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2018 BMW 330e iPerformance

2018 BMW 330e iPerformance

The BMW 3-Series is already a legend for obvious reasons including packaging, handling and all around sportiness. With the 2018 BMW 330e, is it a case of too much of a good thing, or is it another option for fanboys of “the Ultimate Driving Machine?”

What’s it all about?

2018 BMW 330e iPerformance

The 2018 BMW 330e iPerformance is the semi-electrified version of the existing BMW 3-series four-door platform. Essentially designed to specifications of what others call a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), it is powered BMW’s well known inline four-cylinder twinpower turbocharged engine producing 180 hp at 5000-6500 rpm, and 215 lb-ft of torque at 1350-4250 rpm. This four-cylinder works in conjunction with BMWs permanent activated synchronous electric motor that adds an additional 87 hp for a cumulative total of 248 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. That sense of urgency spurts out from the four-cylinder/electric power unit to an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift levers.

Power for the electric motor comes from a lithium-ion (Li-Ion) battery mounted below the trunk floor. Plugging the included wall outlet charger offers the same stimulating qualities found while watching paint dry; plug into a level II supercharger, and the task can be completed in a more palatable 2.2-hours.

Our BMW 330e iPerformance sedan, as equipped, was capable of a top speed of 140 mph. This eDrive sedan allowed speeds

2018 BMW 330e iPerformance

up to 75 mph on electricity alone when set in Max eDrive mode. Auto eDrive, which was the more subtle of the drive modes, allowed electrical operation for speeds up to 50 mph. Anything above that caused the package to revert to hybrid operations. There are other user-variable settings that reduce the effectiveness of the air conditioning and other electrical operations inside the vehicle, while extending the attainable electric mileage figures.

The 330e is available in a single trim level. It will likely be cross-shopped against the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Lexus ES300h.

The view from within.

The view inside the 330e is typical BMW, as we’ve grown to enjoy through the years. If you liked the 2017 model, you’ll love the 2018 too, and most likely the 2019 as well. This sample included Venetian Beige Sensatec (“pleather”) upholstery. Our tester was ordered with the Convenience Package ($1,750), with keyless entry, a moonroof, lumbar support and Sirius XM satellite radio with a one-year subscription. Also on tap was the BMW Shadow Sport Edition package ($1,350), that added 18-inch bicolor wheels, a sport leather steering wheel, sport seats, anthracite wood trim, park distance control, ambient lighting and LED fog lamps. The only other extras were Apple CarPlay ($300) compatibility and BMW navigation ($1,700).

The BMW 330e includes a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty, and 8-year/80,000-mile High Voltage Battery Warranty.

On board safety was rather basic and included BMW’s front and rear head protection system, seat-mounted front side-impact airbags and knee airbags for driver and front passenger.

Behind the wheel:

Adding in the lithium-ion battery tends to really pork up the standard BMW 3-series platform. As it were with our 330e, this four-door five-passenger Sedan ended up tipping the scales at nearly 4,000 pounds, or as they say at across the pond, 2-tonnes. But all things considered, 0-60 mph in 5.8-seconds is not terrible, just saying.

We found the 2.0-liter/electric power unit to be most effective while in highway driving mode. It’s quite evident, while driving with the huge slab of batteries under the trunk floor, that the 3-series’ handling dynamics have been jostled just a bit, thanks to the higher, and rearward-mounted center of gravity that has been thrown into disarray by the Li-ion cells. Normal driving situations are just that, normal. But we like the added benefit that comes with the four-cylinder gasoline engine when sudden energy is requested from the bridge. A jab of the accelerator causes the engine to step down, with the results being very similar to recent Formula One cars and their kinetic energy recovery system (KERS system). Sure, the sudden burst is only temporary, but it is an exhilarating boost, nonetheless.

And if we were an owner, we would be mighty chuffed over the combined 30 miles per gallon city/highway ratings. Those figures are nothing to sneeze at, taking 3.3 gallons of fuel to drive 100 miles. But the real bragging comes from the electricity plus gasoline fuel economy ratings that yield a 71 mile-per-gallon equivalency. Sure it’s probably EPA conservative, but those are still numbers you can crow about.

2018 BMW 330e iPerformance

Base MSRP:  $45,600          As tested: $52,245.

Includes:  BMW Convenience Package, $1,750; BMW Shadow Sport Edition Package, $1,350; Apple CarPlay, $300; BMW Navigation, $1,700; Destination fee, $995.

Key Specs

Cylinders:                                Inline 4-cylinder

Displacement:                          2.0-liter

Power:                                     185 hp @ 5,000-6,500 rpm

Torque:                                    215 lb-ft @ 1,350-4,250 rpm

Fuel System:                           Gas Direct Injection

Power Unit:                             Electric Synchronous Motor

Power:                                      87

Combined Power:                  248

Combined Torque:                310

Fuel:                                        Premium

Acceleration:                          0-60mph in 5.8 seconds

Drive Type                              RWD

Gearbox:                                 8-Speed Automatic

Tire Size:                                 180 inch Low Rolling Resistance

Unladen Weight:                    3,900-pounds

Length:                                    182.8-inches

Width:                                     71.3-inches

Height:                                     56.3-inches

Wheelbase:                              110.6-inches

Cargo Volume:                        13 cubic feet

Cd:                                             0.29

Combined:                               30 mpg

MPG Gasoline / Electric       71 mpg equivalent

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”120″ gal_title=”2018 BMW 330e iPerformance”]

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2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium

2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium

Toyota C-HR
Toyota C-HR

The 2018 Toyota C-HR coulda, woulda, shoulda. They say shortly before it appeared in dealerships as a Porsche, the 924 was set to arrive in Volkswagen dealer showrooms. The 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium follows that same path, in that it was to be introduced as a Scion instead.

No matter though as it now seemingly fits into the edgier family that Toyota has become. One of the smaller Crossovers in the Toyota lineup, it’s a sharply creased, curvy round, futuristic-styled turn on a high-riding (well maybe not very high) hatchback that can answer several needs that maybe you might not have realized to this point.

Limited Power.

Toyota C-HR
Toyota C-HR

The 2018 Toyota C-HR is powered by a singular 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 144 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque. Power is delivered to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). There is no all-wheel-drive option.

Eighteen-inch wheels are standard offerings for this model, with automatic headlights, auto high-beams, and LED daylight running lights. Our two-tone, radiant green and iceberg-painted (turquoise and white?) C-HR is relatively well equipped, although for just a few more shekels, you can have the C-HR XLE Premium instead, which added fog lights, keyless entry and ignition, heated front seats (a great idea in Florida!) and driver’s side two-way power lumbar support. Finally, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert complete the package which we think is a better, more complete offering than the base C-HR XLE model.

The interior is a hodge-podge of textures and features that work for the most part. It’s nothing that we haven’t seen before, and features a bit of hard plastic combined with fabric seats and a rather straightforward gear shift selector. This Toyota C-HR has a nice shape and continuity to the dashboard orienting itself towards the driver, although we have a bone to pick with the audio head unit that seems as though it was taken off the shelf from a soon to be out of business car audio installer.

And yes, we know how all you millennial’s like apps. But that doesn’t mean we like to see apps on our in-car entertainment. Instead of burying navigation and other functions within the menu, why not just have a button on the face of the unit that says Navi? Or Maps. You managed to put an icon of a telephone handset on the face of the unit, why not some other shortcuts? Speaking of apps and telephones, at this point in time, the C-HR is still lacking Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

Buyers will likely also check out the Buick Encore, Nissan Juke, and Hyundai Kicks when shopping this segment.

The rear seat is somewhat cavern-like in that shorties will likely fall deep into the seats and not be able to see out the windows. It can comfortably carry two and in a pinch squeeze a third person into the second row but for all intents and purposes we consider the C-HR more of an urban lifestyle vehicle than a suburban kid hauler and utility vehicle. So instead why not just fold down the rear seats and use it as a medium-sized crossover vehicle instead.

Toyota C-HR
Toyota C-HR

The C-HR includes a standard 7.0-inch audio display screen, adaptive cruise control, 10 airbags, dual zone climate control 18-inch wheels and Bluetooth. Step up a few dollars more and get the Premium model with push-button start, keyless entry, a blind spot monitoring system, folding mirrors and heated seats.

Drive Time.

We liked the way the 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium looks and handles, but not so much how it moves. That is our big fall down in the car overall. We actually like the way the Toyota C-HR handled. It doesn’t have much power, especially when you consider that this non-turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine only produces 144 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque. It sends its traction to the front-wheel-drive transaxle via a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which, when judged by a strictly seat-of-the-pants feel, gives the impression that it is both noisy, and slow. Particular moves, while in traffic, need to be planned deliberately, unless you’ve had designs all along on being the hood ornament of the big 18-wheeler that is rapidly filling up your rear-view mirror.

We find there’s an excessively high amount of noise that works its way into the cabin. It’s not that it’s unexpected, but it’s something that seems to be lacking in some of the C-HR’s competition.

Drive with ease and you will all be ok.

 

2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium.

Story and photos by Mark Elias

Cylinders:                                   I4

Displacement:                          2.0-liters

Power:                                        144 hp @ 6100 rpm

Torque:                                      139 lb-ft @ 3,900 rpm

Fuel:                                           Regular

Drive Type                                FWD

Gearbox:                                  CVT

Tire Size:                                  225/50R18

Unladen Weight:                   3,300-pounds

Length:                                    171.2-inches

Width:                                     70.7-inches

Height:                                     61.6-inches

Wheelbase:                              103.9-inches

Cargo Volume:                      19.0 cubic feet rear seat up

36.4 cubic feet rear seat folded

City:                                           27

Highway:                                  31

Combined:                               29

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”117″ gal_title=”2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium”]

 

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2018 Lexus LC 500h : Green Grand Tourer?

2018 Lexus LC 500h : Green Grand Tourer?

Do you like being watched and looked at? Being in the 2018 Lexus LC 500h is kinda like being inside the cage at the zoo. People look and point at you along the way. It was a similar feeling to what we experienced driving around our HQ in West Palm Beach, FL.

But, honestly, we didn’t mind.

Because damn it, we were behind the wheels of one of the sexiest shapes to come out of the Lexus design shop in quite some  time. Available in a buyer’s choice of the Lexus LC 500, with a 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine, or, as in the case of our tester, as the LC 500h , which is a gas electric hybrid powered by a 3.5-Liter V6 gasoline engine add to electric motor generators that combined to produce 354 total horsepower. The hybrid has a top speed of 155 mph, clicks off naught to 60 mph in 4.7-seconds, and manages 26 miles per gallon city/ 35 miles per gallon highway with a combined total of 30 miles per gallon overall.

And before you go thinking of a Toyota Prius with its hybrid drive system, fuhgeddaboutit.

2018 Lexus LC 500h
2018 Lexus LC 500h

The Lexus LC 500h incorporates Lexus’s hybrid synergy drive which uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with the paddle shifters, coupled to a more traditional four-speed slush box which does it’s best to keep the 3.5-liter V6 running in the middle of its powerband’s sweet spot. We are not quite sure how they’re able to do it, but the gearbox is able to simulate the operation of actually being a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Perhaps the engine is a tiny bit thin when it comes to sheer grunt from the tailpipes, but maybe that’s why Lexus engineer chose to pipe some of that noise back into the cabin through an intake manifold baffle on the top of the engine.

The Lexus LC 500h rides on a multilink suspension that provides control by steering handled through an electrically assisted rack and pinion kit in front. An optional rear-steering system is part of the LC’s Performance package for a more-agile steering system. Lexus officials told us the car was more rigid than the LF-A supercar.

As for cross shopping, buyers will likely conside fellow green cars, the Acura NSX, BMW i8, and Porsche Panamera Hybrid.

Looks matter.

The spindle grille, while looking awkward on other Lexus models appears more comfortable here. Think of it as growing into one’s skin. As people reach a certain age they become more agreeable with their outer appearance. That’s the case here as the LC 500h  nose actually looks to belong.

2018 Lexus LC 500h
2018 Lexus LC 500h

From the side, it’s a hunkered-down look reminiscent of drawings done in school while we were supposed to be paying attention to math and science lessons. Long nose, short tail, and shoulders that could rival any cut-and-buffed athlete, it is a well-executed look at what a grand touring near-supercar should be. As an added bonus, the hood, fender and door panels are aluminum, while much of the rest of the car is composed of composite material.

Lexus LC 500h
Lexus LC 500h

Inside the LC 500h, are a few hits, and a couple of misses, too. Two well-crafted seats are there with a wide variety of adjustments. We loved the wide view of the high-definition TFT screens but wish they found another input device from which to control it. The Lexus touch pad is not amongst our favorites. And those rear seats? Don’t even think about sitting back there unless you have a chiropractor on speed dial. They are better suited to a duffle or camera bag, or even a bambino in a safety seat. But overall? As much as we like the rest of the interior with its tan finish, we can’t help but think that it is not as pretty as that found in the Dodge Viper before it made its exit from the automotive scene. That car’s Italian heritage shone through with a tan interior from a company that supplies Ferrari. The result? Sublime.

Behind the wheel.

Our drivetime in the LC500h was a tale of both the green and high-performance worlds. A tale of two cities, if you will. Driving around town found us making the most of the Multi Stage Hybrid system with two electric motors assisting the Aktinson-cycle six-cylinder engine.

Acceleration was potent with a slight electric whine that actually contributed to the overall effect, and that wasn’t a bad thing. The car uses a two-stage continuously variable transmission (CVT) that combines with an Aisin brand four-speed gearbox that actually allows the LC500h to stretch its legs more with greater (sports car) feel.

Handling on our test loop found a GT car that felt at home going right and left, and accelerating cleanly out of a turn, to boot. Despite its electric gimcrackery under the hood, we loved the sound and feel of the engine power unit as it pushed the envelope of hybrid performance. As gorgeous as it is, it is not a svelte young thing. We never were quite able to achieve the 30-mpg average that the EPA tells us to expect but we could easily live with the 27.5 mpg that we actually saw.

2018 Lexus LC 500h
2018 Lexus LC 500h

About the Lexus touchpad: We find it touchy, finicky and in some cases downright dangerous, what with everything else going on around and within, and dealing with other traffic. Some items were so buried in the menus that we actually needed to pull over to adjust them.

Still, this is a Grand Tourer that will accommodate a wide variety of driving styles. Available in extremely limited numbers, there is almost a guarantee that you will be the only one in your neighborhood, heck, in your region, who owns one. 

2018 Lexus LC500h

Story and Photos by Mark Elias

Base MSRP:  $96,510. As tested: $102,039.

Includes: Convenience Package, $1000; Heads Up display, $900; Premium Paint, $595; Touring Package, $1,790; Cargo Net, $249; Destination Fee: $995. 

Key Specs                                            LC 500h

Cylinders:                                            6 + two electric motors

Displacement:                                     3.5-liter

Power:                                                 354 hp (combined)

Torque:                                                256.7 @4,900 rpm

Fuel System:                                       Direct Injection

Fuel:                                                    Premium

Acceleration:                                       0-60mph in 4.7 seconds

Drive Type                                           RWD

Gearbox:                                             Multi-stage Hybrid

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

Unladen Weight:                                4,521-pounds

Length:                                                187.4-inches

Width:                                                 75.6-inches

Height:                                                53.0-inches

Wheelbase:                                         113.0-inches

Cargo Volume:                                   5.4-cubic feet

Cd:                                                       0.33

City:                                                     26

Highway:                                             35

Combined:                                           30

 

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”111″ gal_title=”2018 Lexus LC 500h”]

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2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD

2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD

2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake
2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake

We won’t go out a limb to say the SUV is dead. But we will take a gamble and say that the station wagon, er, shooting-brake, like our 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD, is making a comeback. And for us fans of sports wagons, this rebirth hasn’t come a moment too soon. Walks through dealership service departments show the majority of vehicles on the road and in for service are SUV or crossover-based in nature, with one car for every 10 SUVs on the lift.

But just what is a shooting brake, you ask? It’s a term that was popular in 19th-century Britain. Used by the “sporting set,” it was the name given to carriages and later motorcars that were outfitted to carry shooting parties, along with their long guns, hunting dogs and hopefully, game upon their return. In the case of our Jaguar, the company has modified the name from shooting-to Sportbrake, in a nod to those enthusiast drivers who choose to haul cargo, while at the same time, hauling ass.

Along the way, the Tata-owned brand has joined Mercedes-Benz with their E-Wagon and Volvo with their V90 in bringing an SUV/CUV alternative to this side of the big pond. In they process, the Jaguar also happens to best both of its rivals in terms of  performance and looks.

Power

2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake
2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake

Power for this Jaguar XF Sportbrake comes from the same 3.0-liter 380-horsepower supercharged V6 that finds its way into the Jaguar F type and other brands throughout the Jaguar-Land Rover (JLR) lineup. With ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. It is equipped with Jaguar’s all-wheel-drive system for added grip, and with Intelligent Driveline Dynamics (IDD) to assist with cutting corners in a torque vectoring sort of fashion, while at the same time, helping to make the AWD system offer a more rear-drive style of response.

A lead sled, this wagon is. Self-leveling Integral-Link air suspension levels out the heaviest of loads while the adaptive dynamics with configurable dynamics help to retune the grip and vehicle on the fly. Still at the end of the day, it’s every bit as stout as the XF sedan. Our Jaguar Sportbrake was equipped with intelligent driveline dynamics, which is a form of torque vectoring. The system also allows power to shift back and forth from front to rear to provide the best of both worlds : All-wheel drive from start to rear wheel drive while cruising. Surprisingly at 116.5 inches, it handles very similarly to its sedan sibling,

Stylistically Speaking

The 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD as we tested it featured a gorgeously finished interior with two ebony-colored thrones in the front with adjustable lumbar, heating and ventilation. The dashboard featured a totally configurable screen in the instrument pod then measured out to 12.3-inches diagonally. To its right, was a 10-inch center stack display with the controls for navigation, climate, audio and Bluetooth, in addition to the car’s systems settings. This jag even included an activity key for active lifestylers who bike and swim but don’t want to worry about getting a key fob wet during those activities

2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake
2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake

The roof featured a full-length panoramic sunroof which really opened up the inside appearance which was a good thing with all this black leather that we found ourselves surrounded by. A one-piece polymer rear hatch help the Sportbrake shed some rear weight and maintain a 50:50 weight balance.

The entire rear area is what we would call cavernous, going from 31.7-cubic feet behind the rear seat to 69.7 once the 40:20:40 split rear seats are folded forward.

If this Jaguar XF had a shortcoming, it’s in the controls. We have become tired already, of the submersible drive selector knob that raises to greet you once the ignition switch has been fired. But that’s just a minor quibble that hopefully will be excised with the next generation.

0-60 in 5.3 secs

Our time behind the wheel in the 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD had us feeling like the leaper in the cage, because in addition to having a gorgeous red metallic finish with black enameled alloy wheels that would naturally attract attention, we were getting stared at because we were driving what people essentially knew to be a station wagon.

But, oh what a station wagon.

Power from the 3.0 Liter supercharged V6 came on at a relatively rapid pace as the supercharger wound up. It did manage to kick us back into our black leather-covered seats which we actually wished were tan hides rather than the ebony that our car was equipped with. But it was obvious Jaguar designers were capitalizing on a blackout theme, so there you go.

As equipped, this Jag with its integral-Link suspension featured automatic load leveling that manage to keep its composure regardless of what we were carrying. The adaptive dynamics dampers manage to “Read the road,” while we attempted to cut corners around our favorite driving loop. The results were a station wagon, er, shooting brake that behaves like its sedan sibling.

We still never tire do of being able to throw the transmission into manual (M) mode for some paddle-shifting hijinks that had us pretending we were a former Jaguar F1 driver, even though they haven’t existed for sometime now. But we can still dream.

Of course, we think the brand knows this will be a niche vehicle because everyone is still Jonesed about their Crossovers- and Sport Utility Vehicles, but at the same time, when you buy in to the Sportbrake as an owner, you are joining an impossibly exclusive club, that can compete with the Germans, and without apologies, at that.

To which we say, “I think I can hang with you brothers for a while.”

Story and photos by Mark Elias

2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD

Base MSRP:   $70,450         As tested: $84,815.

Includes:  Firenze Red paint, $565; Black Exterior Package, $360; Technology Package, $3,265; Driver Assistance Package, $3,495; Comfort and Convenience Package, $1,805; Premium Interior Upgrade Package, $2,860; 20-inch Wheels, $1,020; Destination fee, $995.

 

Key Specs

Cylinders:                     V6

Displacement:              3.0-liters

Power:                           380 hp @ 6,500 rpm

Torque:                         332 lb-ft

Fuel System:                direct injection/supercharged

Fuel:                               premium

Acceleration:                0-60mph in 5.3 seconds

Drive Type                    AWD

Gearbox:                       ZF 8-speed automatic

Unladen Weight:        4,045-pounds

Length:                          195-inches

Width:                           82.3-inches

Height:                          57.8-inches

Wheelbase:                   116.5-inches

Cargo Volume:             69.7-cubic feet rear seat folded

31.7-cubic feet rear seat up

 

City:                                18

Highway:                       25

Combined:                    21

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”105″ gal_title=”2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD”]

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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2017 BMW i8 AWD, Unplugged

2017 BMW i8 AWD, Unplugged

BMW i8 AWD
BMW i8 AWD

Looking totally like a Baller, we’re cruising through Palm Beach in what is essentially a Darth Vader helmet on wheels. This is the BMW i8.

2017 BMW i8 AWD
2017 BMW i8 AWD

The BMW i8 is a parallel hybrid-electric near supercar that offers all the functionality of a Prius, a lot more horsepower and a 1000-percent improvement in the looks department. As the country song goes, “She’s got her daddy’s money, her mama’s good looks…” And 357 combined horsepower and 420lb-ft of torque between the 1.5-liter three-cylinder petrol engine and what BMW calls the eDrive electrical machine motor. Coupled with the Aisin Six speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive powertrain, it makes for a mighty powerful vehicle in a sleek sexy package. Its nearest competitor is likely the Lexus LC500h.

On its own, the i8 electrical drivetrain manages to supply enough battery power to go about 14 miles. Using the occasional charging cord, it will take approximately 12 hours to recharge the lithium-ion batteries to their fully charged capacity. Top speed from the electrical motor will go to 75 mph, while the gas engine can cruise all day (as long as there is fuel in the tank) at an electrically-governed 155 mph. What’s up with BMW and their 155 mph top speed fetish?

Getting in requires practice and should be completed while no one is looking until you have become confident in your abilities. Also, men should avoid wearing kilts, and ladies should avoid miniskirts or dresses when getting in or out of the vehicle, lest you are into al-fresco entry and exit experiences. It starts with the large-ish side sills that are a huge structural component of the i8’s carbon-fiber tub and construction. Style counts, and is better achieved for the driver by placing his or her right leg into the footwell first, followed by a slight swing of the buttocks over the side sill with a quick lift of the other leg to follow. It is easier to do than describe.

2017 BMW i8 AWD
2017 BMW i8 AWD

Sure it’s listed as a four-seater but as for the back seats, they are uninhabitable for the most part. Stick a dog, a six-pack or overnight bag back there instead.

Behind the wheel, all the usual accoutrements found in contemporary BMW models are right here. iDrive, in their latest form is in place and offers complete functionality versus earlier generations. Sitting lower than most vehicles in the lineup, the i8 feels closer to a go-kart than any of the others, although we have used that description so many times throughout the years. Still, the road handling manners are sublime. We love the lack of sound this gull-winged beauty possesses, but when we feel a bit randy, all it takes is a stomp on the skinny pedal to unleash a (half) band of demons from the gas engine. Work with us here: it’s only three cylinders.

Cornering is an exercise in thinking where you want the car to go. A second or two later, it is there. Power from the combined package works together to offer acceleration, that although not in the category of Tesla’s “insane setting,” still lets you achieve a certain speed, all while looking better doing it.

For $150,000 and a 76-mpg electrical equivalent mileage rating, what more could you possibly ask for?

2017 BMW i8

Type: Two-passenger hybrid-electric sportscar

Power: Three-cylinder 1.5-liter twin-power turbocharged engine, 228 hp, 236 lb-ft torque

1 electric motor, 129 hp, 184 lb-ft torque

Combined: 357 hp, 420 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Drive: AWD

Batteries: Lithium-ion

Length: 184.9-inches

Width: 76.5-inches

Height: 50.8-inches

Wheelbase: 110.2-inches

Ground Clearance: 4.6-inches

Cargo: 4.7 cubic feet

Curb weight: 3,455 pounds

Top speed 155 mph

Fuel Economy: 76 MPGe

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