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Old 03-27-2020, 06:14 AM
Ohio Enthusiast Ohio Enthusiast is offline
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Location: Dayton, OH
Join Date: Mar 2020
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Mein Auto: Focus ST
Manual 2 or 3 series as weekend fun car?

I'm a long time car enthusiast, but I never had a sporty car until I got my Focus ST a year ago. Now I'm ready to advance to a RWD platform, potentially as a third car along side the ST and the minivan, or to replace the ST.

I test drove a 2018 Subaru BRZ, a 2020 Miata Club and a 2020 Genesis G70 (all manual). Sadly manual BMWs are pretty hard to find in my area for a test drive, so I haven't had the chance yet.
I'm also eyeing a 370z or a used Cayman/Boxster, and plan to test drive those as well.

From the above 3, I really liked the BRZ, the Miata was "meh" and the G70 felt long and heavy (which it is compared to the BRZ).
  • In the BRZ I could really feel the tail helping to tuck in the turn with some throttle mid-turn and it would step out a little if I wanted to. The BRZ's steering was really amazing.
  • The G70 actually felt similar to the BRZ, but everything felt slower to respond and less sharp, plus the engine felt sluggish (despite being much more powerful than the BRZ (2T vs 2NA)).
  • The Miata was way too soft, almost felt like a Golf GTI (which I drove before deciding on the ST) - capable but unexciting.
My driving style is not too refined - I enjoy tossing the car into corners, most often with too much throttle . Driving like that in the BRZ was huge fun, probably partially due to the low power of the car and the super short gearing.

Finally, I have 3 young kids, and ideally I should be able to fit them in the car so that I could use it for drop offs to school and activities. 2 doors is acceptable, as well as +2 rear seats. The BRZ is adequate for this, so anything bigger would be fine. However, proper 5 seats will allow me to daily the car fully, potentially replacing the ST (and thus saving money from not having 3 cars), so that's also a consideration.

Now for the BMWs - I would imagine a 2 or 3 series in the lower engine trims (an F22 230i or F30/F32 330i/430i would be more than enough) might be able to fit my needs. My main worry is they'll feel as long and as heavy as the G70 - the BRZ weight around 2700 lbs and has a length of 167 inches and a wheelbase of 101 inches. Even the F22 is around 3300 lbs (600 more!) with an extra 5 inches in length (174) and wheelbase (106). The F30/F32 are even heavier at 3400 lbs and longer by 10 inches than the BRZ (182/110), although they're lighter than the G70 (at 3600 lbs and similar length/wheelbase).

Does anyone have experience with a 2 or 3/4 series compared to the BRZ/86/FRS? I'm just interested in the driving experience in a twisty road (no tracking/auto-x). Any advantages a BMW will have over the BRZ in creature comforts, refinements on the highway, etc. are moot for me.

I know that the 3 series dropped the manual after 2018, and that for 2020 I can only get an F22 230i and an F32 430i as manuals, but I'm okay with a 2-4 years old car. I'm also okay with light modding to improve things (coilovers are probably the biggest thing I'll consider, but I won't be putting an LSD or replacing half the suspension with M parts, etc.).

P.S. I'm specifically not looking at M2/M3 - they are far too expensive and powerful for me right now. I'd like a car I could go all out on an empty road with, not one I need to worry about speed or traction all the time.
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