By Jens Meiners
Each week, our German correspondent slices and dices the latest rumblings, news, and quick-hit driving impressions from the other side of the pond. His byline may say Jens Meiners, but we simply call him . . . the Continental.
BMW has sold off Husqvarna to the Austrian Pierer Industrie AG, which owns motorcycle-maker KTM. The Bavarians had bought the (originally) Swedish company in 2008 and never achieved the sales and financial targets that were set with the purchase. Now BMW is serving up a politically correct explanation, saying that the realignment of its motorcycle business without Husqvarna will focus on “urban mobility and e-mobility.” It kind of reminds me of the reasoning in 2009 for pulling out of F1, in which reasons of “sustainability and environmental consciousness” were cited.
BMW has announced it is expanding its remaining motorcycle presence with an electric scooter called C Evolution and also talks of “further innovative vehicle concepts.” Perhaps the time is right for something like BMW’s C1, the Bertone-built city scooter sold between 2000 and 2003. It offered partial weather protection and was conceived as an alternative to city cars, but only sold in low numbers and was yanked from the market prematurely.
Meanwhile, work is progressing on the Visio.M, an electric city vehicle developed by the Technical University of Munich with assistance from consortial leaders BMW, Daimler, and a number of suppliers and public entities. The passenger cell will be made of carbon fiber, and it will be powered by a asynchronous electric motor coupled to an extremely lightweight transmission. Anti-lock brakes are standard, as is a torque-vectoring system. It is an interesting project, but I know for a fact that it does not rank highly on BMW’s list of priorities. The Visio.M is a tiny vehicle, and as of today, there are no plans to integrate it into BMW’s model range—ever.
It has been over a month, but this deserves mention: The Citroën C6 is history, and the last one rolled off the assembly line in December. Based on the smaller C5 sedan, the C6 was a car that was compromised in many ways. I have tested several of them over the years, and while the air suspension provided a generally good ride, it was jittery over smaller bumps; the steering was utterly overboosted, Cadillac XTS–style; and the frameless side windows tended to be pulled out of their guides at over 130 mph. To get them fully up again, you needed to slow down to 80 mph. In 2009, the C6′s gasoline V-6 was killed, somewhat disingeniously leaving the luxurious Citroën only with diesel engines.
What’s more, the C6 is a prime example of how not to launch a car. The C6 Lignage—which previewed the design of the production C6—was shown in 1999, a full six years before the car went on sale. Offered at a far higher price point, it never matched the success of its predecessor, the angular and futuristic XM.
On the plus side, the C6 was a daring design, evoking memories of the classic Citroën DS and CX sedans. Its interior was stunning, with details such as gliding covers in the doors, and generously applied Mukonto wood, the sort used by the Zulu tribe to make spears. Far from perfect, the C6 had character. I liked it.
SEAT’s Flawed Hot Hatch
The hot hatch segment is in full bloom again in Europe. The latest entry is the SEAT Ibiza Cupra, a sister model to the Volkswagen Polo GTI with a 180-hp, turbocharged and supercharged 1.4-liter engine and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Sadly, no manual is offered. Come on, in this class? Surely, there should be enough volume in the sporty versions of the Ibiza (and the architecturally similar Audi A1, Škoda Fabia, and VW Polo), to justify the application of a six-speed manual, like in their lesser siblings. It’s a good thing that PSA still offers two vehicles in this class with a manual: The Citroën DS3 Racing and the Peugeot 208 GTi. I’ll take one of those over an automatic VW Group car any time.
Sampling an American Favorite
It was interesting to spend some time behind the wheel of the U.S.-market Honda Accord. For over a decade, the European and American Accord models have been different vehicles. American customers get a variation of the European Accord in the form of Acura’s TSX. I sampled the U.S. Accord in all available engine and transmission configurations, and my hands-down favorite, unsurprisingly, was the V-6 coupe equipped with the manual transmission. It handled so well and sounded so sweet that I would consider it against a 3-series coupe or Audi A5. It’s less of a love affair with the CVT, which seems to reflect a little too long before actually performing the belt adjustments needed for acceleration. The standard inline-four is surprisingly silky, the body is tight, and the suspension is competent, almost BMW-like, under spirited driving.
When you look closely at the Accord, you can see some cost-cutting, like the exposed trunk hinges. And I don’t get the instrument panel, which is a garbled assemblage of buttons and monitors. There are many ways to enter data into the navigation system, none of which works intuitively. And the styling? It is better than the previous generation, which displayed a jarring disconnect between the front end and the rest of the car, but I wouldn’t call it exciting. Nevertheless, I am not surprised at the Accord’s popularity among Americans. The too-innocent skin hides a chassis and an engine that tease you to play.
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver