This isn’t a full on review, I just took possession of the car last Saturday (and I owed my wife some time off) so I haven’t really been able to play too much with it. I will keep this to my immediate impressions.
Will it baby? Hell yes it will. There is plenty of space in the back, kids seat goes in without drama, a ton of air bags and a 5 star safety rating. What does the kid think about the car? My kid is a bit of a gear head, your results may vary, but he’s commentary is “Let’s sell Mommy’s car and take the BMW every day, ok?” Yea, he likes it. He likes it when I rapidly accelerate to a safe speed. He will be the reason I get my first speeding ticket in like 15 years.
What is it like to sit in? Overall the car is awesome (yes, I am biased). The car is 8 years old, but looks as good as any new car coming off the lot. Nothing seems dated. Riding down the road it is substantially quieter than my truck and my wife’s Venza. The sound system is rich and balanced and has a ton of options: HD Radio, CD, CD Changer, MP3 CDs, External jack, Bluetooth, and Sirius… you should be able to find something to listen to while cruising down the road. The seats are heated and cooled, and then can be adjusted in every way you could possibly need. Then they have this “active bolster” feature. I’m mixed on this. When in sport mode, the bolsters will auto-magically adjust to support you going through a corner. As helpful as this may be, it is equally alarming and distracting. The materials and fit and finish are what you would expect from a premium luxury car, which is to say they are great.
Most of the controls for the radio, navigation, car features, and climate controls are buried in iDrive. Ok, so iDrive isn’t the best to use, but I think it gets a bad rep when it isn’t deserved. To me, iDrive is a setup tool. You are not meant to be constantly using it. You set it up to your preferences, it stores all that on your key and then you use the controls on the steering wheel to interact with everything. Could it be better? Yes, for sure. Is it terrible? Only if you are trying to customize or do detailed things while driving.
I’m really enjoying the HUD as well. I like not having to look down at the gauges. I have a couple minor things (I was going to say annoyances, but these are really my issues not the car) with the HUD. First, I’ve decided I like “M Mode” the best. It gives me a tach and speed and is the most useful. I would like to customize it though. Frankly, I would be fine if all the important information was displayed on the HUD and the standard gauges were just eliminated. That brings me to point 2 on the HUD. I’ve noticed at times that the HUD seems really dim and hard to see… which was really frustrating… until I realized that it was my polarized sunglasses causing the problem. Now I need new sunglasses.
How fast is it? Umm… it is really fast. Like really, really fast. It is a big, heavy car; but it neither feels big nor heavy. Most of the time you drive around with a paltry 400 horsepower, and for the driving I’ve done so far that is still fast. If you are following a slow car and they finally move over, or turn you have to pause a second before punching the gas. It’s not because the car isn’t ready, it’s because you have to give the cars coming the other direction that might be planning to make a turn in front of you a chance to get out of the way. Then you decide to push the button marked “M” on the steering wheel. Everything changes. There is an immediate and noticeable growl that comes from the engine. The suspension and traction control all switch into go-mode. In 2nd gear the acceleration is brutal and the change to 3rd is violent. As you go up in speed, the engine just has a never-ending pull. You feel like it doesn’t matter what gear you are in, this car will pull to the redline. They say if you remove the limiter it will go up to 205mph… I believe them, and honestly I believe it would go higher if it had another gear.
SMG, what’s that? I went with the SMG because my wife can’t drive a stick. The SMG means that in a pinch she can drive the car without too much drama. The SMG is interesting. It is important to note that this, while having paddles, is a MANUAL gearbox… and it drives like one. It isn’t an F1 dual clutch automatic that shifts gears in milliseconds; it’s a manual that performs the clutch and shift actions for you. At the fastest, the changes are just under a second. The other thing about the SMG is that you have to drive it like a manual gear box. In practical terms what that means is letting off the gas when you shift makes for a smoother ride for your passengers. If you are sitting on a hill, when you let off the brake (after a 1 second hold) the car will roll backwards; and hill starts can be a bit choppy. Coasting is a challenge. Since you don’t have access to a clutch pedal if you let off the gas, you are effectively engine braking the car. In higher gears it isn’t a big deal, but it is noticeable in 2nd. The SMG features an automatic mode, I’ve only used it once. It was fine, similar to the legendary Ford AOD transmissions. The wife drove it twice without supervision and didn’t complain, so I’ll rate that at “good enough”.
Umm… what else?
TL;DR… I really like the car, and it’s super fast.