Thursday, April 3, 2014

Manic Street Machine: Driving the BMW M5 Competition Pack

 photo DSC01083.jpg It has been close to 30 years since the mad scientist at BMW's Motorsports division decided to shoehorn the race-derived engine from the M1 into the body of a 5 Series, close to 30 years since they created what was the fastest production sedan in the World and close to 30 years since they introduced us to one of the most iconic and revered badges in automotive circles, the M5.
 photo DSC01104.jpg With each iteration of the Munich express getting more powerful and quicker than the last (as well as physically bigger), BMW's latest offering is also the first M5 to swap out its natural aspirated engines for some forced induced power.
 photo DSC01032insta.jpg In some circles just hearing the name is enough to send the lips of car nuts pursing while their imaginations take over. So as you can imagine, being handed the keys to one does increase your heart rate a few notches.
 photo DSC01107.jpg Inside, visibility in the M5 is superb and drivers familiar with regular run of the mill 5 Series sedans will pretty much find themselves at home. With the exception of some extra buttons which allows drivers to configure various aspects of the car on the fly. Changes which can also be assigned to the 2 M buttons on the gorgeous M leather steering wheel, whose new design supposedly takes visual cues from the double-spoke wheels.
 photo DSC01109.jpg Someone higher up in M-Division must have been monitoring how most people have been comparing the M5 to the M6 Gran Coupe because they have now introduced the M5 Competition Package to set these 2 cars even further apart. Most easily distinguished from its predecessor by the redesigned 20-inch wheels which sit very flush to the bodywork. M engineers have also tweaked and sharpened the suspension, damper settings and tightened the stabilizer bars. Adjustments that have also resulted in the car sitting 10mm lower to the ground.
 photo DSC01023.jpg Speaking of which, the exterior aesthetics really is a literal interpretation of a 5 Series on steroids. All pumped up, beefy and serious. From the massive air intakes up front to those signature quad pipes which are now finished in the currently fashionable black chrome. Those quad pipes do more than just look good as the M5 now has a much more proper growl when you awaken the engine. I'm sure there was also some tweaking to the "Active Sound Design" setup as well as the car does sound alot throatier than what i last remembered. It's a pity though as the revised rear pipes do a credible job of bringing the V8 to life. Again i wish BMW would just reintroduce their use of butterfly valves in the exhaust to let their engines sing instead of piping in artificial noises.
 photo DSC01053.jpg This sharper and more focused M5 also brings along a 15 horsepower boost from the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8. Up to 575hp from 560hp which means 0-100km/h times have been shaved ever so slightly. That 100km/h mark now arrives in 4.2 seconds if you manage to hook up the rear wheels to the road. I say "if" because this executive stormer can be a monster at eating up the rear tires. Unlike previous M5s which built up their power and speed like a rising and howling crescendo, this M5 prefers to lay it all down sledgehammer style.
 photo DSC00991.jpg Stomp through the lower gears (even in Sport mode) and power is forcibly removed at various points of acceleration until full grip is restored and everything around you turns into a blur as you enter hyperspace. With an extremely meaty 680Nm of torques arriving from 1500rpm, the constant flickering of the traction control light is just one of the reminders of how much the computers are restraining the wild beasts under the bonnet and keeping the car aimed straight. In driving modes other than comfort, throttle response remains sharp with only a hint of latency if the revs drop off. Once it enters mid-range though, any thoughts of it being turbo-charged are easily forgotten as the smallest inputs from your right foot are transmitted straight to the rear wheels.
 photo DSC00994.jpg  photo DSC01085.jpg The traction control on this car does seem to be working harder than on the M6 Gran Coupe. If you plan to turn it off, the car will even ask you if you really want to do it. I didn't as i figured if doing so needed a "confirmation", it was best left to the open confines of a race track. Brakes can be grabby and hard to modulate in crawls through traffic but work very well as shaving off big numbers from the speedometer.
 photo DSC01116.jpg Overall it drives like you'd imagine how an M5 would drive. Plenty of power, plenty of speed and an unnatural ability to hide it's girth through fast sweeping corners. And like it's predecessors, it has brought the "Iron fist in velvet glove" ethos up another notch against the competition. It will be interesting to see how much further the M5 can progress from here. For now, it's game on with one of the most manical sedans on the street.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Living the dream

Just watch.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Cars & Kopi - March 2014

 photo DSC00895.jpg If you've been keeping track of this blog (or my facebook page), you would have noticed a little meetup in front of our local Killiney Kopitiam that happens once every few months (or not at all for many months). With the last meet having just ended a little over a month ago it was natural to assume that the next one would be a few months away, but you can't keep a group of enthusiasts down for long and happily, we just had another Cars & Kopi session over the weekend! Here are some highlights.

Our perennial favourite Z4M  photo DSC00853.jpg  photo DSC00846.jpg  photo DSC00840.jpg
A newly acquired E36 joining the party. The Garage36 jalopy now has a sibling!  photo DSC00856.jpg  photo DSC00887.jpg  photo DSC00903.jpg
Shown at the beginning of this writeup, a recently restored Porsche 930 looking stunning.  photo DSC00965.jpg The massive stack of restoration receipts were eye-watering to say the least.  photo DSC00905.jpg  photo DSC00909.jpg  photo DSC00910.jpg It's going to be up for sale too!  photo DSC00959.jpg
There is probably no better condition W201 on our local streets.  photo DSC00858.jpg SC400 parked up behind wasn't part of the meet but didn't look out of place.  photo DSC00884.jpg
Miata's the answer for everything!  photo DSC00899.jpg
Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaab  photo DSC00879.jpg Cars & Kopi, where Ferraris and Saabs mingle freely.  photo DSC00891.jpg
That shape...  photo DSC00922.jpg No ordinary Fezza...  photo DSC00925.jpg  photo DSC00931.jpg
Early generation Golf Cabriolet and E30 rounded up the red brigade.  photo DSC00957.jpg  photo DSC00940.jpg
Another car we rarely see.  photo DSC00953.jpg These last generation Preludes were already uncommon when new as most boy-racer buyers went for the Integra and the Prelude became more of a gentleman's cruiser.  photo DSC00934.jpg Still a handsome shape though.  photo DSC00946.jpg Finishing off with this. As my E36 was away, i had to drive this M5. Not too bad an alternative i think.  photo DSC00975.jpg How do you like your power?  photo DSC00976.jpg Till the next Cars & Kopi meet... Drive safe~!!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Artisan RWB. Taiwan Vol.3

Nakai-san working his magic once again.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

4 This Moment - Driving the BMW 435i Coupe.

 photo P1170321.jpg Launched towards the tail end of 2013, the BMW 4 Series represents the first car to breakaway from BMW's traditional naming nomenclature. With all sedans and "practical" cars taking on odd numbers while more "lifestyle" oriented cars are blessed with even numbers.  photo P1170304.jpg Taking this approach might seem sacrilegious to most enthusiast of the marque, especially when it concerns the 3 Series (which started out in Coupe form in the first place), but it does allow BMW to spread their wings out even more, enabling them the option to create a full range of cars based on a single model or platform. Beyond the PR or marketing hijinks though, beats the heart and soul of what we all know is the new 3 Series Coupe.  photo DSC00492.jpg  photo DSC00476.jpg Aesthetically, BMW's quintessential Coupe has always been a beautifully restrained work of art and it's latest evolution continues that trend. Everything here has been tapered, sharpened and stretched to give the F32 a much more striking silhouette compared to the Sedan it spawned from.  photo P1170203.jpg I'm speculating here but i'm of the opinion that given a new nameplate, BMW's designers probably had more leeway when penning the lines for the 4. In previous iterations, the Coupes bore much more than a passing resemblance to their Sedan counterparts but with this new car, no doubt the styling similarities are still present, it seems the designers had a little bit more freedom of expression.  photo P1170185.jpg The 4 Series is shorter, longer, wider and most importantly, sits closer to the ground than it's 3 Series counterpart, with the most noticeable styling difference being the elegant sloping rear roof line which not only gives a sportier outlook, but also more space for the rear passengers and while the new front end might not be to everyone's cup of tea on the Sedan, it fits perfectly here.  photo DSC00509.jpg The 4 Series also gets a boomerang shaped vent just aft of the front wheels, first seen on the 3GT. Our test car came in "Sport" trim, which gave us a more aggressive front bumper and shadow-lined trimmings for the window surrounds and those "side-blades".  photo P1170160.jpg Inside, those familiar with the new 3 Series would find everything almost pretty much the same here. Not a bad thing really as the ergonomics are spot on and you can't fault the red and black interior combo on our test car. All of which when put together makes for a very good looking car indeed (even more so in this lovely shade of grey), so good looking that every time i parked it, i had to do a triple take as i walked away.  photo P1170123.jpg Walking away when you have the keys to this car though is something you'll probably do with reluctance because the drive, is just sublime. With the 3 Series easily one of, if not the most dynamically excellent cars in it's class, you might think BMW would just glue the two rear doors together and call it a day. Thankfully they didn't, and the end result is a car that is able to tip the 3 Series in every driving attribute you can think of. With the only six-cylinder TwinPower petrol engine in the entire lineup, you get slightly over 300 horses and a nice juicy 400Nm's of torque to play with and propelling the 4 from 0-100 in a respectably rapid 5.1 seconds.  photo P1170118.jpg 10 millimeters might not sound like much to most of us, being just a small space of air between our thumb and index finger, but with a 10mm drop, the 4 Series now has the lowest center of gravity of any current BMW. BMW had also set about retuning the suspension and camber settings to suit the car. Putting all those ingredients into a very well built and stiff chassis makes for one of the best driving Coupes on the market.  photo DSC00506.jpg Everything here flows together very well, the power delivery, the way the car pitches into the bends and holds itself through the twisties. The 4 Series Coupe just dances through the back-roads and feels very light footed throughout. The best part? It isn't intimidating at all. The agility and balance of the 4 Series just gives you that little bit more confidence to pop it into Sport+ and leave it there the entire run through the back roads. When the fun roads come to an end, the 4 slots back into cruise mode for a more leisurely ride home. On comfort mode, the ride remains on the slightly firm side, but the suspension does well in soaking up most of the nasty imperfections on our roads. It takes quite a bit of restraint to keep it in comfort though as it just feels so much better in Sport or Sport+.  photo P1170073.jpg One disappointment (and again on pretty much all new BMWs), is the sound, or rather the lack of. BMW really just needs to fit one of those new trick butterfly-valve exhaust systems to their cars.  photo P1170375.jpg Overall, there really is a lot to like with the new 4 Series. It looks fantastic, drives like a dream, pips it's sedan sibling in every dynamic way and easily outperforms it's very accomplished predecessor in each and every way. If COE prices were not as the levels they are now, i would not be surprised to see more of these on our roads. The BMW 4 Series range is now available for viewing in Performance Motors Showrooms.  photo P1170395.jpg