All posts by Mitchell Weitzman

Do You Really Need that M2 or is the M240i enough?

The M240i has been hitting dealer showrooms for the last couple month now and you might be wondering, “just what is different here? What about the M2 though?” Let’s start with the obvious changes over the outgoing M235i. For starters, there’s the name. Again, like all BMW’s of the last ten years, even though displacement isn’t changing (the names have not corresponded in 10 years anyways…), they do have to make it seem like the car is improving, which it has. If I hear both M240i and M235i, I’m going to automatically assume the bigger number is the better car.

M240i trunk badge So how exactly has it improved? It has a new engine, but it’s the same size, has the same number of cylinders, as well as use of a single, twin-scroll turbocharger. However, the block is different, being substantially stronger than the N55. The new B58, first debuted in the 340i earlier this year, has a ‘closed-deck’ design (block strength will be likened by tuners undoubtedly), and is of a modular architect to keep costs down for the bean counters in Munich. Simplified, the new 6 cylinders is the same engine as the 4-bangers, just with cylinders added on. But what a difference two cylinders make, giving a raucous bark to the exhaust note on startup and some nice cracks and pops on the overrun. And it’s what a dictionary refers you to when looking up the word smooth.

Torque is up significantly, now 369 instead of 330. That’s the same that the fabled M2 makes when on overboost.

And yes, as is obligated, it has more power now. 335 to be exact, where the M235i had ‘only’ 320. Torque is up significantly, now 369 instead of 330. That’s the same that the fabled M2 makes when on overboost. And it’s only 30 down in the power department, which got me thinking: where does it stack up against the M2 in an old-fashioned drag race? I immediately scoured Youtube and was both surprised and unsurprised at the result: it appears to be a damn near draw. Next was to get behind the wheel of the new ’40. Flipping down a couple ratios to second and, nailing it, I feel no difference as  my memory recalls the M2’s speed. Honestly, I can’t really tell. On paper, an M2 with a DCT will have the edge from it’s brutal launch control method, but through the gears, it feels every bit as quick as an M2. Maybe the top of the power band isn’t quite as strong, but how long are you really above 6500 RPM? I reckon BMW M will have an updated, faster M2 out in no time as a response, and likely with the new B58 engine as it still harnesses the ‘ancient’ N55.

So, you got fifty odd grand burning in your pocket for a proper BMW sports coupe, which should you pick? Well it becomes more difficult than it seems. If it were me, I’d have the M2 everyday. Having seen an M2 parked next to an M235/M240i, the M2 simply makes the latter look like a rental car. The wheel arches on the M2 look like the Hulk stretched and shrink-wrapped the metal around those lovely 19” wheels. It looks just bloody brilliant. The M2 also wins on sound, having a proper throaty snarl out of its four tailpipes. M2 has real track credentials too, sporting a fancy differential and better steering as well. The cabin comes standard with alcantara inserts swathed on the doors, lending a special aroma. Sounds like a win-win, right? Remember, I did say this was difficult.

Where the M240i fights back is in real-world usability. M2 is tuned for the track, which is great, when you’re on a track with it’s grizzly grip of the road and tenacious turn-in. On most roads in the wild, it is very stiffly sprung, with a jarring ride. I’m young, I can deal with that for another couple years, but for some it might be frankly too stiff. The M240i also has adaptive dampers, to switch between comfort and sport, something the M2 cannot do, having fixed damper rates. An M240i is also cheaper, before fitting options at least. If you can live without navigation, it will be a few grand cheaper. This is augmented all the more by the single biggest problem with the M2: availability. Most dealers have wait lists for the baby ‘M, and if you find one one on a showroom, they’ll likely be asking for $10,000 over MSRP. It makes the M240i at that point seem like a bargain, considering you get 99.9% daily performance and at least 90% of the track performance the M2 offers.

So, should you still want the M2 over the M240i? Sure! It’s all about desirability, after all. It must be said though, it really comes down to more of what you’re looking for and looking to spend, given dealer markups. For everyday driving, the M240i is probably the safer bet, as it’s more comfortable and has same straight-line speed. If you are a track junky, then I feel it’s a no-brainer to go for the M2. But really, I think it’s more or less what is available to you. If you’re considering one of the two, see what your dealer has. And if they only have M240i’s, give it a test drive and you’ll probably drive it home; you will not be disappointed. However, if you’ve driven an M2 already…

Cooper Tire RS3-G1 installed on an E46 ZHP

As you might recall, after spending a couple days in Florida trying out Cooper’s new tire, the Cooper Tire RS3-G1 (Doesn’t roll off the tongue the best still, I would’ve preferred it being called the G-nado), I was quite impressed. So when my E46 ZHP, manual of course, wore down its old shoes to the wear bars, I was in need of some new stick. Lo and behold, my ZHP, aptly named Nigel, is now wearing Cooper Tire’s latest around its curb rashed 18″ alloys.

The Performance Package code names ZHP in the US was available for sedans from model years 2003 to 2005, and available for coupes and convertibles from 2004 to 2006. It included various aesthetic changes over the regular 3 series, as well as functional and mechanical enhancements. The ZHP was equipped with sportier cam shafts and more aggressive engine tuning to increase power from 225 hp to 235 hp. Suspension was modified over the standard suspension with firmer springs and dampers, larger anti-roll bars, stronger front control arm ball joints, a lower ride height, and slightly more negative camber.

What are they like day to day now after a few weeks? Terrific! The first drive home with them fitted I was in complete shock. For months now I have been thinking either an alignment or a suspension overhaul was needed to cure Nigel’s wayward tendencies over road imperfections. I never quite understood tramlining until I bought Nigel the ZHP. I feel a first-time driver would have crashed poor Nigel within the first week. Me though, I always thought it made the car more, er, entertaining and involving. It is widely understood that the basic ZHP suspension geometry and wheel sizes do tramline more than other models, but it seemed a little excessive.

However, first drive home with the new RS3-G1s and…it’s a revelation. Sure, it still does follow the asphalt more than a new 3 does by a fair bit, but it’s such an improvement. The end result being increased driver comfort since I no longer have to work the wheel as much. Ride quality seems slightly less harsh on impacts, though it is still ZHP firm. I have not had time for a real spirited drive yet, but so far grip seems impressive. This being evidenced by screaming through an intersection on a left turn arrow that had  just turned yellow on approach. Being in a BMW, of course I’m not stopping for it.

So, so far so good. As the miles roll along, updates will as well. Stay tuned for more.

Is the new 2017 BMW 5 Series a hit or miss?

Well by now you’ve all seen it. The new 2017 BMW 5 Series, that is. It’s hard to believe the current F10 generation 5-series has been on sale since 2010. Yes, it’s old. It’s a very familiar shape on the road, having been a smashing sales success for the Roundel. However, to keep up with the times, BMW has ended the life of the F10 for the new G30 edition.

As you might recall from my drive of a 528i in Florida, it’s bit of a mixed bag in how I regard the outgoing 5 Series. I find it’s shape incredibly unexciting, and lacks emotion and further excitement while driving, but it is very comfortable, gets great gas mileage when easing on it, has great power and one of the best transmissions available. Overall it’s a good car, but not exactly a BMW in my opinion. But then, what do I know; I’m just an Internet nitpicker.

2017 BMW 5 Series Rear

So, for the new 2017 BMW 5 Series to be any good it would have to address my issues with it’s immediate predecessor. As far as looks go at least, it is a definite improvement. Taking the appearance of a shrunken 7 Series, it exudes a satisfying shape of elegance and class. But I still wish it had more drama to the shape. Optioning the M-sport package sure spices things up with the larger, almost gaping front air intakes to show it means business. The M5, with the surely obligatory wide fender flares and haunches will be a real looker given the base car’s form. I’m not too sure about the hockey stick running along the bottom of the doors though. It’s directly taken from the 7 and I didn’t like it there either. BMW indubitably could have come up with a more interesting design cue for that area.

The real question though, is how will it drive? If the direction the new 7 went is any indication, I don’t think it will win me over in this category. The new 7 is wonderfully compliant and smooth. With the seat massages optioned and rear-seating package, it is, to be frank, a very nice place to be. The 7, though, does drive with a sense of disconnection, isolating the driver and his/her entourage from the outside environment. It’s not my exact ideal driving characteristics, far from it to be precise, but it is slated as a genuine luxury car. It’s a car that puts on, as Will Ferrell would say, its big-boy pants, every day; not a racing suit. This is what the 7 is supposed to be, not a sports car, so I can’t dislike it for that reason.

However, if the 5 were to achieve this same style, I would be disappointed. The 5 series has always been, historically at least, a driver’s car, just of a larger dimension. Each time I’ve had a chance behind the wheel of an E60 era 535i, with it’s twin turbo six, it’s a joy compared to the outgoing model. The steering has brilliant weighting and feedback with a firecracker of an engine. V8 guise gets even better, and has aged remarkably well when wearing the M-sport uniform, especially the M5. This is the car I would like the new 5 to be more like, but seeing its emphasis on technology, it likely will continue in BMW’s current trend of further disengaging the driver. Though, compared to the last Mercedes Benz E350 I drove, a current 528i feels like a track star. It could be disconnected as per BMW standards, but will very likely be the driver’s pick still of the current range of offerings by rival marques.

The engines on offer seem to be the same that appear in the also new-for-2017 330i and 340i, and will receive the same bumps in model name. The entry-level four-cylinder 5 will be called the 530i and the six-cylinder variant the 540i. You know, they have to seem like they’re improving in some regard. Bigger number, better car, right?

Autonomous driving capabilities seem to be pushing further to full robotics each few months, and BMW has instilled the G30 with some self-driving prowess of its own. No, it’s not a Tesla in what it can do, but remember, people usually buy BMW’s because of how they drive, not how they, er, drive you. A new version of iDrive also appears imminent, even if iDrive 5.0 only was released a year ago. It looks to continue the trend of BMW having the easiest and most intuitive infotainment system on market. In terms of features of the technological kind, the new ‘5 has got it made.

Perhaps my biggest wish of the new 2017 BMW 5 Series? That it includes a backup camera as standard equipment. I mean, come on, how is a backup camera not included as standard on a $50k+ car? That is perhaps my number one “what were they thinking moment?” on the outgoing car. Wonder how many people bought 5’s thinking it standard only to be surprised when going into reverse.

There you have it, my thoughts on the incoming 5-series. I’m sure it will be another BMW sales success, but will it be a success as a BMW is the real question. We will just wait and see!