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RE: Any data???

Dear List:

Just thought I'd add a couple notes to the curious.

"Where do I get the time?"

I have a laptop.  I own my own business.  Stayed in the office by myself for
two extra hours last night typing.   Just got in the zone and coudn't stop.
Then edited it at home sitting in the den with my wife, who also has a
wireless laptop.  The two of us are a sight some nights clicking away.    Glad
some of you were entertained.  I love this list!  You guys are great.

Jack Holloway sez:

>I may have missed it, but you did not say anything about the cars being
built in the South Carolina BMW plant.
Are they better than the ones made over seas?
I have a friend with a Z4 and he says they are better because it was made
here in the USA.

Jack, I think your friend is full of beans.   I've driven M coupes and M
roadsters.  These are Z3 derivitives.    They're good cars made in SC.  I've
driven an X5.  It's a dumb car, but it works OK.  Also made in SC.

I like most of the pre-Chris Bangle BMW cars quite a bit.   The current 7
series was his first styling/design mistake.  It has a really beautiful
interior and it handles and performs beautifully, but the flawed styling and
I-Drive ruin an otherwise beautiful car (built in Germany).

This was followed by the Z4, (Made in SC) which handles and performs better
than any Z3, (also made in SC) but is not nearly as pretty, again being ruined
by some awful styling goofs.  This is the design studio run amok, not the car
plant.  The "flame-surfacing" on the sides of the Z4 remind many of a certain
cheesy Hyundai.  I can't say I disagree.

Next is the new 5 series. (Made in former E. Germany, I think.  Regensburg???)
But BMW has built new plants in the Czech Republic and places like that.   Not
sure if they assemble cars or engines or what there.   Anyway, the new 5 has
had a raft of quality issues and is getting bad ratings from CR because of it
as is the new 7.   The old 7 didn't have great reliability either, but the old
5 did.   This new 5 is supposed to handle better than the car it replaced, but
it doesn't feel that way to me.  It's certainly no nicer to drive.   It's also
a lot less good looking.  Like other Bangle designs, there are flashes of
brilliance and some cool details, but then he screws it all up with really bad
overall looks.  It also has a "simplified I-Drive" which is still I-Drive and
still a stupid idea they should let go of.

Instead, other German companies are jumping on the I-Drive bandwagon.  Audi
has a pretty good version and Mercedes has a less good version.  Why can't the
Germans just let a bad idea be bad and go on to the next thing?

It might be true that the US made BMWs are giving less problems than the
European made BMWs, but I think that may have more to do with the fact that
the cars from Germany have more complexity and new systems like I-Drive,
variable steering and this digital electrical system.  Part of the
Honda/Toyota key to reliability is to test the hell out of everything and
offer fewer combinations and options.   The SC plant is dead simple compared
to the compexity I saw in Munich.  I'm sure SC has grown up since my last
visit...The X5 was under cover then...hadn't been shown to the public yet.

The new 5 offers "variable steering" as an expensive option.  This is a more
complex version of the system Cadillac has used for years on its big cars.
The Caddy version turns the front wheels farther per tug on the steering wheel
the farther you turn the wheel from the straight ahead position.  It's worked
very well since the mid 70's.  Makes a very big car feel smaller and easier to
park.   The BMW system is computer controlled and changes with car speed, the
phase of the moon, learned responses from the driver, computer generated
I-Ching tosses performed every 4th nanosecond and I don't know what else, but
every tester who's tried it has nearly driven into the inside curbing of exit
ramps and doesn't like it even after adjusting to it.

The old 5 series steering was a defining strength of the car...at the top of
its class.  One of the things that you always heard about from testers was the
"telepathic" nature of the steering on 3's and 5's....for about 3 generations
of each.  If it ain't broke....    At least the this new steering is an
expensive option instead of standard equipment.   BMW still puts together the
best driving suspension in the world.  Just drive a plain jane 325i around
town for an hour and you'll see.

It should be comforting to us to know that "answering questions no one asked"
is going on with the car side of BMW a lot more than the motorcycle side.   So

Did someone mention Buick?  In fact, BUICK attempted to foist a touch screen
version of I-Drive on the public about 10 years prior with the Riviera and the
Reatta coupes.  Bad idea then.  Still a bad idea.  Putting a mouse on the
center console instead of using a touch screen doesn't fix the basic problem.
Screen systems still require the driver to pay more attention to the screen
than to driving.

I have a friend with the small V-8  X5 (4.5?). (Made in SC.)  It's nice enough
looking, but I don't like it.  It's an SUV with expensive rippable materials
in its interior.   You can't load anything into it without extreme caution and
lots of careful packing.  It's quiet and expensive and sophisticated but rides
like a truck.  It burns lots of premium fuel.   It's just not a good
combination of features, in my opinion.   He hasn't had much trouble with it.
I just think it's a stupid car.  If I lined the back with plastic, It would be
a classy tow vehicle for my race car...if I towed race cars.    At least it
doesn't have I-Drive.

I don't like the new 6 (Made in Germany) either, but that's another story.

OK.  That's the end of car-talk from me.   Back to motorcycles?

- -TB