• LA preview: 2015 BMW X5 M

    October 30, 2014
    BMW has revealed its second-generation X5 M ahead of the SUV’s official unveiling at the Los Angeles auto show.

    Tweaked by BMW’s high-performance M division, the 2015 X5 M arrives with the distinction of being the brand’s most powerful all-wheel drive vehicle to date. That title comes courtesy of a revised 4.4L twin-turbocharged V8 that makes 567 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque.

    That power is put to the ground via a new eight-speed M Steptronic transmission with Drivelogic. BMW says the X5 M can accelerate from 0-60 in 4.0 seconds and hit a top speed of 155mph – not too shabby for a vehicle that weighs just over 5,000 pounds.

    But despite those performance chops, BMW says the all-new X5 M is 20 percent more efficient than its predecessor. Final EPA ratings, however, are unavailable at this time.

    Equipped with BMW’s Dynamic Damper Control, the X5 M can be set in one of three driving modes – Comfort, Sport and Sport+. The same three modes can be selected in the X5 M’s steering settings.

    Braking duties in the X5 M are handled by six-piston calipers at the front and single-pot clamps at the back. The M division increased the size of the X5 M’s pads by 50 percent, which should translate into even better stopping power. The new brakes are also lighter than the outgoing model’s, improving the X5 M’s overall handling characteristics.

    The X5 M stands out compared to its standard counterpart thanks to a few M-specific styling cues, including larger front air intakes, side gills with M badging, sports exterior mirrors, quad-exhaust outlets and unique 21-inch wheels.

    Inside the X5 M features an M instrument cluster, leather-wrapped steering wheel with aluminum paddle shifters, multi-function M seats and a Head-Up Display.

    X5 M buyers can also choose from a few M exclusive packages, including a Merino full-leather trim. M buyers also have access to two unique paint hues – Long Beach Blue Metallic and Donington Grey Metallic.

    Following its Los Angeles debut, the 2015 BMW X5 M will go on sale with a starting price of $99,650, including a $950 destination fee.

  • LA preview: 2015 BMW X6 M

    October 30, 2014
    BMW has lifted the veil on its new 2015 X6 M ahead of the Sports Activity Coupe’s public debut at next month’s Los Angeles auto show.

    Blurring the line between SUV and high-performance luxury coupe, the X6 M arrives with a stat sheet that would make most sports cars blush. Power from the X6 M’s 4.4L TwinPower V8 is up a modest 3 percent to 567 horsepower, but torque has been given a healthy 10 percent boost to 553 lb-ft. Sending power to all four-wheels via an eight-speed M Steptronic transmission, the X6 M can scorch its way to 0-60 in just 4.0 seconds. The X6 M’s top speed is limited to 155mph.

    EPA figures for the 2015 X6 M have not been released, but BMW says the high-performance hatchback has improved its economy by 20 percent on the European cycle.

    Following the M design philosophy, the 2015 X6 M wears a revised front end with more air inlets, side gills with M badging, an exhaust system with four tailpipes, a rear spoiler and a functional rear diffuser.

    The interior of the X6 M has been spruced up with a bespoke M gauge cluster, M sport front seats, M steering wheel with paddle shifters and a Head-Up Display.

    Born and raised on Germany’s Nurburgring, the X6 M boasts an engine oil system that can operate normally at up to 1.2g of lateral acceleration. The X6 M’s all-wheel drive system was also bred for performance, with the system capable of sending 100 percent of the engine’s power to either the front or rear wheels, depending on traction conditions.

    The X6 M rides on a suspension that has been lowered by 10mm, but comfort shouldn’t be an issue thanks to an adaptive damping system. The X6 M has three selectable suspension modes – Comfort, Sport and Sport+. There are similar setting for the vehicle’s steering system, ensuring the X6 M is just as at home on the road as it is on the track.

    M-specific 21-inch wheels – shod in Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber – cover 6-piston brakes at the front and single-piston calipers at the rear.

    Pricing for the 2015 BMW X6 M will start at $103,050, including a mandatory $950 destination charge.

  • Safety watchdogs: NHTSA is corrupt; execs need prison time

    October 30, 2014
    Safety watchdogs Clarence Ditlow and Ralph Nader have launched a scathing attack on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, accusing the agency of corruption and coddling the industry rather than enforcing recall regulations.
    In a lengthy op-ed for The New York Times, the duo claims the NHTSA backed down from its 2009 investigation into Honda airbag problems after the company hired a former NHTSA official to serve as a liaison.

    “Beginning in the ’80s, however, numerous officials — including Diane K. Steed, Jerry Ralph Curry, Sue Bailey and David L. Strickland, who all served as head of the agency, and Erika Z. Jones, Jacqueline S. Glassman and Paul Jackson Rice, who all served as chief counsel to the agency — have gone on to become consultants, lawyers or expert witnesses for auto companies,” the pair writes.

    The safety advocates argue that legislators need to put an end to the revolving-door conflicts of interest, implement new regulations to hold executives criminally accountable, and enforce the new rules via prison time in egregious cases.

    Following the General Motors ignition-switch recalls, some legislators have warmed to the idea of implementing punishments for executives who are found guilty of failing to quickly report safety issues. Automakers have traditionally remained victorious in their opposition to such proposals in years past, however.

    Recent reports suggest the Obama administration is looking for a new leader at the NHTSA. The current acting administrator, David Friedman, is not believed to be on the list of potential candidates to take the position.

  • Chrysler introduces Ram 700 compact pickup for Mexico

    October 30, 2014
    Chrysler has introduced a new compact pickup, the Ram 700, that has been developed for Mexico.
    The diminutive model is said to be based on the Fiat Strada, with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that traces its roots back to the Neon, according to Allpar. The powerplant is good for 115 horsepower, sent to the front wheels, with a payload capacity of more than 1,500 pounds.

    Images show a regular-cab two-door edition and an extended-cab configuration, with seating for four and a suicide door for the rear passengers. It will be aimed at other small pickups in the local market, such as the Volkswagen Saveiro.

    Several major automakers are rumored to be considering compact pickups for the US market, however Chrysler has not publicly confirmed any intention to offer the Ram 700 north of the Rio Grande.

    Buyers in Mexico and the Caribbean will be able to pick up the Brazil-built 700 for the equivalent of approximately $14,000 USD. Pricing for the extended-cab model jumps to $18,000 USD.

  • GM begins $63M expansion at Michigan assembly plant

    October 30, 2014
    General Motors is set to begin construction on a $63 million expansion at its Lansing Delta Township facility in Michigan.
    The plant will add an additional 263,000 square feet of floor space, providing extra room on the general assembly line and significantly growing the body and paint shops. The bodywork zone will benefit from the latest tooling, including newer robots, while the paint shop will accommodate additional coating processes to help increase corrosion resistance.

    The location has been open since 2006 and currently handles production for the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. Operations currently require nearly 3,300 workers, though the latest announcement does not mention any additional jobs to accompany the buildout.

    The expansion is part of a broader $300 million investment plan, which aims to improve GM’s Michigan manufacturing capabilities.