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EricJ17
EricJ17 New Reader
12/1/22 10:07 a.m.

Hello all! Long story short, I bought an E90 328i as my beginner track car and a fun(ish) street car. That car is going to become my daily driver next fall, and I want to get a different fun/weekend car that can handle two to three track days per year. Right now the 986 S and e46 (coupe) check the most of my boxes. I've only been to one track day so I'm a complete beginner, and I don't think I have any real interest in wheel to wheel racing or TT so I'm just looking for what will be the most fun car to take to HPDE and open lapping that I can grow into a bit and keep for a long time, but won't be overwhelming for a beginner.

For anyone that has tracked both the 986 S and the e46 M3, is one substantially more fun than the other on track? I want the convertible for the street, but I also want to maximize fun on track. I can only afford to buy one of these cars, and I wouldn't buy a convertible e46 M3. Thanks for any input!

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH MegaDork
12/1/22 10:31 a.m.

Getting a dedicated track car for just a few track days a year seems like overkill. You might want to consider getting something more practical as a second vehicle that can work as a backup DD, and keeping the E90 as a dual-duty street & track car.

I don't have experience with those two models specifically but I don't think the additional fun of a 986 would be worth the cost of a whole 986. Once you have a fairly competent sports car you'll quickly hit diminishing returns in terms of fun, and once you get into high-end sports car territory the speed of the vehicle can even make it less fun. So if it's just for fun, again I think you should save your money and stick to the E90, at least until you start to feel like the car's holding you back or that you want to do at least one event per month.

Tyler H
Tyler H UberDork
12/1/22 10:32 a.m.

Either is going to require some freshening and track prep for reliability.  I think the E46 has higher limits while also being more approachable and cheaper to run.  My .02.

That said, basing your decision soley on 2-3 track days per year leaves you with a car that you have to live with for the other 350 days a year, so buy the one that you enjoy driving around town more.

Javelin
Javelin MegaDork
12/1/22 10:37 a.m.

I've had a 986S for 4 years and many track days. It needs nothing to be able to handle track work and putting on dedicated track pads is super easy at the track with the fixed 4-piston calipers all the way around. It's also super practical because the frunk holds your helmet, chair, jack, tools, etc. 

It's also super fun on the street and the convertible experience is great.

 

dps214
dps214 Dork
12/1/22 10:38 a.m.

No specific experience, but I did have a base 986 briefly, and that car was way more fun on track than it had any right to be. I'm not sure you could have more fun for well under $10k (you know...back when those cars regularly sold for $5-7k). It was also super approachable, easy to push hard with no real surprises. As was said, both are likely going to need some maintenance and upgrades to be track ready, and both have some non-trivial reliability concerns. If you're tall, especially in the torso, the bmw will probably fit you better. Along those lines the bmw is probably safer, and/or the 986 may need some safety upgrades before being allowed on track. But also like others have said, for your use case you should probably get the car that's more enjoyable on the street, not necessarily the one that's best on track. I haven't been paying attention to bmw prices lately, but I'd guess that the 986 is probably at least a tiny bit cheaper still, though things like a hardtop or other needed convertible track safety gear will cut into that.

Fupdiggity (Forum Supporter)
Fupdiggity (Forum Supporter) Reader
12/1/22 10:40 a.m.

The M3 would give a substantially similar experience to your E90 (BMW, front engine, I6) while the 986 would be a good compliment (mid engine, flat 6, convertible). Personally, that would push me towards the 986. 

Slippery
Slippery PowerDork
12/1/22 10:43 a.m.

I would rethink this and keep the 328 as the track car and use the e46 m3 as daily. Actually would keep the 328 as both daily and track car and use the e46 sparingly as its value keeps going up. 

Olemiss540
Olemiss540 HalfDork
12/1/22 11:22 a.m.

I would sell the 328, buy an e46 or e90 m3 and use that for a daily/track car OR just keep the 328 and run it at track events until you are a few years into this hobby and running 4 or 5 weekends plus a year.....

I would only buy the Pcar if I had a substantial desire to complete an engine rebuild :-) or just wanted a fun weekend cruiser that had been COMPLETELY gone through by a trusted indy and had as much preventative bearing/oiling maintenance and upgrades as possible. Buying Pcar parts is worse than buying BMW parts IMO but I have only owned a handful of BMW/PCars and never have owned a 986 (just read a bunch about them). 

EricJ17
EricJ17 New Reader
12/1/22 11:25 a.m.

Thanks everyone! You've given me a lot to think about and keeping the 328 for double duty might be what I end up doing, at least for several years. We get bad winters and I bought this car from the south and I'm not going to want to keep it in DD/track condition when it gets rusty.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
12/1/22 11:55 a.m.

I agree with dps214 that the M3 is easier to fit into with a helmet on and will be safer in track use.  It's probably also an easier car to drive at the limit on the track than the Porsche due to the longer wheelbase and front engined nature making it more stable and predictable, especially with the electronic nannies turned off.  

That said, there is definitely something special about having a convertible on the street

Tom1200
Tom1200 UberDork
12/1/22 11:58 a.m.

I would go with the 986 if I were choosing between the two as it's going to be 650-700lb  lighter than the M3.

With that said is there a reason why you wouldn't track day your daily driver? If you have a back up car and or truck as many of us do it shouldn't be an issue.

I have vintage two race cars plus a van and trailer to haul them as well as my daily driver; I will tell you I admire the folks who are content to do nothing but track days and only have one car. The simplicity of it makes so much sense.

EricJ17
EricJ17 New Reader
12/1/22 12:15 p.m.

In reply to Tom1200 :

If I lived in a warmer climate I think I'd be very content to do this. But I try to buy ultra reliable DDs so I don't have to work on them in the winter. I don't mind having to work on the DD, it's doing it in the winter that I hate.

SKJSS (formerly Klayfish)
SKJSS (formerly Klayfish) PowerDork
12/1/22 12:23 p.m.

I'm not sure the E90 N52 qualifies as ultra reliable.  Don't get me wrong, my DD is an E81 N52 and I love the hell out of it.  As Germans go, I'd agree they're quite reliable, but when I think ultra reliable I think Honda or Toyota.  

If you only have one track day under your belt and only plan to do a few per year, run the E90.  It's a terrific track car and you'll have a blast.  I just was on track last weekend with mine, it's such a great car.

dps214
dps214 Dork
12/1/22 12:25 p.m.
codrus (Forum Supporter) said:

It's probably also an easier car to drive at the limit on the track than the Porsche due to the longer wheelbase and front engined nature making it more stable and predictable, especially with the electronic nannies turned off.

At least in stock form, I don't think you could spin the boxster on track if you tried, short of a mid-corner clutch kick. (and even that would probably just slip the clutch) The "mid engine cars are unpredictable" trope came from toyota slapping fwd drivetrains into the rear of a sports car and then screwing up the rest of the suspension geometry. If you do it right, it's incredibly stable and easy to drive.

Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter)
Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
12/1/22 12:43 p.m.

One thing I've wondered with my Boxster, do track day organizers consider the factory rollover protection to be sufficient? I doubt I could pass the broomstick test in mine...

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
12/1/22 12:55 p.m.
dps214 said:
codrus (Forum Supporter) said:

It's probably also an easier car to drive at the limit on the track than the Porsche due to the longer wheelbase and front engined nature making it more stable and predictable, especially with the electronic nannies turned off.

At least in stock form, I don't think you could spin the boxster on track if you tried, short of a mid-corner clutch kick. (and even that would probably just slip the clutch) The "mid engine cars are unpredictable" trope came from toyota slapping fwd drivetrains into the rear of a sports car and then screwing up the rest of the suspension geometry. If you do it right, it's incredibly stable and easy to drive.

I dunno if they were stock, but I've watched a lot of Boxsters go off the track backwards in front of me. :)  

I'm not saying the Boxster is bad or unsafe, just that the E46 is going to be easier to drive at the limit.

EricJ17
EricJ17 New Reader
12/1/22 12:59 p.m.

In reply to SKJSS (formerly Klayfish) :

So this is kind of the issue I'm having. I'm hesitant to even DD the 328 for that exact reason. They are reliable... for a BMW. Maybe the move is to just get an ultra reliable DD and keep tracking the 328.

bmw88rider
bmw88rider UberDork
12/1/22 1:13 p.m.

Honestly as some one who is in the north with salty roads, Get a DD that you don't mind getting rusty and then track the BMW and enjoy it when the days are nice. A 10+ Y/O BMW is never going to be ultra reliable. I spent 4x on parts when I had my e90 328 vs my 2001 integra with 3X the miles. 

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) Dork
12/1/22 2:21 p.m.

Tell me you want a Miata without telling me you want a Miata

Olemiss540
Olemiss540 HalfDork
12/1/22 2:27 p.m.
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) said:

Tell me you want a Miata without telling me you want a Miata

Agreed. NC miata >>> 986 boxster as an HPDE machine.

If ya gunna drive slow, might as well drive something dead reliable.

nderwater
nderwater UltimaDork
12/1/22 2:33 p.m.

I've owned E30s, an E36 M3, NA and NB Miatas, a 987 Boxster; I have plenty of seat time in a Z3, Z4, E46 M3 and S2000.  My recommendation for the OP would be a E36 M3 or Z4 3.0si for max fun per dollar.

Tom1200
Tom1200 UberDork
12/1/22 2:47 p.m.
EricJ17 said:

In reply to SKJSS (formerly Klayfish) :

So this is kind of the issue I'm having. I'm hesitant to even DD the 328 for that exact reason. They are reliable... for a BMW. Maybe the move is to just get an ultra reliable DD and keep tracking the 328.

I think this is the real solution, at least for the near term.  Buy a Lexus LS4000-430 or Honda-Acura something and have fun with the BMW.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
12/1/22 3:04 p.m.
Olemiss540 said:
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) said:

Tell me you want a Miata without telling me you want a Miata

Agreed. NC miata >>> 986 boxster as an HPDE machine.

If ya gunna drive slow, might as well drive something dead reliable.

He said Boxster S, that's a lot faster than a stock-power Miata.

 

Olemiss540
Olemiss540 HalfDork
12/1/22 3:10 p.m.
codrus (Forum Supporter) said:
Olemiss540 said:
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) said:

Tell me you want a Miata without telling me you want a Miata

Agreed. NC miata >>> 986 boxster as an HPDE machine.

If ya gunna drive slow, might as well drive something dead reliable.

He said Boxster S, that's a lot faster than a stock-power Miata.

 

Faster, yes. Not slow, no. :-)

Also cost for an NC right now versus a track prepped 986 Boxster S leaves ample room to make up the speed disparity while maintaining reliability I would presume. 

Boxster S has went up quite a bit in value compared to NC miatas since the pandemic I believe. 

Olemiss540
Olemiss540 HalfDork
12/1/22 3:11 p.m.
nderwater said:

I've owned E30s, an E36 M3, NA and NB Miatas, a 987 Boxster; I have plenty of seat time in a Z3, Z4, E46 M3 and S2000.  My recommendation for the OP would be a E36 M3 or Z4 3.0si for max fun per dollar.

Love me some e36m3. Add 128i into the mix for similar lb/hp with more modern techology.

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