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First Drive: 2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo

A shape that grows on you.

by on Mar.29, 2010

Big, sure-footed and fun to drive despite its heft, the 2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo.

Change is the only constant.  If you’re a BMW purist, you might want to repeat that line a few times because the automaker’s line-up has certainly changed quite a bit in recent years, and some of the new entries take a bit of getting used to.

It was difficult enough for some Bavarian Motoren Werke aficionados to accept the idea of the original X5 SUV — a “sport-activity vehicle” in the maker’s parlance – bearing BMW’s double-kidney grille and “spinner” logo.  Then came the X6, not quite sport-ute, not quite sport coupe.

Now, we’re being asked to get our heads around the 2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo.  This strange brew isn’t really your classic GT, nor is it a sport-ut, despite the four-door’s surprising heft.  Stuck for an easy definition, we jumped at the opportunity to take it for a long weekend’s drive down the Autobahn from Munich, up into the Swiss Alps and, finally, back down into Geneva.

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Anyone used to the classic BMW sedan or coupe is likely to be in for a surprise when they get up close to the 550 GT.  While it’s not quite as bulky as one of the maker’s X models, it still carries plenty of heft, especially when you compare it to some of its Gran Turismo-class competitors, like the new Porsche Panamera or the Audi A5 Sportback.


First Look: 2011 BMW 5-Series Sedan

Said to be more dynamic, less formal.

by on Nov.24, 2009

The look is familiar, but there's an-all midsize sedan coming from Bavaria, the 2011 BMW 5-Series.

Familiar look, but there's a new mid-size sedan coming from Bavaria, the 2011 BMW 5-Series.

The Germans have a way of making the simple sound serious.  Officially, the imposing building in the center of Munich is known as the Forschungs- und Innovations Zentrum FIZ of the Group.  But Klaus Draeger prefers to just call it “the Project House,” as it’s where some of BMW’s most important projects go from concept to customer.

Like the new 5-Series, which the automaker pulled the wraps off this week, during a formal presentation at the Project House, where Draeger, the BMW board member in charge of R&D, keeps his main office.

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First impressions count, said Draeger, admittedly worried about making sure the new car would win over the sceptical media hordes.  Introduced in 1972, the 5-Series may not be the Bavarian brand’s biggest seller , but along with the ever-popular 3-Series and the new 1-er, “They account for just over half of our profit margin,” conceded the executive.


Sneak Peek: 2011 Hyundai Equus

New model to be positioned above Genesis sedan.

by on Aug.12, 2009

With the success of its Genesis sedan, the Korean carmaker is now confirming plans to launch the 2011 Hyundai Equus in the U.S. premium luxury market.

With the success of its Genesis sedan, the Korean carmaker is now confirming plans to launch the 2011 Hyundai Equus in the U.S. premium luxury market.

Once known for its cheap-and-cheerful little sedans and coupes, the South Korean carmaker Hyundai will continue its recent move up-market with the launch of an all-new flagship sedan.

Codenamed “VI,” and recently introduced in the Asian home market as Equus, the new car will be positioned as an even more luxurious offering than the Hyundai Genesis, which was named North American Car of the Year, by a jury of 50 U.S. and Canadian journalists, in January.

No horsing around!

No horsing around!

The automaker had been debating whether to bring Equus to the States – along with an assortment of other upscale products that it is developing for Korea.  To get a sense of the U.S. market potential, Hyundai showed a concept version of Equus at April’s New York Auto Show, notes Hyundai Motor America President and CEO John Krafcik.


First Drive: 2010 Acura TSX V-6

Filling a gap.

by on Aug.03, 2009

The 2010 Acura TSX V-6 fills a gap between the base sedan and the TL, which recently moved upscale.

The 2010 Acura TSX V-6 fills a gap between the base sedan and the TL, which recently moved upscale.

While virtually every luxury automaker has adopted some alphanumeric variation, Acura seems to have gone particularly out of its way to challenge potential buyers to keep up with its product line-up.  It’s too bad so many folks find it difficult to distinguish a TL from an RL and an RDX from a TSX, because they may simply turn to another brand entirely.  But these days, Acura has plenty of reasons to check out its offerings.

Indeed, the upcoming launch of the 2010 Acura TSX V-6 is all the more reason for sorting through the brand’s confusing nomenclature.  The base model in the Japanese brand’s line-up, the I-4-powered TSX has been a solid and appealing offering, affordable, well-equipped and reasonably sporty.  But Acura had a yawning gap in its line-up, after moving the latest version of its larger and more expensive TL up-market, a breach it is about to fill by adding a second version of its base model, the 2010 TSX V-6.

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While some makers might have gone out of their way to ensure you could spot the new model at a distance, Acura has taken a surprisingly conservative approach with its styling, doing little more than making the lower air intake functional and bolting on a V-6 badge.  It’s what you can’t see that makes the real difference, it turns out.

The heart of the new sedan is a 3.5-liter V-6 – shared with the larger, front-drive version of the TL – making 280 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque.  Significantly, you’ve got more torque, right off the line, than the old inline-four made at peak, and when you add in the extra 70 horsepower, the difference in performance is significant, the TSX V-6 turning 0 – 60 times of about 7 seconds, a full two seconds faster than with the base engine.