Posts Tagged ‘BMW ActiveHybrid’

On the second day of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the sensational new products (and a few questionable ones) kept coming.   Honda showed off its new Accord Coupe Concept to mixed reviews, horrified Maserati fans got a closer look at the new Kubang SUV based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Lincoln was finally given new life in the form of the strikingly-beautiful MKZ Concept mid-sized sedan.


Audi continues on its steamroller trajectory with the thinly-veiled Q3 Vail Concept and A4 Allroad.  The Q3 officially went on sale last year in Europe and Audi hadn’t confirmed US sales plans until this week. The Q3 is based on the Volkswagen Tiguan platform, but it’s wrapped in Audi chic sheet metal and a vastly superior interior (it will cost a lot more too – count on it).

Audi Q3 Vail Concept

The Q3 Vail Concept borrows the beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountain ski resort’s name to remind you that  its compact luxury SUV can play in the snow and schmooze with the 1% on ski vacations.  Other car companies offer heated and cooled cupholders, but the Q3 Vail uses a separate battery to heat and cool your beverages while the car is shut off so when you come off the black diamond slopes you can still have a hot cappuccino waiting for you.

Audi Q3 Vail Concept Interior. It oozes with typical Audi quality and efficency.

Audi has confirmed that a US-spec Q3 will come to these shores at the end of 2013 as a 2014 model.  Both the Vail Concept and production Q3 will get Audi’s 2.5 L 5-cylinder turbocharged direct-inject engine currently found in the TT RS.  While the TT RS engine is tuned to 360 hp and 343 lb-ft of torque, the unit for the production Q3 Quattro will likely be tuned down some.  I predict that a base Q3 will be offered with a less powerful 2.0T engine like in other Audi products.   I think the Q3 is a sure hit for the US market.

The original Audi Allroad was Audi’s first baby step into the SUV world.  The last Allroad sold in the US was in 2005 and it was basically an A6 Avant (wagon) on steroids.   Allroad hardcore fans will be thrilled to know it’s making a comeback.  This time, it’s based on the A4 Avant, which has grown in size to match the original A6 Avant and it will replace the lovely A4 Avant in Audi’s line up.  Apparently Americans won’t buy the wonderful A4 wagon, so they have to lift it a few inches to give it SUV height without competing directly with its own Q5 SUV.

In showrooms this spring, the new Allroad is wider, taller and has more ground clearance than the standard A4 Avant.  Power will come only from Audi’s standard 2.0L direct inject turbo four rated at 211 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission will be an 8-speed Tiptronic and quattro all-wheel drive is standard.  It also gets some skid plates and side sills, roof rails, and other cosmetic styling details.  A panoramic sunroof , eight-way heated power seats and upgraded infotainment are options. Prices haven’t been announced yet, but it will be more expensive than the outgoing A4 Avant that starts at $36,400.

2013 Audi A4 Allroad


The new 2012 BMW 3-series got its first US display in Detroit. I’ve already posted pictures and details about the new 3 and you can check those out here.

The “big” debut for BMW in Detroit was the 2012 ActiveHybrid 5 sedan coming in at a lofty base price of $61,845.  Why BMW insists on giving us these cars is mystifying.  That’s $14,945 more than the base 528i, $8,500 more than the mid-range 535i and nearly the same price of the V8-powered 550i.

2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 5

The ActiveHybrid 5 is based on the 535i with BMW’s lovely 300 hp in-line six with TwinTurbo power, direct injection engine and BMW’s slick valve-timing software. The hybrid sandwiches a 55 hp electric motor between the engine and the ZF 8-speed automatic.  A compact lithium-ion battery takes up some trunk space. The total package is good for 340 hp and fuel economy of – wait for it – 23 mpg city, 34 mpg highway.

While those numbers sound good in a vacuum, bear in mind that the base 528i sedan, with a new twin-turbo 2.0L four is rated at 22 mpg city, 32 highway and the standard 535i is rated at 21 city, 31 highway.   If fuel economy is your concern when buying or leasing the BMW 5, then you will be hard-pressed to understand why you should pay such a lofty premium for barely a tick up in fuel economy.   BMW can’t sell the ActiveHybrid 7 and it has HUGE incentives tacked on to move it off dealers’ lots. I see the same fate for the ActiveHybrid 5.


GM has doubled down on Buick in the US and has showered the venerable division with three new products in the past few years – the LaCrosse, the Regal and the Verano.  For some unknown reason, GM thinks that Buick needs a small B-segment crossover, the Encore.  The little ‘ute is based on the spiffy Chevy Sonic platform and GM’s marketing minions think that it will occupy a “white space” in the”luxury small crossover” market.   “White space” is marketing lingo for a niche in the market that hasn’t been filled.  The closest competitor will be the MINI Countryman, at least until the Audi Q3 (see above) and the BMW X1 hit the market.

2013 Buick Encore

The Encore is bestowed with GM’s 1.4L turbocharged Ecotec engine making 140 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission will be a GM 6-speed automatic.  It will have all the now-familiar Buick styling cues: lots of shiny (fake) chrome, a waterfall grille, fluid lines and fake portholes on the hood.

To further appeal to luxury buyers, Buick uses “active noise cancellation” to quiet the cabin using microphones to listen for noise and computer-generated sound waves to cancel the noise through the car’s audio system. Cool stuff.   Note to MINI: this would be very helpful for your noisy products.

2013 Buick Encore interior. Could Buick just ditch the fake wood?

Buick calls the interior plush and many luxury options not normally available on smaller cars will distinguish the Encore from competitors. It will be equipped with Buick’s voice-activated IntelliLink infotainment system that will use Bluetooth or a USB port to connect to your smartphone.

2013 Buick Encore

Buick says the Encore should go on sale in the first quarter of 2013.  Prices haven’t been announced. The market for such a car in the United States is untested and Buick is going to ask younger buyers to help it blaze a trail. All I can say is I wish them luck.


Oh Honda, where did you go astray? I used to really like your products. You had the cool factor nailed. Each new car was bristled with fun, great engines and transmissions and a cut-above high-tech interior.  A decade ago, it seems that Honda decided to play it safe and just take evolutionary steps. It followed rather than lead.  The bold designs of the past were replaced with play-it-safe styling and less innovative drivetrains.

The 2012 “all new” Civic failed to impress new buyers.  In fact, your long-term bromance with Consumer Reports seems to be fading as CR  ‘dissed the Civic and didn’t “recommend” it.  It wasn’t the earthquake that hamstrung Honda, it was its own internal myopic view of the competition who, while you weren’t watching,  blew by you and spit dust and exhaust fumes in your corporate tailpipe.

I’m just saying that Honda chose an evolutionary approach while its competitors chose to revolutionize their mid-size offering.

Enter the all-new 9th generation Honda Accord, due to go on sale later this year.  To hint at the coming excitement, Honda showed the Honda Accord Coupe Concept in Detroit.  To say the shape looks familiar is an understatement.  Not that the outgoing Accord is horrible, it’s just boring. The new Accord lines look sharper and the haunches appear beefed up; but it’s definitely an Accord.

2013 Honda Accord Coupe (Concept)

The good news is that the Accord gets two new engines. The base engine will be its new 2.4L four-cylinder direct-injected engine with 181 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque.  It will be offered with either a 6-speed automatic (finally) or a “fun” CVT.  I have yet to drive a fun car with a CVT.   Honda will also offer its re-engineered 3.5L V6 engine with your choice of six-speed automatic or manual.  Of course, Honda claims all models will be more efficient and “class leading” – whatever that means.

2013 Honda Accord Coupe (Concept)

The best news, however, is that there will be an Accord Hybrid again. This time, it will be a plug-in hybrid that will be able to operate in three modes: pure electric drive, hybrid and “direct drive” which is by gas engine only.  Honda will use a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine coupled with a 120 kW motor and a 6 kWh lithium-ion battery. Honda claims it will drive up to 15 miles in pure EV mode at speeds up to 62 mph.  Honda will also introduce Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning and LaneWatch blind spot display.  In other words, it’s catching up to the competition.


I’ve been very excited about the visual appeal and rice rocket potential of the all-new Hyundai Veloster that is on sale now.  However, the big complaint was that the car looked faster than it drove. That’s been remedied with the introduction of the 2013 Veloster Turbo. The 1.6L direct-injected turbo engine produces 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque and it’s mated to a new six-speed sequential-shift automatic transmission.  Now it’s a suitable rival for the VW GTI, Honda Civic Si and MINI Cooper S.

2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

The Veloster went on sale in September 2011 and has already sold more than 9,000 units. The Turbo, complete with the two new paint colors, including a matte finish, will go on sale sometime this summer.


Ford has neglected Lincoln. Once the proud icon of American Luxury, Lincoln was relegated to rebadged (think MKZ) and blinged-out (think Navigator) Fords.  Lincoln hasn’t had a proper rear drive flagship in over a decade (excluding the Town Car which was a thirty year old design, mostly sold to fleets for black car or livery service. It was finally discontinued in 2011).

Ford realized the error of its ways and hit the reset button. It hired a team of dedicated, talented designers and engineers to remake Lincoln. It will take significant investment and hard work to replace Lincoln’s tired portfolio, but this week, Ford laid out its vision for the future of Lincoln with the stunning MKZ Concept.

2013 Lincoln MKZ Concept

Based on the all-new Ford Fusion, the MKZ is no longer a rebadged Ford. It has its own unique look and distinct styling, inside and out, that will challenge the established luxury players in this near-luxury or “smart luxury” category.   It makes the Lexus ES350 look instantly obsolete, Acura ‘s TL looks common and the Germans look austere (which, to be fair, is probably what the Germans are for). In short, its both modern and futuristic.

The face is familiar as it has already shown up on the mid-life facelift for the MKT  and MKS.  I’m not a fan of the grille, but with so much more visual interest on the concept, I’ll go with it.   Lincoln designers have taken note of the four-door coupe movement with slick cars like the Mercedes CLS, the Audi A7, the Volkswagen CC, the BMW 6 Gran Coupe.  The steeply-raked windscreen connects to a fantastic glass roof which sweeps all the way back to the trunk lid. Full-width taillights evoke past Lincolns and LEDs, front and rear, abound.

The concept features Lincoln Drive Control and an adjustable suspension with Continuously Controlled Damping.  This is probably similar to magnetic ride control or computer-controlled air suspension systems found on other luxury cars.

2013 Lincoln MKZ Concept

The interior is filled with leather wood, soft-touch surfaces and all the requisite luxury touches.  The instrument panel is now a 10.1″ TFT screen. It will be equipped with the latest version of MyLincoln Touch infotainment system as well as all the latest electronic nannies, driver aids and safety devices also found in the new Fusion.  These days, it’s getting harder and harder to find stand-out technology that hasn’t already been invented.

2013 Lincoln MKZ Concept interior

Lincoln gave few details about the drivetrains that will be available; however, it’s a safe bet that they will be similar to the five options on the new Fusion.   For more information on the Fusion, see our previous post.  The production version of the MKZ will likely show up later this year in another US auto show (maybe New York?) and it should go on sale before the end of the year.


Maserati used the Detroit Auto Show to remind us that it plans to produce the Kubang SUV based on the new Jeep Grand Cherokee which shares a platform with the new Mercedes ML.  The engine will be sourced from sister company Ferrari and Maserati engineers will be responsible for steering, brakes and suspension.  The only transmission will be an 8-speed automatic, probably similar to the ZF 8-speed currently being deployed on many Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles.

2014 Maserati Kubang Concept

The Kubang will be built at Chrysler’s Jefferson North assembly plant (just outside Detroit). That’s good for US jobs, but the volume will likely be pretty low.  But if it’s not built at a Maserati factory in Italy, is it really a Maserati?

2014 Maserati Kubang Concept

Maserati loyalists are retching, but like the Porsche Cayenne, it will probably sell.


The new baby Prius, the Prius c, has already been plastered all over the airwaves and internet, so it seems almost anticlimactic with its debut in Detroit.  It’s a smaller version of the standard Prius but has the same powertrain. The difference is the cheaper interior and missing amenities like automatic climate control.   It’s still plenty versatile as a 5-door car, but rear seat passengers will be squished.

Toyota says the Prius c, starting at $19,000, will carry a combined rating of 50 mpg and it’s rated at 53 mpg on the highway. The standard Prius is also rated at a combined 50 mpg; however, the Prius c has a price advantage of more than $4,000.

2013 Toyota Prius c

It appears as if Toyota felt it needed a smaller Prius to compete with the Honda Insight (itself a Prius clone) on both price and content. However, since few people are interested in the Insight (2011 sales of 15,549, a 25% drop from 2010), it remains to be seen if the Prius name and lower price is the magic tonic to propel sales of the Prius c.

2013 Prius c dashboard

More interesting was the NS4 Advanced Plug-in Hybrid Concept that Toyota says is a plug-in hybrid “separate from the Prius family.”  Hum… It’s exactly the same size as the current Prius and it wouldn’t be a leap to believe that the new styling direction will be seen on the 4th generation Prius.

Toyota NS4 Advanced Plug-in Concept

The NS4 features a next-generation hybrid system with smaller and lighter components, and with better fuel economy and greater range in pure electric mode.  Of course, it will have next-generation lithium-ion batteries.

Toyota says the NS4 has a touch-screen that reduces driver distraction (ha!) and has cool new glass technology from supplier Ashai Glass, including anti-ultraviolet, anti-solar, anti-fog and raindrop-elimination features.   It could also end up as a Lexus design; but it’s more likely to be a new shared platform for the Prius and other variants, including a Lexus version.

Toyota NS4 Advanced Plug-In Hybrid concept interior.


One online resource I use frequently is  TrueCar’s stated mission is to “bring transparency to car buying in America.” You can research any make/model you’re interested in and see a chart of the transaction prices for that make/model in your area (by zip code or city).  You have instant access to the (1) average prices paid, (2) recent sales data (broken down into local, regional and national trends), (3) Price Trend (monthly, graphed), and (4) Vehicle Pricing Details.  The data includes the actual number of sales/transactions on which the results are based.

I love the Vehicle Pricing Details.  It shows the dealer cost, factory invoice, average price paid and sticker price. Then it details any holdback (see below), dealer incentives, options, regional ad fees, destination fees and customer incentives.  It arms you with plenty of salient information that is usually not disclosed when you’re negotiating a vehicle purchase.

A dealer  holdback is a percentage of either the MSRP or invoice price of a new vehicle (depending on the manufacturer) that is repaid to the dealer by the manufacturer after the vehicle is sold. In other words, when the dealer says they are selling you the car at “invoice” and they aren’t making a dime, you can call their bluff and tell them you know about the $$ holdback.

When I want to see which manufacturers are giving heavy discounts and/or what models they are pushing – usually because sales are slow or there is excess inventory of a less-than-desirable model – I check TrueCar’s research. Did you know that Mercedes-Benz has the highest discount rate of any manufacturer – 14.2% – for 2011? It’s higher than Chrysler’s Ram brand at 14%.  Good to know next time you’re in the market for a new Mercedes.

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-class is a nice, big SUV but it's not selling well right now.

Here’s another pearl.  The 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 750Li, with a  base MSRP of $101,000, has $7,500 customer cash back – the highest for any vehicle currently.

For 100 grand, you get West Side/Entertainment Industry bragging rights to being “green” with a BMW “hybrid.”  Now this is not your standard Prius-like hybrid system.  You get a 4.4 liter 32 valve, 400 hp V8 engine with TwinTurbo technology, direct gasoline injection, 4 overhead cam shafts and Double-VANOS variable valve timing.  (So far, I’m not hearing “green.”)

2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 750Li. It's a nice ride, for sure.

BMW adds a super sophisticated ZF 8-speed automatic transmission with Hybrid Start/Stop function, Automatic and Manual shift modes, and fully synchronized electronic gear changes in both.  There’s an electric motor sandwiched between the gas engine and the torque converter in the 8-speed transmission.  It contributes an additional 20 hp and 155 lb-ft—combined powertrain output is 455 hp and 515 lb-ft.  In other words, it’s a very fast hybrid.  When you come to a stop, the engine switches off and the battery powers the accessories. The slightest nudge to the gas pedal restarts the engine and you’re seamlessly, almost imperceptibly, on your way.

The ActiveHybrid 7 system. I have no doubt the German's over-engineered it.

Add to that, Brake Energy Regeneration to convert kinetic energy into usable electrical power and a 120-volt lithium-ion battery with boost function.  All that fancy-schmancy hybrid-electric tech adds a sobering $12,800 over the base 750Li (with the same 400 hp V8 engine).

But hey, it’s a hybrid, right? So the fuel economy must get a big boost, right? Not so much. The base 4.4 liter turbo V8 750Li is EPA rated a disappointing, but expected 14 mpg City, 22 Highway, Combined 17 mpg on premium fuel.  The ActiveHybrid 750Li, also running on premium, is rated at 17 mpg City, 24 Highway, Combined 20.  Be still, my green-beating heart.

On a percentage basis, the bump is around 16%.  Not bad; but when the numbers are so low to begin with, an extra 3 mpg doesn’t impress, does it? So far it hasn’t impressed well-heeled “green” customers either. I guess the good news is that the “standard” 750Li gets socked with a $1,000 gas guzzler tax while  the ActiveHybrid 7Li doesn’t.

The BMW factory to customer cash of $7,500 helps reduce the $12,800 hybrid premium and puts more cars on the street.  So if you’re in the market to drop $100k on an ActiveHybrid 7,  don’t be too impressed when the salesman offers you a 7.5% discount before you even start negotiating.  I’m betting that dealers may sweeten the pot further,  probably enough to almost erase the $12,800 Hybrid premium.  You know, it takes real muscle to move 4,800 pounds of high-quality German steel.

Here is TrueCar’s Blog of  July 18, 2011 listing the top five  Models with Largest Total Incentives:

Models with Largest Total Incentives
Rank Make/Model Customer Cash Rebate Dealer Cash
1 2011 BMW 7 Series Hybrid $7,500 $0
2 2011 Cadillac DTS $7,000 $0
3 2011 Chevrolet Silverado $4,505 $0
4 2011 Ram Dakota $0 $4,500
5 2011 Volkswagen Routan $0 $4,500

Here’s TrueCar’s latest list of Top Discounts (by Vehicle Category).  They have them for 2012 models as well.

2011 Top Discounts (by Vehicle Category)
Vehicle Category Model % Below MSRP
Large Car Chevrolet Impala 25.0%
Large Truck Chevrolet Silverado 1500 22.4%
Midsize Car Mitsubishi Galant 19.7%
Luxury Car Cadillac DTS 18.9%
Subcompact Car Chevrolet Aveo 18.5%
Minivan Volkswagen Routan 17.9%
Large SUV Nissan Armada 17.0%
Luxury Sport Car Chevrolet Corvette 17.0%
Small Truck Nissan Frontier 16.8%
Luxury SUV Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 16.2%
Small SUV Dodge Nitro 15.8%
Van Chevrolet Express Cargo Van 15.6%
Midsize SUV Nissan Pathfinder 14.3%
Small Car Ford Focus 12.9%
Sport Car Ford Mustang 11.0%
Luxury Sport Car Jaguar XK 10.6%

Some of what you see here makes sense; however, some may surprise.  It’s easy to dismiss the Chevy Impala or the Dodge Nitro. No one wants either one, so they are sold mostly to fleets. It’s the car you don’t want at the rental counter and it’s going to take some serious discounts to get retail sales.  I think Dodge has killed the Nitro and the old fleet soldier, the Chevy Impala, is due for a complete refresh next year.

2011 Chevrolet Impala LS Sedan. It screams dull, rental car. It's definitely a product of the "Old GM."

The Ford Mustang is popular, but it’s losing the sales battle with its arch rival, the Chevy Camaro.  Through June 30, 2011, Camaro outsold Mustang by 9,720 units.  Ford and its dealers are discounting the Mustang to at least keep pace with the new kid on the block.  Ford needs the volume to keep the Mustang affordable and in production. There isn’t a car enthusiast on the planet that would want Ford to kill the Mustang. And it won’t as long as we keep buying them.

2011 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Convertible. There is a reason to live and breathe.

So what about America’s Sports Car, the Chevrolet Corvette?  In my humble opinion, the Corvette is the best car made by General Motors – bar none. But it’s expensive (easily over $60,000) and it’s ancient in car years. The 6th generation Corvette was introduced in 2005 and we probably won’t see the C7 until late next year (2012) as a 2013 model.

2011 Chevrolet Corvette. It's my favorite GM car. The drive is intoxicating even if the interior is sub-par for its price and class. Time for a C7!

Sales of Corvettes are down substantially.  In 2010, Chevy sold only 12,624 units, down 9.4% from 2009.  As recently as 2006, Chevy sold 36,518 Corvettes.  So far, sales for the first six months of 2011 are up by about 8.5% (6,896 compared to 6,355 in 2010); but that comes at the cost of $3,000 customer cash or 1.9% financing for 60 months.

Did you even know that Mitsubishi still made the Galant? I had forgotten about it and so has everyone else.  Hell, I can’t even find a Mitsubishi dealer in Metro LA.   Mercifully, Cadillac has euthanized the DTS, it’s large front-drive former flagship. It is actually fairly reliable, according to Consumer Reports, but it hasn’t felt modern in years. R.I.P.

The 2011 Mitsubishi Galant. Does anyone care anymore?

The 2011 Cadillac DTS is a symbol of a bygone era that won't be missed at Cadillac.

As far as the Chevy Silverado, there is so much profit in each one that even a 20% haircut won’t hurt either GM or its dealers. This is a solid, popular pickup truck that you can get at a bargain.

So when you are researching a new car, I’d add to the list below:

The only pay site above is Consumer Reports. Support it if you can.

Also, do a Google search for blogs dedicated to the car(s) you’re interested in. Often time you’ll find comments, complaints and likes that directly answer questions or issues you may have. These people own the vehicle you’re checking out and their experiences in daily driving can illuminate things about the vehicle that you didn’t even think of.  Join a user group and ask a question. The answer may be more helpful than anything you get at a dealer. This is what Web 2.0 is about. Use it to your advantage!