Sunset GT 6-11-2017

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With a flurry of car shows out there, how does one pick which on to go to? Well, we decided that since it was pretty conveniently located…and a new show…and that there would be a Bugatti Chiron and a Lamborghini Huracan Performante featured…we decided we’d go check out Sunset GT, which is hosted O’Gara Coach.

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We could sit her and talk about how it was a fantastic showing of cars old and new, and the atmosphere was full of fun, excitement, and car joy. Or we can show you some awesome photos and tell you to mark your calendars for the next one.

 

Cheers,

-JB

BMW ///Master Class: M2 vs M3 vs M4 vs X6 M vs i8

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We had a very exciting start to our week, as Valencia BMW, Center BMW and Pacific BMW were kind enough to host us at  BMW M drive event and dine event. The idea was to drive the new M and Alpina range and then enjoy a celebrity chef tasting afterward. We can tell that this story has wet your appetite, so let’s dive into it. For us, we wanted to see how the M cars all stacked against each other, so with Santa Anita Raceway to play around, we did just that.

The i8

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We’ve driven the i8 before, so we where very familiar with it going in. However, it was interesting to see how it compares when directly pitted against other M cars. The i8 is set up a bit differently and feels very different as well. It feels much more futuristic yet somehow still familiar. As we noted the entire car is all about gimmicks…the doors go up to be dramatic, the dash lights up red when put into sport mode, and the was the car feels in motion is a little over the top. But that’s part of the appeal and what makes this car work…it’s a bunch of things that individually seem like gimmicks, but added up they all work together to create a fun and unique driving experience.

It’s a hard trick to pull off and many other car makers fail at this, but BMW does a brilliant job of hitting the mark. Stacked against the other M cars the i8 is a different machine all together: It doesn’t really fit in. It’s more of it’s own flavor and spin on what a car is, so it’s not better or worse, it’s just different. That might be a middle of the road answer, but you’ll have to take it for what it is. If you want proper, old-school M fun, then you’ll want to stick with an M car. If you want a unique and refined driving experience on the other hand, the i8 is not a bad way to go.

The M3 Competition Package

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What can we say that hasn’t been said before? The M3 is a benchmark for performance cars and there’s a good reason for it: It does everything that well. Can you take it for a grocery store run? Check. Can you tack it for a hardcore track day? Double check. Can you comfortably transport your buddies on a night out? Triple check. The M3 is fast, powerful and feels properly dialed in like the M cars of old. With the competition package everything has a little extra boost. There’s a little bump in horsepower and torque, the steering a bit sharper and there’s some bits of extra carbonfiber goodness as well.

While some people have issues with the turbo-charged engine, we found it sublime as the performance exhaust gives a deep, burbling roar as we pushed the car through its paces. There was no turbo lag and the car feels balanced and direct: You point it one way and the car goes that way. Admittedly, we’re not the biggest fans of the dual-clutch transmission paired with paddles. We think that with a manual, the M3 would feel truly special, but we will admit that the DSG is light-years ahead of the old SMG transmission. All in all the M3 is a proper M car and great modern successor in a legendary lineage of M cars.

The M4 Competition Package

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You know everything we said about the M3? Well repeat that except for now it’s on an M3 that looks a little sexier and sleeker with two doors. We love the M4, and with the competition package we love it even more. One of the things we’ve heard is that BMW M has last it’s edge as other cars in the category are giving them legitimate runs for their money. What we see is that M cars are actually still M cars, they are dialed in racing machines you can use every day on the street, but when they first came on the scene no one else was doing anything near their level. However, as time has progressed and we’ve reached the modern era, everyone has stepped  their game so the field is now more packed than before. so this doesn’t means that M cars have somehow gotten worse, it means that everyone else has gotten better and reached the near M level, so the question is how do the M cars stand higher than the rest of field like they used to? We don’t know that answer, but we do know that modern M cars still have the same DNA as their predecessors.

Getting back o the M4, it’s everything the M3 is minus two doors, so if you like the sleek look of a coupe, this is the car for you. We’ll state it again for the record, we think that with a manual transmission the M4 would feel even more special, but we’re not going to complain about powering around with the DSG. All in all the M4 is the same winning formula as the M3 just in a slightly sexier package.

The M2

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The M2 is a car we’ve been waiting to drive for a while now because we’re intrigued by the idea…a smaller, lighter version of the current M3 & M4 would make for a really fun car. We’re a bit annoyed by the marketing, as the folks at BMW are trying to convince us that this is the “real” M car, much like when they had the 1 Series M launched against the E92 M3. But we got to examine and drive the M2 and we must say, we were a bit perplexed.

The M2 is sold as the “smaller and lighter” car but looking at it right next to an M4, the M2 is not that much smaller and it only weighs roughly 80 pounds less (with no options) so it’s not that much lighter either. The dimensions are a little odd on the car too, and one thing we take issue with is that the signature M engine outlets on the side fender that started with the E46 M3 or the M2 are actually fake and non-functional. This upsets us since the mantra of M cars has been form is function, so an M car with non-functional bits is a violation of that philosophy. Driving the M2 was a disappointment because the car still feels soft and not as hard-dailed in as the M3 and M4. It really feels like a slightly more powerful version of the M235i. And that’s what disappoints us: When you drive a regular 3 or 4 series and then you drive and M3 or and M4, the M car feels very different and very maximized. When you drive a 2 Series, then an M235i and then the M2, they all feel too closely similar. On it’s own the M2 is a fun and a bit playful, but when stacked directly against it’s bigger brothers the M3 and M4, it becomes clear that the M2 is a training car to get you ready for the properly dialed in ones. the M2 is a car that we’re told is one thing when in reality it’s something else: It’s not a hardcore, dialed in M car of old. It’s a soft, playful modern car that speaks to a different segment of drivers.

The X6M

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The X6M can be summed up in one word: Why? Why does this car exist? The answer: Why not? Why does this car have 580 horsepower and enough torque to rip the skin off your face? Why shouldn’t it? The X6M is the sleeper hit of the day, because it is literally a stupid amount of fun. When we were driving it we could not help but smile and laugh, because the car sits so high up, it’s cozy and comfortable, yet it drives like a bull at full charge and shockingly handles like a dialed in sports car. The whole experience is so absurd because your brain knows this shouldn’t be, and yet it is.

The X6M offer an master class in ridiculousness because it’s a usable sport activity vehicle (whatever that means), but it’s also a hardcore driving machine. The M3 and M4 are much more serious cars for serious drivers, the i8 in it’s own eco-future dimension and the M2 is a soft trainer car, but the X6M is just a barrel of jolly monkeys strapped to  rocket. There’s n way to fully describe one wit words, it’s just something you have to drive and experience for yourself. Well done BMW, the joke is on us this time and we love you for it.

 

 

 

After the drives we enjoyed a some refreshments and three-course tasting menus provided by a few celerity chefs. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, and we want to again thank Center BMW, Valencia BMW, and Pacific BMW for hosting us.

Final Verdicts

i8 – It’s gimmicky, but all the gimmicks work which makes it cool. It’s fun to drive and looks really awesome, so it’s a winner in our book.

M3 – A legend with 4 doors, nuff said. It’s properly dialed in a with extra doors so you can claim it’s “family friendly.”

M4 – If we could only take one home today, it’s be this one. It’s an a proper M3 it but sleeker and sexier with the 2 doors.

M2 – A huge disappointment for us. It still feels too soft like the 2 series and not properly dialed in. On it’s own it’s a great car, but compared head to head wit the M3 and M4 you realize it’s a good training car but not a proper M.

X6M – Literally a stupid amount of fun. It should not exist, and yet it does, which makes us giddy. A sleeper hit, and a hard hit at that.

Cheers,

-JB

 

McLaren 720S Launch

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Last night at the Peterson Automotive Museum we attended the North American launch of the brand new McLaren 720S, which is the newest car in McLaren’s Super Series range. The event was hosted by McLaren Beverly Hills and featured some gourmet eats as well as some great music.

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The 720S is the successor to the McLaren 650S, or more accurately, the limited 675LT. It represents the latest in greatest of McLaren’s F1 technology applied to a road car. The 720S has, you guessed it, 720 horsepower that generated by a twin-turbocharged V8.

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The styling of the car is also a brand new direction for McLaren, with many organic flowing lines and swoops in the design. We’ve always been torn when it comes to McLaren styling. The F1 was an icon while the MP4-12C was cool and yet very “meh” at the same time. The P1 wowed us but then the 650S felt a step in the right direction but underwhelming. The 570S looked very insect-like, but it that design has grown on us over time. With the 720S were also torn. We know the styling is purely function and has a purpose. We actually love the back of the car, it’s dynamic, powerful, and screams “supercar.” From the side the car is a not as dramatic but it looks balanced. The front of the car we absolutely hate. We give McLaren points for taking a styling risk, but this front end does not sit well with us. We dislike the front so much we feel it almost negates the rest of the design. We actively look forward to the face lift for this car, but other than the front the rest of the car, especially the interior, is beautiful.

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We’re sure this car will be  monster around the track and will set some records. We’re happy to see McLaren making some bold moves. It’ll be interesting to see how other car makers react, but for now, enjoy some pictures of the latest and greatest McLaren has to offer.

Cheers,

-JB

Meet Giulia – The Alpha Romeo Giulia Driven

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Word on the street is that there’s a new Italian roaming around aiming to shake thing up a bit with the establishment…and her name happens to be Giulia. Being the curious souls that we are, we had to investigate these rumors which led us to an event hosted by the amazing Peterson Automotive Museum.

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The Auto Gallery was gracious enough to be sponsoring the event. The main garage had a fun display where we could go up and checkout the cars before our test drives, and should our wait time be significant, we could tour the museum or hangout on the rooftop lounge. Taking full advantage of the beautiful weather, we opted to head straight for the roof for some refreshments while we awaited for our cars o be ready. The sky was spectacular and having a gourmet spread of food made for a great atmosphere as we paid a visit to the Cappuccino Man stand for some liquid refreshments while enjoying some tunes from the DJ.

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When our drive time came up, we made our way downstairs to get acquainted with our new Italian personality of interest, Giulia. From the outside, the Giulia is distinctly Italian, it has a combination of smooth and aggressive lines. The rear of the car, especially on the Quadrifogilio is strikingly similar to a combination of the Maserati Gran Turismo and Ghibli, but it looks pretty sharp. Personally, Alpha styling hasn’t been our thing, especially the front ends of their modern cars, but the design language does echo back to traditional Alpha styling ques. Either you love it or hate it, so if it speaks to you, then the Giulia is one of the most beautiful cars you can find.

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The cars available for testing where the Giulia base model with sport options, the Ti model, and the Ti AWD version. Of course we inquired about the Quadrifogilio that was on display and we were promptly told that car was “off-limits for today.” So instead we decided to see what the base Giulia could do, and opted to test the sport optioned base model first. On the inside is where the real beauty to be found on the Giulia is, as the layout and materials are sleek and elegant, a true credit to Italian craftsmanship. There is adequate interior space in the car to comfortably fit 4 adults and plenty of space in the trunk to store a 5th and 6th passenger…we mean lot of luggage.

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Under the hood, the base Giulia features a 280 horsepower inline 4 cylinder engine that is turbo charged. The shocking thing is that is that this engine generates 306 foot-pounds of toque. On paper, it certainly sounds sporty enough, but unfortunately that sporty feeling stays on paper. The base Giulias only come with an 8-speed automatic transmission (and also some of the largest paddle shifters on any car) which is setup primarily for economy. In Eco mode the car is quiet, subdued and very…pedestrian. When put in Dynamic mode (performance mode) there is a subtle difference in the throttle response, but not by a large margin. Pushing the car to accelerate it feels very subdued…your foot goes down, you get a little momentum before the transmission decides to give you some power, then after that the turbo kicks in for some added momentum. The problem is by the time the turbo kicks in you’re near the redline so it’s time to shift up and restart that entire process all over again.

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The Giulia however has some very solid brakes and turns like a nimble compact car, so you can get a sense that the big brother Quadrifogilio has a solid base platform to really turn things up. Returning the base sport model and getting into the the Ti model, we found the Giulia’s true calling. Ti model is the more luxury focused base model. So it still has the same engine and power, but the interior and ride are more focused on comfort. Suddenly, the subdued power and lack of exhaust note are welcomed as you drive around, because the ride is pleasant and relaxing. Having the expectation of sport options is misleading, the base model Giulia is not a sports car. It’s more like an Italian Lexus IS350. From a performance stand point, this car lacks everything you’d want and you’d be better of getting  base model BMW 3 or 4 Series, or an Audi A3. But for a comfy cruiser that has looks, luxury, and Italian flare, then it’s a great pickup for the money since the Giulia starts at about $40,000.

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All in all it was a great day and the Peterson and Auto Gallery hosted  great event. But now that we’ve gotten to know Giulia, we’re very curious to see what her big brother Quadrifogilio can do. Be sure to enjoy some other pics from the Peterson Museum (and schedule your own visit too):

Cheers,

-JB

Skyline Road: A San Fran Road Test Of The C7 Covette vs McLaren 650S vs Gen 1 Acura NSX

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During our recent San Francisco trip, we decided to reach out to a few friends and go a for a drive up San Francisco’s amazing Skyline Road on Highway 84.  What a drive it turned out to be.

The C7 Corvette Stingray Convertible

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Utilizing the app Turo, we snagged a C7 Corvette Stingray convertible with a Z51 package for a great price. The 450 Horsepower V8 in the Vette is a formidable weapon to be in control of, but fortunately it’s very accessible in the C7 platform. Unlike Corvette of old, where mashing the gas peddle was a game of Russian-roulette where either you went fast or went fast sideways into a tree, in the C7 the car is planted and stay planted so you can enjoy the full bellowing of the exhaust note as the world zips by.

Unlike the base model one we drove before, this one had the Z51 package which means that the car has a sportier feel, especially when taking it in the twisties. Top down, race mode on, and the road ahead, we zipped through the forest chasing the other two cars in a drive to be remembered. The Vette held its own on the twists and turns and really made up ground on the straights. The balance of the chassis is really impressive on the car, and if you’re familiar with it’s family heritage it’s very hard to see any relation. That’s what makes the C7 platform special; it’s undeniably American Musclecar glory at it’s best, but it’s also proper fun, it handling amazingly, and you can actually enjoy driving the car instead of trying to wrestle it under control.

The Generation 1 Acura NSX

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Back in the early 1990’s, Honda shocked the world by saying they were going to build a car similar to a Ferrari and then they actually did it. The original NSX is one of those milestone cars because it had the looks and driving feel of a supercar during it’s time, but also had the quality and the reliable family cars that Honda was making at the time. This paradigm shift-cause other supercar makers to get better, and as a whole the it lead the market to make some ridiculously cool cars.

In the modern area, the Gen 1 NSX looks like a dinosaur, a remnant of time long past. But that doesn’t mean the “cool” factor has worn of. Quite the opposite, the NSX is like a velociraptor on the road. It might be ancient, but it can run. It’s handling is sublime, and this particular example has a racing inspired exhaust on it which makes the tiny 6 cylinder engine roar. In the hairpin turns it murders the other 2 cars because it’s crazy light and hyper-agile. In the straights it gets left in the dust, but then again, it was meant to be the best handling car, not the fastest in a sprint.

The McLaren 650S Spyder

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The 650S may seem like an unfair contender to throw in this contest, but we’re not going to complain about it ever. Yes the McLaren costs 3 times the combined price of the NSX and Corvette. Yes it is insanely faster in the straights, more hardcore in the runs, and has all the computing power of Silicon Valley built into it. But that’s what makes it a great addition to this group, it’s a third philosophy of cars and that’s radically different than the other two. The NSX is old school, bare-bones go-kart style handling. The Corvette is power on top of more power for great speed and screaming exhaust because America. The 650S is about science and engineering the most superior machine possible. Every millimeter of the 650S reflects that thought process, each polish panel and perfectly aligned bolt was designed with maximum performance above all in mind.

While the Vette and the NSX have very loud and distinct sounds, the 650S is more humble in that regard. But speed wise it is the king of the three, as on the straights it makes the other 2 appear parked and in the turns it can devour them a a frighting pace. But that’s the brilliance of the 650S, it’s not just a driver’s car, it’s a race car driver’s car. It’s the car you take when you need all the 10/10ths you can get. It’s the weapon of choice for the racer who wants to set a new lap record. Simple put it was created for one purpose and it does it brilliantly.

Final Verdicts

Corvette – America summed up in car, the C7 has proven to be a proper car and a boat load of fun.

NSX – Old-school and zippy, the Gen 1 NSX is a car every car buff should drive at least once.

650S – Mad science at it’s best, the 650S will blow the doors of most things and connect with your inner Le Mans driver.

If we could, we’d just take all 3 home with us. Each one is a distinct and unique take on the idea of what a car should be, and stacked head to head they each shine in their own right. Which would you take home with you?

Cheers,

– JB

Canepa Motorsports Tour

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This past weekend we took a bit of an excursion up north to the San Francisco Bay area for some fun, relaxation, and to sample the best our northern sister city has to offer. While we were up there, we couldn’t pass up the chance to visit Canepa Motorsports, which is run by the legendary race car driver Bruce Canepa himself.

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At first glance the facility looks like large industrial building from the outside. What’s a bit cool about that is that it makes the location feel discrete and like more of a hidden gem, because inside it immediately becomes apparent that you’re in a gear-head wanderland. The first car we saw was the only remaining Porsche Carrera GT Prototype. Originally there where two, but now the only one in existance is hanging out by the entrance way, next to a Porsche 959 and an production Carrera GT, so that way you can see all of the differences up close. Other gems that where hanging out in the downstairs section included a BMW M1, a Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary Edition, a Ford RS 200 Evo, 2006 Ford GT Heritage Edition, a BMW Z8 and a Shelby 427 Cobra, among other special vehicles.

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One could easily spend many hours in the “lobby” getting lost in the automotive history that is coexisting, but then you’ll eventually come across a sign that says “museum upstairs.” Naturally, you’ll follow the sign up the staircase and discover another level of amazement: A sampling of some of the most legendary race cars ever. From a Porsche 917 LeMans car to a Dodge Daytona Superbird race car, the diversity is astounding. Personal highlights included a Chevy powered Indy Car from the 1990’s and a Ferrari 250 LM race car. Though the biggest highlight was running into Bruce Canepa himself and tagging along with a tour he was giving about the cars. Every car has a story, and Bruce has all the details to each, including many personal stories of his involving many of the vehicles there. All in all it was a pretty mind blowing experience.

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After we gathered the bits of our exploded mind, we noticed another sign that read “garage view,” which lead to a balcony that gives a birds eye view of the shop area. And in the shop area is where even more automotive magic happens. We rejoined Bruce’s tour and shuffled down into the shop area. Like kids in a candy store, we couldn’t help but be wide-eyed with joy and awe as we saw all of the project cars in various stages. We came across two more BMW M1’s being restored, one a street version and the other a Procar. In between them was a unicorn of unicorns, the Cizeta Maroder V16 T Prototype. The Cizeta was in the beginning stages of undergoing a full top to bottom restore, and according to Bruce, the story of how it wound up there went something like this: The car had been sitting in company co-founder Giorgio Maroder’s house for a few decades when he called up his friend Jay Leno about a mechanic who could restore his car. Jay Leno dialed up Bruce and said “Hey, my friend has this car called a Cizeta, I told him you could fix it.” Bruce replied, “A what kind of car?” to which Jay replied by adding Georgio into a three-way-call and saying “Giorgio, meet Bruce, he’s a great guy. He’ll fix your car.” And now we found ourselves face to face with one of the most fascinating cars from the late 1980’s.

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Taking a look around we discovered an eclectic and diverse mix of cars, like a McLaren P1 GTR in between two fully restored Porsche 959’s while right behind them was a Bugatti EB110 GT undergoing a full restoration. There was also a Ferrari 512 TR by the paint bay, an original Pontiac GTO and another Shelby 427 Cobra. The shop has a back section which we peaked into and discovered even more automotive eye candy. It’s not every day that you come across a Ford GT40 MKII shell and chassis that happens to be next to two Lamborghini Countachs, a Chevy Corvette C2 split-window, and a wall of historic racing cars (yes literally, a wall of awesome) that included another Porsche 917.

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We must say that as far we’re concerned, Canepa is a must go to destination for any car lover. If you love automotive racing, then that goes triple as the amount of history is astounding. Bruce is a gracious and knowledge host, and it was an honor and joy to meet him and hear some of his racing stories. His staff are all very friendly and hospitable, and the appreciation these driving pieces of art is reflected in their attitudes. It was a trip not to be forgotten and one that we’ll have to make again in the near future. Be sure to checkout Canepa’s website for more info. Enjoy our gallery of pictures below and checkout the video tour our media partner DTRockstar1 shot while we were there (and subscribe to his channel as well):

Cheers,

-JB

Father Vs Son: E46 Vs E90 M3

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With so many amazing machines on the road now it sometimes becomes easy to take cars for granted. What we mean by that is that in the modern era cars have come so far and performance has become so accessible, you sometimes forget how certain cars became known as the benchmark. One such car is the original E30 BMW M3, which when it first came out in 1986, set a new benchmark for what a performance sedan could be. The next generation E36 M3 continued this tradition, even though the US customers did get a little short-handed by the EPA. In 2001, the E46 M3 came onto the scene and solidified the legend of the M3. And in 2008, the V8 power E90 and E92 (sedan and coupe versions, respectively) took the M3 to another level of insanity.

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Since we have access to a 2001 E46 M3 and a 2008 E90 M3, we’d thought it’d be fun to revisit these cars and what makes them special, as well as how they stock up against each other. First, let’s take a look at the E46 M3.

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Featuring an inline 6 engine that cranks out 333 horsepower and 262 ft pounds of torque, the E46 M3 had some fairly insane stats for the the time it was introduced. The particular example we have is colored in the flashy Laguna Seca Blue, which was a controversial color at the time but has gone on to become a classic. The color can be subtle (sorta) at times and very vibrate at others, depending on the light. The example we have has a 6 speed manual transmission, which hugely changes the driving experience, as we’ll get into later. The E46 M3 is fairly small and compact car, and somehow the lines are still classic and timeless. It looks very modern and not dated, which is something previous generation M3’s can’t claim.

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Driving the E46 M3 is a joyous experience, the car is nimble, light and very dialed in. Driving it is a simple “point and go” experience as the E46 is easy to place and the car always feels like it wants to go a little faster, turn a little harder and be a little more aggressive. The recommended driving setup is with the Sport button on and with a manual transmission. The SMG semi-automatic F1 style transmission that is available is notoriously clunky, especially at low speeds, but the manual makes the driving experience sublime. The clutch is light and shifts are effortless, so even a newbie to the manual transmission can learn relatively quickly on this car. The quirks with the E46 is that it is a bit of a noisy car, in that there are creaks and moans the car makes, but usually the sound of the amazing S54 engine can drown them out. Also the E46 can understeer a bit in certain corners at speed, but the back can be broken lose for some playful slides. 10 minutes of driving this car and it’s easy to see why it’s a modern classic and was a home-run for BMW when it was introduced.

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So how could BMW top that? There attempt to do so was with the next generation M3, and we happen to have access to an E90 M3 to see exactly how they tried to do so. The E90 upped the ante, the new S65 engine was a monstrous V8 that had a whopping 414 horsepower and 292 ft pounds of toque. For the transmission you could get ether a manual or the brand new DCT, which was a dual-clutch F1 style transmission that was a huge improvement over the SMG. The car we had was equipped with the DCT, which almost seemed fitting as the E90 belongs more to the laptop generation of performance cars while the E46 belongs to the coal mine generation.

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Driving the E90 M3 the first things you notice are the size and the power of the car. The E90 is bigger car than the E46, and it is heavier as well. But it’s also much more powerful and the V8 under the hood never lets you forget that fact. The E90 pulls very hard and hugs the road in a way that makes you believe in witchcraft because like the E46, the E90 is very much a “point and go” car as well. The E90 feels so planted and tells you everthing that’s happening on the road that your driver confidence is hugely boosted. Continuing the tradition of the E46, the E90 has that very special signature M Car feel to it. Even with the DCT, the car is quick, agile and a proper driver’s car. Put the car in M dynamic mode and the play factor doubles as the car’s rear becomes easy to slide and catch, which suddenly becomes your new favorite game while driving.

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So which one do we like more? It’s a bit of a toss up, but we’re going to give the slight edge to the E46 M3 on this one. The combination of a manual transmission and the slightly more playful driving nature give a little better sense of connection with the road. This isn’t to downplay the E90 M3 at all. It’s more of a generational preference. But both cars are proper M Cars, are proper driving machine, and are amazing bang-for-buck classics you buy right now. Do what we did, grab some buddies, grab these cars, and go for a fun drive in Malibu and up the coast to Moonshadows for some mojitos.

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Cheers,

JB