Saturday, October 2, 2010

2011 BMW 535i

Recently I had the opportunity to get my hands on a 2011 BMW 535i. This is BMW's latest revision of their popular 5series mid-sized sedan. The redesign of the popular car was necessary after the either love it or hate it comments that plagued the previous generation. The new car looks worlds better with lines that help to deceptively hide its growing waist line. The newest iteration is longer and wider... much akin to previous generation 7series models, but by the design of the car, it looks much smaller. The lines are similar to the newer 7series, just smaller.

The engine is powered by BMWs three liter turbocharged (down to a single twin scroll turbo from the previous twin turbo design) engine. The car provides excellent off the line power with almost no perception of turbo lag thanks to it's unique design. Power is a plenty and torque is available from 1700rpm in the power band to almost red line. What is unique in design is BMW utilizes the turbo design to help boost low end performance and torque but tapers off boost pressure in the higher RPM ranges because the engine already had plenty of punch in that area and added turbo pressure is not necessary.

The engine is mated to a new eight speed transmission which is silky smooth. One could argue that it has too many gears, but at the same time to achieve sports car acceleration while maintaining economical fuel ratings, many gears are needed. And this car accomplishes that, acceleration for a car of this size is more than adequate and with a fuel consumption of over 30 miles per gallon at 70mph, it is enough to keep many happy.

The interior is also revamped to be more spacious while accommodating for the desires of the newer demanding customer. The dash is redesigned with a unique layout featuring illuminated gauges that fall to complete black when powered off. The center console is very functional with common buttons easily reachable and the iDrive controller which quick reach. iDrive speed is quick and navigating the menus is fast and direct.

The ride of the car is smooth and while many have said it feels spongy compared to previous cars, I beg to differ. The car does what it is designed to do... be smooth and responsive and as such, it takes away a little from it's raw nature. As an overall package, it is an excellent car and as such no doubt will outsell it's previous counterpart with ease.

Go drive one, you will be impressed.

Monday, November 9, 2009

2009 Dodge Viper Roadster

What's this?! The keys to a Dodge? Looks like it is going to be another boring week. With shoulders sagging and a cloud of gloom looming over my head, I take a gander outside looking for what excuse for a car we will be reviewing this week. As I look down the line of cars all I see is bland, blah, boring, mediocre, and hmmm, something shiny and red. I like shiny!

Hit the alarm key fob and the shiny red blinks and my gloom and doom turns into devilish excitement. The nice shiny red thing is a 2009 Dodge Viper... convertible. Oh boy, the gas bill is going to be high this week. With a hop in my step, I scoot on over to the monster and open the door and slip behind the wheel. Hmmm, kinda tight. Maybe I need to shed a few pounds and shrink a few inches. Negligible and not important.

First things first... the top must go down, this is a convertible after all. Looking around, there is no sign of a power top down switch. Fathering this is a pure sports car, they could not be bothered with heavy electrical motors, so we grab what looks to be the emergency release for the cargo drop from a C130 and pop the top flies off. With a quick toss of the hand, I throw it back and uh... Houston, we have a problem. The top will not sit snug. Open the door and fall out (we will discuss this later) and stand there scratching head for about five minutes trying to reverse engineer what the people at Dodge were thinking. Finally, I give up and look for the manual. Ah Ha! The trunk must be open to put the top down. Twenty seconds later, the top is down and I am grinning once again. Sitting in the car going over the dials and cluster, you can see that this is pure sports car, no frills. Insert key, push (and HOLD) Engine start button and the monster beneath the hood roars to life.

Instantly, you know this is going to be fun. Figure while I wait for the monster to catch its breath and warm up, let's take a look and this snarling monster. Looking around the driver's tunnel, there is no sign of a hood release. Check the glove box, the center console, the driver's door jam... Nothing. Argh! Pull out the manual again... OH the release is up front, go figure. Fiddling with the releases, the hood flies open and 8.4L of shimming engine stands before me breathing deeply and patiently waiting for instructions. I must point out that the design of the engine is simply breath taking. The red engine covers, the silver intake manifolds all connected to a very forward air box which reads in big letters 8.4L V10. I start jumping up and down like a little school girl giddy with excitement.

Jump back into the driver's seat and that takes some work as that exhaust tunnel is now breathing hot exhaust on your shoes and it takes quickness to jump in so you don't smell like exhaust fumes. Snug in the cabin, adjust all the mirrors and hmm, can't find a seating position that allows me to see over the rear trunk area. Pfft, oh well... What is behind me is of no consequence!

First thoughts, ugh... gastly. Why exactly is this car so much money again? The steering is heavy, the clutch is super long, the gear shift is awkwardly placed and the throttle response is down right dismal and I haven't even made it to the exit of the parking lot. Ok, I'll give it points for having a extremely awesome exhaust note that will scare the neighbors, but so far... this thing is looking to be a failure. The people driving this car must love punishment, and what's going on, why is the foot well so hot. Too anxious to figure it out, flip the A/C on even though the top is down to help offset the heat.

Muscling the car out of the parking lot and through traffic filled roads really makes me second guess my decision for taking this car out. It is far from comfortable, clutch travel is long and throttle response is quite poor which I'm guessing is just a function of all the rotational mass under the hood. The monster that I thought was there seems to be a snoring bear instead of a snarling tiger. I'm beginning to think this car was highly over rated and I am going to ask for a refund. Flip the visor down to block some of the sun light beaming through the windshield only to find out the sun visor blocks all forward visibility because it extends right down to the steering wheel. Not waiting to give up, I proceed on squinting in spite of blinding sunlight. And why is my seat hot and my legs roasting?!? Please god, let me find some open road before I get cooked.

Up ahead, I see an opening! Blinker goes on manage to get over and make the turn and on to the express way we go. With second gear firmly engaged, my foot goes to the floor to merge on to the highway. Holy hell! The once sleeping bear that didn't want to move has turned into a snarling 400lb tiger that is now sitting on my chest. The force of acceleration is blinding! As the RPM swings near redline, sink the clutch grab third and continue on. The acceleration knocks you back and you watch the speedo fly north. Everything is a blur. The numbers on the speedo have changed from your typical digits to legal, illegal, jail followed by time travel and spontaneous combustion as the needle flies past. Fearing for my life, I come off the accelerator hoping that the fire breathing monster under the hood decides to spare me. As I coast back to sanity, I think unbelievable thoughts to myself. My eyes are bug eyed open and my heart is trying to slow itself down so it does not burn up. For those brief seconds everything in the world did not matter. My only focus was enjoying the car, all my complaints had become null and void.

When driving, acceleration is a mere moment a way depending on what gear you are in. The lower the gear, the wider the grin from ear to ear. Even in sixth gear when cruising at 70ish mph and the engine turning a piddly 1500rpm, the massive monster under the hood has enough torque to increase speed without hesitation. However, this isn't a car to be driven lightly. You want acceleration, drop from 6th to 3rd and mash the gas. Doing that little gear change turns the sedate sleeping bear into a angry tiger who has been kicked in the private parts. Anything around you turns into a blur of color as reality turns into a 80s version of star wars rendition of light speed.

"Enough about the speed already" you say. Well, we will come back to the speed part, but you may be wondering, how does it handle? Can it turn? Yes, it can turn, and turn well. Once moving at a decent speed, the massive 275mm wide tires up front can be turned with minimal effort. Push it through a few corners and you will find that the massive tires up front have tenacious grip but will start to under steer at the limit. Boo, under steer is no fun. Solution? Apply more throttle. That's right, that 8.4L V10 cures under steer with massive amounts of over steer. However, be on your toes as those 345mm tires out back have gravity altering amounts of grip, but when they let go, they let go with a mighty snap and before you know it, you have your hands scrambling for opposite lock over steer correction. Do not ask me how I know this, just take it for what it is.

As you can imagine, with massive front tires, braking ability is down right superb. I recommend often braking as hard as possible from speed because if you are like me always taking advantage of the 600hp for earth rotation altering starts, you have to help contribute to keeping the rotation in check by using the brakes to counter act your fun. That's right, by far, this car has the best braking ability tested from 80mph. Repeated tests from high speeds just were not possible due to the shear capabilities of this car, but I have no doubt reassuring you that if you have to stop more than once from light speed, you should not have a problem. Should you decide to travelling into the spontaneous combustion area of the speedometer though, you are on your own.

What I have learned from having the chance to drive this car though is that it is down right awful. The visibility out of the car is poor, the handling through the city is atrocious, the gas mileage is down right dismal. However, when you are out on your weekend and you have your foot to the floor listening to the angry beast under the hood roar from the exhaust pipes just past the door sill, all of those problems become not important. The only thing you think to yourself is, how far can I go without running out of gas, because I do not want this feeling to end.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

BMW Performance -- Upgrade your 335i or just buy an M3

This is not really a review, at least not yet (unless someone wants to supply us with a DINAN 335i S2). DINAN has long been a tuner of BMWs and up until recently was available and numerous BMW dealerships (as they were DINAN authorized). However, with BMW bringing their own performance products to the table, some BMW dealerships are starting to drop their partnership with DINAN in favor of installing their own performance products.

This story comes from an interesting question found on the internet. Given the choice, would you purchase a DINAN 335i S2 or a original BMW M3. Key arguments against the DINAN 335i S2 is that by the time you put all of the items available from DINAN on a 335, you are within 3-5k of the price of an M3 and you don't get some of the trick items available on the M3. Other claim that buying a DINAN 335i S2 makes you different than the crowd, making you more unique and more of a "sleeper" keeping prying eyes at bay and keeping insurance premiums low (compared to the M3).

So what say you... stop by the link and vote. It will be interesting to see the outcome.