- 2012 BMW 650i Coupe Review & Test Drive
- 2012 FIAT 500C Convertible Lounge Review & Test Drive
- Small But Safe: 2012 Fiat 500 Earns IIHS Top Safety Pick
Posted: 19 Oct 2011 11:25 AM PDT
'HIGH PERFORMANCE AND LUXURY MEET HEADON'
First introduced in the late 1970's as the 3.0CS and 3.0CSi, this latest generation BMW 650i coupe strikes a perfect balance of high-performance driving dynamics and luxury, just like the first 6-Series did as the 3.0CSi. Sexy, long beautiful design lines, elegant, luxurious and high-tech interior all meet with a 4.4 liter, twin-turbocharged 400hp and 450lb.ft. of torque V8 engine generating power to the rear wheels through a new eight-speed transmission. It all comes together so smoothly as BMW is known for.
The new 650i is BMW's top-of-the-line 2+2 coupe. The body length is nearly 3 inches longer than before, while the width has also increased by 1.5 inches and it is ½ inch lower. The increased size offers more room for rear seat passengers. This high-end coupe features a shorter rear deck and a dramatic slope of the rear light, along with perfect proportions all around. The rear-end loses the hotly debated 'Bangle Butt'. The new coupe is the first BMW to received full LED treatment driving lights, indication lights, brake lights and rear taillights. The front end features a 'shark-like' nose featuring a slightly forward leaning kidney grille and a full-width air duct within the lower part of the bumper. At the rear the L-shaped taillights continue to remain a BMW signature icon and the full LED treatment brings out the luxury and sportiness of the new 6-Series. Bulging wheel arches, horizontal lines and a shape that broadens downward all combine to accentuate the car's wide track. The wide trapezoidal dual exhaust tips at each side are another sign of the car's high-performance characteristics.
The body-to-glass look with its pillarless doors is another trademark of the new 6-Series and fits seamlessly with the rest of the new design. The greenhouse is now surrounded by a thicker full-perimeter chrome strip further accentuating the luxury found inside.
The interior design is characterized by the typical BMW driver orientation and dynamic forward movement. The central area of the dashboard, including the control display, the air outlets and the control panels for the audio system and automatic A/C, is inclined slightly towards the driver. The gear selector is located on a surface that opens up towards the driver and is positioned lower than the front-seat passenger area, perfect!
Also, the fluid connection between the center console and dashboard is emphasized by a contrasting seam on the leather surfaces that gives the interior a more elegant and refined look.
The horizontal dashboard orientation is emphasized by an electroplated trim in the driver's area. Its course is contoured on the passenger side in the form of a subtle character line on the glove box. The dynamic forward movement is stressed by the door panel surfaces, which have a powerful taut look that is continued on to the front and into the dashboard. The decorative surface, which continues with a slight twist into the center console, gives front seat passenger area an exclusive touch. Furthermore, thanks to their single-seat design and increased shoulder and elbowroom compared to the previous model, the rear seats guarantee passengers a high degree of traveling comfort. Also, despite the lower vehicle height, there is great head room on all the seats.
The instrument cluster featuring black panel technology combines state-of-the-art display technology with the classic round instruments typical of a sports car. A high-resolution 9.2 inch info display installed below the four round instruments shows mileage, fuel consumption and Efficient Dynamics information as well as operator feedback from the driver assistance systems and check-control messages.
Along with the controller and direct selection buttons located on the center console, the standard iDrive control system comprises a newly conceived onboard monitor with an exclusive flat-screen design. The freestanding control display is prominently and ideally positioned with the dashboard area. It has a 10.2 inch width, the largest onboard monitor in the segment-featuring a high-quality electroplated chrome surround. The fabulous comfortable and supportive Nappa leather heated/cooled front bucket seats are infinitely adjustable and are one of the finest in its class.
In the new 650i coupe, spontaneously unfolding performance, superior pulling power, excellent running qualities and the exemplary efficiency of a V8 engine are fascinating attributes. The 4.4 liter, all-aluminum engine has two turbochargers positioned in the V-space between the cylinder banks. Apart from compact dimensions, the innovative design principle permits a specific design for the inlet and outlet ducts. The reduced pipe length and an increased cross-section minimize the loss of pressure at the intake and exhaust sides. The eight-cylinder engine develops a maximum output of 407hp at 5,500-6,400rpm and a peak torque of 450lb.ft. between 1,750-4,500rpm.
The sporting performance attributes of the V8 engine enable the new 650i to accelerate to 60mph from a standstill in just 4.9 seconds. The extraordinary efficiency for this output class is primarily attributable to the gas direct injection. The jet-guided injection with injectors positioned centrally between the valves, and in the direct vicinity of the spark plugs, guarantees that the fuel is closed with particular precision. The fuel efficient engine has an EPA rating of 16mpg/city and 24mpg/highway, excellent for a high-performing luxury coupe.
Power is transmitted to the rear wheels via a new eight-speed Sport automatic transmission. It enhances the sporting driving dynamics thanks to exceptionally fast gear changing; it offers outstanding shift comfort and also optimizes efficiency. You can use shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel or simply put the shifter into the +/- gate to the left to shift gears manually.
The characteristic driving experience in the new 650i is defined by sporty handling capabilities. At the same time, modern suspension technology provides optimized ride comfort. The double wishbone front axle and integral rear axle are primarily made up of aluminum components. Dynamic Damper Control and the Adaptive Drive System are offered as options, which also includeDynamic Driveactive roll stabilization. The electronically controlled dampers adapt to both the nature of the road surface and you driving style. Roll stabilization reduces the effects of vehicle body roll when driving through bends at high speed and during sudden swerving maneuvers. My test 650i came with all three high-tech handling features and really enabled me to take the 650i out to its handling limits without any problems.
In customary BMW tradition for precision, comfort and efficiency, the new 650i coupe combines a unique electromechanical steering system with Servotronic function for speed-sensitive steering power assistance. Beyond this, the new 650i coupe is the first car in its class to be offered with an option for Integral Active Steering. It combines Active Steering for the front wheels with steerable rear axle. I had this option in my test 650i and you could actually feel the car track sharply through the curves with ease.
Driving Experience Control is standard on the 650i. It enables you to vary sportiness and comfort to suit the situation. You can choose from the 'Comfort', 'Sport' and 'Sport+' modes. In addition, you can also use the ECO Pro mode. In this case Driving Experience Control influences the characteristic curve of the damper and the roll stabilization in addition to adjusting the accelerator pedal progression, engine responses, power-assisted steering characteristics, Dynamic Stability Control, response thresholds and the shift dynamics of the automatic transmission. In each case you activate a pre-configured and consistent overall setup.
The lightweight floating-caliper brakes with inner-vented discs are easy to use with precision. Up front are 14.9 inch discs clamped with a single-piston aluminum floating caliper in a large frame structure while 13.8 inch discs clamped with a single piston aluminum floating calipers are fitted to the rear. The effect of this powerful braking system is supported by the Dynamic Stability Control function. The dynamic stability system comprises the ABS, Dynamic Traction Control, Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Brake Control, brake assist, brake fade compensation, the Brake Drying function and the Start-Off Assistant. The electrical parking brake is standard and it also includes an Auto Hold function, which increases convenience in Stop & Go traffic. If the vehicle comes to a stop, it is automatically held-even on slopes-by means of constant brake pressure until you press the throttle again. The Auto Hold function is activated and deactivated with a separate button on the center console.
My 650i test model rode on giant 20X8.5 inch front and 20X9 inch rear light alloy wheels wrapped 245/35R20 front and 275/30R20 rear low-profile high-performance tires for excellent grip and a very smooth ride.
Standard features include cruise-control, cargo net, front console with storage, front dual cupholders, front door pockets, remote trunk release, front seatback storage, 12-volt front power outlets, front/rear parking sensors, power tilt-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, self-dimming rearview mirror, power-remote/heated sideview mirrors, one-touch express windows, power door locks, dual lighted vanity mirrors, dual map lamps, trunk light, dual-zone climate control with active charcoal filtration, and front floor mats.
Standard safety features include airbags for driver and front passenger, side airbags for driver and front passenger, head airbags for front and rear seats, three-point inertia-reel seatbelts for all seats with belt latch tensioner and belt force limiter integrated into the front seats, crash-activated head restraints at the front, crash sensors, run-flat tires and a tire pressure monitoring system.
The all-new 2012 BMW 650i coupe has it all from long sleek styling, attention to detail inside, high-performance powertrain, state-of-the-art suspension and braking to the latest safety systems to keep you and your passengers safe at all times.
Posted: 19 Oct 2011 08:11 AM PDT
To introduce the US market to FIAT, Chrysler leaves the traditional Italian brand’s design somewhat untouched while adding many features and safety improvements over the European version. The all-new Fiat 500 is a two-door subcompact available in a hatchback or convertible variants.
As cute as it is, the new Fiat 500 is a fully functional vehicle that has a long European lineage with a few reworkings to better suit its needs here in the states. For the US-spec Fiat 500, it gets a bigger fuel tank (one additional gallon) for a total of 10.5 gallons, additional safety features and improved fuel efficiency. Being the small vehicle that the Fiat 500 is, you can manage to get up to 336 miles in one tank on the automatic convertible version going by its EPA estimated 32 mpg highway figure. Gas mileage is rather consistent and I was able to get better than the 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway estimates on my Fiat 500C test vehicle. The manual transmission version of the 500 improves fuel economy standards to an excellent 30 mpg city and 38 mpg highway.
Powering the all-new 2012 Fiat 500 is a new 1.4-liter engine with MultiAir technology. The MultiAir system is a great technological advancement which essentially decouples the intake valves and camshaft. MultiAir basically achieves what other valvetronic systems do to vary valve positioning (timing) dependent on load and engine speeds to optimize efficiency and power output. All of this technology yields 101 horsepower and 98 ft. lbs. of torque through a 6-speed automatic or manual transmission driving the front wheels.
With the new 2012 Fiat 500C weighing in at 2486 pounds, you are not going to win any races but you can still be cute, turn some heads and have a 'little' fun (no pun intended).
Styling has been kept undeniably classic on the Fiat 500 closely mimicking the original Italian design from the 60's and 70's. My Fiat 500C convertible was equipped with a power-sliding cloth top. The top can be operated up to 60 mph and folds the rear window down to reduce wind resistance. Rear visibility is cut short with the top down on the 500C convertible due to the bulk of the cloth top folded to the rear.
The exterior styling is quite unmistakable but shares a few modern-day aesthetics such as the projector beam halogen headlights and stylish 15-inch wheels with color accents.
The engine of the all-new Fiat 500 is built in Michigan while the rest of the vehicle is assembled in Mexico. Despite an odd marriage of parts and assembly locations, the build quality of the new 2012 Fiat 500 was surprisingly good from my standpoint. There were no rattles or odd noises with the exception of the 4-cylinder engine's buzz at high rpm. Interior plastics do not appear to be cheap-looking making the fit and finish well worth the price of admission.
Comfort in the new 2012 Fiat 500C is interesting to say the least. Being that I am over 6-feet tall I really did not have a problem fitting into the drivers or passengers seat. I found the front seats to be very comfy and positioned well for tall and short people. As far as the back, it would be an embarrassment to even think about utilizing the back seats for anything other than luggage. Although, I do give the rear seats praise for having enough room to seat small children who have just graduated from their booster seat.
The interior of the all-new Fiat 500C has a convoluted thought to design. The dash board plastic face-panel is painted with a high-gloss finish. My red Fiat 500C had the interior dash panel to match while the rest of the dash accents were an iPod-ish-looking off-white color. The bright amber backlighting on the white-face dash and leather-wrapped steering wheel standout well, especially at night. The driver's gauge cluster combines both the tachometer and speedometer in the same large circular pod. All-together it works well to save on space which is obviously not the Fiat's forte.
Most of the controls are clear-cut with the exception of the dash cluster functions. They do take a while to navigate and find the specific function that you desire for something as simple as reading the current mpg figure or toggling to the trip computer.
The Bose stereo system sounds surprisingly well considering the small form factor of the Fiat's cabin. Engineers took the time to develop the sound system specifically for the small space. You can even find a Bose subwoofer located under the front passenger seat making the best use of a small space.
I spent the better part of 15 minutes attempting to figure out where the power door lock switch was. My fully loaded Fiat 500C has all of the power amenities so I was convinced I was overlooking the lock button. Interestingly enough, the door locks are activated by pushing the classic 'hooked' door handle and simply unlocked by pulling the handle. Small touches like this put the Fiat 500 in a category all by its self if the small size does not already do it.
Trunk space is short for the most part on the Fiat 500C Convertible. The Fiat 500 hatchback immensely improves upon rear storage space with a full rear hatch door that opens wide versus the convertible's smaller rear half-door.
Smaller vehicles like the Mini and Fiat 500 sometimes give consumers the notion that it is unsafe due to its size alone. Contrary to the belief, the new Fiat 500 is focused on safety. The all-new Fiat 500 has a total of 7 standard airbags including multi-state front-passenger advanced air bags, driver's knee air bag, seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax air bags and full-length side-curtain air bags. Active head restraints are activated during rear impact to prevent whiplash. The Fiat 500 recently earned IIHS Top Safety Pick status in the mini-car category.
The 6-speed automatic transmission meshes well with the small 1.4-liter with only 101 horsepower. Together you have just enough power to keep up with cars in the fast lane on the highway. The engine is always eager and spin up near redline while the 6-speed auto keeps you in the power band. Where the Fiat 500C lacks in performance, it makes it up for being one of the smallest cars on the road fitting into virtually any parking spot that you can find. With a wheel base of only 90.6 inches and total vehicle length at 139.6 inches, you could almost put the Fiat 500 in the back of a large pick-up truck or park it across a two-car garage driveway.
When it comes to performance, enthusiasts would rarely think of a Fiat unless they are anticipating the new Abarth version of the Fiat 500. Historically, just like the Mini received extra "performance" treatment from John Cooper, the Fiat Abarth will make its way to the US shedding weight and gaining some much needed power. A new Fiat 500 Abarth is slated to go on sale this Fall. For now the Sport button will have to do in my new 2012 Fiat 500C which changes shift patterns and remaps throttle positioning for optimal performance.
Like many small cute cars on the current market, the Fiat 500 is gives buyers plenty of personalization and unique characteristics at a relatively low price point. A comparable Mini Cooper could put you a couple grand over the Fiat 500's price easily. You could opt for a much larger vehicle for the Fiat 500's fully-loaded price at 25 grand, but they won't be as cute as the classically designed Fiat 500C and may not turn as many heads.
Copyright: 2011 AutomotiveAddicts.com
Posted: 19 Oct 2011 08:00 AM PDT
Americans, it seems, are genetically conditioned to equate size with safety. Thanks to advances in automotive design and materials, the physical size of a car or truck is no longer a good indication of how safe the vehicle is. Take the 2012 Fiat 500, for example: the IIHS has just awarded Fiat 500 models built after August of 2011 a "Top Safety Pick" award, and the 500 is small enough to fall into the "minicar" category.
Earning the Top Safety Pick award requires a car to score "Good" (the agency's highest rating) in frontal offset, side impact and roof strength testing. Cars also must be equipped with electronic stability control, which can help even inexperienced drivers avoid catastrophic rollover accidents.
As Autoblog points out, the Fiat 500 joins the Ford Fiesta as the only minicars to earn the Top Safety Pick rating. Since Chevrolet has big plans for the Spark in the U.S. market, expect that car to do well in crash testing when it hits the market next year.
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