NAIAS 2018 | Episode 7 : BMW

BMW revealed the new X2 SUV at the show.  It has a bold and menacing front end, a long roof accentuated by the large tailgate spoiler and a sleek, tightly wrapped tail.  The entry/egress is a bit tight, but the interior is pure BMW.  There was a blue X2 on display that had a bright orange/red interior  — probably not to everyone’s taste and not exactly understated elegance…….

The i8 Roadster had been revealed at the Los Angeles show, but it was a stunner in Detroit.  You have to give up the two rear seats to get the wind in your hair, but who cares.  It is such a cool looking car with a futuristic feel, yet has some retro style provided by the head fairings behind the seats.

The 7 Series is still a tour de force.  What’s not to like about a car you can get with a V12 under the hood.  Details abound; the beautiful exterior door handles; the complex seat details; the suede pillows on the rear headrests; controls and screens everywhere; there are even ashtrays in the rear, which seems odd in America these days.

The M3 CS now joins the M4 CS with the S55 3.0L twin turbo engine producing 453 hp and 443 lb ft of torque.  Aggressive styling elements are everywhere on the car and we like that.  The aero designed door mirrors are especially noteworthy.

NAIAS 2017 | Episode 7 : BMW

BMW announced the new 5 Series in Detroit. Very much an evolutionary design, but longer, wider, taller, and yet lighter than the outgoing model.
The 5 Series and the 7 Series are rather close in looks and may be hard for people to distinguish between the two. All engines are teamed with an 8-speed transmission. Notable on the interior is iDrive 6.0, featuring gesture control for some functions.

The larger 7 Series is shown for comparison.

The X2 concept was revealed at the show. It is a sporty looking companion for the X1 launched in 2016. The ‘angry’ looking front end has a large version of the classic grille – which has evolved considerably from the original twin kidney shapes. The ‘eyes’ are menacing and the grille is framed by large side air intakes connected by strong feature lines meeting below the main grille in the form of a splitter.

The hood and roof are long and low, while the greenhouse has narrow windows sitting over the prominent rear wheel flares. The sporty look is complemented by the long tailgate spoiler and the BMW roundel badge prominently placed in the C-Pillar – just like the brand coupes.

NAIAS 2016 | Part II : The German brands

Naias 2016-2

The big introduction from Mercedes was the new E-Class. While the design was classic for the brand and instantly recognizable, it was somewhat disappointing and broke no new ground, although we did like the strong front end featuring large air intakes.  The interior is also classic Mercedes – but in a good way.  We were happy to see that they have gone away from the “iPad stuck on the instrument panel” look, moving to an integrated rectangular screen that spans from in front of the driver all the way to the central infotainment display.   This display is either two 12.3-inch screens made to look like one, or, on lower line models, a more conventional instrument cluster and a central 12.3-inch screen also integrated to look like one large display.  There are some well-executed wood inserts and LED accent lighting customizable in 64 different colours!
The S-Class Cabrio is a really beautiful car with a great interior….. and now we get the twin turbo V12 S65 AMG version. Lust at first sight!
The facelifted SLK, now called the SLC was also on display.
The Audi stand next door featured the Q8 h-Tron Quattro concept. This sharp looking crossover was first shown last fall in its battery powered e-Tron guise.  The h-Tron is powered by a fuel cell and uses a combination of three hydrogen tanks plus a 1.8 kW hour battery pack to store energy.  We do like the front-end look of this concept, as well as the “pop-out” rear view cameras on the front fenders. We can’t wait for these cameras to become viable for production so that we can get rid of the huge door mirrors we are obliged to use today.
The new A4 sedan and Allroad wagon also were on display. This model is typical Audi, with a nicely executed exterior and a finely detailed interior that remains the standard of the industry.  We just wish that the exterior had a little more “reach” and we are disappointed that the interior has the “iPad” look for the infotainment – especially considering the hi-tech cluster Audi introduced on the TT.
We do like the facelifted R8 without the big “spear” behind the doors, but the front grill texture is rather Japanese looking. We also love the belt driven Ducati that was on the stand!
BMW chose Detroit to introduce the M2 Coupe, harking back to the 1970’s when we first came to love BMWs. A 2002 turbo model was on the stand for comparison.  We are sure that the car will be a blast to drive and the front end is certainly a very dramatic combination of air intakes and aerodynamics, but the rear half of the car just doesn’t work.  The roofline/C-pillar is weak and the car is just too short to provide an aggressive stance.
A 650i Cabrio on the stand painted in an attractive matt bronze colour caught our eye and the i8 still generates awe in all of us – although the black and white colour scheme is not our favourite……..
The VW stand was a rather sad place to be during press days. The pall resulting from the emissions debacle hangs heavy in the air and the VW executives failed once again to move us, the dealers or the customers beyond this fiasco.  The VW goal of increasing US volumes to 1 million units is now just a dream.  Amazingly, Subaru’s volume in the US exceeds that of VW, Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini combined.
I am sure that the 2016 Passat is a decent cart , but it is rather dull and the only thing worthy of comment is the frameless interior rear view mirror.  No big volume opportunity here.
The Tiguan GTE Active Concept was yet another attempt by VW to convince us that they actually have some SUV/Crossover products in the pipeline. They certainly cannot come soon enough for the struggling dealer body.  Although execution of the vehicle is quite good, the choice of wheels and tyres seemed dated.  In a move to convey ruggedness they put big truck tyres on the concept.  We would have preferred a bigger wheel and a lower profile tyre.


In this Episode 4, let’s talk about the German manufacturers and ask this question :
Why is it that the Germans (Audi excepted) seem to have forgotten that the definition of coupe or coupé is:
    “A closed two-door car body style with a permanently attached fixed roof”
Mercedes call their new 4-door GLE ‘thing’ a coupe; BMW have 4 and 6 Series Gran Coupe 4-Door Sedans, as well as the X4 and X6 Sports Activity Coupe 4 doors; while VW has a new SUV called the Cross Coupé GTE!  What is this all about?  Mercedes just went through an elaborate retake on their nomenclature, but cannot tell the difference between a 2-door and a 4-door.  BMW’s Gran Coupe 4-doors are at least sleek looking, but what happened to the letter “d” on Grand – or is it Granny?  Well, I know…It certainly follow the Pininfarina concept Car called Gran Lusso…The Mercedes GLE and BMW X4/X6 are about as far removed from a coupe as one can get,  — except perhaps for the VW GTE!  To say that I am disappointed in these manufacturers would be a gross understatement.
Mercedes Benz had quite a few new products to show off.  The previously revealed AMG GT provided the main “eye-candy” in a bright pearl white paint job.  The car is striking from every angle and should become a force to be reckoned with the market.  Not nearly as attractive is the MB copycat version of the BMW X4/X6, the GLE.  There is no accounting for (bad) taste I suppose, but few market watchers would have predicted that the ugly duckling “Sports Activity Coupes” from BMW would achieve sufficient traction in their customer base to force MB to follow with a similar – also ugly — product.  I just can’t talk about these vehicles any more…….  Also on display was the Maybach version of the S-Class.  The interior is a bit overdone, with every conceivable feature and luxury detail, but it would be nice to stretch out in the back with a glass of wine while someone else drives you to the yacht.
The F015 autonomous vehicle concept attracted quite a bit of attention.  This beast is huge, with 26 inch wheels, four doors each of which has its own large screen TV, the rear doors are rear hinged and there is no B-Pillar, the front seats swivel 180 degrees, so you can have a meeting while being autonomously conveyed to your next destination.  What a total waste of time — and it is ugly too.  I typically like MB styling, but they seem to have lost their way with the F015 and the GLE.  I do still love the S-Class Coupe, however, and yes, it really is a coupe!
There was not much new on the BMW stand.  The i8 is still gorgeous, apart from the bright blue seat belts that is.  The interior of the i3 on display left me cold, however, Supposedly it is responsible, eco-friendly and in tune with the younger crowd, but the exposed, reconstituted trim boards on the IP and the doors left me crying for leather or vinyl.  The seats just left me crying.  But all is not lost, the 650i Gran Coupe is beautiful, even if they did get the name wrong.
Audi introduced the new Q7 to mixed reviews.  Somehow it is not as elegant as the previous model with sharper feature lines and a more station-wagon look.  The body is now graced with a “side spear” towards the bottom of the doors, presumably to disguise the element of slab-sidedness.  The grille on the Q7 (along with other models) is larger and more intimidating – good for autobahn driving.  Audi still maintains an envied position in the industry with respect to interiors and the Q7 is no exception.  To be the benchmark for as long as Audi has in this critical area is an astonishing achievement.
The VW display was brightly lit, as ever and prominently displayed were its Motor Trend Car of the Year and North American Car of the Year awards for the Golf range.  VW has struggled for share in the US market this year and continues to underperform. Missing from the VW product line up are the small and mid-sized SUV’s and CUV’s that are presently selling so well in the US.  As in previous years, VW again showed a concept for a potential competitor in this segment.  This year it was the Cross Coupé GTE.  You and I would probably call it an SUV.  Shown in a delicate shade of metallic blue, the GTE is a sharp and clean design with a solid “machined” look.  It features a low bodyside ‘A’ line that also embraces the unusually low door handles.  This low feature line, together with a broad spear on the lower edge of the doors, combine to improve the appearance of another slab-sided body.  All in all this is a competent design, they just can’t get it to the dealers soon enough.


During the Geneva International Motor Show, BMW introduced a new car and a new concept.  Like the other premium German manufacturers, BMW wants to cover or open each and every market segment with high-end cars.  The new 2 Series Active Tourer may be the first front wheel drive car from BMW, but it is probably not the most important for our friends in Munich.  On the booth we can see this car just in front of the new BMW 4 Grand Coupe.  And we are in two different worlds.
The BMW 4 is what we have come to expect from BMW.  A nice, powerful coupe for 4 people with all a BMW driver can offer to his family and friends – after fulfilling his own dreams that is…
At Geneva, BMW showed that it also wants to enter a new world with the Active Tourer.  The 2 series exterior shape is very traditional and similar to what the volume car manufacturers already offer.  This segment will certainly enjoy BMW quality, comfort and ergonomics, but we will have to wait and see if BMW will have the same success here as with the X series SUV’s.


NAIAS 2014 | BMW

Like Mercedes-Benz, BMW keeps adding more and more models to expand their market coverage and improve overall fleet fuel economy and emissions.  This ‘segment creep’ by the premium brands is likely to have a serious, long-term impact on the profitability of the volume brands as the wealthier buyers are skimmed off.  The higher price buyers will tend to move to the luxury brands leaving the volume manufacturers with the just the mainstream, lower margin units.  This could result in significant downward pressure on overall corporate profits for the mainstream manufacturers.
BMW has all the single digit numbers covered now (8 and 9 in concept form), plus the overlay of the ‘i‘series and then of course the X series and a GT or two thrown in for good luck.  But it is mostly good.  I can do without the GT and the Liftback, but the rest of the range continues to have that high ‘lust factor’.
The production ready i8 is a masterpiece.  The entry and egress is somewhat difficult with its wide, high sill and small wedge-shaped area through which one must squeeze ones foot, but BMW has taken maximum advantage of the carbon fiber construction to create a unique and stunning machine.
The 2-series coupes (replacing the 1-series coupes and conforming to the odd number sedan and even number coupe naming scheme) were new and firmly in the BMW mold.  More exciting were the M3 and M4 models, featuring aggressive front and rear fascias, big wheels and huge carbon ceramic brake discs that fill the wheels all the way to the rim.  Just give me the keys and no one gets hurt!

IAA 2013 | BMW i3

BMW is introducing at the IAA the first car in the i-car lineup: the BMW i3. Benoit Jacob, head of Design of the i-line, chose not to design a “normal” car like Renault did with the Zoe(although the budget goal was not the same…). It has electric power and it has to show it. One can say it is a little bit complicated in term of lines, but everybody should admit that the i-Car line has its own signature (see the i8…).Once you understand this choice you can discover the car itself. With the use of aluminum and carbon fiber, and despite the weight of the batteries, the car weighs in at a reasonable 1,270kg. The electric motor produces the equivalent of 170hpat the rear wheels and the batteries provide a driving range of 130 to 200km.The interior is roomy and well executed in terms of details and quality. More than anything, a test drive was very convincing. This BMW i3 might be expensive (in comparison to a Renault Zoe, although not in the same category), but at 35,000€ we think it is worth it.

BMW Concept Active Tourer

Ian Robertson, head of marketing at BMW, make it a straight : with this concept, BMW intends to redefine the segment…

But when we look up closely we can have some doubt…This car looks like a Mercedes B-Class in its volume. On the other hand, the lines are really BMW eventhough the car itself lose the rear wheel drive.

The concept car was very close to the final version and we can predict that the car will be on the road around Francfort Autoshow next year.