Category Archives: Car reviews

2016 Honda Odyssey

2015 Honda OdysseyThe 2016 Honda Odyssey remains one of our top-rated family vehicles—not just because it’s an especially strong example of what minivans do well, like conveniently carry combinations of passengers and cargo, and ferry kids, and carry diaper bags, but because it’s a model that actually manages to wrap in some driving enjoyment, all while…

2015 BMW M4

The Basics:

With the new 4-Series taking the previous 3-Series coupe’s place in the BMW lineup, the M4 is a new name for an all-new version of the previous M3 Coupe.

What makes the new M4 special enough to deserve the vaunted M badge? Many, many things, but foremost among them is a new, potent twin-turbocharged engine.

Stylistically, the new BMW M4 offers the same core proportions and characteristics as the 4-Series, but with the dial turned up to 11. A bump on the hood hints at the extra power underneath, while a much more aggressive and aerodynamically effective set of body work at the nose, sides, and tail give it a track-bred look. Flared fenders wrap around larger wheels and grippier tires, and there’s even a carbon fiber roof option.

Inside, the M4 is a bit closer to its standard 4-Series counterpart, though the M Division touches continue throughout the cabin. M badges, upgraded sport seats, M-specific controls for the electronics, and racier-looking carbon fiber trim add to the high-performance look and feel of the M4’s cockpit.

Under the hood you’ll find a new 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged engine. If that sounds familiar, it’s because BMW used a similar engine in the previous generation of the BMW 3-Series. However, in the new M4, the entire unit has been upgraded and improved, earning a new name (S55) and hugely upgraded power ratings, but also a droning, artificially generated engine noise that really underserves the classic BMW in-line six sound.

The M4 coupe hits 60 mph in 4.1 seconds when it’s coupled to a six-speed, rev-matching manual transmission–a great choice for authentic shift lovers–or 3.9 seconds with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. With a sky-high rev-limit of 7600 rpm, the 2015 M4’s top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph. Putting that power to the rear wheels is an electronically controlled Active M limited slip differential, which can vary the percentage of lockup between the rear wheels from 0 to 100 in mere milliseconds.

Maximizing the new powertrain, BMW has lightened up the M4’s chassis as well. With aluminum hood and fenders and carbon-fiber reinforced-plastic bits, the end result is a car that’s about 176 pounds lighter than the previous M3 coupe, at just under 3,300 pounds.

While a conventional suspension (M-tuned, naturally) is standard for the M4, an Adaptive M suspension is available. Offering dynamic adjustment to damper settings for a wider range of comfort and sportiness, the Adaptive M system can range from Comfort to Sport to Sport+ modes. The electric power steering system has the same settings, adjusting the weight and feedback accordingly.

The result is a car that loves quaffing long uphill runs at the horizon with gusto, shaving a hundred miles per hour undramatically off with the carbon-ceramics, settling firmly and predictably into uphill 30-degree bends without a knee bent. It’s tough to call this M a sports car, but few grand tourers come closer to touring-car grip and balance.

It’s not without its faults, though. The M4’s steering works so well on tracks with big, wide, sweepers, it’s hard to reconcile with the lack of communication when it’s drilled through tighter curves. The throttle response and shifting are rapid-fire-quick in Sport+ mode–avoid it on the street. And while fuel economy is better, the M4’s highway figures still pale behind those of a Corvette or a Porsche 911. The M4 has beautifully tailored front bucket seats, but not much rear-seat or trunk space.

Some of the most comprehensive safety features ever are fitted this variant of BMW’s core model–but a rearview camera is unconscionably an option inside a $4,000 package that bundles a head-up display with special M functions, parking sensors, rear heated seats and steering wheel, and satellite radio. A $1,900 package includes blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, and active braking, and for weekend track stars, the $8,125 charge for carbon-ceramic brakes might actually seem worthwhile. The dual-clutch transmission is $2,900; the adaptive suspension, $1,000.

The M4 isn’t just a coupe either, by the way. With a retractable hardtop that stows neatly in just 20 seconds—as well as a standard wind blocker—the M4 allows top-down enjoyment with nearly the same driving experience as the M4 Coupe. In the M4 Convertible, you can opt up to three-temperature neck warmers that might just allow you to keep the top down at lower temperatures or higher speeds. Of course, it’s a little slower: 0-60 mph takes 4.4 seconds (4.2 seconds with the dual-clutch transmission). 

Trunk space in the M4 Convertible is 13.0 cubic feet; but you can also fold down the rear seat, and there’s both a pass-through for skis and a multi-level storage area. With the top down, trunk space remains a usable 7.8 cubic feet.

Prices for the M4 begin at $65,150. The M4 Convertible carries an MSRP starting at $73,425.

VW to bow out of diesels–for now

2014 Volkswagen Beetle TDIBeleaguered Volkswagen says that it is done selling diesel-powered cars in the United States, at least for now. Automotive News reports that the engine’s future is in doubt beyond 2019, although the automaker hasn’t publicly ruled out a diesel powertrain. “We are not stopping diesel. Wherever diesel makes sense as a package to the car…

Audit: Takata hid info about failed airbags

Takata logo (photo by Flickr user jo.schz)Takata’s no-good, very bad month year decade has taken another sharp turn south: an audit has revealed that the supplier altered test results to make its airbag inflators seem safer than they actually were. As if that news weren’t cruel enough, the audit was commissioned by Takata’s former #1 client, Honda. The person in charge of the audit was…

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class

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2017 Cadillac ATS-V

2017 Cadillac ATS-VThere may be no better sign that Cadillac is officially in the big leagues than the automaker’s ATS-V. A direct rival to the BMW M3/M4 and Mercedes-Benz C63, the segment’s longstanding German heavyweights, the ATS-V brings plenty of vigor and enthusiasm to the table—not to mention Teutonic pedigree of its own. At first glance, the 2017…

2016 Toyota Sequoia

2016 Toyota SequoiaThe 2016 Toyota Sequoia is rugged, old-school SUV at its heart. It excels at towing and carrying lots of people and cargo, but it’s bulky and fuel-inefficient, too. In those ways, it’s less like its rivals than it sounds. Those competitors include full-size SUVs like the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, the GMC Yukon, and the Ford Expedition—even…