Monthly Archives: February 2013

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2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i: The Jalopnik Review

No, BMW does not sell a 1-series wagon or hatchback in the United States. Yes, the BMW X1 is actually based on the E91 3-series wagon platform. No, you can’t get it with a manual transmission here. Yes, you can get it with RWD. No, it isn’t really an SUV. Yes, it’s actually enjoyable.

(Full Disclosure: BMW wanted me to drive the X1 so badly they delivered one to me, for a week, with a full tank of gas because I asked them to.)

There are various models and trims we’d like BMW to send our way, but we too often let the absence of what we desire blind us from seeing the good we have in front of us. I think the enthusiast’s dilemma in re crossovers is that many of them are big, plodding, inefficient things that would be better as hatchbacks or wagons.

Crossovers are the licorice jelly bean of the car world. Some people love licorice jelly beans, but they just taste wrong to anyone with taste. I think we paint too broadly with this brush, though. Yes, a BMW X6M is strange, but it’s also fast and ridiculous. Why would we love the Rally Fighter and not the X6M?

I’m not saying we should all run out and buy Venzas. That’s bad-crossover. The X6M is good crossover, and I’d argue the BMW X1 is good crossover, too.

Somewhere between a 1-Series hatch and 3-Series wagon in size, the X1 is a nice balance of sporty, capable, and luxurious. It also feels like a damn German car. That’s what this is. It’s a car. As the wise Mike Magrath pointed out, it’s also probably the last new German car we’ll get with hydraulic steering and a handbrake.

In a week of use I found it right-sized for a young, professional couple��� especially one with a husband who likes to take roads that look more like rally stages and drives too fast around twisty bends.

Is it perfect? No. This is where I bitch that I can’t get one with RWD, a manual, hydraulic steering, and the four-banger. I’d still like to try the RWD version, but the AWD’s steering makes me almost forget that.

Now that we’ve gotten all of my complaints out of the way, you now have permission from on high to stop turning your nose up at the BMW X1. Hell, you could even buy one. We wouldn’t judge.

Exterior: 6/10

BMW likes to make silver cars, which is a shame, because when they do color they do color very well. This model features the $550 Le Mans Blue Metallic. I’m a notorious cheapskate when it comes to cars, even cars that I don’t own, so I’ll be telling you to shy away from many packages later on. The color, though, is definitely worth it.

The rest of the car? There’s a serious tension between the reality of this thing being a car (it’s as close to the road as almost anything else you’ll drive) and them putting an X on the badge. Straight ahead it looks like you’d expect a 1-series hatch to look, with a strong, teutonic nose and that characteristic kidney grille. The hood, in particular, has some appealing details.

In profile it loses some of that style in an effort to butch up. Throw a jean jacket and tattoos on Natalie Portman and she still kind of looks like Natalie Portman. So it is with the X1.

From behind it looks like a BMW hatchback.

Interior: 7/10

I once spent time with a young woman who had the use of her dad’s BMWs. At night the glow of all those bright orange lights spoke to me. They said luxury and performance. Her father was a pilot and the numerous buttons and dials felt like an appropriate choice for an aviator.

He was also one of the scariest motherfuckers I’ve ever met in my life. When he stared you down all the blood in your body would take on the temperature and consistency of a Slurpee. All this from a grown man wearing a Tweety Bird t-shirt.

The BMW 1-series is far more inviting, with a small but thick and grippy steering wheel, "Nevada" colored leather, and everything you need within reach. It’s of the previous era of BMW interiors and thus not quite up to the new 3-series, which has a phenomenal interior, but I have few complaints. Seats are a bit stiff, but they provide enough support when attempting to��experiment��with lateral acceleration. There’s plenty of room upfront and the backseat, while not comfortable for long travel, is fine around town or for children.

Because it’s a "crossover" type thing, the seating is sadly a few inches too high. The average buyer will probably like this.

Acceleration: 7/10

If you want to go really fast you can toss out a lot more money and get the xDrive35i with the massive 3.0-liter six, which will get you to 60 mph in the low five-second range from a dead stop. If you’ve got the money, go nuts. You’ll sacrifice some mileage and only be marginally faster.

I’d still probably go with the xDrive28i, which still manages a time in the low-to-mid sixes. I’m a huge fan of turbo fours and this 2.0-liter is one of the best, pumping out 240 horsepower and a very useful 260 lb-ft of torque that’s available in a fat range from 1250 up to nearly five grand. Thanks to the eight-speed gearbox you’re always where you want to be.

There’s a RWD BMW underneath there somewhere and, even in AWD trim, there’s no crab-walking or other bad acceleration habits when taking off in a straight-line.

Braking: 7/10

The brakes feel good, with enough stopping power to keep the hefty little hatchback (it weighs 3,726 pounds) from throwing itself into an intersection. There’s a lot of grab but not so much you’ll need to visit the chiropractor the next day.

My biggest qualm, though, is with the start-stop system. We’ve gotten to the point where most manufactures have seamless transitions between full stop/engine-off and the engine winding back up. Perhaps it’s my habit of wandering off the brake ��pedal at stops, but I noticed the start-stop working multiple times. If I notice it, that’s bad. You can always turn it off, but I like saving fuel when commuting.

Hey, is that a manual e-brake? Awesome. I’ll miss you.

Ride: 8/10

I did exactly what you’re supposed to do with BMWs, if ads for BMWs are any indication. I drove to a winery with friends, sampled (very little) wine, and tried to avoid the party of super drunk college girls and their mom who, thankfully, showed up in a limo.

While standing around (and before going to something called Porkapoolza, which was amazing) I bought a bottle of my favorite Viognier. As with many wineries, you get glasses to take with you if you do a tasting and I remembered that I needed to replace a friend’s glass from this same winery that I broke earlier this year. For some reason, someone thought it was a good idea to put the stemware in the door pockets and toss the bottle on the floor. They were probably just excited about Porkapalooza.

I tell you all this because, when I got home, I realized the glasses were in the GD door pockets! In most cars, with how I drive, they’d have broken. They didn’t. That’s a good ride. Sure, it’s a little soft, but it’s not bad for a crossover.

Handling: 7/10

If you’re used to driving an over-boosted modern luxury car you’ll probably scoff that turning the BMW requires even the slightest amount of work, sighing that "muscles are for tennis pros and valets."

Sorry, Francis, buying the ultimate driving machine means actually driving, and it’s great to see BMW hasn’t’ abandoned this principle. Sure, it’s too tall, but under most circumstances you’ll never notice. With a near-perfect 51/49 front/rear weight distribution, it’s neutral with almost none of the understeer you find with lots of AWD cars.

Since it’s the X1 I took it for a few passes down my favorite gravel path/rally stage and had trouble getting it out of sorts without using the handbrake. It was fast but not as much fun as I’d hoped, even with nannies off. The RWD version might be more hoonable if you desire to be Bill Caswell.

Gearbox: 7/10

BMW’s eight-speed steptronic is only available on the xDrive28i, but if you’re going to be stuck with an auto you could do far worse. This box is geared with typically Bavarian precision to keep the turbos spinning and ears grinning. Sure, that’s a lot of shifting, but there’s enough space in the first two gears to get you up to highway speeds without having to shift a million times.

Shifts are quick and there’s no unpleasant hunting between gears for fuel economy, especially when in Drive Sport. In manual mode you’ve got the option of swapping cogs the new-old fashioned way or with appropriately placed paddles.

It loses a point because I’m still not used to having to press a "Park" button instead of just shifting it into park. I’m sure someone, somewhere likes this.

Audio: 6/10

It’ll be a constant struggle to convince BMW that, as enthusiasts, we want to hear the car. Not just the sound of the engine pumped into the car. We want to hear the car. I’m not sure if the TwinTurbo four actually sounds like something I’d want to hear, because I scarcely heard it all.

The sound system is fine, easy enough to use, and fills the space that would normally be reserved for engine noise. I mostly listened to Sirius XMU, as per usual, and appreciated that I could see the full song name.

Toys: 7/10

Germans love packages almost as much as they love attaching as many damn letters and numbers to the end of a name. My X1 xDrive3.14159265359 came with the "Ultimate" package which, when paired with the "Lighting" package and "Driver Assistance Package" meant I had a good NAV system with a backup camera, real time traffic info, LED lights everywhere, and easy Bluetooth integration.

That’s all pretty standard for luxury cars (and some economy cars), but subtle details like the LEDs that shine underneath each door handle when you open the car remotely with the fob is a nice touch. BMW’s iDrive is also, finally, usable without an instruction manual.

Value 7/10

The base $32,350 price for this car is a good deal. You’re getting a compact, 3-series hatchback with AWD that performs well, sips fuel, and is faster than the vast majority of crossovers. If I was in the market for something in the 30K range I’d definitely consider this alongside the A3 and would��definitely��spend the extra lettuce and take this over a Subaru Outback.

Where it starts to lose me is with the numerous packages. Like I said, I’d totally pay extra for the paint and maybe even fork over for the heated front seats, but do I not get any lumbar support if I don’t opt for the "Ultimate" package? What about my lumbar? My lumbar has needs.

Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged I4
Power: 240 HP at 5,000 RPM/ 260 LB-FT at 1,250 RPM
Transmission: Eight-Speed Automatic
0-60 Time: 6.3 seconds
Top Speed: 149 mph (properly equipped)
Drivetrain: All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight: 3,726 LBS
Seating: 5ish people
MPG: 22 City/33 Highway/26 Combined
MSRP: $32,350 ($45,995 As Tested)

This Aeropress Coffee Maker Is Your Deal of the Day

The Aeropress is a cult coffee maker that is absolutely adored by its devotees. In fact, there’s an annual international competition to see who can make the best cup of coffee using an Aeropress. (This year it’s in Melbourne, Australia.) Coffee snobs love the Aeropress because it is perfect for experimentation and has a superfast brew and extraction time. Other folks just like it because it’s cheap and simple to use. More »

Judge tells Apple and Samsung to narrow their new patent case

Apple won a $1.05 billion verdict against Samsung last year, and it’s now up on appeal. But at this point, that lawsuit covers the previous generation of phones, like Apple’s iPhone 4 and Samsung’s Galaxy S II. A newer lawsuit over patents, including Apple’s search-related patents, was filed in 2012. That case covers newer phones like the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III. 

That case is being litigated under the oversight of US District Judge Lucy Koh, the same San Jose judge who presided over last summer’s blockbuster trial.

At a hearing yesterday, Koh expressed frustration at both sides’ overbroad accusations against each other in the new lawsuit. She insisted that the warring smartphone giants limit their cases to 25 patent claims each, and no more than 25 allegedly infringing products, according to a Reuters report on the hearing.

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XBMC Is Now Available for Apple TV 2 Running iOS 6.1

XBMC Is Now Available for Apple TV 2 Running iOS 6.1If you’ve been waiting for XBMC media center to finally be available for the latest jailbroken Apple TV 2 running version 5.2 (iOS 6.1), you no longer have to wait. You can now install XBMC with the latest stable update.

XBMC offers instructions on how to do the install on its wiki. You just need to enter a few commands in the command line, reboot, and you’ll have that kickass, open-source media center running on your Apple TV 2. Unfortunately, ATV3 owners, your Apple TV still isn’t supported.

In case you missed it, you can see what’s new in the Frodo 12 release, which this update was built upon, here.

HOW-TO: Install XBMC on Apple TV 2 | XBMC Wiki via XBMC blog

Dell XPS 12 Review: A Jack of All Trades Flipscreen Ultrabook

Dell’s XPS line is for their premium consumer offerings, with some overlap between the consumer and professional users gravitating towards these systems. The XPS 12 Duo carries that “catering to a wider audience” mentality a step further with a flip screen display that allows you to transition between standard notebook and tablet modes.

Unlike some other companies, this is technically a second-generation Ultrabook, but since Dell more or less skipped the first-generation we still expect more from Dell this time around. The XPS 13 Ultrabook looked nice, though we found had some concerns with the temperatures we could hit under stress testing and the resulting noise. Here, Dell has pulled out all the stops and gone with a 12.5” 1080p IPS touchscreen. It’s definitely one of the more interesting designs to come out of late, but just how well does it work in practice?

EA, Ubisoft agree to share downloadable libraries

When it comes to purchasing downloadable PC games, there’s Steam and there’s everyone else. Today, major changes happened in that “everyone else” part of that equation, though probably not large enough shifts to make Valve nervous just yet.

The biggest news is that Ubisoft has opened up its UPlay service (yes, the same one that has encountered so many DRM problems in the past) to third-party publishers for the first time. The service will now also distribute games from companies including Electronic Arts, Warner Bros., Bohemia Interactive, Telltale Games, Robot Entertainment, and many more. The company is celebrating this new expansion by offering a free game download to anyone who purchases a game costing $19.90 or more.

EA, for its part, has accepted Ubisoft games such as Assassin’s Creed III and Farcry 3 onto its Origin service for the first time. This isn’t such a massive event considering EA has been offering third-party games on Origin since late 2011, but it’s still an important expansion for the service.

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Say What Dialer Adds Subject Lines to Your Android Calls

Android: Calls don’t offer subject lines, so we often avoid them because we don’t know what the call is about. Say What intends to solve that problem by telling the person you’re calling the reason why.

Say What replaces your normal dialer but works in a similar way. You pick who you want to call and choose a number. Before dialing, however, Say What will ask you what the call is about. Tell it, and the app will send that message to your friend before the call rings. If your friend has the Say What app, too, their phone will ring with a subject line. If they don’t have the app, however, Say What will send them a text message with the subject line. This isn’t ideal, but it’s not like there’s a reasonable alternative. Say What also only offers a handful of preset messages to send, which might be fine in most cases but takes some time to go through. A custom option would make a big difference. Nevertheless, it’s a good start on improving upon the standard phone call and you can use it for free.

Say What Dialer (Free) | Google Play Apps via Swissmiss

The Ultimate Guide To Hooning: Fiat 500 Abarth

The Fiat 500 Abarth is one of the most hoonable cars on planet Earth. Despite being front-wheel drive, shaped like an Ostrich egg (and measuring about the same size), it oozes character, flamboyance, and drivability. It is, in fact, impossible to drive the little Abarth and not hoon – regardless of what the trip entails: You’ll hoon to the grocery store, hoon to pick up the kids; you’ll probably even hoon to a colonoscopy, such is the intoxicating nature of this mad Italian shoebox. The 500 Abarth is the “everyman’s” hoonmobile, even if you can’t drive for shit.

I know what you’re thinking; how can a Fiat 500 Abarth be better than, say, one of the Toyobaru twins, or a Miata, or even a rambunctious WRX? It’s front-wheel drive, after all, and as we enthusiasts know, that is not the recipe defined in the hooning handbook.

And you have a point, but its validity depends on your skill level. If you are the driving equivalent of Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, hammering a rear-wheel drive machine might not be the smartest call. Front-wheel drive ensures a level of security, crucial for any budding hoonster with hopeless coordination and the vision of a one-eyed pensioner smoking weed.

The purpose of this article is to articulate how best to hoon the Fiat 500 Abarth. I may, if you so desire, revisit this formula for a multitude of vehicles: ranging from less hoonable trucks, SUVs, and, of course, the minivan.

As with any car, you need to understand its habits. Test it in the wild, with care, and with respect. Once you feel at home, then, and only then, should you explore its limits. This is also a good time to note that, while we all love driving like idiots, we should be mindful of where and when we hoon. Our safety, and the safety of others, is of upmost importance.

That being said, when you find a suitable time and place — hoon away. But remember, every car requires a different driving technique. The Abarth, as mentioned, is front-wheel drive and decidedly top-heavy: its gruff bark, nippy turbo, and slippery little tires, provide all the motivation one needs; but to truly hoon in style, you must first understand its limitations.

You’ll want the car in sport mode; in normal, the car floats and feels unstable at speed; with sport mode depressed, the car becomes taught and composed. For the timid driver who simply wants to have fun, leave ESC on. If you consider yourself gangbuster, then hold the button for around ten seconds to fully disengage.

Initially, you will notice is how easily the front-wheels spin under acceleration, and how sizable the turbo lag is. The Abarth responds to revs (ideally over 4,500) but that shouldn’t be a problem, as this loony car twists the arm of even the most sensible drivers, beating them into submission, demanding exuberant motoring.

To be a true hooner, you must embrace the virulent lack of traction. Relish the 1.4-liter turbo’s scowl as it feigns a 458 Italia. Bask in the passion exuded from such a diminutive package.

As with most FWDs, if understeer becomes too prevalent, a simple lift off the gas will provide the needed grip. Be ready, however, as drop throttle oversteer may ensue. In fact, if provoked (especially when wet), the Abarth gets its tail out more readily than John Travolta.

Trailbrake whenever possible: carry the brakes deep into the bend keeping the nose pinned. The car will wallow, due to its high center of gravity, but the key is to transfer load to the outside tires as soon as possible – setting the car early allows a more balanced platform throughout the turn.

Heel-and-toe comes naturally in the Abarth: The 5-speed manual’s throw is long but, ultimately, direct and positive. It really is a potent little car to drive at the limit, and that limit occurs at rather low speeds. You can hoon in style without ever breaking the law, eliminating the risk of rectal examinations from your local inmates.

The Hoonster’s Guide To The Galaxy (I just made that up) states, “When undertaking the art of hooning, one must always perform some hoodlum maneuvers:” Namely donuts, burnouts, and handbrake turns – these, of course, should not be done on the road.

The uneducated hoonster might think a FWD Abarth cannot donut. That assumption is correct; except when it’s wet. When the heavens open, reverse donuts are in order: place the Abarth into reverse (with ESC completely off), drop the hammer, and turn the wheel (keep the wheels turned and the throttle pegged). Now bask in the luscious spoor fashioned from burning rubber.

Want to do normal donuts? Throw some plastic trays under the rear-wheels and have at it. Ultimate hoonage!

Despite the lack of traction, burnouts are challenging; while the Abarth goes like hell for its size, (like with the donuts)160 horsepower isn’t really enough to do the job. A wet surface, therefore, helps mightily, as does a working handbrake. So hit full throttle, drop the clutch, and, rather than move your left foot onto the brake – which will kill the wheel spin – keep the handbrake fully engaged and the gas pedal floored. You might not achieve the smokiest burnouts, but, even in the dry, wondrous elevens and hours of uninhibited amusement will be had.

Handbrake turns, on the other hand, are a doddle. Give the handbrake a yank, turn the wheel, and you are granted a pristine drift – as it’s FWD, the throttle will help undo a slide that goes array, so don’t be afraid to stand on it if you’re in trouble.

The Abarth is the ideal machine for the inexperienced hoonster. It’s fast but not scary, understeers more than oversteers, and empowers rather than intimidates. Hoonage is effortless and, with a little help from Mother Nature, as intoxicating as it gets. If you can’t drive for shit, and yearn to hoon, then I highly recommend the Fiat 500 Abarth. And even if you can drive for shit, you won’t go far wrong with the Abarth either.

Let me know in Kinja if you’d like me to explore the hoonability of other cars. And, as always, hoon safely my friends. 

This Tiny Toy Camera Is Your Deal of the Day

Although there are thousands of ways to add a film look to photos taken with rapidly improving smartphone cameras, they’ll never capture the accidental magic of a photograph taken with film in a toy camera. You might see light leaks or overexposure as errors, but a dedicated toy camera user sees those flukes as character. If you want to make your own happy accidents, you’ll probably get a camera reproduction from the Lomographic Society, which makes both film and reproductions of classic toy cameras. More »

Hands on and Impressions from the HTC One – Formerly M7

HTC is in an interesting position as a result of this last product cycle. While the previous HTC One series’ industrial design and performance was top notch, other OEMs still managed to eclipse the One series in terms of market adoption and consumer perception. Getting back to being a solid performer and cementing a place as at least the dominant number three player in the smartphone space is HTC’s mission for 2013, and the flagship device it’s starting that out with is the device previously known as M7, now known simply as the HTC One.

Read on for our analysis of the new HTC One!