Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Is BMW about to abandon its I6?

With the next M3 around the corner, engine rumors are heating up and those with inside sources are saying that BMW will use a V6 , the rest of us have You Tube videos to analyze. There are three reasons why BMW would want to switch to a V6 from its traditional inline six cylinder layout: two improve performance, for marketing reasons, and to make Audi fans say I told you so (as in Audi used a turbo V6 in its RS4 many years ago). Clearly the first two reasons are significantly more likely to be true. The new V6 which would likely place the turbos between the cylinder banks could allow for better turbo response and the V6 configuration could make for a shorter engine. Using the V6 instead of an upgraded inline six seen in the 335i also gives the marketing folks the ability to differentiate the M3 from its lesser 3 series siblings. Words such as groundbreaking, bespoke and unique can be used to justify the M3's pricing premium. A different engine removes the 135i (with chip tuning) vs. 1M debate and dilemma and allows for a significantly bigger price cushion between a 335i and an M3. Not as strong of an argument as a high RPM V8 on the current M3 but the next best solution keeping while keeping the fuel economy in mind.

In reality both reasons probably play a role if the next M3 does come with a V6 and not a familiar I6 but only BMW knows what the ratio of importance between marketing and performance is.

Will the next M3 feature a smaller version of the M5's V8

Or an updated version of the tried and true I6?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Styling Element Spreads like Wildfire

A blast from the past styling element is the new trend in the auto industry, and this might not be a good thing. It is showing up on compacts, sedans, vans, hybrids, super cars and everything in between and the results are a mixed bag. We are talking about the A-pillar quarter glass not seen since the days of vent windows of the 1960s. The modern version doesn't provide fresh air but looks to be a necessity in the world of big wheels, wide pillars and sleek rooflines. While some cars like the Lamborghini Aventador, McLaren MP4-12C, Volkswagen Touareg, and Toyota Prius V are able to employ the benefits of the A-Pillar without compromising their design others are not so lucky and end up ruining their design. What's scary is that it appears that the quarter window is growing in size with every new generation, the Honda Fit is a good example of this. If designers don't slow down the quarter glass will turn into a half glass or worse.
The "vent" quarter window prevents the SX4 from having any chance at a cohesive design
The Fit has one large "quarter" glass at the A-Pillar

The MP4-12C keeps its quarter glass small and doesn't hurt the design

The Prius V integrates its quarter window decently well
Thankfully this is not sold in America

This quarter window blends in with other creases in the Aventador

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rumor: EPA Adjusts 328i's Impressive Fuel Economy Ratings

As the old adage goes, if something is too good to be true it probably is. When BMW announced the new F30 328i with the 2.0 liter turbo four cylinder it announced a new powerplant with 240 horsepower and a competition beating 24 city and 36 highway fuel economy rating when paired with the 8 speed auto. This made the new 3 series a sports sedan with the fuel economy of a compact. However, the folks at Bimmerfest are reporting that the EPA has/will adjust the 328i auto ratings to a more believable 23 city and 33 highway. Numbers that are still very good but not nearly as magical. While EPA's official is still reporting the old figures, BMW's own website says that the 328i auto will only achieve 23/33 mpg.

So the million dollar question becomes, how did this fuel economy fiasco occur? While the EPA ratings appear government official, the reality is that the agency only independently verifies only about 15% of all of the ratings that it publishes. Testing every single model on sale would certainly run up the tax payer bill. The manufacturers submit the ratings according to their own testing (using the EPA protocol) and then the agency audits some of the ratings to keep everyone honest. It appears the 328i automatic got audited and there was a discrepancy.