hi-fi

BMW hybrid takes car tech to new levels

BMW established its 7-series as a tech powerhouse, so adding a hybrid system is like sprinkling a little extra crazy on top of Charlie Sheen. The 7-series already features a strong array of driver assistance features, such as a night vision system, a navigation system with lush topographic maps, and an audio system that produces superb sound and includes onboard music storage on the car's hard drive.

But with the ActiveHybrid 7, BMW also demonstrates that it can do a gas electric hybrid powertrain. Although the car gets the best fuel economy of the 7-series model line, it is hardly a fuel sipper. Rather, the hybrid powertrain makes it the second most powerful of BMW's 7-series models, right below the V-12 760i. More power and better fuel economy? That seems like a worthwhile addition.

Read our full review of the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7.Read more

Jaguar's new big cat embodies sport, luxury

Since Jaguar changed ownership from Ford to Tata, the company might be forgiven some time spent finding focus, but the new XJ Supersport shows that the company hasn't missed a stride. This car, while showing off a new era of Jaguar design, embodies all we would expect from a sport/luxury sedan. A supercharged V-8 gives it immense power, while road-holding technologies give it good cornering capability.

Cutting-edge tech includes a virtual instrument cluster, providing excellent display flexibility but unfortunate graphics. The stereo is the real luxury element here, a system designed by Bowers and Wilkins with 20 speakers … Read more

BMW's most actualized 7-series

BMW 7-series models often don't live up to their potential. They sit in traffic with 8- and even 12-cylinder engines idling away, never approaching their full horsepower. Even when their owners take them out on highways, the tachometer rarely gets even halfway toward the redline. But the new 740i is a BMW you can really drive.

Sure, it only has a six-cylinder engine. But this engine has twin turbos, and is an updated version of what had previously been used in the 335i. It only produces 326 horsepower, which may sound low for a big sedan. But in 99 … Read more

Does anybody really listen to music anymore?

Music is all around us, it's just that very few people actually listen to it. Sure, you have music in your car, iPod, or computer, but is the music just a soundtrack to other activities? If music, a la carte, can't hold your attention from time to time you're definitely not an audiophile. Worse yet, you're missing a lot.

Think about it: the people who made the music sweated the details, agonized over the sound, the mix, and the performance for weeks or months. The composer tweaked the work to the nth degree, and still, very, … Read more

Onkyo 'rediscovers' stereo components

Onkyo may be best-known for its receivers and home theater-in-a-box systems, but the company planted deep roots in audiophile-grade hi-fi in the 1970s. As I recall, Onkyo had more street cred among audiophiles than Sony or Pioneer in the days before home theater ruled the roost.

Today at CES in Las Vegas Onkyo will debut a new range of elite stereo hi-fi components, with a style reminiscent of the company's classic models of the 1980s. All three components--the P-3000R preamplifier, M-5000R power amplifier, and C-7000R CD player--incorporate Onkyo's new Dynamic Intermodulation Distortion Reduction Circuitry (DIDRC), that is said … Read more

Volvo S60 adds performance to safety

Volvo earned its safety reputation by equipping its cars with heavy metal, making them big, boxy tanks able to protect occupants from a nuclear blast. But it's the 21st century, and Volvo has gone high-tech, using electronics to actually prevent accidents. Hence the automatic braking, collision warning, and pedestrian detection on the new Volvo S60.

But this car has more to offer than just not hitting people and other cars. Its engine makes it step lively, while a tight suspension and all-wheel drive deliver impressive handling. It is the kind of car that should have BMW engineers looking over … Read more

Honda's fun little hybrid

With its historical association to the CR-X, Honda's CR-Z elicited much enthusiasm from the tuner crowd, a group that doesn't generally favor hybrids. But the CR-Z is far from a typical hybrid, most of which are suburban commute cars with no attempt at sport looks or handling. But it also shows little advantage from its hybrid engine, never a strong point from Honda.

Ultimately, the CR-Z is a mixed bag. It handles very well, but the engine generates little power, and it takes a while to hit 60 mph. It employs a hybrid system and can turn off … Read more

Mercedes-Benz CL550 a monster of tech

Mercedes-Benz does not shy away from tech for its top-tier cars; these vehicles have every new electronic feature the company can conceive. For the CL550, that means adaptive cruise control that can bring the car to a complete stop when traffic ahead halts, a split-view front LCD letting the passenger watch a movie while the driver views the navigation system, and night vision, which uses infrared projectors and a camera to show the driver the road on dark nights.

Although we've seen some of these features before in other Mercedes-Benz cars, the CL550 also debuts a new engine, a … Read more

Lexus gives IS 350 strategic 2011 update

With stylish good looks, a powerful engine, and sharp handling, the Lexus IS 350 makes for a fun driver's car. Luxury appointments in the cabin also make it a comfortable place to sit. The Mark Levinson audio system is a treat to the ears, but the rest of the cabin tech pushes no boundaries. And we found poor performance from the iPod integration.

For the 2011 model year, Lexus made some strategic updates, the biggest of which is the now available all-wheel drive. LED parking lights were a necessary addition, given the competition. And Lexus' new Enform telematics system … Read more

Lincoln MKZ Hybrid follows Ford Fusion Hybrid's tracks

In some ways, the 2011 MKZ Hybrid is old news. As a badge-engineered version of the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, we've seen its power train before. Cabin tech is also mostly the same, although the Lincoln benefits from an audiophile-level THX audio system.

But what was excellent last year remains excellent. Comparable midsize sedans come nowhere close to the fuel economy of the MKZ Hybrid. Sync, Sirius Travel Link, and Lincoln's navigation system are all first rate technologies. And we cannot emphasize enough the pleasure afforded by the THX audio system.

Check out our 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid review. … Read more