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2007 Chicago Auto Show: BMW B7 Alpina – The Uber 7-Series

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500HP, Tweaked Chassis, and Bodykit Create Uber 7
Though announced by BMW North America last year, the BMW Alpina B7 finally arrived at the 2007 Chicago auto show. The B7 Alpina is a superfast version of the regular-wheelbase 750i, created by longtime BMW tuner Alpina from the 750i and fully warranted by BMW. The prior 745i was offered with a 325HP 4.4L Valvetronic V8, and it is this engine that Alpina supercharged to 500HP and 516 lb-ft. of torque. To go along with the power, the B7 Alpina sports cosmetic cues and Alpina badges inside and out.

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Along with supercharging a Valvetronic engine for the first time, which required specific engine enhancements, Alpina tweaked the suspension. There is firmer calibration of springs and shock absorbers, created a new exhaust system, the 7’s Active Roll Stabilization for countering body roll in corners, the European 760i’s larger brakes, and twenty-inch wheels and tires. Alpina strengthened the differential, but the full torque is still limited to the first two gears of the six-speed automatic transmission.
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Outside, B7 Alpina’s subtle cues include a specific front bumper and spoiler, twenty-spoke Alpina wheels, a rear spoiler, and Alpina B7 badges. As pictured, the traditional Alpina blue metallic paint is available. Interior touches include B7 doorsill trim, blue background color for the instrument cluster, and Alpina lettering. The steering wheel sports an Alpina logo, is trimmed with Lavalina leather, and has upshift/downshift buttons.
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VehicleVoice#61 – A Tour of the Latest in Concept Vehicles with Jim Hall

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There are few things more fun than walking through a major auto show along side AutoPacific Analyst and former General Motors brainiac, Jim Hall. You have to be patient. He knows everybody and everybody knows him, so the going is often slow. But the one liners you get to overhear as he comes upon the latest in concept cars are worth the wait. So we decided to follow him around the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, but this time,we brought the video camera.
Jim checked out the new Cadillac CTS, due to hit showroom floors this October. If you haven’t seen this performance sedan yet, you’re going to be blown away whether you’re a Cadillac fan or not. Cadillac must have had BMW’s 5 series and the Audi A6 in the crosshairs when they dreamed up this beauty. Even Jim was impressed.
He also reviewed a crop of new concepts –
Lexus IS-F
Lexus LF-A
Volvo XC60
Mercedes S-Class Convertible Ocean Drive
Chevrolet Volt
Jim went to design school, so watching him chat about stamped steel is actually interesting. And you can’t beat descriptions like “swoop du jour” and “Ingmar Bergman on acid.”
Thanks for the stroll, Jim. It was fun.

Show Runtime – 14:44


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VehicleVoice#57 – BMWs – from the new Ms to the Hydrogen 7

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BMW was one of the more fascinating exhibitors at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this month, mainly because of it’s schizophrenic display. In one section, lined up in all their Teutonic beauty, were the M models. Few cars go faster and with more muscular style than BMW’s Motorsport line. And in another section of the booth, BMW’s breakthrough Hydrogen 7 – truly a great advancement in alternative drivetrains. So, in one moment, you’re looking at nothing but raw speed – MPG be damned – and the next, you’re contemplating hydrogen fuel stations and water vapor emissions. Only BMW could make both ends of the spectrum look so good.
In this podcast, David Barrett starts things off with another exclusive interview – this one with Alternative Fuel Expert Daniel Kammerer. And he ends things walking along BMW’s “M Row” where he gives you a look at the new M Coupe, the insanely horse-powered M5, and the two new M6s – the convertible and the coupe.

Show Runtime – 7:49


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Ward's 10 Best Engines of 2007

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WardsAuto.com has announced its 10 Best Engines for 2007. Let’s see how VehicleVoice agrees with the Wards’ results… they are presented in alphabetical order:

Audi AG 2.0L turbocharged DOHC I4 – Audi A3 –
We agree wholeheartedly with this engine selection, but Ward’s gives it short shrift by identifying only the Audi A3 as having this engine. It is also found in the Audi A4, Volkswagen Eos, Volkswagen GTi, Volkswagen Jetta and even the Volkswagen Passat. A real nice driving 4-cylinder turbo that is the workhorse of the spirited Volkswagen/Audi lineups.
BMW AG 3.0L DOHC I6 – BMW Z4 3.0si – BMW in-line sixes are always works of art. Smooth, effortless, always feel that they are putting out more horsepower than their ratings. Ward’s has selected the higher horsepower version found in the Z4 3.0si – it puts out 255-horsepower and has 220 pound-feet of torque. This engine is also found in the BMW 530 sedan.
BMW AG 3.0L turbocharged DOHC I6 – BMW 335i – We don’t really go with turbocharged engines much. There is usually no replacement for displacement. But the 3.0L Turbo in the 335i is a sweet piece. Turns the 335i into a Q-ship with near M3-levels of performance.
DaimlerChrysler AG 3.0L DOHC V6 turbodiesel -Mercedes-Benz E320 Bluetec/Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD – We appreciate the sentiment, but until a diesel can be sold in all 50 states, we won’t agree that it is one of the best engines. Diesels deserve a significant place in the USA automotive landscape, but regulations, technology, fuel costs, fuel availability have all conspired against widespread diesel acceptance.
DaimlerChrysler AG 5.7L OHV Hemi V8 – Chrysler 300C – Chrysler Group has built a franchise around the HEMI. The low cost, Mexican-produced, overhead valve, high output engine almost singlehandedly resurrected Chrysler from its early 21st Century doldrums. Don’t forget the HEMI can be found in all large, rear wheel drive Chrysler, Dodge products as well as the two largest Jeep entries.
Ford Motor Co. Duratec 35 3.5L DOHC V6 – Ford Edge/Lincoln MKX – Ward’s specifies the Ford/Lincoln Crossover Sport Utility Vehicles as the vehicles where the new Duratec 35 is found, but don’t forget the Lincoln MKZ (Zephyr) and the Mazda CX-9. While this higher output V6 is sorely needed by Ford and will eventually find its way through the Ford lineup, somehow the horses feel weaker than its 263-horsepower output suggests. We’ll reserve judgment on this one.
Ford Motor Co. 4.6L SOHC V8 – Mustang GT/Mustang Shelby GT – The 4.6L is the workhorse V8 for Ford’s rear wheel drive platforms. A very reliable, bulletproof powerplant, the 4.6L has proven to be very flexible up and down the horsepower scales. Driving the higher horsepower versions in the Mustang is a delight.
Mazda Motor Corp. 2.3L DISI turbocharged DOHC I4 – MazdaSpeed3 – A very willing and berserk powerplant in the MazdaSpeed3, the 2.3L Turbo provides more than enough power to generate nutso torque-steer in the MazdaSpeed3. Torque steer has always been a bugaboo in high output front wheel drive Mazdas and the combination of power and chassis dynamics in the MazdaSpeed3 may have set a new high (or low).
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. 3.5L DOHC V6 -Infiniti G35 – We assume that Ward’s is referring to the higher output VQ found only in the Infiniti vehicles for 2007/2008. A significant upgrade from previous VQ V6s, the Infiniti has been finessed to new levels of power, smoothness and “engine music”. Still a bit of a lump in the fuel efficiency category, however. And the VQ’s refinement has pretty much been sub-par compared to the Audi, BMW and Lexus (Toyota) sixes against which it competes.
Toyota Motor Corp. 3.5L DOHC V6 -Lexus IS 350 – Another Japanese V6 putting out over 300-horsepower from 3.5-liters. Sweet, quick revving, quick. But unlike the Nissan VQ in the Infiniti, the Lexus 3.5L seems to lack the passion that really stirs the senses. Maybe it is the “engine music” thing. But it’s far more likely the effect of the Toyota engine’s astonishing refinement.


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Automobile Magazine All-Star Awards

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Automobile Magazine, hot on the heels of Autobytel, has just released their “2007 All-Stars Awards.” Just as with the Autobytel Editors’ Choice Awards, this is an award that you wonder what the validity is. Unlike the AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Awards and Ideal Vehicle Awards released each summer, Automobile‘s award does not factor consumer input into the equation. In fact, AutoPacific’s awards are purely based on consumer ratings. Automobile‘s award reflects their own opinion. Not all bad, but when reviewing the results, it is wise to remember that these folks are enthusiast-biased to the max.
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Automobile Magazine Announces Its 2007 All-Star Awards
November 29, 2006
Each year, the editors and bureau chiefs of Automobile Magazine convene to test, evaluate, and debate the performance, significance, and pure enthusiast appeal of the cars that have made the biggest impact.
“This year, we increased the number of All-Stars from six to 10, which reflects just how brilliantly the industry is doing at providing enthusiasts with even more choice,” said Gavin Conway, editor-in-chief of Automobile Magazine. “As always, the hard part was deciding what to leave out of our constellation of All-Stars. In the end, these cars are what any connoisseur would have in their ‘dream garage.”
The 2007 Automobile Magazine All-Stars are:
* All-Star: Aston Martin V8 Vantage—This car could just about make the cut for its sensational looks alone, but it also offers a sublime driving experience and a truly inspirational engine.
* All-Star: BMW 3-Series—Remains one of the most complete cars on sale today, from its driving dynamics, quality of build, and the sheer pleasure of ownership it offers.
* All-Star: Chevrolet Corvette Z06—A friendly daily-driver that’ll leave Ferraris and Lamborghinis for dead, the Vette is an all-American hero.
* All-Star: Chrysler 300C—This one is a classic American: big V-8, rear-wheel drive, and a unique style that absolutely charms. Practical to own, too.
* All-Star: Honda Ridgeline—A clear winner with its unibody construction that gives a tight, rattle-free ride; Honda quality; and its very clever underbed trunk. [VehicleVoice note: Ridgeline had a sweep of all three AutoPacific awards for 2006… Vehicle Satisfaction Award, Ideal Vehicle Award and Motorist’s Choice Award]
* All-Star: Infiniti G35—Thanks to its superbly balanced chassis, terrific grip, and a punchy powertrain, this car challenges the dominance of BMW’s 3-series.
* All-Star: Lotus Elise—An undiluted driving machine that deftly combines light weight, electrifying performance, and near-telepathic chassis response.
* All-Star: Mazda3—Terrific to drive, stylish, spacious, and capable of 155 mph in turbo guise, this proves that small cars can aspire to greatness.
* All-Star: Mercedes-Benz S-Class—One of the best-built luxury cars on sale at any price, its features technology that truly makes life easier and safer.
* All-Star: Porsche Cayman—With an extra-stiff structure, Porsche engineers were able to deliver stability, grip, ride, and composure that are just about unmatched.
Criteria and Evaluation
The Automobile Magazine All-Stars are chosen by its staff, its worldwide bureau chiefs, and its contributors, following an intensive test drive of the year’s most innovative and important new cars. Vehicles considered for the All-Stars awards combine the following traits:
* Redefines an existing category or creates a new market segment
* Provides excellent value and performance for the money
* Exhibits an exceptional design
* Offers pure driving enjoyment


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Blowing Off the Lot – the Hot Sellers

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Since we have identified the vehicles that have the longest days supply, we have been asked to show which vehicles have the shortest days supply. Which vehicles are so hot they just blow off the dealer’s lot? As with the slower moving vehicles where we arbitrarily cut off the days supply at 150 days, here we are using 50 days as the cut off point. The details are shown “below the fold”


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BMW's 3-Series Gets Power Retractable Hardtop Convertible

Though BMW does not officially pull the wraps off the latest 3-Series convertible until Detroit’s North American International Auto Show in January 2007 and sales do not begin until spring or summer 2007, the company has released some early photos and information on the European spec cars. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific are here to bring them to you.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The fact that the 3-Series Cabriolet becomes a retractable hardtop is definitely the correct move in today’s competitive convertible market. In the past, with the 6-Series Cabriolet for instance, BMW pooh-poohed the idea of a hardtop convertible. It would weigh too much and be too complicated and mess with the weight distribution of the car. Fast forward a few years to NOW, and voila a retractable hardtop makes sense.

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BMW joins the ranks of power retractable hardtop convertibles with the new 3-Series convertible, a move that was necessary to stay competitive. Even the Mazda MX-5 Miata offers an optional power retractable hardtop now. While Mazda boasts a 12-second time to drop MX-5’s top, BMW claims a competitive 22 seconds for the new 3-Series top.
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The 3-Series convertible competes against the likes of Volvo C70 and Volkswagen Eos, and both offer retractable hardtops. Hardtops provide for better rearward visibility, with a larger glass area and smaller C-pillar than conventional softtops, and more comfortable year-round drivability. Though once upon a time deemed too expensive in most cases, costs seem to be coming down and these are fast becoming required for convertibles of all sizes.
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VehicleVoice #36 – Ford's New CEO, Dip in Fuel Prices, Roadtrips

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Welcome to VehicleVoice – Episode #36

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This week, our VehicleVoice audio podcast has host David Barrett sitting down with AutoPacific’s Vice President and Senior Consultant Jim Hossack for a conversation about the state of the American Auto Industry.

Jim and David chat about dropping fuel prices and the sights seen from the window during a roadtrip through the Rockies, not to mention GM’s new warranty, BMW’s new hydrogen car (is it practical?), and how renting a Mustang convertible in the Yellowstone region is a lot easier than you might think. And that’s just the beginning!

Show Runtime – 15:04

Show Rundown
00:28 GM’s recent changes – Are they turning things around?
03:33 Ford’s New CEO – Will an outsider make a difference?
07:29 Gas Prices – Why are they falling and will Americans start buying big cars again?
09:55 BMW’s New Hydrogen Car – Will it sell?
11:38 Western Mountain Road Trip – What kind of cars can you see on the road in the Rockies?


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New Hydrogen 7 BMW Introduced

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Even thought the cost of oil is dipping a bit this month, the overall outlook for fuel prices does not alter the issues of oil dependency. German automaker BMW has taken a significant step at reducing its product requirements for fossil fuel.

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The new BMW Hydrogen 7, is the world’s first hydrogen-drive luxury performance automobile for daily use. According to BMW, the new car is equipped with an internal combustion engine capable of running either on hydrogen or on gasoline and based on the BMW 7 Series.


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BMW Updates Their First SUV: 2007 X5 Preview

BMW introduced its first SUV for the 2000 model year, and it is time for the model to be updated. The first formal public showing of the 2007 X5 is not until the Greater Los Angeles Auto show in November 2006, but BMW has released first pictures and pricing. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents are here to bring you the first look. While we haven’t yet seen the car in the tin, the first images lead us to expect it to look terrific on the road.

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The second-generation X5 arrives in U.S. dealers just after the Los Angeles reveal. This new X5 is larger and features new-generation BMW six- and eight-cylinder engines, but retains proportions and the look of the first generation (click here and here for comparison images).
The extra 7.4 inches in overall length bring an optional third row to the model, as well as another4 inches in the cargo floor. The bigger size should make for a more usable vehicle, as the first-generation X5 didn’t offer much in the way of cargo space, and the third row will help it be competitive against other luxury SUVs. Whether a usable third-row or not, making the option available can help keep some buyers who may otherwise walk away, especially in today’s competitive environment.
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Most third row seats are only comfortable for shorter adults and kids, but we give credit to BMW for actually saying that those seats are meant for adults no taller than five feet, six inches. We read far too many press releases claiming comfort for a wide range of adults in cramped third-row settings.


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