Tag Archives: 3-series

Cadillac ATS vs. Germany’s Best

9 Jan

2013 Cadillac ATS: Photo Courtesy GM Company

Cadillac’s all-new ATS has been unveiled at the 2011 North American International Auto Show, signaling America’s most significant challenge to Germany’s dominance in the compact luxury sport sedan segment. Of the three German manufacturers, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, Cadillac has set their sights primarily on the BMW 3 series, who has led the compact luxury segment for years.

The 2013 ATS brings a high level of weight reduction in order to compete with the competition. To reduce the curb weight a combination of lightweight, high-strength steel, magnesium, aluminum and even natural-fibers have been used throughout the vehicle. The ATS’ hood is comprised of aluminum, while the engine mount brackets consist of even lighter magnesium. These savings allow the ATS to weighs in at less than 3,400 pounds, one of lowest in the segment.

2013 Cadillac ATS: Photo Courtesy GM Company

Weight has been reduced, but to compete with established models such as the 3 series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4 driving dynamics and handling need to be up-to-par. To fulfill these needs the ATS has used a multi-link, double-pivot MacPherson-strut front suspension, and the ATS is the first Cadillac to offer a five-link independent rear suspension. This, combined with the ATS’ nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution should give the vehicle enough cornering and road-going performance to hold its own.

Other major mechanical aspects of the new ATS are its different engines and gearboxes. The North American market will receive three different power plants, in the form of two four-cylinders and one six-cylinder. The base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder developing 200 hp and 188 lb-ft of torque. An all-new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 270 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque gives customers an option for greater performance and more fun behind the wheel. Rounding out the engine offerings is a 3.6-liter V-6 with 318 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque. The power from these engines is delivered to the wheels via a choice of two transmissions, a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual. The ATS is also available in either a rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive configurations.

All-new 2.0L I-4 Turbocharged Engine: Photo Courtesy GM Company

In terms of mechanical makeup, the ATS definitely seems to match up well with its German counterparts, but what about the interior? In years past some GM vehicle have scored big in performance and handling, only to come up short with interior design and styling.

Well, you’ll be glad to know it seems like the designers at Cadillac have gotten the message, making the ATS’ interior both luxurious and driver-orientated. One of the major features of the new interior is the Cadillac User Experience (CUE). The entertainment and information system allows for the pairing of up to 10 technological devices, such as Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices and MP3 players to be integrated with less buttons and controls than traditional setups. The CUE system is controlled from an eight-inch LCD touch screen, located in the center of the vehicle’s dashboard. The ATS’ interior comes in three “collections”, luxury, performance and premium. BOSE surround sound and navigation systems are available on all three, with both systems coming standard on the premium collections.

Interior of 2013 Cadillac ATS: Photo Courtesy GM Company

© 2012 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com

Technicolor Dream

11 Nov

By Matt McCarron

Aponte-Rios' E30 M3 makes its way down pit lane following a successful BMW CCA club race on Oct. 22 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Color. This word can be described as many different things, such as vividness of visual appearance resulting from the presence of brightly colored things. In the case of BMW enthusiast and BMW CCA racer Miguel Aponte-Rios’ 1989 E30 M3 race car it describes an over-the-top artistic individual expression of automotive art and represents one man’s long-term love affair with a car from his youth.


“The love for the E30 started back when I was in high school,” said Aponte-Rios.

Although he had always been a follower of all things fast and four-wheeled Aponte-Rios lacked the means to purchase the cars he wanted in his native Puerto Rico.

“I was into cars in Puerto Rico as much as I could. I could never afford anything. I had a Chevrolet Z24 Cavalier convertible,” he said, chuckling to himself. “That was my first ‘sort of’ fast car.”

Luckily, his time in the Z24 would be forgotten. Everything changed when his older brother received the very first E30 M3 to arrive on the island.

“As soon as it came in I just fell in love with it,” he said. “I was always drawing it, you know. As a teenager you’re always drawing stuff in class, it was all E30 M3s.”

His older brother might have owned one of the most desirable cars in the entire country, but it didn’t mean Aponte-Rios could take part in the driving pleasure or experience what the car was all about, as his brother refused to let him drive the car.

This problem went away when his brother had a change of heart during Aponte-Rios’ first week of college, letting him take the iconic M3 for the weekend. After getting a proper dose of BMW newest 4-cylinder creation he vowed to get one of his own.


As the years passed and Aponte-Rios moved from Puerto Rico to the United States his dreams of owning an E30 M3 took a back seat to other priorities. It wasn’t until a fateful move to Boston, Mass., from the Pacific Northwest in 1999 that would reignite his enthusiasm and uncover a newfound passion for autocross and racing. While living in the area his roommate encouraged Aponte-Rios to take his 1998 Z3 with a 2.8-liter, inline six cylinder to autocross events in the area. After taking his roommate up on the offer and attending a meeting at HMS Motorsport in Danvers, Mass., Aponte-Rios decided to give autocross and other performance driving events a shot. It didn’t take long for him to become hooked.

“I went to my first autocross with the Z3 as it was, and it was just completely awesome,” he recounted. “Within six months I had the HMS roll bar, two racing seats in the car, HMS harness, I started looking at suspension, all this stuff.”

After autocrossing for a few years Aponte-Rios started to get drawn to the racetrack, eventually becoming a certified high-performance driving instructor. During this time, while he was spending more and more time on the track, he moved from the Z3 to an M Roadster. After the M Roadster Aponte-Rios bought a 1995 3-series wide body, replacing the original race engine with a more powerful S54 sourced from a ’01-’06 E46 M3. The E36, with a strong power-to-weight ratio, was a perennial contender at BMW CCA club races and other sponsored races at such racetracks as New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS), Watkins Glen, New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) and the Monticello Motor Club.

Colorful, geometric lines originate from the left front wheel and conclude at the right rear bumper.


Regardless of his success with the wide body, Aponte-Rios was consistently faced with being overly quick compared to other cars he was racing against. Longing for a return to hard-nosed, fierce competition with fellow enthusiasts Aponte-Rios looked for something “challenging,” something other than simply mashing the throttle and pulling away from his competitors.

“With the wide body, in some ways, it was easier because the car was so fast,” he said. “A lot of times it got sort of boring.”

For years the Founder and President of Turner Motorsport, Will Turner, owned his own personal Alpine White E30 M3 track car. Aponte-Rios had urged Turner to sell him the vehicle, which sat unused for approximately four years, but to no avail. Even with the prospect of acquiring the car in doubt, Aponte-Rios told Turner he wanted to be the first one to know if the car was to come up for sale.

“I told him (Turner) when you decide to do it, I don’t care what happens, I want it,” he said.

Then, as Aponte-Rios debated what to do to improve and progress with his overall driving skills an Internet ad appeared that changed everything.  It just so happened that during this time Turner had decided to post his E30 M3 track car for sale online.

During the same time Aponte-Rios contacted a fellow driving instructor in New Jersey who had been “obsessed” with the wide body every time the car visited NJMP. Then, poof, as if by magic, just 24 hours after the phone call Aponte-Rios’ E36 wide body was gone to a new owner, leaving him with only one thing left to do, buy Will Turner’s E30 M3.

“It was hard seeing the wide body gone,” he said.

But his disappointment was short-lived as 36 hours after seeing the E36 leave on a trailer for the last time he was sitting in Will Turner’s office completing the paperwork for the purchase of the car he had wanted for more than 20 years.

“It was, sort of, meant to be I guess,” he said. “It just felt right, and it’s something I’ve always wanted since I was young.”

The E30 M3 before it underwent its technicolor transformation.


The car he had drawn endlessly during high school was now sitting in his garage, but Aponte-Rios had to decide what he wanted to do with the car. When purchased the M3 was in its original BMWCCA J-Stock racing configuration, meaning the vehicle was largely unchanged in many respects, especially the motor. The 2.3-liter, 4-cylinder S14 engine was completely untouched, except for a performance chip, while the rest of the car was outfitted with relatively minor modifications needed for track use and to operate within class guidelines. These included J-Stock suspension, Borla Cat-Back Exhaust, reinforcements to the front and rear sway bars and subframe, beefier differential mounts, carbon fiber brake duct system, stainless steel brake lines and a full roll cage. The exterior of the vehicle had recently been treated to a brand-new paint job in the original color. Alpine White has been a classic and popular paint color on BMWs for decades, with many factory-sponsored race cars donning the snowy white shade. Regardless of the shiny new paint, Aponte-Rios was again drawn to his childhood and the BMWs of yesteryear for inspiration.


Whether it was roll bars and racing seats on his Z3 or an extreme wide body kit on his E36, Aponte-Rios has always pushed for individuality in his cars.

“Throughout the history of the cars that I’ve had I’ve always tried to be unique in one way or another,” he said. “With the E30, it was the past of BMWs that was calling.”

With that thought in mind and a literal “blank canvas” standing before him Aponte-Rios decided to create his own interpretation of BMW art.

“I still remember during those early years when all the art cars started coming out. I figured to do something unique with the car, do something related to BMW Art Cars,” he said.

To put his plan into action Aponte-Rios contacted Image 4, a graphic design firm based in Manchester, N.H. The company owners, Jeff and Liz Baker, were more than willing to take on the project, especially considering their background as Spec Miata racers. As Aponte-Rios began to explain his visions about what he wanted the car to look like, designer Amanda Christensen started to draw potential designs for the vinyl wrap that would eventually cover the car. The final design for the car had two different symbolic meanings. The first had to do with Aponte-Rios’ appreciation for BMW Motorsport and the history of the brand.

“It has some meanings hidden in there. One of them is if you really look at the colors that are in it, it evokes the original, very early BMW Motorsport colors,” he said.

Second, and more importantly, the design and where the colors originate from on the car reinforced Aponte-Rios’ belief that good, fast driving on the racetrack all starts with the front driver’s side wheel and tire.

“To me the most important tire and wheel on the car is the driver’s front side. I feel like that’s the one that dictates everything. How close you get into a turn, how fast you go through a turn,” he said.

Work on the E30 M3 commenced on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at Image 4’s headquarters with the laying and application of the vinyl graphic and continued for two full days. When Aponte-Rios brought the car to New Hampshire Motor Speedway the following weekend to take part in the BMW Autumn Festival and to race in various BMWCCA club races, a significant amount of fans and fellow racers stopped by the garage to inquire about the newly redesigned M3. And they did so with good reason. Aponte-Rios’ artistic rendition of BMW art is truly something to behold.

“I don’t want something that you go around the car and it’s all the same. I wanted something that looked different every corner you looked at it,” he said.

And that is exactly what Image 4 created. The sheer amount of color that emanates from the front driver’s side wheel arc looks like an explosion of color not seen since Jackson Pollock last picked up a paintbrush. As the design moves outward from the point of origin the geometric shapes and lines become wider and more pronounced in size, ending on the passenger side rear bumper. The characteristic flared fenders, front bumper and legendary round headlights give the E30 an aggressive appearance that compliments its otherwise outgoing and colorful personality.


With the artistic transformation and other upgrades complete Aponte-Rios was finally ready to realize the original mission he had set forth before buying the E30 M3, to return to competitive and fulfilling racing with BMWs, particularly other E30 M3s. Prior to racing the car at New Hampshire Aponte-Rios expressed his excitement in having to fight for position and face greater obstacles in overcoming his competitors on the track.

“With the E30 I feel like it’s definitely going to be more challenging,” he said. “It’s a totally different car. It’s not a ‘put your foot down and go’ car, it’s a momentum car, so the braking going into a turn, exiting a turn, driving through the turn is completely different.”

Before the series of club races at NHMS Aponte-Rios’ M3 had been moved from its former J-Stock class designation to M3T (M3 Touring), a higher class allowing drivers to make substantial changes and modifications to the vehicle’s engine, suspension and to reduce the overall weight. However, as the race began on the afternoon of Oct. 22, Aponte-Rios’ M3 was only placed in M3T due to a carbon fiber rear spoiler added following the purchase. In spite of the lack of modifications, Aponte-Rios and his E30 M3 claimed top honors for the M3T class in the three races he participated throughout the weekend, posting at best lap time of 1 minute 14.8 seconds.

Aponte-Rios' E30 M3 exits Turn 6 (The Bowl) at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.


With the 2011 race season at an end for Miguel and his artsy M3, the car has begun to be prepared for the next round of appearances in the spring.

The first modification was to drastically drop the curb weight. All non-essential items from the interior and engine bay, such as the AC compressor, AC lines, power steering and heaps of plastic will be removed. Following the reduction of clutter on the interior the S14 power plant will also be removed and will undergo a large overhaul, increasing the output and making the car more suitable for M3T competition. It will include the addition of race cams, reprogramming of the electronic control unit (ECU) and other modifications allowed in the class. The E30 M3 will also be fitted with a host of improved and original OEM components to make the vehicle handle, stop and accelerate properly including coilover suspension, Eibach springs, stock brake rotors with racing pads on all four corners, fully-built 4.45 racing differential and a lightweight clutch and flywheel.

Despite the vibrant exterior design, under the hood and in the cockpit the car will retain its original color with a fresh coat of Alpine White paint. Ironically, it’s a straightforward switch that gives some contrast to this otherwise outrageous, one-off M3. The valve cover will be painted Alpine White.

Although BMW produced over 18,204 units worldwide, 5,300 in North America Aponte-Rios’ E30 M3 is special. It has an unequaled combination of provenance as a racing car, historical significance as a road car and one-off artistic styling; it’s truly one-of-a-kind.

© 2011 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com

Sixth Generation BMW 3 Series Unveiled in Munich

14 Oct

New BMW 3 Series Sport Line: Courtesy BMW Group

The sixth generation of the BMW 3-series has been revealed in Munich. The new 3-series is larger, lighter and more efficient than all previous generations, yet still promises to deliver the spirited driving experience which has become synonymous with the BMW 3-series.

New BMW 3 Series: M Sports Package: Courtesy BMW Group

The dimensions of the new 3-series have grown in nearly all aspects. The track has increased by 37mm in the front and 47mm in the rear, while the length and wheelbase have expanded by 93mm and 50mm respectively. In addition to changes in size the F303-series will be offered in three unique model variants, the Sport Line, Luxury Line and Modern Line, with each designed and engineered to cater to a particular customer in a more intimate manner.

Under the hood, the new 3-series will be available with four different engines, all of which feature BMW TwinPower Turbo technology. The engine choices include two gasoline and two diesel units. A 3.0-liter inline six will continue to power the 335i and 335i xDrive, while the 328i receives the turbocharged, four-cylinder that was unveiled in April, along with the 2012 Z4 sDrive28i.

An optional eight-speed automatic transmission is the first to be used mid-sized luxury segment and promises to offer greater efficiency and decreased emission when compared to the standard six-speed manual transmission.

New BMW 3 Series Modern Line: Courtesy BMW Group

Despite the changes in power the new 3-series claims to maintain a fuel-efficient and economical profile. BMW EfficientDynamics have incorporated Auto Start-Stop function, Brake Energy Regeneration, Optimum Shift Indicator and situational operation of certain components into the latest 3-series. Those, along with a new Driving Experience Control button allows the driver to improve the total efficiency of the vehicle to an even greater extent.

With the introduction of the new 3-series BMW seems to be making a concentrated effort to make its vehicles more appealing to different demographics of potential buyers. With the Sport Line, Luxury Line and Modern Line, as well as the optional M Sport Package, BMW seems to have covered all of the bases. The first impressions were impressive, but the verdict is still out on the sixth generation 3-series. Only time will tell if the finished product lives up to its dramatic premiere presentation.

New BMW 3 Series Luxury Line: Courtesy BMW Group

© 2011 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com

An icon in motorsports, the BMW 3-series.

15 Sep

By Matt McCarron

BMW M3 GT2 Art Car Design By Jeff Koons: Courtesy BMW Group

In the world of motorsports specific names instinctively come to mind. Manufacturers such as Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche have developed a reputation on their ability to transfer on-track victories into the successful marketing and sales of production cars. As the saying goes “win on Sunday, sell on Monday.”

Few vehicles in automotive history have done this more effectively than the BMW 3-series. Since the first 3-series rolled off the assembly line on May 2, 1975 its race and road-going cars have been inextricably linked. BMW Motorsport GmbH, which was established in 1972 began racing the new 3-series as soon as they were able to produce a track-ready vehicle. By 1978, just three years after the car’s initial launch, the 3-series had already cemented itself as a perennial title contender in a number of races and championships.

The close relationship between road and track versions of the 3-series would again make its presence known in 1985 with the introduction of what would become one of the most successful touring cars in history, the BMW M3. Again, it didn’t take long this special motorsport-derived version of the 3-series to make its way to the racetrack. In 1987 the E30 M3 began racing in touring car championships throughout Europe. The E30 M3 would go on to claim a total of 1,436 victories throughout the world, including the two titles in the no-holds-barred Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (DTM), two European Touring Car Championships (1987, 1988) and the World Touring Car Championship in 1987.

1987 Zakspeed BMW E30 M3: Courtesy BMW Group

Besides winning overall manufacturers and drivers titles the BMW 3-series has also become a staple in long distance endurance races such as the Nurburgring 24 Hours. Multiple generations and variations of the 3-series, from the 320i and 325i to the M3 GTR V8 and M3 GT2 have claimed the crown at the ‘ring and other prestigious racetracks around the world.

More than 35 years have passed since the 3-series was first unveiled to the world. Although the manufacturers and drivers have changed the philosophy for BMW’s most popular model line has not wavered. BMW continues to enter the 3-series in a number of racing series in both the United States and abroad. As in years past, 2012 will mark a new chapter in the history of the renowned 3-series. Following years of absence BMW will return to the German Touring Car Championship with the all-new BMW M3 DTM.  In addition the 3-series will continue to be raced by BMW factory teams and private operations in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and the Grand-Am Road Racing Series.

BMW M3 DTM Concept Car: Courtesy BMW Group

© 2011 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com

New BMW 6-Series Coupe unveiled

13 Mar

Matt McCarron

The latest incarnation of the BMW 6-series coupe has been released, and will make its debut at the Shanghai Auto Show next month. The new 6-series, BMW’s largest and most expensive two-door vehicle will be in direct competition with the likes of the Mercedes E550 coupe, and Jaguar XK.

2012 BMW 650i: Courtesy of BMW

The top-of-the-line 650i features a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8, producing 407 hp from 5,500-6,400 rpm and 442 lb-ft from 1,750-4,500 rpm, and the 640i features a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six producing 320 hp at 5,300 rpm and 331 lb-ft from 1,300-4,500 rpm. Both power plants are capable of excellent fuel economy. The 4.4-liter V8 gets a combined 27.2 mpg, while the even more fuel-efficient 3.0-liter inline-six gets a very impressive combined 36.7 mpg. The increased efficiency in the 640i is made possible by an automatic start-stop feature and BMW’s ECO PRO driving mode. Both models feature a eight-speed automatic transmission.

The length and wheelbase are 75 mm longer, the width has increased by 39 mm and the height has been reduced by 5 mm. The new 6-series has a newly developed chassis with electronic power steering and drive dynamic control standard. Integral active steering, dynamic damper control and adaptive drive are also available as an option.

This 6-series also offers a number of luxury and convenience features including: BMW iDrive control system with freestanding control display, heads-up display complete with high-definition, full-color-spectrum graphics, rear-view camera, night vision and parking assist.

The new 6-series is expected to start appearing in U.S. showrooms in the late summer to early fall, with the all-new M6 making its first possible appearance in the final months of the year.

© 2011 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com

Audi’s first hybrid SUV: the Q5 Hybrid Quattro

3 Mar

By Matt McCarron

Audi has unveiled the Q5 hybrid quattro, making Audi the latest competitor in the hybrid SUV market. The Q5 will compete with Porsche’s Cayenne S Hybrid and BMW’s ActiveHybrid X6.

Audi’s Q5 hybrid quattro will have significantly less horsepower and torque than either the Porsche or BMW variants. The Q5 hybrid quattro is powered by a 2.0-liter TFSI gasoline engine and an electric motor. The two power plants together creates 245 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. This allows the Q5 hybrid quattro to get an estimated 33 mpg.

In comparison, the BMW ActiveHybrid X6 is powered by a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine, producing a whopping 400 HP between 5,500-6,400 rpm and 450 lb-ft of torque between 1,750-4,500 rpm. The added electric engine brings the total horsepower to 480. In terms of performance, the Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid falls in between the BMW and Audi. The Cayenne S Hybrid is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 engine, producing 333 HP. The electric motor produces 47 HP, bringing the total to 380.

Audi Q5 hybrid quattro: Photo Courtesy of http://www.insideline.com

The Q5 hybrid quattro is the first hybrid SUV to be very dependent on electric power, in order to achieve a sporty vehicle that can have excellent fuel efficiency. The electric motor can drive up to speeds of 62 mph on electric-only power. The electric motor’s capabilities is made possible by a lithium-ion battery weighing only 83 lbs.

The Q5 hybrid quattro is equipped with an 8-speed tiptronic transmission, which has been extensively modified to handle the power of both systems without the aid of a torque converter. In addition to the tiptronic transmission, the Q5 hybrid quattro features five different driving modes. These modes are operated depending on the manner in which the driver is operating the vehicle. When the Q5 hybrid quattro is stopped at traffic light both the internal combustion and electric systems are deactivated. When the driver releases the brake pedal the vehicle beings to operate on electric power, which is available up to 62 mph. The driver can also select the driving mode they would like via a button on the center console or gear selector. The “EV” mode gives priority to the electrical system when in city conditions. The other two options includes “D” mode, which gives the vehicle it best fuel efficiency, and “S’ mode if the driver chooses to enjoy a sportier drive.

Although the Q5 hybrid quattro is just that, a hybrid vehicle. It also retains it’s purpose and versatility as a SUV. The Q5 hybrid quattro is capable of towing loads up to 4,409 lbs. The Q5’s body and chassis structure is also the lightest available on the world hybrid SUV market. It utilizes aluminum and hot-shaped steel on many areas of the body, providing the Q5 hybrid quattro with a body that’s both lightweight and very strong.

The Q5 hybrid quattro is scheduled to make its first appearance in foreign showrooms in the late part of this year. Pricing hasn’t been released. However, based on the MSRP’s of the two 2.0-liter gasoline versions, the Q5 hybrid quattro should fall in low to mid $40,000 range.

© 2011 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com