Cars

BMW releases new M4 video

This car video is a little bonkers, but it’a still a car I want anyways.

BMW has released an ad for it’s new M4 sports car – a car many of us will remember as the two door M3 coupe.


This is the latest in a series of outrageous ads from the Bavarian automaker, beginning with a video of the 1M smashing through concrete walls. I mean, what else would you think of doing with a 1M?

Fortunately the latest video is still outrageous yet it highlights sensible features you’d want with the M4, such as the grip to keep you from sliding off a racetrack on an aircraft carrier and the precision handling to keep you from going over the edge.

Oh, and there’s also the power to send you around such a course, drifting, most of the time.

This car appears to be a blast to drive.

BMW 750i with a ‘Bang’n audio system

IMAG0038_1While doing a motorcycle rider course the other day, I met a fellow who was lamenting the amount of time his luxury sports car spent in the shop.

Ron, let’s call him, had to leave his Ferrari with a car audio specialist for almost a month while they tore out the factory stereo to replace it with an aftermarket system that would sound better than the crummy configuration which was worse than the most basic rental car’s speakers.

Sometimes, if you tick the right boxes on the option sheet when ordering a new car, the factory audio system will be your best bet.

Such is the case with the 2014 BMW 750 equipped with the Bang & Olufsen sound system.

Sure, it is an extra $4,900 option on a car with a $105,500 base price. But for drivers who enjoy great sounding music behind the wheel, it’s one of the better optional extras to choose.

The sedan, as tested, was the 750i x. The x denotes this Bimmer’s all wheel drive system which sends power to all four wheels, coupled with variable torque splitting technology designed to drive the right power to each wheel at just the right time.

And boy, is it a good thing that there are four wheels tasked with the job of transferring the 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8’s 443 hp to the pavement.

From a standing stop, there’s enough power under the hood to push this BMW to the posted speed limit by the time it crosses an intersection, it would seem. The 750i can power on to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds.

Turbo lag is virtually absent and power delivery is smooth and plentiful on city streets while BMW’s xDrive keeps this sedan planted on straights and in corners. The traction is very, very good and it’s not easy to unsettle the plantedness of the 750’s ride.

Beside the gear level sits a series of switches that let you adjust the car’s characteristics, from soft and comfortable in Comfort+ to quick, nimble and sporty in Sport+. I personally found the default Comfort to be a a little boring, so the sedan stayed in Sport when I was behind the wheel. Sport mode also tightened up the steering, making it easy to carve around city obstacles in a large mansion-sized luxury car like this one.

BMW7-12XX-06Wrapping all this power is an elegant design that flows smoothly from a menacing grille at the front to a conservatively crested rear end. Thank goodness the Bangled rear is gone.

Since the model as tested had the M Sport Package, there were minor details that made this one stand out, such as the aerodynamics kit, which adds valences and lips around some of the edges, among other features.

That includes an M steering wheel, the centrepiece of one of the finest automotive cabins you’ll find.

The interior of this 750i is clad in opal white full Merino leather with a sporty alcantara roofliner, meanwhile piano black and wood inlay trim swoops across the dashboard and doors. The inside is a warm, inviting place to stay.

It’s also a high-tech place too, though most of it is disguised with comforting cabin materials and rock-solid build quality,

BMW’s iDrive technology makes navigating the infotainment system reasonably straight forward, and they’ve packed pretty much everything you could need behind the wheel at your fingertips – and a bit more.

For example, you can get news headlines read out to you, or check Facebook while the car is parked (because you can’t do that driving, for safety’s sake!).

The real gem in this cabin, however, is the Bang & Olufsen surround sound system. This things sounds miles better than the home theatre systems many people have in their homes.

Sound engineers from the B & O work with engineers from BMW to blend the best audio technology into the cabin of the 750. Materials are carefully selected, positioning of the speakers carefully checked, so that the music you hear in this car with this sound system comes out loud and clear.

BMW7-12XX-03

Boy, does it ever work.

Cranking up some Tragically Hip (sorry if you think that’s bad taste), it’s as if Gord Downie is standing on the hood singing down to you and your passengers inside. Guitar strings sing with clarity and bass notes are balanced in the sound system’s reproduction.

A lot of the clarity is thanks to the dash-mounted speaker, which emerges from the dashboard each time it’s turned on. The acoustic lens spreads highs throughout the cabin so that everyone can be in the listening sweet spot, whether they’re behind the wheel or behind the driver.

There’s even a little microphone inside that listens to what else is going on around the driver, adjusting the sound reproduction to adapt to different situations such as open windows or highway cruising. It sounds as good as a band playing live, minus the spit spraying out below.

The amount of technology packed into the BMW 750i is remarkable, able to help drivers stay in touch while behind the wheel yet it’s not too distracting nor is it intrusive, which is good considering how much fun this sedan is to drive.

And ultimately, a driver with a 7 Series wants to feel a little excitement behind the wheel every now and then – and sometimes it might just be provided by an excellent sound system.

Model: BMW 750i xDrive

Price as tested: $136,150

Rating: 8.5/10

 

What’s it like to drive the all-electric BMW i3 production car?

BMW_i3

 

LAS VEGAS – The homeless man didn’t hear me coming. There was nothing I could do but honk as he stepped onto the street, his back turned toward me.

There was nothing to hear as I crept up. I was going about 70 km/h and could hear only the rubber of the tires smoothly slapping the pavement while this four-door car rolled down a Las Vegas street, free from traffic and away from the crowds along the strip.

bmw_i3_cabinSilence, until the honk, and then he leapt back on to the curb.

The BMW i3 is the German automaker’s first production electric car. There is no gasoline engine, no small engine to extend the range. Just plug it in, charge up and drive away.

But it has the potential to be a game changer. My 45 minute jaunt around Vegas in the i3 changed my perception of electric cars.

The car’s lithium-ion battery is mounted in a manner that keep’s the car’s centre of gravity low – making the i3 as nimble as a figure skater, whether I was driving on open streets or in brutal CES gridlock.

And on the open streets, the acceleration is brisk. Put your foot down and all that 170 hp (equivalent) power is available right away. You actually have to get used to easing off the “gas” pedal soon after pulling away from a red light because you’ll be speeding in no time.

The instant and spontaneous acceleration — and the car’s eerily silent behaviour — are the two most astonishing things about this vehicle, to everyday drivers. It darts off like a rocket, silently.

The technical wizardry that goes on under the hood is astonishing too, but ultimately what matters is what the car is like to drive in real life.

To handle the real world, BMW says the i3 can travel between 130 and 160 km before requiring recharging, which takes three hours to return to full.

bmw_i3_frame

Inside, there are hints of BMW design cues but the interior doesn’t feel like the luxury cabin you’re used to seeing in the company’s cars. It’s sparse and simple, mostly to keep the i3 lightweight.
The outside, well, it looks different than other cars. At least one user Tweeted me to say they didn’t like the looks very much. I tend to agree.

The i3 is expected to hit BMW showrooms later this year and will cost about $41,000 in the U.S.

Would you buy an all-electric car? Could you see this in your driveway?

Texting and driving more dangerous than drunk driving for teens

Using a cellphone behind the wheel is more deadly for teenagers than getting in the driver’s seat after having a few too many drinks, new statistics suggest.

A study in the United States looked at how many teenagers were seriously injured or killed as a result of impaired driving. Those statistics were compared against how many teens were similarly affected by using a cellphone behind the wheel.

The researchers at Cohen Children’s Medical Center found that more teens are killed as a result of using a phone behind the wheel compared to crashes that were the result of impaired driving.

 More than 3,000 teens are killed from texting while driving, while about 2,7000 die as a result of imapired driving, the study found.

Despite laws in many regions that make it illegal to use a handheld device behind the wheel, the devastating effects of distracted driving are taking a toll on teens.

One of the problems is that smartphones are a constant threat to drivers, while alcohol is only occasionally consumed, one of the researchers told CBS news.

“The reality is kids aren’t drinking seven days per week — they are carrying their phones and texting seven days per week, so you intuitively know this a more common occurrence,” said Dr. Andrew Adesman.

Think you’ll be better off using voice-activated apps such as Siri and Vlingo behind the wheel? Not at all.

recently wrote about a new study that found using hands-free apps don’t actually make things safer behind the wheel.

What will it take to end texting and driving?

Voice-to-text apps don’t make driving safer: study

Siri_imageDictating a text message or email to your phone with Siri or Vlingo isn’t really safe at all, a new study has found.

Research by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute has found that there’s actually no “real” safety advantage to using voice-to-text apps versus traditional thumb-intensive texting.

The study put 43 people in cars and asked them to send messages while driving on a closed course.

Several provinces in Canada have banned motorists from using handheld devices such as cellphones behind the wheel.

But as drivers use an iPhone’s Siri or Vlingo on Android to dictate commands and messages, they’re putting themselves and others on the road at just as much risk of getting into a crash.

Regardless of how they were using their phone, drivers sending a message using their thumbs or their voices took twice as long to react to road hazards, such as impending crashes and roadside objects, versus those not using their phones at all. The distracted drivers also spent less time looking at the road.

The study also found that drivers felt safer using voice-to-text apps compared to those manually typing out messages, but both were just as bad for their safety.

The dangers of physically texting while driving are well documented. Recently, the family of a Colorado teen released a picture of his phone – which shows he was sending a text before fatally crashing his car.

Do you find it hard to resist the urge to respond to a text message or email while driving?

Review: Cadillac ATS 4 is a sports car in the body of a family car

The Cadillac ATS sits in 10 cm of snow. It's also quite good on clear roads - serious.

The Cadillac ATS sits in 10 cm of snow. It’s also quite good on clear roads – serious.

When most people think of Cadillac, they think of old men with white (or no) hair, skin as wrinkled as the leather on a sofa in a frat house and a smile as straight as an Italian politician.

Generally, Cadillacs were known for being big boats on wheels with handling as nimble as an elephant’s, and luxury as current as a turntable.

photoSo, given the chance to take the new 2013 Cadillac ATS for an extended test drive, I had low expectations – and I was a little anxious.

The weekend I was handed the keys to the car was the weekend I was supposed to head out of town to check out a wedding venue off the shores of Georgian Bay.

Snow was falling in the city and my trusty Audi TT, outfitted with winter tires and Ingolstadt’s legendary Quattro all wheel drive system, would stay tucked away in my parking garage.

So instead of driving the car with four rings, I had a car that GM boasts was developed at the ‘Ring – the Nürburgring, that is.

About three centimetres of snow coated the roads Friday night as I ventured through city streets to pick up my fiance who was meeting me at a subway station.

Cars around me slid to a stop and spun their wheels through the white stuff.

The rear Cadillac logo, a little frosty after a night on the roads.

The rear Cadillac logo, a little frosty after a night on the roads.

This was no ordinary ATS, however. Cadillac had sent me the four-wheel-drive ATS 4. Setting it into Snow mode adapted the ride and power for trudging through the fluffy stuff that most of the other drivers were struggling with.

And that gave me extra time at stop lights to get acquainted with the bells and whistles of the ATS. Seat warmer? Of course. Heated steering wheel? Nice – especially after dusting off the car. More USB charging ports than I can think of using? Check – including one hidden behind the centre console that lets me plug my phone into CUE, Cadillac’s techy  control system.

CUE – while taking some time to learn – offers up a large capacitative touchscreen to control everything from the temperature to the navigation system to my music, tunes which pumped out through a potent BOSE sound system designed to mask the sound of the four-cylinder turbocharged 2-litre engine.

But despite being a gadget guy, I’m also a gearhead. And I wasn’t going to dwell on the gadgetry of this car configured in the Performance trim level.

The rest of the night, I charged on through country roads covered in snow. The Heads Up Display meant I could focus on the road ahead, without having to move my eyes down to the instrument cluster.

It’s not that the rest of the interior is something I’d want to avoid, however. For the most part, it’s built of good-quality materials. Bucket seats keep the front occupants snug in position.

My only complaint about the interior surround the plastic cover on top of the instrument cluster. Everything else feels like it belongs in a modern luxury car, but that one piece of plastic over the instrument panel feels cheap and plasticky.

Twisty roads surround my destination, and clear weather provided the ultimate conditions for putting the ATS through it’s paces. With traction coming from each wheel, I drove into a corner carrying enough speed that would have sent a RWD car into the ditch. (more…)

Toyota to put wireless phone chargers in cars

Toyota is going to have a feature in one of its new models that will let you wirelessly charge your phone while you drive.

The 2013 Toyota Avalon, when equipped with the technology package, will have a charging mat in the cabin, according to a BBC report.

All the driver (or passenger) will need to do is leave their smartphone on the mat and let it charge.

This saves you from having to fumble around for a charging cord – or battle over the cigarette adaptor socket.

The feature isn’t cheap, however. It’s bundled in the $1,950 “technology package.”

And don’t expect that feature to work with all phones right away. Toyota says it’s only compatible with handsets that use the Qi standard (pronounced chee).

Read more

App calls out bad parking with humiliation for all to see

Are you sick of those smug guys with flashy BMWs, who park their cars diagonally across two spots? Or the fellow with the Land Rover who parks on the curb, because he can?

We’ve all seen awful parking jobs and stared helplessly at their disgraceful automotive habits. But some folks have decided to call out the bad parkers.

An online news group in Russia has created an app to call out the most hideous parkers around.

The Village is using its new app – Parking Douche – to call out bad parking jobs for all to see.

Read more

Music Monday: Calvin Harris feat. Example – We’ll be coming back

One of my favourite producer/DJs is back with another smashing hit track.

Watch the video blow for Calvin Harris’ latest track featuring Example – We’ll be coming back. It not only features a solid tune, but a wicked video (I’m biased since I like cars).

 

How not to drive a Lamborghini [VIDEO]

A group of friends pull up behind a yellow Lamborghini at a stop light. The Gallardo’s big engine note provides the opening soundtrack, and then the friends in the car hypothesize about what will happen.
“He’s going to fly.”
“He has so much room.”

And then, this happened:

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