The Drive

Driving, and the things we love to drive.

-The Drive-Well, I have to be honest I never intended to wait this long before I posted an update. However, since things are going slowly I am going to fill everyone in on what happened to my car purchasing decision.

For those who followed what I was doing, I wanted to buy a German automobile to replace my much loved 2001 BMW 330i. I knew already by that point that I wanted to get another German car after my experiences with that wonderful vehicle, and I was pretty sure I was going to avail myself of European Delivery, which is a rather fantastic perk of buying a European automobile where you can save some money on the car, and get to drive it around Europe for a couple of weeks.

So as evidenced by my test drives I was narrowing the field down a bit and trying out a few different cars. So what happened next? Read on to find out.

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BMW ->

So for those following the story so far; I’ve driven a number of cars in my search for that perfect German automobile to replace my BMW 330i. My needs have been pretty specific; I wanted a powerful, fun to drive car that was in the compact or mid-size segment, though I didn’t really care much if it was a sedan or a coupe. At first, sedan was the only thing I looked at, but I have taken a look at coupes as life changes have meant I am rarely likely to use a back seat. Now that I’m reaching the end of my search and getting ready to actually buy, there are still a few interesting cars to look at including BMW’s latest foray into the larger compact coupe market; the BMW 335is.

This new model slots neatly in between the very capable 335i and the “track monster” M3, both in performance and price. At a roughly 6% premium over the 335i, one may wonder what you get for your hard earned cash. Well, basically you get the same recently redesigned 3-series coupe though many of the updated design cues are swamped by the standard M-Sport appearance kit, which gives the coupe some of the appearance of the M3 just the plastic parts though. Still, the current generation of 3-series coupe is an extremely handsome vehicle that has a somewhat timeless exterior. Though it remains to be seen how well it ages, it is still one of the nicer cars on the road today and has a subtlety to the design that seems lost in many of its Japanese competitors. While those same Japanese cars seem to be trying harder and harder each year to yell “Look at me!”, the 3-series like most BMW’s tends to just smile and say “Yeah, I know you’ll be back.”
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BMW ->So you’ve already driven the 335i and been impressed. You love the styling, love the engine and think you’re ready to plonk down your cash on a shiny new twin-turbocharged six-cylinder monster. But there’s something nagging at the back of your mind; something about that 335i not feeling like 10 years of evolution from your existing 330i, that perhaps there’s something better. Something more. Something… M.

M is a letter of the alphabet that has become synonymous with the truly ultimate driving machines. While BMW has always built all of their cars to drive like nothing else on Earth, there has almost always been that next level up for those who aren’t afraid to spend a few extra dollars and put themselves behind the wheel of a true drivers car. One that can chow down superslab all week long without complaint, and then celebrate the weekend in an haze of smoky tires and breathtaking corners. I am of course talking about BMW’s M3.

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-The Drive-A recent discussion on Bimmerfest centered around the future of the manual transmission. I thought I would add my input to the discussion, and here is a slightly modified version of what I posted.

Honestly, the future of manual transmissions is far from assured, even in enthusiast vehicles like the BMW’s. Basically, it comes down to the fact that it’s getting harder and harder to engineer a clutch that’ll hold up to the load a modern engine will put on it while still being reasonably easy to actuate with ones foot.

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Welcome back. My search for a new vehicle bought me back to the BMW dealership yesterday, though this time I found myself looking at a 2010 BMW 335i M-Sport Coupe.

Why the coupe, you may ask? Well, as I analyzed my needs recently, I realized that a sedan was overkill for me. The occurrences when I have 3 or more people in the car make up less than 10% of my driving on average. So why have those back doors, again? To me the lines of the coupe are far nicer than the sedan, though I will not say the sedan is in any way ugly. Add to that the new facelift that the coupe is going to get for 2011 that I find really appealing (this link ought to show you plenty of pictures of the new facelift coupe), not to mention the addition of the 335iS to the lineup which I will explore in another article… yeah, the coupe might be a good fit for me at this point in my life.

White M-Sport Coupe, from http://vwong.net

So for my test drive yesterday, we have the 2010 M-Sport Coupe. The one shown to the left is very similar… the only difference was the interior which was saddle brown. Picture from http://vwong.net and all copyrights remain therein.

So a day out at Autohaus BMW in St. Louis was in order… it was a nice day with temperatures in the 50′s Fahrenheit, the sky blue and the ground dry. You really couldn’t ask for better weather to test drive a car, or really see what it’s capable of. I took two people with me; my son who is 9 and my girlfriend. She is as much of a car geek as I am, and has been a passenger on both of the previous test drives I have posted to this site. For my son, it was his first test drive with me at the wheel.

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So in my search for a new car, I am looking now at a BMW 335i.

So for those who have lived under a rock for about the last 30 years, what is the 335i? Well, it’s an evolution on BMW’s 3 series, which is a car that can trace its lineage all the way back to the BMW 2002 and has been widely regarded as one of the best driving cars in the world. I have to admit I’m a little biased since I have a penchant for BMW’s, and the 3 series I think has been one of those cars that I would have pinned up in my bedroom when I was a kid except that I wasn’t into cars when I was young; that fascination came much later in life for me.

My passion for the 3-series was ignited back in about 1997 when I first got a chance to drive an 1996 328i (internally known as an E36) owned by a then-friend (who I have now unfortunately lost touch with). It was an automatic, and even then I was much more interested in cars where you row your own gears. However, despite that just sitting behind the wheel and powering it gently into a corner I felt that almost telepathic connection with the front tires as they traced the slight ripples of the road and let me know that I was nowhere near driving the car at its limits. It was that sense of absolute connection, absolute control and the sense that the car was literally an extension of my own body that hooked me. It felt refined, yet it had the raw feeling of being a true sports or enthusiast car. It went where I told it, it never argued… and that engine just sang to me.

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So I’m shopping for a new car. I have narrowed it down a while back to the 335i, a Mercedes Benz C-350 or an Audi S4. All of them are roughly in the same price range, but there’s quite a “power gap” between the least and most powerful. Of course, the 335i slots neatly into the middle of this trifecta. I have driven the MB and the 335i, but the 335i was not equipped the way I wanted it; no iDrive, automatic transmission and so on so the comparison may not be totally fair. Yet. The MB I pretty much eliminated immediately because it didn’t feel like a $50K car. In fact, the interior of the MB felt like a Camry to me, despite some nice touches. It drove nice, but it definitely wasn’t me. It’s also not available with a stick… and though for the right car I’d drive an auto happily (the 335d springs to mind), in the Mercedes I just felt it was at odds with the car’s mission and mine.

I have not really written up my impressions of the 335i yet because I’m waiting to drive a stick… and it’ll belater thisyear before I buy because I want to do a European Delivery and would rather do thatin thesummer!

OK, so lastrecently I decided to go out and test drive an Audi S4. I have looked at the specs, and it is a damned impressive car on-paper. The Audi is of course a gorgeous car, and while I DO like the current 3-series since the sedan facelift (I’m looking at sedans, by the way) I still sometimes look at them on the street and feel that they’re a little overstyled. I still love the look of my E46 330i; I think the look of the E36 and E46′s were timeless and beautiful… the E9x? Hmm… well, I DO like it, but not the way I like my aging 2001 330i. I also find the styling of the Audi S4 to be minimalist and beautiful… smooth without being bland. The LED’s on the lights I can take or leave, but there’s no denying that it is striking. BMW’s stylists could learn a thing or two from Audi in style, if nowhere else. continue reading…

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