Thursday, January 20, 2011

The End of an Era? 2011 Cadillac DTS Goes Home for a Day

Photo courtesy General Motors Company

This week, I rented a car to drive to Detroit for the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). When I found out that my Hertz rental car reservation was going to be fulfilled with a 2011 Cadillac DTS, I wasn't really sure what to think.

Sure, I had thoughts of retirement homes, golf courses, and drug dealers... but I realized that I hadn't really ever taken the time to consider Cadillac's top-selling, once flagship model for the vehicle that it is. Why?  Because nobody seems to know exactly what type of car the DTS is, or which competitive class it fits into.

Take, for example, a 2001 Car and Driver article entitled "Cadillac DTS vs. Jaguar S-type 4.0, M-B E430, Infiniti Q45, Lexus GS430, Audi A6 4.2 Quattro, BMW 540i." I stumbled upon this article during my intial research of the DTS, and started scratching my head as soon as I finished reading the title.  The outcome of C/D's test is inevitable: the DTS places dead last, and the 540i takes #1.

Now, I don't disagree with C/D's assessment at all; anyone who spends more than five minutes on this blog will realize that I'm a huge fan of BMW. If you told me to buy one of those seven vehicles, I'd buy the 540i without a moment's hesitation. But there's much more to consider here, so read on.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

2011 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) Superlatives

From the overhyped electric toys (Chevy Volt) to the more exciting real vehicles like the Range Rover Evoque or BMW 1-series M coupe, this year's North American International Auto Show is an exciting one to attend.  I wandered around the show on Sunday and there was no shortage of innovative and exciting cars.

While I will be writing more detailed individual blog posts about individual cars from the show later on, I'll award my "NAIAS Superlatives" today...

My apologies for the single photo. I was avoiding the side angle of the Panamera for obvious reasons.

Most Surprising: Porsche Panamera

NAIAS Premiere: 2012 BMW 1-series M Coupe

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of BMW.  I'm actually quite disappointed that they aren't using The Ultimate Driving Machine slogan as heavily, because that phrase is what most accurately describes their cars. As the owner of a 1976 2002, I was extremely excited when BMW released the 1-series... but something was missing. "Where's the M model?" I asked.

Apparently I wasn't the only one wondering, because BMW answered the call for 2012.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

DIY: Clean the fuel sending unit on an e32 BMW

Fast Facts
  • Time Involved: one hour
  • Approximate Cost excluding tools: $5 if you don't have electrical cleaner already
  • Required Tools: Phillips screwdriver, flat screwdriver, 10mm socket & ratchet.
  • Parts Needed: None, unless your sending unit is damaged.
  • Shop Supplies: Electrical contact cleaner.

Edit: This article has become much more popular than I had expected... I've since discovered that this procedure applies to essentially any BMW with an in-tank fuel pump that has a trunk access door (e32, e34, e36, e38, e39, etc. - and the e30, which is essentially the same, but the pump access door is underneath the back seat.)

Earlier this week, I pulled into the gas station and filled up the 750iL - obviously a habit that's difficult to avoid with a V12-powered car.

Everything went as planned; it seemed like the gas tank got heavier and my wallet got a little lighter... Until I started the car and the gauge remained stuck at 1/4! I panicked, wondering if maybe the gas station pump malfunctioned and didn't actually dispense any fuel. But my wishful thinking was flawed- the gas gauge in my e32 was hopelessly stuck.

Quick research reveals that this is a common problem with e32's, and perhaps e34 models as well because they use a very similar sending unit. Here's what to do if your gas gauge sticks:

Another edit: Several months after writing this, the fuel gauge on my 1988 Saab exhibited similar symptoms. I didn't have time was too lazy to take it apart, so I did a little experiment and poured a bottle of Techron just before filling with fresh 93-octane gas. After just a few miles of driving, the gauge fixed itself, and it's worked ever since. It's definitely worth a try. Even if it doesn't fix your gauge, it'll still clean the rest of your fuel system, which is never a bad idea.

If Techron doesn't fix the gauge:

Open the trunk and empty all your stuff out. Pull up the carpet and the foam padding below. (neither is fastened down at all) Set them aside so they don't get soaked in fuel. You'll see this plate:

 Remove the seven screws (power tools make this quick) and pull the plate up.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Project/Flip: 1988 BMW 750iL

I've had a fascination with the BMW 7-series for as long as I could comprehend what a BMW was. My parents' realtor had a 740iL with the Nikasil V8 engine. Even though the car had a boatload of mileage and wasn't within warranty, BMW replaced the engine with a brand new Alusil block. The car was awesome, even with 200,000 miles. "I'd take that old BMW over a new Honda any day," I remember thinking. (Speaking of all this, I should get back in contact with that realtor!)

The 7-series is definitely the epitome of a "land yacht," with features that some people don't even realize are available in a car like heated rear seats, power sunshades.... and the rare but legendary 750iL, which featured a 5 liter V12 engine that produced 300hp and nearly 400 lb-ft of torque that could push the boat to 185mph, if you removed the 155mph electronic limiter.

In the back of my mind, I had always planned on buying a 7 someday. I've bid on a few at auctions and test drove a cosmetically challenged 740iL, but never imagined that a 750iL would come my way.

I was wrong.