Month: January 2018

2018 BMW X3 M40i Sport Activity Vehicle

2018 BMW X3 M40i Sport Activity Vehicle

Hauling the mail is an antique slang expression not so much in vogue anymore. Used to imply that an object, or even a person was capable of moving at a high rate of speed, it is a perfectly appropriate expression for the 2018 BMW X3 M40i Sport Activity Vehicle. Now into its third generation, this cargo-toting hot-rod manages to incorporate legendary BMW M technology and the ability to carry five passengers all day.

Refinement, inside and out.

2018 BMW X3 M40i
2018 BMW X3 M40i

With the 2018 version, BMW has taken the newly redesigned base X3 and dragged it through the M high-performance garden, if you will, and the results are impressive. Now longer and wider, it includes a new uprated powerplant that raises above the standard 2.0-liter BMW TwinPower Turbocharged engine, Instead, our X3 M40i is powered by a 3.0-liter M-Performance TwinPower Turbocharged engine making 355 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. All that power makes its way to the X3’s intelligent all-wheel-drive system through a sporty eight-speed automatic transmission.

Our X3 M40i rides on the available Adaptive M Suspension that allows the user to select between Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+ settings as far as engine mapping and shift points are concerned. Drive settings are available that range from Cushy to Ultra Firm. We chose the Sport setting that allowed us to cut a fast corner almost without any body roll. We dug the way the way the X3 went all throaty on us when we placed the setting in Sport or Sport+ for a throaty growl from the black-chrome tailpipe finishers coming out of the rear bumper.

A BMW without the full suite of dynamic driver assists would just not be the ultimate driving machine. Even if it did speak German with a southern accent thanks to having been built at BMW’s Plant Spartanburg in South Carolina. Not to disappoint, this X3 M40i was equipped with dynamic traction control, cornering brake control, dynamic brake control, dry braking function, brake fading compensation, hill descent control, dynamic damper control and dynamic stability control that is networked with the xDrive all-wheel-drive system.

Blue M-Sport brake calipers gave the X3 an extra aggressive appearance that was only improved by 20-inch Pirelli P-Zero performance tires on Orbit wheels.

2018 BMW X3 M40i
2018 BMW X3 M40i

Buyers will likely cross-shop the BMW X3 M40i against the Mercedes-Benz GLC, the Audi Q5 and Cadillac XT5 SUVs.

Interior Design.

The interior of the 2018 BMW X3 M40i features a driver-centric cockpit that is specifically canted towards the tillerman so that all controls are an easy reach from the driver. A new generation of iDrive is here (we’ve come to expect it with every succeeding generation), this time more intuitive than ever, with a finger scroll surface to spell out entries via a finger’s touch. A three-zone climate control feature offers individual climate controls for the driver, passenger and rear seat occupants.

Behind the wheel

With power there as soon as you need it, the 3.0-liter inline turbocharged six offered power that was bountiful and impressive at the same time. Obviously adept at blistering the tires, it managed to tick off 0-60 mph in 4.6-seconds, which BMW says is the fastest in the X3’s segment.

2018 BMW X3 M40i
2018 BMW X3 M40i

Deep Throated. While driving the M40i as intended, we found the auditory note from M-performance exhaust system to be more like a growl. And we weren’t bitchin’ either. Our only wish was that it could be on all the time, rather than just when the engine was pushed.

As we found in Sport mode, the BMW X3 M40i was a firm, but smooth operator. Just as we like it. But that’s the desired characteristic needed when exercising this sport activity vehicle. Torque vectoring through BMW’s Cornering Brake Control, helped shorten the turning radius, allowing for quicker entry and exits from the turns themselves.

The Wrap Up

The 2018 BMW X3 M40i is BMW hollering at the world that just because you need a family hauler doesn’t mean you need to look like a tool in a minivan. In this case, the team from Munich, by way of Spartanburg, will have you looking like the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Story and photos by Mark Elias

2018 BMW X3 M40i

 

Key Specs

Cylinders:                                    6-cylinder inline

Displacement:                            3.0-liters

Power:                                          355 hp @ 5,500-6,500 rpm

Torque:                                        369 lb-ft @ 1,520-4,800 rpm

Fuel System:                              Gas Direct Injection

Fuel:                                            89 Octane

Acceleration:                            0-60mph in 4.6 seconds

Drive Type                                Rear Biased AWD

Gearbox:                                    8-speed M Performance Automatic Transmission

Tire Size:                                   20-inch Pirelli P-Zero

Unladen Weight:                     4,277-pounds

Length:                                      186.1-inches

Width:                                       74.7-inches

Height:                                      66-inches

Wheelbase:                               112.8-inches

Cargo Volume:                         62.7 cubic feet rear seat folded

28.7 cubic feet rear seat up

Fuel Economy:                       20 city / 27 highway / 23 combined

Cd:                                            0.33Cd

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2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet

There’s nothing quite like moving down a major thoroughfare flipping your folding roof, all while moving under 30 mph. Yes, you’re cruising like a boss, driving the 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet. But how about when it’s nearly 40-degrees outside. That’s just pure genius!

That genius displays itself through the Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet’s amazing AirScarf that huffs warm air down the back of our necks, while the heated seats massage our backsides to the consistency of jello. Life behind the wheel of this Merc is good.

2018-mercedes-benz-e400-4matic-cabrio-24
2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

While everyone else is reveling in how the market for Sports and Crossover Utility Vehicles has launched into the stratosphere (Mercedes-Benz included), company officials made sure we were aware that the brand is here to celebrate the car, specifically this topless four-seater.

The New E-Cabriolet: Beauty and Brains.

Based on the E-Class sedan platform, the new 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet starts with strong bones and follows the lead of the E-Sedan, which Mercedes claims is the most advanced car ever. This seventh generation E-Class, as overseen by Chief Designer Gorden Wagener, follows his edict that if you build a house right, you don’t need to add many lines of character to it. Such righteousness has given way to the Coupe, Station Wagon, Sedan and now, this Cabriolet.

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet
2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

Much swoopier than others, the new E-Cabrio begins with the by-now familiar Mercedes-Benz star in the diamond-studded grille, which is divided by a single lamella wing stretching from side to side for a wider look. A newly designed badge rests at the front of the power-domed aluminum hood, which heralds the arrival of the E400’s new Sensual Purity design language. Overall, it’s a look of maturity, as seen through the restraint displayed by a lack of sharp edges, harsh lines and other character features likely found on some of its now more garish competition. At least that’s what they would like you to think. Among the E400 Coupe’s competitors is the BMW 6-Series cabriolet and the Audi A5 Cabriolet.

Extending along the flanks, it is evident that less is more. Abandoning the folded look has yielded a more muscular side appearance that traces up to the shoulders over the standard 18-inch or available 19-inch rear wheels. This leads all the way to the LED-encrusted taillamps at the rear with a new lower appearance thanks to the below bumper mounting of the rear license plate. When locking or unlocking the car, the taillamp sequence welcomes you, flashing from center outward when the E400 is open and outward – inward when it is secured.

A full-fledged four seater.

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet
2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

Based on the new Mercedes-Benz E-Series Sedan platform, the entire car is now almost five-inches longer. Of that, almost 4.4-inches went into stretching the wheelbase for increased space, not to mention road stability. The stretched wheelbase places almost two more inches into rear seat legroom. The width is increased by almost 3-inches. The 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet is a four-seater with an actually usable rear seating area, which actually accommodates two adults.

Leather is standard, both on the seating surfaces, the doors and dashboard with single-needle tailoring. Newly designed matte-finished turbine HVAC vents recall the intakes of jet aircraft engines and are nestled across the large expanse of wood inlay that looks like it came from its S-Class big brother.

Tech Talking.

The heart of the E-Coupe’s technology suite resides with the standard 12.3-inch display that controls the Mercedes COMAND system. It’s from here that driver and passenger can operate the audio, navigation, telecomm and vehicle settings, not to mention engaging a full massage to tingle from top to bottom during a blast up the ‘Bahn.

If you want a digital display wall, opt for the available 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Together with the 12.3-inch central display, it provides more than 24-inches of visual stimulation that operates virtually every aspect of the car and features configurable speedo- and tachometer, as well as cellular, vehicular and navigational displays in the central part of the gauge binnacle. Steering wheel-mounted touch control buttons allow the driver to operate both screens while maintaining complete control of the wheel.

Further down the center console, resides the dynamic select control switch, which offers varying styles of Throttle, Steering and Transmission inputs. Comfort, Sport, Sport+ ECO are all here, as well as Individual, which lets you select settings according to your tastes.

Safety first, last and always.

As always, Mercedes takes nothing for granted in the abilities of their own customers and those of other drivers. Our E400 Cabriolet was equipped with the standard Pre-Safe and Pre-Safe Sound features that adjust seat position, close windows and pre-tension seatbelts, as well as introduce a form of “white noise,” to engage the “Stapedius Reflex” that helps preserve occupant’s hearing when sensors determine a shunt is imminent.

Going further, our sampler included other new safety features as part of the Premium 3 Package ($9,350). They included Active Parking Assist, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Active Distance Assist (Distronic), Active Steering Assist, Active Lane Change Assist, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Active Speed Limit Assist, Active Brake Assist with Cross Traffic Function, Evasive Steering Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, and Pre-Safe Plus with Rear Collision Protection.

Of the most interesting, were the Active Lane Change Assist which determined, after engaging the turn indicator for two seconds, if it was safe to overtake a slower moving vehicle. It would then take care of the steering movements to complete the overtaking.

Then there was the Evasive Steering Assist, which hurried us out of the way of a car that did not see us in his blind spot when changing lanes. The system works by adding steering wheel torque when we tried to wrench ourselves out of the way of this meathead. All of this gave us a new appreciation for the ghost in the machine.

The Powerplant:

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet
2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

The heart of the new E400 Coupe is a singular 3.0-liter Biturbo (twin-turbo) V6 engine that produces 329 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. The latest generation of this engine is now mated to an all new 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission with a zero to 60 mph time of 5.5-seconds for the rear wheel drive version, and a 0-to-60 time of 5.2-seconds with the all-wheel-drive 4Matic. That’s a one-second improvement over the previous generation. Top speed is an electronically limited 130 mph.

We also experienced the available Air Body Control that provides roll, pitch and heave stabilization as well as a constant ride-height adjustment, regardless of load. On bad roads, it can raise the ride height, and then hunker back down automatically when road conditions improve.

Behind the wheel.

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe is a technological tour de force, filled with driver enhancements and safety features that surprisingly do nothing to take away from driving enjoyment. Starting from zero, we found an eager stable of 329 horses ready to prance from the 3.0-liter Biturbo V6. Steering through South Florida streets found us wheeling it in rapid fashion to get around the excessively slow snow birding drivers, which was done with ease thanks to the variable torque of the electromechanical rack and pinion system.

Power delivery was linear, smoothly – and calmly-climbing through the nine cog gearbox, with nary a misstep or hunting for the proper gear. Overtaking required nothing more than a stomp on the skinny pedal, which was met with a drop in gearing and a nicely transmitted growl from the exhaust manifold underhood.

We experienced the E400’s ride in a combination of comfort and sport modes, which truth be told, provided a similar feel regardless of setting. Neither too soft nor too harsh, it, along with the massaging front seats, provided a relaxing and satisfying excursion through Palm Beach.

We’ll go out on a limb and say that regardless of the fact that SUVs are dominating the marketplace, the Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe is a very desirable and capable extension of the E-Class lineup.

Story and photos by Mark Elias

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet

Base MSRP: $68,800 (4Matic) As tested: $87,215.

Iridium Silver Metallic, $720; Natural Grain Light Wood, $150; Premium 3 Package, $9,350; AMG line body styling, wheels and interior trim, $2,500; Destination fee $995.

Type: two-door, four passenger convertible

Drive: 4Matic AWD

Engine: 3.0-liter Biturbo V6

Horsepower: 329@5,200-6,000

Torque: 354 lb-ft @ 1,600-4,000

Transmission: 9G-Tronic Automatic Transmission

Shift: Wheel-Mounted Paddle Shift levers

Suspension: F+R Multi-link suspension coil springs with variable damping.

Wheelbase: 113.1-inches

Length: 190-inches

Width: 80.9-inches

Height: 56.3-inches

Track: 63.4-inches

Ground Clearance: 3.7-inches (Max Load)

 

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2018 Kia Niro PHEV First Drive

2018 Kia Niro PHEV First Drive

We look for any excuse to travel the world, so when Kelley Blue Book contacted us about driving the new 2018 Kia Niro PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle), on a road trip from Kia headquarters in Irvine to the Golden Gate city of San Francisco, we jumped at the chance. Along the way, we found out what life behind the wheel of a Plug-in Hybrid was really like and were able to do some good for those, who through circumstances beyond their control, found themselves homeless through the forest fires in Ventura California. The New Niro PHEV offered the best of the Gas and Hybrid worlds with plug-in battery power that would carry it approximately 26-miles, and then a gas powered four-cylinder that would help to regenerate more energy to those same cells. Read more about the Kia Niro PHEV at Kelley Blue Book….

2018 Kia Niro PHEV
2018 Kia Niro PHEV

The rules were “there are no rules” so we set out on a journey that took us through the corporate jungle of Irvine, through the urban sprawl of metropolitan Los Angeles, to Fresno and beyond. My driving partner, Dan Frio and I, started calling out through the local Red Cross and Salvation Army offices to find who needed assistance or supplies. In Ventura Strong, a local support group in Ventura County, we found just the people that were in need of our help. After stopping at a local Costco for supplies including more than 440 bottles of water, and numerous cleaning items, we were packed to the gills. There was only enough space for our suitcases directly behind the driver and passenger seats in front. Every other gap and cubbyhole in the Kia Niro was filled.

We found the Channel Island Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in Ventura City, California as our supply drop off point. A majestic building in its own right, the Masons in Ventura had converted the upstairs meeting rooms into small scale department stores for local residents to come through to select clothing free of charge. It was the perfect gesture of helping one’s brother, especially when they had escaped the Ventura fires with literally the shirt on their back. The lodge was a beehive of activity late into the night.

The signs posted around town saying “Thank You, Firefighters” were surely not lost on us.

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