Tag Archives: Germany

Car Spot: Early 60’s VW Beetle

A car that generates instant smiles

When you think of all the cars ever made, there are just a handful that would be considered iconic. The Jeep CJ’s, Corvettes, and the VW Beetle. Introduced as “The People’s Car” in 1938, millions of Type 1 were produced all over the world. I’m not a Bug expert but this one looks like a 1960 or 61 and was in fantastic shape. The paint and chrome looked like it had just come out of the factory in Germany or one of the several other countries the car was built.

RELATED: Read about one of the biggest Bug fleets

There were minor changes as the Beetle evolved. 1960 models received a front anti-roll bar along with a hydraulic steering damper. In 1961 a new engine and transmission. Engine displacement stayed the same at 1,192 cc but the power was bumped up to 34 bhp at 3600 rpm. The single-barrel Solex carburetor got an electric automatic choke while the transmission was now fully synchronized. The traditional semaphore turn signals were replaced by conventional flashing directional indicators worldwide.

RELATED: Read about how I became the temporary caretaker of a Bug convertible

Values for this year have been trending up recently. A quick glance at this one I’d put in at least in Excellent Condition and according to Hagerty, it would be valued at $39,400 while one in Concours condition is selling for $65,000. A collector car lacking in horsepower but way over delivers in fun!

Check back next Friday for another one of my Car Spots along with a little bit of history. Have a great weekend.

2022 BMW M440i xDrive Gran Coupe

Lively M440i noses ahead of luxury coupe competition …

Back in the day (old dudes expression) BMW’s 2002 coupe wasn’t so grand, it was just light and lively and sold like schnitzel in Munich.

Now the German brand’s M440i xDrive is a Gran Coupe that is less light, but awfully lively with 382 horsepower compared with 99 in that original 1960s model. It’s everything a sporting driver could want in a compact Gran Coupe, and I’m sorry, but I like the nose. Then again I liked the Edsel’s nose, back in the day.

Sadly almost every review of BMW’s 4 Series hot rod dwells on its two large kidney-shaped grilles that dominate its beak. Journalists who may have praised the Pontiac Aztek’s dramatic looks or Chrysler’s PT Cruiser for its daring retro design are whining that this nose is “too much.”

They forget that nearly all of today’s luxury makes, and a growing number of others, now tout massive grilles, usually featuring a logo the size of a human head at their middle. Some look better than others.

I also recall both BMW using similar designs in the past and those being considered Iconic. Even Pontiac (remember Ponty?) often used similar styling on its noses, considered sporty, back in the day.

So let’s move beyond the nose. Besides, all the young guys I asked Loved the nose and instantly knew this M440i was a Bimmer. I’m pretty sure BMW’s marketing folks would consider that a success.

This sharp-looking fastback IS fast, nimble and delivers a surprisingly comfortable ride, all at a decidedly luxury price tag.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 BMW 440i which sort of looks like a Pontiac – YouTube

First, Gran Coupe’s silhouette oozes speed and sleekness as the rear window and roofline blends right into the short trunk lid. But it’s not just the trunk lid that opens. No, that entire structure, window and trunk open like a hatch. It’s massive, but works fine. Of course the rear seats split and fold in case long cargo needs transported.

Yet it’s unlikely that M440i buyers are primarily seeking cargo carriers.

No, the Gran Coupe is for ripping along highways and rural roads at speed, cornering like it’s a racer. That’s why there’s a twin-turbo 3.0-liter I6 beneath its long snout. As mentioned prior, the turbomeister cranks 382 horses and delivers 369 pound-feet of torque, yet does it so smoothly via the 8-speed automatic that you’ll barely notice when you hit 100+ on a freeway entry ramp. Don’t ask how I know.

Now if you’d care to save some coin and maybe get slightly better gas mileage, a 2.0-liter I4 that makes “just” 255 horses is available in the base BMW 430i, but it’s just rear-wheel-drive.

This M440i xDrive comes with all-wheel-drive, hence the xDrive moniker. That assures all the power is delivered to the appropriate wheels once roads becoming slippery. I’m looking at you Wisconsin.

It seems to me that through the years BMW has softened its ride and steering in most models, just enough to make them feel plush and luxurious on normal Midwest roads. However, the sporty nature is always there, as is the power. This M440i is all that.

Ride is comfortable in all modes (Comfort, Eco Pro, Adaptive), save for Sport. That firms the steering and ride. Steering tightening is welcome, but the firmer suspension setting makes the ride overly stiff. Stick with Comfort for normal driving, or Adaptive that supposedly chooses the appropriate gearing, steering input and ride quality that is called for at any instant.

In any case there is a sport suspension here with struts up front and a fine multi-link system in back – well-controlled, never punishing!

Inside the BMW remains sophisticated and well laid out. Seating is tan leather while the entire interior runs with a black over tan theme. So the dash and door tops are black, the tan trim below that, plus satin chrome trim on dash and doors with a bit of black wood on the passenger’s side dash. That wood is featured on the console’s top too, again with satin chrome trim.

Dash layout is simple and the infotainment screen is a 10.3-incher and easy to see and adjust. There are 8 radio preset buttons below the screen and a small volume control knob for the radio. There’s also a volume adjustment on the steering wheel hub.

Oddly the seats are manually adjusted with a couple handles on the seat’s side and a bar under the lower cushion. I’d expect power at this price. Seats are comfortable and supportive, as you’d expect in a performance-oriented coupe. They also are heated, but not cooled, again something I’d expect at this level.

BMW’s steering wheel is heated too, with a button nestled just below the center hub. However, this is a standard round wheel, where a sportier flat-bottomed wheel makes sense.

Good screen and climate controls make operation easy while driving.

There’s also a good-sized sunroof overhead and a wireless charger just below the center stack. An inside trunk release button is on the driver’s door.

Gas mileage was surprisingly good for a performance car. I got 25.5 mpg in about 60% highway driving, but with several heavy acceleration bursts (solely for test purposes). Sadly to get its full horsepower this twin-turbo prefers premium (93 octane). The EPA rates the car at 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway, which beats all the SUVs and most of the non-hybrid crossovers.

Stylish wheels and red brake calipers add some flare.

So what are the damages here?

Not so rough at the entry 430i level with the lower horsepower engine and RWD. The base is $46,195, while the tested M440i xDrive jumps to $59,195, including delivery.

But this one was a snazzy dark metallicSan Remo Green that added $550, plus there were six other options that jumped the M440i to $67,520. Most surprising was a $350 add-on for a Sensa-Tec dash, which translates to soft vinyl. Again, I would expect that to be standard.

A nice addition for $875 is the fine Harman Kardon surround sound audio system, much less costly than the $3,200 Volvo wanted for its Bowers & Wilkins system upgrade in the XC60 a few weeks ago. Ouch!

Other add-ons include a $2,400 cooling and high-performance tire package with an upgraded M sport suspension and performance tires, plus fancy double-spoke, bi-color alloy wheels, along with a parking assistance package for $700 that adds a surround view camera and parking sensors.

How’s this for a handsome, stylish door panel?

A driving assistance professional package adds front cross-traffic alert, smart cruise control with Stop & Go, active driving assistant pro, an evasion aid, active lane keeping assist with side collision avoidance, traffic jam assistant and extended traffic jam assistant, for $1,700. I suspect the smart cruise control is optional as BMW designs its cars for enthusiastic drivers who may not want that feature standard.

Finally, for $1,750 the premium package adds a head-up display, the heated front seats and steering wheel, ambient lighting and gesture control technology, which may make you think it won’t allow you to give other drivers hand gestures. Would that it could stop that. But it really allows a driver to make a sweeping motion to turn the radio’s volume up or down, decline a phone call or change a rear camera angle.

Without all the doodads an M440i xDrive could be had in the low $60,000 range and while that’s a luxury price tag, it’s a bargain for this amount of performance.

FAST STATS: 2022 BMW M440i xDrive Gran Coupe

Hits: Sharp fastback styling, super acceleration, sporty handling and good ride. Heated wheel and seats, multiple drive modes, wireless charger, sophisticated interior with big screen, sunroof, and supportive seats.

Misses: Prefers premium unleaded, price. Plus needs flat-bottom wheel, cooled seats and powered seats.

Made in: Dingolfing, Germany

Engine: 3.0-liter twin turbo I6, 382 hp/369 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 4,169 lbs.

Wheelbase: 112.4 in.

Length: 188.5 in.

Cargo: 12.0 cu.ft.

MPG: 22/29

MPG: 25.5 (tested)

Base Price: $59,195 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $55,620

Options:

San Remo Green Metallic paint, $550

Cooling, high-performance tire package (M tech pkg, adaptive M suspension & tire mobility kit, P245/40R19 Front & P255/40R19 rear high-perf tires, M double-spoke bi-color style 861M alloy wheels), $2,400

Driving assistance professional package (front cross-traffic alert, smart cruise control w/Stop & Go, active driving  assistant pro, evasion aid, active lane keeping assist w/side collision avoidance, traffic jam assistant & extended traffic jam assistant), $1,700

Parking assistance package (surround view camera w/3D view, active park distance control & parking assistant plus), $700

Premium package (gesture control technology, HUD, ambient lighting, heated front seats & steering wheel), $1,750

SensaTec dashboard, $350

Harman Kardon surround sound, $875

Test vehicle: $67,520

Sources: BMW, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4Matic

Mercedes GLC 300 a lively, luxury ride …

Coming off an underwhelming performance from a Ranger Rover Evoque, the new Mercedes-Benz GLC (great little crossover?) was an absolute dream to drive.

The Benz felt more lively with better power, better handling and a better ride than the Evoque, and while still pricey, it costs $4 grand less. Granted the Evoque is better looking than the staid, yet stately, Mercedes, but do you want looks or performance? Oh, and everything worked on the Mercedes in contrast with the Rover. Continue reading 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4Matic

2018 Audi A5 Coupe 2.0T quattro

Audi A5 Coupe a rare breed …2018 Audi A5 Coupe

Coupes used to be a more plentiful subset of cars, but as cars become a smaller subset of vehicles the coupe appears closer and closer to extinction.

But Audi, for one, is committed to the segment and its A5 Coupe is a good example of how much pleasure can be derived from a coupe. It looks sharp, and melds sporty handling and power with a smooth-shifting 7-speed automatic transmission and 4-wheel drive, which Audi calls quattro.

The A5 does everything well, but is not a racer, nor a true family car, unless your little ones are in booster seats and can latch themselves in, or big enough to not need a booster, yet not too long-legged. Rear seat room is fairly cramped.

But a coupe is meant to transport two folks, mostly, and here they ride in comfort and style.2018 Audi A5 Coupe

The silver test car ($575 extra for the paint job) came with Audi’s stout 2.0-liter turbo I4 that creates a spirited, if not rambunctious, 252 horsepower and 273 ft.-lbs. of torque. Turbo lag is non-existent, in fact, I looked under the hood to make sure there was a turbo. The power here comes on so smoothly and in such a linear manner that it’s not obvious that all this boost is from a turbo. Continue reading 2018 Audi A5 Coupe 2.0T quattro

2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe 4Matic

Mercedes’ sporty C300 coupe a smoothie …2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 coupe

            Mercedes-Benz is on a roll. Not only has its Formula 1 racing team dominated for three straight years, now its street cars are back on top of their game.

A couple years ago I sort of fell for the C300 sedan and now, in the dead of winter I get to drive the C300 coupe with 4Matic, Mercedes’ all-wheel-drive system. Glad I had the extra grip as we had snow and slush and sloppy roads during the test.

This model features slimming sporty coupe lines that make it stand out among today’s usual humdrum car designs. And while it leans heavily toward sport, the luxury and pleasantness of the sedan are ever present.

The C coupe rides on the same smoothing 111.8-inch wheelbase and weighs a bit more than the sedan at 3,770 lbs. The car feels deliciously well balanced.2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 coupe

As in the sedan Mercedes delivers a scrumptious blend of sporty power, the eager 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 that kicks out 241 horses, and comfort. All that starts with a silky 7-speed automatic transmission that easily harnesses the turbo’s 273 ft-lbs. of torque, and cushions the ride with independent suspension at all four corners.

Ride is absolutely stellar, controlled and easy on the occupants, but still responsive enough to be sporty. Cornering is smooth and as precise as you want it to be courtesy of Mercedes’ Agility Select system that allows the driver to toggle through four settings, from Eco, to Comfort to Sport to Sport+. Continue reading 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe 4Matic

2017 Audi A4 Premium

2017 Audi A4Audi’s new A4 is the epitome of fun driving …

Here’s a simple truth. It’s fun to drive a car that’s fun to drive.

That may seem silly, but let’s break it down.

First, cars have taken a back seat to trucks for years now as first SUVs and then crossovers replaced the family sedan as the vehicle of choice.

Second, fun often means power and that ebbs and wanes in popularity based on the price of oil.

Third, fun also means responsive handling and that frequently is achieved by engineers designing an overly stiff car that tortures your tushie.

So finding a fun car to drive is a rarity, yet Audi has absolutely nailed it with its new A4 sedan. I drove a crisp bright Ibis white Premium model that, contrary to its name, is the base A4. Mine was loaded with Premium Plus and Technology packages though, so more likely reflects a mid-level A4 in performance and feel.2017 Audi A4

Audi’s A4 is speedy, fun and sophisticated. It’s a joy to drive and ride in and has everything a driver could want, although once loaded it becomes pricey, like a BMW. Continue reading 2017 Audi A4 Premium

Slot car: Slot.it 10th Anniversary Audi R8C

Special Audi LeMans racer looks great, fast on track!

I first ran into Slot.it racers in while walking the exhibits at Toy Fair in Nuremberg, Germany, 10 years ago and was impressed with the firm’s detailed car bodies. But I have to admit, at the time I thought, “Good luck. Hope you make a go of it.”audi1

There’s plenty of competition in the slot world, with well-established players. … BUT Slot.it DID make a go of it, and now celebrates its 10th anniversary with the reissuing of its original Audi R8C LeMans racer. When first launched it was rare for a slot car maker to have such a new model, as the car had raced at LeMans in 1999.

But that’s just the start of how Slot.it has pushed the envelope for 1:32 scale slot cars. Its chassis and wheels are light, some models using hollow aluminum wheels, and its motors are tightly wound for power. Most enthusiasts consider these to be the top-level cars on the market, in looks, and performance. Continue reading Slot car: Slot.it 10th Anniversary Audi R8C