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BMW

2021 BMW X5 xDrive 45e: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Luxury plug-in hybrids like the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive 45e present a puzzle that will not be solved until purely electric vehicles become the mainstream.

Manufacturers are increasingly committed to that goal, predicting that in a decade or so, many automobiles, utility vehicles, and even trucks will be 100% battery powered to reduce carbon emissions and help save the planet from premature annihilation.

Meanwhile, we already have excellent electric vehicles from General Motors, Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Porsche, Volkswagen, Nissan, Volvo, Audi, Polestar, and, yes, BMW. But they are expensive and lack the convenience of current gasoline- and diesel-fueled machines. 

They will become mainstream when they achieve a similar range, recharge roughly the same time it takes to gas up an internal combustion vehicle and build charging stations in numbers rivaling today’s service stations. 

That will take a while, recalling the time when automobiles began to replace horse-drawn carriages and wagons. Then, you fed oats and hay to the horses but had to drop by the local drug store to buy gasoline.

At this juncture, the compromise is called electrification, and its leading representative is the hybrid gasoline-electric power plant. Led by Toyota’s Prius, with more than 2.4 million sales in the United States, the modern hybrids have proliferated throughout the automotive world.

They deliver outstanding fuel economy because they can run on purely electric power and partially recharge batteries from regenerative braking, with the gasoline engine automatically kicking in as needed. But the main advantage is that the driving experience is no different from that of a standard gasoline-engine car. Some hybrids are more potent than their fossil-fuel brethren, are easy to refuel, and do not have to be plugged in.

Also in the mix are the PHEVs (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles) like the subject here from BMW, its X5 xDrive 45e.

Though the X5 PHEV gets a 50-MPGe fuel economy rating from the EPA, its electric range on a full charge is advertised as 31 miles when it switches to hybrid or gasoline power. Running on gasoline only, it has a 20-mpg rating, which works out to about a 370-mile range.

There have been reports that some owners do not bother to plug in their plug-ins. They simply drive them as standard hybrids, giving up the added economy of electric driving. But if owners plug in and drive less than 31 miles a day, they can avoid gassing up.

The difficulty with plug-ins — especially those of a luxury orientation — is that they are generally more costly than fossil-fueled or hybrid vehicles.

A prime example is the tested X5 xDrive 45e. Its base sticker price of $66,395 is $4,000 more than a gasoline-engine X5 with all-wheel drive, standard on the 45e. If you forego the all-wheel drive and go with a gasoline rear-drive X5 sDrive, the difference is $6,000.

On top of that, BMW has an options list that reaches the horizon. The tested X5 45e had extras that added $15,300 and brought the bottom-line sticker price to $81,695. Of course, that includes every feature common to that luxury category.

It’s a huge nut, likely out of reach for the vast majority of prospective buyers but attractive to people who can afford it. The big item on the tester’s options list is the $5,500 M Sport package, evoking ultra-high-performance BMW models. Here it includes Sport Seats, an M

Steering wheel, unique lightweight alloy wheels and trim pieces, and a performance-tweaked eight-speed automatic transmission.       

The X5 PHEV is motivated by a silky 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine with 282 horsepower, linked to a 111-hp electric motor.  Combined, they deliver 389 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel this 5,672-pound midsize crossover to 60 mph in less than five seconds, with a top speed of 146 mph.

This SUV is a BMW after all, with all that implies: Great handling, aided by a standard air suspension system, a comfortable ride cosseted in the supportive sport seats, quiet cruising, the capability to smoke most contenders in stoplight drag races, and the quiet comfort of great design and engineering. Also, it’s American built, in the BMW plant in Spartanburg, S.C.

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 BMW X5 xDrive 45e plug-in hybrid four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine/motor: 3.0-liter six-cylinder gasoline, turbocharged, 282 hp; electric,111 hp; combined system 389 hp, 443 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 2 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 105/33 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,672 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 7,200 pounds.
  • EPA fuel-economy ratings: 50 MPGe; 20 MPG gasoline only. 
  • Base price, including destination charge: $66,395.
  • Price as tested: $81,695.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) BMW

2021 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

For as long as anyone can remember, twin kidney-shaped grilles identified the vehicles from the Bavarian Motor Works. That continues with the redesigned 2021 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe, but you may have to look at least twice.

The kidney grilles are still there but swollen as if someone had slapped them around. Instead of their former familiar mien, they look like large, side-by-side maws aiming to gobble up anything in their path.

They also incorporate a system of automatic shutters that adjust airflow to the radiator. Unfortunately, the innovation appeared to have been crippled because the test car’s front license plate was mounted dead center across the two grilles, partly over a hidden bumper crossbeam but restricting at least some of the airflow. Plus, it looked ugly.

There doesn’t appear to be any other convenient place to mount a license-plate bracket and frame. So serious enthusiasts who hanker after this stylish high performer may want to move to Georgia or some other state that only requires rear license plates.

A few years back, BMW changed its nomenclature to distinguish its compact sedan from the coupe better. The 3 Series sedan may be the best known and loved of the entire lineup but take away two doors, and it is now a 4 series. Except for the number of portals, the 3 Series and 4 Series are mechanically identical and similarly equipped.

Moreover, this test car’s model designation starts with an M, which is BMW’s extra-high-performance moniker, similar to the AMG Mercedes-Benz, the S models from Audi, and Cadillac’s V versions. 

Given the excellence of modern sports sedans, it’s a mystery to some observers that coupes survive, even as crossover sport utility vehicles eclipse sedans. The question is, why bother with the inconvenience of a two-door automobile. But preferences in motor vehicles are a varied as the people who buy and drive them.

Unlike some other coupes that look more like fastbacks, the M440i has a traditional coupe profile, which enables decent headroom in the two back seats, as long as the passengers are not Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks or some other National Basketball Association skyscraper. There’s also enough knee room for average-sized adults, but only if the driver and front passenger don’t run their seats back too far.

As with any compact coupe, settling into the back requires some agile ducking and twisting, and there are no inside roof-mounted assist handles to hang onto. It’s best to reserve the back seats for kids, athletes, or frustrated flagellants.

The M440i has sports car bones. Silky feeling and powerful, though noisy under hard acceleration, its turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine makes 382 horsepower and 364 pound-feet of torque, or twisting force, enabling this nearly two-ton machine to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, with a governed top speed of 157.

On the tested xDrive model (BMW-speak for all-wheel drive), the power gets to the wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel. The drive system also includes a mild hybrid setup with a 48-volt electric motor-generator that provides a boost off the line and helps avoid turbo lag.

There are four selectable drive modes: Sport, Comfort, Eco Pro, and Adaptive. This test stuck to Sport and Comfort. They were not sharply different from a handling standpoint with variable sport steering, which was secure but more oriented toward comfort. The Sport setting also held shifts to higher revs with ensuing cabin noise. The ride was supple but unsettled on rough roads.

Out back, there’s a decent-sized and well-finished trunk of nearly 16 cubic feet. There’s no spare wheel and tire; the M440i has run-flat tires on 18-inch alloy wheels, as well as adaptive shock-absorbers.

Equipment on the test car, some optional, included automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, leather upholstery, Arctic Blue metalling paint, head-up display, automatic climate control, heated front seats and steering wheel, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, navigation, gesture control of functions, Wi-Fi hot spot, wireless smartphone charging, SXM satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and a premium Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system.

The M440i xDrive Coupe’s starting price came to $54,495, including the destination charge. Options brought the tested price up to $70,470. 

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 BMW M440i xDrive Coupe four-passenger two-door.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder, turbocharged: 382 hp, 364 lb-ft torque. With 48-volt electric motor-generator.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 90/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,985 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/31/26 mpg. Premium fuel required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $59,495.
  • Price as tested: $70,470.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) BMW

2021 BMW 330e Sedan: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Electrification. It’s the current buzzword for the future in the automotive industry. There’s a lot to embrace in the various approaches so far, including the 2021 BMW 330e plug-in hybrid sedan.

There are at least four avenues so far: electric motor, where you plug in to charge the battery pack; hybrid, with an electric motor working in concert with a gasoline engine; plug-in hybrid, which combines the first two, and hydrogen fueled from a service station pump or manufactured onboard from a fuel cell.

The bottom line from whatever source is electric power, which is non-polluting, fuss-free mechanically and delivers instant torque, or twisting force, as soon as it is switched on. 

Eventually, as the technology advances, battery electric likely will take over with quick charging that takes no longer than fueling a gasoline or diesel engine vehicle. 

The simple hybrid is the method of choice now. Hybrids, led by Toyota’s popular Prius, have delivered millions of economical, reliable vehicles to owners all over the world.

Then there are the plug-ins, epitomized by the tested BMW 330e. The concept has merit. Hook up the 330e to a 240-volt charging station — there are many all over the country — and in three hours the battery pack is charged. 

When you engage, the first thing it does is to enable BMW’s so-called XtraBoost, which conjures up an additional 40 horsepower when you punch the hot pedal off the line. It only lasts a few seconds but enables the 330e to accelerate to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, BMW says.

If that hasn’t sucked the juice from the batteries, you can then cruise about 22 miles on pure electric power. After that, your 330e becomes a regular hybrid, toggling back and forth between and in concert with the gasoline engine until you either plug in again or fill up the tank.

All this folderol earns the 330e a miles per gallon equivalency rating from the EPA of 75 MPGe. If you don’t bother to charge it, the 330e’s city/highway/combined fuel consumption on mainly gasoline power comes to 25/38/28 mpg.

It works, too. On a 100-mile round trip, the tested 330e’s gasoline gauge pointer barely moved off the “full” peg. But it’s not all honey in the tea or toddy. The tested 330e’s base price is $45,545. A standard 330i costs $2,000 less and, curiously, delivers slightly better gasoline-only fuel economy of 26/36/30 mpg. 

So, if spending a couple of grand more to plug in and get up to 22 miles on pure electric power is your thing, go for it. Truth is, with this BMW you hardly detect the difference between all-electric and hybrid driving anyway, so seamless does the system switch back and forth.

Until you do a bit of schooling, either by yourself with the owner’s manual or with a BMW instructor, you do have to puzzle over the scattershot of numbers on the instrument panel. With some of these systems, especially with premium cars, it seems as if infotainment functions are made deliberately complicated to justify the higher prices.

For example: On other models, BMW has a simple button below the instruments to re-set the trip odometer. On the 330e, you have to search through a bunch of menus to find a display that gives you that information, along with your fuel economy. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to ask.

But if a performance/luxury plug-in hybrid activates your synapses and you can spend about 60 large, you won’t be disappointed. This is a BMW, after all, which telegraphs that you will inherit driver involvement in a sweet-handling and easygoing transporter in any driving situation.

This tester carried $14,100 worth of options, bringing its as-tested price to $59,645. That, of course, made it uncommonly well equipped with such items as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. 

Both, by the way, are uncommonly aggressive — no doubt because of their BMW genes — so don’t get too spooked when you appear to be headed for a collision with that 18-wheeler before the adaptive cruise brakes slam on, or the lane keeping almost jerks the steering wheel out of your lazy hands.

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 BMW 330e PHEV four-door sedan. 
  • Engine/motor: 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline, turbocharged, 181 hp, 258 lb-ft torque; paired with 107 hp, 77 lb-ft torque electric motor and 12.0 kWh lithium-ion battery; total system 288 hp, 310 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 98/13 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,039 pounds.
  • Electric-only range: 22 miles. 
  • Charging time (@ 240 volts): Three hours.
  • EPA combined miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe): 75. Gasoline only: 28 mpg. Premium fuel required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,545.
  • Price as tested: $59,645.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

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Photos (c) BMW

2021 BMW X1 xDrive28i: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If it were a thinking creature, the 2021 BMW X1 xDrive28i likely would be befuddled by the different descriptions attached to it. 

The Bavarian Motor Works, which builds the X1 in a plant in Regensburg, Germany, calls it a sports activity vehicle and places it at the entry level of the company’s extensive lineup of what others call crossover sport utility vehicles.

Yet it actually is larger than the next step up in the lineup, the BMW X2. Both are described as subcompacts in the crossover realm away from BMW. But the Environmental Protection Agency, keeper of fuel economy ratings, classifies the X1 as a large car with a hatchback.

That’s because the EPA’s categories are based not on length, or weight, or wheelbase (the distance between the centers of the front and rear wheels), but on the inside space in cubic feet, including both the passenger and cargo room.

A car with more than 120 cubic feet of space for people and cargo gets a classification as large. The BMW X1 has a total of 128 cubic feet, with 101 for passengers and 27 for cargo behind the second row of seats. Like other crossovers, it has a rear hatch to access cargo.

The more expensive X2, on the other hand, has a total interior volume of 115 cubic feet, divided into 93 for passengers and 22 for cargo. It also is lighter, and shorter in length and height than the X1. Moving up the scale of  BMW’s SAVs are the X3, X4, X5, X6 and X7, some of which are built in the company’s U.S. plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

The one thing you always can count on with BMW is exceptional performance and excellent handling. It dates back to the superb 1967 BMW 1600, which Car and Driver magazine described then as the world’s best $2,500 car. It was the template for the brand, though it was overshadowed by the 1968 BMW 2002, which came with a bigger and more powerful four-cylinder engine dictated by U.S. anti-pollution requirements. 

Though BMW focused on performance sedans and the occasional sports car, it quickly recognized how buyers became entranced by crossover SUVs. In the first six months of 2020, 55% of BMW’s 154,204 U.S. sales were of crossovers.

The 2021 BMW X1 is mostly a carryover from the 2020 model. Though it operates in luxury/performance territory, it is not outrageously expensive, with a 2020 base price of $38,195, including the destination charge, which is only a few thousand dollars more than the current average price of a new automobile in the U.S.

However, like other European cars in the category, it has an options list that marches out to the horizon. The tested X1 came with $10,450 worth of extras that brought the bottom-line sticker price up to $48,645. But you’d hardly want any more.

Start with the power train. The tested X1 xDrive28i—the xDrive is BMW-speak for all-wheel drive—comes with a 228 horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 258 pound-feet of torque. The power is transferred via an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode controlled by steering-wheel paddles.

It’s enough to propel the X1 to 60 miles an hour in about six seconds, with a top speed near 140 miles an hour and fuel economy that won’t break the bank. The EPA rates its city/highway/combined fuel economy at 23/31/26 mpg on the recommended premium gasoline. 

An idle stop-start system boosts the fuel economy somewhat but it causes hesitation off the line. It can be turned off but there still is some slight lag when you punch the throttle, and it happens in any of the three selectable drive modes: Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport. The last mainly holds the transmission shift points to higher engine revolutions before shifting and is the preferred setting for spirited motoring.

Meeting expectations of BMW, the X1 handles nearly like a sports sedan, tracking true with almost no body lean around curves. The tradeoff is a ride that nods toward stiffness. Sport seats hold the torso tightly, and the X1 cruises quietly at speed on freeways.

One annoyance. The panoramic glass sunroof on the test X1 came with a flimsy perforated sunshade that admitted too much heat and light—probably OK in northern Europe but it makes the air conditioning less effective in 90-100 degree heat in some areas of the U.S.

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 BMW X1 xDrive28i four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 228 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 8 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 101/27 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,715 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/31/26. Premium fuel recommended.
  • Base price, including destination charge (2020): $38,195.
  • Price as tested: $48,645.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) BMW

2020 BMW M340i xDrive Sedan is the Leader of the Pack

by Jason Fogelson

If you listen to some BMW fans, the last great 3 Series was the E36 (1991 – 1999). Or maybe it was the E46 (1998 – 2006). All I know is, the 2020 BMW M340i xDrive Sedan that I had during a recent week-long test drive is a great car that owes apologies to no one.

Front 3q LeftThe history of the BMW 3 Series is well-known. First introduced as a 1975 model to replace the model 2002 coupe, 3 Series is a front-engine/rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive car that has been built in various configurations over seven generations of production. There have been two-doors and four-doors, notchbacks and liftbacks, hardtops and convertibles. The 3 Series has been loved and reviled, praised and damned, both by its supporters and detractors. BMW drivers can sometimes be the punchline in jokes about rude drivers, but the brand’s longtime advertising tag, “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” has stuck for a reason – and the 3 Series has worn it well.

Front2019 marked the beginning of 3 Series’ seventh generation. For 2020, there are four models, all four-door sedans: 330i rear-wheel drive (starting at $40,750); 330i xDrive (starting at $42,750); M340i rear-wheel drive (starting at $54,000); and M340i xDrive (starting at $56,000). My test car was an example of the all-wheel drive M340i xDrive with a host of extras, including Tanzanite Blue Metallic paint ($1,950); Oyster Vernasca Leather ($1,450); Drivers Assistance Package ($500); Drivers Assistance Pro Package ($1,700); Premium Package ($1,400); Executive Package ($2,100); Remote Engine Start ($300); 19-inch M wheels ($400); Adaptive M Suspension ($700); Power Tailgate ($250); Ambient Lighting ($250); Wireless Charging ($500); Harman Kardon surround sound ($875); and a $995 Destination Charge for an as-tested price of $69,570. Take a knee. Breath deeply. Let’s discuss.

NoseThe M340i is gorgeous, for one thing. The proportions of this sedan just work, with a great profile and long dash-to-front-axle distance. The BMW signature twin-kidney grille is flanked by expressive squinting-eye LED headlights, and the car’s face is determined and confident. The sleek roofline looks windswept. The M340i does what a sports sedan must do – it looks fast standing still.

Dash

The interior is almost as successful as the exterior. Leather, polished metal trim, great textures and smart repeated hexagonal shapes bring an elegant simplicity that 3 Series has been missing in the latest generations, and a 10.25-inch touchscreen is perfectly placed at the top of the center stack. iDrive 7.0 and BMW Live Cockpit deliver all the latest tech with an intuitive interface – I never thought I’d be able to say that about an iDrive system. The 14-way power leather seats are insanely comfortable, especially for the long-legged among us, thanks to long travel and extendable thigh support, which makes a big difference on long drives.

Cabin

If you’re going to keep calling yourself “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” you’d better have the goods under the hood, and M340i does. A 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder direct-injected gasoline engine sends 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque to the wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission with an M Sport limited-slip differential. The M340i xDrive is the quickest of the 3 Series models, capable of going from 0 – 60 mph in 4.2 seconds on the way to a top speed of 130 mph. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway/25 mpg combined.

Live Cockpit

I’m sad that there’s no manual transmission available for the M340i, but it’s a sign of the times. Even among the buyers of a sporty brand like BMW, three-pedal fanatics are few and far between. The automatic is a very good one, with quick shifts and a manumatic mode accessible via paddle shifters.

Engine

Driving the M340i is very compelling. It sounds great, feels great, and handles great. Every cloverleaf is an opportunity to feel some g-forces. Every stoplight can be an arm-stretching launch. If you need to spend a lot of time behind the wheel, M340i will reward you with constant enjoyment, and a collaboration with technology that will make your drive easier and safer.

Chassis

The mid-size sport sedan market caught up with the 3 Series, with some very good competitors like the Audi A4/S4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Infiniti Q50, Lexus IS, Volvo S60, Jaguar XE, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Genesis G70, Kia Stinger and others.

Rear 3q LeftThe 2020 BMW M340i xDrive shoots back into the lead. It’ll be fun to see the others try to catch up.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

RearPhotos (c) BMW

2020 BMW X3 xDrive30e: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), especially high performance luxury models like BMW’s 2020 X3 xDrive30e, pose a puzzle for potential customers.

The all-new X3 is a compact crossover sport utility vehicle from Germany’s Bavarian Motor Works, manufactured in a U.S. plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Like all BMWs, it is a sweet handling, fast moving machine. It can snap off a zero to 60-mph run in six seconds, with a top speed of about 130 mph.

P90374484_highRes_the-new-bmw-x3-xdrivWhere it distinguishes itself is in fuel economy because of its gasoline/electric power: a turbocharged 2.0-liter gasoline engine mated to an electric motor and a 12 kW battery. The system makes 292 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque that powers all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually.

The Environmental Protection Agency rates the 4,586-lb xDrive30e’s fuel consumption, in combined city and highway driving, at 60 mpg equivalent (MPGe). A standard X3 with a turbo gasoline engine gets a combined rating of 27 mpg.

The PHEV X3 has a base price of $49,545, which is $4,900 more than the gasoline-engine version. A bit of back of the envelope math reveals that an owner driving about 12,000 miles a year with $3 a gallon gasoline would not make up the difference and start realizing actual savings for more than six years — assuming he or she even kept the X3 that long.

P90374469_highRes_the-new-bmw-x3-xdrivOf course, fuel economy likely is way down on the list of reasons anyone buys an X3 — or any BMW, for that matter. The company has a reputation for delivering excellent driver-oriented vehicles with little regard for mileage bragging rights, and the X3 PHEV is no exception.

One advantage to a hybrid is having the electric motor poised to provide extra punch to the gasoline engine. In this application, the boost helps eliminate any turbo lag — that hesitation off the line while the turbo spools up. Electric motors deliver instant torque.

Mash the X3 PHEV’s pedal and go. The computer-controlled eight-speed automatic decides when to shift. If you must, there are paddles mounted on the steering wheel so you can have the fun to decide for yourself.

P90374470_highRes_the-new-bmw-x3-xdrivAnother plus is the fact that a PHEV can be driven on purely electric power — up to a point. BMW claims an electric range of 20 miles in combined city-highway driving. This reviewer, without effort, managed 21. Part of the system includes regenerative decelerating and braking, which provides a bit of extra charge for the battery pack.

There are selectable drive modes for pure electric and economical hybrid motoring. Either way, the X3 PHEV is a smooth and silent runner on the open roads, switching automatically to hybrid when the battery pack runs out of juice.

Twisting roads provide little challenge for the X3 PHEV. With the battery pack and fuel tank positioned under the back seat and over the rear axle, the X3 has backwoods ballet balance. Settle into the firm, nearly uncomfortable but supportive seats, with plenty of bolstering, and simply attack the corners, controlled as if it were a low-slung sports sedan.

P90263723_highRes_the-new-bmw-x3-xdrivThere is the matter of price. At BMW, compiling profitable options lists borders on art. With a list of expensive packages, including M Sport trim at $5,000, a Harman Kardon surround audio system at $4,500 and assorted other handling and driving assistance upgrades, the tested X3 came with a bottom-line suggested price of $65,020.

As a compact crossover, the tester has the interior space of a midsize car, done up luxuriously with leather upholstery and buffed wood trim. There’s 101 cubic feet of passenger space — enough to seat four with generous room, along with a poor soul in the center-rear space who must perch on a hard cushion with feet splayed alongside a big floor hump.

P90263707_highRes_the-new-bmw-x3-xdrivThe cargo area offers 16 cubic feet of space, a bit stingy but that’s because the battery pack lies under the back seat with the fuel tank over the rear axle. Fold the rear seatbacks and it opens up 53 cubic feet of stash space.

The X3 PHEV’s main competitors are the 325-horsepower Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e, with a starting price of $51,645, and the 400-horsepower Volvo XC60 T8, at $54,945.

P90263702_highRes_the-new-bmw-x3-xdrivSpecifications

  • Model: 2020 BMW X3 xDrive30e plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine/Motor: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; electric motor with 12 kW lithium ion battery; 292 system hp, 310 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 6 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 101/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,586 pounds.
  • EPA fuel consumption: 60 MPGe PHEV; 24 mpg gasoline only.
  • Electric-only range: 20 miles.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $49,545.
  • Price as tested: $65,020.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

P90365485_highRes_the-new-bmw-x1-xdrivPhotos (c) BMW

2020 BMW 745e xDrive iPerformance: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

There is a lot to be said about plug-in luxury cars like the 2020 BMW 745e xDrive iPerformance sedan. But it has little to do with fuel economy or cost of operation.

Sure, the tested 745e is sumptuously luxurious, handles beautifully and has the bones to delight almost any driver even on a taxing cross-country trip. But you can get nearly the same results with a gasoline-only 740i xDrive and save about six grand in the process.

P90335746_highRes_the-new-bmw-745le-seOf course, most people who buy luxury cars that cost north and south of $100,000 likely do not worry about saving a few bucks here and there. And it is true that the 745e is slightly better for the dwindling health of our planet.

At a minimum as a plug-in hybrid rated at 56 mpg equivalent fuel economy by the government, it may make owners feel somewhat better about their locomotion choice, assuming they are not  climate change deniers.

The EPA estimates the annual fuel cost at $1,500 for the 745e xDrive compared to $2,150 for the 740i xDrive. It would take more than 10 years to recoup the $6,000 higher price for the 745e — assuming anyone would keep it that long. However, some customers might pay that premium for its sterling performance.

P90333059_highRes_the-new-bmw-7-seriesThe tested 745e, with a bottom-line price tag of $119,875, can only travel about 16 miles on purely electric power before the high-performance gasoline engine lights up. That short range is not uncommon among luxury plug-in hybrids.

As one result, according to published reports, some owners of luxury hybrid plug-ins like the 745e never even bother to hook up to a charger, driving them as if they were simply hybrids like the Toyota Prius or any number of other green machines.

So what’s the point? The current imperative throughout the world-wide automotive industry is electrification. That can mean purely electric power, as with a luxury crossover SUV like the Audi E-Tron, or any number of plug-ins and hybrids. Any manufacturer that wants to survive into the future has some electrification project going, often with self-driving technology as well.

P90333074_highRes_the-new-bmw-7-seriesMeanwhile, we have not-even-halfway-there measures like the 745e, which demonstrates that even a modest injection of electric power, properly done, can transform almost any vehicle into something superior to the gasoline-powered machines we all have loved and hated.

The electric Taycan threatens to eclipse all of the adrenaline-inducing sports cars that have borne the Porsche name since the 1930s. Electric motors can deliver enormous power instantly and quietly while gasoline engines must rev up to punch out their horsepower.

Sure, there’s nothing like the growl of a Detroit V8 in full cry that stirs the hearts of enthusiasts. But let’s face it: the days of screaming grand prix cars and fuel dragsters are numbered — though perhaps not in many of current adult lifetimes.

P90333075_highRes_the-new-bmw-7-seriesWhich brings us back to the subject here, the 2020 BMW 745e xDrive iPerformance sedan. It is, to be sure, a transition machine for a few who have the wherewithal to enjoy its many attributes.

It is, first and foremost, a BMW, which means that motoring performance is the starting point with the luxury added on, though endemic and expected by its customers.

The beauty is in the overall performance feel, especially when driving in the brief pure electric mode, when the 745e simply surges instead of rockets in acceleration. Even at highway speeds that can easily, though illegally, approach triple digits, it is silently powerful to the point where a glance at the speedometer is a surprise.

P90335203_highRes_the-new-bmw-745le-anBMW lists the zero to 60 mph acceleration time at 4.7 seconds, not bad for a car that weighs nearly 5,000 pounds. But this is not the sort of conveyance anyone would choose for stoplight drag races.

The 745e is a boulevardier, easily suited for chauffeur-driven duties. Inside, though it’s not a limousine, it has many of the same accouterments and ambiance. The design and materials are thoughtful and consistent, of high quality. Though a fifth passenger could squeeze in the middle, the focus is on the outboard passengers, with power reclining seats — though there’s not enough space for a full stretch-out.

The pull-down center console houses controls, including a computer tablet, for almost any convenience, and entertainment screens are mounted on the backs of the front seats.

Cocktails anyone?

P90333092_highRes_the-new-bmw-7-seriesSpecifications

  • Model: 2020 BMW 745e xDrive Performance four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter six-cylinder, turbocharged; 280 hp, 330 lb-ft torque; with AC electric motor, 111 hp, 196 lb-ft torque; combined output 389 hp, 442 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 17 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 115/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,970 pounds.
  • EPA miles per gallon equivalent: MPGe 56; gasoline only: 22.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $96,545.
  • Price as tested: $119,875.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

P90333062_highRes_the-new-bmw-7-seriesPhotos (c) BMW

2019 BMW X5 xDrive40i: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If “aggressive” is a word that gets your automotive juices flowing, and you’re in the market for a midsize luxury SUV, you might want to schedule a test drive in the 2019 BMW X5 xDrive crossover.

Now 20 years old, the X5 was the Bavarian Motor Works’s answer to the 1998 Mercedes-Benz ML 320, which had the distinction of leading the parade of modern luxury SUVs. They now have multiplied to the point where you can select from nameplates like Bentley, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Acura, Audi, Volvo, Land Rover, Infiniti, Cadillac, Jaguar, Lincoln, Lexus and, of course, Mercedes-Benz.

P90325220-highResIn this company, as in other areas of the automotive firmament, the BMW X5 chooses to compete in a clique of vehicles oriented more toward performance than plush ride and comfort — hence the “aggressive” moniker.

Though it’s not up there in nosebleed price territory like the Rolls-Royce or Bentley, the X5 is aggressively priced. The tested X5 — the xDrive designation is superfluous because all of the 2019 models come with all-wheel drive — came with a base price of $61,695, including the destination charge.

As usual with European luxury cars — though the X5 actually is built in BMW’s U.S. plant near Spartanburg, S.C. — the devil is in the detailed list of options. The tested X5 was crammed with $12,285 worth, resulting in a bottom-line sticker price of $73,980.

P90325209-highResOptions included items that a customer might expect should be standard equipment in a vehicle in this price class—for example, the leather-trimmed dashboard, head-up display, Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless smart phone charging, rear camera with surround view, four-zone climate control and SXM satellite radio.

But BMW does focus on the performance gear, which is standard and not part of the options list. The silky in-line six-cylinder engine delivers 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque — enough, the company says, to accelerate to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, with a governed top speed of 130 mph.

That aggressive power gets to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually with paddles mounted on the steering wheel. Want to do some stoplight drag races with a Porsche Cayenne, Mercedes-Benz GLE or Audi Q7? Go seek them out and the likely result will have more to do with driver skills than  power under the hood.

P90325505-highResThe X5’s aggressive nature extends to its lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. Though it cruises sedately in easy-flowing Interstate traffic, the X5 gets downright mean if the driver’s attention wanders. Drift out of your lane and the system nearly jerks the steering wheel out of your hands as it brings this 4,613-lb machine back on track.

As with other adaptive cruise control systems, the driver can select the following distance from the vehicle ahead. It’s best to allow some extra air for the X5. Set it to the shortest distance and it can scare the daylights out of the driver as it aggressively closes, then slams on the brakes before meekly matching the target’s speed.

Even with its responsive acceleration and handling, the X5 still is a tall SUV and would not compete on a twisting racecourse with its sibling sedans. Still, among luxury crossover SUVs, it stands out for steady tracking, steering feel and feedback, and the capability to negotiate mountain curves with aplomb and control.

P90325536-highResAside from its aggressive personality, the X5 comports with other luxury vehicles in designing its driver-interactive systems more for engineers and tech enthusiasts than average moderately-savvy drivers. It often seems that infotainment systems on luxury vehicles are needlessly complex to justify the high prices. The attitude seems to be that if the systems are simple, they must be cheap.

Not so. Almost anybody would happily and quickly learn an infotainment system from, for example, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) than try to dissect the owner’s manual on a BMW or Mercedes to figure out how to, say, set the pre-sets on the SXM satellite radio.

P90325526-highResThough there are capable midsize crossover SUVs available for way less money — the 2020 Kia Telluride, Subaru Outback and Hyundai Palisade come to mind — the X5 is a fine choice for those with the wherewithal and a taste for aggressive performance.

In addition to its road-going manners, the X5 boasts some off-road chops, though likely not in the same manner as Land Rovers and Range Rovers. The emphasis, as is traditional with BMW, is “ultimate” street driving.

P90325383-highResSpecifications

  • Model: 2019 BMW X5 xDrive40i four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter six-cylinder, turbocharged; 335 hp, 330 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 2 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 105/34 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,613 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 6,503-7,209 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/26/22 mpg. Premium fuel.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $61,695.
  • Price as tested: $73,980.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

P90325519-highResPhotos:  BMW

2018 BMW X2 xDrive28i: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

BMW, the Bavarian Motor Works of Germany, has been masterful at plugging holes in its high-performance luxury lineup, especially with crossover sport utility vehicles. Now, with the 2018 X2 xDrive28i, it’s even filling a small gap where there was no hole.

The company, somehow sensing that crossovers would be the next big thing, already marketed the X1, X3, X4, X5 and X6 crossover SUVs, plus higher-performance M versions of the X5 and X6. Most are built in the company’s plant in Spartanburg, SC, and exported around the world.

P90278977_highResNow it has slipped the X2 between the smallest X1 and compact X3. But unlike its garage mates, it is more of an amalgamation of a crossover and small hatchback or wagon.

Though built on the same front-wheel drive platform as the X1 and BMW’s Mini Countryman, it is shorter than the X1 with a lower roofline, giving it a sleeker, more sporting appearance while maintaining a crossover look.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, a crossover is an SUV built like a sedan with unit-body construction. A pure SUV, which doesn’t appear anywhere in the BMW lineup, is constructed like a pickup truck with a separate body and frame.

No BMW comes cheap, and the new X2 is no exception. Its performance and quality dictate a high price compared to other, similar vehicles. The tested X2, with xDrive — meaning all-wheel drive — came with a base price of $39,395 and, as tested with a load of expensive options, checked in at $50,920.

P90278987_highResOn the performance side, it is powered by a 228-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine, mounted crosswise under the hood like most front-drive based vehicles. The engine makes 258 lb-ft of torque, sent to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode controlled by steering-wheel mounted paddles.

The combination is enough to propel the X2 to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds with a top speed of 143 mph, according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Given BMW’s heritage dating back to the remarkable 1600-2 in 1967, it’s no surprise that the X2 handles beautifully, responding rapidly to steering inputs, cornering with minimal body lean and tracking ruler-straight on the highway. The tradeoff is a harsh ride, especially on the increasingly pockmarked roads all over the country.

Some of the harsh ride likely could be traced to the hard run-flat tires, which eliminate the need for a spare. The X2 also was noisy, with engine and road sounds transmitted into the cabin.

P90278949_highResBut there’s a practical side as well. Passenger volume is 93 cubic feet, which means a couple of adults can sit comfortably in the back seat, though as usual any center-rear passenger gets dissed by a high, hard cushion and a big floor hump.

Augmenting the passenger pod is a cargo area of 22 cubic feet behind the rear seat, which expands to 50 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded. Total interior volume of 115 feet would place the X2 in the midsize class if it were a sedan.

The biggest items among the $11,525 worth of options were the $5,050 M SportX packages, which included an upgraded automatic transmission and sport suspension, panoramic sunroof, SXM satellite radio, power folding outside mirrors, garage-door opener, sport seats with lumbar support, 19-inch alloy wheels and M Sport exterior and interior trim pieces.

P90278955_highResAlso, the test car came with its most controversial feature: $550 “Galvanic Gold” metallic paint. Comments ranged from people who though it stood out beautifully to others who said it looked hideous. It reminded a few of early BMWs that came with orange paint jobs.

Other features included a power tailgate, LED cornering headlights and fog lights, automatic climate control, a Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless smart phone charging, Apple CarPlay and a high-zoot Harman Kardon audio system.

In today’s marketplace, it’s not difficult to find a crossover roughly the same size as the X2. With customers and manufacturers abandoning sedans, there are many good choices across the board, from small  vehicles like the Honda HR-V and Jeep Renegade to big, three-row crossovers like the Chevrolet Traverse and Audi Q7.

However, if you can afford it and your choice is a sports car in semi-crossover guise, the BMW X2 certainly is worth a test drive. The only drawback from an enthusiast’s point of view is that there is no manual shifter available.

P90278961_highResSpecifications

  • Model: 2018 BMW X2 xDrive28i four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 228 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: Five feet (60.1 inches).
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 93/22 cubic feet. (50)
  • Weight: 3,685 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/31/25 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $39,395.
  • Price as tested: $50,920.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

P90278958_highResPhotos (c) BMW

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