by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img Kevin Kusina & Phil Dunphy ::: BMW F10 550i & E39 M5
DRIVING into next week, we have a Bavarian treat in store. First, our upcoming review of the 2011 BMW 550i, a sumptuous luxury car featuring explosive performance. The new 5er’s so potent, in fact, that we couldn’t help but notice that the F10 550i’s V8 has eclipsed the power figures of the mighty E39 M5. At our good friend Hardy’s suggestion, we compared ‘n contrasted the two Teutons on a serpentine roadway that snakes through a Connecticut forest known as the Devil’s Hopyard. Keep it locked!
by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img BMW NA ::: 2011 BMW 550i
BEHIND the wheel of the 2011 BMW 550i this week. The 550i sports 400 hp with 450 torques (!) between 1750-4400 rpm. Thank the (N63) V8’s twin-turbos for this magic boost. It’s like Evil Kenevil tied a long rope around your waist, fixed the other end to his dirt bike, proceeded to drive up and off a tall ramp at great speed, and you watched the line’s slack take up until the point – More to follow.
By Gunnar Heinrich | IMG AutoBild via BMWBlog
HOW many sub niches can a car company possibly entertain?
BMW’s brought us the X6 – it’s bulbous form’s a stretch for many Bimmerphiles, to be sure. And now the 5er GT, a useful concept at creating a luxurious chariot for long distance cruising.
But a 3-Series GranTurismo? Really?
Bear in mind, that for those who likes hatches – there’s already the 1er 5-door on sale in Europe.
Is GT just that moniker which will replace the old “Touring” “Estate” or “Station Wagon” tags?
It seems like auto makers are at pains to call stretched five door versions of their sedans as anything but…I challenge you to think of a m.y. ’10 car (other than a Volvo) that’s referred to as a “wagon”.
If rumors prove true, and those Auto Bilders are right, matters in Munich may just be slipping out of hand.
Remember the core, BMW!
The R129 generation (1989-2001) Mercedes SL – post-op
By Gunnar Heinrich
SUCH is the prolific lifespan of most of Stuttgart or Munich’s creations (typically 7-10 years) that mid-cycle “facelifts” are often called for to keep the Benzes and Bimmers appearing fresh against upstart competition.
Sound like the anxious existence of an aging Hollywood actress? Well, it is more or less.
Here are four cases in point where a trip to the plastic surgeon yielded a cleaner look that managed to eclipse the original plus one example that could’ve used a follow up…
BMW E34 5-Series (1988-1994)
Arguably the handsomest midsize sedan BMW has yet to build, the 5er was angular, lean, and cleanly drew the automaker into the 90s. But those facets that worked under the Bush Administration seemed dated mid-way through the Clinton years – particularly when most rivals were bulking up into heftier shapes.
Below, the easy fix.
The 90s refit added a lower apron to the front bumper – better channeling air to the front brakes – and minimized the horizontal plastic slats – a styling cue from the 70s – in favor of adding painted sheetmetal surrounding the chromed kidney grille. The effect, however subtle, was a modernizing step that segued nicely into the succeeding e39 generation (1995-2003).
Mercedes-Benz R129 SL-Class (1989-2001)
The automotive press was merciless in their spite of the sport light by the time it had reached its finale in 2001. They labeled the Benz a “dinosaur” with all the big, lumbering connotations for performance that the attribution meant.
Still, when the SL made its debut in the 80s alongside the W126 S-Class, it was a pioneer in German excellence in design that had replaced the truly ancient R107 (1971-1989). Still, the SL would receive not one but two facelift in its lifespan. The last (and best) occuring in 1998.
It’s amazing what tweaking the headlamps of a car can do to the overall appearance. With translucent lenses, we see a more dynamic face thanks the Xenon projectors. Visually, the “eyes” of the car appear wider, too. That along with bolder body-colored bumpers, slightly twisted side skirts (on Sport packaged models), and larger, fewer spoked rims – gave more credibility to the “sport” in “sport light”.
Mercedes-Benz W140 S-Class (1991-1999)
Hot on the heels of the W126 generation (1979-1991), many of the automotive press labeled this big Benz “too much of a good thing”. Indeed, its designer Bruno Sacco lamented that he thought the W140 “two inches too tall.” Whatever the case, Benz let pleats out of this suit and were quick to take it back in.
The 1996 refit turned the initial car’s frown upside down – yielding a smiling front air dam. The headlights were slightly tampered with too as were the side indicators which became translucent – replacing the bright signature Mercedes orange. There still wasn’t much Benz could do with the heavy appearance – but the second variation made subtle amends with added lines to regain a sense of surface tension that the original never had.
BMW E65/66 7-Series (2001-2008)
Portly and flamed to a crisp, the first of Chris Bangle’s new generation of flame surfaced BMWs left BMW’s former chief designer fearing for his life for the ire of incensed Bimmer traditionalists. Admittedly, the flagship Bimmer had a hard act to follow…but this was a bit much. Hence the hasty and comprehensive corrective surgery in 2005…
Once again, surface tension was introduced to a design that had none. Stronger lines cleaved into the hood and trunk cut through the original car’s bloat. That and taller wheels, more rectangular(ish) headlights, a smiling front air dam (the original glowered with two foglamps for clumsy fangs – think Sweetums from The Muppets ) and a cleaner boot line (less Bangle but) made for a sharper finish to this most controversial 7.
Mercedes-Benz W210 E-Class (1995-2003)
Now for the exception. The first generation of the handsome, oval-headlamped midsize Benzes enchanted the automotive press when it was first unveiled. But quality control problems marred the sedan’s production life and Mercedes’ otherwise sterling facade – including an unforgivable lack of structural rigidity in the crash tests. Sadly, the best looking midsize Benz Stuttgart has yet built is also takes the top prize in poorest build quality.
Unfortunately, the mid-cycle fix took away a large portion of the original W210’s charm. Strangely scalloped from air intakes replaced the first iteration’s form & function horizontal slats. The front bumper was reshaped giving the sedan less ground clearance and a more forward leaning stance.
Those signature oval headlamps lost the bright orange “eye lid” contrast to a milky, opaque disguise. The afterthought side mirror signal lights didn’t work either for their inclusion seemed clumsily executed. Slimmer tail lamps, a more slanted grille, the list of missteps goes on…
And there you have it: four facelifts that improved upon the original art work – and one that really didn’t.
By Gunnar Heinrich | IMG BMW-Werke-Dingolfing
WATCHING a video online that showcased the fascinating study in efficiency that is BMW’s Dingolfing plant – the enormous Bavarian factory that assembles the 5, 6, and 7-Series – an interesting bit of imagery caught my eye.
You see, of the 280,000 some odd BMWs that leave the world’s largest Bimmer plant each year, many of those cars are transported on the backs of Mercedes-Benz trucks (as pictured). While this is business as usual for most German concerns, it’s nonetheless funny that one arch-rival’s product should facilitate getting the other rival’s product to market.
It’s kind of like watching Republicans and Democrats sling mud at each other on the Hill only to find out that after-hours they all attend the same Washington cocktail parties.