By Tessa R. Salazar Philippine Daily Inquirer CITY drivers who are used to driving in slow speeds eventually become unable to handle faster country driving. Austrian Herbert Grunsteidl, BMW AG certified product trainer who recently visited the Philippines for the “Torque: A BMW Xpo Driving Experience,” told Inquirer Motoring that all over the world, this has been a problem with drivers constantly being stuck in slow-moving traffic jams, and who suddenly feel at a loss with which speed to go in the next corner where there is less traffic. Grunsteidl explained that country driving uses a different driving mindset from city driving. “It takes time to become sensitive enough with all your senses to know what speed (to take) on the next corner. Some are inexperienced with faster speeds, and they get into trouble before they know it.” Grunsteidl added that these kinds of drivers either get rear-ended or do the rear-ending themselves. Grunsteidl was former national rally cross champion who lost his daughter in 1983 in a driving accident. She was a passenger with four other people when the car she was in went into a “death roll.” “It was a point when I stopped racing, I stopped my career. I put up a driving school in Austria from 1983 to 1989, using my experience. Then I joined BMW in 1989,” he recalled. He said youth and driving fast are two inseparable and inevitable outcomes. “You can just tell them to be careful and, hopefully, they will listen to you,” he mused. “You cannot prohibit young drivers from driving fast until they have experienced it themselves.” But in Austria, at least, young drivers have to undergo the gauntlet of strict and disciplined training before they could get a license and drive alone. Grunsteidl said that before new drivers can earn their licenses, they have to rack up at least 3,000 km with an experienced driver supervising them, and then undergo extensive training from a professional driver in a driving school. For the next three years, the applicant risks losing his or her license over a single speeding ticket. New drivers in Austria keep a logbook of the distance they have driven. It was Grunsteidl’s first visit to the Philippines, but he assured Inquirer Motoring that he was “very experienced” in Asian traffic, having been in and out of Asia for the past 10 years training in Singapore, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. In Thailand, he said he drove thousands of kilometers on his own in right-hand traffic. Grunsteidl stayed in the Philippines for just a few days, but he was surprised at how jeepney drivers could manage to weave in and out of lanes with the heavy steering and hard clutches and all, and at the same time manage to reach over and get the fares and/or give change to passengers. “It’s surprising how these jeepney drivers work. And I didn’t see one accident. This is impressive. I used to be fascinated with motorcyclists, but I saw jeepneys and these many things they put on them, now that’s really nice,” he said with a laugh. According to him, the only downside to these gaudy vehicles would be their heavy emissions. During the BMW test-drive sessions with Grunsteidl, this writer was asked to drive two identical BMW 3 Series cars through a slalom to figure out which of them was on run-flat tires, and which was on regular inflated tires. After the series of sharp turns and abrupt braking in high speeds, there was hardly any difference felt between run-flat tires and regular tires. What gave the run-flat tire away was its screeching sound during sharp turns. During the training sessions, Grunsteidl also said 90 percent of drivers were unable to apply the brakes on maximum pressure during emergency situations. He based this observation on a braking exercise data gathered from people who drove a specially equipped car that measured reaction times and pressures applied on the brake pedal during braking situations. He then cited how the TDC system in BMW cars boosted power in the braking system, ensuring proper braking distances, and decreasing the likelihood of high-speed accidents. That system would have certainly given a boost to the tireless jeepney drivers who, Grunsteidl would have most likely observed, often had to pump their vehicle’s brakes at least twice before the brake pads kicked in.
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By Andre Palma Philippine Daily Inquirer ONCE in a while, it is great to suspend all manner of practical thinking. Every day it seems like a necessity to pinch pennies, to think of long-term feasibility and the function of the things we use. Testing cars cannot be oblivious of this frugal frame of mind. The emphasis in media on fuel efficiency, cargo capacity and value for money deals is a clear indication of the motoring public’s clamor for ways to help reduce the cost of the way they motor. All this focus on economy can get to be tiring in all honesty. One can only suspend their love and enthusiasm for the automobile so much. Thank heavens then for cars that are expressions of striking design, inspired engineering and passion for the open road. Thank heavens for cars like the BMW Z4 Coupé. It was more than two years ago, at the 2005 Tokyo Motor show that the preproduction model version of this hard-topped Z4 caught my eye. Bathed in a flat gray hue that added more drama to the already theatrical flame-like Chris Bangle design, this was a car that just seemed to absorb light, process it and exude attention as the by-product. Noticeable because of its classic roadster stance interpreted in a theme that is sometimes described as way ahead of its time, the Z4 Coupé is a powerful piece of automotive sculpture. Add to that the long hood, a roofline and hind shoulders that are among the most conspicuous in recent automotive design and one can imagine the flash crazed, digital paparazzi carnival that pitched tent right next to the BMW pavilion for the duration of that show. It is another matter altogether if the photographers taking the pictures liked the intense design or not. The time behind the wheel one spends in this coupé is influenced by a lot of things. Immediately noticeable is the 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine. Good for 260 bhp and 315 Nm of torque, this powerplant is sufficient enough for sub six second sprints to 100 kph. Those who want more conviction under the hood will have to choose the M Coupé version. The larger 3.2-liter straight-six that comes with the M ups output to 340 bhp, a delicious 365 Nm torque figure and the ability to break the legal speed limit with much less effort. The sporting quality of this version of the Z4 is reinforced, literally, by the addition of a fixed roof. Chassis stiffness, a quality needed for sharp handling, is really quite absent in the convertible. Fifty-fifty split weight balance adds predictable, almost point and shoot handling of the 1,400-kg coupé’s mass. Additional digital driver aids in braking, stability and traction control are welcome extras in a package that really can be thrown around. It is sad though that we don’t have the roads that give this kind of driving machine justice. Signature BMW ride stiffness, having much to the suspension setting and the choice of run-flat tires, may not appeal to all. Road feel is undeniably present, bumps and imperfections on the road are consistently relayed to the driver. In moments of spirited driving, such feedback is critical but driving lazily around the less than perfect streets of Manila can become a bit tiring.After all that has been said, the BMW Z4 Coupé is really made for moments that the striking design and the respectable dynamics can be used to their fullest. Easily nine out of 10 times that we use a car, we wish we had something a little smaller, a whole lot more fuel efficient and something that just motors on in anonymity. There are those few times that we need cars that can live up to the demands of both traveling and arriving. If only life were a series of everyday out of town parties at country clubs nestled in the mountains, surrounded by ribbons of undulating, twisty tarmac. If that’s what your monthly calendar looks like, then by all means the Z4 Coupé makes a wonderful candidate to add to your personal stable of cars. Those of us have more mundane things to do, well -- we can dream, can’t we?
By Tessa R. Salazar Inquirer BMW'S sports activity vehicle with the "athletic Asian physique" (as we call the X5's mini-me version) sports a new engine, a fresh interior and exterior design as well as some new high-tech stuff. The X3 magic has not yet worn out, as it retains the nimble handling, admirable steering and braking with the touch of that stiff ride. The new X3 2.5Si makes its debut with its in-line six-cylinder engine that features a lightweight composite magnesium/aluminum crankcase. It weighs just 165 kg and features variable Valvetronic valve control. Power The 2.5Siís power can be tapped through a six-speed automatic transmission that features the latest in converter technology and particularly powerful software standard (reduced reaction and gearshift times by up to 50 percent compared to a conventional A/T system, according to experts). For fuel-conscious SAV enthusiasts, try testing the X32.0d that features the four-cylinder power unit with the latest generation common-rail direct injection. The specs indicate that it has a max output of 150 hp, with torque at 330 Nm all the way from 2,000 to 2,500 rpm. The acceleration (according to the manufacturer's specs) is at 10.2 seconds (0 to 100 kph), with a top speed of 198 kph. The 2.5Si, on the other hand registers 218 hp (26 hp more than the previous X3 2.5Si) and peak torque of 250 Nm. Acceleration from 0 to 100 kph is at 8.5 seconds with a top speed rated at 210 kph. Average fuel consumption in the EU cycle is a surprising 10.1 km/liter. Agility The X3 credits its agility to BMW's permanent intelligent xDrive all-wheel-drive system, which feeds the power of the engine quickly and precisely to where it can be used best. Aside from ensuring driving stability and traction, its new DSC or dynamic stability control optimizes the effect of the brakes by increasing brake pressure as required in response to even the slightest touch. The DSC comprises such crucial vehicle systems as the anti-lock brakes, automatic stability control, and the hill descent control. The dynamic brake control also automatically maximizes brake pressure in an emergency when the driver is required to apply the brakes all out.