Month: April 2017

Nissan USA’s Nashville Skyline Revisited.

Nissan USA’s Nashville Skyline Revisited.

Whenever we receive an invitation to see Nissan USA’s headquarters, it’s rare the invite is refused. That’s because the company HQ just happens to be near one of the most exciting cities in America, Nashville, Tennessee. That it was to test-drive the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport is just icing on the cake. Nashville is the home of Country music, which despite the current fascination with the “Bro-Country” genre, is definitely not lost on me, so naturally, there was just no way I was going to miss this excursion.

Sure, I own a pair of Justin boots that don’t get nearly as much wear, as they should. I also own a Stetson hat but don’t even go there. Hats, and my diabolically shaped head don’t play well together. So, while the Stetson cooled itself in my closet back home, my Justin’s made it through the TSA checkpoint just fine.

The 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport at Nissan Headquarters in Franklin, TN.

The 2017 Rogue Sport is the newest family member of the best-selling model in the Nissan lineup, and this continuation looks to be right in line to continue the CUV’s good fortune. With seating for five, it should be just the thing for urban-dwelling millennials to haul around close friends and their stuff.

Landing at Nashville International Airport was a familiar beginning to an adventure that started with a troubadour playing classic country right outside Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge airport outlet. Shortly thereafter, a greeter from Nissan and Prestige Auto Specialists was whisking us away to our hotel in Nashville’s “Gulch” that was formerly a Louisville & Nashville Railroad freight yard in another life. Now a hipster haven, it is home to artist’s lofts, galleries, excellent restaurants, whiskey tasting rooms, music venues and even a few progressive recording studios.

But the one thing we did notice was a considerable downturn in the boot-wearing population. Normal kicks seem to be the order of the day, and despite the image of a rhinestone cowboy dancing around in your head, there was no hint of a Nudie suit to be seen anywhere.

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with the Sons of the Pioneers in their Nudie Suits.

With those thoughts in mind, Nissan took us on a deep dive, which included visits to microbreweries, visual art museums, artist workshops, artisan chocolatiers, and recording studios that favor new alternative artists including one actually owned by one of the most prolific alt-rockers of this age. Although we missed seeing him in person, we spent several evenings at Jack White’s Third Man Records studio, checking out new era vinyl and one very old do-it-yourself recording booth as used by Neil Young on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

Venture over to East Nashville for a taste of the up and coming, which will satiate the eyes and the stomach. They include incredible street art curated by the Nashville Walls project. Co-founder Éva Boros described a life of eating Ramen in the rain, before finding her calling in Nashville’s art world. The result is now some of the most incredible mural designs on earth by artists such as Banksy and Nathan Brown.

Third Man is a crossroads where classic country, alt-rock, shredding and other styles of music intersect and the result couldn’t be any better. Founded by the leader of the White Stripes and Raconteurs, not to mention numerous other music projects, it has been the scene of groundbreaking recordings such as Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose album as well as the studios where chanteuse Margo Price cut her latest. The gift shop is well stocked with vinyl from the Third Man catalog as well as anything else a JW fan could want.

Jack White’s Third Man Records.

Owners of Nashville’s Native Magazine told of the city’s burgeoning art, food, and fashion scenes, which show no signs of letting up. With upwards of 85 new residents moving to the Music City each day, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, it is clear why there is a building boom going on downtown, as evidenced by the abundance of towering construction cranes along downtown’s skyline.

Inside the studio’s Blue Room which does double and triple duty as a dining room, soundstage or photo studio, performers like the Paul McDonald Band showed how being second or third place on American Idol can actually make you a winner everywhere else. Alternative rockers The Roosevelts showed great songwriting skills, not to mention some righteous beards during their set.

Nashville has been through more than a few changes since the Grand Ole Opry was founded in 1925. Opry show runner George D. Hay has more than likely turned a few RPMs in his grave as a result.

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Oligarch for a day in the 2017 BMW M760i xDrive

Oligarch for a day in the 2017 BMW M760i xDrive

Being the halo car means nothing is spared. Or, at least that’s the way it’s supposed to be. With the 2017 BMW M760i xDrive, the company has pulled from all disciplines and departments to provide a top line offering that can go head to head with all the other halos in the business.

 Subtly understated with its matte-black finish, the M760i makes a quick U-turn from that subtlety in exchange for a little bling on the D-pillar. Spelling out V-12 means it’s the biggest engine on offer. It’s also somewhat prophetic that BMWDesignworks chose to place the V12 designation directly above the fuel filler cap. That alpha-numeric lets all others, including your business manager, know you’re a big spender.

2017 BMW M760i xDrive

Cruising in the new Borscht Belt.

We are cruising on East Hallandale Beach Boulevard-the new Borscht Belt. Forget the Catskills in upstate New York. This borscht is Russian, owing to the influx of residents from the former Soviet Union. Nightclubs keep up the tradition of over the top food and entertainment, coupled with copious amounts of vodka. With thuggish looking bodyguard types chainsmoking outside, there must be an oligarch or three in our midst as the parking lot is littered with a Phantom Roller, a couple of Bentleys, a Merc and more. Save a spot for our murdered out 2017 BMW M760i xDrive, which would not look out of place, whether you are Millionaire Russian Playboy, or not.

The M760i is one of the new “bridge the gap” series of BMW vehicles that are classified as M-Performance models rather than an actual M7. That’s why BMW sells the Alpina B7 hot rod instead. But M-Performance doesn’t mean it’s a slouch. The 760i features the brand’s first M Performance TwinPower Turbo 12-cylinder engine, which actually slots in as a 6.6-liter V12. Single scroll turbochargers sit on either side of the cylinders to help it produce 601 horsepower at 5,500 rpm, and 590 lb-ft of torque at just 1,500 rpm. Zero to 60 mph ticks off in just 3.7-seconds and is electronically capped at 155 mph. But why, damn it? That’s like being chemically castrated.

2017 BMW M760i xDrive

That power is sent through a ZF 8-speed Steptronic Sport Automatic transmission for dynamic and sure shifting through the range. Launch control is included but really, do you seriously plan on going to a track day in this car? Paddle shift levers let you place the gearbox in manual mode where it will hold the gears until you actually shift it. Just be prepared for it to bang up against the rev-limiter if you forget, once the stoplight turns green. The xDrive system features a rear wheel bias that enthusiasts demand, and is coupled with the anticipatory chassis control and active comfort drive with road preview, that allows the M760i to utilize all its talents to minimize body roll while maximizing comfort tuning. Oh did we mention it gives great throat? When driven in anger, the 2017 BMW M760i xDrive bellows out a guttural moan that will cause the hair on your neck to stand right up.

Former Trump pen-pal, Vlad Putin, your chariot awaits.

2017 BMW M760i xDrive

As tested: $154,795.

Destination fee, $995.

 

Key Specs

Cylinders:                                            V-12

Displacement:                                    6.6-liter

Power:                                                 601 hp

Torque:                                               590 lb-ft

Fuel System:                                      Petrol Direct Injection

Fuel:                                                    Premium

Acceleration:                                     0-60mph in 3.7 seconds

Drive Type                                         xDrive All-wheel-drive

Gearbox:                                            8-speed Shiftronic Automatic

Tire Size:                                           20-inch

 

City:

Highway:                                          Are you serious?

Combined:

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2018 Lexus LC 500 First Drive

2018 Lexus LC 500 First Drive

Getting behind the wheel of a sporty Lexus has been a spotty affair since the brand was founded back in 1989. While the brand has had a great success with their sedans, there have been a few sporty hits, but mostly misses, on the path to establish the company as a full-line Japanese luxury brand. That was until recent years where Akio Toyoda decided enough was enough. That was until the 2018 Lexus LC 500 and LC 500h.

Fat, drunk and stupid Stodgy, boring and not very fun to drive is no way to go through life. (With apologies to Dean Wormer in Animal House https://youtu.be/rs_PkNkB-wQ ) So it was very apparent by Toyoda-san’s joyful display at the 2016 NAIAS in Detroit, that the brand had finally found its footing.

With the 2018 Lexus LC 500 and LC 500h, do we have just another pretty face or does this newest grand tourer finally have what it takes to compete in the world of high-zoot personal luxury cars?

A sheep in wolf’s clothing or more?

The 2018 Lexus LC 500
2018 Lexus LC 500 5.0-liter engine

The 2018 Lexus LC 500 is a front-engined, rear drive, 2+2 placed sports machine. Offered from the start with a choice of two powerplants, the lead engine will be the 5.0-liter naturally aspirated, direct injection V8 engine that produces 471 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque. It will be mated to a first-for-the-segment 10-speed automatic transmission that Lexus tells us is as fast as some dual-clutch gearboxes found in sports cars costing thousands more.

As an alternative to that engine, and capitalizing on the Lexus parent company’s expertise in hybrid technology, the brand managed to stuff a Lexus Hybrid Synergy Drive system into the engine bay of the Lexus LC 500h. Based on an Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V6 with two electric motors for a net 354 total horsepower. Instead of the ten-cog gearbox, the LC 500h uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that combines with a more traditional four-speed transmission, which works to keep the hybrid’s 3.5-liter V6 running in what engineers have determined to be the powertrain’s sweet spot. The system allows the electric portion of the drivetrain to giddyup to 87 mph before it starts drawing from the gasoline-powered V6.

2018 Lexus LC 500h Hybrid

The gas and the hybrid models of this 4,290-pounder top out at an electronically limited 168 and 155 mph respectively. While the gas V8 manages 16 city, 26 highway, with a 19 mpg average, the hybrid achieves 26 city, 35 highway and 30 combined. Zero to 60 from the gas 5.0-liter ticks off in 4.4-seconds, while the hybrid manages the same feat in 4.7.

The LC 500’s suspension manages to bypass the latest in high tech offerings including variable air suspension systems in favor of a more traditional front and rear multilink suspension with electrically assisted power rack and pinion steering kit. An optional rear-steering system is part of the LC’s Performance package and provides the means to shrink the LC’s turning circle or assist in lane change maneuvers. In total, the entire suspension system helps the LC sportscar perform more rigidly than the LF-A supercar

They said it couldn’t be done.

Doing a quick walk around the car, it is clear that there really is no bad angle from which to look at it. Design yields to innovations, including a nearly flat bottom for improved aero, and scoops in the lower front fascia that channel air over the outsides of the wheels, both front and rear similar to the Air Curtain feature found in select BMW models.

Mr. Toyoda asked, “Can it be done? Would it be possible to go all out and make a truly luxurious grand touring sport coupe worthy of the L-logo and the signature spindle grille?” About that spindle grille, we think this is the first time in a Lexus model where the cinched-waist opening really fits the design, rather than fighting it. The hood, fenders and door panels are aluminum. The rest of the exterior uses composites throughout, and even has an available carbon fiber roof.

Built on Lexus’s new GA-L platform that it shares with the new Lexus LS sedan, it is built to compete against the likes of the BMW 650i, Jaguar’s F-Type and the Mercedes-Benz S550 Coupe. It manages to fit right in while remaining completely different from the others. Pricing is different, too, starting at $92,000 for the 2018 Lexus LC 500 with its naturally aspirated V8, to the LC 500h Hybrid, which checks in at $96,510. In the grand scheme of things, that’s almost in bargain territory.

 

The 2018 Lexus LC 500

Being a two+two grand tourer seems to be a bit of a reach. But the whole concept seems to be, doesn’t it? It does manage to source interior inspiration directly from Maranello, Italy, home of Ferrari. We loved nearly every aspect of the interior including the finely stitched leather that covered the high-performance driver and passenger seats. But all was not totally perfect. We thought it came up a bit short with the touchpad, which should be taken back for a bit of refinement. And then there was the LC’s fly-by-wire gearshift control. Despite its leather-wrapping, it still seemed as though it was pilfered from Toyota’s Prius parts bin. It just doesn’t seem a proper fit in a luxury sports coupe.

Either way, the cars appear the same except for the blue-background hybrid badging.

Behind the wheel.

The Lexus LC 500 features the same engine found in the GS-F and the RC-F. Sonorous, almost F1-like in nature, it punctuated the exhaust notes with an audible pop at the change of a gear. The closely spaced gearbox climbed rather quickly through the cogs, getting to the optimal ring in short order. But could this be a case of overkill? We experienced a bit of hunting while cruising around, which may just be the indicator that, in this case, maybe eight truly is enough.

Acceleration is sharp enough in both versions of the LC 500, with the shifting of the gears holding just long enough to make it interesting. When it reached the optimal point, a slight backfire is heard offering the emotional appeal that got you interested in cars in the first place, right?

This grand tourer is almost a one-size-fits-all proposition that could work for a wide variety of drivers. Think of it as an Aston Martin with reliability. It’s just the thing if you would like a little cash back from your $100-large. Still, with only 400 samples being built each month, and with dealers trying to eek every last cent out of a transaction, finding one at that price might be like finding one of those unicorn things.

Another cool thing: Lexus plans to go racing with the LC 500 in the IMSA WeatherTech and other European and Asian racing series. Do they have what it takes? Time will tell, but as a betting man, we’d say yes. According to Lexus officials, the brand is here to leave a mark.

Base MSRP: LC 500- $92,000.   LC 500h- $96,510.

Destination Fee: $995.

Key Specs                                 LC 500                                                       LC 500h

Cylinders:                                      8                                                                      6 + two electric motors

Displacement:                              5.0-liter                                                          3.5-liter

Power:                                           471 @ 7,100 rpm                                          354 hp (combined)

Torque:                                         398 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm                               256.7 @4,900 rpm

Fuel System:                                Direct Injection                                            Direct Injection

Fuel:                                             Premium                                                        Premium

Acceleration:                              0-60mph in 4.4 seconds                             0-60mph in 4.7 seconds

Drive Type                                  RWD                                                               RWD

Gearbox:                                     10-speed automatic                                    Multi-stage Hybrid

Tire Size:                                     245/45RF20, Rr: 275/40RF20               245/45RF20, Rr: 275/40RF20

Unladen Weight:                       4,280-pounds                                             4,435-pounds

Length:                                        187.4-inches                                                187.4-inches

Width:                                         75.6-inches                                                  75.6-inches

Height:                                        53.0-inches                                                  53.0-inches

Wheelbase:                                 113.0-inches                                                113.0-inches

Cargo Volume:                           5.4-cubic feet                                              5.4-cubic feet

Cd:                                                0.33                                                              0.33

City:                                              16                                                                  26

Highway:                                     26                                                                 35

Combined:                                  19                                                                  30

 

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”18″ gal_title=”2018 Lexus LC 500″]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 BMW 5 Series First Drive

2017 BMW 5 Series First Drive

The brand from Bavaria has always been cutting edge, so when it came time to introduce the 2017 BMW 5 Series, what better place than in Palo Alto, the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. As do most manufacturers, BMW, too, has a Research & Development facility right in the heart of the state’s tech corridor, which allows them to stay competitive with most aspects of car development including the automated automobile.

BMW 5 Series

Seventh-generation.
The BMW 5 Series is a four-door, five-passenger mid-level executive-class sports sedan. Built in Dingolfing, Germany, it will be offered in North America with two engines including a 2.0-liter TwinPower turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine (530i) that produces 248-horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Your second choice is a 3.0-liter TwinPower turbocharged inline six-cylinder (540i), which now produces an additional 35 horsepower. Netting 335 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, both powerplants sidle up to an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive ($2,300) is an option, and just the ticket for the brand to go head-to-head with Audi’s A6 Quattro, the Lexus GS350 AWD and Mercedes-Benz E Series 4Matic. There is little doubt that an M550 and M5 Performance model will soon be on tap as well. It’s just a matter of time.

Just the same, that doesn’t mean the 530i isn’t very spritely. It manages a 0-60 launch in 6.0-seconds while the 540i completes the same sprint in 4.9-seconds. Equipped with the M Sport package, the top speed for both vehicles jumps from 130- to 155-mph.

Tiny steps, big results.
You won’t really feel changes in the length, width and height of the new 5 Series unless you are sitting in the rear seat which now has an additional 1.2-inches of legroom. The use of high-strength steel and other structural innovations that helped the new sedan shed about 137-pounds. The weight reduction and improved fuel efficiency should allow the 530i to achieve mileage of 24 city / 34 highway, while the 540i should check in at 20 city / 30 highway. We say should because our tester was so heavily zooted that it probably regained all the weight it lost.

The High Line.
The interior of the 2017 BMW 5 Series maintains many of the features that made it a standout in years past. Borrowing from the company’s 7 Series flagship, the new 5 includes the iDrive 6.0 controller with track padding via finger traces. The system also includes BMW’s Gesture controls,

BMW 5 Series Gesture control.

which are activated by pointing in the proximity of the 10.25-inch HD display screen. First seen in last year’s 7 Series, a driver can rearrange function tiles, and map sizes through a pinching of two fingers, while a swirl of a pointer finger raises and lowers audio system volume.

For a partial performance boost, our 530i and 540i testers were both equipped with the M Sport Package ($2,600) that feature M Aero kits with larger air intakes, rocker panels, rear diffuser and exhaust system bits. The car rides slightly lower than normal thanks to the M Sport suspension and 19-inch sport wheels. The 20-way Luxury Seating Package offered heating, ventilation, and a massaging function that could easily lull you to sleep- if you were in the passenger seat.

From an in-car entertainment standpoint, the new 5 series is adequately equipped with a standard 205-watt audio system. Still, buyers will likely choose the mid-level ($825) Harman Kardon system or step up to the plate for the 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system, for a rather icy $4,200, which can be augmented by a rear seat, dual screen entertainment system for another $2,200.

Technology talk.
There is enough new technology on board the new BMW 5 Series to make it feel right at home in the middle of Las Vegas’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Drive Dynamics Control allows drivers to choose settings ranging from ECO PRO, Comfort, Sport and optional Adaptive modes. In adaptive mode, steering, transmission and damper controls are set and infinitely adjustable according to road surfaces and locations that are determined by the active BMW Navigation Professional system which sends realtime road conditions to the unit. The same navigation system can also read topography to sense a grade climb, and will then downshift according to optimal engine and fuel efficiency settings.

BMW 5 Series

One of the slickest features of the new BMW 5 Series comes from the Remote Control Parking system that is exclusive to the 540i model. Slightly smaller than a smartphone, the remote control key fob allows a driver to exit the vehicle, say for example, in the case of a narrow parking slip, and then “drive the vehicle” via a finger trace, into its parking spot. It really does work.

Wheel time.
Driving the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder found a capable engine that will likely be the brand’s best selling mill. The 530i’s 248 horses delivered with minimal lag, and the 258 lb-ft of torque appeared at a somnambulistic 1,420 rpm. A steadily progressing box of gears provided smooth shifts from the Steptronic eight-speed, almost to the point that changes were imperceptible. The optional Integral Active Steering was so well sorted, we didn’t know the car was even equipped with it, until we noticed it on the window sticker.

The higher performance 540i managed to appeal to our emotions in a more visceral sense. With a positive push into the seats the moment we stepped on the accelerator, to the audible pop from the six-cylinder’s exhaust gate, the car offered a satisfying jolt to the senses, at every turn. The new 5 Series will have you opting for the long way home, nearly every time.

To gain access to this information, Mark Elias Media Services attended an event sponsored by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

2017 BMW 5-Series Sedan
Base MSRP: BMW 530i $51,200. As tested: $74,150 (includes $995 Destination).
Base MSRP: BMW 540i $56,450. As tested: $81,910 (includes $995 Destination).

Key Specs
Cylinders: 4 (530i), 6 (540i)
Displacement: 2.0-liter (530i)3.0-liter (540i)
Power: 248 hp @ 5200 rpm (530i)
335 hp @ 5500 rpm (540i)
Torque: 258 lb-ft @1,450 rpm
332 lb-ft @1,380 rpm
Fuel System: Direct Injection
Fuel: Premium
Acceleration: 0-60mph in 5.8 (530i) and 4.7 (540i) seconds
Drive Type RWD
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic
Tire Size: 245 /45 R18
Unladen Weight: 3,815-pounds
Length: 194.6-inches
Width: 73.5-inches
Height: 58.2-inches
Wheelbase: 117.1-inches
Cargo Volume: 18.7-cubic feet
Cd: 0.26
City: 24 (530i) 20 (540i)
Highway: 34 (530i) 30 (540i)
Combined: 27 (530i) 24 (540i)

 

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”17″ gal_title=”2017 BMW 5 Series”]

Uncle Sam (NHTSA) Explains It All For You

Uncle Sam (NHTSA) Explains It All For You

NHTSA Videos Show How New Car Technology Works.

Consumers are finding a virtual alphabet soup of acronyms that are built into their new cars. Features like LDW (lane departure warning), LKA (lane keep assist), BSW (blind spot warning), and other such word games are helping to make driving safer than ever, but just how do they work? Here comes “your Uncle Sam” to the rescue.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) breaks the latest automotive safety technologies down for consumers with the help of former MythBusters star Adam Savage. In a series of videos lasting less than two minutes each, Savage, who is now found on Tested.com, gives brief examples of what all the fine print on your new car window sticker actually means.

Blind Spot Detection Systems
Blind spot warning systems help to prevent willy-nilly moves like this.

The features include videos on such topics as:

Blind Spot Detection – Tested.com’s Adam Savage shows how new safety technology detects cars in your blind spots—your extra set of eyes.
Lane Keeping Support – Watch Adam Savage from Tested.com veer out of his lane, only to be saved by a new advanced safety technology.
Pedestrian Automation Emergency Braking – New safety technology keeps Tested.com’s Adam Savage from hitting a pedestrian.
Crash Imminent Braking – Tested.com‘s Adam Savage demos technology that automatically applies the brakes so you can avoid a crash.
Forward Collision Warning – You’ve got to see it to believe it. Tested.com’s Adam Savage demos a warning system that alerts you to help avoid a crash.

Of course, these videos offer just a basic look into what the various safety assists can do. They do serve as a good starting point for more research.

It also illustrates how new car safety systems are a better option than having warnings screeched at you by your passengers. Take a look. All told, it’s about ten minutes that won’t be wasted.

Porsche Cars With Pedigrees.

Porsche Cars With Pedigrees.

Fans of the legendary Porsche marque were able to get up close and personal with the objects of their affections at the 22nd Annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, held March 2017 in Amelia Island, Florida, USA. Seen as part of the event’s racing display, they featured storied rides from the factory as well as by privateer teams that carried the flag of the sports car manufacturer based in Stuttgart, Germany. There was even a movie star or two.

1972 Porsche 917-10

Cars from the racing stables of Brumos Porsche in Jacksonville, Florida, were also on display and included the legendary 1,100-horsepower 1972 917-10 Can-Am car, a 1977 model 934.5, a 1979 slant nose 935 and an ugly duckling 2007 Porsche/Riley Daytona Prototype, which at some time or another were all probably driven by Brumos ace Hurley Haywood.

1979 Porsche 935, left and 1977 Porsche 934.5.

Preston Henn’s T-Bird Swap Shop 962 was part of the collection of racecars driven by legendary hot shoe Al Unser, the racing honoree at the 2017 Concours. Also on scene were several examples of the 1959 Porsche RSK, as well as a pristine 1973 Porsche Carrera RS (Rennsport) Coupe owned by Dick and Sarah Butler.

Photos and story by Mark Elias