Valerie Menard

Valerie Menard is a freelance writer and published author with 16 years of reporting about the auto industry for Latino publications.

Sep 172023
 

Toyota may have been slow to join the electric vehicle (EV) bandwagon but that’s about to change. All-new for 2023, the bZ4X starts a process at Toyota to grow its EV inventory. Toyota plans to expand to around 70 electrified models globally by 2025.

Offered in two grades, XLE and Limited, in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive (FWD and AWD), Latino Traffic Report (LTR) recently had the chance to review the bZ4X Limited AWD, the top-of-the-line model. While the electric range did not meet expectations, it did offer the comfort and convenience of an SUV with added premium touches.

Toyota defines electrified vehicles to include hydrogen fuel cell electrics, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and now battery electric vehicles. According to the automaker, electrified vehicles accounted for about a quarter of Toyota’s total sales volume in the United States last year.

Size enhances the bZ4X’s capability and versatility.  The compact SUV is 3.7 inches longer than the RAV4, at 184.6 inches with a 6.3-inch longer wheelbase. For added convenience, cargo volume comes to 27.7 cubic feet behind the second row, but the second row does fold flat for added cargo volume.

The bZ4X comes standard with a 12.3-inch widescreen Toyota Audio Multimedia system with a three-year trial to Drive Connect that gives access to the voice activated Intelligent Assistant, Cloud Navigation, and Destination Assist. Also included as a three-year trial service, the Toyota App allows users to stay connected to their bZ4X with Remote Connect to activate headlights, unlock the rear hatch, and remote start the vehicle, among other commands and provides an easy-to-use map (essential on EVs) to find nearby charging station locations.

The test model included the available fixed panoramic roof and a power sunshade and heated and ventilated seats in the front and heated seats in the back.

Favorite standard safety features on all models include a blind spot monitor, tire pressure monitor with a view of each tire, and dynamic radar cruise control.

While the list of standard features is impressive, the bZ4X did have functional challenges, particularly regarding plug-in charging. According to Toyota, the test model should have an EPA estimated max range of 222 miles (the more basic XLE trim can reach a max range of 252), however, it only had 189 miles of range when delivered and during the weeklong test drive, the maximum range achieved from home charging was 149 miles. While it should charge with a conventional 110-volt outlet, Toyota does recommend installing a 220-volt outlet for quicker home charging. The 100-plus-degree Texas heat could also have hampered charging. Hot or cold, EVs don’t like extreme temperatures and EV buyers should take that into consideration.

Removing the charge chord required unlocking the vehicle and while this seemed bothersome at first, considering the rise in stolen charge cables, perhaps it’s worth the bother, especially for those without a garage.

For added convenience, however, Remote Charging capabilities, including checking the charge status, are also included with Remote Connect on the bZ4X and one year of unlimited complimentary charging at all EVgo-owned and operated public charging stations nationwide.

Pricing for the 2023 bZ4X starts at $43,350. The as-tested price came to $52,468.

Sí: The bZ4X comes with a healthy list of premium and convenience features.

No: The electric range is not competitive, especially when charging on a 110v outlet.

 

Sep 032023
 

Latino Traffic Report has learned that the 2024 Tacoma, Toyota will appear in DC’s newest movie, Blue Beetle, featuring a Latino cast.  The action-packed movie, filled with heart and humor, features multiple generations of Tacoma as Jaime Reyes is forever changed when an ancient piece of alien technology, the Scarab, transforms the college grad into the hero, the Blue Beetle.

Jaime and the entire Reyes family depend on their favorite third generation Toyota Tacoma throughout the movie. The “Taco” is the pride and joy of Jaime’s Uncle Rudy, played by George Lopez. Watch how Blue Beetle, his family, and their trusty Tacoma are able to take on anything. Also, be on the lookout for a special cameo appearance by the All-New fourth generation Tacoma.

Toyota’s design and engineering teams collaborated with DC to develop a unique 2024 Tacoma design and signature paint featured in the film.

“We tasked our talented CALTY Studio team, led by Scott Roller, to conjure up a Tacoma that matched the singular style of the beloved, soon-to-be-iconic ‘Taco’ Uncle Rudy has made his own over the years, but in a way that was modern and integrated with the new 2024 Tacoma design,” said Tacoma Chief Engineer Sheldon Brown. “This is where the design of the ‘Blue Taco’ came from, and it was a pleasure to work on.”

Toyota trucks have a history in Hollywood, as the 1985 Toyota SR5 Xtra Cab was the coveted truck of Marty McFly in the 1980s film Back to the Future. Additionally, the first-generation Tundra was featured in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, with 600 T3 Special Edition Tundras sold that same year.

The 2024 Tacoma is the latest iteration of this off-road 4×4 icon and features an available i-FORCE MAX hybrid powertrain offering up to 326 horsepower and 465 lb-ft. of torque. This new truck has a rugged style, multiple powertrain options, 4×4 capability, and the latest safety and tech features. Also, new for 2024 is the first ever Trailhunter grade, which has been engineered from the ground-up to be the ultimate overlanding machine. The all-new 2024 Tacoma will be in dealerships by the end of the year.

Ford Recalls Certain Escape, Maverick, and Lincoln Corsair Models

 Recalls  Comments Off on Ford Recalls Certain Escape, Maverick, and Lincoln Corsair Models
Aug 072023
 

Ford Escape preproduction model shown.

2022 Ford Maverick.

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Ford Motor Company has issued a new recall for 125,322 model year 2020-2023 Ford Escape, 2022-2023 Ford Maverick and 2021-2023 Lincoln Corsair vehicles for a risk of fire due to engine failure. Ford advises customers to safely park and shut off the engine as quickly as possible if they hear unexpected engine noises, lose power, or see or smell smoke.

Affected vehicles have 2.5-liter HEV/PHEV engines that could fail prematurely. If they do, engine oil and/or fuel vapor may be released and accumulate near ignition sources, resulting in potential under-hood fires, localized melting of components, or smoke.

Lincoln Corsair.

This recall affects 86,656 Escapes, 35,501 Mavericks and 3,165 Corsairs, and Ford will notify owners beginning June 12. The remedy is under development and is expected to be available in the third quarter of 2023.

Vehicle owners can visit NHTSA.gov/recalls or call NHTSA’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236 and check their 17-digit vehicle identification number to see if their vehicle is under recall. NHTSA also encourages everyone to download its SaferCar app to stay informed on current recalls.

Hyundai CEO Receives Top Honor in Spain

 Noticias  Comments Off on Hyundai CEO Receives Top Honor in Spain
Jul 222023
 

Muñoz is pictured here in the middle, holding the award.

Latino Traffic Report has learned that José Muñoz, president and global chief operating officer, Hyundai Motor Company, and president and CEO, Hyundai and Genesis Motor North America has joined the ranks of Rafael Nadal, Carlos Sainz, and other prominent Spaniards in receiving one of Spain’s top automotive honors.

Recently selected to receive the prestigious “El Abrazote de Manolo” award by the Spanish members of the Europe Car Of the Year (COTY) jury, the jury selected Muńoz for his longstanding global leadership in the automotive industry and ongoing advocacy for the industry in Spain and around the world.

“José Muñoz continues to make significant contributions to the motoring industry in Spain and internationally. On behalf of all of the COTY jury members in Spain, we offer our heartfelt congratulations,” said Xavi Pérez, COTY member. “This recognition by the Spanish members of the COTY jury is a tribute in memory of Manolo Domenech who left us 10 years ago and who represented a benchmark in motoring reporting.”

El Abrazote de Manolo, “the hug of Manolo,” is named after prominent Spanish motoring journalist Manolo Domenech who passed away in 2013. The award represents the Asturian expression ‘hug’ that Manolo Domenech used with people close to him.

“On behalf of the global team at Hyundai, I am deeply honored,” said Muńoz at a ceremony in Madrid. “Serving our customers with fantastic products and being part of a team with such a compelling vision for the future of mobility is reward enough; however, I am very thankful to the Spanish Car of the Year jury and sending a big abrazote to Manolo Domenech.”

This is the sixth El Abrazote de Manolo award. Previous recipients have included tennis champion Rafael Nadal, Formula One driver Carlos Sainz, Audi’s head of electrification Fermin Soneira Santos and COO of Kia Motors Europe Emilio Herrera, among others.

As the president and global COO of Hyundai Motor Company and the president and CEO of Hyundai and Genesis Motor North America, Muñoz is responsible for driving greater performance in key strategic regions, including Europe, India and the Middle East and Africa. This includes leading global talent acquisition & management to recruit and retain core talent in new technology-based businesses. He is also responsible for global sales, service and product planning as part of the global business operations divisiond and oversees the entire Americas market, including Hyundai Motor North, Central and South America, as the head of the Hyundai Motor Americas Region.

A native of Spain and earned his Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from Polytechnic University of Madrid and has an MBA from Instituto de Empresa (IE) Business School in Madrid. He has also completed executive management programs from Cranfield School of Management in the U.K. and INSEAD Business School in France. He is fluent in English, Spanish and French.

¡Felicidades señor!

Hybrid Review: 2023 Accord Hybrid Sport

 Honda, Reviews  Comments Off on Hybrid Review: 2023 Accord Hybrid Sport
Jul 092023
 

In 2022, Honda announced that as part of its electrification strategy in North America, the company would discontinue the Insight and focus on increasing the hybrid volume of core models, specifically, the CR-V, Accord, and in the future, the Civic.  Honda expects that hybrids will eventually make up 50 percent of the sales mix of the Accord and CR-V.

That can make a redesign tricky but for 2023 the all-new Accord has made a good redesign from the previous generation even better. Latino Traffic Report (LTR) recently got to test the new hybrid version, the Accord Hybrid Sport and it achieved an average fuel economy that should make the Accord, America’s best-selling model for the last 51 years, according to Wards Intelligence cumulative United States light vehicle sales, even harder to resist.

The eleventh generation Accord comes in six trim levels, starting with the turbocharged LX and EX and topped by the hybrid-powered Sport, EX-L, Sport-L and Touring. The previous generation Accord achieved a successful redesign with a bolder, sleeker look than its predecessor. The all-new 2023 version refines that look even more with a longer hood and a flowing fastback roofline creating a premium silhouette.  The horizontal LED taillights also highlight the Accord’s new configuration.

An all-new, fourth-generation two-motor hybrid-electric system with a pair of electric motors that are now mounted side-by-side and matched to an all-new 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection power the hybrid. The combination produces more power with increased torque output of 247 lb.–ft. of torque and a 204 horsepower.

Attention to detail distinguishes the Accord’s interior with a standard 10.2-inch digital driver configurable instrumentation display. It made some information available, like a compass or average fuel economy, but the missing tire pressure information was notable. The dash also has a mesh accent running the length of it which is a nice replacement for ubiquitous carbon fiber details.

For the infotainment system, a seven-inch touchscreen in the center is standard but the test model came with the 12.3-inch color touchscreen, standard on top trims. Hoping to be on-trend, Honda no longer offers SiriusXM satellite radio on certain models, including the Accord, opting to offer Google built-in with Google Assistant, Google Map, and Google Play capability with the latest apps and services instead. USB ports have also been replaced by two USB-C ports. Luckily, there was still a 12-volt socket that can be used to plug in an adapter to charge older phones. However, that may have been why Apple Car Play, also standard, did not present itself during the test drive. Some old tech, like a volume knob, did make the cut.

For added convenience, the 2023 Accord’s rear seats fold down to expose 16.7 cubic feet of trunk space, the most cargo room in its class, according to Honda.

To test its advertised estimated fuel economy of 41 miles per gallon (mpg) on the highway and 46 mpg in the city, a road trip seemed like a good plan. Only 54 miles from San Antonio, Bandera, TX holds a few surprises like these dinosaurs at the local natural history museum. The drive through the Texas Hill Country was picturesque, quiet, and comfy. The 48.6 average mpg the hybrid earned was an added plus, beating the estimated average fuel economy of 44 mpg.

Pricing for the 2023 Accord starts at $28,390 with destination fees. The as-tested price came to $33,445.

 

Sí: The all-new 2023 Accord is beautiful and the hybrid version offers amazing fuel economy.

No: Honda may regret leaping forward with new tech at the expense of older features like satellite radio.

 

Premium SUV Review: Lexus NX 350

 Lexus  Comments Off on Premium SUV Review: Lexus NX 350
Mar 132023
 

All new in 2022, the Lexus NX 350 enters its second generation with a sharper look on the outside and advanced technology inside. Latino Traffic Report (LTR) recently test drove the NX, specifically the Luxury trim level. From its Circuit Red leather-trimmed quilted seats to its Lexus Interface multimedia system, the as-tested NX embraced its premium tag.

Covering all its bases, Lexus makes three versions of the NX available including a hybrid, the NX 350h, and a plug-in hybrid electric (a first for Lexus), the NX 450h+. LTR tested the gasoline-powered NX 350 with all-wheel drive (AWD).

Matched to an eight-speed transmission, the turbo-charged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine produces 275 horsepower and 317 lb.–ft. of torque and speeds from 0–60 in 6.8 seconds. It has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. It averaged 22.5 mpg on the weeklong test drive.  Its performance was further enhanced by paddle shifters and the standard Drive Mode Select with Normal, Eco, and Sport options.

Redesigned from the inside out, the NX reflects the Lexus DNA with a “refined” spindle grille. It also adds a new block LEXUS rear badge and full-width tail lamp. The sleek exterior look is complemented by a plush interior. Standard features include a power moonroof, wireless charger, and dual zone climate control. The Luxury trim added the afore perforated leather-trimmed seating, head-up display, 14-inch touchscreen (a 9.8-inch one is standard), real wood accents, and thematic ambient lighting, among other features.

Lexus seems most proud of its new technology featured in the new NX, starting with Lexus Interface Assistant that enables a voice-activated interaction with its multimedia system, from the phone to climate control.  Intelligent Assistant accesses convenience features like weather and points of interest (POI) searches with navigation. Add Wi-Fi Connect and it can access audio streaming.

The Lexus Interface Cloud Navigation system offers 100 percent cloud capability and integrated Google POI data. While this service and other connected services like Safety Connect and Service Connect, are nice, they all require a paid subscription to access them after the trial term ends.

On a more basic level, AppleCarPlay and Android Auto are now standard on all NX models and the radio channel preset function was simple and intuitive though 18 channels seemed to be the  maximum of presets. If there was an ability to expand that number, it wasn’t apparent.

Standard on all-new NX models is the Lexus Safety System+ 3.0 that includes nifty features like right and left turn oncoming pedestrian/vehicle detection and braking, dynamic cruise control, and Road Sign Assist, it doesn’t include the blind spot monitor because it’s standard.

Lexus hasn’t left off utility on the NX. With the rear seats folded, the cargo room expands by 14 percent to 46.9 cubic feet.

Pricing for the 2023 NX 350 starts at $44,665. The as-tested price came to $55,225.

Sí: The all-new NX 350 improves on looks and functionality.

No: Much of the new technology requires a subscription.

Toyota and SHPE Award Latino Scholars

 Noticias  Comments Off on Toyota and SHPE Award Latino Scholars
Mar 022023
 

Nunca Pares Scholarship winners, (left to right): Tyler McBride, Sr. manager, Brand, Growth Audiences, Cross Vehicle Line Marketing, Vehicle Marketing and Communications, Toyota Motor North America; Ruben Bonett, Giana Aguilar-Valencia, and Maximiliano Pombo Hernández.

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Toyota’s Nunca Pares (Never Settle) Scholarship campaign, in partnership with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), has awarded three Latino students with a $25,000 scholarship each.

The scholars were celebrated at a ceremony held at Toyota’s North American headquarters in Plano, Texas on February 28:

  • Giana Aguilar-Valencia – Junior at DePaul University, studying computer science
  • Ruben Bonett – Junior at Texas A&M University, College Station, studying electrical engineering
  • Maximiliano Pombo – Junior at Texas A&M University, College Station, studying computer science

With these scholarships, Toyota joins SHPE in the shared mission of expanding science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) opportunities for Hispanic-heritage students. Each student demonstrated unyielding determination to making their dreams come true.

“We recognize these students for their commitment to creating solutions for a better tomorrow,” said Tellis Bethel, group vice president, Social Innovation, Toyota Motor North America. “Driving educational opportunities to Hispanic students is important to the development of future innovations for a more equitable and sustainable society. We’re excited to see how far these students go and to have the opportunity be a part of their continued educational journey.”

For more than 20 years, Toyota has engaged with SHPE on a regional and national level, including participation in their national conference. Toyota’s college programs with SHPE encompass recruitment efforts, co-ops, internships and scholarships.

“We’re excited to see this scholarship opportunity come to life for our members thanks to Toyota,” stated Monique Herrera, chief external relations officer, SHPE. “The Toyota Nunca Pares Scholarship gives these students the opportunity to continue pursuing their higher education goals by providing much needed financial support so they can achieve their dreams.”

Katya Echazarreta joined the ceremony to share her inspiring story. As an electrical engineer and the first Mexican-born woman to travel to space, Katya’s journey to becoming one of the youngest women in space exemplifies her resolve to be an example of success for others pursuing a career in STEM.

Toyota’s Nunca Pares brand campaign celebrates Latino’s collective spirit of pushing forward, to never give up on achieving their goals, regardless of the challenges. It was developed by Toyota’s marketing agency, Conill.

 

Mexican Textiles on Display at Texas Museum

 Destinations  Comments Off on Mexican Textiles on Display at Texas Museum
Feb 212023
 

Visitors to Austin, TX might like to stop by the Bob Bullock Museum while in town. Latino Traffic Report (LTR) has learned that the museum is featuring an exhibition of Mexican Textiles, on display through April 2, 2023.

Dress from Oaxaca.

Hilos de Tradición: Dresses of Mexico is a collaborative exhibition with the Brownsville Historical Association that presents Mexican textiles as living traditions with roots that can be traced back thousands of years to the earliest peoples in Mesoamerica. The tools, patterns, materials, and techniques of crafting these textiles have evolved over the centuries. European influences and modernization have contributed to these changes. But the common thread in all of the textiles is the link they represent between Mexico’s past and present.

Dress from Chiapas.

The collection on which the exhibition is based was formed by the Brownsville chapter of the Pan American Round Table (PART), a women’s group established to foster understanding, knowledge, and friendship among the peoples of the Western Hemisphere.  Today, now under the care of the Brownsville Historical Association, the collection has over 3,000 unique pieces and is one of the largest collections of North, Central, and South American textiles.

Dress from Veracruz.

The dresses reflect both the indigenous and European influences that have shaped Mexican culture and tradition. Weaving, embroidery, and lace feature prominently. Heavy fabrics and multiple layers speak to the climate of Mexico’s mountainous regions. Ruffles and flounces add movement to the dresses worn for dancing and celebration. Some dresses reflect Mexico’s vaquero culture and revolutionary spirit, while other dresses are a connection to Mexico’s deep Catholic faith. Through it all, color and pattern shine brightly as a testament to the vibrant and varied regions of Mexico.

Inside the Exhibition

Dress from Yucatan.

Hilos features 37 traditional outfits representing the states of Mexico. The garments have been selected to represent the traditional textiles, art, dance, and culture of each Mexican state. Several states are represented by multiple dresses.

  • See outfits that showcase and reflect the long traditions of weaving and embroidery in Mexico. The earliest evidence of woven textiles in Mexico dates as far back as 1400 BC. Using fibers like cotton and others derived from yucca, palm, and maguey plants, skilled weavers crafted textiles on a back strap loom. The history of embroidery in Mexican clothing is also centuries old. As Spanish influence in the region increased, needlework skills from around the world made their way into the stitching vocabulary of Mexican artisans.
  • See outfits reflecting Mexico’s cultural traditions through celebrations and music. Wearing traditional clothing for holidays and celebrations is a way of showing respect for the past and their cultural heritage, and traditional Mexican dances are history lessons set to music and reflect Mexico’s many regions.
  • Four hands-on stations allow visitors to feel and examine up close the basic fabrics used to make the dresses on exhibit, the embellishments used to add texture and movement, and the details of embroidery stitches and woven patterns.
  • Visitors can try their hand at five traditional stitches commonly used in embroidery. After trying it themselves, the extraordinary craftsmanship of the embroidered dresses will be even more remarkable!

To purchase tickets, click here.

Premium SUV Review: 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V

 Cadillac, Reviews  Comments Off on Premium SUV Review: 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V
Feb 202023
 

Driver’s side view of the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V under the arch at Arcosanti in Arizona.

By Andy Stonehouse

Can a car change you? And if so, do you want to take on the personality of a 682-horsepower, fire-breathing, $150,000 box of Texas-built Cadillac, an end-of-an-era monster that makes Corvette noises and conforms to almost no standard societal norms?

Close up of the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V’s supercharged 6.2L V-8 engine.

Well, sure. For the price of two Hellcat Widebodies, two Camaro ZL1s, or a pile of Ford GT-somethings, Cadillac has produced the complete antithesis to its upcoming family of electric vehicles.

The 2023 Escalade-V is a striking and rather conspicuously over-the-top automobile designed to outdo other brash statements such as the 577-horsepower Mercedes AMG G63 (though the Benz is still $30,000 more expensive), yet still haul seven passengers.

If you’d yearned for a full-size American SUV that’s capable of 4.4-second runs to 60 mph, exhaust noises that  scream and crackle, and parked on 22-inch wheels, this is it.

Semi-aniline leather, and heated/ventilated and massaging front seats of the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V.

Yes, a lot of questions come along with such a vehicle. Is it truly and unbelievably different than the base Chevy Suburban you can get for approximately $90,000 less—a vehicle of the same size and general capacity? Well, yes and no.

For this price point, I’d kind of expected Escalade-V to at least come with the new Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving system, or maybe a hot tub or controls covered in Swarovski crystals. Even a refrigerated console box would have been cool. Sadly, none of those were present.

Interior finishes are indeed premium, with lots of polished wood, an Alcantara headliner, and a beautifully perforated dash top. The Escalade-V’s extra-chiseled looks do set it apart from its Suburban/Yukon/standard Escalade siblings, but it’s still basically the same tallish box as they are.

As mentioned in previous reviews of the newer General Motors full-sized SUV platform, the benefit is rear-seat access and head room that will allow adults to perhaps more than temporarily be seated in the third row. The captains’ chair second-row seats sort of drop and squat out of the way; you just have to navigate around slightly oversized TV monitors attached to the back of the front seats.

Scale is gigantic up front, too, with a super-broad and tall console that’s so large you simply cannot reach over and try to pick up something on the passenger seat. You also get power running boards, helpful for access, as well as blacked-out, bugle-styled exhaust tips, ultra-bright vertical brake lamps and lighting in the rear, and very nice 18-spoke alloy wheels.

But none of that is quite as important (or, costly) as the hand-assembled 6.2-liter supercharged V8, with 682 actual horsepower and 653 pound-feet of torque. It is quite the technological achievement, and when noisy acceleration is required, the Escalade-V delivers.

As I found on my first outing, it’ll (happily) hit a rev limiter at about double the standard U.S. highway speed limit, which will help you from destroying the vehicle, maybe, as high-speed handling was strictly a straight-line kind of deal.

I did appreciate the fact that the Escalade-V handled in a relatively civil and even large-sporty fashion when driven more slowly, capably taking curves and riding along firmly on its adaptive air-ride suspension—which seemed to readjust itself at every stop sign.

Like the Corvette, almost every aspect of the Escalade-V’s driving can be adjusted—braking, shifting, chassis control, even exhaust noises – and hitting the somewhat hidden V switch ahead of the oversized 10-speed auto shifter puts everything into max mode.

That results in somewhat stabby braking, but those banquet dish-sized front discs and red Brembo calipers up front are fully capable of bringing Escalade-V out of orbit, so that’s reassuring.

Fuel consumption is as expected, ranging between about 11 miles per gallon (mpg) and an unlikely 28 mpg I got coming back into Denver; the EPA sticker suggests you will spend $13,000 more on gas over a five-year period than an average car, and get 16 highway mpg.

Sí: The Escalade-V delivers on its promise of unmatched performance in its segment.

No: For the price, the Escalade-V doesn’t set itself apart from its more affordable full-size siblings offered by GM.

Andy Stonehouse is a guest contributor to Latino Traffic Report and a freelance automotive journalist based in Lakewood, Colorado. All photos are stock, not as-tested, and feature European models.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Car Review: 2022 BMW 2-, 4-, and 5-Series

 BMW, Reviews  Comments Off on Car Review: 2022 BMW 2-, 4-, and 5-Series
Dec 312022
 

M440i XDrive Gran Coupe

By Andy Stonehouse

BMW sedans might seem best suited for more warm/dry-weather, but the proliferation of xDrive all-wheel-drive (AWD) systems on many of them does provide excellent versatility for anyone needing mountain and wintry use. I keep asking for more of BMW’s X-model SUVs to test but in the meantime, here’s everything you ever wanted to know about their sometimes bewilderingly expansive world of two- and four-door cars. At least it’s not as complicated as the Mercedes-Benz catalog.

BMW M2 two-door coupe.

Doing this numerically, the tour begins with the new BMW 2-Series, a diminutive but striking model that looks perhaps a bit like a slightly larger Subaru BRZ, but does not behave (or cost) anywhere near that recently renewed, low-priced sports machine.

I had two performance variants of the petite 2-Series, the very exclusive and utterly fantastic/terrifying M2 CS edition ($95,545), and a more grounded but still enthusiastic M240i xDrive ($57,295). The very small two-door M2 edition (rifghr)  included a 3.0-liter inline-six, twin-turbo with 444 horsepower, hellaciously wide race tires, gold 19-inch wheels, and $8,500 carbon ceramic brakes, plus a real six-speed manual transmission.

M240i in purple and white

The M2 was frankly so vivid and vicious and outright scary that I saved my drives for a single late-summer jaunt up the winding highway to Colorado’s 14,000-foot-plus Mt. Evans, cramming myself into the race seats and experiencing race-car-level hilarity that rivaled the output of $150,000 supercars.

The level of structural rigidity makes M2 the antithesis of a

commuter’s delight—or any all-season practicality—but a layer of Alcantara trim on pretty much every seating and elbow/wheel surface does lighten up the feel of what really is a track-centered machine. If that’s what you desire, the M2 CS delivers.

The M240i, by comparison, behaved more like a traditional small car, although it is not slouchy in any way, compared to its race-car edition. The 3.0-liter here still produces 382 horsepower and with metallic purple and red paint jobs as options, it’s one very striking little coupe. Mine was a more sedate Mineral White but the M-level trim here included such details as white, blue, and red digitized bursts printed on the insides of the ultra-contoured doors, plus sporty 19-inch wheels and sport brakes.

BMW 430i

I cruised all the way from Northern Colorado to Pueblo one snowy morning and the M240i’s xDrive AWD system and some real winter tires made it seem like a safe and pleasant experience, and plenty fast when you want it to be. Simply do not plan to ever access those tiny rear seats, and be prepared to continually rest your left knee against the door panel on longer trips.

There has been an understandably polarized reaction to BMW’s 4-Series automobiles and their very unconventional front looks and gawd-awful gigantic nostrils (grille), but that didn’t stop me from driving 760 miles from Denver to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and back, and enjoying the ride in the hardtop, xDrive version of the 430i.

Yes, strange men did frequently yell at the car in the parking lot (maybe that’s a New Mexico thing), but the $60,520 coupe was often the classiest car in the county. While it lacked the pure cataclysm of power found in other models, I also got a real 42 miles per gallon (mpg) over my entire trip, and had to be just a tad more vigilant while doing two-lane passing jobs.

A somewhat more practical and perhaps less visually divisive version of the 4-Series, the quasi-hatchback M440i Gran Coupe model ($67,520) seemed like an entirely different animal, though that vexing, digitized calamity of a grille remains. It comes with a 3.0-liter turbo tuned to 382 horsepower, like the M240i, but the additional real estate here, including a full-sized back seat and almost SUV-styled storage in the rear, makes it feel like a much more substantial kind of deal. The most surprising thing is how competently this fuller 4-Series behaves, with an elegant, upscale expansion of the 3-Series package, including bits like ultra-aerodynamic side mirrors, beautiful highlight-painted wheels, and performance brake calipers. That cut and curved rear roofline does eat into rear visibility.

Finally, after a sea of somewhat smaller options, the grandeur and the style of the 540i xDrive sedan ($77,935) truly stands out. Power here is right in the middle, with 335 horsepower and standard light-hybrid boost from a 48-volt electrical system, but I was impressed by the 34 mpg I generated and the vehicle’s responsiveness.

M540i

It definitely felt like a whole different class of car after those New Mexico miles in the basic 4-Series, with a more spacious and nuanced experience accentuated by optional roll stabilization and dynamic damper controls. Anything constrained or squeezed in the smaller models gets the fuller treatment here, including the talk-to-me Intelligent Personal Assistant system on the gloriously wide and bright navigation display.

If you feel a little cheated on the power but love the space, the new M5 packs 600 horsepower. Let us save that for summertime.

Si: If you want responsivity and sport appeal, BMW’s M family still reigns supreme, with upgrades available at almost every size in the car (and SUV) family.

No: Base price is pretty much a non-concept with BMW; unlike Kia, your list of options and add-ons, some not that exotic, can dramatically boost the cost of any Bimmer.

Andy Stonehouse is a guest contributor to Latino Traffic Report and a freelance automotive journalist based in Lakewood, Colorado. All photos are stock, not as-tested, and feature European models.