All posts by Mitchell Weitzman

New BMW 5-series Review on Road and Track

By Mitchell Weitzman

“They’re doing a 5-series event at an F1 track?” Was my first thought of BMW’s Back to the Track event, starring the new G30 coded 5-series, at, yep, the Circuit of the Americas, a full-blown Formula 1 race circuit. This isn’t for a new M5. It could be out of it’s element I thought, why not have this in Palm Springs or Miami? Nope, COTA will suffice.

Now for the real fun. BMW invited out some talent out to show us a good time, in the form of Adam Andretti, yes, one of those Andretti’s, overall Le Mans winner Davy Jones, former F1, INDYCAR, and CART driver Roberto Guerrero, do-it-all open-wheel and sportscar man Shane Donley, and legendary track day instructor and racer Mark Wolocatiuk. Their mission? Drive as hard as possible and as close as possible.

So there I was, on a plane to Austin, Texas to drive the new 5 series. I want the new 5 to be good, of course. As comfortable as it was, I was always underwhelmed by the prior 5er, favoring older models in its stead, finding it somewhat boring with little engagement.

So what has changed? It’s a new chassis featuring lighter metals like aluminum and magnesium (no Carbon Core present here), and the new engine family migrated over from the 330i and 340i. There are several autonomous features as well. One such is a lane assistant that will keep the car in your lane providing micro steering adjustments as it scans for visible lane markings and hooks up to following the car in front. When coupled with adaptive cruise control, which will brake and slow down to a complete stop if the car in front does, and then speed back up to your set speed; It’s the closest to autonomy this side of a Tesla. There’s even a ‘display’ key that looks like an old small phone with a tiny touchscreen. With the right package, you can tell the car to pull into or out of a parking spot while standing beside the car, mostly for showing off to your friends. Gesture controls have been passed down from big brother 7 as well. I don’t see the practical use of them as it means taking your hands off the wheel, but I’m sure your date and her friends will be impressed. My favorite tech comes in the form of a 360-degree camera with many many viewing angles. Honestly, there is no excuse anymore for curbing a wheel here. And of course, none of this is standard.It has simply become a tech lover’s delight. Continue reading New BMW 5-series Review on Road and Track

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…