We began this year with a string of new high performance Audi sedans – S6, S7 and S8. We have not gotten to the S8 yet, but the S6 and S7 are pretty similar cars so lets concentrate on the S7 fastback. Think of the A7/S7 as Audi’s answer to the Mercedes CLS and the BMW 6-Series Grand Coupe. The S7 is a four-door coupe with a very fast backlite and large rear hatch. Opening the rear hatch reveals a huge rear cargo area. While the S7 has a very sporty profile, its design has sacrificed ingress/egress in the front and especially rear seats. The style limits rear seat headroom and the legroom in the rear is also down a bit from the three box S6 sedan.
Interior Par for the course, the S7′s sport interior is special with great attention to detail, great fit and finish and a very upscale ambiance.
No Fingerprints, Please Audi ‘s multi media interface (MMI) continues with controls on the center console not a touchscreen. The Audi MMI is easy to use and somewhat intuitive once you have used it a few times, but it would fail the rental car test (unfamiliar car in a rental car lot at midnight in the driving rain). Unlike its brethren Volkswagen and Porsche that now use touchscreens, Audi has stayed away from them because fingerprints on the screen are unsightly.
Get the Comfort Seat Package In the S7, the black and lunar silver interior is tasteful, but the seat bolsters are too aggressive for casual driving. At this price, the seats in the S7 should have power adjustable cushion and back bolsters so you can have either a very supportive seat that you fit snugly in or a wide open seat that lets you move around however you want to. Sure the “S cars” are sport performance models, but at $94,570 for the S7, there should be loads of comfort as well. Recognizing this, Audi offers a comfort seat option for $1,950 that provide heating, cooling, massage and memory functions. Unfortunately, the comfort seats are available only in black Valcona leather not the silver/white leather in the evaluation S7.
Featherlight Toe on the Accelerator But the sport seats weren’t the only thing that presented a problem. The S-Cars are powered by a 420-horsepower 4.0L V8 with twin turbochargers and cylinder on demand. Mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s great Quattro all wheel drive system, this car should be a real pleasure to drive. Lots of horsepower and torque. Effortless V8 with turbos! Wow. But it isn’t a pleasure to drive. Tip-in the accelerator and there is a hesitation that makes you shy about merging into traffic from a stop unless you stomp on it. Maybe it’s the performance setting in the MMI? Comfort? The same. Auto? The same. Dynamic? The same… even worse. Once you get the S7 rolling, it is delightful. The throaty rumble of the engine is joyous. But getting up to speed takes a featherlight touch of the toe to do smoothly.
So, the S7 is really for a person who wants upscale coupe styling and a lot of power. It’s not for a person who needs to provide rear seat space or comfort. The S7 is a car that turns heads and likes to be driven at speed, but it is a touchy low speed cruiser.
BMW opted to bring back their M6 Convertible for 2012, and as expected, it offers up more horsepower, better looks, and increased fuel economy.
The 2011 BMW 750Li ActiveHybrid is an intriguing vehicle and I’m about to make a claim that may surprise just about anyone. The ActiveHybrid 7 is the best bang for your buck 7 Series. Slotted above this hybrid is the ALPINA B7 and the 760Li V12. On paper, both of these vehicles look like they would eat anything with a hybrid badge for lunch. Hit the jump to see what I mean.
While hybrids may be getting all of the attention when it comes to efficient motoring, the German automakers have long been preparing to show Americans a real alternative in the form of diesel engines. Because of much higher fuel prices in Europe, diesel has become the norm across the Atlantic due to their much greater fuel economy (up to 30% better than a comparable gasoline engine). In other words, the German automakers are already fully invested in diesel, and they would love to expand this technology into the U.S.
It isn’t an easy job, however. Whereas European emissions rules focus on CO2 emissions – a diesel strength since CO2 emissions are directly linked to fuel economy, American emissions rules tend to prioritize NOx and particulate emissions, which are two areas where diesels typically don’t do so well in. Furthermore, Americans associate diesels with dirty truck stops, smoky 18-wheelers, and pig-slow jalopies from the ’70s and ’80s that were unreliable and belched filth from their sooty tailpipes. On the other hand, Americans equate hybrids with high technology, clean air, and in many cases, a green future.
“BMW X5′s win of AutoPacific’s 2009 Ideal Vehicle Award shows that BMW understands what an American Luxury Crossover SUV buyer wants, and has delivered it. X5 owners rated the X5 best in class in five of fifteen categories and competitive in the remainder,” said George Peterson, president of AutoPacific, Inc. “In a product segment where buyers value image, luxury features, great ride and handling in an efficient package, X5 delivers the goods.” Top-rated X5 attributes include:
* Exterior size
* Cargo room
If you read our F1 post from several days ago, the world known as Formula One was on the brink of becoming CART Wars, PART II. A majority of the teams who race in the international F1 Championship were prepared (so they said), to launch a breakaway series, due in large part to their dissatisfaction with the requirements set forth by the governing body and its president, Max Mosely.
The Los Angeles Auto Show saw the world debut of the BMW Concept 7-Series ActiveHybrid. The concept shows the potential of BMW ActiveHybrid technology in the premium luxury car segment and is part of the BMW EfficientDynamics innovation strategy.
The objective of the 7-Series ActiveHybrid is to achieve much better fuel economy and lower emissions in a premium luxury car – a class not known for being particularly environmentally conscious.
Mild Hybrid Teamed With Potent V8
The BMW Concept 7-Series ActiveHybrid combines an 8-cylinder gas engine and electric drive as a mild hybrid. The drivetrain technology featured in the Concept Car allows enhanced driving dynamics together with a reduction in fuel consumption and emissions by 15% versus the same car running on an internal combustion engine only. BMW states that the ActiveHybrid does not compromise the driving dynamics, performance or features of the 7-Series.
BMW contends that there are no compromises to the original 7-Series equation when the mild hybrid is adopted. The ActiveHybrid Seven looks practically the same, has the same level of comfort and performance while getting better fuel economy with lower emissions through use of the mild hybrid technology.
Twin Turbo V8 Based on 750i Powerplant
The internal combustion engine portion of the BMW Concept 7-Series ActiveHybrid is a Twin Turbo V8 gasoline engine and high precision fuel Injection based on the 4.4L V8 of the BMW 750i. Maximum output of the conventional engine in the regular production model is 407 horsepower, with peak torque of 442 lb-ft.
BMW claims the V8 power unit is the most efficient engine in its class and is ideal for focusing on both driving dynamics and efficiency. BMW says its V8 is the only eight-cylinder gasoline engine in the world with its turbochargers mounted in the Vee between the two cylinder banks.
Electric Motor incorporated in Transmission Housing
The V8 is combined with an electric motor fully integrated in the transmission housing, developing maximum output of 20 hp and peak torque of 155 lb-ft. So with the mild hybrid concept, the electric motor boosts the dynamic driving potential of the eight-cylinder gasoline engine in a unique manner most appropriate for the character of the BMW 7 Series, giving the car better acceleration than the already great acceleration of the 750iL.
Regenerative Braking Supplements Power for Accessories
Using Brake Energy Regeneration, the electric motor supplies electric power to the power-consuming items on board the car, minimizing the direct conversion of fuel into electrical energy and maximizing the drive power available for enhanced driving dynamics.
BMW used the 2008 Los Angeles International Auto Show to launch its new 2009 7-Series flagship. The primary changes to the 7-Series include revised interior and exterior styling and an improved iDrive system. I guess “revised” may be too mild a word, but even though practically every exterior body panel (except the roof) is new, the 7-Series does not look much different.
At a glance, the primary differentiator between the 2009 7-Series and its predecessor is the pronounced character line running down its bodyside just below the windows. The styling of the front end has evolved a bit with a stronger looking hood surface and front fascia. The headlamps include translucent eyelids and have the subtle halo lighting first seen in the 5-Series several years ago. The Bangle Butt is less pronounced and now the rear end of the Seven looks much more conventional.
Details are important and BMW’s signature cue – the Hofmeister kink at the rear of the DLO (daylight opening) is shadowed in the sheetmetal. Nice touch, but very, very subtle.
You can still show the profile of the 7-Series and Lexus LS460 and not be able to tell the difference.
Green technology at the Woodward Dream Cruise? Hmmm. You could fit a whole Prius under this baby’s hood, I guess.
Does Alfa Finally See Their U.S. Dreams Come True?
In another example of automakers looking to partner and share synergies rather than swallow one another whole, Fiat and BMW entered into a memorandum of understanding to evaluation cooperative opportunities. They’ve formally agreed to talk about how, and if, they can help one another.
Alfa Romeo may have the most ego wrapped up into the outcome. Desperate to get back into the U.S. car market, Alfa wants the next-generation of the 147 be the lead volume product. They’ve further announced the intent to start building cars in the States in 2011CY, and have started looking for partners to make that happen as well. Technically they do return this summer with the low-volume 8C Competzione and next year with the convertible 8C, but Alfa’s only building 1000 8Cs, including both bodystyles, for worldwide consumption. With only about 100 8C coupes being offered here, the image-building 8C doesn’t make much of an impact on the market.