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      04-26-2008, 07:41 PM   #1
bruce.augenstein@comcast.
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"Pecuniary Canons of Taste"

Those of you who have struggled through a little light Thorsten Veblen reading without getting a brain aneurysm have my admiration - and you also know that folks may value and appreciate things differently based on their cost, regardless of intrinsic merit.

Apropos of that, my bride and I joke about how we seem to always pick the most expensive offering of nearly anything we consider for purchase, for whatever reason.

So it was with some trepidation that I show up at the local BMW dealer, looking to check out the newest M. What if I get the Red Mist and have to have it? I guess I can afford it, but hey, I retired back in 2002 (about eight years early according to the feds), so this will involve a significant raid on the old 401k account, which at the moment is down a couple of hundred K compared to when the market was more robust than it is now.

So maybe I can't really afford it, at least if I'm of sound mind. That just won't matter if the Red Mist rises, though.

The black sedan is ready as requested when I drive in, so after the normal pleasantries and obligatory license copying, we're off.

My first impression is "This thing has really short gearing", but the clutch and shift action are very good, and the first time I pass 4000 rpm in third at maybe two-thirds throttle, the hairs start rising on the back of my neck.

DAMN, it sounds good! I involuntarily pass 5500 on my way to nearly 6K before realizing that I am in fact mesmerized, and back off. Don't want to mess with somebody else's break in process.

My next impression is that the steering feels fairly light but very good indeed, and wonder what all the initial fuss was about. We are on back roads, and when the SA adjusts the settings back to "normal" (or whatever they call it), the steering seems to lighten up even more, but still feels fine. Likewise, the throttle is less sensitive, but that's not a bad thing, and in fact the feeling I got about the short gearing abates somewhat, although that may just be due to familiarity. We cycle back and forth between settings, and when the SA remarks that the normal everyday setting works fine even when pushing it, I have to test that.

Sure enough, and since the hot-damn shock setting seems way stiff for street use (even a tiny bit of hop on a section of heavily patched pavement), we go back to normal and leave it there.

Doing some apex-diving, turn-in is very good, as is overall stick. The car feels heavy (maybe "beefy" is a better word), but this doesn't get any worse when pushing it, and in fact it may subjectively lighten up a bit. Brake feel is good, although I didn't test for fade. Now we get behind some traffic, so I test for that low-rpm softness. Sure enough, on this car, the "crossover" from willing to eager begins at maybe 2600 or so, verified later out on the four-lane. At 60 it's OK, but at 80, she be smilin'. Didn't ever get to full throttle, but I'm willing to believe those C & D top-gear times.

Speaking of the four-lane, the car is quiet and refined at cruise, and feels pretty luxurious. I don't mean that last as a full compliment, though, as some of that heavy feeling returns.

Somehow, I-Drive doesn't seem as ridiculous in this implementation as the last time I sampled it, and although I'm not a fan, it ain't fatal, either.

We do an off-ramp at about eight tenths or a little more, which is how I really find out about the stick. The car is closer to neutral through here than many, and on the way out of it in fourth at three-quarter throttle, she be singin' again.

Me too. Nice!

All in all, a damned fine ride. My concerns about M3s getting to be better cars with each iteration but less fun to drive don't seem to apply with this car. Yeah, it feels bigger and heavier than the E46, and perhaps it's lost a smidgeon of tossability, but overall it's at least on a par with that car handling-wise, and makes much better noises. Faster, too. I still liked my E36 M3 best for fun to drive (and the E30 crew will laugh at even that), but that's ancient history now.

In spite of that low-rpm softness, the engine is also more willing than the E46 in everyday driving, too. Hell, because of initial driving conditions I didn't even notice that idle-to-mid-2000s soft spot until I specifically tested for it.

We head back to the shop after around 45 minutes, and as arranged, the SA pulls a 128i out. He won't have another 335 stick for a couple of weeks, so we make do with this automatic transmissioned, 205 all-seasons shod loss-leader.

Sampling the steering less than a mile out, I begin to realize what all the initial M3 steering fuss was about. THIS is what BMW steering is supposed to be like. Very meaty (and a little heavy), with terrific feedback.

Now I remember. Suddenly the M3's steering is found a little wanting. Not bad, mind you, but not as good, either.

Apex-diving the same stretches, turn-in is less crisp than the M car, but the car definitely feels more tossable, I assume because of the reduced weight and shorter wheelbase.

For me, it's a better ride.

When we get back to the shop, I park it next to the M3, and on the way into the building I turn around to check them both out. The M3 looks very good in threatening black - but I actually like the loss-leader, whacked from behind, runt-of-the-litter 1 series better.

Blow it out your ass, Veblen! We're talking around $25K less for my honest-to-God preference! Who woulda thunk it!

I thoroughly admire the M3, but lust isn't part of the picture. In addition to other things, I'd have to indulge in throw-the-key-away velocities in order to get my jollies, and that's one reason why I passed on a lightweight turbo RX-7 back in '93.

However, when that 135 gets in, I intend to find out if that hot-damn rubber and suspension is enough to cope with the extra front weight - or perhaps even more than cope, as I have been told - and then we'll see.

If I'm not too upside down on the Acura, brace yourself, 401K!

Bruce

Last edited by bruce.augenstein@comcast.; 04-26-2008 at 08:00 PM.
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      04-27-2008, 12:28 AM   #2
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128i here I come!
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      04-27-2008, 12:28 AM   #3
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Let me say that paradise awaits beyond 6000 rpm--post break-in experience of mine.

Interesting to hear you found the 1-series to have more steering feedback--something the M3 should do better despite its steering accuracy. Wonder why that is?
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      04-27-2008, 02:16 AM   #4
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Nice review Bruce. Better than I expected from you. Either way, better or worse I think it was really honest and that is what matters the most. Thanks for the write up and sharing.

One question. Don't you think the M engineers know darn well that the M3s steering is a bit lighter than the 1er? Don't you think it was entirely on purpose. Do you think they did it solely to appeal to the non-enthusiast crowd?
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      04-27-2008, 02:27 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by lucid View Post
Let me say that paradise awaits beyond 6000 rpm--post break-in experience of mine.

Interesting to hear you found the 1-series to have more steering feedback--something the M3 should do better despite its steering accuracy. Wonder why that is?
I never took it beyond 5.5 and the thing was flying. Just tell me how good it is after that...
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      04-27-2008, 07:36 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by gorun View Post
I never took it beyond 5.5 and the thing was flying. Just tell me how good it is after that...
The same sensesation keeps on going and going and going like a Duracell Bunny, and the sounds become much more interesting. I really am beginning to think I should not do an exhaust upgrade; louder up there would be too much!
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      04-27-2008, 08:12 AM   #7
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I really am beginning to think I should not do an exhaust upgrade; louder up there would be too much!
Thats the internal debate I am going through as well.
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      04-27-2008, 08:20 AM   #8
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Thats the internal debate I am going through as well.
I suggest you wait until you can really rev it. It is plenty loud up there, and I can't imagine driving around with anything louder anywhere but on a track.
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      04-27-2008, 05:24 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lucid View Post
Let me say that paradise awaits beyond 6000 rpm--post break-in experience of mine.
Yeah, everybody says that the second half of the pedal and the upper half of the rev counter are the good halves in this car. I certainly believe that as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lucid View Post
Interesting to hear you found the 1-series to have more steering feedback--something the M3 should do better despite its steering accuracy. Wonder why that is?
No clue. Perhaps in my case the additional steering effort fooled me.

Bruce
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      04-27-2008, 05:35 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swamp2 View Post
...One question. Don't you think the M engineers know darn well that the M3s steering is a bit lighter than the 1er? Don't you think it was entirely on purpose. Do you think they did it solely to appeal to the non-enthusiast crowd?
OK, that's three questions.

As you may remember, I've speculated in the past about this, and mentioned that since all engineering is compromise, perhaps in this case they needed to do something in the design that would make the car behave as perfectly as possible on track, thus sacrificing a little street feel. That's just talk, though.

The main point (from my point of view) is that the M's steering feel is very good indeed. It's just that I like the steering feel in the 128 better. Objectively speaking, though, that's just my opinion. A road tester or another reviewer on this forum may not agree with me.

Bruce
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      04-27-2008, 08:06 PM   #11
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OK, that's three questions.
Indeed, one realm and three questions. Oh my poor word choice. Cheers. Thanks for the clarification.
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      04-27-2008, 09:44 PM   #12
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just kidding!
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      04-27-2008, 09:57 PM   #13
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I like your review.... and if the 128/135 is all you need then by all means, join the other 200K that will be driving those little darlings...

Jason
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      04-27-2008, 10:02 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bruce.augenstein@comcast. View Post
If I'm not too upside down on the Acura, brace yourself, 401K!

Bruce
I hope you're not too upside down on your Acura, but I've been trying to sell ours and had to recently lower it to 32k which is low, but it's not selling currently either. It only has about 8k miles on it too. I hope that you can sell yours for more!
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      04-27-2008, 10:21 PM   #15
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I hope you're not too upside down on your Acura, but I've been trying to sell ours and had to recently lower it to 32k which is low, but it's not selling currently either. It only has about 8k miles on it too. I hope that you can sell yours for more!
My '04 325 has been sitting around for a month. I lowered the price to a very attractive level. Only one guys checked it out. The used car market is simply dead currently. I don't expect it to get better any time soon.
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      04-27-2008, 10:41 PM   #16
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My '04 325 has been sitting around for a month. I lowered the price to a very attractive level. Only one guys checked it out. The used car market is simply dead currently. I don't expect it to get better any time soon.
Yeah, it isn't looking that good right now...
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      04-27-2008, 11:06 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Krueger///M3 View Post
I hope you're not too upside down on your Acura, but I've been trying to sell ours and had to recently lower it to 32k which is low, but it's not selling currently either. It only has about 8k miles on it too. I hope that you can sell yours for more!
I'm quite sure I am a fair bit upside down, as it is a lease. Buyout is $33K, and I assume trade in is in the high twenties. When the 335 comes in and I get to play, I'll find out if there's any hunger at Faulkner BMW. For $3K, I'll probably jump ship. For $5K or more? Probably not.

That's OK. I can wait. The Acura is a damned fine ride, after all. I leased it instead of a 335 or G35 because I liked it better, and I'm not disapointed. As you know, it's got a rigid body, very capable chassis, stupendous engine (I'd be just as thrilled with a 135 if the 35 part stood for the 3.5 liter TL-S powerplant), excellent brakes, absolutely killer stereo, best production navi, etc., etc.

It's just that the 1 series has me all revved up about tossability, while the Acura is about the same size as a 5 series.

Bruce
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      04-27-2008, 11:14 PM   #18
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blah, blah , blah....

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my bride and I joke about how we seem to always pick the most expensive offering of nearly anything we consider for purchase, for whatever reason
sounds like you should break the 410k on a 760li.
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      04-27-2008, 11:18 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by bruce.augenstein@comcast. View Post
I'm quite sure I am a fair bit upside down, as it is a lease. Buyout is $33K, and I assume trade in is in the high twenties. When the 335 comes in and I get to play, I'll find out if there's any hunger at Faulkner BMW. For $3K, I'll probably jump ship. For $5K or more? Probably not.

That's OK. I can wait. The Acura is a damned fine ride, after all. I leased it instead of a 335 or G35 because I liked it better, and I'm not disapointed. As you know, it's got a rigid body, very capable chassis, stupendous engine (I'd be just as thrilled with a 135 if the 35 part stood for the 3.5 liter TL-S powerplant), excellent brakes, absolutely killer stereo, best production navi, etc., etc.

It's just that the 1 series has me all revved up about tossability, while the Acura is about the same size as a 5 series.

Bruce
Yeah, the TL-S is a nice car, and the DVD-CD sound is very good, along with the fast 0-60. OT, but I wonder if Acura will ever come out with a competitor in the M3 etc. segment (?)
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