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Thu, 11 Oct 2018 18:11:18 +0000
10 Cool Tech Gadgets You Can Add to Any Car

Here are 10 cool tech gadgets that you can add to any vehicle: Magellan MiVue 480D Smart DashCam $299 With separate front (1296p) and rear (1080p) 130-degree cameras, the Magellan MiVue 480D Smart DashCam has your car’s back as well as its front. It can capture up to 10 hours worth of video, and an...

The post 10 Cool Tech Gadgets You Can Add to Any Car appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

LOS ANGELES, California — At this point, there isn’t much Henrik Fisker hasn’t done. The Danish automotive designer is the man behind the clean, muscular lines of the Fisker Karma, Aston Martin DB9, BMW Z8, and the VLF Rocket.

He recently rolled out his stunning EMotion concept, a modern reinterpretation of the sedan that was introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January.

And there is his Orbit Shuttle Project, an autonomous connectable people mover designed for urban dwellers. Now Fisker is at the drawing table on his next big thing: a $40,000 all-electric vehicle.

It seems that there is nothing with wheels that Fisker can’t whittle into something sleeker, faster, and wildly contemporary.

“I want to take a little bit of risk when it comes to design,” he said opening up his Los Angeles garage for us to see his most recent concept the EMotion.

Take his more affordable yet unnamed EV, which we are fairly certain won’t be a sedan like the Tesla Model 3 or anything as humble-looking as a Chevrolet Bolt compact EV. Think out of the box for a moment—way out of the box.

“I want to make it really futuristic-looking,” he said, “but it has to be very versatile because we obviously want to get into a certain high volume with the vehicle.”

Fisker, at 55, retains a youthful charm—and a single-minded obsessiveness about design. He is excited to talk about his new project and so are we. He tells us about the new plan as we take a closer look at his futuristic EMotion concept in a Westside garage full of late model and vintage wheels.

Like the EMotion, his affordable mystery EV will have an estimated range of 400 miles on a single charge—employing a more efficient battery pack that will result in longer driving range. It will use its electric powertrain to its advantage in terms of interior space as he did with the new EMotion: no combustion engine means plenty more interior space to play around with.

“We have to be so radical that we take the people who’s maybe jumping ship from the big car makers,” he declared eagerly. “Plus, we also have to go in and see if we can get some people excited from, let’s say, Tesla, for instance, right?”

Fisker said he’s more or less signed off the design—well, “almost.” He hopes to manufacture several hundred thousand a year for the global market and plans to build them in the U.S.

“It’ll have a lot of very modern design details, but also a lot of new functional details,” he stated. “Because I feel once you go in for that $40,000 segment, you obviously are selling a vehicle to people, which will need more versatility because they not going to have multiple vehicles.”

Most folks who can afford to buy a $100,000 car likely have more than one. They have multiple options when the rest of us tend to have only one.

“In this case, it has to be one vehicle that can do a lot of stuff,” he continued. “And so I think versatility and usability is very important for us. And it’s kind of going to be a little bit of a first for me—I’ve been fortunate, or I’ve had a curse, of always having to make supercars or expensive luxury cars.”

We haven’t seen the new $40,000 EV, but the clues he dropped during our visit make it sound like it may be a crossover.

“It’s a great challenge because I want to bring together usability with beauty, in terms of design, but also usability in terms of good designed usability—and bringing all these things together is a great challenge,” he says. “And it’s something where I feel there is a huge opportunity to do something exciting in a segment that traditionally is very restrained because everybody’s afraid to step out of the ordinary, right?”

Fisker plans to present it by the end of next year—or possibly at CES the following January at the very latest.

“Everybody’s always doing show cars and amazing concepts in $100,000 plus, and that’s great,” he said. “But I think if you can really rethink what is the future of transportation with somebody who’s buying a $40,000 vehicle, I think that’s very exciting.

“It’s a challenge because you are going to hope that the average buyer is willing to take a bit of a risk in jumping on something that is maybe not so traditional. And so it’s going to be interesting to see how far we can push this and still get people with us.”

Speaking of risks, the EMotion is a calculated one that works really well. The interior is quite roomy and luxurious.

“Nobody has really yet taken the electric vehicles and really looked at the packaging of what could be done,” said Fisker as he snapped a photo of yours truly for Instagram. “I mean, there’s been some show cars, but with this one, it was really about trying to see, can we get the interior space of a BMW 7 Series or Mercedes S-Class?”

“But with much tighter proportions by moving the interior space, stretching that out but leaving the rest because we don’t have the engine [up front], we don’t have the gas tank at the rear, so it kind of let us do that.”

Fisker’s EMotion is one modern machine—with a splash of reflective red paint on a sculpted aluminum body, adaptive LED headlights that have give the design a feline quality, and dramatic butterfly doors. It rolls on massive 24-inch black carbon-fiber rims.

“So you can see there’s quite a lot of interior space,” he said. “We have about the same as a 7 Series and that was kind of the idea—so really to reimagine, what is the luxury car of the future?”

This sexy sedan certainly looks like its ready to pounce on its prey. Fisker opens the doors so I can take a seat in the EMotion. It fits like a glove. But the rear seats are where it’s at—with plenty of room to stretch out when the front passenger seat is moved all the way forward. A large video monitor occupies the back of the front seat.

The EMotion is expected to launch in 2020 for about $129,000—along with its 575kw (780 hp) powerplant, solid-state batteries, a 0-60 mph time of 3 seconds, and a 160 mph top speed.

Certainly, Fisker’s innovating hasn’t come without obstacles. In 2014, Fisker Karma went bankrupt after his battery supplier went bankrupt and Chinese parts supplier Wanxiang bought out the company. They now fabricate an unaffiliated version of the Karma albeit under another name and it’s called the Revero.

“Of course, when they went bankrupt we were without a battery and we couldn’t continue,” said Fisker. It was truly “production hell.”

That bankruptcy did little to stop him. Today, Fisker is looking ahead and plans to launch the low-volume EMotion in about two years when its solid-state batteries are ready. More prototype testing is planned for the second half of next year.

“Right now, we’re obviously testing them in the lab and have pretty good results with them, but we have to set up a small pilot line, so we can get a little higher—we need more volume because right now, we build them by hand,” he said of the new battery.

Fisker Inc. holds patents on a solid-state battery that can produce 2.5 times the energy of traditional lithium-ion batteries that are currently in use. First Cobalt, a North American cobalt refinery that produces battery materials, recently named Fisker to its board of directors.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles-based Fisker is working with Hakim Unique Group of Hangzhou, China to create an autonomous, all-electric Fisker Orbit shuttle for airports, cities, campuses, and other geo-fenced routes.

“I want to go beyond selling a private car to a consumer,” he said. “I think if you want to be interacting with your customer in the future, you need to be part of the customer’s journey beyond his or her private car. So the idea is you have a Fisker app. You take your vehicle. You drive it to the center of Los Angeles or maybe to a college campus, right? You then get out of your car, you park it, and now you have your Fisker app and he or she orders our Fisker Orbit shuttle. You get on that, and now its also part of your journey when you’re on that shuttle.”

The shuttles can hold between 8-12 people depending on its configuration and prototypes are expected to begin ferrying commuters by the end of this year.

“I wanted to make a shuttle that’s cool, that people actually want to get into,” he said.

And he wants to make these shuttles drive themselves.

“I think the autonomy also for us—for me, autonomy is going to come in these shuttles before private cars.”

“Because we can operate them. We can decide when to drive them, when not to drive them, you know what I mean? It makes a lot more sense than private people with autonomous vehicles.”

A healthy combination of autonomous shuttles, futuristic sedans, and a $40,000 crossover sounds like a solid and well-balance plan.

With competition on the horizon from upstarts like Faraday Future, Lucid Motors, and more traditional marques like Mercedes-Benz—it should all make for an interesting race to Tomorrowland.

 

The post Henrik Fisker and the $40,000 All-Electric Crossover appeared first on Automobile Magazine.


Thu, 11 Oct 2018 08:50:40 +0000
Henrik Fisker and the $40,000 All-Electric Crossover

LOS ANGELES, California — At this point, there isn’t much Henrik Fisker hasn’t done. The Danish automotive designer is the man behind the clean, muscular lines of the Fisker Karma, Aston Martin DB9, BMW Z8, and the VLF Rocket. He recently rolled out his stunning EMotion concept, a modern reinterpretation of the sedan that was...

The post Henrik Fisker and the $40,000 All-Electric Crossover appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

While things like following too closely and braking too late were easy to point out, anticipating the actions of other drivers and dealing with complex intersections only come with experience.

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are like newbie drivers, except with better-developed brains and billions of dollars in tech to help shorten the learning curve. But even with all their sensors and software, AVs still have flaws to overcome before they drive with complete confidence and competence.

Recently teaching my teenage son to drive, I couldn’t explain instinctive behavior I take for granted after 40-plus years behind the wheel.

In the race to get robocars on the road, several under-the-radar tech trends are coalescing to help make true AVs a reality—and maybe make my son’s generation one of the last to learn to drive itself.

Teaching AVs the Rules of the Road

My new driver had to study the Oregon Driver Manual to learn the difference between, say, a stop and yield sign. AVs similarly learn the rules of the road, but through artificial intelligence (AI). Another requirement for my son is to log 50 hours with an adult in the car. AVs also acquire real-world experience by putting in hours on the road, but only in certain locations and conditions because of legal restrictions and weather.

Software such as Nvidia’s Drive Constellation creates a virtual world to put AV systems through their paces.

AVs learn to interpret signs and other roadway info via a type of AI known as machine learning, which requires driving a route and humans verifying the data. Traffic-data company Inrix has a way for AVs to more quickly learn the rules even in places they’ve never driven. Inrix’s AV Road Rules platform lets cities digitize their traffic infrastructure and rules. This not only creates a shortcut for AVs to memorize traffic rules but also allows them to operate from accurate data.

“For 100 years, signs and lane markings have been the language of communicating traffic rules to drivers, and it’s worked pretty well,” says Avery Ash, head of autonomous mobility for Inrix. “But we’ve all been in situations where the signage is confusing or obscured or lane striping has been worn off, but we figure it out.”

Audi employs a simulation platform from Cognata.

Although machine learning can help AVs figure out such situations, Ash adds that “it’s a tedious, lengthy, and expensive process, and the results are not accurate enough for the sort of safety-critical operation required by AVs. AV Road Rules is an additional data layer that complements machine learning and HD maps.”

Once AVs know the rules, they need to apply them on roads. But just as I don’t have 50 extra hours to spend driving with my son, AV operators have limited time and resources when logging miles.

A 2016 RAND study estimated that AVs “would have to be driven hundreds of millions of miles and sometimes hundreds of billions of miles to demonstrate their safety in terms of fatalities and injuries.” But developers have found ways to speed up the process through simulation software, and most are using simulation to accelerate AV deployment.

While Waymo leads the pack in terms of real-world miles traveled testing its AVs—more than 9 million since parent company Google first kicked off the project almost a decade ago—it’s able to achieve nearly the same number of miles every day using simulation software. “Having a proper simulation strategy is the only way that autonomous vehicles can train the sensors and decision-making functions for road testing and have the confidence that their technology is safe and ready,” says Danny Atsmon, CEO of Cognata, which is working with Audi and others.

Simulation also allows AV developers to test for “edge cases” such as pedestrians and cyclists suddenly crossing in front of the car or when the sun shines directly into an AV’s front-facing camera at sunset, temporarily blinding it.

“With simulation, we’re able to recreate blinding sun 24 hours a day,” says Danny Shapiro, senior director of automotive for chipmaker Nvidia. “And we can do it on every road and combine that with a rainstorm or any kind of weather. We can also simulate a car running a red light and evaluate if the AV is taking the correct action and detecting everything it should.”

Remote Possibilities

Even with all their computing power and AI, situations remain that require AVs to call on human drivers for help. That’s why most AVs testing on public roads need a human behind the wheel to take over when a self-driving computer gets confused or can’t continue for some reason, such as when a road is closed or there’s a temporary construction zone.

But as AVs shed components such as steering wheels and pedals and humans become cargo, they’ll need to be remotely controlled; California’s regulations for testing AVs on public roads that took effect in April require so. Enter teleoperation, the industry term for remotely operated AVs.

Teleoperation by companies such as Phantom Auto allows a human to remotely drive a vehicle in situations when the onboard tech needs help, such as a temporary road closure.

“Think of teleoperation as an air traffic controller for autonomous vehicles,” says Jada Smith, VP of advanced engineering at Aptiv (formerly Delphi), which runs a robo-taxi program in Las Vegas in partnership with Lyft. But unlike air traffic control, AV teleoperators will be able to not only monitor but also operate self-driving cars when an autonomous vehicle encounters a situation it doesn’t know how to handle.

Most major AV players are either preparing for teleoperation of robo-taxis or testing it already. GM’s stable of Chevy Bolts being retrofitted by its Cruise Automation subsidiary to operate without a steering wheel or pedals have an “expert mode,” which relies on teleoperator assistance. Toyota has a patent for “remote operation of autonomous vehicle in unexpected environment,” while self-driving startup Zoox has one for a “teleoperation system and method for trajectory modification of autonomous vehicles.”

NASA remotely controlled a series of Martian rovers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. That’s why Nissan, meanwhile, has recruited former NASA scientists to apply a version of the space agency’s teleoperations expertise to the automaker’s autonomous vehicles and is testing remote control of a fleet of self-driving Leaf EVs at NASA’s Ames campus in Silicon Valley.

In the first demonstration of the technology on public roads (and on Earth), at the Consumer Electronics Show last January, Phantom Auto had a human operator 500 miles away in California control a car driving on the Las Vegas Strip. “AV technology may be about 97 percent of the way there, but that last 3 percent may take decades to solve,” says Elliot Katz, co-founder and chief strategy officer for Phantom Auto. “Teleoperation … serves as an essential technological bridge which enables AVs to be safely deployed now.”

Watch Me Now

Along with remote monitoring of self-driving cars, human drivers will also increasingly be under scrutiny, especially in the interim between SAE Levels 3 and 4 of autonomy when humans will need to be ready to take control at a moment’s notice. Although cameras are already used in some cars to monitor drivers, such as with Cadillac Super Cruise, a new generation of cameras will move beyond simply detecting whether the driver’s head is turned away from the road to include facial recognition and even be able to read emotions of passengers in fully autonomous cars.

Subaru introduced a feature on its all-new Forester, called DriverFocus, that uses facial recognition software to look for signs of driver distraction and fatigue. Part of the Subaru EyeSight suite of driver assists, DriverFocus can detect when someone is dozing off or looking away from the road for too long, and it will automatically stop the vehicle.

Cameras from companies such as Affectiva and eye Sight detect the emotional state of passengers based on facial expressions.

Another company, eyeSight (no relation to the Subaru option), has a camera that not only detects distraction and drowsiness but also includes what the company calls “contextual control” based on the direction of a driver’s gaze to highlight content in cockpit displays. A creepier profiling feature allows it to detect the age and gender of the driver and use the info for “connected car analytics.”

Renovo Auto is focused on creating a universal operating system for AVs called aWare. It incorporates sensor and software technologies and involves using cameras inside and outside a vehicle to capture emotions of passengers as well as pedestrians.

“During development, you need to monitor drivers to make sure they are engaged,” Renovo CEO Chris Heiser says. “And later you’ll need to interact with the passengers to help build trust and provide them all the services that a human driver does today.”

To provide this interaction, Renovo is working with AI startups Affectiva and Speak With Me to integrate their technology that analyzes the facial expressions and voices of passengers into the company’s fleet of AV test vehicles.

Now, if it could only make my teenage son more responsive and personal when I’m in the car with him for those 50 hours.

The post Three Tech Trends Helping Driverless Cars appeared first on Automobile Magazine.


Tue, 09 Oct 2018 23:00:56 +0000
Three Tech Trends Helping Driverless Cars

While things like following too closely and braking too late were easy to point out, anticipating the actions of other drivers and dealing with complex intersections only come with experience. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are like newbie drivers, except with better-developed brains and billions of dollars in tech to help shorten the learning curve. But even...

The post Three Tech Trends Helping Driverless Cars appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

It’s not often an automaker produces a car that goes on to revive—or become—a design icon. In 1997 and 1998, the Volkswagen Group managed it twice, first with the New Beetle and then again with the first-generation Audi TT. Parked beside each other, there’s even a familial resemblance, though it’s one of cousins rather than siblings. And although the New Beetle and its descendants have been successful, the TT is the car that has continued to groom and grow a reputation for striking design.

1995 Audi TT Concept

In our first drive of the American-spec Audi TT in 1999 (June 1999), we interviewed then-New York Museum of Modern Art curator Christopher Mount, who said the TT had a “puzzle-like quality to the design that’s a fascinating alternative to envelope [car] design. There is something artificial about one-piece design. The TT shows how a car is made.”

Why would an art curator’s opinion about a car matter? Because that car is a widely recognized textbook example of a school of art and design: Bauhaus. And what more perfect implementation of a philosophy that seeks to tie art with function into a total package than a vehicle, the rolling embodiment of modern industry, style, and freedom?

1999 Audi TT

It hasn’t been all Bauhaus and butterflies, however. The second-generation TT took the familiar architectural shape and modified it; the third has taken it even further. Now the TT is much more masculine, high-tech, and sporty in its appearance—and much more of a piece, more of an “envelope” design. Gone is the timeless, rolling-sculpture visual, now replaced with a machine that seems to lunge forward when at rest. But the TT’s original thread is still there, if only just.

2003 Audi TT

“In the sketches, I always had the first generation of the Audi TT in mind,” said the third-generation TT’s designer, J


Mon, 08 Oct 2018 23:04:15 +0000
An Evolution of Style: Audi TT

It’s not often an automaker produces a car that goes on to revive—or become—a design icon. In 1997 and 1998, the Volkswagen Group managed it twice, first with the New Beetle and then again with the first-generation Audi TT. Parked beside each other, there’s even a familial resemblance, though it’s one of cousins rather than...

The post An Evolution of Style: Audi TT appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

Hinrich J. Woebcken assumed the role of CEO for the Volkswagen Group’s North American region in 2016. He has worked in the automotive industry for more than 40 years, including a tenure of more than 10 years with BMW Group.

UPDATE: Audi’s Scott Keogh will lead as CEO for VW Group of America on November 1 and Woebcken will become a strategy adviser to VW according to a recent release.

We sat down with Woebcken during this year’s Monterey Car Week to talk about VW’s future in the United States.

Automobile Magazine: Is VW’s mission to create a self-driving car network?

Hinrich J. Woebcken: Volkswagen is strongly investing into this. Software and autonomous driving is absolutely a strong focus of our future product development. This is not a North American issue. It’s a global issue, and because we have huge scales globally, we have the opportunity to be fast on this.

AM: But it’s a different business landscape than the traditional automotive industry …

HW: We also have to realistically see that other software companies coming from another side of the business are challenging the traditional car industry. But on the other hand, they also don’t have the competencies we have. So it’s basically a race. The race is on. Who is faster to acquire the competencies, so to speak, of the other side? But we definitely see a strong trend within Volkswagen for additional investments into software.

AM: American carmakers have lost confidence in sedans. VW just introduced a new Jetta, and the Arteon is coming. What does VW see that Detroit doesn’t?

HW: As a niche player, these strong sedan segments are still within the top four, top five segments in the industry. We want to deliver strong and competitive and exciting sedans. This German-engineered sedan technology is, I believe, very exciting for many American customers as well, even though the segment is under pressure, no question. But I just recalled the number of Jettas we sell; there is even more than we do with the SUVs. So there is no reason for us to leave that segment.

AM: What’s the long view of sedans?

HW: We definitely are also going to invest into sedans in the future. And if you look a little bit further ahead on electric mobility, the split between SUVs and sedans in full electric cars, I believe, will be a little bit different to what you see right now, simply because the sedans have such a higher advantage on range. That’s my prediction, that we are going to see a different split between sedans and SUVs on the electric side in the future.

AM: The political situation in the U.S. is dicey. What steps is VW taking to prepare for problematic policies?

HW: That’s why we have [our] Chattanooga [factory] here in the U.S., of course with also smart supply of parts from outside the U.S., also from Mexico. The complexity of this supply chain being the nature of our industry, not only for Volkswagen, we hope there is the understanding that we need free and open and fair trade. It’s the best basis for everybody. There is no winner in a regulation environment; there will be no winner. We hope this position will be shared by the political bodies involved.

AM: Just to be clear, though: VW and others opened U.S. plants long before today’s climate.

HW: We decided [to manufacture in] Chattanooga more than 10 years ago, so more than two-and-a-half administrations [ago]. We cannot make these kinds of multibillion-dollar investments on governmental administration cycles. This is, by the way, the same around the globe for everybody. A balanced supply and factory base is the rightanswer, and that’s exactly what we had to weigh.

AM: Where does a VW pickup, like the Tanoak concept, stand?

HW: Doing it right in a very patriotic segment is something you really have to carefully do. Right now we are proposing this Tanoak on a unibody platform, which is not typical for that segment. The B pickup segment in America and the C pickup segment is nearly all body-on-frame because of the high instance of commercial use. If you build it on unibody, then you have a great advantage for the driving dynamics; it’s basically the same story as what happened 15, 20 years ago with the SUVs, which also were body-on-frame back then. If you look at the market now, the rest is history.

AM: When might we see such a production vehicle?

HW: The question is, does this copy-paste [approach] also work on the pickup side? This is something we need to study more carefully, so the advantages, again, yeah, better driving dynamics, but also having something differentiating it from the high volume of concepts you see in the market now. We are not through with that study, and there are other strategic and architectural opportunities we are looking into in order to get it feasible.

AM: What is the future of R Performance?

HW: The Golf R, or the R family, is for us a symbol of sportiness, of real dynamic driving, and this fun-to-drive [trait] always has been an important factor for our brand. We are going to continue to deliver on that promise. Going into the electric I.D. family, [R Performance] fits very well into that story. The fun of electric acceleration is phenomenal. This brand needs a lot of driving fun and also a lot of excitement, and R will be in the future.

The post Catching Up With: Hinrich J. Woebcken appeared first on Automobile Magazine.


Mon, 08 Oct 2018 07:00:38 +0000
Catching Up With: Hinrich J. Woebcken

Hinrich J. Woebcken assumed the role of CEO for the Volkswagen Group’s North American region in 2016. He has worked in the automotive industry for more than 40 years, including a tenure of more than 10 years with BMW Group. UPDATE: Audi’s Scott Keogh will lead as CEO for VW Group of America on November 1...

The post Catching Up With: Hinrich J. Woebcken appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

Stefan Bellof was never better—and never worse—than when he had something to prove.

And Bellof always had something to prove, even if it was just a minor personal point, created from whole cloth to maximize motivation. Raw talent (emphasis on “raw”) allowed the German to drive on the knife’s edge, lap after lap. Luck, or the lack of it, determined whether he stayed on that edge or fell off to one side.

On May 28, 1983, a lucky Bellof qualified his Porsche 956 at the N


Fri, 05 Oct 2018 22:50:58 +0000
Tragic Hero: Stefan Bellof

Stefan Bellof was never better—and never worse—than when he had something to prove. And Bellof always had something to prove, even if it was just a minor personal point, created from whole cloth to maximize motivation. Raw talent (emphasis on “raw”) allowed the German to drive on the knife’s edge, lap after lap. Luck, or...

The post Tragic Hero: Stefan Bellof appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

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Fri, 05 Oct 2018 17:41:08 +0000
Ringing in a Record: Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo Race Car

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Thu, 04 Oct 2018 07:00:09 +0000
20 Best Porsches from Rennsport Reunion VI

The focus at this year’s Rennsport Reunion VI may have been Porsche’s new GT2 RS–based 935 and its attempts to break the Laguna Seca lap record with the 919 Evo, but it was also so much more than that. Everywhere you looked, there was a seemingly endless number of incredibly cool Porsches. And at the center of...

The post 20 Best Porsches from Rennsport Reunion VI appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

The 2018 BMW M4 Coupe had been scheduled to reside at our El Segundo, California headquarters for a few weeks and I purposefully signed into it for just one night. Being a female staff writer at Automobile and having the freedom to drive a wide range of vehicles puts me in a unique position—one that I sometimes take for granted.

In this industry it is easy to build a sense of entitlement and you forget that driving press cars is a special privilege and not a right. For this reason, I wanted my time in the BMW M4 to be limited and perhaps I would appreciate the ultimate driving machine even more.

When I came up to the Austin Yellow Metallic M4 Coupe shining bright in the parking lot I did a quick walk around and snapped countless mental pictures. Knowing there was no time to waste I found a suitable seat position and sped away from the office. As I drove down Rosecrans Avenue I had to remind myself that I would be in this gorgeous golden coupe for just one night. Even though a time limitation presented a challenge this variable also had the potential to make my M4 date night more interesting.

If you could drive a BMW M4 equipped with the Competition package for a day what would you do? Where would you go? Here was this gratifying car in my hands all to myself and yet I had no idea of where to begin or what driving activity to pursue. To slow down my racing thoughts and help me develop a plan I went home to take a nap. When I woke up, I could hear Thom Yorke’s “The Clock” echoing in my wandering mind which sent me into panic mode. With no plan of action, I grabbed a good pair of athletic shoes and my camera and headed to San Pedro’s waterfront.

After a few loops around the harbor I parked the M4 at a deserted parking lot and stepped out to gaze at the cargo ships cruising by. There was nothing extravagant about this moment, however, knowing the 3.0-liter twin-turbo I-6 engine is capable of 444 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque had my back put a big smile on my face. Every now and then mundane activities yield the most satisfaction. I gave up the idea of having a rigid plan and in that spirit the rest of my night played out spontaneously.

An M4 driving experience would not be complete without a soundtrack to play on the fabulous Harman Kardon audio system. I adjusted the tone settings and put on a mix of my favorite rock bands including Metallica, Korn, and Disturbed. This being the ultimate driving machine I used Sport Plus mode with the D3 level of Drivelogic as my setup and off we went into the twilight zone.

To spare you the details of the magical night drive it ended at In-N-Out Burger under a full moon. I ordered a double-double combo and carefully used the hood of the M4 as my dinner table. While I consumed my delicious burger, I made a thoughtful assessment and what follows are 10 things I love about the BMW M4 Coupe. For the record I did all the photography during my time in the M4 because doing otherwise would have broken the time limit challenge.

1. Minimalist Steering Wheel

From time to time I find that steering wheels have too much going on. The M4 steering wheel on the other hand feels very basic and has an optimal amount of control buttons. An added touch that I really like is the BMW M colors stitching.

2. Interior Material Combination Option

My test vehicle came with the black cloth and leather interior combination giving me the best of both worlds. Since I grew up in a city with 100 plus degree summers I am not a fan of all leather interiors.

3. Door Mirror Design

Do you like lobster? I love lobster with a side of mac n’ cheese and ice-cold beer. The door mirrors on the BMW M4 have a weird shape that remind me of lobster claws. Exterior door mirrors tend to be bland and uninspiring but I give BMW props for implementing a bizarre design.

4. Harman Kardon Audio System

When I had a little fun on the freeway and cruised around downtown Long Beach I played a YouTube mix of Tool as loud as my ears could tolerate—doing this in a 400 plus horsepower sports car was quite a euphoric experience. Maynard’s vocals on the “The Pot” flowed harmoniously through the speakers taking me back to that time I saw him shirtless in a cowboy hat, boots, and jeans rocking out on stage.

5. Black Wheels with Gold Brake Calipers

While there is technically more to the M carbon ceramic brake system speaking on purely aesthetic terms the 19-inch forged black wheels paired with gold brake calipers is a stunning combo.

6. Interior Door Trim Panel Design

Something I thought was very cool is how BMW extended the M4’s front door interior trim design to the rear seating area. Applying the front door panel materials to the rear is not common practice on two-door car interiors where the rear seat is rarely occupied by passengers.

7. Carbon-Fiber Roof

The tester I drove had the carbon-fiber reinforced plastic roof (CFRP), however you can get the optional moonroof. Personally I would opt for the carbon-fiber rooftop any day because it eliminates a few pounds and looks cooler.

8. Illuminated BMW M Logo Badges

When you unlock the M4 the BMW M Logo badges on the front bucket seats illuminate. For the folks at BMW to put that much effort into such a small detail is pretty freakin’ awesome.

9. Drivelogic

In Drive mode this feature gives you the choice of three driving programs: efficient, relaxed, and sporty. In Sequential mode things get more interesting though I did not try it myself. As I previously mentioned I drove mostly in Sport Plus mode and used the D3 level of Drivelogic for a sportier driving experience.

10. Discrete Power Seat Adjustment Button

On the back of the bucket seats there is a button with an arrow pointing up and another pointing down. Initially I had no clue on the functional nature of this discrete button and while photographing the rear seat I discovered it moved the front seats forward and backward.

Bonus: M Double-Clutch Transmission + Launch Control

Launch control on the BMW M4 Coupe is integrated with the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Though I did not have the guts to engage launch control I did find this video that explains how to use it.

The post 10 Things to Love About the 2018 BMW M4 Coupe appeared first on Automobile Magazine.


Wed, 03 Oct 2018 00:07:08 +0000
10 Things to Love About the 2018 BMW M4 Coupe

The 2018 BMW M4 Coupe had been scheduled to reside at our El Segundo, California headquarters for a few weeks and I purposefully signed into it for just one night. Being a female staff writer at Automobile and having the freedom to drive a wide range of vehicles puts me in a unique position—one that...

The post 10 Things to Love About the 2018 BMW M4 Coupe appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

IHS Markit had expected 2018 U.S. car and light truck sales to end up at 17 million, about half a million short of 2016’s record. But after September’s seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 17 million, the analysis firm is increasing that number.

How? It’s statistics. “Seasonally adjusted” means just that.

“This September bounce back, and expectations that the pace of sales in the fourth quarter should not move drastically from this level will likely push full-year light vehicle sales volume to 17.1 million units in total,” says Christopher Hopson, manager of IHS Markit’s North America light vehicle forecasting.

Seasonal adjustments mean that July and August historically are very strong sales months as consumers take advantage of warm weather and end-of-model-year prices, while September traditionally is a transitional month as new model-year cars and trucks arrive.

Even though Ford Motor Company, Toyota Motor Sales, American Honda, and Nissan North America saw sales declines last month, the numbers are skewed because September ’17 sales to which they’re being compared were “atypically high,” says IHS Markit’s principal automotive analyst, Stephanie Brinley.

Which might help explain why General Motors switched from monthly sales reports to quarterly sales reports early this year. Quarterly reports give a more steadied look at what’s happening to auto sales. This serves as a reminder that from now on, I’m running year-to-date auto sales ever quarter in place of monthly sales columns, with percentage increases or decreases compared with the same period a year earlier.

We know so far that most car models continue to decline as most SUV and truck models increase, and that Subaru is running ahead of both Hyundai and Kia, while Volkswagen struggles—it’s up 5.5 percent thanks to a new, more competitive Tiguan and the addition of the Atlas three-row SUV, but seems to be selling them mostly to fans of its Golf, Jetta, and Passat.

Mercedes-Benz including its van and Smart division can’t keep up with BMW and Mini, though Mercedes the marque, on the strength of its GLC- and C-Class, has sold 319 more cars and SUVs so far, than BMW without Mini.

Among popular-priced marques, the Toyota RAV4 remains the bestselling model after the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, and Ram 1500 pickup trucks. Speaking of those trucks, the Ram brand is about even for the first nine months of this year, compared with the first nine months of last year, while Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep brand is on fire, outselling Subaru by more than 240,000 units so far this year.

While the Fords Escape and Explorer have lost a combined 26,659 so far this year, the Chevrolets Equinox and Traverse are up a combined 40,134, which is a commentary on either the power of having fresh product on your showroom floors, or the problem with everything at Ford except pickup trucks and truck-based SUVs, or both.

One more clear trend is that with midsize sedan owners trading them in for compact SUVs, compact sedan sales is catching midsize sales by default. So the Honda Civic is outselling the Accord, the Toyota Corolla (including iM) is outselling the Camry, and the Nissan Sentra is just 1,452 units behind Altima.

And so, to the numbers …

1. General Motors: 2,168,808, off 1.2 percent.

  • This breaks down to 1,504,038 Chevrolets, off 0.8 percent, 395,924 GMCs, off 2.4
    percent, 155,606 Buicks, off 2.6 percent and 113,240 Cadillacs, off 0.5 percent.
  • Chevrolet has sold 424,403 Silverados for 2018 so far, up 1.4 percent. All but a few thousand sold in September were the old ’18 model. GMC Sierra was off 1.4 percent, to 152,242.
  • Chevy Equinox was up 10.2 percent, to 234,379, while Malibu was off 23.9 percent, to 107,458 and Cruze was down 26.5 percent, to 109,662.
  • Chevy Traverse was up 20.4 percent, to 106,998 and Colorado was up 26.3 percent, to 104,838 and GMC Canyon was up 8.6 percent, to 25,273.
  • Encore again leads Buick sales year-to-date, up 7.7 percent, to 69,747. Buick has sold 35,277 Enclaves, up 12.1 percent, while Regal is up 22.4 percent, to 11,008.
  • Cadillac has sold 46,983 XT5s year-to-date, off 5.7 percent, plus 212 XT4s all of the latter in September.
  • Cadillac Escalade is up 3.3 percent, to 27,299, while CT6 is off 10.6 percent, to 7,270.
  • Both Chevrolets Bolt and Volt have slipped this year, so far. The Bolt EV is down 17.4 percent, to 11,807, trailing the Volt, which is off 13.7 percent, to 13,243. Corvette is off 21.2 percent, but leads both electrics with 14,881 sold in ’18 so far.

2. Ford Motor Company: 1,887,625, off 2.4 percent.

  • Ford Mustang leads Pony Car Wars, at 61,619, off 0.9 percent, to Dodge Challenger’s 52,313, up 37 units for the year so far, with Chevy Camaro third at 39,828, off 25.9 percent.
  • Ford says September sales of the F-Series topped 70k for the seventh straight month, at 75,092, off 8.8 percent. Year-to-date, Ford has sold 679,018 F-Series, up 3.1 percent.
  • Escape is off 10.2 percent year-to-date, to 210,050 and Explorer is down 1.6 percent, to 171,416, meaning that both models are slipping in two of the hottest segments.
  • Ford Fusion is off 21.8 percent, to 124,964 and Focus was off 19 percent, to 100,267.
  • Expedition is up 0.3 percent, to 40,521, while Lincoln Navigator has rocketed up 81.9 percent, to 13,085.
  • While the Ford marque is off 2.1 percent, to 1,812,345 through September, Lincoln is down 9 percent, to 75,280.
  • MKX was off 12.6 percent, to 19,886 through September, a month before first deliveries of the Nautilus replacement. MKC is down 5.5 percent, to 19,270.
  • Continental languishes at 6,334, off 28.6 percent.

3. Toyota Motor Sales: 1,824,235, off 0.4 percent.

  • Toyota Division has sold 1,610,613 so far this year, off 0.1 percent, and Lexus has sold 213,622, off 2.7 percent.
  • RAV4 is Toyota’s bestseller, and according to the automaker, the best-selling non-pickup in the U.S. It was off 8.2 percent, to 37,440 for September, and is up 2.2 percent, to 319,147 for the year.
  • Toyota Camry is off 6.9 percent, year-to-date, to 262,887, while Corolla is down 11.3 percent, to 265,273 (this includes 17,867 iMs, up 10.6 percent).
  • Prius is off 17.3 percent year-to-date, to 68,925.
  • Highlander is up 14.2 percent, to 180,699, and 4Runner is up 7.6 percent, to 102,267.
  • Tacoma is up 24.8 percent, to 183,909, while Tundra is up 2.5 percent, to 87,782.
  • Buoyed by addition of the three-row model, Lexus RX is up 4.9 percent, to 79,563. NX is up 3.6 percent, to 43,513.
  • ES is the bestselling Lexus car, off 12.1 percent to 34,344.
  • IS is off 9.8 percent, to 17,393. LS is up 115.1 percent, to 6,672.

4. Fiat Chrysler: 1,679,983, up 6 percent.

  • Fiat Chrysler had a particularly good September, with sales up 15 percent, to 199,819 over September ’17. Jeep remains its star, up 14 percent for the month and up by 20 percent for the first three quarters, to 746,194. Ram was off slightly (2,032 units, or 0 percent) to 416,661 year-to-date, though up 9 percent last month. For the first three quarters, Chrysler was off 12 percent, to 127,156, Dodge slid 2 percent, to 359,728 and Fiat slumped by 43 percent, to 12,084. Alfa Romeo was up 147 percent, however, to 18,160.
  • Wrangler has become Jeep’s bestseller for the year so far, at 190,951, up 27 percent. Cherokee is next, up 53 percent to 179,743, while erstwhile brand leader Grand Cherokee was off 8 percent, to 166,653 year-to-date.
  • The new Jeep Compass also is a success, up 146 percent to 132,674, while Renegade is off 6 percent, to 75,574.
  • The 2019 Ram 1500 pickup was beset by launch problems, though Fiat Chrysler still sells the old truck. So year-to-date sales are 0-percent changed, up by 682 units to 375,583. ProMaster van is off 1 percent, to 31,591.
  • Chrysler Pacifica is up 6 percent for the first three quarters, to 91,595. The 300 sedan is off 13 percent, to 34,555.
  • The old school Dodge Caravan is up 12 percent to 120,935, and Journey is up 2 percent, to 77,233. Charger is off 12 percent, to 59,308 and 15 Vipers were sold, off 97 percent.
  • Fiat 500X was down 28 percent to 4,221, and the 500 two-door fell 64 percent, to 3,717.
  • Stelvio leads Alfa Romeo, up 1,329 percent, to 9,044 and Giulia was up 39 percent, to 8,933.

5. American Honda: 1,206,997, off 2 percent.

  • Honda accounts for 1,092,514 of that, off 2.2 percent, with Acura at 114,483, up 0.3 percent.
  • Bestseller CR-V is running -1.2 percent, at 277,621.
  • Civic is off 10.3 percent year-to-date, at 255,036 and Accord is off 14.2 percent, to 215,299.
  • Pilot is Honda’s big gainer, up 42.4 percent, to 199,901. HR-V is off 5.5 percent, to 69,979.
  • RDX leads Acura, up 13.8 percent, to 44,598. MDX is off 2.6 percent, to 37,187.
  • Acura TLX is off 13.6 percent, to 22,917. Acura has sold 122 NSXes this year, off 65.6 percent.

6. Nissan Group: 1,124,682, off 6.0 percent.

  • Nissan division is off 5.8 percent, to 1,082,527. Infiniti has lost 7.4 percent, to 105,249.
  • Rogue remains Nissan’s bestseller, up 4.4 percent to 309,979, but it’s 9,173 units behind Toyota RAV4 for the year-to-date.
  • Altima is off 16.6 percent, to 166,599 and Sentra is off 0.3 percent, to 165,147.
  • The Leaf EV is off 0.5 percent, to 1,686.
  • Pathfinder has slid 18.7 percent, to 50,152, though Titan is up 6.4 percent, to 37,839, and Frontier is up 7.9 percent, to 59,574.
  • Over at Infiniti, QX60 is up 8.3 percent, to 31,795, while Q50 is off 6.8 percent, to 26,180.

7. Subaru: 503,418, up 5.1 percent.

  • Outback leads sales, off 1.8 percent to 137,992, and Forester is off 7.7 percent, to 121,924. Crosstrek is up 45.1 percent year-to-date to 11,415, but sales have slid for a couple of months. In September, Crosstrek was off 0.9 percent.
  • The new Ascent more than covers decreases elsewhere, with 16,580 of the new three-row SUV sold.
  • WRX/STI is off 9.1 percent, to 21,957.
    BRZ sales have slid 11.4 percent, to 2,930. Combined year-to-date sales with Toyota 86 is off 30.2 percent, to 6,153.

8. Hyundai: 501,701, off 2 percent.

  • Hyundai is off 0.8 percent, to 492,792, while Genesis has dropped 40.9 percent year-to-date. Genesis has held back on importing vehicles as it prepares for the 2019 model year, and a change in its distribution model at Hyundai dealerships.
  • As Hyundai sorts out its SUV strategy, its sales leader remains the Elantra compact sedan, up 41 percent to 148,879.
  • Tucson is next-bestseller, up 25 percent to 103,514.
  • Santa Fe is off 7 percent, to 88,969 and Sonata is down 24.8 percent, to 80,975.

9. Kia: 452,042, off 1.3 percent.

  • Sorento leads Kia sales, up 10.8 percent, to 85,692 through Q3.
  • Optima is off 5.7 percent, to 79,845.
  • Soul is off 14.2 percent, to 77,888.
  • Forte is off 18.7 percent, to 74,888.
  • Sportage is up 11.7 percent, to 62,272, and Niro is up 6.9 percent, to 22,100.
  • Kia has sold 12,999 Stingers year-to-date.

10. Volkswagen: 266,228, up 5.5 percent.

  • VW was off 4.8 percent for September.
  • Although Jetta led for September, the new Tiguan SUV has become VW’s sales leader in the first nine months, up 987.2 percent, to 67,232.
  • Jetta is down 32.8 percent, to 61,118. Golf is off 38.1 percent to 34,353.
  • Atlas is up 251.6 percent, to 43,002. Passat is down 33.8 percent, to 33,527.
  • Beetle, entering its final model year, is off 2.6 percent, to 12,150.

11. BMW Group: 259,258, up 1.7 percent.

  • BMW is up 2.2 percent, to 225,065, while Mini has slid 1.7 percent, to 34,193.
  • X3 leads BMW sales, up 30.2 percent, to 41,825.
  • Soon-to-be replaced 3 Series is down 19.6 percent, to 34,731. The 4 Series is off 22.5 percent, to 23,466.
  • The 5 Series is up 9.3 percent, to 31,181, and X5 is down 9 percent, to 31,120.
  • Mini Countryman is up 33.7 percent, to 14,142 and the Hardtop 2 Door is off 7.4 percent, to 7,320.

12. Mercedes-Benz USA: 254,366, off 5.8 percent.

  • Mercedes cars accounts for 225,384 off 7 percent. Vans are up 11.1 percent, to 28,023, and Smart languishes at 959 sold year-to-date, down 63.6 percent.
  • Mercedes GLC-Class sales account for nearly one-fifth of MBUSA sales, up 53.8 percent, to 50,585.
  • A car model is next; C-Class is down 28.3 percent, but still at 42,252.
  • GLE-Class is off 11.3 percent, to 34,617 and E-Class/CLS is down 12.3 percent, to 32,013.
  • S-Class is off 3.2 percent, to 10,334.

13. Mazda: 235,122, up 6.7 percent.

  • CX-5 is up 26.1 percent, to 116,728, year-to-date, and continues to outpace VW Atlas and (new) Tiguan sales combined. It has outsold the two Volkswagens by 6,494.
  • CX-3 is up 14.5 percent, to 13,715, and CX-9 is up 17.2 percent, to 21,184.
  • Mazda3 is off 14.7 percent, to 51,294.
  • MX-5 Miata is off 23.2 percent year-to-date, to 7,460. Combined sales with the Fiat 124 Spider is 10,375 for the first three quarters, off 22.5 percent.

14. Audi: 167,420, up 24.4 percent.

  • Q5 was up 27 percent, to 49,694.
  • Q7 was up 2 percent to 27,270, and Q3 slipped 0.2 percent, to 14,630.
  • A4 was off 4 percent to 28,783, while A5 was up 52 percent to 21,244. A3 slipped 17 percent, to 15,579.

15. Mitsubishi: 93,398, up 17.9 percent.

  • Outlander Sport sales totaled 31,407 for the three quarters, up 30.8 percent.
    Outlander is up 17.8 percent, to 30,810.
  • Mitsubishi has sold 3,050 Outlander PHEVs and 5,513 Eclipse Crosses for the year, so far.

16. Jaguar/Land Rover: 86,309, up 2 percent.

  • Land Rover is running plus-20 percent year-to-date, to 65,133, while Jaguar is off 30 percent, to 21,176.
  • Range Rover Sport sales are up 13 percent, to 17,321. The new Velar is Range Rover’s second-bestseller, at 12,761 delivered, so far.
  • F-Pace is Jaguar’s bestseller, though off 30 percent, to 10,088. Jaguar has sold 2,808 E-Paces, so far.
  • Jaguar XE is down 54 percent, to 3,381, and F-Type is down 43 percent, to 1,739.

17. Volvo: 73,929, up 29.8 percent.

  • Volvo splits its bestselling XC60 into two numbers; one for the old model and one for the new. But I’ll combine it here. It’s at 23,511 sold year-to-date, up 44.9 percent.
  • XC90 is up 15.9 percent, to 23,652.
  • S90 is up 2.5 percent, to 5,732; V90 is up 209.2 percent, to 371; and V90CC is up 12.3 percent, to 1,710.

18. Porsche: 42,626, up 3.4 percent.

  • Macan is the clear sales leader, up 11.6 percent, to 18,103.
  • The 911 is Porsche’s second-bestseller, up 7.4 percent, to 7,013.
  • Cayenne sales are down 29.6 percent, to 6,841.

Luxury/Premium Brands, YTD:

1. Mercedes-Benz 225,384
2. BMW 225,065
3. Lexus 213,622
4. Audi 167,420
5. Acura 114,483

Sports Cars and EVs, YTD:

1. Chevrolet Corvette 14,881
2. Chevrolet Volt 13,243
3. Chevrolet Bolt 11,807
4. Mazda Miata 7,460
5. Toyota 86/Scion FR-S 3,223

Midsize cars, YTD:

1. Toyota Camry 262,887
2. Honda Accord 215,299
3. Nissan Altima 166,599
4. Ford Fusion 124,964
5. Chevrolet Malibu 107,458

Compact CUVs, YTD:

1. Toyota RAV4 319,147
2. Nissan Rogue 309,979
3. Honda CR-V 277,621
4. Chevrolet Equinox 234,379
5. Ford Escape 210,050

The post Let’s Call First Three Quarters of 2018 Auto Sales ‘Not Bad’ appeared first on Automobile Magazine.



Let’s Call First Three Quarters of 2018 Auto Sales ‘Not Bad’

IHS Markit had expected 2018 U.S. car and light truck sales to end up at 17 million, about half a million short of 2016’s record. But after September’s seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 17 million, the analysis firm is increasing that number. How? It’s statistics. “Seasonally adjusted” means just that. “This September bounce back,...

The post Let’s Call First Three Quarters of 2018 Auto Sales ‘Not Bad’ appeared first on Automobile Magazine.


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