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New BMW 6-series takes dictation, shows virtual gauges

The tech arms race between BMW and Audi is yielding some amazing cars, such as the Audi S7 we recently reviewed. BMW fights back with its newly announced 2014 6-series, featuring revised cabin electronics that will not only take dictation and send out e-mails for the driver, but also debuts a new digital instrument cluster.

BMW touted the new voice-recognition system for the 6-series in a press release today, noting its simplified voice commands and control over most cabin tech features. The new system will let drivers activate a dictation mode, having the car transcribe e-mails and text messages. The … Read more

I want my Google search, on the road

Traffic data, fuel prices, weather, and even streaming music make for great connected car features, but Internet-based local search has gotten surprisingly short shrift from automakers.

In my opinion, local search is the killer feature you probably don't have.

Whether from Google, Bing, or another search engine, Internet-based local search integrated with a car's navigation system can help you find everything from hamburgers to hair salons.

Only a few automakers offer local search. When I recently reviewed a BMW 750Li, I found Google search among its BMW Online services. Audi also offers Google integrated with the navigation system … Read more

Faux SUVs: Five all-wheel-drive crossovers

The popularity of truck-based SUVs slumped when gas prices first spiked last decade, and never recovered. Filling their places in America's driveways came a new legion of vehicles offering similar practicality, but smaller and more economical. Termed crossovers, these vehicles come with independent suspensions for a more comfortable ride and better handling. And although they may not be as rugged as their predecessors, the five here feature all-wheel drive for extra grip when the going gets slippery. … Read more

CNET on Cars 12: BMW 750Li vs. Lexus LS 460

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An embarrassment of riches this time as the 2013 BMW 750Li and Lexus LS 460 hit our garage on the same day. Some assignments are just more comfortable than others! But while both cars are luxurious, one felt much readier to cut it up on the road to my hands, and you might be surprised which.

A great Car Tech 101 in this episode, explaining the rather tricky relationship between horsepower and torque. We're conditioned to think about horsepower, but … Read more

Connected features abound in the 2013 BMW 750Li

The 2013 BMW 750Li may seem like the perfect luxury car, but it did not organize my financial portfolio for me. Nor did it shine my shoes. It did not even bother to buy me a winning lottery ticket. But those are about the only services it failed to perform.

The 750Li overwhelmed me with everything it did offer, from driving modes to connected features. It delivered on BMW's reputation for excellent handling and served as a superbly comfortable freeway cruiser. It abounds with tech from stem to stern, improving its fuel economy and entertaining the driver's every … Read more

BMW taps Apple's Genius model to educate customers

BMW is taking a page out of Apple's book with a Genius-like program, according to a report.

The car maker told Advertising Age in a story published today that it's planning to launch its BMW Genius Everywhere program nationwide next year that will aim at educating customers without actually trying to sell them vehicles. The "geniuses" will be young -- possibly college students -- who will be armed with iPads. They'll be able to answer questions about vehicles on the showroom floor.

According to BMW, which was inspired by Apple's Genius services, the program … Read more

Ford, Mercedes-Benz, and Nissan target 2017 for fuel cell vehicles

It must be a new season of sharing as major automakers sign agreements to co-develop fuel cell technology. Last week Toyota and BMW said they would work together on a fuel cell system, while today Ford, Daimler, and Renault-Nissan announced they would pool research into fuel cell technology. In their joint press release, Ford, Daimler, and Renault-Nissan said they would produce fuel cell vehicles in 2017.

All of these companies have been working on the technology, and some have demonstrated prototype vehicles. Mercedes-Benz, part of Daimler, has been testing multiple generations of its F-Cell fuel cell vehicle, and currently runs … Read more

BMW cars to get LTE Wi-Fi

Audi and Ford include WiFi hotspots in some of their models, but BMW maintains its high-performance reputation by offering an accessory for WiFi at LTE data speeds, the first time a car has boasted this type of connectivity.

BMW's LTE adapter snaps into any BMW equipped with a phone cradle dock in the console. Passengers will be able to connect their personal electronics, such as phones and tablets, to the WiFi hotspot and get data at LTE speeds. However, this adapter does not offer any data connection to a car's own dashboard infotainment electronics.

The adapter includes an … Read more

2012 Car Tech Awards: And the winner is...

CNET Tech Car of the Year for 2012

2012 Tesla Model S Our choice for CNET Tech Car of the Year goes to the 2012 Tesla Model S, a car that shows superb technology throughout while also challenging our conceptions of how a car should work. Most people know the Model S for its electric drivetrain, which not only gives it tremendous acceleration, but also the best range among current production electric cars. Compared with an internal combustion engine, the Tesla's electric motor delivers magnitudes of better energy efficiency. The EPA estimates the cost of electricity for a year of driving at $700, about 25 percent of the cost for gasoline in an equivalent luxury sedan.

Beyond its efficiency, the Model S modernizes the whole idea of a car's cabin. Tesla streamlined the entire process of getting into the car and setting off, taking out steps that have become anachronistic. A big touch screen handles all in-cabin functions, eliminating the need for an array of buttons across the dashboard. A 3G data connection feeds the infotainment functions, providing maps, destination search, and music, similar to what we have become used to with our personal electronics.

The Model S went up against the Audi S5, BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Ford Focus Electric, and Toyota Prius C, a formidable field nominated for technical excellence in drivetrain and cabin. The BMW proved popular with our jury, and we liked how the Focus Electric drove, but the Model S trumped the others with its innovative approach and capabilities.

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CNET announces nominees for 2012 Tech Car of the Year

As 2012 rolls to a close, we look back at the cars we've reviewed over the last year to see which rise to the level of Tech Car of the Year. Numerous feasible electric cars launched this year, and two made our nominees list. Audi and BMW continued their slugfest in cabin, driver assistance, and performance tech, and we picked representative sample models from each. Also slipping in is the new Toyota Prius C hatchback, showing off Toyota's venerable hybrid drivetrain and its latest app integration.

Please let us know which car you think should be the 2012 Tech Car of the Year in our poll, and discuss it in the comments. Our CNET jury will place their votes, and we will announce the winner on December 19. … Read more