping with the spirit of a roadster anyhow. Thankfully, in the iDrive's place there's a set of well arrayed and pleasingly straightforward controls.
Front and center in the console is a pleasantly short lever for rowing through the six-speed manual gearbox. Directly in front of the driver is a small, reassuringly thick-rimmed three-spoke wheel. Thankfully, it's not so small that it obscures the large speedometer and tach that dominate the instrument cluster. As with most modern BMWs, between the analog gauges is a red-orange LCD display that displays secondary information like mileage, radio stations and so on. The readout is easily legible except when wearing polarized sunglasses.
Unfortunately, there are two elements of the interior that strike us as decidedly out of place in a car that costs $50,000. Higher trim levels get a better covering on much of the dash panel, but the aluminum-look piece on our car was actually plastic and it wasn't fooling anyone. In an apparent move to placate drink-happy Americans, BMW also has tacked a cupholder onto the passenger side of the transmission tunnel, which just begs to be snapped off by an errant knee. There are a pair of cupholders under the center armrest, but they're too far back to be easily accessed. Tellingly, European models don't even bother with the forward cupholder and if we had our druthers, we wouldn't either.
Beverage gripes aside, there's plenty of good stuff to talk about – particularly the seats. The Z4 may not be a hardcore sports car, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't have excellent chairs, and here the roadster scores a solid ten. The seats don't have a lot of adjustments, but they don't really need it. The side bolsters are ample and firm enough to hold occupants in place during truly spirited driving, yet comfortable enough for long interstate slogs. Those with a long hip-to-knee span often find the lower cushion of many seats only reach mid-thigh. Fortunately, the upgraded seats that come as part of the Sport package in the Z4 have adjustable thigh supports that allow the seat cushion to be extended out closer to the mid-leg joint.
BMW's (labored) sDrive30i appellation denotes the company's normally aspirated 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine. While we're just as enamored with roaring V8s as the next guy, there's something simply sublime about a great straight-six, and it's a BMW hallmark. Unlike a V6 of any bank angle, inline sixes are inherently balanced without having to resort to band-aids like balance shafts. While the two turbos on the sDrive35i do an excellent job of inflating the torque curve, the more moderate 220 pound-feet of our un-boosted sDrive30i arrives at an eminently usable 2,600 rpm. That means cruising around town is a smooth and effortless process that doesn't require drawing excessive attention to one's self by revving out the engine all the time. That is, unless you want to – in which case the six will happily spin up to nearly 7,000 rpm all day long.
In urban traffic or on the freeway, the Z4 is a happy cruiser. With the top up, it's also a remarkably quiet place for a road trip, although you can still can still hear the pleasant engine note coming through. It's not the glorious wail of a high strung race engine, but it does have a mechanical sound that evokes precision machined internals. With the top down and the side glass up, buffeting is surprisingly subdued – even without any sort of wind blocker. For those interested in running the numbers, a normally aspirated Z4 like our tester will scoot to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds, yet the EPA rates the Z4 at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway regardless of transmission choice. We saw 23 mpg in mixed driving.
If you enjoy listening to something besides the tires thrumming along on the brushed concrete or the air flowing over your head, you may want to consider a serious upgrade to the stereo system. The base entertainment system simply does not have the auditory oomph required to overcome high speed air flow. Even maxed out, the volume was totally inadequate at 70+ mph.
We had an all-too-brief opportunity to sample another Z4 in the vicinity of California's celebrated Mulholland Highway earlier this year, and while our man Harley was right that the Z4 ultimately lacks the knife-edged feel of at least one of its primary competitors, this is still a car with a a very well-balanced chassis. As it approaches its cornering limits, the rear axle will smoothly drift out at least to the limit of what the stability control system will allow. And when the Bimmer's electronic overlords do intrude on the fun, they do so in a very smooth and progressive fashion. Rather than jerking the car back into line, the system simply holds the car at its the maximum allowable slip angle. As the time for directional changes approaches, the steering allows the driver to make adjustments with precision while feeding back information about how close the tires are to their limits.
Back here in the decidedly less glamorous environs of southeast Michigan, the opportunities for that sort of vehicular merriment tend to be more limited. Most of the roads are of the straight and flat variety, and they're often poorly maintained. The patchwork of random materials that make up many of the surfaces may not be good fun for fans of winding roads, but they do provide an ideal over-the-road laboratory for assessing structural rigidity, and they routinely have windshield frames quivering madly. All due credit, then, to BMW engineers, who have managed to create one of the most solid-feeling convertible structures we've ever experienced – the A-pillars exhibited no movement relative to the rest of the body.
Like all hardtop convertibles, the Z4's roof eats up a significant portion of the trunk space when retracted, and what's left is only accessible through a narrow slot. With the top up, the trunk is rated at eight cubic feet and with the roof stowed, the available space shrinks to just five or six cubic feet. Couples planning a road trip are advised to pack very lightly or run with the top up until they get to their destination.
Admittedly, BMW's latest is probably not the best track day companion, but after spending a week with the Z4, it's clear that BMW never intended it to be. Instead, this is a roadster that excels in the everyday world, yet is still one whose limits can be safely explored without fear that it will reach out and bite. Between its friendly power delivery, robust structure and snug-fitting hard-top, the E89 is a legitimate daily driver for virtually any region in the country. Even mounted with proper snow tires it would make a reasonable case for itself in the winter. So while the Z4 may not provide the last word for the weekend brain-bucket and Nomex set, for the average enthusiast it's a genuine pleasure and a worthy addition to BMW's roadster canon.