All posts by Mitchell Weitzman

Cooper Tire RS3-G1 Update in California’s Monsoon Winter

So as some of you might have heard, California is getting a lot of rain this winter. I thought it was supposed to have been last year, with all the El Nino talk, but El Nino has got nothing on what we’ve had this year. Quite simply, in the last two months, Sacramento has just about accumulated the amount of rain it gets in an entire year. In TWO MONTHS. There was five inches of rain in a four-day span just the other week…

Anyways, enough about the weather. What this meant though was it presented the perfect testing ground for these new Cooper Tire RS3-G1‘s  wrapped around the wheels of my 330i ZHP. These are touted as an ultra high-performance all-season tire, designed to work and excel in the rain. So how are they doing? Quite well. MUCH better than those Sumitomo summer tires I had prior in the wet. In short, when the road is soaked, I don’t find myself tiptoeing around corners. Approaching a right turn merge lane at a signal, I don’t drive any slower than if it were dry, such is the confidence the Coopers give in less than ideal conditions.

My favorite bit is switching off the traction control and adding gratuitous power through a good corner (when the coast is clear of course) to gleefully play with the balance of the E46 chassis. It’s quite addictive, this. Nothing like hanging out the ‘arse of a rear-wheel drive car. And it’s easy too! I can thank the tires for that, as the front does not wash out at all either. So yes, they have good grip in the wet and can be playful upon desire.

Through standing water, a few inches deep, they do aquaplane ever so slightly. Going straight through an asphalt river I do lose the ability to provide steering input momentarily. It doesn’t throw you around however, nor jerk the wheel around. They track straight through it, which is good and causes no alarm. This does only occur when the water is at least a couple inches deep.

Overall so far, I am very satisfied with the new rubber. The dry grip remains outstanding with severely good wet weather performance. Unfortunately, no real snow driving yet, and I don’t really want to. As Jeremy Clarkson once said, “In the snow, as any BMW driver will tell you, front-wheel drive is a lot better.”

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.