• GM claims Silverado beats F-250 in frame-twist test [Video]

    October 15, 2014
    General Motors has released a promotional video showing its Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD beating the Ford F-250 in a frame-twist test.

    Both pickups were driven up staggered ramps that left one of the rear wheels left hanging in the air, torquing the cargo beds and misaligning the tailgate position relative to the cab. The test was performed by third-party research firm AMCI Testing, but commissioned by GM.

    The Silverado is claimed to have demonstrated just 0.26 inches of displacement, measured between the cab and the cargo bed, while the F-250 distorted by nearly a full inch.

    The twist was so great on the Ford that when under stress, the tailgate could not able to be lowered, while the Silverado’s available EZ-Lift and Lower Tailgate operated normally,” GM said in a statement.

    The company argues that its Silverado integrates high-strength roll-formed steel, compared to lower-grade stamped steel “and aluminum” used by competitors. Although the test was limited to heavy-duty pickups, GM has maintained a defensive marketing campaign to promote its steel-clad pickups as inherently stronger and more durable than Ford’s new aluminum-bodied F-150.

    Ford has worked to assuage such fears, promoting aluminum as just as tough when properly engineered. The company outfitted earlier-generation F-150 pickups with aluminum beds for several years of undercover field testing — unbeknownst to the mining company that received the experimental trucks — to tweak the design for improved durability early in the development process.

  • Toyota recalling 1.67 million vehicles to address 3 defects

    October 15, 2014

    Toyota announced Wednesday that it is recalling nearly two million vehicles worldwide for three separate defects.

    The automaker has faced public and official backlash ever since its ongoing unintended acceleration issues first came to light. According to Bloomberg, this marks the fourth time Toyota has recalled more than one million vehicles this year alone. Only General Motors, still reeling from its ignition switch debacle, has recalled more units in 2014.

    The largest of the three recalls affects 802,000 Toyota Crown Majesta, Crown, Noah and Voxy vehicles overseas and an unspecified number of Lexus GS models (Crown platform) in the United States. These vehicles have a faulty seal in the brake master cylinder that can cause fluid to leak into the brake booster. Recalled vehicles will receive a replacement seal and possibly a replacement brake booster if the seal has already failed.

    Next in line is a recall of 759,000 vehicles worldwide to address faulty fuel delivery piping that could leak and potentially cause a fire. This recall includes 423,000 Lexus IS, GS and LS models sold in the United States.

    The third recall applies only to Corolla Rumion and Auris models sold in Japan. 190,000 units are being recalled to address a defective evaporative emissions control unit.

  • Audi confirms LA concept to showcase new design language

    October 15, 2014
    Audi has quickly confirmed details surrounding a teaser image that leaked yesterday, showing a concept car that will be brought to the Los Angeles Auto Show.

    The concept represents the first show car that bears the signature of Audi’s new head of design, Marc Lichte. He is credited with working on production models including the Golf 5, 6 and 7; the Passat 6, 7 and 8; and the Touareg and Phaeton.

    For 45 year old Lichte, who was appointed Head of Audi Design in February 2014, the core competences of the brand – sportiness, lightweight design and quattro drive – all have a high level of importance,” Audi said in a statement. “In a highly emotional and new design idiom, Marc Lichte communicates the technical competence and uncompromising product quality of the Audi brand – vehicle design is becoming an even stronger expression of progressive technology.”

    Although the car is merely a concept, it promises to “mark a new beginning in Audi Design” with a fresh language for both the exterior and interior.

    Previous reports suggest the concept previews a new flagship sedan, likely arriving eventually as the A9.

  • Lamborghini pushes 3,000 Huracans in just 10 months

    October 15, 2014
    Lamborghini has announced that its new Huracan has already reached 3,000 sales in just ten months.

    The Gallardo’s successor is helping drive one of the best years yet for the raging bull, with sales already up nearly 50 percent compared to 2013 — the third consecutive year of revenue increases, propelled by the Aventador.

    More than 1,000 of the shipments have headed to US buyers, and the rest split between international markets.

    In the Americas we worked together with our dealer partners to outline their launch outreach strategy from a new perspective,” said Lamborghini COO Alessandro Farmeschi. “As a result, we are watching a success story unfold.”

    The company expects to sell 3,600 Huracans before the end of the year.

  • First drive: 2015 BMW X6 xDrive50i [Review]

    October 15, 2014

    If the collective motoring press had been absolutely correct about BMW’s first-generation X6, we wouldn’t be here now writing about the second-generation. Quite frankly, we were wrong. The apparent answer to a question no one was asking at the time, the X6 has proven that buyers don’t always know what they want until they see it. Now, nearly seven years later, hunkered-down fastback SUVs are the ultimate personal vehicle. BMW has sold more than 260,000 X6s, and Mercedes-Benz, Acura and others have followed suit.

    Building on the success of the first generation, the second-gen X6 follows the same playbook. Based on the current X5, the new X6 once again borrows its front clip (hood, fenders and windshield) from its more family-friendly sibling, but features a lower roofline and slipperier shape to create a sports car-like four-door. BMW breaks no new ground here in terms of design, adhering to its typical pattern of “revolution, then evolution.” Expect something more radical perhaps from the third-generation X6, but for now it’s really more of the same.

    Bigger, lighter, slipperier

    The 2015 X5 sits on the exact same wheelbase as its predecessor at 115.5 inches, but the entire package has grown in overall length (+3.6 inches), width (+0.2 inches), and height (+0.5 inches). Despite casting a larger shadow, BMW has managed to pull a few pounds out of the new X6, with curb weight down from 5225 pounds to just under 4950 pounds for the V8-powered X6 xDrive50i. By using aluminum for the hood, magnesium in the instrument panel structure, and molded thermoplastics in the front fenders, most of that weight has come off the forward half of the vehicle, improving handling dynamics and response.

    BMW also spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel with the new X6, bringing its drag coefficient down to as low as 0.32 from 0.35 before. Its air curtain design in the front fascia channels air around high-turbulence zones like the tires, while “air breathers” in the front fenders extract air smoothly from the wheel wells. The longer bodywork also helped with airflow management over the rear of the vehicle.

    The reduction in weight combined with the smoother shape results in a more efficient X6 overall. For the xDrive50i model, with its 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8, BMW claims a 22 percent increase in efficiency on the European test cycle. The EPA numbers are a bit less optimistic but nevertheless improved, showing 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway/17 mpg combined ratings compared to the 2014 model’s 14/21/17 figures.

    Oh yeah, more powerful too

    A cursory glance at the spec sheet might lead you to believe the new X6 xDrive50i has simply carried over the old model’s 4.4-liter turbo V8. Read further. You’ll notice that power is now up from 400 hp to 450, with torque jumping similarly from 450 lb-ft to 480. The added grunt comes from the addition of Valvetronic, BMW’s variable valve lift system that eliminates the traditional throttle body (and the parasitic pumping losses that accompany it) for greater power and response.

    The engine still employs direct injection and places its two turbochargers in the “V” atop the engine for a unique reverse flow. Peak power is made between 5500 and 6000 rpm, while maximum torque is possible across an even broader spread between 2000 and 4500 rpm.

    An eight-speed automatic is still the only transmission offered on the X6, but it happens to be the Sport version of BMW’s excellent ZF ‘box, which now features a launch control function. Combined with the standard all-wheel drive system, the X6 xDrive50i drops almost half a second off it 0-62 mph time, now at 4.8 seconds.

    How does it really drive?

    Numbers are numbers, but they hardly matter if all the pretty parts don’t play well together. A day of on-road, off-road and on-track driving at BMW’s Performance Center, just across the road from where all X6s (and X3s, X4s, X5s and in the near future X7s) are built, seemed as good a chance as any to explore the various features and technologies found within the new model.

    The suspension setup on the new X6 is essentially carried over from the previous model, with double wishbones up front and BMW’s sophisticated multi-link arrangement in back. Optional rear air springs were fitted in place of fixed steel coils as part of the adaptive suspension package. Our test cars also benefitted from the addition of the optional torque-vectoring rear differential.

    First, let’s get off-road driving out of the way, because this is the least likely scenario for most X6 owners. Not that the vehicle isn’t capable; we tested its 26-degree tilt limits, its hill descent control, traction control in the absence of large wheel articulation and can confirm the X6 has far more capability than it may ever be called upon to use. In fact, with a set of knobby tires, the X6 might actually be a formidable back-road warrior, with its short overhangs, 8.3 inches of ground clearance and 19.7-inch fording depth.

    More important than testing its capabilities off-road was perhaps the opportunity to play with the new xDrive status page on the information display. With its hi-res 3D graphics, you can see exactly which wheel your torque is being apportioned to, and get other real-time dynamic stats like roll angle and incline.

    On the track, we had an opportunity to flog the X6 on a couple of different maneuver courses, including a tight slalom, a short road course, and a wet skid pad. The combination of wicked-fast dynamic sensors and active anti-roll control in the X6′s optional Dynamic adaptive suspension allows the two-and-a-half-ton vehicle to seemingly defy the limits of physics. In its firmest setting, Sport+, the suspension reacts to inputs quickly enough to prevent any significant body roll through corners. With the outside tires shouldering less burden than normal in hard turns, handling is more predictable at the limits.

    The chassis is still tuned for understeer, but the grip of the tires becomes the real limiting factor. The standard wheel and tire package includes 255/50 rubber on 9.0×19 wheels at each corner. Ours was equipped with the optional 20-inch wheel package with 10-inch wide front and 11-inch-wide rear wheels mounted with 275/40 and 315/35 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT ultra-high performance tires, which enhance overall grip but further bias traction to the rear for more pronounced understeer once the limit is in sight. This is where the torque-vectoring rear differential comes in handy, as its two small electric motors can actually accelerate the outside rear wheel to correct the track, effectively negating understeer.

    On the track, the new X6 feels more responsive and less ponderous than its predecessor in fast maneuvers, though the differences are probably more related to the electronic tuning than the modest 75-pound weight loss. On the road, it’s difficult to discern as much of a difference. The X6′s suspension is well sorted for its primary mission of taking up to five people in comfort regardless of road conditions. The 20-inch wheel package hardly affected ride quality, with the big rollers soaking up whatever the road threw at us.

    Electric power steering makes easy work of pointing the X6, regardless of speed. The front brakes on the xDrive50i model have been enlarged from 365 mm to 385 mm, adding a little extra braking capacity to the lighter, more balanced 2105 version.

    Looks that kill

    While it’s important that the new X6 drive like a BMW, it’s really the design that sells it. From the start, the X6 has been a visual statement. BMW calls its styling extroverted. Others may say it’s a middle finger to convention. Either way, the X6 doesn’t care what you think.

    Though its nose is shared, the coupe-like profile is its signature. Its small greenhouse accentuates the muscular, powerful shape below it. The aesthetic works, and BMW knew better than to mess with it. Instead, new details like wider taillights and additional surfacing in the rear fenders add to the dramatic silhouette. The roof line is slightly longer, and the rear hatch sits some 20 mm lower than the previous model for a faster look.

    The interior, likewise, is based on the X5, sharing its instrument panel design, including the large 10.2-inch tablet-like center display. Knee pads mounted to the center console and upholstered in leather, give the X6 a unique look and, in theory anyway, serve as functional bracing supports during hard cornering.

    The front seats are mounted 18 mm lower than in the X5, however, lending a slightly sportier driving position but also preserving headroom beneath the lower roofline. Five-passenger seating is standard now, with a four-passenger option available.

    The interior gets a new palate of premium materials including brushed aluminum, high-gloss poplar, or open-pore fineline wood trim in the dashboard. Leather is standard, and there are numerous options including bold two-tone and perforated hides. The optional M Sport package replaces some of the leather trim with grippy Alcantara.

    Regardless of the options, the X6′s instruments are now fully electronic displays, with virtual needles and a variety of display configurations depending on the selected drive mode. The doors and dash are also fitted with a waistline accent strip which can be illuminated in blue, orange or white for the ambiance of your choice.

    The new design isn’t all for style’s sake, as the cargo area is now larger than before by about 15 percent. The rear hatch now features standard push-button close, and the rear seats now fold 40:20:40 for greater cargo and passenger flexibility.

    Options abound

    Needless to say, the options list for a self-described personal luxury coupe are nearly infinite. The base car includes such high-end kit as bi-xenon headlamps and 19-inch wheels, but other goodies like navigation and convenience access are still extra-cost. Other options include a 1200-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system, adaptive LED headlights, head-up display, night vision, self-parking, and a rear-seat entertainment system, to name just a few.

    Performance enthusiasts can opt for the M Sport package, with restyled bumpers, unique 19- or 20-inch wheels, firmer suspension and sport interior trim. Eventually, a proper X6 M will also be offered, with at least another 100 horsepower plus even more advanced chassis hardware.

    The 2015 X6 xDrive50i will arrive in dealers starting in December, and in the spring the 306-horsepower turbo six-cylinder xDrive35i will join the lineup. There will also be a rear-drive version of the six-cylinder model, the sDrive35, for markets where all-wheel drive is not a major necessity.

    LeftLane’s bottom line

    The BMW X6 is one those cars you either love or hate. The mostly-new 2015 model isn’t going to change any minds. For those that love the look and performance of a sporty SUV without the upright constraints of a boxy design, it’s an improvement over the original. For those that just don’t get it, the new version is just more of the same. We wish it were a bit more distinctive than its predecessor, but for now we think lighter, faster and more efficient is a good start.

    2015 BMW X6 xDrive50i base rice, $72,900. Destination and Handling $950, Two-tone interior package $1950, Driver assistance package $1200, Full LED lighting package $1900, Dynamic handling package $4500, Executive package $4600, Bang & Olufsen sound system $3700, M Sport package $3500, xLine package $2500, Rear seat entertainment $2200, Active steering $1550

    Photos courtesy of BMW