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This is the only generation of the BMW 5 series that has really struck me in the same way as the e39, the 1996-2004 generation. It looks just right, like the e39 does, with perfect proportions and light stylistic flourishes. Like the e39, the current 5 doesn’t really look of its time, and if it does, its very subtle. It just has the uniquely balanced look of a BMW.

Although it is nothing unique in the scheme of BMWs; I had to think a moment when trying to tell apart a new 5 series form the 7 series it was right next to. The 5 even had that chrome excentuated hockey stick indentation at the bottom of the door. When I did tell them apart, I felt the 5 series bones wore the look of the bigger seven series well. I especially liked the way the rear taillights wrapped around and tapered into the rear fenders.

The interior of the 5 is a great example of modern BMW interiors; its more than you expect. I looked at a 5 series with the “Luxury Line” trim sitting in the showroom. Before I climbed in the the warm chestnut and black interior I noticed seats were stitched in a pattern reminiscent of the Mercedes “Designo” quilted leather; a not unwelcome imitation. BMW has an excellent job creating interiors that appeal to both automotive enthusiasts buried in the past and those who are more forward thinking. The dash is a familiar shape with an instrument binnacle atop in front of the steering wheel and the infotainment and HVAC controls in the center, just as it has been in cars for years. Yet, the interior is extremely contemporary with a variety of soft, metallic, and piano trim. The seats, especially the front, were phenomenally comfortable. The drivers seat had a soft, pillow-like pad upon the head-rest and an adjustable thigh bolster; it was possibly the most comfortable seat I have ever been in. In a car this size, space was no issue with plenty of room to stretch out.

I couldn’t drive the 5 series, but I got a look at BMW’s newest middle ground in it’s line-up. The broad range of the 5 assuredly offers excitement, but for now I get to look foreword to seeing the best looking 5 series in years out on the roads.

Genesis G90

I feel like the Genesis brand gives me a taste of what it was it was like to see brands like Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura trumphiantly prosper out of otherwise more value-oriented automakers. I wasn’t alive then to see the birth of those of brands, but I am alive to see Genesis, the Hyundai spinoff.

The monolithic G90 is the flagship of the two car line-up. Disappointingly, theres little stylistic differentiation between it and the smaller G60. The G90 is, however, a handsome car both for its sheer size and restraint. It looks very chunky and substantial, a look created by the blunt nose and deliciously long and flat hood. It is very nondescript aside from the giant, drainage-grate grill. Nonetheless, there are some interesting touches on the exterior of the car, both good and bad. In particular, I found the taillights quite attractive but despised the flat piece of glossy plastic in the middle of the grill. Though neccesarry for the sensors used in driving aids, its like designers didn’t even try to hide it.


Fit and finish is excellent; trim is laser straight and the door shuts very fluidly and heavily in this age of thin metals and plastic. The interior is one of the most interesting of any car I have sat in. It is as big inside as the visual weight of the car is on the outside with a very wide center console. The console is probably one of the first things I noticed when climbing in the car, it is festooned with all kinds of shiny buttons and knobs along with a padded leather armrest. The second thing I noticed was the white analog clock; I love analog clocks in cars, especially luxury cars.  The dash was wide with nice, thick strips of wood and the speaker grills and gauges had a polished, metallic look to them. It all made it feel like a seriously high-end automobile, fortunate because it made up for some uncomfortable front seats. They not particularly soft and had an extremely intrusive headrest, one of those that jams your neck foreword out of a resting position. Bolsters, head rests, and back support was configurable, yet I could not find a pleasing combination. When I began to adjust the steering wheel tilt to my preference, it blocked the top part of the instrumentation; this really is a car for tall-statured individuals.

I looked around my shoulder into the sunshaded confines of  the rear seat, noticing it had its own button riddled console. Said console, trimmed in beautiful wood and stitched leather, had its own climate and seat controls. This car makes you feel like someone important; angle the seat back and stretch you legs far in front of you while viewing yourself in the lighted flip-down mirror.

Before parting ways with the massive Genesis, I appreciated one last element of its elegant restraint in the way it quietly mentioned its 5.0 liter V8 in subtle trunk-lid badging. This is a very grandiose car and an extremely impressive beginning to the Genesis name. I am not only well-impressioned by the lavish G90 itself, but am glad to have seen the birth of an exciting new luxury brand.

Infiniti Q45

The Infiniti Q45 went from suavely understated to staid and anonymous with the 1994 facelift. Before, it was easy to pick out the alien face of the Q45 among the trifecta of Japanese flagship luxury cars (Lexus LS, Acura Legend, and the Infiniti). It had two, wide oval lights and an Inifinit logo on the flat surface between them; it was an odd look for a car to not have the grill as the centerpieece of the design. This visual strangeness, along with the much criticised initial advertising, undoubtedly limited the success of the Inifiniti.


By 1994, the Infiniti had a grill in the traditional sense and revised, wraparound headlights. The conformist look also consisted of an upright, chrome waterfall grill barren of any defining insignia. It was extremely anonomyous and remains hardly distinguishable as an Infiniti to the uninformed. It looks like any generic Japanese full-size car of the time appearing much like the Mitsubishi Diamante. The restyling was unfortanate because, as you come around the back of the car, its smooth curves and well-done proportions come into focus. The stale, overly formal front end nearly overcomes the subtle lines and deatiling of the rest of the car.


The interior is a typical luxury car of the period, I believe the criticism citing sparten accomodations was unfounded. It felt spacious and looked resonably nice with an analog clock and warmly colored surfaces.  Yet it couldn’t help but date itself with the curved shape of the dash.

Even with strong performance from a 4.5 liter V8 and very forward-thinking engineering efforts, Nissan’s flagship never seemed to have gained the status of the LS400 and Legend. By now, it has faded completely into the background of used car lots. This daring attempt at striking success in that era of lavish luxury from Japanese automakers looks like its hideing shamefully behind an uptight, unsuspecting face.

2003 Buick Century

 

The 1997 Buick Century and Regal were both the last of their nameplates, at least until the Regal was reintroduced in 2009. Both vehicles were essentially the same but they had there own distinct flavors, the Regal being the sportier and more expensive of the two. The aim of the Century seems to be quite the juxtaposition to the relatively daring Regal, giving buyers more traditional virtues as opposed to the Regals more international qualities. Being impervious to most trends, fads, and gimmicks over its development and long life, the Century was able to be what would seem to be the quintessential modern Buick and an especially stress-free midsize sedan.

Identifying a Buick of this generation as a Century or Regal starts at the front. The Century has a blunt nose with an upright waterfall grill and two wide, rounded headlights, thereby distinguishing itself from the relatively swept shape of the Regal. The staid Century has few sheet metal garnishes, but those that are there break up the rotundity. Conservatively applied also is chrome trim found on the grill, script nameplates, and around the rear light bar. The tested Century rode on a set of purposeful-looking black steel wheels with wheel covers. The unpretentious design of the Buick is most definitely reserved, but because of that continues to be worn well and proves quite likable.

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The interior of the Century is as refreshingly plain as the exterior with a monotonous expanse of grey in the case of the tested car. This may not sound positive, but just like occasionally choosing vanilla over chocolate ice cream, it nice to experience restraint and neutrality. The dash is defined by gentle curves and well-marked switchgear. The lack of a true center console leaves a vast expanse of space under the dash contributing to the overall airiness of the interior. The velour 60/40 split bench seat is incredibly soft, giving the perception of an infinite amount of give in the cushion. Behind the dated four-spoke steering wheel is a simplistic instrument cluster consisting of a center speedometer, temperature gauge, and gas gauge. Other information is relayed through large warning lights. Trunk space is a more than decent 16.7 cubic feet.

 

Buick made for a calming driving experience in the Century by keeping outside disturbances to a minimum. The compliant suspension quashes the resonance of impacts and the harshness of a poor road with competence while the cabin is tightly wrapped in a sheath of silence, isolated from wind noise and tire roar. The absence of hardly any impact along with the quiet acoustics enhances the surprising feeling of solidity in the tight-feeling Buick. The steering is rather heavy for such a comfort-oriented automobile, but is direct and responsive. Not responsive is the 3.1 liter pushrod V6 producing 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Centuries made before the 2000 model year had 160 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. This engine puts power to the front wheels through a four-speed automatic with a column mounted gear selector. For any sort aggressive acceleration, the V6 requires some persuasion; otherwise it lazily propels the car to speed, emitting harsh, throaty notes in the process. Though the power train is far from ideal, it is adequate for the relaxed Century.

The driving position is considerably flawed; the accelerator is far away while the steering wheel and the brake are close, but the Century makes up for this discomfort with its other previously discussed qualities. The brakes were neither grabby nor too spongy.  The Buick is rated by the EPA to get 18MPG city and 26MPG on the highway, good numbers from a larger V6 sedan.

The Buick Century adheres to the tried and true values that defined past American sedans and has its own appeal because of that. Even if the motor may be neither smooth nor spritely, an excellent ride and comforting interior ensure the Century can create a most serene driving experience. Kelly Blue Book says the fair purchase price for a 2003 Buick Century with the average of 115,495 miles is $4,296. For that price, rest assured your buying a likable Buick with luxuries and traditions that count.

2007 Saab 9-5 Sedan

The cars from the Swedish brand known as Saab withered upon the vines from which they sprouted by 2007. Outside opinions molded and sculpted by automotive journalists in collaboration Saab’s languished state cause most, even those with automotive obsessions, to dismiss the innovative, aviation-themed brand to this very day. Mention Saab and they will mention BMW and the dynamics of rear-wheel-drive that are absent in Saabs. They may also thumb their noses to the Saab quirks: the central ignition, egg crate vents, and the long production runs the vehicles normally enjoyed. In reality, the 2007 Saab 9-5 is an unexpectedly competent luxury sedan undeserving of much of the criticism it receives.

The 2006 Saab 9-5 was a rework of the original 1998 9-5. The 2006 was obviously from the late 90s, however new front and rear fascias in addition to trunk lids and hoods made the 9-5 appear trim, clean and modern, perhaps the best looking midsize sedan of its day. Smoked headlights, a restrained application of chrome, and smooth, flush taillights  allowed the 9-5 to have a unique style a cut above its competitors. Not that the original 9-5s lacked styling substance as evidenced by the subtle, flowing curves of the 9-5s basic shape. The slope of the rear window, how it integrates into the decklid, and the forward rake of the rear door windows create a shape both beautiful and reminiscent of past Saabs.

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Pictures can be worth so many words though they can omit crucial details, as is the case with the Saab 9-5 interior. It is better than you may think it is, unless you have seen it in person. Then again, nothing is perfect. The design of the dash is as far as can be from timeless, an anachronism in its day, though it would look at home in any Saab 900. A large, concave area is the site of all of the instrumentation, most of the controls, the infotainment system, and HVAC controls. The vents are of the egg crate variety and are adjusted with with a clever central knob, but it must to be admitted that they are visually unappealing. An expanse of shiny, ultra-fake dark wood trim covers this concave area. The topmost area of the dash is squishy, while other areas of the dash make do with various kinds of hard plastic. Most of the hard plastics are of sufficiently nice quality; not everything has to be soft to be nice in an interior. The door panels are noticeably nice with a dash of wood trim on the grab handles, and a metallic door handle. A Saab quirk is the entertaining passenger-side cupholder which folds out from the dash in a series of satisfyingly fluid motions. Attention to these seemingly insignificant details extends to even the overhead console with a neat lamp. The tan, perforated leather seats are some of the best. Sitting upon one is to find exceptional suppleness not found in many of the Saabs Germanic competitors. The interior exudes a sense of spacial plentifulness. The rear seat is roomy and befitting of a midsize sedan with excellent legroom and comfort. The trunk opening is wide granting ample access to 15.9 cubic feet of cargo room.

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A list of Saab quirks would make an interesting, if long article in itself. This article likely glosses over some but cannot ignore the one that becomes the most apparent at start-up: the centrally mounted ignition cylinder. Irrationally fun is to place the key between the seats and turn. The car shimmies and comes to life with a quiet burble. The 9-5 may not be refined in the same way as a German competitor, but it sure is characterful and charming. At first glance, interior switchgear seems placed in a slapdash manner but is strikingly logical to use making it easy to adjust seats and mirrors. The curved windshield presents a partially panoramic view of the outside world and unlike some luxury cars, the Saab has a low cowl that helps the car afford great forward visibility to the driver. Piloting the car through a tight area reveals both its dimensions and front-wheel drive roots. The 9-5 is a rather sizable vehicle with a wide turning radius. The accelerator is awkwardly positioned far to the right, necessitating a little experience to become fully used to driving the Saab. The steering, despite lacking to a slight degree in engagement, proves to be successful in displaying a fair amount of nimbleness in the 9-5. Shove your foot far into the long traveling accelerator pedal, and the car comes into its element. The 2006-2009 Saab 9-5 is propelled only by a 2.3 liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 260 horsepower and 258 lbs-ft of torque. The monster of an engine channels its wealth of power and torque through a five speed manual, or a five-speed automatic with a sport setting. The 2.3 is a phenomenal motor able to pull the Saab along in tenacious and torque-rich acceleration and in the process serenades with a throaty growl. Amazingly, the turbocharged four-cylinder lends the car the heart of a six-cylinder.

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The Saab feels like it can easily desecrate speed limits. Luckily, a set of clear and informative gauges gives the driver the opportunity to percisely monitor not only speed but also other functions, even turbo boost. The night panel switch, located to the left of the steering wheel, takes into account eye fatigue and the distraction of dash backlighting by limiting lighting to only crucial instrumentation such as the speedometer. This seems to be another example of the many insightful features Saab designed into the 9-5. The tuning of the all-independent suspension firmed the ride quality but not to any fault or deprecation in comfort. The boosted engine gives the 9-5 mixed fuel economy according to the EPA ratings of 17MPG city and 26MPG highway for vehicles equipped with the automatic. Manual 9-5s add 1MPG in the city and on the highway. All of the vehicles require premium gasoline.

A 2007 Saab 9-5 with the average of 98,789 miles and an automatic is expected to cost $5,906 by Kelly Blue Book. For reference, a 2007 BMW 525i with similar mileage costs $10,290. From these numbers it is ascertained that the Saab is an incredible value.

The 2007 Saab 9-5 is a highly unique and desirable sedan. The 2006 refresh gave it a stunning exterior, adding to the powerful turbocharged four-cylinder, comfort, and ergonomics the 9-5 already possessed. For those who like things that are particularly clever and unique, the Saab 9-5 is an enticing vehicle.

2012 BMW 328i

The BMW 3-series is a seamless concoction of practicality, shocking composure, and understated style. All 3-series have been the objects of raving and fanatical praise by all who drive them and have driven them since its inception. The tested 2012 328i proves the accolades are well deserved and the ravings justified.

BMW created the niche of car it excels in so much so with the humble “New Class” cars. The upright 2002 derivative demonstrated that a conservatively designed and tall proportioned body could be mixed with precision engineering and performance. The unassuming 2002 was and is a desirable car while circumventing brashness and inefficiency. The mentality of doing more with less continued to the e21 3-series introduced in 1977. The blocky e30, sleek e36 and e46, and e90 superseded it, each car maintaining the reputation of the 3-series. The latest F30 3-series was a quite frightening prospect to BMWs following when shown to the world for the 2012 model year. It grew into an intermediate size, discarded the beloved and spectacular naturally aspirated inline-six, and threatened the hallmark of BMW’s unequivocally good steering with an electric assist. Furthermore it played along with BMW’s newest naming scheme and confusing model proliferation with the discontinuation of the coupe and convertible and the introduction of the aesthetically challenged GT. Contrary of what BMW’s abandonment of its former unyielding reservation beginning in the early 2000s may convince, the F30 is an undeniable improvement over its predecessor.

All BMW sedans have a shape and design that goes beyond fads and the mainstream. Its a far from polarizing style; its a simplistic and traditional three-box design. With the principles of this design, the 3-series becomes uniquely subtle as it it s the long hood, tall cabin, short deck, and angled rear quarter window convalesce to grant it the essential BMW look. This general appearance is shared with all other 3-series but small details contrast the F30 with its predecessors. Such cues include thinner taillights, a flatter appearing hood, and the perhaps jarring way headlights and kidney grills meet. Both soft and sharp creases in the doors and hood make for cleanly contoured sheet metal. Sensibly sized five spoke rims on the 328i are most welcome.

Like the exterior, the interior is familiar to those acquainted with BMWs, and actually likable to those who are not. The interior of the F30 is amelioration over the innards of the e90.  In a rare instance, the chronic growth of modern automobiles meaningfully benefits a car. The 328i felt airy and lacked the uneasy stuffiness of prior 3-series interiors. The obvious increase in height was a miracle for headroom, a seemingly lower cowl and distanced windshield was another revelation. The rear seating was just as comfortable as the front, undoubtedly a sufficiently spacious place to reside. The seats themselves had a combination of softness and support that reached Goldilocks levels of pleasant compromise. The SensaTec vinyl is as nice as leather for its nicely textured and thick appearance. The unobtrusive, gently curving and sloping dash is covered in black squishy material while doors and bottom of the dash rely on padded material for tactile quality. Atop the dash and embed among a series of contours is a small screen controlled by a tactually satisfying rotary knob. The trunk is rather shallow but measures a decent 13 cubic feet.

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It is while driving that the BMW leaves the best and most indelible impressions. The driver sits low in the car behind a high cowl but thankfully visibility remains mostly unobstructed and a bunker feeling avoided. The electronic gear selector is one of the best, however its needlessly odd operation makes it seem like an unnecessary complication. The steering wheel falls to hand nicely with a perfect diameter and thickness. Take note that the 328i tested was left in the comfort mode strictly for convenience and time constraints. The electrically assisted steering is undeniably different than the hydraulic assisted setup of the prior 3-series, but this may be for the better. The feel is very light but the steering exact and extremely quick; this helps for parking and slow-speed maneuvers. On the road the lightness permits easy cruising as much as it does hard cornering. The MacPherson strut front suspension and multilink rear simply refuse to translate sudden impacts into the cabin beyond distant thumps, while completely silencing the ill effects of bad road textures. This, in sequence with the muffling of wind noise, lets the 328i glide down the road stolidly and relaxingly.

Be not misinformed, the 328i is a true performance car and exhibits the traits of such in corners. The largely imperturbable ride only enhances the drivability of the car by shielding the driver from unwanted pavement disturbances. The absorbency of the suspension and instantaneous responses of the steering makes exuberant cornering and more reserved driving fluid and graceful. Driving power to the rear wheels is the combination of a turbocharged 2.0 liter inline four-cylinder and the widely used ZF eight-speed automatic. The four-cylinder churns out 240 horsepower and 260 lbs-ft of torque and is forcibly fed with a single twin-scroll turbocharger and fueled with direct-injection. The specifications and performance are impressive, but the four has the big shoes of the previous 3.0-liter inline-six it unsuccessfully attempts to fulfill. The unmistakable and undesirable baritone thrumming of a four-cylinder replaces the sweet howl of the six. The torque-rich lower RPMs and muted throbbing sound fail to encourage vicious throttling of the engine. Straighten the right foot and the car tenaciously surges forward and because of the low-end torque, the BMW moves quickly without even having to spin above 3,000 RPMs. Yet the soothingly linear and buttery smoothness of the power delivery of the naturally aspirated inline-six is conspicuously gone from the 328i. Even so, the car is fast; 60 mph takes only 5.8 seconds. The ZF eight-speed has too many gears for this writer’s preferences, but it is likely a boon to efficiency. The EPA rates the 328i equipped with the eight-speed at 23MPG city and 33MPG on the highway. In this application, the eight-speed avoids its avid and rather hectic need to reach the highest gear as soon as possible thereby eliminating that annoyance in normal driving situations. Issues arise when downshifting for hard or moderate acceleration is demanded. A brief hesitation blunts the aloofness of the car, however this may be caused by the fact the 328i was in comfort mode instead of one of the other, sportier driving settings. The brakes were easily regulated but initially a little grabby.

Kelly Blue Book says that a 2012 BMW 328i with the average of 54,782 miles should cost 21,325 dollars. In purchasing or driving a F30 328i is to experience a mostly uncompromised performance vehicle. Ageless styling wraps tight around magical engineering and exceptional comfort. The F30 carries on and improves upon the rear-wheel drive based ingredients of BMW and the 3-series. The 328i has only the most unobtrusive of flaws; flaws only projected because the car faces such high expectations. The trading of the confining interior for a light and roomy habitation, the comfortably light steering, and the untouched principles of clear and accurate handling in combination with driving tranquility show the F30 as a very likable vehicle and a successfully executed BMW.