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Old 10-19-2003, 06:29 PM
JST's Avatar
JST JST is offline
A sudden sense of liberty
Location: U of ///M
Join Date: Dec 2001
Posts: 3,935
Mein Auto: 535xiT, Golf R, 987S
Driven (hard): M3 SMG, M5, X5 4.6is, 760iL, Z4 3.0

At the Performance Center two day school, they turn you loose on one of the "autocross" courses in a range of BMW models. You only get two laps in each car, but the upside is that you can thrash them all you want. The section also included slightly less than a quarter of a mile or so of straightaway at the beginning to get a feel for acceleration.

Some impressions, first to last:

X5 4.6is: Even the Alpina engine strains to launch the X5, but once you get rolling the acceleration is impressive. Especially through second, the truck really pulls. Handling is, for an SUV, very good, but by car standards it feels big, heavy, and slow to react. The monster meats on the wheels provide lots of grip, and the chassis is well balanced, but flickable this thing isn't. OTOH, body roll is less than expected. I continue to miss the point, I guess; I'd much rather have, say, an Aero and a Porsche.

760iL: Looong. Handles decently, but the steering is slow. The V12 provides smooth acceleration, but it doesn't feel as powerful as it is, probably because of all of the mass. The car can be man-handled through a slalom, but it's not happy about it. Body roll is essentially zero. They spent 10 minutes explaining the transmission, and some still couldn't figure it out. They didn't even attempt to explain the iDrive.

M3 SMG: After the 330s and the beasts above, the M3 was a revelation. It takes driving the same course back-to-back at close to the limit to realize how much more capable the M3 is than the 330i. The SMG was as I expected it to be. It provides clean, sharp shifts and is very nice to have on a track, since you don't have to worry about rev-matching. It's also surprisingly tractable at slow speeds. OTOH, the driver involvement is definitely lower, and you don't get the satisfaction of pulling clean up and down shifts. The paddles are hard to find when the wheel is cranked over, though my co-driver pointed out you could use the stick for this (it didn't occur to me). All in all, I'm impressed with the SMG, but I concur with the analysis of one of the instructors: On the track, I'll take an SMG, because it will definitely give you faster and more consistent times. On the street, the 6 speed is more fun.

Z4: This was the biggest surprise for me. I've driven Z4s before (on the street) and not been impressed. On the track, the chassis is brilliant. The car is really capable at the limit, and is far more tossable than I expected it to be. The 3.0 has a lot of punch, even with a slushie. I still think it drives like a cut down 3 series, but closer to an M3 than anything else. I wouldn't buy one because it's damn ugly and still no fun on the street (IMHO), but it'd be fun as a trackday car.

M5: Fast, fast, fast. The torque of the engine is incredible, and babying the shifts is critical as a result (a series of novice stick drivers before me left a palpable stench of burned friction disc). It handles very well, but it's noticeably bigger, heavier and not as tossable as the M3. I like this car.

But I like the M3 better.

Bottom line? The 6 speed M3 was my favorite of the group, even if cost is not an object. And I couldn't help but wonder what it would have been like to have some other cars there for comparison, like, e.g., an E36 M3. Or a Z06 Corvette.
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Old 10-19-2003, 06:45 PM
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Jetfire Jetfire is offline
Car Junkie
Location: N. VA
Join Date: Jun 2002
Posts: 3,390
Mein Auto: '88 M3, Ex-'99 M3
So that's where you've been. I'm insanely jealous. Overall, how would you rate the two-day school?

'88 M3
Conforti chip, Evo airbox/K&N filter, UUC short shift kit, oil pan baffle, Hella H4 lights, OEM glass sunroof
sold: '99 M3 Coupe
Cosmos Black
Airbox baffle removed, ZKW ellipsoid headlights, UUC short shift kit, BMW x-brace, debadged

'96 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo V8
(Support Vehicle)
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Old 10-19-2003, 07:07 PM
JST's Avatar
JST JST is offline
A sudden sense of liberty
Location: U of ///M
Join Date: Dec 2001
Posts: 3,935
Mein Auto: 535xiT, Golf R, 987S
Originally Posted by Jetfire
So that's where you've been. I'm insanely jealous. Overall, how would you rate the two-day school?

Very good. It was a lot of fun, and I learned (and was able to work on) a number of skills. I've never been to another school, so I can't really compare, but it was well worth the cost of the course. My only suggestions would have been to cut the bit where you take X5s off-road, tone down some of the BMW sales pitch stuff, and use manual tranny cars and teach heel and toeing. But I would definitely recommend it.

Here's a summary that I posted on a different board:

"Overall, I was impressed with the class. The cars that we used were 330iA SPs, so there was no heel and toe work, but other than that, they covered the majority of topics I wanted to work on. We spent a fair amount of time on the wet skidpad, as well as doing various lane change and braking exercises. The highlight of the class, though, are the "autocross" sections, which are done on sections of the track that are much faster than what I think of as an autocross around here. They run you through finding the apex, the turn in and track out points, and continually emphasize how important it is to keep looking ahead. This is all stuff I've heard before, but the hands-on work was very helpful."

Also, just for giggles, here's a pic of a new Rolls-Royce that was sitting in the lot at the factory. Notice how big it is, compared to my M3 in the foreground and the X5 sitting essentially next to it.

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