Posts tagged BMW

New technology will tell drivers when traffic lights change

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Should you slow down with urgency or coast with caution to a red light?

A new feature set to be available on certain BMWs will tell drivers when traffic lights will change, and whether they’ll be seeing red or green.

The Bavarian automaker is rolling out a new feature that taps into the traffic signal network of certain cities in the U.S. and Australia in order to tell drivers what’s about happen on the lights ahead.

Powered by Connected Signals, a cloud-based system that receives red or green light data from various cities, drivers will receive a relevant chime or visual notification  based on the anticipated behaviour of upcoming lights. The app also uses data from the car, such as its location and speed.

If the light is about to turn red, they will see a red light notification on the dashboard display accompanied with a countdown. Likewise, the same will happen for a green light.

What if the driver is about to turn left or right rather than drive straight through? If the turning signal is activated, the driver won’t receive a traffic light notification.

In a statement released late last week, BMW USA said any BMW with the BMW Apps feature will be compatible with Connected Signals’ Enlighten App.

This screenshot of the BMW EnLighten app shows when a left turn signal will expire.

This screenshot of the BMW EnLighten app shows when a left turn signal will expire.

Drivers without a BMW can still get the app, but it won’t integrate with their dashboard displays.

It’s not known if the feature will be available to Canadian BMW customers at the same time as U.S. availability.

Why know the lights?

One obvious benefit is that drivers may be able to arrive at their destination more quickly if they’re able to “beat” the lights.

However, BMW highlights the potential for this feature to increase safety and save fuel because the predictions will help drivers avoid unnecessary acceleration or sudden breaking.

The actual savings might not be as remarkable, however.

Other features available from a handful of automakers are also designed to save fuel, without having to keep an eye on the traffic signals.

Many vehicles are available with start-stop systems which turn off the engine at stop lights, or in stop-and-go traffic. The fuel savings, however, may not be considerable. 

Some cars with large engines can also turn off cylinders when the extra oomph isn’t needed.

Review: BMW i3 hints at our future of electric cars – and it’s fun

20140615_164247_HDRThe boy in the Subaru behind me was sleeping when his father, in the driver’s seat, must’ve woken him up.

The pointing, and then the sun-shielding hand above his eyes as he gawked at the car in front couldn’t be missed from my vantage point, glancing in the rear-view mirror while stuck in traffic.

I was driving what was arguably the most noticeable car on Highway 401 that day. More noticeable than a Ferrari, a Smart or a Tesla.

It was the BMW i3.

It’s the Bavarian company’s first foray into a production all-electric car, and it’s a good one.

The i3 is more of a family car or a daily commuter, appearing shorter than a 3 Series and with a much higher roofline.

Lithium Ion batteries along the bottom of the car store enough electricity to power the i3 for 160 km of driving, BMW says, depending on driving style. The particular i3 I tested also has a range extender, which is essentially a gas generator, to provide additional range (via electrical charge) for up to an additional 300 kms.

Important to note here, is that range really depends on your driving style. Considering the i3 can accelerate to 60 km/h in just under 4 seconds, it’s very easy to shrink your range with each standing start from a red light, especially since you can beat most other cars on the roads, all the time.

Acceleration with the i3 is unbelievable. Unlike traditional gasoline engines, torque from the electric motor is available right from the start.

With the “gas” pedal, you have to be so vigilant to avoid speeding since this electric car gets up to speed so quickly. It’s as if you’re pouring paint from one can to another over freshly finished floor – overdo it, and you could be in a bit of a mess.

The brakes are just as reactive, quickly bringing this carbon fibre-framed car to a stop.

Because the batteries are low along the bottom, the i3 carries a low centre of gravity so despite weighing, it’s actually fairly nimble.

The ride, meanwhile, can seem hard and jarring over potholed roads, such as stretches of Lawrence Avenue or Dufferin Street in Toronto.

Other than the eerie absence of engine noise, the i3 drives like a normal car. It has air conditioning, seat heaters , and a fancy I ConnectedDrive infotainment system – which connects to the Internet and makes everything, well, connected.

I was able to see my vehicle’s energy consumption – 15.9 kWh / 100 km. Using Toronto Hydro’s mid-peak electricity rate of 11.2 cents / kWh, it would cost about $1.78 for every 100 km I drove. And it wasn’t like I babied the accelerator to achieve the highest level of efficiency.

By comparison, BMW says its 320i consumes fuel at a rate of 7.1 litres / 100 km. Depending on the price of a litre of gas…you can see which one is more cost efficient.

Charging can be done at home by plugging the car into your typical wall outlet (with a provided adaptor) and it takes about 12-15 hours to fully recharge the i3.

The i3 charging at a Tim Hortons in MiltonThe better option is to find a ChargePort charging station and get topped up in about three hours (for 80% charge). They can be found at several malls, parking garages, and even at a coffee shop on the outskirts of suburbia in Milton.

If you neglect to charge the car entirely – and you ticked the option box for the range extender – the tank is less than $5 to fill.

I was able to go a full weekend without ever stressing out about my range, and I could imagine drivers going up to the cottage driving models equipped with the range extender.

How do people respond to the BMW i3’s looks?

These cars feature a two-tone paint scheme – my loaner was grey and black, along with blue accents. To be honest, it appears to be as sexy looking as a vacuum cleaner, but it still manages to turn heads everywhere.

One day, while trying to go out for a run, I was stopped by neighbours and spent more than 20 minutes explaining how the i3 works and what it’s like to drive.

There was also a family at the Tim Hortons, a cyclist on his bike, and that boy and his father I mentioned at the start of this piece.

From sustainable manufacturing to zero emissions, I could go on about how this car is as good for the environment as it is to spend a summer planting trees, but I think this is just the hint of what most of our cars will be like in the years to come.

And it’s fun.

Price: From $44,950

 

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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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