Category Archives: Editorial

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!

Cooper Tire RS3-G1 Part 1: BMW 528i in Florida

“So, Ryan, what was the humidity like?” was one of the first questions I asked a best friend who just came back from six months in Orlando at the Disney College Program. “You just sweat constantly,” was his answer. I for one have never been to Florida, let alone the East Coast. In other words, I haven’t a clue what humidity is. I’m spoiled by the dry nature of California, especially having spent my University years in breezy Santa Barbara. So when I got an e-mail to head to Palm Beach International Raceway in Palm Beach, Florida to test a BMW 528i and Cooper Tire’s new RS3-G1 tire on both road and track, I was ecstatic for such an event. Then sank in the realization of the climate and season. Let me tell you plainly, humidity sucks. Luckily, not so much the car and tire, and who cares when it involves track driving.

“The RS3-G1 is a marvel of Cooper’s greatest cutting-edge technologies,” said Scott Jamieson, the company’s Director of Product Management for North America.

Now, let’s talk about why I’m really here. Cooper Tire and Rubber Company has just released their all-new, do-everything tire, the RS3-G1. It’s an all-season, ultra high performance, non run-flat shoe that joins the expanding genre of the like, along with Kumho, Continental, Pirelli, and Michelin. However, the Cooper has something going for it, and it’s all in the name: G1. It’s called the G1 because it can hold 1g of lateral grip, something unheard of in a tire designed to not only work in perfect climates. And this is an all-season tire, too; When it rains or even in light snow, you won’t be wishing you had opted for xDrive. The deep sipes and grooves in the tread also work to give consistent performance throughout the life of the tire help water displacing.

[tweetthis]Cooper Tire’s new RS3-G1 pulls 1g of lateral grip![/tweetthis]

Cooper Tire Zeon RS3-G1

It’ll be interesting to see how the tires do on the 5-series, a car that comes standard, like nearly all new BMW’s, with run-flat tires. And not everyone loves run-flat tires. They’re expensive and can compromise ride quality and handling. However, they do offer the unique advantage of being able to still drive moderate distances even after a puncture. But the real question is, does the new Cooper make the 5 a better driving car? It does, but more on why later.

[tweetthis]Cooper Tire’s RS3-G1 improves BMW’s already great 5 series[/tweetthis]

So, the car then. It’s a BMW 528i. Yes, it’s the same 528i that has been in production for over 5 years now. And yes, the new 5er is due out in showrooms early next year, but it’s never too late to once get a feel of what has been a great sales success for BMW. If you’ve been thinking about adding a 5 to your stable, now is the time to buy as dealer’s will likely be discounting heavily to make way for the new species. Right off the bat though, has the new Cooper G1 transformed the car? No. Is it better? Yes, not by much, but having a non-RFT sticking to the road is an improvement.

What’s the 5 like? I’ll just make a list. Hence, thing’s I like about the F10 5-series: the steering is better than a 3-series, offering more weight and accuracy. The thinner, leather-wrapped wheel is better to hold in my hands as well versus the thick and squishy M-sport wheel. The seats are very comfortable and offer decent support even for my thin frame. The small 2 liter four pot makes plenty of power even for a car of this size and masks turbo lag surprisingly well, also achieving 34.5 MPG on a crowded freeway run. And the 8-speed ZF gearbox is seamless enough to make you think it’s not even there. iDrive is also probably the best infotainment system of its kind.

BMW 528i Test Car

What I don’t like about the current 5… the steering is still not good, being too numb and pondering for an Ultimate Driving Machine. Imagine browsing for a show on Netflix, it just doesn’t know quite what it wants. The standard sheet metal is far too mundane with little drama; the optional M-sport package helps a lot in the looks department. The interior is dated. And the engine sounds like a diesel from the outside. It’s almost like having unknowing bystanders ask if your dry-clutch Ducati is broken, but no, that’s just the sound. And unlike the Ducati clutch clatter, it’s not exactly cool and exotic.

But do I dislike the 5? Heavens no. It’s a lovely car to mosey around town and do freeways, but it’s just not quite a real BMW. It could be brilliant, but blame BMW’s product planners and engineers for making a car that is more mass appealing. In other words, they made it too much like a Mercedes. But driving through both sun and rain in Palm Beach, it was a very nice place to be. And serious kudos to iDrive 4.2, which is now being dropped in favor of the new 5.0 system. Embarking on a small road rally, meeting at various checkpoints such as parks and Ragtops, a motoring museum, the navigation and voice recognition is a breeze to use. Want to find something? Say “Points of Interest,” wait a few seconds and then say, “Oceanfront Beach Park, Boynton Beach” and takes you right there. The A/C also works wonders in the high humidity of Florida’s summers. The car in general is just a nice place to be. And especially when, at this moment, I do not want it to be a sharp track-tool or B-road carver. If you want that, BMW also sells several for that purpose too. But for cruising around, the 5 works.

Which now brings us to the tires. And they’re good. Compared directly to the OE run-flats found on all new 5’s, the ride quality is slightly improved. Where run-flats can give a sense of crashing over imperfections, the Cooper’s are less harsh over potholes and road reflectors. They’re also very quiet on the 528i, with there being so little road noise. And I do think the steering response is better on this example as well. It’s a comfortable car made more comfortable. However, if you hit a nail, you better stop.

Why should you consider the Cooper Tire’s RS3-G1? The ride and comfort seems to be pretty darn good and they’re backed up by a staggering 50,000 mile tread-wear warranty when fitted in a square setup. So, for those whose climate requires all-season rubber, and especially running square setups, you can’t go wrong. And they’re going to be priced significantly cheaper than the Michelin equivalent too. Even on staggered wheels, a 25,000-mile guarantee is included. In this regard it could be a highly desirable option for those with older BMW’s such as E36’s and E46’s. Furthermore, it comes with GlideMount technology that makes mounting tires much easier. For those stretching tires, this could be handy.

Bet now you’re wondering about the performance of the tire. What about that 1G of grip? Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to drive the cars hard on the street, but did get to hammer open-wheel cars the next day wearing the same rubber. Part 2 at Palm Beach International Raceway, coming soon.

Performance Cars