Friday, October 02, 2015

2015 BMW i8


Hearing the phrase "high-performance plug-in hybrid" would normally make about as much sense as "jumbo shrimp" or "rational and selfless politician." But the 2015 BMW i8 lends unquestionable credibility to that seeming oxymoron. Able to sprint to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 155 mph, this exotic, environmentally conscious sports machine also boasts a 76 MPGe EPA fuel economy rating. If driving this car is going green, then consider us card-carrying members of the tree-hugger's club.

This BMW's magic happens by way of a turbocharged 1.5-liter inline three-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. Working together, this dynamic duo makes 357 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque and channels it to all four wheels. Running on electric power alone, the i8 can travel up to 15 miles and reach a top speed of 75 mph. When the gas engine kicks on, the i8 has anything but a supercar's appetite for gas as it earns a combined fuel economy rating of 28 mpg and extends the i8's total estimated driving to a generous 330 miles. Recharging the car's battery pack can take as little as 1.5 hours.

Also contributing to the 2015 BMW i8's high performance and fuel-saving capabilities is the car's lightweight construction. Aluminum, carbon fiber and thinner, chemically hardened glass are all employed in its manufacture. Indeed, despite all the hybrid hardware packed into the i8, it is pretty much the same weight and length as a 3 Series sedan. A 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution and low, centrally mounted battery pack promote finely balanced, agile handling to go along with the straight-line thrills.

With its low, sleek body styling and unique scissor-lift-style doors, the 2015 BMW i8 pretty much guarantees that you'll make a grand entrance (and exit). The downside is that getting into the car takes a bit of practice. Inside, the futuristic cockpit uses recycled materials and naturally treated leather. The tiny rear seats, however, are best considered as additional cargo space, which you'll likely need given the trunk's meager capacity.

Perhaps the only real rival to the 2015 BMW i8 is the similarly high-performing 2015 Tesla Model S. It's purely electric and has the accompanying pros and cons to go with it, but it is less expensive and has four doors and usable rear seats. If you decide to go strictly gas-powered, you may look across the showroom at BMW's "M" family of performance machinery, while other sporting choices include the tempting 2015 Porsche 911 lineup as well as the value-packed 2015 Chevrolet Corvette. But for the hybrid buyer seeking sexy styling as well as sizzling performance and admirable efficiency, the 2015 BMW i8 is a very desirable, if conspicuous, choice.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2015 BMW i8 is a two-door, plug-in hybrid sports car with 2+2 seating. It comes in a single trim level.

Standard features include 20-inch wheels, adjustable suspension, LED exterior lighting (headlights, foglights, running lights and taillights), automatic headlights and wipers, front and rear park assist, an overhead camera view system, auto-dimming mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, leather upholstery, power front seats, heated front seats, a tilt-and-telescoping and leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic climate control, memory settings and a head-up display.

Other standard electronics features include a navigation system, BMW's iDrive electronics interface, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, BMW Assist, Internet accessibility and a Harman Kardon sound system with an iPod/USB interface, satellite radio and HD radio. Also included are BMW Apps (selected smartphone apps integration) and BMW Remote Services (which allows Apple and Android users to lock the car remotely and turn on the climate control, among various other tasks).

There are three option packages available, known as Worlds. Giga World includes turbine-style wheels and expanded, perforated leather upholstery. Tera World features a choice of the standard or turbine-style wheels and special cloth and leather upholstery. Pure Impulse World includes black brake calipers, a choice of the standard or turbine wheels and a variety of unique interior trim and materials upgrades, including a leather engine cover.

Powertrains and Performance

As a plug-in hybrid, the i8 employs a turbocharged 1.5-liter inline three-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. The gas engine drives the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission, while the electric motor powers the front wheels through a two-speed automatic. When working together, the two combine to provide 357 hp, 420 lb-ft of torque and all-wheel drive.

The battery pack can be fully recharged at home through a standard 120-volt garage outlet in about 3.5 hours. Upgrade to a 240-volt charger (or visit a public station) and you can trim that down to about 1.5 hours.

During Edmunds testing, a European-spec i8 sprinted from zero to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. According to the EPA, the i8 can travel 15 miles on electric power alone. After that, the gas engine comes into play and earns a combined (city/highway) fuel economy rating of 28 mpg, while the total driving range is estimated at 330 miles. The EPA also rates the i8 at 76 MPGe factoring in both gas and electric power efficiency.


The BMW i8 comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. Also standard are BMW Assist emergency communications (includes automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle recovery and on-demand roadside assistance) as well as parking sensors and an around-car view camera system.

At the Edmunds test track, the i8 came to a stop from 60 mph in 108 feet.

Interior Design and Special Features

Getting into the i8 requires a bit of choreography once the scissor door is swung up and away. You'll have to step over a high sill, so the best way to get in is to sit on the sill, swing a leg over, allow your backside to slip into the seat and then follow with the other leg. It's not hard once you master the move, but you'll want to duck under the bottom edge of the door at the same time.

Once inside the i8, you'll find a multi-tiered and layered cockpit design that uses recycled materials and naturally treated leather for upholstery and panel surfaces. The power seats offer good support and long-distance comfort, and even taller drivers will have headroom to spare. The center stack is canted toward the driver, putting everything close at hand.

The shifter and various mode switches are close by, too, and each selection changes the background color and meter design of the main instrument pod. The dials turn blue in EV mode; Sport is red and Comfort is gray. None of them is particularly attractive or easy to read, though, because the numbers are small, the instrument needles are skinny and neither contrasts strongly enough with the background. As such, one will likely end up using the head-up display instead.

Despite the "2+2" moniker, this is essentially a two-seater, as those rear seats are tiny with scant headroom, and as such are best considered auxiliary luggage space. You'll need it, too, since the trunk is rated at a paltry 5.4 cubic feet.

Driving Impressions

Around town, the 2015 BMW i8 feels pretty normal. The accelerator is smooth and linear while the brake pedal's action is progressive and natural, without the hardness or "wooden" character of other regenerative braking systems. The hybrid powertrain likely won't overwhelm you with acceleration, but it also never feels winded, and the electric motor's torque covers nicely for the small turbocharged engine as the latter winds up to deliver its power contribution. You'll also notice the unique sound of the i8 while driving, which is no accident. In EV mode, it's eerily silent except for the keening sound of the electric motor and regenerative brakes. Once the engine comes into play, however, an electronic noise actuator under the rear deck lid combines with specially designed sounds emitted from the stereo's rear speakers (whether it's switched on or not). In some ways, it's the opposite of active noise cancellation, but the result is a fantastic case of augmented reality that sounds terrific.

The i8 also delivers stellar handling thanks to its 50/50 weight distribution, a low, centrally mounted battery pack and dual powertrains that essentially make the i8 an all-wheel-drive performance car. The adjustable suspension allows one to tailor the car's handling and ride dynamics to their liking. The base setting is only slightly firm in town, but Sport crosses the line at city speeds. Push the car hard in the sort of driving Sport was intended for, however, and this firmer setting comes into its own, absorbing large bumps and small ripples with apparent ease while keeping the car stable around turns.

2015 Mazda CX-9 SUV

What's New for 2015

The Mazda CX-9 continues virtually unchanged for 2015.


Mazda takes its "zoom-zoom" ad slogan seriously, infusing the soul of a sports car into every vehicle it makes, including its large crossover SUV, the CX-9. Despite its generous size, the 2015 Mazda CX-9 is fun to drive, with responsive steering and surprisingly agile moves. But that's not why buyers choose seven-passenger vehicles. They need them to haul the family and their stuff. Don't worry. The CX-9 delivers on those counts, too. There's plenty of room for the family, with three rows of comfortable seating and a large cargo hold. It also offers suitable amount of amenities to keep your brood comfortable and entertained.

On the downside, though, the CX-9 hasn't been redesigned since its 2007 model year introduction, and this aging does show up in a few areas. The standard touchscreen is rather small and antiquated (especially given Mazda's impressive new system found in the Mazda 3), and it doesn't offer access to smartphone app integration. The middling safety scores also indicate the CX-9 wasn't designed to withstand today's increasingly stringent industry safety tests. It does offer the latest safety technologies, including blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, but given the priority family vehicle shoppers place on safety, this could be a deal breaker.

If that's the case, those same shoppers in the market for a three-row crossover SUV have plenty of good choices. The 2015 Dodge Durango and 2015 Ford Flex don't have quite as much space as the CX-9, but they feature more upscale interiors, are imbued with their own driving and styling character, and also offer more vigorous engine options. The 2015 Chevrolet Traverse (and its GMC Acadia sibling) boasts more cargo space and eight-passenger seating, as well as pleasant road manners. The 2015 Toyota Highlander, meanwhile, is the most well-rounded of the bunch. Yet even with its flaws and age, the sporty CX-9 still gets our nod and even earns a top spot in our 2015 SUV Buying Guide.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2015 Mazda CX-9 is a large seven-passenger crossover SUV offered in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trims. Note that all-wheel-drive models come standard with a towing prep package, but among front-wheel-drive models, only the Grand Touring can be so equipped.

Standard features on the Sport model include 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, three-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, cloth upholstery, a 5.8-inch touchscreen central display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, Pandora radio capability, a USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack. Packaged as an option are heated mirrors, heated front seats and an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat with power lumbar.

The Touring model gets that optional package as standard and adds automatic headlights, a blind-spot monitoring system, rear parking sensors, a rear cross-traffic alert system, a rearview camera, leather upholstery and a four-way power-adjustable front passenger seat.

The Grand Touring ramps up the luxury with 20-inch wheels, xenon headlights, LED running lights, foglights, automatic wipers, a power liftgate, upgraded exterior and interior trim, keyless ignition and entry, driver memory functions and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

Most options are bundled into packages. The Touring trim is eligible for the Touring Technology package, which includes foglights, a sunroof, a power liftgate, keyless ignition and entry, a navigation system, satellite radio, a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound system and the Recreational Accessory package (available separately, includes roof rails, cross bars, a cargo net and a stainless steel rear bumper guard). The Grand Touring gets its own Technology package, which is just the Touring's version minus what's already standard.

Exclusive to the Grand Touring is an optional rear-seat entertainment package that comes with a DVD player, a 9-inch screen, an 11-speaker Bose surround system, satellite radio (available separately), the navigation system and a 115-volt power outlet. However, this package cannot be combined with the Technology package (translation: you'll have to choose between the entertainment screen or the sunroof).

Powertrains and Performance

Available with either front- or all-wheel drive, the 2015 Mazda CX-9 is motivated by a 3.7-liter V6 engine that produces 273 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is a six-speed automatic with manual shift control. Properly equipped, the CX-9 can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

In Edmunds testing, a front-wheel-drive CX-9 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, which is decently quick by segment standards. An all-wheel-drive model needed 8.5 seconds in our testing, though, so AWD is more of a performance burden than you might expect. EPA-estimated fuel economy for the CX-9 is on par with that of other large crossovers at 19 mpg combined (17 city/24 highway) for front-wheel-drive models and 18 mpg combined (16 city/22 highway) for AWD models.


The 2015 CX-9 comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Touring and Grand Touring models add a suite of electronic driving aids that include a blind-spot monitoring system, rear parking sensors, a rear cross-traffic alert system and a rearview camera.

In government crash tests, the CX-9 received an overall four-star rating (out of a possible five), with three stars for frontal-crash results and five stars for side-impact safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded last year's CX-9 its highest rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset crash test and the side-impact test, but gave it the lowest rating of "Poor" in the small-overlap frontal-offset impact test. It also scored only "Marginal" (the second-lowest rating of four) in the roof-strength test and for its seat and head restraint design's whiplash protection in rear-impact crashes.

In Edmunds brake testing, an AWD Grand Touring model came to a stop from 60 mph in 123 feet, an average showing for this class.

Interior Design and Special Features

The 2015 Mazda CX-9's dashboard features a graceful waterfall design that flows into the door panels with uncommon flair. Materials quality is unremarkable -- there's nary a soft-touch panel to be found on the dash, for example -- but it's all screwed together pretty well. One nice premium touch is the center console bin, which has a nifty split lid that pops open like a set of clamshell doors. Otherwise, the CX-9's cabin could use a few more storage areas here and there.

The 5.8-inch touchscreen is a mixed bag. We appreciate that it's standard for every CX-9, but many of today's systems offer larger screens and/or more user-friendly functionality, as well as access to apps on owners' smartphones. The CX-9 is clearly behind the times on this count.

The good news is that the CX-9 has plenty of space. In the first two seating rows, there's ample room even for taller passengers, but headroom is tighter for those seated in the third row. Happily, the second-row seat reclines and slides fore and aft to accommodate various passenger scenarios. Access to the third row is a cinch relative to some other crossover SUVs, but the large rear door openings that make this possible can be cumbersome in tight parking spaces.

With its second and third rows folded flat, the CX-9 offers up a formidable 101 cubic feet of cargo capacity: an excellent figure for this class.

Driving Impressions

The 2015 Mazda CX-9's V6 offers strong acceleration for both around-town driving and highway passing. The automatic transmission is also pleasing, with quick and timely shifts.

We also like that the CX-9 is an accomplished highway cruiser, keeping road and wind noise to acceptable levels for backseat movie viewing and pleasant conversation. The precise, communicative steering lets you carve a consistent path, whether you're powering down the interstate or making time on a rural two-lane road, and the steep rake of the windshield adds to the sporty vibe. If you're used to a more nimble car, the CX-9 will make the transition to a large family vehicle much easier.

Although we generally like the suspension's combination of compliance and poise, we can't recommend the Grand Touring model's 20-inch wheels, as too much ride comfort is lost in the transition from the standard 18s. If you stick with the base wheel setup, you'll still have one of the best-handling big crossovers around, as well as a smooth ride.

2015 Lexus GS450H

Excellent fuel economy; refined ride comfort; high-quality interior; cutting-edge safety and entertainment technology.

Price premium over GS 350; electronics interface can be distracting to use.

What's New for 2015

For 2015, the Lexus GS 450h receives a new F Sport option package along with 18-inch wheels as standard equipment and a revamped infotainment display.

Mazda 6, 2016

Smooth and responsive powertrain; quick acceleration; excellent fuel economy; sporty handling; well-built interior with top-quality materials; stylish looks.

Ride quality may be too firm for some; no engine upgrade available.

What's New for 2016

For 2016, the Mazda 6 sees a number of incremental changes. The Grand Touring trim gets revised front and rear styling along with new LED headlights that replace the previous xenon headlights. All versions except the base Sport with a manual transmission get a larger (7-inch) touchscreen and a Sport mode for the automatic transmission. Finally, every Mazda 6 receives an electronic parking brake and upgraded trim on the dash, center console and armrest.

Mazda 3 2016

The versatile 2016 Mazda 3 offers powerful yet fuel-efficient engines, sporty driving dynamics and a comfortable ride. It is one of the best all-around compact cars.

Precise handling; very good fuel economy; quick acceleration; top crash test scores; refined interior with intuitive controls; available hatchback body style; many advanced features are available.

Above-average wind noise; ride quality can be choppy with the optional 18-inch wheels.

What's New for 2016

For the 2016 Mazda 3, the SV trim level has been dropped, so the 3i Sport trim is now the base model. Mazda has also added more standard features this year. A rearview camera is on every Mazda 3, while automatic headlights, automatic wipers and a sunroof are standard on trim levels higher than Sport. A manual transmission is no longer offered on the 3s Touring.

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BMW X1 2016

SUVs are immensely important to BMW, as they are to any manufacturer. Its X5 invented the large sports utility vehicle back in 1999, and the X3, X4 and X6 have come along since, winning new customers and dividing opinions. But the baby of the range, the X1, has always been the car that hasn’t quite fitted the mould.
That’s all changed with this new 2015 Mk2 version, driven here in UK spec for the first time. BMW has grasped the concept that SUV buyers want a car that doesn’t scrimp on the pumped-up styling, and as a result has ditched the original’s softer look and created exactly what you’d expect BMW’s entry-level SUV to be like: a mini X5.
The new X1 is 15mm shorter than before, but you’ll hardly notice this slimming down due to a 53mm increase in height and an extra of 23mm of width. These gains not only ensure the car looks more like a scaled-down X5, they also make it more spacious inside. There’s plenty of headroom and 37mm more legroom for passengers in the rear – and with more glass than the old car, the newcomer feels more roomy, too.
Boot space has also taken a leap forward. The X1 now offers 505 litres – a considerable 85 litres more than both the outgoing car and the current Audi Q3, which is easily the BMW’s chief rival in the small premium SUV class. Fold the rear seats flat, and you free up 1,550 litres – that’s 200 litres more than in the old model, plus it trumps the Q3’s 1,325-litre capacity.
Up front, the dash is covered in spongy, soft-touch plastics, while its design is typical BMW – mature yet beautifully built. Sat-nav is standard (as on all BMWs), plus you get a 6.5-inch screen, auto headlights and wipers, rear parking sensors and an electric tailgate.
There’s only one petrol engine option in the UK – a 189bhp 2.0-litre – as the 2.0 diesels are predicted to take the lion’s share of sales. They range from 148bhp in the 18d and 187bhp in the 20d to this flagship 228bhp version, badged 25d.
The entry-level 18d returns 68.9mpg economy and emits 109g/km of CO2, while the more popular four-wheel-drive 20d and 25d average in the high-50s for mpg and emit 128g/km and 132g/km respectively.
We got behind the wheel of the most powerful diesel, which promises 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds. It’s urgent low down in the rev range, which means zipping round town is easy and there’s plenty of shove in the mid-range to aid motorway cruising.
BMW’s eight-speed auto is standard and shifts smoothly, ensuring the car is quiet on the move. But while we’ve yet to try the lesser 20d, the £2,380 pricier 25d is hard to justify on paper. It’s only a second quicker from 0-62mph despite having an extra 41bhp, and it costs £20 more a year in road tax.
The old X1 was essentially a jacked-up 3 Series Touring, but this model uses the new small car platform that underpins the latestMINIs and BMW’s 2 Series Active Tourer. It benefits from a well balanced chassis, and thanks to our top-spec diesel’s standard four-wheel drive, the car is surprisingly agile and body control is kept in check.
The steering isn’t as crisp as in some other BMWs, yet it’s sharp for an SUV and nudges it ahead of the excellent – albeit less upmarket – Ford Kuga. Parked next to its chief premium rivals, the X1 looks like more of an SUV than the crossover-like Mercedes GLA, while it's roomier inside than the ageing Q3 – if these are priorities, the BMW will be the most desirable choice.
It’s also considerably more attractive than the old car, but with prices from £26,780, the new X1 can look expensive compared to the likes of the Mazda CX-5. Still, the lure of the BMW badge will be hard for some to resist.
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Thursday, October 01, 2015

Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 AMG Coupe

Undoubtedly, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia (MBM) is enjoying one of its strongest years yet this 2015, and it looks like there’s no end in sight just yet, with the spotting of this new bad boy. It’s the Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 AMG Coupe, spied once again on Malaysian roads (thanks, Fadlul Fikry and T Kana Raj!), following itsfirst local sighting at Publika just over a month ago.

Once again, we believe grey importers are most likely responsible for these units captured here, given that MBM has been open about a particular focus on what it calls its “Dream Cars” for the rest of 2015, while its market charge with SUVs has been confirmed only to begin next year instead. And even then, standard models are expected first, not AMG (or in this case, AMG Sport) ones.

Either way, MBM will at some point in the future be looking to introduce this BMW X6-fighter sometime in 2016, alongside the regular GLE-Class (BMW X5 rival, previously badged the ML), and the smaller GLC-Class (BMW X3 rival) as well.

What you’re looking at here is the top GLE Coupe model, the GLE 450 AMG Coupe. It’s the first ofMercedes-AMG’s new high performance range that’s positioned jusAMG GLE 63 Coupe. Think BMW M Performance and Audi S ranges, as opposed to the full fat M andRS models.

t under the full-on AMG models, such as thePowering this coupe-styled SUV is a 3.0 litre biturbo V6 engine that develops 367 hp at 5,500 to 6,000 rpm, and 520 Nm at 1,800 to 4,000 rpm. It’s equipped with the brand’s new 9G-Tronic nine-speed torque converter automatic transmission and a performance-oriented 4Matic all-wheel drive system that can split power between the front and rear wheels at a 40:60 bias.

Visually, the car is equipped with the AMG Sport bodykit, while passengers and drivers alike will be able to benefit from an Airmatic air suspension with variable ADS Plus damping, sports seats, and an extra Sport+ mode in the Dynamic Select system.

Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Estate

Tuners, you just can’t stop them – another German tuning house, Wimmer Rennsporttechnik, has come up with its reinterpretation of the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Estate. It’s not as over-the-top a job as one expects, with performance updates consisting of a retuned ECU and a sports exhaust.

Dress-up bits on the estate, which is finished in a metallic red shade, is made up of black 19-inch BBS type CH rims, wrapped with sports tyres. The car’s original suspension, meanwhile, has been swapped out for KW coilovers. Underneath, the C 63 S receives a stainless steel catback sports exhaust system in a Y-shape

Performance-wise, no aftermarket parts have been fitted to the engine itself, but Wimmer-tuned C 63 Estate features an optimised ECU module, which bumps output on the 4.0 litre V8 twin-turbo AMG engine from the original 510 hp to a more potent 640 hp.

The company doesn’t mention how fast the modified C 63 S will achieve the century sprint, but as a reference, the “standard” C 63 S Estate completes the run in 4.1 seconds, so this one should dip well under the four-second mark. What do you think of the treatment the estate has been given?

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Ford Focus

Over in Australia, Ford is calling back a number of its third-gen Focus over an issue with the car’s front drive halfshaft. The campaign involves 4,277 units of the pre-facelift C346 built between May 21, 2013 and January 24, 2014.

In the affected cars, Ford said that it is possible that the front drive shafts fitted on these vehicles may not meet specification and could fail during initial acceleration from standstill. The automaker says that should failure occur, the car will be rendered immobile and could pose an accident hazard to both the driver and other road users.

Ford Australia said that affected owners will be contacted to arrange replacement, and advised that until the safety recall is complete, owners should avoid aggressive acceleration from standstill.

News reports indicate that the recall is part of a larger service programme exercise being carried out for 10,000 Focus models over the issue, with the remaining number having already been having had repair and replacement work done.

The pre-facelift C346 Focus sold in both the Australian (from 2012-on) and local market is assembled in Thailand, so it would be logical for MY cars to be affected as well, and they are – it turns out the shaft replacement programme also involves Malaysian market vehicles.

Ford’s ASEAN regional office in Thailand confirmed with that 1,243 Focus vehicles in Malaysia are similarly affected, but added that an owner-notified customer satisfaction programme to replace the front drive shafts had been underway for some time, and was ongoing.

The company said Malaysian Ford dealers have been contacting remaining affected customers to schedule appointments to carry out the front drive shaft replacement work, which of course is carried out at no expense to the owner.

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