Tag Archives: BMW

BMW 335is for the United

335is model coupe, kompas
BMW 335is for the United
“Breaking News”. The word is plastered on the edge of the photo red BMW coupe featured site Inside Line, Friday (22/1/2010) ago. Mentioned that BMW has released pictures and information about the BMW 335is which will enliven the American market.

Reported, a German automobile manufacturer that has been showing photos of the BMW 335is in two models, the coupe and convertible. Would be exhibited in the New York Auto Show, March, and can be seen on the showroom floor (showroom) in the spring.

Both BMW Newer (coupe and convertible) was the result of the development of the Series 3. Are both carrying the 3.0 L engine inline-6 twin-turbocharged 320 that has power with a torque dk 332 pound-feet. The kitchen is the same race as the series against the Z4 sDrive 35is, only 335 dk strength.

The Electro-Diesel Concept

The Electro-Diesel Concept
BMW’s experimental Vision sport coupe, shown at Germany’s Frankfurt Motor Show, would get 75 miles per gallon. Electro-diesel vehicles planned for production include Volkswagen’s L1, a 170-mpg tandem-seater due out in 2013. (Dan Neil / Los Angeles Times / September 15, 2009)


BMW 135I (BMW)

BMW 135I (BMW)
The folks at Motor Trend say, “This pint-size 1 Series, which shares much of its platform and chassis components with its 3 Series brother — as in its bigger, heavier brother — is deceptively hefty. BMWs are known as great driving cars with excellent chassis clarity, but at the racetrack the 135i displayed massive understeer.”

Penske’s Saturn: The Post-Modern Auto Company

Auto companies have traditionally been engineering and manufacturing businesses, rather than marketing and retail businesses. Henry Ford, for example, insisted dealers pay for his Model Ts as soon as they left the factory door. But what made sense in Henry’s time, and reached its apotheosis with the huge River Rouge plant, the most vertically integrated automobile factory in the world, has become a liability today. Auto plants cost staggering amounts of money to build and to run. And in an era where the manufacturing process no longer delivers major differentiators in terms of the finished product — all vehicles have to meet similar safety and fuel economy mandates, and the cost and quality differences between the best and the worst are getting smaller all the time — that’s money many auto industry insiders wished they no longer had to spend. Especially as what largely defines an auto company these days is not where its products are made, but how its brands are perceived by consumers.A Boxster is still a Porsche, even though it is built in Finland by Valmet. A Grand Cherokee is still a Jeep, even though it is built in Austria by Magna Steyr. Right hand drive Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3 Series models are still seen as German cars, even though they are made in South Africa.Which is why Roger Penske’s Saturn play is a stroke of genius. With Saturn, Penske has the opportunity to create the first truly post-modern auto company. Penske’s Saturn doesn’t own a single factory, design studio, or proving ground. What it does own — and all it needs to own — is the intellectual property of the Saturn brand. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect candidate to become a post-modern auto company than Saturn. Envisioned by GM chairman Roger B. Smith as an import fighter because of advanced manufacturing techniques that included a highly automated plant and plastic body panels, Saturn succeeded not because the original car was good — actually, it wasn’t even remotely competitive with anything from Toyota or Honda — but because it was cleverly sold and marketed. Saturn consumers bought into the defining promise of the brand — no haggle pricing and great customer service — rather than the physical attributes of the vehicle.Although GM has agreed to build Saturns for Penske for at least two years, future Saturn models may be sourced from a variety of automakers around the world (the latest rumor has Penske talking with Renault). Saturn could simply rebadge another manufacturer’s existing model, paying for U.S. market certification costs and minor cosmetic changes, or it could commission an automaker to design, engineer and manufacture a complete new vehicle. Either way, it could bring new models to market for way less capital cost than a traditional automaker. Finding someone with spare factory space to build Saturns won’t be hard: The world’s automakers currently have the capacity to build 92 million vehicles a year, but will be lucky to build 60 million in 2009, says respected industry forecaster CSM Worldwide. And with the global economy expected to recover slowly from recession, there’s going to be plenty of spare capacity around the world for a long time yet.All Penske’s Saturn has to do to succeed is sell cars and trucks that deliver on the promise of the Saturn brand. The actual vehicles can be made anywhere, by anyone, and as long as they are competitive with the mainstream players in their respective segments in terms of performance, economy, quality, and equipment levels, it almost doesn’t matter what they are, because the Saturn brand is mostly defined by a classy purchase experience. And if there’s one thing Roger Penske knows how to do with class, it’s selling cars and trucks.
Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6538063/editorial/penskes-saturn-the-post-modern-auto-company/index.html

July Sales: Cash for Clunkers Spurs FoMoCo; Toyota Regains Second-Place

DETROIT – Ford Motor Company is ebullient about its first year-over-year sales increase since November 2007. Total Ford-Lincoln-Mercury sales, including fleet, rose 2 percent in July 2009 compared with July 2008, and of that, retail sales rose 9 percent. Still, it’s too early to party. The Great Recession isn’t over yet.”Right now, the legs under the economy are not strong enough to sustain a 14-16 million sales rate as we saw at the end of July,” says Ford analyst George Pipas. “A sales increase in July is not the end of the journey.”Aside from the minor increase compared with a very weak July ’08, when gasoline averaged $4.11 per gallon, Ford proved through individual model sales that the Cash for Clunkers program helped move fuel-efficient metal. Probably not coincidentally, the low-priced cars and trucks that consumers who until now were driving clunkers could afford to buy moved the most. Ford Focus sales surpassed Fusion sales, although both models were up compared with last year. Even though a four-cylinder Fusion is within a couple mpg city/highway, the smaller, cheaper Focus easily outsold the Fusion, 21,830 (up 43.6 percent) to 17,610 (up 66 percent).The redesigned-for-2009 Focus became Ford’s darling when gas topped $4 per gallon. Earlier this year, the facelifted 2010 Fusion was Ford’s savior in some of the slowest sales months in decades. Advertising dollars targeting new models helps.If Cash for Clunkers money drew a lot of prospective buyers to Ford lots in the last week, I’ve got to bet that some of those consumers trading in ’90s Explorers chose, say an $18,000-list Focus over a $23,000-list Fusion because it better met their budgets. Many of those clunkers undoubtedly were third or even fourth cars, driven by the high schoolers in the family. Estimates of how much oil the program saves may be a bit of a stretch.No matter. The program is a success for bringing consumers back into the market — either those who have been holding off or those who figured credit had dried up so much, it wasn’t worth it to walk into a showroom. General Motors estimates July sales for all makers totaled an annual rate that would equal about 11.3-million vehicles, marking the first month in 2009 above the 10-million level.And GM has just announced a lease program with U.S. Bank for Chevrolets, Buicks, GMCs and Cadillacs (its core four in North America) for New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Michigan and Ohio through August 31. U.S. Bank leases for the new Cadillac SRX are available nationwide.Meanwhile, Chrysler says that The Wall Street Journal got it wrong Monday morning. Chrysler will continue to offer matching incentives of up to $4500 on certain models whether you bring in a clunker or not. Obviously, if your local dealer is out of, say, 2009 PT Cruisers, you’re not going to get $4500 off a 2010 model. And so, to the numbers:GM: 189,443, off 19.4 percent.Inventory of about 466,000 is the lowest on record, says sales veep Mark LaNeve.With inventories dropping for all automakers, the deals aren’t likely to get any more desperate.Chevy division sales were relatively strong, at 124,948, still down 9.3 percent.Equinox was a rare gainer, up 77.8 percent to 10,834. About 60 percent were ’10 models, and most of those were four-bangers.Buick Enclave remains strong, selling 3,797, off 2.5 percent.Cadillac, at 6,171, off 52.6 percent, was the biggest loser of the core four.Saab was off 71.7 percent to 574 and Hummer was off 57.4 percent to 799.Impala was up 9.6 percent to 14,649 but Malibu was off 7.8 percent to 15,339.Modern wagon wars continues: Toyota sold 9,407 Highlanders, (+39.1 percent), Chevy sold 6,690 Traverses, Honda sold 6,430 Pilots (-15.3 percent), Dodge sold 4,165 Journeys (+21 percent) and Ford sold 3,631 Flexes (+64.7 percent).The new Camaro continues to be in short supply. Chevy sold 7,113, vs. 6,686 Ford Mustangs (-37.6 percent) and 886 Dodge Challengers (-69 percent).GM will build some 2010 G6s for fleet customers, LaNeve said, making it the last Pontiac.The New GM of Chevy, Buick, GMC and Cadillac, sold 160,078 vehicles, a couple thousand more than Ford/Lincoln/Mercury but short of Toyota.Toyota-Scion-Lexus: 174,872, off 11.4 percent.Toyota division accounted for 156,355 (including Scions), off 10.8 percent, making Toyota the U.S.’ best-selling brand.Lexus fell 16.5 percent to 18,517.Prius jumped 29.7 percent to 19,173. Camry sales fell 19.4 percent to a still-strong 33,974.RAV4 may have benefited from the clunkers credit, up 32.5 percent to 15,912.Midsize pickups also are doing well. Tacoma was up 7.6 percent to 12,552.Monthly Scion numbers: 6,754, vs. 11,906 in July ’08.Ford-Lincoln-Mercury: 158,838, up 2 percent.Focus was Ford’s best-selling car, up 43.6 percent to 21,830.Fusion was up 66 percent to 17,610.F-150 remains Ford’s best-selling vehicle, off 19 percent to 36,327.Escape was up 94.2 percent to 20,241.Ranger was up 64.5 percent to 7,695. Looks like another Cash for Clunkers winner.Taurus was off 57.1 percent to 1,760 as Ford ramped down the old model.Mercury Milan was up 59.8 percent to 2,934 while Mariner was up 70.5 percent to 3,682 as the Lincoln side of the showroom suffered a 24.3 percent drop.Inventory of 295,000 vehicles, averaging less than a 50-day supply, is 41 percent thinner than at the end of July ’08.Honda-Acura: 114,690, off 17.3 percent.That’s 106,028 Hondas, off 15.8 percent, and 8,662 Acuras, off 32.5 percent.Civic was up 3.1 percent to 30,037.Accord was off 28.1 percent to 29,774.Fit was off 27.6 percent to 8,876 but CR-V was up 9.9 percent to 19,151.Acura RDX was off 62.5 percent to 519 and TSX was off 35.8 percent to 2,232.Chrysler LLC: 88,900, off 9 percent.Winners were small models, helped by heavy incentives. Chrysler PT Cruiser was up 24 percent to 4,092 sold.Jeep Patriot was up 134 percent to 8,084 and Compass was up 95 percent.Jeep Wrangler, which posted increases for the first five months of the year, was down for the second month in a row, off 25 percent to 4,540.Dodge Caliber was up 63 percent to 7,814.Avenger was up 30 percent to 5,616.Sebring was off 27 percent to 2,781. Chrysler has sold 13,466 for the entire year so far, well below Ford Fusion’s monthly sales.Chrysler Town & Country fell 15 percent to 6,837. Dodge Caravan was up 15 percent to 8,405, however.Ram was off 17 percent to 17,723.Nissan-Infiniti: 71,847, off 24.6 percent.Nissan division was off 24.8 percent to 64,751.Infiniti was off 23.3 percent to 7,096.Nissan Versa was off just 2 percent to 8,530, though Sentra fell 13.5 percent to 9,496.Rogue sales were up 3.8 percent to 6,770.Z was up 11.9 percent to 890. Inexplicably, Infiniti QX56 was up 0.4 percent to 553.Nissan GT-R was off by 19 units to 128.OTHERS …Hyundai says 22 percent of its trade-ins were “clunkers.” Sales rose 12 percent, to 45,553. Accent, Sonata, Elantra and Genesis all posted gains and Santa Fe was down very slightly.Kia sold 29,345 units, up 1,324 units from last July. Subaru was up an impressive 34 percent, to 21,839. Mazda sold 19,032, off 15.1 percent.BMW Group, including Mini, was off 26.7 percent, to 21,253. BMW brand sold 16,381, off 31.5 percent. Mini was off 3.8 percent, to 4,872. Only all-ne
w models gained sales last month; BMW Z4 (up 33.8-percent) and 7 Series (up 14.5 percent), and Mini Cooper convertible (up 45.1 percent).Cash for Clunkers helped Volkswagen, which was up 0.7 percent, to 20,590 while Audi says it outperformed the premium segment, dropping just 5.8 percent, to 6,407. The clunkers program does not help with new cars north of $45,000.Mercedes-Benz USA, sold 17,646, including 16,228 Mercedes (off 21.7 percent) and 1,418 smarts, off 44.6 percent.Jaguar Land Rover fell 25 percent, to 2,607. Jaguar was down 45 percent, to 785 cars and Land Rover was down 11 percent, to 1,822.
Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6564996/car-news/july-sales-cash-for-clunkers-spurs-fomoco-toyota-regains-second-place/index.html

Audi Bucks the Trend, Promises More Product, Not All for U.S.

Hyundai’s U.S. CEO John Krafcik said it best earlier this year: “flat is the new up.” By that measure, Audi AG is riding high. Global sales fell 11 percent in the first half of 2009, versus 18 percent for the whole industry. What’s more, Audi was comparing its number to a record-setting 2008. In North America, sales fell 12 percent in the first half of the year, versus a one-third drop in sales for the industry. More important, Audi is making money. Its global first-half profit was 823 million euro ($1.17 billion), off 36.6 percent. Chief Financial Officer Axel Strotbeck said Friday that the company posted a “clear profit” in both of the first two quarters. “We’re the most profitable premium manufacturer, at the present.”Audi continues its struggle for more premium market share in the U.S., of course. It’s been about 17 years since it nearly left our market. Audi’s still a pretty small player here, only its fourth-largest global market (after Germany, China and Great Britain) whereas we’ve traditionally been the second-largest market for Mercedes-Benz and BMW (though their Chinese sales undoubtedly rival U.S. sales now, too). Nevertheless, Strotbeck said Audi will “not push sales by artificially pushing lease prices down” in the U.S. Instead, it will continue to move upmarket. In terms of features, quality and luxurious interiors, Audi’s reputation is nearly that of BMW and Mercedes. While its A4 and A5 can get very expensive with optional equipment very quickly, the A4 especially strikes many upper-middle-class buyers as an accessible step up from an entry level Lexus, Infiniti or Acura, and perhaps a step-and-a-half up from a loaded Camry or Accord.The other element that’s working for Audi is marketing. While other luxury brands cut marketing and advertising budgets and get out of racing, Audi is a marketing powerhouse that led Super Bowl XLII advertising and spent a truckload of euro to go to Le Mans. It’s setting itself up well for the next decade, when strong marketing will pick the winners in a plethora of good new product. Strotbeck pointed to three new models Audi will introduce in coming months: the A5 Sportback, an all-new A8 coming in calendar 2010 and a new A1 in the third quarter of ’10. Two will not be imported to the U.S. Audi said this about future models/strategy in the North American market:No U.S. production plans for now. This became a big issue for models like the A4 last year when the euro’s value went past the $1.60 mark. Volkswagen is building a plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which will build the Passat replacement beginning calendar year ‘1l, but Audi won’t be part of it, for now. No plans to bring the 2011 A1 to North America. Audi hopes to grow A3 sales with a new diesel version coming to the U.S. in December. Problem with the A3 is that it costs nearly as much as a base A4 in the U.S., and despite the Mini’s popularity, we don’t like hatchbacks here. Given the expected technology, the A1 could cost Audi at least as much to build as the A3 or even the A4. Still, if the new A1 is as cool and cutting edge as the original, won’t it be as desirable as a Mini Cooper?While Audi still considers diesels the best green/fuel-efficient technology, it will have a hybrid Q5 on the market in one-and-a-half to two years.All of Audi’s 2010 gas-powered models will have direct injection, and it claims it will be the first to achieve that milestone.
Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6564153/corporate/audi-bucks-the-trend-promises-more-product-not-all-for-us/index.html

On the Trail of the Orient Express – Day 5

We’re heading into Transylvania today. The skies should be leaden, with lightning strobing in the wet gloom and thunder grumbling like a distant artillery barrage. Instead we’re travelling in bright sunshine and a soft summer breeze. No Hollywood cliches here.

We know today is going to be a slow day — the four lane highway finished just outside Szeged, and according to the map, the next time we’ll see one is somewhere near Bucharest — but we are a little surprised when the Garmin directs us down a string of back roads to an ancient car ferry over the Tisza River. We are even more surprised to have to wait 20 minutes to board the thing, even though it is pulled up on our side of the river. Seems the ferry departs every half hour — even though the river is only a couple of hundred yards wide and takes about 10 minutes to cross.

The road the other side is a challenge. It is tarmac, but its foundations are so poor it has collapsed into a series of humps and hollows that would challenge the suspension on a Baja racer. We have both Hyundais darting and weaving all over the road as we try to keep the wheels on the high ground, and the oil pans away from the hungry road surface. We struggle to average much more than 40 mph on the run to join Route 68, the road that will take us east into Romania, and Transylvania — its most famous region.

Romania is probably best known to most Americans for its Olympic gymnasts, while Transylvania has become a pop culture icon through countless retellings of Irish writer Bram Stoker’s classic 1897 novel, Dracula, in which the Count himself travels on the Orient Express. The real Romania is somewhat more complicated than that.

It’s been almost 20 years since the Romanians deposed Nicolae Ceausescu, but the brutal Communist dictator’s legacy is still all too visible. Romania today has ATMs and gas stations and shiny new car dealerships. But it also has tumbledown villages with dirt streets, hordes of battered old Dacia 1300s (basically badly-built 1970s Renault 12s), and a landscape dotted with ugly, rusting Soviet-era infrastructure.

Just outside the town of Arad, a beggar pushes a wheelchair into the middle of moving traffic at a rail crossing near a decaying power station, pulling up the pant legs of the poor unfortunate in the chair to show his amputated limbs. Rich and prosperous Europe suddenly seems a million miles away…

Leaving out the time spent on photography, crossing the border, gassing cars, and lunch, it has taken us about eight hours to cover less than 250 miles today. The E68, one of the main roads into the country from the west, is virtually a two lane highway all the way. If you’re not stuck behind a semi, you’re cruising at 30 mph through one of the countless towns and villages along the way, and you have to crawl over every rail crossing or leave your front suspension behind. You might think it’s best to simply chill, and go with the flow. But the Romanians have other ideas.

With traffic banked up behind a truck, impatient drivers simply pull out and pass long lines of cars, relying on someone letting them back onto the right side of the road before they eat an oncoming semi. It mostly seems to work, though we saw a couple of close shaves, most notably a guy in a white BMW who decided to ignore the double lines and pass on a blind crest just as a truck appeared coming the other way. When it doesn’t work, it gets messy. We saw three wrecks — one car upside down by the side of the road, another teetering crazily down an embankment, and a third facing the wrong way with its front end pushed in.

We quickly learned to take a leaf out of the locals’ book — well, a little part of it, anyway. Being the nice guys meant we kept getting shuffled back in the line behind the trucks, so when we were certain the road ahead was clear, we made good use of the Tau V-8’s 375 hp, overtaking small groups of cars en masse so we could position ourselves to pass the lumbering semi at the head of the line. I felt sorry for those Romanians driving the Communist-era Dacias which simply don’t have the power to pass a modern truck; they had no alternative but to sit there sniffing diesel fumes. Forever.

We’re overnighting in Sibiu, one of the major towns in Transylvania. Tomorrow, we’re taking the long way to Bucharest, via the Transfagarasan Road, a Ceausescu folly through the brooding Fagaras Mountains that may just be one of the best driver’s roads in Europe. And along the way we plan to check out at the one-time hangout of the real Dracula. Yes, he existed, and yes, he was a bloodthirsty character. But not in the way you’re thinking.

-Photos by Brian Vance

ORIENT EXPRESS SERIES: Day 1: Paris to Strasbourg — Day 2: Strasbourg to Munich — Day 3: Munich to Vienna —  Day 4: Vienna to Szeged, Hungary

Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6567542/miscellaneous/on-the-trail-of-the-orient-express-day-5/index.html

On the Trail of the Orient Express: Day 2

I awoke in Strasbourg to the pitter-patter of rain on my hotel room’s thick-glassed windows. Day 1’s weather in Paris had been warm and humid, so the thought of precipitation had me hoping the clime outside would be cooler. But I wondered: would this welcome pitter-patter soon become unwelcome, following our crew as we journeyed some 300 miles east to Munich, our second stop on the Orient Express tour? While not especially long for a day’s drive — the trip would include a run through the lush mountains of the Black Forest and a visit to the Zeppelin Museum on the shores of Lake Bodensee, just a 40-minute ferry ride away from Switzerland — it was far enough to where the thought of looking out the windshield past sweeping wipers for six hours had me a bit worried.

But as it turned out, the wipers got only a frantic four-hour workout, tiring our eyes and fatiguing our bodies but not our minds — ah, they would be alive and well upon our arrival in Bavaria’s hip and historic capital, relishing Deutschland’s great twisty roads and high-speed autobahns, and the amazing stories behind such transatlantic behemoths as the Hindenburg.

Twenty or so minutes after leaving Strasbourg, we entered Germany and quickly jumped on the A5 autobahn, which would take us south to Freiburg, where we’d bust east and then head into the Black Forest. I had never been to this famous, heavily wooded area, so I was looking forward to experiencing what I had been hearing for years — a serpentine drive through the twisty mountain blacktop was as majestic and alluring as the breathtaking scenery. MacKenzie seemed equally eager to get there, pushing his silver Genesis 4.6 up to an effortless triple-digit cruising speed. I promptly stomped on the throttle of my blue 375-horse Hyundai, and tucked in behind him.

As we entered the Black Forest, a natural park spanning nearly 927,000 acres between the Rhine and Necklar rivers, I was instantly reminded of the landscape in the Cascade Range of Oregon and Washington. Like the mountains and national parks of America’s Pacific Northwest, this area of Germany featured everything from daunting rock formations and deep canyons to alpine lakes and rushing rivers. And, lest I forget, some great driving roads, too.

I had yet to pilot a Genesis up and over a mountain pass, much less one in Europe, so I was pleasantly surprised at the results. While not as sporty as, say, a BMW 550i, the Genesis nonetheless proved a happy hauler along 60 to 80 mph sweepers that meandered their way through the verdant hillsides. Grip and balance were commendable. Steering was light and linear. And the power and smoothness of the Tau V-8 were impressive. The only sections in which the big Hyundai seemed somewhat unhappy were those of the tight, hairpin variety, where its size and softer turn-in translated to moderate understeer. This Korean is a luxury sedan you want to aggressively nudge rather than flat-out push.

With the Black Forest in our rearview mirrors, we headed southeast along the northern shores of Lake Bodensee, destination the Zeppelin Museum. Opened in 1996, this 43,000 square-foot Bauhaus style building — formerly the Hafenbahnhof railway station — houses artifacts, photos, and displays encompassing the giant airships of the 1930s. Most notable, the museum features a 108-foot reconstruction of a section of the infamous LZ 129 Hindenburg, the Zeppelin that went up in flames in Lakehurst, New Jersey, in 1937. Not only does this replication give an idea of what it was like to “silently float” across the Atlantic, enjoying the pleasant lounge and smoking room and the surprisingly plush sleeping quarters, but it also sheds light on the unparalleled engineering and technology of the time. For instance, the structure of the Hindenburg was built from lightweight aluminum (even the lounge’s grand piano was made from the feathery metal), the diesel engines came from esteemed automaker Maybach, and the gearboxes were sourced from ZF, which, ironically enough, sources the Genesis’s six-speed. The Hindenburg’s construction and supplier list almost reads like that of one of today’s top German automobiles.

A few crazy and cool factoids about the Hindenburg: 1) At 245 meters long (268 yards or the combined length of about three American football fields), it is the longest aircraft to ever make a transatlantic flight. 2) To minimize weight, artists painted their work directly on the Hindenburg’s interior canvas walls, thus eliminating the need for frames, nails, and wires. 3) Watchmen manned the four engine gondolas, working in four-hour shifts due to noise and heat. Better yet, they had to scale down a ladder outside the aircraft to enter and exit the gondola.

With our Zeppelin fix satisfied, we hopped back in the Hyundais and aimed for Munich, a relatively short 120-mile jaunt. I say relatively short because on the A96 autobahn, where the two Genesis sedans could occasionally clip along at a rate of 130 mph, it took us just a couple hours to make the trip. Granted, it wasn’t an exactly relaxing two hours, as inclement weather and a traffic jam taxed our focus and patience, but the Genesis proved it wasn’t a fish out of water, easily swimming along the wet tarmac with aplomb. In fact, MacKenzie had no problem hanging with a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, whose driver was most likely wondering, “What the hell is that thing?”

It’s a Hyundai retracing the trail of the Orient Express, of course.

-Photos by Brian Vance

ORIENT EXPRESS SERIES: Day 1 – Paris to Strasbourg

Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6562116/miscellaneous/on-the-trail-of-the-orient-express-day-2/index.html

On the Trail of the Orient Express: Day 3

Hammer time! We’re on the A92 autobahn that runs from Munich to Deggendorf, a small town that’s of no particular importance except for the fact it’s at the end of one of the quieter and less speed limited superhighways in southern Germany. We’re here to see whether the Genesis can run with all those fancy Bimmers and Audis that are built within a few miles of this road.

The Genesis might have been designed and engineered in Korea, but the 4.6-liter Tau V-8 feels eerily German in its power delivery. It’s smooth and linear till about 3000 rpm, then you get a noticeable surge as the engine gets a second wind; old Benz V-8s used to feel just like this. At 3000 rpm in top, the Genesis is cruising at 110 mph, and could do it all day long. Wind and road noise are impressively hushed, and the car feels surprisingly relaxed.

It doesn’t take too much of a gap in the traffic for the Genesis to surge to 130, then 140 mph. We saw an indicated 150 mph a couple of times.

At these speeds, however, the Genesis’ demeanor gets a nervy edge. It feels like it’s balanced on the balls of its feet, moving around on the road in a way German cars never do. You need to be extra delicate with your steering inputs above 120 mph, and careful with your braking, especially if you’re ambushed by a slow moving car midway through a fast sweeper. And speaking of brakes, the standard Hyundai stoppers are marginal when you start hustling the Genesis hard. A set of Brembos would be nice, please.

V-maxing the Genesis on the A92, you can feel the Korean development engineers didn’t have a road like this in their backyard, unlike their counterparts at Audi and BMW. Engineers from both companies test prototype cars on the A92 all the time, especially at night, when the lack of traffic means they can maintain high speeds for an extended period. They test during the day, too — we saw two camo’d next-gen BMW 5 Series sedans inside of 30 minutes this morning.

Of course no one in the U.S. — or the rest of the world, for that matter — is ever going to drive a Genesis at these speeds. But many of the defining characteristics of German luxury cars — excellent stability, good steering, resilient brakes, smooth engines — come from their being developed in a country where it is possible to legally drive 150 mph or more. The Genesis is an impressive debut luxury car from Hyundai, but to truly take the fight to BMW and Audi with the next generation model, Hyundai engineers are going to have to start spending a lot more time on roads like the A92.

Just before Deggendorf we turn right and head southeast on the A3 autobahn towards the Austrian border, en route for Vienna, one of the major stops on the Orient Express route. With heavy traffic the pace is much more relaxed, and when we cross into Austria a blanket 80 mph limit — and heavy policing — make dialing up the cruise control a smart choice.

What a difference the change of pace makes. During our full throttle charge up the A92 the 4.6-liter Tau guzzled a gallon of Super Bleifrei every 13 miles. Holding a steady 80 mph on cruise control — with occasional stints at 60 mph for up to 10 miles through roadworks — the Genesis is getting an impressive 26-27 mpg.

Vienna is a stately city, full of baroque buildings and wide boulevards. The Austrian capital, situated at the crossroads of Europe since Roman times, has been the home of princes and the heart of empire; a major player in the political and cultural development of modern Europe. So we decide to go to an amusement park.

The Prater is built on a small island in the Danube, and has been a public park since 1766. In one corner of the park is an area called the Wurstelprater, and, yes, it’s an amusement park with the usual assemblage of thrill rides, flashing lights, fast food, and ear-splitting trashy pop music. It also boasts uniquely Viennese baroque-style buildings and an old-school amusement park ambience that would cost Disney hundreds of millions of dollars to replicate. Plus, there were a couple of rides that had MT’s hard-core Six Flags veterans shaking their heads: “No way!”

But our real reason for visiting the Wurstelprater was to see the Riesenrad, the giant ferris wheel that played a supporting role in one of our all-time favorite movies, The Third Man. Based on a screenplay by Graham Greene, and starring Orson Welles, The Third Man is an atmospheric thriller than was shot on location in Vienna exactly 60 years ago. Welles plays a black marketer who fakes his own death, only to have the ruse uncovered by an old friend.

In one of the movie’s key scenes, the two meet at the Wurstelprater, which was then in the Russian sector of Vienna — like Berlin, the city was divided among the victorious Allied Powers after the end of World War II. In the shadow of the Riesenrad Welles delivers the movie’s most famous lines, summing up the weary cynicism of a ruined Europe on the eve of the Cold War: “You know what the fellow said: In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace. And what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

After shooting some photos and video, we head back to the Genesis, and start packing the camera gear back in the truck. A nearby group of Austrians watches us curiously. One of them spots the license plate. “California!” he shouts. “Arnold Schwarzenegger!”  They all laugh. I don’t think they were being cynical.

-Photos by Brian Vance

ORIENT EXPRESS SERIES: Day 1 – Paris to Strasbourg — Day 2 – Strasbourg to Munich

Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6535501/miscellaneous/on-the-trail-of-the-orient-express-day-3/index.html

On the Trail of the Orient Express: Day 4

As this blog goes live on MotorTrend.com, the 2009 Tour de France will have just concluded the day prior in Paris. Only three days ago we began our Orient Express adventure in the City of Lights. Now that we’re about 1100 miles away in Szeged, Hungary, though, having logged visits to Epernay (Moet & Chandon), Strasbourg, Friedrichshafen (the Zeppelin Museum), Munich, Vienna (the Prater Ferris Wheel), and Budapest, it feels more like three weeks have passed.

The clock is nearing midnight and I’m typing away while catching out of the corner of my eye a replay of today’s (Saturday, July 25) 104-mile Stage 20 of the Tour on the Eurosport channel. Eyelids heavy, I realize my weariness is nothing compared to what Contador, Armstrong, and the other überelite cyclists are feeling after enduring the nasty 13-mile ascent up Mont Ventoux. Just watching them makes me more tired.

I turn the channel so as not to face-plant into my computer, and am quickly invigorated with coverage of the day’s F1 qualifying at the Hungaroring, only a couple hours away from Szeged. We had thought about trying to catch it in person, but deemed it too time consuming given our itinerary. The way these guys dance around a racetrack at mach speed never ceases to amaze me.

A few minutes pass and I see that Ferrari ace Felipe Massa has gone straight off the track and into a tire barrier. What the heck happened? I turn away from the computer and give my undivided attention to the television. The replay shows a piece of suspension from Barrichello’s Brawn whacking him in the helmet as he was motoring along at about 160 mph. A medic is quickly on the scene. Massa, still in the cockpit, isn’t moving. Jeez, this is bad. Back on the computer, I search for an update and learn that Massa has undergone emergency surgery for a fractured skull and is in intensive care at a military hospital. I knew to expect the unexpected on a road trip from Paris to Istanbul, but not this. Thankfully, the report says he’s in stable condition.

Returning to the task at hand, I began running through the events of the day, thinking about a long 14 hours earlier …

Leaving the lovely confines of the Grand Hotel in Vienna, which first opened its doors in 1870, we nestle into the posh cabins of the Genesis sedans and head for Budapest. Barring any delays, we should make it there in time for lunch. Right before crossing the Austria-Hungary border, we stop to fill-up at a Shell fuel station. It seems everyone else heading into Hungary has the same idea, as each of the 14 pumps is queued up with at least 10 cars. We may be a bit late for lunch. I notice some people donning Ferrari gear; no doubt, they’re on their way to the Hungaroring.

Luckily, the line moves relatively fast, and we’re back on the M1 highway, rolling along at 90 mph. We pass signs for the Audi factory in Györ, where the TT is built, and in what seems like minutes not hours, Budapest is in our sights. Making our way to the Castle District, we go over the River Danube and into the Buda side of Budapest, before driving through a monumental tunnel on Clark Ádám tér. We stay just long enough in the Castle District to check out the grandiose Mátyás Church — according to my guide book, was built sometime around 1255 — and grab some tasty vittles (three of us enjoyed delectable Herb Risotto with Farm Chicken) at the Pierrot Café, which, again per my GB, was the sole private café during Communist times.

Returning to the cars, a young man inquires about snapping a few photos of the Genesis. “This is a very nice, expensive car,” he says. Even though most Europeans seem unaware that the Genesis is a Hyundai, they all seem to think it’s a high-class luxury car. One valet even told our senior photographer Brian Vance it was a ringer for a BMW.

Although we’d love to visit Budapest for one week rather than one hour, duty calls, so we get back on the road and point our noses for Szeged, where we’ll bunk for the night. With a population of around 167,000, Szeged is the fourth-largest city in Hungary and holds the distinction of being the home of paprika. It is also the birthplace of engineer János Csonka, co-inventor of the carburetor. Driving through this town, it appears much of its money has come and gone — it is fairly dilapidated but surprisingly clean, and seems too dead for a Saturday night.

We stop in at the Restaurant Matuzsálem for dinner, and Vance orders up pork rolls stuffed with cheese, bacon, and mustard, all covered in breadcrumbs, and then deep-fried to a golden brown. Served with french fries, naturally. The plate looks like it could be an ad for Lipitor. I try a bite. It’s pure heaven.

With Romania on the horizon, it’s back to the Novotel hotel for some shut-eye. I hit the pillow thinking about Massa and that heart attack Vance just ate. Come tomorrow, I know Brian will bounce back. I just hope Felipe does, too.

-Photos by Brian Vance

ORIENT EXPRESS SERIES: Day 1: Paris to Strasbourg — Day 2: Strasbourg to Munich — Day 3: Munich to Vienna

Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6562179/miscellaneous/on-the-trail-of-the-orient-express-day-4/index.html