Sunday, December 21, 2008

2009 BMW 3-series / M3 Sedan, Coupe, Wagon, and Convertible - Review

What's new, highlights, and safety info for the 2009 BMW 328i, 335i, and M3.


A perennial 10Best winner since 1992 and the favorite car of manyC/D staffers, the BMW 3-series sees a few minor changes for 2009, all designed to keep it looking fresh against newer competition. Completely redesigned for 2005, the freshening of the 3-series sedans and wagons is subtle, featuring new headlights and taillights, as well as interior refinements. Coupes and convertibles soldier on into 2009 with few changes. Fortunately, BMW has not messed with the 3-series formula of refinement, comfort, amazing driving dynamics, straight-line performance, and value.

The 3-series is available in four body styles: sedan, coupe, convertible, and wagon. All choose from among the same engine options—the wagon is only available with the naturally aspirated engine, however—and available all-wheel drive, the latter of which BMW now calls xDrive. The 3-series convertible, however, is only available with rear-wheel drive.

Aside from the choice of body style, the 3-series buyer also faces several powertrain choices. Models designated 328i feature a naturally aspirated 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder engine that makes 230 hp and return between 25 and 28 mpg on the highway. The base engine is available in all four body styles. The next step up is a 300-hp, twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six that powers the 335i sedan, coupe, and convertible. New for 2009 is the diesel-burning 3.0-liter turbo-diesel inline-six that makes 265 hp and a staggering 425 lb-ft of torque in the 335d sedan. The diesel hasn't been rated by the EPA as of this writing, but it is expected to achieve city/highway fuel economy pf 23/36 mpg. Nearly all 3-series come with a standard six-speed manual and offer a six-speed automatic as an option, but the 335d is automatic only. At the very top of the 3-series range is the high-performance M3, which comes as a coupe, sedan, or a convertible. With 414 hp from its 4.0-liter V-8 and a track-tuned chassis, the M3 is the ultimate 3-series.

Keep Reading: 2009 BMW 3-series / M3 Sedan, Coupe, Wagon, and Convertible - Review



Winter Testing: BMW 750i xDrive

During the winter testing in Arctic Driving Center in Rovaniemi, Finland, the same Autobild fellows drove the all-wheel drive version of the new BMW 7 Series. The unreleased 750i xDrive is again a car that not many journalists had the opportunity to drive. Also, not many information were known about the first 7 Series all-wheel-drive model, but we did learn a new few things.

The 750i xDrive will be available at the Frankfur Auto Show next year. The 7er xDrive will be available in both short-wheel base and of course, long-wheel base, but it will not be available in the low-end petrol and diesel models. 

Autobild says the typical RWD driving feeling stays,  while the xDrive contributes to better traction & handling in slippery conditions. The xDrive system in the new 7er distributes the torque in the basis rear-biased ratio 30:70 (instead of 40:60 like in other xDrive models). 

It sounds to me that BMW still has a few more surprises for us and the new 7 Series seems to become the perfect car that can satisfy the needs even of the most demanding customer.

BMW 750i xDrive


BMW 750i xDrive

BMW 750i xDrive



Autobild drives the BMW X1 xDrive30i

One of the latest  BMW concepts that stirred up a lot of controversy between the bimmer fans, is the X1 Concept. The BMW X1, in a concept form, was unveiled at the Paris Auto Show in October. A concept that many people believe will not be as useful or successful as BMW predicts. But that's another story for another day.

Since the X1 production version has not been yet unveiled, there weren't any test drives conducted by press media. The folks at Autobild were given by BMW the privilege to join them at the winter testing in Arctic Driving Center in Rovaniemi, Finland. 

Since the article is in german, I had to rely on Google Translate and our friend EnI from GCZ, to pull out the most important things they discovered. 


BMW X1 xDrive30i

X1 will be available in late 2009 and only in Europe(at least for a while)

the car is flat, not SUV-ish at all - it looks and feels much more like a 3er Touring "Allroad"(it is built on the same platform)

the car is very agile, and drives just like 3er xDrive Touring 

the cabin is not cramped at all, yet the roof lies much lower compared to X3

the dash was still in camo and the basic layout comes from the 1 Series, the steering wheel as well and the big-screen navigation from the 3 Series

the car features 3.0L I6 engine with 272HP, and a 6-speed automatic gearbox

xDrive basis torque-distribution ratio in this car is regular 40:60

the sitting position is a bit higher than in 3er Touring xDrive but much lower than in X3

the car's driving and overall characteristics are much more similar to 1er & 3er than to X3

there are four models available xDrive20i, xDrive20d, xDrive30i and a hybrid version

Very interesting findings and in the end, it seems like the BMW X1 might have a place of its own in the BMW fleet. We know that the next generation X3 will increase in size and implicitly move up in the class, leaving a spot for the sportier, more agile X1.



New ZF Automatic Transmission to offer Start/Stop system

In September, we talked intensively about BMW's new Start/Stop System as being part of the "EfficientDynamics" program. The stop-start system is one of the fuel economy and emissions reduction components of its "Efficient Dynamics" technology package. The way it works is that the system automatically switches off the engine when the car comes to a standstill.  As soon as the driver puts in the clutch or depresses the gas pedal, the engine fires up automatically. 

At that time, we confirmed the Start/Stop system only works for manual transmissions, but we had hopes that a solution for the automatic gearboxes will be developed as well. Three months later and the latest news say BMW's new ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox will feature the Start/Stop technology also. 

It is unknown at the moment which models will be getting this system, but my best goes on the high-end 760Li which will be released by the end of 2009.

[Source: Auto Motor Sport via BMWToday ]



The Generations War: BMW Z3 vs. BMW Z4 vs 2009 BMW Z4

Let me start first that the following comparison might not be the most fair, exact or appropiate one, but I think it's interesting and in the same fun to see the transition and the progress within the BMW roadster class.

I am also looking to see people's reaction to old vs. new, what could have been done better, what design elements should have been kept or if simply, the new Z4 is all that and more.

Once again, to keep this on a fair level, or as much as we can, we're just going to focus on the exterior and interior design, we won't be throwing any horsepower around nor any torque. Fuel consumption and "green" is the last on my list of concerns as well, let's just see, in images, the transition from the Z3 to the latest and greatest Z4.

Comments are always encouraged and appreciated, great conversations have been started by those little comments you, our readers, leave on here.

Click on photos for larger resolution

And of course, I'll go first:

Z3 - found it interesting for its time, but never a fan of it

E85 Z4 - good looking car, but not good enough to spend that much money on it. Always believed there were better options

E89 Z4 - well, different story, at least from the photos, I instantly fell in love and for the first time, I didn't feel like I had to compromise between a beautiful exterior design and a "decent at best" interior.



BMW loses court battle to chinese X5 clone

Back in 2007, the Frankfurt Auto Show brought us a legal war between BMW and the chinese carmakers, Shuanghuan. The CEO car built by the chinese party stired up a lot of controversy due to its X5ish look.

As we mentioned back then, the CEO is almost an identical copy of BMW's X5 model, and the only reason why it's "almost identical" is that the SUV's front end it's a "clone" of the SUVs found in the Mercedes-Benz's line.

BMW has immediately filed a lawsuit against them, but last week, an italian court rejected BMW's claims.

"We are convinced the CEO wasn't a clone of the X5. We are happy to see our view supported by a court ruling," said an obviously pleased spokesperson from Martin Motors.

Martin Motors, distributor of Shuanghuan Automobiles in Italy and central Europe, has sold about 200 copies of the CEO and expects to sell about 1200 this year in their European markets. Definitely an important loss for BMW, especially now when they're hurting financially.

BMW was the second manufacturer to sue Shuanghuan, Mercedes-Benz went after them for their "Noble" model, a Smart fortwo replica.

So, here are some images that I posted in the past, I will let you decide.

[Source: Autoblog and Automotive News subscription required ]



Teaser: New Alpina B7

Alpina has decided to tease its fans with a drawing of what the next generation B7 will look like. Based on the 2009 BMW 7 Series, the B7 was spotted testing in August.

If there is still any confusion about who Alpina is, then let me clarify that one more time. Alpina is a stand alone car manufacturer in close co-operation with BMW, therefore an Alpina can be bought and serviced at local BMW dealerships, and covered if there is a warranty issue.

So, here is the teaser drawing:



IND Distribution visiting Eisenmann Facility


Our friends at IND Distribution sent me a fascinating story based on their recent trip to Germany. It's a bit long but it has a lot of photos and it's a great read.

Last week, IND Distribution- the North American distributor for Eisenmann exhausts- visited Eisenmann GmbH's amazing manufacturing facilities in Hemmingen, Germany for an exclusive view of their old world manufacturing techniques, the privilege to meet their skilled fabricators, and a preview of their upcoming projects for 2009 as Germany's leading OEM and Aftermarket exhaust system manufacturer.
Eisenmann is located in the suburb of Hemmingen, a small German town just a half hour's drive from the major manufacturing center of Stuttgart that houses the industry giant Porsche GmbH. Porsche's many manufacturing and testing centers are scattered around Stuttgart, with their closest facility literally just down the block from Eisenmann's own manufacturing complex!

Driving through the beautiful countryside, one would never expect to find a factory responsible for exhaust systems featured on the Mercedes McLaren SLR, AMG and Porsche cars, and the cars of thousands of enthusiasts worldwide.
I'll include a photo tour of Eisenmann's facility, to show our readers exactly what Eisenmann is about-

The first thing you notice when entering Eisenmann's facility is Eisenmann's true love for metalwork. Even their sign is worked from stamped sheetmetal and bent tubing! You can see just how long Eisenmann has been around, simply by looking at how distressed and worn this sign is. It's probably been standing since the Eisenmann factory's opening in 1988!

Another metal sculpture, made by Eisenmann's experienced fabricators.

As soon as you walk into Eisenmann's lobby in their main building, a few things become obvious- the company's love for all modes of transportation, and their passion for clean and thorough work. This place was spotless!


My tour guide there was Sven Johann, Sales Director with nearly a decade of experience working at Eisenmann GmbH. After enthusiastic hellos (we'd just seen each other a month before at SEMA), Sven showed me around the office a bit, then took me to see the main attraction- Eisenmann's shop floor. 

Going from the clean, pristine offices of Sven and his co-workers to the bustling shop space is like getting cold water splashed in your face. We were sitting in Sven's comfortable, quiet office when he suggested taking a look at their primary shop space. We walked through a small door in the back of the offices, and were instantly hit with the hustle and rush of Eisenmann's shop environment. In this photo, you can see some of Eisenmann's employees working on things like the Eisenmann headers in the center of the photo.


Although Eisenmann uses mass production techniques like machine welding and fabrication for their OEM exhaust systems, Mr Eisenmann chooses to make his aftermarket exhaust systems with old-world German hand labor. Here you can see one of Eisenmann's technicians welding an E90 330i exhaust canister by hand. Later, when the exhaust is nearly completed, the Eisenmann logo will get hand stamped onto the tips, and the exhaust's serial number plaque welded to the canister to ensure it's identity as an Eisenmann product.


Next, Sven took me to take a look at some of the testing and R&D procedures Eisenmann uses to design their exhaust systems. In this photo you can see their backpressure probing system. It's a simple, but effective way of testing exhaust system performance by seeing just how effective one exhaust system is at evacuating exhaust gasses compared to another. By using pressure tubes mounted to various parts of the OEM exhaust system, Eisenmann can compare the OEM rear mufflers to many variations of proposed muffler designs, and arrive at the most ideal possible internal canister design, to ensure maximum flow.

Possibly the most shocking portion of the tour was Eisenmann's dynamic flow testing rig. I wish I could tell you readers that I'd seen hundreds of these before, but when Sven led me to a small room filled with sound matting, and this strange looking device within, and 6 identical looking E36 exhaust canisters, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

Eisenmann hit a serious bottleneck in their constant search for improvement in exhaust system design- they couldn't simulate actual engine dynamics through their muffler variations without actually bolting the muffler to the test car.

To solve this problem, Eisenmann designed this one-off muffler testing machine. The machine accurately simulates exhaust pulses through the muffler to test flow efficiency through each muffler design based on the set ambient temperature, pressure, and other parameters.
By using this machine, Eisenmann can ensure the best possible results from all of their exhaust systems.


This photo shows how truly MASSIVE this machine is! The entire setup is longer than a car, so it makes for a really imposing device.


When I saw 6 E36 M3 mufflers sitting in the testing room, I was a bit confused. I learned that Eisenmann is re-testing all of their old systems, in order to perfect each muffler design. Although the mufflers look the same externally, the internals of each are quite different, and serve to provide a real life test to each of the CFD analases Eisenmann has completed on the muffler design in question.

The second testing procedure I was really intrigued by was the "microphone test". Eisenmann's engineers use a custom made microphone rig to record each possible variation of muffler on each car they design. Initial testing starts with the OEM system, then with the same car with no exhaust on it at all. At that point, the engineers will apply many variations of test muffler, including pre-production sport and race systems, as well as mufflers specifically intended to test certain frequencies, and record each sound.

Eisenmann's software allows for analasys of each frequency outputted by the engine with each combination of muffler. By searching for unwanted frequencies in this analasys, Eisenmann is able to isolate and eliminate the bassy low rpm "drone" that has come to be associated with lower quality exhaust products.



We happened to be in the testing bay during testing of the new 335d exhaust system. This is really exciting, as this car isn't even released in the US market! The Sport and Race systems are already in development, to hurry both systems for US release.


Eisenmann's engineers weren't completely happy with the sound output of these first 335d test units. When this happens during testing, the engineers will isolate the specific unwanted frequency, then quickly make a set of test mufflers to fix the problem. In this photo, you can see these test mufflers installed on the car, to ensure that a specific muffler design will eliminate the unwanted frequency.


After all this testing was complete, I thought I needed some eye candy to let my brain relax, so Sven took me to see "LeMans heaven"! Just look at all those gorgeous tips, ready to be made into Eisenmann exhausts.


"Let's walk over to the other building." is all Sven would said in a sly voice as we left Eisenmann's main, open to the public, building. We had to walk quite a long way down the street, so I was starting to think this building would be just a boring warehouse. As soon as I saw the huge new three story building, complete with frosted glass windows throughout and a buzzer just to get in, I knew I was in for something special. Sven's assistant hit the buzzer, told the security guard inside we were with Eisenmann, and we were in.


The Porsche Cheyenne photo on the wall explained everything to me. We were inside Eisenmann's OEM manufacturing operation- something that until today has been closed to the public!


The first thing that really jumped out at me when I started walking around the building were these SLR tips. I hardly knew this many SLR McLarens existed, and to see this many tips in production and ready to go along with Eisenmann's OEM SLR exhaust really blew me away!


Along with the McLaren SLR exhaust system, I saw some of the master fabricators working on the new Mercedes AMG systems. It's amazing to see that each Mercedes AMG system is still made by hand at Eisenmann's factory. Seeing Eisenmann's fabricators carefully manufacturing exhausts entirely by hand, when they're going on a car that is completely mass produced (with the exception of the engine) is just incredible to me.



Here's a shot I snapped of an OEM Porsche roll cage- something you can find at your local Porsche dealership! Eisenmann manufactures these cages for Porsche, along with Porsche's exhaust systems.


As we were leaving the warehouse and fabrication area of Eisenmann's OEM building, we made a stop to the third floor. This whole floor is nothing but OEM tips! The entire third floor of this building is dedicated to manufacturing and storing OEM Porsche and AMG tips, to go on their exhausts in the future.


 On our way out of the building, we stopped to meet some of Eisenmann's engineers. We called this the "million dollar room". The salary of these engineers is pretty steep, but they have to be quite good at what they do!



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