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Let's Talk Cars: Alaskan Pipeline Trouble, the Future of E85 and BMW's New Hybrid Deal

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This week, Let’s Talk Cars sees David Barrett sitting down with AutoPacific’s Vice President and Senior Analyst Jim Hossack for their bi-monthly chat. On tap – British Petroleum’s disintegrating Alaskan Pipeline, Walmart getting into the E85 game, waning interest in motorsport, GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner, and the new GM/Chrysler/BMW Hybrid deal.
First up, how will BP’s announcement of deteriorating pipelines and their subsequent shut-down in Alaska effect prices at the pump? David asks Jim that plus his thoughts on Walmart getting into the fuel selling business with a new commitment to the eco-friendly E85. What is E85? Don’t worry, Jim will explain everything.
What’s the future of motorsport when it seems every series out there is going for one engine, one tire, and one cookie cutter package? David and Jim share their opinions.
Jim Hossack and other executives at AutoPacific had the opportunity to lunch with Rick Wagoner, CEO of the embattled General Motors. Find out his impressions. And speaking of GM, they’ve decided to take on some partners – BMW and DaimlerChrysler to be exact – in an effort to develop a new hybrid engine that will work in larger American trucks and SUVs.
David and Jim have a full plate this week, so tune in!
Show Rundown
01:08 British Petroleum’s Alaskan Pipeline
03:08 The Future of E85
06:50 Motorsport’s Fading Manufacturers
10:28 An Afternoon spent with GM’s Rick Wagoner
13:52 The New Hybrid from GM/DaimlerChrysler/BMW


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BMW M6 Cabriolet – A Softtop Convertible?

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In spring 2006, BMW‘s M6 coupe finally went on sale in the States. It was formally introduced at the Los Angeles auto show (click for our coverage from January). Just yesterday, BMW released the photos of the M6 Cabrio (perhaps in part because someone had already leaked them). Whatever the strategy behind their release, VehicleVoice is ready to bring them to your attention. As of this writing, BMW USA had not added the M6 convertible to their web site, but a terrific, though broadband-intensive, overview can be found on BMW’s international consumer website.
COUNTERPOINT
Yeah, we love the way the cabrio looks with the top down, but BMW’s rationale eschewing a retractable hardtop for a softtop just does not hold water. Every, and I mean EVERY, modern cabriolet should have a retractable hardtop. This improves creature comforts and yields two cars – a coupe and cabriolet – for a slight premium price over a single coupe or cab. Additionally, I read about the 279 suspension settings available… this means that there is every setting available EXCEPT GOOD. I’ll spend my money on something much less complicated.
Writing ten months later in April 2007 we note with some satisfaction that the BMW 3-Series Cabriolet has now become a retractable hardtop. Great move.
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Aside from the coupe’s carbon-fibre roof versus the Cabrio’s soft top, there are no significant differences between the M6 coupe and convertible. Both get the 500HP 5.5L V10 and seven-speed sequential manual gearbox introduced in the latest M5. The M6 convertible even offers the same lightweight nineteen-inch wheels as the coupe. Convertible buyers do not have to give up the DriveLogic program and its three engine output programs, the M Drive system that helps manage the possible 279 DriveLogic and suspension settings, the M Differential lock, the new-generation Dynamic Stability Control, the Electronic Damper Control, or the a hill detection that adjusts the transmission’s up- and downshifts when on hills or steep grades.
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Exterior cues warning you the M6 Cabrio is about to (or just did) overtake you are just as subtle as those on the coupe, including a larger front air intake, the new rear diffuser surrounding the four exhaust pipes, sculpted side sills, M-style mirrors, the M logo in the ornamental side slats, and the M6 badge on the decklid.
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BMW X5 Wins AutoPacific 2006 Ideal Vehicle Award for Luxury Sport Utility Vehicles:

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The ultimate driving machine, true to form, is the Ideal Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle. A 5-Series platform, injected with testosterone, stuffed with an all wheel drive system, and touted as a ‘jack of all trades’, may not need much fine-tuning. After battling it out with fifteen other entries the BMW X5 pulls ahead of its competition. The X5 provided owners with ideal passenger area and visibility.


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BMW 3-Series Wins AutoPacific 2006 Ideal Vehicle Award for Entry Luxury Cars:

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For many years the 3-Series has been the bread and butter of Bavarian Motor Works. The larger, fifth generation BMW 3-Series may be the new benchmark in its segment with 3-Series owners requiring little change in the car. Owners found 3-Series comfort and exterior size near ideal. The verdict is in, and the new 3-Series delivers the goods as an Ideal Entry Luxury Car.


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AutoPacific's 2006 Ideal Vehicle Awards Announced

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An “ideal” is defined as an excellent or perfect example. In the first Ideal Vehicle Awards, announced today by automotive research and consulting firm AutoPacific, owners rate their new 2006 model year cars and trucks by how closely they come to their ideal. The cars or trucks that owners would change the least are the most ideal.
Those carmakers that best understand their customers and create the vehicle their core buyer group desires has come closest to the ideal.
The top-rated vehicle and top-rated car is the Mercury Montego in the Large Car/Luxury Car category. In fact, Ford Motor Company sweeps the first three positions overall with the Ford Crown Victoria and Ford Five Hundred in second and third place. The top-rated truck is the Honda Odyssey Minivan.
The top-rated brand overall is Hyundai out-pointing Mercury and Lincoln for the most ideal vehicle honors.
Ford Motor Company and American Honda have three segment winners apiece. BMW and Hyundai have two each.
Of the sixteen Ideal Vehicle Award (IVA) categories, Japanese brands have seven segment winners, American brands have four, European brands have three and Korean brands have two winners.
The top-rated product segment is Large Car/Luxury Car confirming that Americans continue to value large, comfortable cars suitable for suburban and highway cruising.
Top-rated 2006 Ideal Vehicle brand: Hyundai
Top-rated 2006 Ideal Product Segment: Large Car/Luxury Car
Top rated 2006 Ideal Vehicles by segment:
PASSENGER CARS:
Premium Luxury Car: Lexus LS
Entry Luxury Car: BMW 3-Series
Large Car/Luxury Car: Mercury Montego
Premium Mid-Size Car: Hyundai Sonata
Mid-Size Car: Mercury Milan
Image Compact Car: Toyota Prius
Compact Car: Ford Focus
Sports Car: Porsche 911
Sporty Car: Acura RSX
SUT, SUV, and MINIVAN:
Sport Utility Truck: Honda Ridgeline
Luxury Sport Utility: BMW X5
Large Sport Utility: GMC Yukon
Premium Mid-Size Sport Utility: Nissan Murano
Mid-Size Sport Utility: Hyundai Santa Fe
Compact Sport Utility: Subaru Forester
Minivan: Honda Odyssey
In addition to identifying segment winners, IVA also establishes numerical ideal vehicle ratings for virtually every passenger car and light truck (except pickups) in the United States market. This results from calculating owner input across 11 specific areas related to a vehicle’s exterior size, passenger roominess, cargo space, driver’s seat comfort, drivers seat visibility, interior technology, power, ease of getting in and out, interior storage compartments and tires and wheels. The 2006 ratings reflect input from buyers and lessees of new vehicles acquired September 2005 through January 2006. Pickup trucks are not incorporated because of numerous body styles included within each pickup line.


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BMW's Chris Bangle – Ed Was Right All Along

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It would be difficult to think of anyone in the international automotive industry more admired and reviled as BMW’s design boss, Chris Bangle. Automotive designers at other companies are envious of his job and many detest the now-characteristic look of his design philosophy. Some automotive journalists and enthusiasts believe he irreparably damaged BMW as a carmaker. But not only are the Bangle BMWs (and MINIs and Rolls-Royces) considered rousing sales successes by company execs and competitors alike, some other automakers are adopting much, if not all of the Bangle design philosophy and language. Helluva thing for a guy raised in Wisconsin.

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2007 BMW 3-Series Coupe

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BMW has released the first official pictures and data on the latest 3-Series coupe, and quickly brought to you by VehicleVoice and AutoPacific. The initial pictures show a terrific look for the new coupe, and the initial specification data suggest a great driving machine. We’ve sorted through some photos and information to give you a quick overview, but at BMW North America’s website, more information is available.

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BMW Brings Back M Coupe With Great Style

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North American Introduction for the Latest in BMW M Series
At the 2006 New York auto show, BMW introduced the Z4 coupe and M coupe to the U.S. market, though this follows a worldwide introduction of the production car at the Geneva auto show in February 2006 and the concept at the Frankfurt show win September 2005.
The BMW Z4 coupe is a much more conventional execution than the first generation Z3 Coupe, which had a love-it-or-hate-it look along the lines of an MGB GT. While there were those who appreciated its odd look, there were not enough of them and the Z4 launched without a coupe companion for the 2003 model year. Of course, the Z4 styling itself was a lightning rod for further criticism of Chris Bangle’s “flame” side detailing, but most criticism was targeted at the weirdly proportioned rear end of the Z4. Where the old Z3 Coupe was weird from the rear, the Z4 coupe conceals the awkward detailing of the Z4 roadster and comes across as a more complete piece of design. Much, much better than the Z4 roadster and its predecessor Z3 coupe.
Given the terrific look of the newest BMW Coupe, this bodystyle of the sports car should experience far more success this time around.
Though Porsche managed to get its Boxster-based Cayman S coupe out ahead of the Z4 Coupe, BMW managed to give the M Coupe a launch price significantly below the Cayman S. More on the price difference later.
With BMW’s giving the Z4 coupe a staggered introduction, AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents were able to see the coupe in concept form at Frankfurt as well as the facelifted roadster and M roadster at the 2006 Detroit auto show. Here’s our first take of the new model.

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Motorweek 2006 Driver's Choice Awards

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Motorweek, the PBS-oriented car show, announced the winners of its 2006 Driver’s Choice Awards at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show. It will be interesting to see how these winners correspond to the owner awards from VehicleVoice and AutoPacific. The surveys for the annual AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award are in the field during the 1st Quarter 2006 and winners will be announced in early May.
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Their winners include:
Best of the Year: Honda Civic
Best Small Car: Honda Civic
Best Family Sedan: Hyundai Sonata
Best Minivan: Honda Odyssey
Best Convertible: Pontiac Solstice
Best Luxury Sedan: Infiniti M-Series
Best Sports Sedan: BMW 3-Series
Best Performance Car: Ford Mustang
Best Small Sport Utility Vehicle: Toyota RAV4 (guess they didn’t measure it… Mid-Size SUV now)
Best Family Sport Utility Vehicle: Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer
Best Pickup Truck: Ford F-150
Best Eco-Friendly: Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Best Dream Machine: Chevrolet Corvette ZO6, Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe, Ferrari F430
Special Category: Most Jane Car: BMW 3-Series


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BMW M6 Finally Arrives

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500HP, 11 Shift Programs, and a Carbon Fiber Roof.
BMW’s M6 high performance coupe started with borrowing the 500HP 5.5L V10 and seven-speed sequential manual gearbox found in the latest M5. Though launched in 2005 in Europe, North American sales do not begin until spring 2006. The M6 was introduced in the States at the 2006 Los Angeles auto show in January, where its nearly $97,000 price tag was also revealed.

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Subtle Styling Cues Signal Special Model
Consistent with European understated high performers, M6 specific exterior cues are subtle and include a larger front air intake, the unique nineteen-inch wheels, a new rear diffuser surrounding the four exhaust pipes, sculpted side sills, M-style mirrors, and the M logo in the ornamental side slats. There are seven colors available for the M6 in its first year, with four of them exclusive to BMW M cars.


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