The Monterey Peninsula, located on the coast of central California about 500 km northwest of Los Angeles, is home to some of the most ruggedly beautiful terrain in North America.
Hard against the Pacific Ocean and bracketed by mountains, the area is teeming with wildlife, and its vistas present visitors with a real feast for the senses.
It’s also home to one of North America’s most daunting race tracks: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Given such scenic splendour, it’s not hard to understand why BMW chose Monterey as the location for its 2013 model preview.
Most of the company’s North American lineup was available to drive on both the track and the roads surrounding the circuit. With so many vehicles to drive, and just one day to do so, some choices had to be made. So I focussed on models that are either all-new or have been substantially updated for 2013.
The ActiveHybrid 5 features a gasoline/electric drivetrain, in this case a 300 hp straight six-cylinder turbocharged powerplant and a 55 hp electric motor.
The system is designed to use just the electric motor as often as possible, primarily in city traffic. When more power is needed, such as for passing, the motor works in concert with the gas engine.
A start/stop function disengages the gas engine when the car comes to rest at traffic lights and stop signs, to reduce fuel consumption. Regenerative braking captures kinetic energy expended when the brakes are applied, converts that energy into electricity and feeds it back into the car’s battery.
On twisty and undulating California roads, the system constantly switched back and forth between gas and electric propulsion. A large screen in the centre of the dash provides constant updates. A detailed schematic of the car’s chassis uses blue and red colour-coding to indicate the status of various systems.
The ActiveHybrid 5 possessed similar driving dynamics as the other BMWs: quiet, powerful and refined. The eight-speed automatic works seamlessly with both the gas engine and electric motor, the steering is sharp and the handling is secure.
BMW’s full-size sedans have been significantly updated for 2013, most notably in the engine department.
The output of the TwinPower Turbo V8 that powers the 750i/Li models has been increased by 45 hp and 30 lb.-ft. to 445 and 480, respectively.
Mated to an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission (now standard across the line), the new 750 posted a 0-100 km/h time of 4.8 seconds.
As for fuel efficiency, official numbers from Natural Resources Canada haven’t been confirmed, but testing in Europe showed a 25-per-cent improvement.
On the road, the 750Li zipped along quite nicely for such a large sedan. Power delivery was smooth and the cabin was suitably quiet, yet a nice rumble could be heard when the V8 was pushed hard under acceleration.
All 7 Series models feature fuel-saving technologies, including auto start-stop, brake energy regeneration and an Eco Pro mode.
On the inside, the understated and refined interior remains unchanged. The iDrive system, which I found quite easy to navigate, has been redesigned, and the optional Bang & Olufsen sound system sounded great.
The Canadian 7 Series lineup has been expanded to five variants for 2013, with the addition of the 740Li xDrive.
The M6 (offered as a coupe and cabriolet) was easily the sexiest car at the preview. Its flowing lines cut a sharp, striking profile, especially in Sakhir Orange (similar to copper).
The M6 is the newest addition to the M family, and marks the return of a model that was last in the lineup in 2010.
Powering the rear wheels is the same engine that powers the new M5, a 4.4 litre TwinPower Turbo V8, which cranks out 560 hp and 500 lb.-ft. of torque.
Despite having two fewer cylinders than the powerplant in the previous model, the V8 cranks out 12-per-cent more horsepower and 30-per-cent more torque, and is expected to improve fuel consumption by 30 per cent.
Getting all of that power to the ground is a new seven-speed, double-clutch, automatic transmission. Officially dubbed the M DCT with Drivelogic System, it features automatic and manual modes. Paddle shifters are optional.
The M DCT also offers three shift programs for both automatic and manual modes, with the lower setting the most efficient and the upper setting delaying gear changes until the engine reaches higher revs. The dampers, shocks and steering can also be adjusted from mild to wild, thanks to buttons located on the centre console.
Despite having a curb weight of 1,930 kg, the M6’s performance belied its bulk on the road. Acceleration was brisk, especially in D3 and S3 modes, where the shift patterns were best suited to match the engine’s immense output and handling/ride felt well-balanced. A pleasant growl penetrated the cockpit under hard acceleration, which enhanced the experience.
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