Category Archives: Cars

First Drive – BMW 335d

This morning, I took up an offer at BMW of Arlington (soon to be BMW of Alexandria) to test drive a 2011 BMW 335d.

The model we took out was a black four-door saloon, with the sports and cold weather packages. Shod in pretty nice 18’s with low profile run-flat PZeros (I think).

For about $52k, this isn’t a cheap motor, especially considering this wasn’t even optioned out to the limit, but it is a nice ride.

After pressing the start/stop button and starting it up without a wait for glowplugs, I half expected a pretty loud noise until it warmed up. It was quiet, just about as quiet as my funfer is in the morning. That was impressive.

Venturing onto the roads, we took it on the secondary roads before having a pretty good run on I395 and I495. I let the car shift itself until we hit the on-ramp for the highway (only autos are available – for shame BMW-USA), then put it into sport-shift mode. The car has paddles on the steering wheel, and given the sport-size wheel, everything was in reach and really comfortable. I kept catching myself going for the clutch and gear stick, but that was inevitable.

Putting your foot down, even in the sixth at moderate speed, the torque is quite impressive, almost pulling like a 540i. Considering this is a normal automatic gearbox, not an SMG or DCT, the shifts are remarkably responsive. You quickly forget you are driving an oil burner, and it corners  well (some Dinan parts would spice it up) – that’s more a testament to the large shoes as opposed to the (blech) run-flats I suppose. Turning the nanny switch off, I imagine this is a car that could spend a lot of time going sideways on a track day.

I found the visibility not as good as the 5 series – but that’s inevitable given the car’s smaller size.  A diesel coupe would be a definite win too. It seems that they really restrict the range of diesel (and small in general) models for the US market. Hopefully this tide is shifting as people want small, fun, economical cars.

Bottom line, if this car had a more appealing interior (this one had saddle brown leather and wood trim), this is one I could definietly see myself in. There are tons of incentives too, so this could be a pretty reasonable car to purchase in late-December if one is so-inclined to take advantage of the tax perks.

Still, I say that now, but I cannot wait for the new 1 Series M Coupe to come out, hopefully in Q1 2011.  That will be a car for a test-drive and euro-delivery.

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Apples and Oranges – Ford and Toyota?

The escalating Toyota troubles – stemming from the very public and graphic 911 call of the cop in the Lexus who crashed and died with family at 100+ miles an hour (and similar stories several years before to today, according to Woz and many other NHTSA complaints), is now turning into a PR disaster worthy of the Exxon-Valdez incident.

The foot-dragging, and eventual recall by Toyota, thanks to intense media scrutiny and LaHood’s US DOT pushing, brought me to another classic case study – the Ford Pinto.

According to data and much research, Ford ran a cost-benefit analysis, essentially determining paying for accidents and lawsuits is cheaper than fixing the issue (in case you don’t remember, the issue was exploding fuel tanks). I’m not saying Toyota took the same gamble (and lost), but the similarities will likely come into view. Important to note that Ford really does have it together these days, I couldn’t imagine them doing something similar again – especially after the Explorer/Firestone tyre incident a number of years ago.

This summary hits the spot:

http://www.engineering.com/Library/ArticlesPage/tabid/85/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/166/Ford-Pinto.aspx

Cost-Benefit Analysis

One of the tools that Ford used to argue for the delay was a “cost-benefit analysis” of altering the fuel tanks. According to Ford’s estimates, the unsafe tanks would cause 180 burn deaths, 180 serious burn injuries, and 2,100 burned vehicles each year. It calculated that it would have to pay $200,000 per death, $67,000 per injury, and $700 per vehicle, for a total of $49.5 million. However, the cost of saving lives and injuries ran even higher: alterations would cost $11 per car or truck, which added up to $137 million per year. Essentially, Ford argued before the government that  it would be cheaper just to let their customers burn!

Still up in the air is whether a software glitch is in play, espeically regarding unintended acceleration in the Prius as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has been highlighting the problem with the electronics.

Update Feb. 3 @ Noon from Autoblog:

Report: NHTSA turns an eye towards electronics as source of Toyota troubles

Reports from multiple news outlets cite sources within the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who claim the government is now looking into electrical problems as the source for Toyota’s recall troubles. The unnamed agency employee reportedly told CNN that the government is investigating whether electromagnetic interference might cause the electronic throttle control system to malfunction. The source went on to add that the agency has found no evidence of problems with the electronic throttle, though engineers at NHTSA were still actively investigating the matter.

http://www.autoblog.com/2010/02/03/toyota-electronics-investigated-by-nhtsa-report/