The M550i certainly is fast enough to have earned its M badge, but it struggles to deliver the remainder of a sports-sedan experience, with little of the dynamic connection that buyers might legitimately expect to find in even a basic 5-series. The electrically assisted steering is the prime culprit here. It’s accurate and yields prompt responses from the front end, but with none of the feedback that—until recently—came standard on any BMW. The helm is very light in the Comfort mode, with Sport and Sport+ adding weight but no more sensation. Grip levels are high (the 0.94 g it posted on our skidpad is entirely respectable), but the M550i’s handling balance feels front-heavy, with a surprising amount of understeer in tighter turns and little evidence of the rear-biased xDrive system. Physics certainly aren’t on its side; the 4414-pound curb weight makes it 243 pounds heavier than the 540i xDrive we tested, with the majority of that difference coming from the big V-8 out front.
n The M4 shares its interior with the decidedly less racy and far less expensive 4-series two-doors and the 3-series four-door sedan. That means good build quality but a relatively uninspired design that looks particularly dour in all black. Luckily, BMW offers three two-tone interior options—Sonoma Beige, Silverstone, and Sakhir Orange—to spice things up a bit. The rear seat is less spacious than the sedan but can still fit two adults in a pinch; the trunk space is generous for a coupe and fits four carry-on suitcases. The M4’s sport seats are supportive and comfortable, and the driving position is perfect for spirited motoring. All M4 models come with BMW’s iDrive infotainment system, a Harman/Kardon audio system, and several driver-assistance features including automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection; automatic high-beam headlamps, a head-up display, a 360-degree exterior camera system, and a self-parking feature are also available as part of the optional Executive package. n
Compared to similarly equipped V6 competition like the 2016 Ford Edge ($42,000) or 2016 Nissan Murano ($38,995), the Toyota is competitively priced. You can pay as much as $41,005 for a top-of-the-line Venza V6 AWD Limited, but our XLE tester offered a lot of value. Standard Venza XLE highlights include navigation system, power rear hatch and a massive panoramic sunroof. The so-called Redwood Edition tester is a new version of the XLE for 2016, with the same $38,505 base price plus what Toyota says are some “unique redwood tones and distinctive leather seats” that jazz up an already roomy and practical cabin.
Last year’s Car of the Year winner was Volkswagen’s Passat, but the company is expected to keep a low profile this year after the scandal that followed revelations its diesel engine cars were secretly outfitted with devices to cheat US emissions tests.
But there was a Club GT meet brewing up around the premise too. In 2008 21 st February, a group of around 10 young car enthusiasts gathered up and started a club that just grew over the years. Eight years later, the club has so many members that it’s difficult to fit them in one photo frame. Sports cars from all range kept pouring in all evening. A range of Toyotas from lightweight 4A-GE AEs to turbo MR2s filled up the place. There were quite a few examples of brilliant 2ZZ-GE conversions too. A couple of Hondas had to be there including a Civic Type R missile. A one of Mitsu Lancer GSR with a 4G93T mad built came by too, which we are going to feature soon. The recently completed Nissan Skyline R32 GTS-T with RB20DET that we featured earlier this month dropped by too. And of course, the ones who have Chasers or Mark IIs, dropped by with those to flaunt.