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ADLX Review: 2011 BMW 550i

Next Week: F10 vs. E39 + 2011 BMW 550i Review

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!

Four Teutonic Facelifts That Worked & One That Didn’t

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

w120-eclass-automobiles-de-luxeUnfortunately, 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.


Party On Newt, Hardy, and Richard: The BMW Trio Are Back Online

By Gunnar Heinrich

BACK online following its televised premiere, the BMW Trio are ready to party on – online.

This segment, shot last winter in the Connecticut River Valley’s frost bitten hills, showcases three BMW drivers – Hardy Drackett, Newt Clark, and Richard Wolf – and their unique rides in a game of generational compare ‘n contrast.

The story’s central premise revolves around BMW’s legendary E39 (predecessor) generation M5 sedan; a car that some stalwart enthusiasts insist is, was, and forever shall be the most soulful M-car that the roundel hath wielded from metal.

As a juxtaposition to this most sanctified of four door time travel devices, the segment cross compares the old M5 with the current generation 550i (whose performance numbers come within firing range) and an M6 fitted with Dinan pipes (whose specs completely obliterate both Bimmer sedans).

Separated into Parts I and II, TRT is 16:25.

Enjoy.

Part I

Part II

Cadillac XLR-V at Lime Rock

By Gunnar Heinrich | IMG by Larry Henrikson for Automobiles De Luxe

TRACK time at Lime Rock is a precious commodity.

Like oil, it was once free-flowing and easy to come by. But when a heightened awareness met an increased demand, the track has begun to command a value in minutes like traders price out gold in ounces.

So, when we initially told colleagues that we were going to test out a new Cadillac on Northwestern Connecticut’s premier race course (the Constitution State only has two), the typical reaction was “huh?”

Cadillac isn’t known for building performance cars. Why should we waste time on something other than the usual German / Italian / British suspects?

The answer to that question is in the next segment. It’s match up between BMW’s E39 M5, E60 550i and Cadillac’s XLR-V.

In the meantime, here’s some pictures of King Caddy taken (on film of all means) by our man Larry Henrikson.

Online & In HD: BMW Trio M5 & M6 & 550i


Automobiles De Luxe: BMW M5 (E39) v BMW M6 (E63/E64) v BMW550I from Neil Rogers on Vimeo.

By Gunnar Heinrich

ONE of the great frustrations with airing content through YouTube is that a) YouTube has a time limit of 10 minutes for most submissions and b) the quality is by and large absolute crap.

Let’s say a ten minute video takes up 20 Gigabytes. YouTube’s upload limit is 100 megabytes.

The process to downgrade and compress high definition content into a file that’s less than 100 MB is every bit as painful as washing your new Ferrari using brillo pads and engine cleaner. The result is a butchered facsimile of what was formerly full of glossy detail.

Luckily, there are HD options on the web.

While I hope that you will still use our site’s Mogulus player, if you want to watch ADL videos uncut and in HD you will be able to do so through Vimeo.com.

The first video that we’ve uploaded is the BMW Trio Segment (RT: 16:13) featuring the E39 M5, the E64 M6, and the E60 550i.

You’ll find that not only is the image much sharper, but the sound is much clearer, too. And as I’m sure you’ll agree, great cars seen and heard through HD is a beautiful thing.