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roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/19/24 10:16 a.m.
CyberEric said:

I worked at an Acura dealer in the early 2000s, so I drove a lot of integras and remember when the RSX came out.

Completely agree with your comments. Steering was better, engine was better, ergonomics were better. It's pretty unloved now, probably because it didn't have the suspension the Integra had. But it felt like an upgrade at the time, though I only drove it slowly on the street.

I was out pitching my DC2 around a few back roads yesterday, testing out a "new" seat. In the handling department, my DC2 is nothing short of impressive- it masks it's FWD layout very well.

That RSX-S didn't feel nearly as confidence inspiring or willing to rotate with such neutrality... it felt nervous, unpredictable, unplanted, like the tires were skipping on top of the pavement... but I don't know if that's a fair comparison: My DC2 is running OEM Type R springs, Koni shocks, a 22mm rear sway bar, additional caster (Whiteline kit- max OEM specs), full HardRace rubber bushings, HardRace adjustable upper arms- dialed to -2.5* of camber all around and has a LSD. Meanwhile, that RSX-S had cheap eBay coilovers with rates too high for the street and was in need of an alignment... so I suppose the only area I preferred the DC2 is in the twisties, but I'm not entirely convinced that isn't because my car is setup so much better than stock. 

I know the DC2 has some inherent advantages: double wishbones up front and lighter weight (100-200 lbs lighter), but if you're not tracking the car or going to the canyons regularly, I feel like the RSX-S is the better choice for a fun car you're commuting in. I would like to drive one on stock suspension or one that has been well-setup for a more fair comparison. Outside of handling, the RSX-S feels like an upgrade in pretty much every other category. 

akylekoz UltraDork
2/19/24 11:30 a.m.

Ok, so now I want an ND2 and Maverick even more, also understand that my S197 is probably the car for me for a while longer.   Also you probably do need to drive a 135i...even if that means that you might like it.   GRM may need to add you as an adjunct writer.

Can't wait until you need to replace the Xterra and how you find the acceptable replacements.

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/19/24 12:25 p.m.
akylekoz said:

Ok, so now I want an ND2 and Maverick even more, also understand that my S197 is probably the car for me for a while longer.   Also you probably do need to drive a 135i...even if that means that you might like it.   GRM may need to add you as an adjunct writer.

Can't wait until you need to replace the Xterra and how you find the acceptable replacements.

I absolutely plan on driving a 135i, I've just been waiting for the right car to pop up! If I can find a manual version locally, I'll hop on it immediately! But I probably shouldn't hold my breath. I would settle for a drive in a clean DCT coupe... right now the only one in my area is an automatic convertible w/o the sport seats... I could drive it, but I don't believe it would do the potential of the car justice. 

Before I bought the Xterra, I was considering a newer truck as a daily. I never wrote any reviews, but I drove several of them: 

-Chevrolet Colorado (meh, the seats were subpar and the truck did nothing for me). 

-Ford Ranger (I liked this little truck! It was a bit on the bouncy side, but I had fairly positive impressions of it)

-Toyota Tacoma (I guess it wasn't bad. Honestly, aside from reliability, it's tough to see the appeal, as it drives like a traditional Toyota- boring and uninspiring). 

-Honda Ridgeline (I know it's not a "truck" truck, but I don't care- this thing was wonderful to drive! It hurt my knee to drive- I drove 3 of them, altering seating positions, trying to get the knee pain to go away... to no avail. If it wasn't for the knee pain, I might have bought one). 

-Hyundai Santa Cruz - I was inspired to drive it because I liked the Ridgeline so much. That turbo engine and DCT make it feel more like a sports ute than a truck! I loved it! Although the thought of owning a DCT truck made me a bit wary... 

-Ford Maverick - best damn "truck" on the market. Doesn't drive like a truck at all. See previous review. If I'm being honest, I liked the look of the Santa Cruz and wasn't crazy about the aesthetics of the Maverick, but when I drove it, I preferred the Maverick- lighter weight, better ergonomics, just a joy to drive.  

Admittedly, I wasn't looking for anything full-size- so I avoided the bigger trucks (and their price-tags). I then decided I didn't want a car payment and didn't want to drain my savings account... I was actually hunting for a Nissan Frontier (I thought the truck bed would be more useful)- the Nissan products seem to depreciate more than their Japanese counterparts... but when my wife's former boss was selling her Xterra, she agreed to an absurdly low price that I couldn't walk away from. The Xterra isn't terrible- it does it's job just fine. Not the best driving vehicle on earth, but for the price I bought it for, it was the best 4WD vehicle I could find for the money. 

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/25/24 2:55 a.m.

2017 BMW M240i X-drive (auto trans): 
Pros: B58 engine! Excellent driving dynamics. Wonderful daily driver qualities. 
Cons: Steering lacks much feel. She's a heavy girl- she hides it well, but a dedicated sports car it is not. 

Today, my wife and I went for 2 test drives, one of which was completely unexpected and honestly, I wasn't really seeking it out. More on that one to come... 

We took a spin out west to check out a 2017 BMW M240i X-Drive convertible (automatic trans). I've always liked the look of the 2-series and have been meaning to drive one of these for a while, as a potential replacement for my 128i. To make sure I could compare them fairly, I drove my 128i half-way across town to the dealership. 

To be clear, I would have preferred a coupe, but the only one I found locally literally sold this morning- so I made do with the convertible. Oh what a punishment box I had to endure! 

I'll get this question out of the way: is this generation M240i better than my beloved 128i? Well, in some ways, yes. Maybe not in all ways. It depends on what you're looking for. 

If I was shopping in this price range (around $30k for this one), would I actually buy this generation of M240i with my own money? Without a hesitation! Am I actually going to buy this car? Probably not. More on that later. 

To start, this car feels a lot like the next evolution of the E82 1-series... because, well, it is. This is a great place to start in my book. 

The moment I stepped inside the M240i, it felt familiar. Familiar in interior size to my 128i. Familiar and much beloved seating position, even if the transmission tunnel might have intruded just a bit more into the cabin. Eerily familiar sports seats. These seats! I've driven just about everything and honestly, I'm convinced: BMW makes the best seats in the market. Period. Full stop. 

Setting off in the M240i, this car is just about as easy to drive as a car possibly can be! This particular car has a fairly large passenger side blindspot- but I'm 99% sure this wouldn't be an issue in the coupe, as the convertible top's wide rear cloth "pillars" (what in the world would you call that area?) take up quite a bit of real estate. Beyond that, visibility was excellent. Although you feel like you're sitting a bit lower in the M240i than I feel like I'm sitting in my 128i... I'm not sure if that's an illusion or not, as I can't tell if the seats are actually lower in the M240i, or if the doors and dashboard are just higher? Either way, it feels low and sporty, without taking much away from visibility. 

I should mention that for a coupe that was converted into a convertible, the car felt surprisingly solid. If there was any chassis flex or floppiness, I certainly didn't feel it. This chassis feels stiff. 

I don't know if BMW piped in fake noises or not, but all I know is that this exhaust sounded damn good! At low cruising speeds, it was quiet and subdued, but when I got on the throttle, it piped up and sounded off like it had a pair! Aggressive, without being obnoxious. 

Speaking of laying into the throttle... the transmission was very intuitive, responding like I would think it should, quickly finding the gear I think best suits the throttle input I'm giving it... I put my foot into it and good Lord does this thing pull! I can see why everyone raves so much about the BMW B58! It just rides a constant wave of torque, from pretty much any RPM until redline! 

Now, I'm a fan of my 128i's N52, but I'm not going to lie to myself: the B58 is a superior engine. Granted, that's not a fair comparison. A more fair comparison would be the N54/N55 vs the B58, but it doesn't really matter- the B58 sounds great, feels alive and pulls like a freight train! Honestly, what more do you want? I'm on Team B58 all the things! 

Going light to light, this car is incredibly easy to drive. Very relaxing when you want it to be and gets around any obstacle in its way with the greatest of ease. 

If I had to commute to work in a car I own, would I daily this car? 100%! 

The ride is smooth, without feeling sloppy. The steering, while a bit on the lighter side, is very accurate and precise, moving the car in the direction you want it to go with ease. Overall, this would be an incredibly easy car to live with, while still being a joy to drive! 

Want a car that will soak up countless freeway miles? Here you go. 

Want a car that will keep up with that V8 muscle car next to you at a light? Yep, it'll do that too. 

Want a car that you can drive year round, in the snow? This one has X-drive AWD. 

Want a car that is effortless to drive in traffic? We went through some semblance of rush hour traffic without a care in the world. 

Want a car that's just big enough to be comfortable, but small enough to maneuver easily through thicker traffic? This car is the Right Size. 

I feel like this car is as close as it comes to being All Things to All Men. 

Now, all that goodness doesn't come without some drawbacks: 

-The steering, while precise and accurate, is a bit on the lighter side (although not overly light like the BRZ/GR86) and lacks feel. It's honestly not bad for an EPS rack, but at the end of the day, it's still an EPS rack. 

-We pitched it through a few corners to see how she do... and well, it's not bad. The M240i feels well balanced and controls its body motions well, but with the X-drive AWD, convertible top and auto transmission, she's a heavy girl and you can feel it. It might hide some of its weight, but she can't hide all of it. 

These are the only real areas where I preferred my E82. My E82 is substantially lighter and pitching it around, it feels like far more of a driver's car. The little 128i offers far more feedback through the wheel and less resistance to lateral G's. The heavier M240i feels a bit more floaty and disconnected by comparison. 

As a daily commuter, I would say the M240i is the better car. As a back road hoon machine, I would take the lighter, more engaging 128i and its superior steering feel. 

To have a more of an apples to apples comparison, I should probably try to seek out the lighter 228i or 230i, with a manual transmission and RWD (which, admittedly, is tough to find). 

Am I going to buy this M240i? Again, no, probably not. For a car with this mileage and condition, I feel like $30k is actually a very fair price. How much can I sell my 128i for? Maybe somewhere in the $10k-$15k range... for the price delta, do I feel like the M240i is worth $15k to $20k more than my 128i? Not to me. As of right now, I just can't justify the price when I already enjoy the 128i so much. If I didn't already own the 128i and know it so well, inside and out, and I didn't mind the idea of a car payment, would I be looking to track down an M240i coupe? You're damn right I would! 

This car is good. Very, very good. I can see myself owning one sometime in the future. 


********************2nd TEST DRIVE REVIEW*****************************

2015 Jaguar F-Type R
Pros: The supercharged 5.0L V8 engine! Did I mention the supercharged 5.0L engine? Glorious noises! The most beautiful car on earth! I just couldn't stop laughing! 
Cons: Where's the legroom? British electronics are confusing. Did they pull that infotainment screen out of an older Corolla? Brakes aren't terribly impressive. 

Now, onto the next, unexpected drive... 

I should explain, when my wife and I got to the dealership, we ended up getting into a conversation with the manager as we were oogling this absolutely stunning 2015 Jaguar F-Type R, with around 30k miles on the clock... then he told us the price... $44k... I expected a much higher number! This car is in the Right Color. The only color these cars should even come in: British Racing Green! It is such a marvelous sight to behold:

As soon as he told me the price, I couldn't help but think to myself: if I sold both the S2000 and the Integra... 

In a shocking turn of events, the manager (who was an absolute Legend!) actually encouraged us to drive the big Jag! Seriously, if I buy a car in the near future, if this manager can get his hands on whatever I'm looking for, I'm buying from this guy. If I'm being honest, I don't know if I cared much for the salesman- I had nothing against him- but I could see myself actually befriending the manager and certainly sending potential customers and dollars his way! 

The Jag was sitting on the showroom floor... I actually felt bad and if the manager hadn't encouraged us to take it for a spin, I wouldn't have even asked... but I couldn't pass up this opportunity! 

The moment they started this car up, the sound of the exhaust alone was a near-religious experience! My word! This thing has my vote for the best sounding exhaust I think I've ever heard! 

They give my wife and I a dealer plate and tell us to go have fun... and fun we had!! 

Listen. I'm going to get my gripes out of the way up front and be done with it: 

-Electronics. They don't make sense. British car things? I don't know. All I know is that if you hold the seat button back to give me as much leg room as possible, it goes all the way back, but if you don't release it IMMEDIATELY, the seat starts to move all the way forward... what kind of British jigsaw puzzle is this? 

-Most of you have probably noticed, I typically don't give a damn about interior fit and finish. But this car MSRP'd at $100k when new... the touchscreen infotainment looked like it was plucked from a Garmin from ~2002. Now, I didn't care once I started driving it- there's no reason to care in a car like this!- but, in a car of this pedigree, I was a bit perplexed to see such a low-grade item that would have looked more at home in a similar vintage Toyota Corolla. 

-The seats... they look beautiful. Looking beautiful and being good apparently aren't the same thing. The seat bottoms are a bit too short for my admittedly longer legs (for $100k? Where's the thigh extender?!?)... and there's this weird hump in the seat, around the upper back/neck area, that for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why it was there? It just made the seat feel a bit odd, as my upper back/neck area was pushed forward- a sensation I've never felt in a car before. My much shorter (5'4") wife didn't notice at all, so YMMV. 

-Legroom: this is a fairly large, 2-seat car- why isn't there more of it? For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why the big Jag didn't have more legroom... headroom was fine, shoulder/hip room were fine... but with the seat all the way back, I could have used another 0.5" to 1" of legroom. Unfortunately, because of the lack of legroom, my right knee wasn't terribly happy. Not a ton of pain, it was quite manageable, but that would likely DQ this car from my garage, which is terribly unfortunate... 

Now that I've aired my grievances, let me say: I LOVED this thing!! I can't remember the last time I had so much fun on a test drive! Maybe the ND Miata? But for entirely different reasons. 

Too many years of watching Jeremy Clarkson had me repeatedly blurting out "it's a JAGGGGG" more times than I could count! We tuned the radio to a local classic rock station, to which they played multiple Ozzy Osbourne songs in a row- I felt as though nothing could have been more befitting of this big, beautiful, angry JAGGG! My wife kept yelling out to me: "it's a sign! We should take it home!" 

I would like to write out all the details of my experience with the F-Type R, but much of it was just a comical blur! Laughter abounded. This quickly turned into my wife's favorite car of all time. There are now talks of her selling her prized Challenger 392 Scat Pack, in search of an F-Type R. 

Hilarity. Much of it ensued. 

I mean, where do I start? Well, there's really only 1 place to start: the engine. My word, what an engine! This 5.0L supercharged V8 made a stump-ripping 550hp and it seems as though you can feel every one of these angry ponies are trying to break open the barn doors! So much noise! So much glorious noise! Pops and bangs, but all the right amounts! Even in today's world of tuner cars making pops and bangs galore, this motor just sounded right. 

I want to remind you: we had literally just gotten out of the B58 powered M240i. I was so impressed by the B58 and was singing its praises... until the moment I let the supercharged 5.0L V8 rip! It was at that moment that all other engines ceased to exist to me. 

This car feels like a muscle car in a tuxedo. A quick stab of the throttle and the back end of the car will quickly put you into the next lane- it's a bit unnerving, but trust me, you'll be laughing the whole time! 

Even though there's an R badge on the car, this isn't a track car. This is a pleasant mix of muscle car and sports car, done right. This car doesn't have the precision of a Porsche (or even my lowly S2000), but what this car does have is character. It has character in spades. A bonafide hooligan car, if you will. 

Hustling this big Jag thru the corners in Dynamic mode, it controls its body motions well, with minimal roll, and great steering feedback. If I'm not mistaken, I thought I read afterwards that 2015 was the last year with hydraulic steering... it felt hydraulic, but I didn't bother to check. All I know is that I liked it. 

Don't get me wrong. This isn't a featherweight sports car, it's closer to a GT car, but with tight body controls- the car was responsive and the wheel was well weighted. 

I will admit, I didn't hardly have the nerve to punch the throttle mid-corner... the rear end kicked out so quickly in a straight line that I didn't feel like testing fate by punching it with the wheel turned on a public road! 

It's funny. I'm pretty sure the F-Type has the same body width as the S550 Mustang, but it doesn't feel like it. Maybe it was the improved visibility? Or the additional steering feedback? Or some unknown characteristic? All I know is that the big Jag felt far more confidence inspiring in traffic than the Mustang. I felt like I had a good sense of where the car was, which allowed me to enjoy it to a much greater extent. 

If I have one driving critique, it's the brakes. They're not bad, they do a decent job of hauling the angry British rager down, but they didn't feel terribly strong. I didn't inspect them too closely, but they appeared to be large and looked like single piston calipers...? Or maybe they had 2 pistons in the back? All I know is that for the money they charged for this car when new ($100k), I would have expected something with a Brembo logo and quite a few more caliper pistons. We both agreed that my wife's Scat Pack Brembos felt a good bit stronger. 

The Jag had some flavor of automatic gearbox in it. I don't know much about it- I can't say if it's a torque converter box or a DCT, but it felt more like a torque converter box. It seemed very responsive- although the engine had so much torque everywhere, that it didn't really matter. Because the engine was so good, I don't recall giving the gearbox much of a thought. 

Would I want to take this car canyon carving on a tight, narrow canyon road? Heavens no! I feel like it would try to kill me! Sure, I would likely die laughing, but that's besides the point. On a wider, sparsely populated back road, this thing is a hoot! 

It also certainly doesn't hurt that this might be the coolest, most beautiful car made in the past couple of decades. It's hard not to feel cool while driving the F-Type R. That isn't something I normally care about, or give any thought to. I prefer good driving dynamics over aesthetics any day of the week- but it's hard to ignore in a car this beautiful. 

Would I buy one with my own money? Probably not, if for no other reason than my right knee not loving the back of legroom. Beyond that though, I loved this car and wouldn't fault anyone for giving into the temptation of the big green Jag. It's not a race car or a lightweight sports car, but I loved it nonetheless. 

Caprigrip Reader
2/25/24 11:06 a.m.

Great review on the Jaaaaag.   My wife and I tested one a few years back and she also loved it.   In my hypothetical 10 car garage, this would have a spot.   I just can't see replacing my 'also fun on back roads' 996 with it for any reason other than total sex appeal.  

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
2/25/24 11:57 a.m.
Caprigrip said:

Great review on the Jaaaaag.   My wife and I tested one a few years back and she also loved it.   In my hypothetical 10 car garage, this would have a spot.   I just can't see replacing my 'also fun on back roads' 996 with it for any reason other than total sex appeal.  

Thank you! Yeah, I suppose the 911 is a perennial benchmark for a reason! I really should drive one... If the F-Type R had just a bit more legroom, it would also have a spot in my hypothetical dream garage. 

My mind is having a tough time working out why the Jag doesn't have more legroom... the Jag's wheelbase is 9 inches longer (103") than my S2000 (94"), yet the little Honda has more legroom. Are aesthetics the culprit? Or maybe the wider V8 just takes up more potential footwell area? All I know is that the S2000 is substantially smaller in every dimension, with a much shorter wheelbase, 1100 lbs lighter (2800 lbs vs 3900 lbs) and it has more legroom... it hurts my feeble brain to think about. So close to the perfect car for someone my size- if but for a better set of seats and a bit more legroom. 

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
3/2/24 5:54 p.m.

2004 Nissan 350Z 6MT (Enthusiast trim)
Pros: The engine is fairly torquey
Cons: I didn't think it was very fun

So, today I took a spin in a 2004 Nissan 350z 6MT (Enthusiast trim): 

This particular car had 87k miles on it and aside from the clutch, appeared to be fully stock. I believe it was a 1-owner car, that someone took pretty good care of. I had originally inquired about this car about a month ago, when the dealership said they had just taken it in and they were sending it to the shop... I had forgotten about it until they sent me a text yesterday. I figured that I'm currently getting the Integra ready to sell, so I might as well take it for a spin, just to see if it would ever be a contender... the short answer to that question: no. 

I'm going to come right out and say it: I just don't want this car. It's not a bad car, but it doesn't really feel very sporty. 

It's been a while, but I've driven 350Z's in the past... I actually used to own one, but that was back around ~2006, so I've long forgotten what they felt like to drive, and my taste in vehicles has changed drastically over the past couple of decades. 

Setting off, everything felt "normal" with the exception of the clutch, which was clearly not an OEM unit. That's not the car's fault, but it was heavier than it should have been. I surely wouldn't want to slog through traffic in that thing; but because clutches are replaceable, that's not a deal breaker... even if this one was clamoring to give my left leg a workout. 

My thoughts on most Nissan/Infiniti products are that they are "paper cars". As in, they're seemingly always better on paper than they are to drive. I'm sure there's plenty of exceptions to that rule, but that has been most of my experience with them. 

Getting into the cabin, the seats are a bit narrow for my bigger frame. I feel like the car lacks both legroom and hip room- I could use an extra inch (or slightly less?) of legroom and I felt the same about hip room. For reference, I have a ~34" waist. I rarely ever feel confined by the hip room in most cars. As a matter of fact, I can't remember the last time I felt that sensation, but here we are. No matter, I'm still able to drive the car without an issue, even if I never really got comfortable in it. 

Setting away, honestly, the 350Z feels a lot like the truck of sports cars. The engine has plenty of torque- my wife commented that it felt more "heavy duty", and I agreed. I drove my 128i there and the Z's engine definitely felt more coarse, like it would be more at home in a pickup truck. What do you know, I happen to have an Xterra that has a variation of the same motor, built on a ladder frame/truck platform... I feel like this engine is more at home in that (Xterra/Frontier) environment. 

With that said, the Z pulls just fine. It's not terribly fast, but I didn't find it lacking for power. It has good, consistent torque throughout the rev range. It probably feels more akin to a Japanese muscle car, while certainly lacking the torque of an American V8. 

I couldn't help compare the Z to my 128i... I drove the Z for about 25-30 minutes... in that time, I'm not sure if there was anything at all I preferred about the Z over my lowly 128i. When I mean, anything, I truly mean anything. Maybe the extra torque? Yeah, that's it! The bump in torque was nice! Literally everything else, hands down, the little BMW was a much better car. 

Allow me to explain. So, both of these cars (128i and 350z) are around the same curb weight (~3200 lbs). I'm sure the Z is the quicker car, but not by as much as you would think. The Z has a bigger motor (3.5L vs 3.0L), with substantially more power (230hp vs 287hp). A 57hp gap should be very noticeable... and yet, it's not. The Z was a bit quicker, but the from behind the wheel, there didn't appear to be much of a difference. Not enough for me to care either way. And while the Z was a tad bit quicker, the 128i feels like it has the better engine: it's considerably smoother, makes a better noise, and feels more enjoyable to tach up and down. This is coming from somewhat of a "Honda fanboy" (I do like me some revs!) so take it with a grain of salt. 

Beyond the acceleration aspect, the Z simply felt inferior to the 128i in every other subjective metric I could find: 

-Despite the similar curb weights, the Z feels considerably heavier. Driving it just a few blocks, my wife mentioned it being heavier than the BMW; to which she was shocked when I informed her they are typically within 50-100 lbs (or less) of each other. All of the inputs on the Z just seem more labored. The car doesn't feel as light and nimble. It's never playful. The grip level seems just fine, but the car just doesn't want to be pitched around or slice thru traffic. 

-The seats are "meh" at best. If you're a good bit smaller than me, you might really like them. They're just a bit on the narrow side. They seemed to hold me in place very well, but I don't know that I would want to spend a long time in them. They don't even compare to BMW's sports seats.  

-The BMW has a nearly identical wheelbase (104.7" vs 104.3"). It also has a back seat... why in the world does the BMW have more legroom? And shoulder room? And hip room? Why does the cabin of the BMW feel so much more open and airy by comparison? Higher roofline maybe? I don't know. And I really don't care at this point. All I know is that the Z should have more interior space. The only explanation I can come up with is the same explanation I had for the Jaguar F-Type: the seat doesn't go back further because of aesthetics (i.e. the beautiful looking, sloping roofline). 

-This shifter is a truck shifter, adapted for sports car duty. I can't prove that, but I'm convinced it's accurate. It's not even a comparison- the BMW's more "rubbery" shifter feels smoother, more precise and is more fun to work. The Z's, like everything else, feels labored and less than fine-tuned. The Z's shifter comes closer to a muscle car shifter- it wants you to be very deliberate. It works just fine, it's not the worst unit I've ever worked, but it's far from the best. This is coming from someone that typically isn't terribly impressed by my BMW's shifter- I find BMW units to be smooth, but compared to older Honda's, they're not nearly as engaging, but there's no doubt, the BMW unit is much better than the Z's. 

-The hydraulic steering rack feels just fine. It has pretty good weighting and feel isn't bad. It feels stable... but it took me a while to figure out what it was missing: when you turn into a corner, it doesn't load up. It doesn't give you the impression that the front tires are resisting the movement. That's not needed for a car to be fast, but in a driver's car, that's a feature I enjoy that the Z lacks. 

-The Z doesn't have much body roll. It doesn't resist you turning into a corner, however I would need more time in the car to get comfortable putting my foot down coming out of the corner, as it feels like it was tuned to get the rear end out. I could be way off base there. I didn't want to test my theory on a public road. Some RWD cars I get into want you to put the throttle down coming out of the corner... my BMW is one of them. Every Cayman and Boxster I've ever driven had absolutely yearned for it! Even my S2000, if you give it some gas, it tightens its line (I can't speak for the AP1, but in the AP2, the rear doesn't want to kick out until you lift!)... every generation of Miata in the history of Miata's! Some RWD cars give you that immediate confidence and want to be pushed, getting better and better the more you pitch them around- the Z just isn't one of them. 

-The brakes are okay. They're adequate. Nothing special, not too hard to work, they're just okay. 

-I'm not an interior guy, but this interior was very low rent. Everything you touch feels like it would be more at home in a toddler's plastic playground set. It feels rattly and poorly put together. About ~5 minutes into the drive, the driver's side sun visor fell off and almost hit me in the face lol. This might not have been the car's fault- this may have been caused by a previous owner, but it happened nonetheless and I wouldn't be shocked if it was the car's fault. Turning on the stereo, it sounded like someone put an old iPhone behind the seats. I'm not an audio guy- I could generally care less, but man, everything just felt cheap. 

-The car just isn't fun. I'm sure, on the right road, in the right conditions, it probably has more in it. I'm sure some fun can be coaxed out of it... but on my admittedly limited test drive, there was just nothing about this car that made me want it. To be fair, I've had the some complaint about a 370Z or 2 I've driven in the past... but then I remember driving a Nismo 370Z thru the canyons and it being an absolute riot! I remember not caring much for the Nismo in town, but it just coming alive on a twisty road... so, maybe that's what the Z needs? Maybe with a proper setup it would come alive? I don't know. All I know, is that in the conditions I was driving in, I didn't see anything special about this car. 

Side notes: 

-On the freeway it seemed to cruise just fine. We had very high winds today, but they didn't seem to hardly effect the Z, she felt stable. The ride was firm, but not terribly harsh. I don't know that I would want to take it on a road trip, but it wasn't bad. 

-The Z made my wife car-sick, or at least gave her a headache... which, is pretty much a deal breaker. Maybe the lower seating position, lower roofline and higher feeling door sills? I'm assuming it was one of those things, as that seems to be a common thread with other similar cars, where cars that feel more claustrophobic (BRZ, Supra, etc) seem to cause her problems. 

Overall, this seems like a harsh review. That's because, well, it is a harsh review. At the end of the drive, I just couldn't see myself ever lusting after this car. It's not a bad car, but it's surely not a great car, either. 

I might take a break from test drives for a while. I'm getting a bit burnt out lately and am coming to the conclusion that aside from some more expensive, newer vehicles that I don't feel like paying for right now (M240i, Ford Maverick, etc), there's really nothing else I'm interested in. 

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
3/4/24 6:36 p.m.

UPDATES: why I drove 2 more cars today

Well, I spoke too soon. So much for taking a break from test drives! 

Allow me to explain. For those that didn't follow my previous thread, a couple months back, I dislocated my right shoulder. It's a long story. In my chosen professions, injuries are not entirely uncommon. They're less common in my specific specialty, but things happen. 

Either way, when that happened, I realized I owned 3 vehicles (S2000, 128i and Integra) that I physically couldn't drive, at least not for the first week or so, due to them being manuals and my right arm being out of commission. It made me realize that I had multiple vehicles that essentially had the same function, and all of which required 4 working limbs to operate. 

More specifically: the Integra and 128i have almost identical dimensions, with small back seats, manual transmissions, etc. This is a bit of an "issue" per se. When I bought the BMW, I intended to turn it into a track car to run NASA TT5. As I fixed all of the problems with the little Bimmer, I discovered it was a wonderful "daily" per se. This led to a conundrum. Once everything was fixed on the BMW, it became clear that it was my most-driven car. Over the past ~6 months or so, I've barely driven the Integra at all. How I usually choose cars to drive:

-It's a beautiful day out and I just want to take a spin for the pure joy of driving! No brainer: I take the S2000. 

-I'm commuting to/from work: I drive my work car. 

-It's a snowy, treacherous wasteland outside: I take the Xterra. 

-The rare occasion I need to pick up something large or need a more usable back seat: I take the Xterra. 

-Almost anything in between: I take the BMW. 

Between the 128i and the Integra, the 128i is a better fit for my big frame. The seats are better, the ergonomics are better, the BMW just feels like it was designed for someone my size, whereas the Integra was not. I've made some modifications to the Integra over the years to help, but at the end of the day, I still prefer the BMW. 

When I decided to not build the BMW for NASA TT5 (as it is a great street car), I changed my focus: I started building the Integra for NASA TT6. Somewhere along the way, after years of time attack and autocross, I've decided I need some time away from motorsports for a variety of reasons (all listed in a previous thread- one of which being lingering injuries, made worse by long wrenching sessions in the garage). As such, I halted NASA TT6 development for the Integra. 

So, where does that leave me? I'm now paying insurance and maintenance costs on a car (Integra) that I don't really drive anymore. Furthermore, recently, I made the decision to park the Integra outside (we only have 3 garage spaces, which have been designated to the S2000, my wife's Challenger Scat Pack and the BMW). My Integra is truly a clean DC2. I feel bad about parking it outside, but since I drive the BMW more, it makes more sense to have it in the garage... I have various forms of anti-theft devices on the Integra, but it still isn't lost on me that my DC2 is sitting on a goldmine of rare Honda parts... and it's just parked outside at night. We live in a great neighborhood, have plenty of exterior cameras, good insurance, etc... but it bothers me nonetheless. 

So, despite the Integra being a well-setup, great driver's car, I just don't drive it. As a result, I'm getting ready to sell my Integra soon. It's too clean/rare to park outside and let it sit. It's not quite fun/engaging enough to be my "fun" car (as great as the DC2 is, it can't hold a candle to the S2000). While the ride is quite reasonable (OEM Type R springs on Koni's), it's nowhere near as good on the highway as the BMW. While the trunk is actually reasonably big, the Xterra is an SUV- it doesn't even compare. It's actually a really good city car, but so is the BMW... it would make an excellent track car, but for now, I'm walking away from racing... I considered putting it in storage, but I'm not willing to pay $200+ a month on a storage unit for an old Integra. I've tried making it more comfortable (see my build thread) in recent months- hoping it would make me want to drive it more... to no avail. At this point, the only thing that makes any sense is to sell it. 

So, with that said, if/when I get rid of the Integra, what, if anything, should I replace it with? A large part of me says "absolutely nothing". That part of me says "save your money and drive the 3 cars you already have". I sometimes listen to that part of me, but other times, I completely ignore him entirely. Another part of me says: get something that's relaxing to commute in, something automatic, that's reliable, that I won't hate slogging through traffic in. I've noticed that driving my boring, V6 powered, automatic work car is fairly relaxing to/from work... so, I started looking at boring automatics that I could slog through traffic in. See previous reviews for the Infiniti and the Cadillac ATS... however, nice examples of those cars might cost a bit more than what I can reasonably sell my Integra for... 

Which leads me to my latest 2 car reviews... 

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
3/4/24 7:26 p.m.

2011 Volvo C30 T5 (automatic)
Pros: This thing would make an excellent daily driver! I also love the 2.5T! 
Cons: It's a little short on legroom. Not the sportiest car I've ever driven. The back seat isn't terribly big for a hatchback. 

So, in my quest to find a more boring, automatic commuter car, I searched through previous GRM threads to see what The Hive had to say. I found several recommendations for the usual suspects, but then I found a few recommendations for the Volvo C30: 

Let's get to the brass tax: I like this little car! 

This particular car had 105k miles on the clock and was well taken care of. While I'm sure a manual would be more fun to drive, I was looking for an auto for traffic slogging purposes. So, here we are. 

My complaints: there aren't many. I really only have 1 complaint: 

-The little Volvo is a little bit light in the legroom department. Take that with a grain of salt, as I have a 34" inseam. This is a common affliction for me in most smaller, FWD cars. With that said, in every other dimension, I felt like it had plenty of room. With my legs being just a bit cramped (not terrible, but not quite ideal), I kept waiting for the knee pain to start... I drove the C30 for about ~30 minutes, spending much of that time in light to light traffic, specifically trying to trigger a situation that might cause knee pain... the knee pain never came, which is shocking, as it usually does when my right leg feels just a bit cramped. I'm not sure if my legs were ever fully comfortable driving the car, but it wasn't terrible, and the rest of my body was very comfortable. 

I would note that while going over to the brake pedal, the top of my right foot did touch the lower part of the dashboard a few times, which was an odd sensation I don't believe I've ever ran across before. 

What can I say about this car? Talk about a wonderful daily driver! 

Aside from wanting just a bit more legroom, this car was a pleasure to pilot around town!

The seats, while not terribly sporty, were otherwise very comfortable. There isn't much bolstering, but they're wide enough to accommodate someone my size and comfortable enough for road trip duty (for the record, they were cloth). 

The ride was very relaxed, without feeling boaty at any time. Pitching the car around a couple of corners, it was apparent that a sports car, this is not, as there was enough roll to make me lose interest in treating the car like a hot hatch shortly after corner entry. Don't get me wrong, it's not scary in the least, it's very forgiving and easy to drive, it's just not a precise, canyon carver. Cars like the Civic Type R, the old Mazdaspeed 3 and the Fiesta ST are a riot to pitch around. The C30 is not those cars. And that's not a bad thing. As a street car, it's very comfortable. It's also very quiet- the cabin seems to have luxury car levels of sound deadening. 

Speaking of the interior. I have no complaints. I mean, the radio "face" looks more like something on a 1998 Motorolla cell phone, but honestly, the only thing that went through my mind is "looks simple. I bet it'll last a long time and I won't have to fix anything": 

For a FWD car, the steering was very good. A bit on the lighter side compared to something like a BMW, but weighted enough to make the car feel planted, and not darty on the freeway. Again, no sports car loading up in the corners, but that's not really the point of the car. The steering wheel also came out far enough that my arms/hands found a comfortable position, where I could drive this car all day. 

The brakes felt just a bit on the squishy side. Again, not terrible, but also not terribly impressive. I didn't spend much time dive bombing into corners to really test them to their limits, but for daily driving, the brakes seemed perfectly adequate, if not just a tad bit squishy. Something I'm sure a set of pads could easily change if one so desired. 

The engine... man I love me some turbo 5-cylinder! The car is quiet overall, but you can hear just a bit of the turbo 2.5L inline-5 barking from the back of the car, and this thing sounds good! This is not a fast car, but at my elevation, this thing feels pretty damn peppy! I think it's only supposed to be pushing somewhere around 7-8psi of boost, but it comes on early in the powerband, making the car feel torquey around town. At no point did I feel like this car was lacking power. It's my understanding that these motors are also supposed to be pretty reliable... 

I know this car shares a platform with the older Mazda 3 and Ford Focus. If I was looking for one of these 3 cars as a commuter, I would choose the Volvo. The Focus ST and Mazdaspeed 3 are true hot hatches, so if you're looking for speed and thrills, look into those cars- but the C30 is so much easier to live with, it's not even funny. The non-turbo Mazda 3 (my oldest daughter has one) is a very good car, and the non-turbo Focus is even decent to drive, but neither of them can compare to this turbo 5 cylinder. Of all those older cars, this one feels like the Goldilocks edition for a daily. 

The transmission wasn't even bad! I believe it was a 5-speed auto, but it didn't seem to be confused, putting me in the correct gear almost every time I put my foot down, asking it for more power. It wasn't a crazy fast, racecar transmission, but it was smooth and well-programmed, doing everything I would want in a commuter car. 

Another note: this thing has great visibility! Whoever decided to use those giant rear windows- kudos to you! It's like a fishbowl in there! 

In another subjective category, I happen to think the C30 is a very handsome car. It's also what I feel is generally the "right" size for a car, making it easy to maneuver in traffic, while giving you a decent amount of interior space (especially for those with slightly shorter legs than mine). 

Would I buy this car with my own money? Yes. Am I considering buying one? Yes. Is there anything holding me back? Yes- only the slight want for just a bit more legroom. 

Honestly, if you told me I had to choose between the C30, the Cadillac ATS or the Infiniti G37 (and it's variants), I would pick the C30, hands down. Twice on Sunday. 

This is not a sports car. This is not a hot hatch. This car will not light your hair on fire. But it is a sporty car that would be incredibly easy to live with, brimming with just enough fun to make you smile from time to time. Honestly, it reminds me a LOT of my former Mazda 3 Turbo, which is essentially the same philosophy (2.5L turbo motors, hatchback design, more torque than power, emphasis on comfort over all-out speed). Except one small difference: these cars are now dirt cheap, whereas new Mazda 3 Turbo's still command a steep premium. 

This car has surely earned my seal of approval! 

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
3/4/24 9:08 p.m.

2013 Honda Fit (automatic)
Pros: Despite being a gutless wonder, this car put a smile on my face! It feels like an evolution of the EK hatch. 
Cons: Not a lot of power. Far from being a luxury car. 

Alright. Let me explain. I wasn't seeking this car out. My wife and I have talked about the Fit in the past. I've always liked the Fit. She's not a big fan. She thinks it looks like a goofy breadbox. I also think it looks a bit like a goofy breadbox. The difference is- I find it's breadbox looks to be charming, in a gutless E36 M3box kind of way! 

There's a story behind me driving this little car... 

I just got done driving the Volvo C30, listed above. I'm not on the side of town in which I live. I realized that I was literally right down the street from an R53 Mini Cooper S, at a dealership, no less. Since I'm already in the area (literally about ~60 seconds away), I decide to drive the R53 MCS, because, well, I wanted to. I've driven a non-S R53 many years ago and had very fond feelings for it at the time, so this was a good opportunity... 

I go to pull onto the dealer lot and there's a sign that says not to park in the lot... so, I pull out and decide to park in the lot next door. I didn't even realize the lot next door was a car dealership as well, until I got to the back of the lot... 

I walk next door and inquire about the R53 MCS... the gentleman tells me he just sold it a few days ago (I should have called ahead!)... 

So, there I am, walking back to my car when I see this 2013 Honda Fit with only 68k miles on it, sitting just a few feet away from where I'm parked... I couldn't resist walking up to it to check it out. I looked inside, saw it was an automatic and was about to walk back to my car, when an older gentleman came outside and asked if I wanted to check the car out. For the sake of curiosity, I said yes. 

The guy that came outside: he was the owner of this very small lot. One of the most straight-shooters I think I've ever spoken to in this business. Right off the bat, he's been in the business for 33 years and told me he's burnt out lol... after the test drive, this guy and I sat around chatting for about ~2 hours, just laughing and joking! Trading war stories (wrenching stories?) and stories of car conquests- he was a true gearhead- doing this for the love of cars, which is extremely rare to run across in this business. During this entire time, he never mentioned me actually buying the car- honestly, this is one of the few times I might have actually made a friend during/after a test drive. 

Onto the drive... as soon as he saw me, he offered to grab me the key to the Fit. No hassles, just copied my driver's license (in the event I didn't bring the car back) and sent me on my way without me having to ask for anything at all. 

What do I think about the Honda Fit? As of right now, I'm thinking about buying one when I sell my Integra. It's at the top of my list. Yes, I liked it that much. 

I'm a chatty Cathy, but it's honestly hard for me to articulate why I liked this little E36 M3box so much. 

This is not a nice car. I mean, the gauges and dash layout look very polished for the meager price it originally sold for, but no one will ever confuse it for a luxury car, even though the whole car felt well put together. 

The seats are okay. They're nothing to write home about. They're not terrible, but they're also not straight cardboard. 

The seating position isn't exactly tall guy friendly, but it's not the worst I've ever experienced either. Yes, this car lacks legroom. This was to be expected... but just like the Volvo, strangely, the knee pain never kicked in. With that said, this car had a plethora of headroom and because the seats weren't too heavily bolstered, it fit my wider shoulders easily. 

It is my understanding that the earlier Fit's didn't get a telescoping steering wheel. I don't know when it was added, but for my big frame, I would search for a later (facelifted?) version of the 1st gen (gen 1.5?) Fit for the telescoping wheel alone. It helped me to get comfortable in this 2013 version to say the least. 

After driving it for a few minutes, I considered DQ'ing it, if for no other reason than I would like something with just a bit more legroom... but I pulled over and did a quick Google search, quickly finding there IS A SOLUTION for these cars!! The fine folks at Extend My Seat DO make a seat of extended seat rails!! For only $350, you can extend your seat rail several inches (3-6") giving taller folks like me all the legroom I could ever ask for!! 


^^^My word, I wish those fine folks made rails for more of these little cars I enjoy so much! 

The little Fit has great steering and the car controlled it's body motions in a way that made it feel likely, without being too harsh. I wouldn't say there's a ton of steering feedback, but there's enough that you get some sense of what the front wheels are doing. This isn't a sports car. This isn't a hot hatch that will set your hair on fire. This is an economy car, but an economy car done right. Controlling the car, it feels well measured. Like the engineers were trying to straddle the line between being sporty and being comfortable. There's a tad bit of harshness at freeway speeds, but it's never bouncy and it's nothing I would blink an eye at for road trip work. 

I used to own a D16 non-VTEC powered 1998 Honda Civic DX Hatchback (my old EK). I loved that car. Of all the old wishbone Honda's I've owned (my S2000 notwithstanding), it was my favorite. I've talked to my wife multiple times, telling her that if I wasn't planning on tracking my Integra, I would have sold the Integra and kept the EK hatch... there was something pure and simple and fun about that car. The Honda Fit feels very much like the next evolution of the EK hatch. Light. Simple. Pure. Honest. Not fast, but somehow it just puts a smile on your face. An "X-factor" that I have a hard time describing. 

The Fit feels like a car I would give myself permission to drive pretty much anywhere, in any condition. Going to the store? Great! It's got a usable trunk! Have to throw someone in the back seat? No problem! It's snowing? Let's get some snow tires and go! It might hail? Well, it's only a low Honda Fit, oh well! Going downtown? This thing is a breeze to park! Have to park it outside? Ummm, it's a Honda Fit- do they get parked anywhere else? 

I'll come right out and say it: this is not a fast car. With a whopping 117hp (earlier versions had 109hp), it will never be "fast". However, it feels quicker than my old EK... I know the Fit has a 1.5L i-VTEC engine. I know it doesn't have "real" VTEC per se, but the variation it has, gives it more mid-range torque than my old 1.6L EK had around town. I felt like the engine felt "adequate" for the chassis. While it wasn't brisk, it got up to speed just fine. When I got on the highway, I set the cruise control to 70mph, and it seemed to have zero issues holding my speed. At higher speeds it certainly had a bit of wind noise, but I found I didn't really care. 

The little automatic transmission... well, honestly, it wasn't bad! I believe it was a 5-speed auto, so not a ton of gears, which seemingly made for a better driving experience, because it didn't seem to be confused about which gear I wanted it to be in. The whole package made for a very easy car to drive. 

I made a higher speed stop, which felt just a wee bit skiddish, but it's hard to say if that's the fault of the car or just these pads. Either way, I'm sure pads and a fresh bleed can solve whatever that problem might be... but they were just fine for commuting. 

This is just an easy car to drive. There's a purity to this car that's hard to explain. There's no center arm rest. The door arm rest is too low to rest my left arm on it while driving. The seat doesn't have much adjustability. It has a torsion beam rear suspension. All of these things are negatives, and yet, I didn't seem to care one bit. 

For purposes of "just to make sure", I really should find a Fit with a manual transmission, but I didn't actually hate the little automatic. And being that I don't have an automatic "beater" car, I would (am?) consider buying one. 

I've owned plenty of torque-less Honda's, but it's been a while since I've considered buying anything this "gutless", and yet, here I am. I know the fine folks at Car and Driver put this thing on their 10 Best list like 7 years in a row. I now understand why. It's true. All of it. 

dannyp84 HalfDork
3/5/24 10:01 a.m.
CyberEric said:

I like that you're doing this! I sometimes don't trust the big magazine reviews, and appreciate real driver's opinions. 

If you're open to suggestions, I'd love a Pluses and Minuses section for those of us who don't have the time to read the whole review.

And I'd like to hear your review of the 6MT Mazda 6 sometime. I really liked the 6 I drove, but it was an auto and have been curious about the MT for a while.

I think it's wise to distrust the big magazine reviews, if they say something bad about a car, that brand can blacklist them in terms of making cars accessible. It seems like most car reviews have moved on to video format anyway, which is irksome because I'd much rather read than watch youtube.

rdcyclist HalfDork
3/5/24 12:32 p.m.

I love your reviews! You answer most of the questions I would have and that's great. The only one you missed in the last couple: What's the ask? Was the C30 4 grand? 12? The Fit 8k? I wanna know.

I don't have the fit issues (did you see what I did there?) you have, being 5'8" with a 31" inseam so I can fit (see?) into anything pretty well. And I don't have the lingering leg/knee injury berkeleying up so many wonderful opportunities.

Please continue. And how much were they asking for on the C30 and Fit?

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
3/5/24 3:08 p.m.

In reply to rdcyclist :

Thank you! 

I believe they were willing to sell the C30 for $8000 and the Fit was marked at $10k. This was without any negotiation, just what they were marked at. I'm sure a browse on FB marketplace could find them both marked a good bit lower. I was shocked at how low the C30's sell for... not so much with the Fit- it seems like old Honda's hold their value pretty well. 

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
3/16/24 11:54 a.m.

Car(s): 2024 VW GTI S DSG / 2022 VW GTI Autobahn 6MT
Pros: Everything is very smooth and polished, excellent daily driver manners, solid ergonomics. 
Cons: Not quite as fun and engaging as I had hoped. 

So, I recently took 2 cars on a test drive: the first was a brand new MK8 2024 VW GTI S DSG and the second was a used MK8 2022 VW GTI Authbahn 6MT. The first drive was fairly short/limited, whereas the second drive (in the manual) was considerably longer/more in depth. I'll try to combine them both into one. For reference, the above-photographed car was the used 2022. 

In my mind, I'm considering every possibility of replacement for my S2000, as I rarely drive it (see previous thread). At this point, I'm trying to rule out every viable option before moving forward with Project NC. 

The same overall opinion can be said of both the MK8's I drove: I liked them, I respected the precise engineering of them, but I found them a bit clinical, not terribly engaging and not a whole lot of fun. 

Disclaimer: I've owned a GTI (MK6) and x2 Golf R's (MK6 and MK7) in the past. While it may seem that I have a certain proclivity towards Honda's, I'm certainly no stranger to VW's (as well as a plethora of other brands). I also love hot hatches... one of the best daily drivers I've ever owned was my MK7 Golf R 6MT. That was in spite of the fact that my right knee wasn't terribly fond of it- it didn't actively cause me pain, but my knee never felt as comfortable as it does in other cars. This is actually the reason why I've shied away from going back the VW products for a while now... but, the MK8 has new seats and a slightly redesigned center console, so I figured I would give it a shot. 

Which brings me to my biggest detractor: yes, I had just a bit of knee pain in my right knee while driving the MK8 GTI S trim... but I was able to solve that problem in the Autobahn trim by adjusting the seat rake (raising the back of the seat). To explain, when I drove a base/S model I lowered the seat as far as it would go with a manual lever... I felt that the manual lever lowered the rear of the seat more than the front, creating a somewhat steep rake, that felt like it was putting more pressure on my right knee. When I drove the Autobahn trim, the seat bottom is electronically adjustable, so I was able to eliminate this problem by raising the rear of the seat, decreasing the rake. This led to a higher seating position, which wasn't a big deal as these cars have so much headroom, even if I would have preferred a lower to the ground seating position, for purposes of sporty driver things. 

I would imagine that most people would be extremely comfortable in the MK8 GTI. There was legroom aplenty (far more than a spec sheet would suggest), along with several inches of headroom and plenty of room in all directions. The seats, were quite comfortable. They seemed to be just a bit wider than the last MK7 I drove, but also just a smidge shorter as well. I suspect most people would enjoy sitting in them. They don't have a ton of bolstering, just enough to feel sporty, without being confining. I suspect they would soak up many miles in comfort. 

The saleswoman on our first drive commented that she was 5'8" and actually sat behind me on the test drive (I'm 6'2"). She made this comment to suggest that the back seat was actually more spacious than the car's small profile would suggest. Overall, the car had loads of space and good ergonomics. 

I didn't spend much time playing with the infotainment, but to a simpleton like me, it was not appealing. Too convoluted. Too many menus without feedback. The young saleswoman on our first drive remarked that the MK8's infotainment was an "upgrade" from the MK7... I couldn't disagree with her more. The MK7 had actual buttons, everything was intuitive and easy to use, even while driving... this seemed to be the opposite of that. This new, "modern" trend of having no real haptic buttons is a lazy, blatantly cost-cutting design. I would point towards Tesla starting this trend and people that are easily impressed by "shiny things" didn't understand Tesla glued in iPad to the dash of the Model 3 not because it was cutting edge, but because it was cheaper than installing real buttons. I owned a Tesla Model 3 Performance for a year- I wasn't impressed with touch screens then and I'm less-so impressed with them now. Shame on you, VW. With my wife in the passenger seat, we found mundane tasks were seemingly not easily located and things like adjusting volume could be somewhat frustrating while driving. 

I would never beat on a car while in it's break-in period, and while we were on a short drive in the DSG car, I did coax the cast iron 2.0T a couple times towards the end of our drive... it's a peppy little spitfire! It felt torquey and responsive at pretty much any RPM.

When we drove the manual version, it also seemed appropriately torquey at just about any RPM, although there were a couple of times I felt like the ECU/DME was trying to decide how much power was appropriate in lower gears. I didn't think the car needed power at any time- it's a quick little bugger... but because the car is so smooth, you don't get much sensation of speed from it. You can see speeds climbing on your speedometer fairly quickly, but it's without much drama- it's a car that actually feels just a bit slower than it actually is. I drove the DSG (brand new) and the 6MT a couple days apart, so it's hard to tell, but in my falliable memory, the DSG machine did in fact feel just a bit quicker, but I have no idea why (maybe it has ever-so-slightly shorter gearing? Or maybe it's just the immediacy of the downshifts? I honestly don't know why). 

It's a turbo motor, but any lag it might possess is minimal. It's a very well tuned engine that is extremely responsive. 

When we drove the DSG car I noted that VW's current breed of DSG has certainly been given a lesson in civility since I last owned one. To be clear, the only DSG I've ever owned was a 2015 Audi A3. I loathed the DSG gearbox in that car and could never be talked into buying another one. Sure, it felt performance oriented- the upshifts were crisp and quick and it was great for playing sporty car driver... but in traffic, that idiotic gearbox felt like a teenager trying to learn to drive a manual. The constant downshifts under light braking caused a ton of engine braking, resulting it a difficult machine to try to stop smoothly. Probably not a problem for the pedal-mashing masses, but it drove me nuts and I vowed to never buy one again. 

I can report from my brief drive that the new generation of DSG's seemed to have went to charm school by comparison. The GTI's DSG gearbox felt closer to a traditional torque converter box. I would need more time with the car for a more complete analysis, but my brief impression wasn't bad- nothing like my old A3. 

The manual gearbox is likely the smoothest manual gearbox/clutch I've ever operated. The clutch's bite point is pretty much non-existent, so there's not much feedback, but it's the softest clutch in the world. Honestly, you just hop in the car and it feels like you've been driving this car for years. It would be difficult to stall this car in almost any conditions, as the clutch/gearbox are just too smooth and easy to operate. Same with the gearbox: it lacks any real sense of engagement, but it slots into gear with the greatest of ease. I never came close to missing a gear and the entire experience was buttery smooth... but that was actually part of the problem: 

I expected the manual to be more engaging than the DSG and was disappointed to find out that the manual, while extremely smooth, didn't really give me much of a connection with the car. This would be the easiest manual to use on earth in traffic. It was so effortless, that a few times I pretty much forgot I was driving a manual... for a daily that someone wants to commute in while having a manual, this is the box for you... but for someone wanting to play sporty car driver, I didn't get the sensation of nailing perfect downshifts and running through the gears. You can tell VW spent more time honing the car to make it as smooth as possible, and less time trying to focus on making it fun. 

I would have to spend more time in the DSG car to really make a decision, but at this point, if I was buying a MK8 GTI tomorrow, I would lean towards the DSG... which, I'm shocked to type. I'm normally a manual guy. It's not because the DSG is so good, but because the manual isn't very involving. At that point, if the manual isn't giving me better engagement, I might as well get the DSG... which, it makes sense that VW is pulling the plug on the manual next year. 

I pitched the manual car around a few corners to get a feel for it. It's flat (I was in Sport mode). It's confidence inspiring. The steering is extremely precise. I didn't push it hard enough to find the upper most limits of grip, but for a street car, doing street car things, it was respectable. I imagine it took those corners at a very respectable speed. There was absolutely no drama involved, I just pointed the car in a general direction and it responded appropriately. Unfortunately, since the car is so muted, I didn't feel much of a sensation either. It corners well, but because it masks so much speed, I didn't find myself giggling like a child. 

I also spent a bit of time on the freeway. As expected, passing was very easy, and even in Sport mode (the suspension's stiffer setting) it was a very smooth, planted feeling car. This is a smaller car that feels much like a much larger, more stable car at highway speeds. I would rate it 10 out of 10 for a road trip car. 

I have to mention something about my first drive in the S (essentially "base" model car) DSG car I drove: My word, why, oh why, does a "base" model GTI come standard was lane assist? Isn't it enough that most of us just toggle this nonsense off anyway? Why must it be on a BASE model vehicle with cloth seats? I can picture myself shaking an old-man cane and screaming "get off my lawn!" as I type those words... but I truly despise many of the technologies they force onto consumers these days. I enjoy a good driver's car- not a car that tries (poorly) to drive for me. I understand why this would be a standard feature on your run-of-the-mill people carrier, but not on a car that's marketed to traditionally be a fun, performance oriented, hot hatch. /endrant

This is a smooth, easy car to drive, that would make a wonderful daily driver. Cars are getting very expensive these days, but for most enthusiasts, if I were wanting to spend about ~$30k on a brand new car (used cars notwithstanding), the GTI would seem like money well spent... assuming you can ignore the horrific infotainment and turn off the damn lane-keep assist.

Would I buy one? It depends. If I were shopping for a brand new daily? Maybe. However, I remember my former 2021 Mazda 3 Turbo also being very easy to live with (for similar money) while being a bit more fun to drive. To be fair, the GTI has a bigger back seat, a bigger trunk, a slightly smoother ride, no giant blindspots (in the hatch version of the Mazda 3) and can come with a manual transmission or the fast shifting dual-clutch... so there's some argument to be made for the GTI... but if I was shopping in that segment today, I think I would just buy another Mazda 3 Turbo. 

As a fun weekend car? No way. The MK8 GTI is a bit playful, but a sports car it is not. It's not a car I would choose for a pleasure drive. Don't get me wrong, it's a very good drive, I just didn't find it terribly engaging. It feels more like "ze komputer vill meazure ze fun for you". I could see this car being an outstanding daily driver, but for what I would be looking for at this price, I will have to pass. 

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
3/16/24 12:41 p.m.

2020 Hyundai Veloster Turbo R-Spec
Pros: Sweet turbo noises, lots of drama, interesting yellow interior trim, it feels like an old school hot hatch- tons of fun to pitch around! 
Cons: If you're tall, the ergonomics are not on your side, the interior had a "dark" feeling to it. 

Yesterday, my wife and I took a spin in a 2020 Hyundai Veloster Turbo R-spec: 

To be clear, this isn't the Veloster N. This is the lower powered (201hp) Turbo 1.6T model. I wanted to try and find a Veloster N to drive, but unfortunately I couldn't locate one to take for a spin, but figured I would give this car a shot to at least see if the ergonomics played with with my frame and knee condition. In short, they don't- which is an absolute shame as I loved driving this little E36 M3box! 

I drove this little car about an hour after getting out of the manual MK8 GTI listed above... these cars are both "hot hatches", but their philosophies couldn't be further apart. The GTI was more comfortable, smoother, had better ergonomics, felt more open, has more power and would be a better daily... and yet, if I was a bit smaller, I would buy the Hyundai. 

I wish this car didn't hurt my right knee to drive. I must have adjusted the seat a dozen times, hoping I could quell the knee pain, as I liked this car that much. I even found myself looking online for clutch pedal and shifter extensions, thinking "maybe I could modify it a bit and that would make the pain go away?" Alas, I found myself in a similar situation as I did with my old FK8 Civic Type R: the car was great to drive, but my knee pain just won't play well with it. Blast it! 

To be clear, this car has plenty of room. The seat goes back so far that in theory there should be legroom... but in the manual version, it's not really usable, which is a shame, as I felt like moving the seat back just a bit further might have helped with my right knee (like it did in the Cadillac ATS), but doing so results in me not being able to fully depress the clutch, struggling to reach for the shifter and not having a ton of confidence controlling the steering wheel. Even in a slightly moved forward position, where I felt my knee not liking the way it was twisted to press the brake pedal, reaching the for the shifter felt awkward, as it was angled slightly forward and felt far away for someone my size. I suspect that if I was a few inches shorter and didn't have a bum right knee, the ergonomics of this car would have been pretty good. 

This car makes sweet turbo noises. I popped the hood to see if it had an aftermarket intake, but everything looked stock. It added to the drama of the car and made me feel like I was back in my old modified WRX or DSM, 20 years ago! My wife was giggling whenever I let off the throttle and so was I. 

This little motor has a big of turbo lag, followed by a solid mid-range thump of torque. In this modern era of lag-free turbo machines, this car felt positively old school... but it added to the experience of the car and made for a fun little ride! I know the car only has 201hp... I have no idea if the previous owner tuned it- the car has over 90k miles on it, but a couple signs of previous modification: a tasteful set of Enkei wheels and a set of drilled rotors- everything else appeared to be stock... all I know is that it felt a bit quicker than it's 201hp spec sheet would suggest. And the experience! It felt like a real hoon machine! 

Despite being in an awkward position, the shifter was very engaging, with good spacing and tight gearing, helping to keep the little motor on boil. I could feel that in 1st gear, the car was limiting boost, as the car actually seemed to pull harder in 2nd. The cluch, as long as I kept my seat far enough forward, was easy to work- it had good feel/engagement, but wasn't remotely what I would consider heavy or laborous. 

The steering is not terribly accurate, at least not on-center... and there's an occasional bout of torque-steer... you might be asking yourself: why is a guy that loves precise wishbone Honda's a fan of a car with imprecise steering? The answer: I don't know. I just know that I am! Off-center, it weights up a bit, but on-center there's a bit of play... honestly, the entire car feels like it has a bit of play... this is not a precise machine... but man, was it fun to pitch around! 

Don't get me wrong, the car was confidence inspiring while pitching it around- I didn't think the car would ever get away from me, but it certainly had more of an old school rally car feel to it- it just liked being pitched around! 

The interior also had a bit of flair to it. While the interior, as a whole, was fairly dark and ominous, there were bright, playful yellow accents all over to help spruce the place up: 

^^^Some folks might call these bits juvenile. I liked them and felt like they added a bit of character to the little hatch! 

Character. That's the root word I would choose to describe this little car. It has an odd 3-door design (being my height, I actually appreciated the longer driver's door). The back seat isn't terribly usable for adults. It took me a minute to figure out how to open the rear hatch area (I'm a bit slow sometimes) and the hatch itself isn't as usable as some of its competitors (the floor is a good bit below the opening). Overall, it's an odd little machine. But this thing has character. In the world of modern hot hatches, it's pretty much the opposite of the MK8 GTI. 

Would I buy one? Ergonomics and knee pain dictate a solid no, sadly. If I was smaller and/or had no knee pain? Maybe. I only say maybe because I have a feeling I would just pony up the extra coin for the Veloster N. But for the money, this is a fun little car! 

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
3/23/24 3:06 p.m.

Well, just today, I suppose I received a dose of my own medicine. I just put my Integra up for sale yesterday (long story, I essentially just don't drive it anymore). I've had quite a few folks on FB send me a plethora of messages, most of which have been very respectful (shockingly). Respectful or not, I still loathe selling cars. That irony is not lost on me. 

So, a gentleman hits me up this morning, asking to come look at the car. He's about an hour away. No worries. He pulls up in an immaculately kept Porsche 993, with his entire family- wife and 2 teenage (one might have been around 18-20 years old?) kids. I'm not sure if the car was for him or his son... we get to chatting and he tells me he also has a stock Integra Type R in his garage at home and his son has a 2012 Civic Si, so they're clearly Honda people... 

Either way, they ask if they can all pile in and drive the car. I concede without issue, only asking to take a photograph of his license as a precaution. They head out to take a spin. I know how well my GS-R drives, so I figure if they pitch it around, they'll come back smiling- it's a fun car. 

10-15 minutes go by... I get a message from them, saying they are currently at the bank. I'm thinking: that was unexpected. I assume they liked the car enough to get money to pay for it. To explain, I listed the car for $12,500. 

They come back ~15 minutes later and say the car drove great. I thought we were then going to negotiate and had already printed up a Bill of Sale... he then tells me they're driving across town to go drive an S2000 and that was why they went to the bank to get money out... he says if they decide they don't like the S2000, they'll come back and buy my Integra lol. Listen, I own the Integra and an S2000... the Integra is good to drive, but the S2000 is a whole different level of fun. I couldn't help but notice that the only running S2000's listed currently in my area are marked in the $28,000-$30,000 range, which is a far cry off from what I listed my Integra for. 

When they left, I couldn't help but think: you drove my Integra to the bank to go get money to buy another car? Well, I suppose it is what it is. I couldn't also help but think about the massive amount of car dealer time I've wasted over the years... something about karma and a female canine? Just figured I would share my latest reverse test drive story of comeuppance. 

docwyte UltimaDork
3/23/24 11:10 p.m.

I'm more impressed they stuffed 2 adult sized kids into the back of a 993.  Selling cars sucks.  I listed my Corrado on BaT and still had 6 people come by my house to look at it and waste hours of my time.  I don't think any of them actually even bid on it.

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
3/24/24 10:27 a.m.

In reply to docwyte :

To be fair to the 993, the entire family was very short. Dad was probably 5'7" or so and was the tallest of them. Impressive they all fit nonetheless. They did send me a message yesterday evening informing me they bought the S2000. 

How was your BaT experience? My DC2 is in pretty good shape, all things considered but I'm not sure if BaT would accept it. I was considering Cars and Bids if it didn't sell in the next few weeks. 

My DC2 for sale: 


docwyte UltimaDork
3/24/24 12:32 p.m.

Overall my BaT experience went smoothly, although the car sold for 20% less than what I thought the bottom dollar number would be.  So that's disappointing, although not BaT's fault.  I had a surprising amount of people want to, and then come by to look at it in person.  They were all tire kickers, honestly I really don't think a single one of them bid on the car.  They did waste a ton of my time though, which was what I was hoping to avoid by listing it on BaT.  

Buyer paid quickly, shipper got it quickly.  The BaT photographer was great, totally worth the money for that.

OHSCrifle UberDork
3/24/24 4:17 p.m.

I guess you should have let them drive your S2000!

dxman92 SuperDork
3/24/24 5:33 p.m.

I had two Fits in recent years and both were manuals and very fun to drive. One mod that does make a difference in the handling department is adding a rear sway bar. I had one added on both of mine and you can feel the difference. Also, the amount of crap you can fit in there will surprise you. I miss that little e36 box some days!

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
3/24/24 5:35 p.m.

In reply to OHSCrifle :

Right!! Haha! 

For the record, I don't typically let anyone drive my S2000- not even my wife lol. She's sitting right next to me- I read that out loud to which she nodded her head smiling and said "we have an agreement" haha. 

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
3/24/24 5:59 p.m.

In reply to dxman92 :

I really enjoyed the little Fit I drove and was considering one, but figured it was a car that was better to buy in a manual.

When I sell my Integra, I'll likely get some flavor of automatic E36 M3box to take its place- I just found out recently I might need shoulder surgery, to which, an automatic commuter would surely be nice to have. I'll likely end up with another 2019+ Mazda 3. I drove quite a few autos I can buy cash, hoping one of them would blow my mind... the closest I've come was the Fit and the Volvo C30- if the C30 had a smidge more legroom, I would have already started shopping... but if I spent just a bit more on a 2019+ Mazda 3 (a car I loved and already kind of owned- I had a 2021 Mazda 3 Turbo), not only do I know for a fact that it doesn't ever hurt my knee, it also comes in AWD and a hatch; which means if I wanted to, I could also sell the Xterra and get rid of an insurance payment... and still not have a car payment if I shop around. 

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
4/18/24 11:11 a.m.

DISCLAIMER: This isn't just a test drive review. I actually bought this car last night lol. 


After dislocating my right shoulder a few months ago, I found out recently I might end up needing a bit of surgery due to a torn labrum. I've been going to PT to rehab it for a while now and should find out soon what the long-term plan will be. I'm back to doing pull-ups without trouble, but there's still some limited mobility at the end-ranges. We'll see. 

Either way, I might end up not being able to drive a manual for a while, which has weighed on my mind and altered my plans a bit. Up to this point, I've essentially owned 3 manuals (S2000, 128i and Integra) and 1 automatic (Xterra). I rarely ever drove the Xterra- I think I've put ~2000 miles on it in the past 1.5 years. It's a great utilitarian vehicle- an absolute tank in the snow with the Wildpeak tires, but it doesn't play well with my right knee. The knee discomfort in the Xterra is very mild, but still enough to make me generally grab the keys to something else unless I need to pick up a large item or there's a pile of snow on the ground. I've known this for a long time, but it wasn't really a factor given how little I drive it (it was only meant to be a winter beater). The prospect of having to use it as my sole personal vehicle in the event I can't drive a manual for a while hasn't sat well with me. 

Long story short: I sold the Integra. Then I sold the Xterra. I replaced them both with something that has significantly less cargo space: 

I bought this 2021 Soul Red Mazda 3 Turbo sedan: 

I actually used to own a 2021 Mazda 3 Turbo (same color), but last time, I bought the hatchback version. For the record, I'm typically more of a hatchback kind of guy. I only bought the sedan this time for a couple of reasons: 

1. This car was marked about ~$4000 below what these cars are selling for (similar mileage and condition) nationwide. That's hard to ignore. 

2. My biggest complaint about my previous 3 hatch was the absolutely horrendous rear blindspots caused by the giant rear C-pillars. It almost resulted in me getting into an accident on more than 1 occasion. So, despite the fact that I prefer the looks and added utility of the hatch, I told myself if I was going to do it again, I would buy the sedan. It would appear the folks at Car and Driver share my sentiments. 

My last Mazda 3 Turbo burned oil from the day it left the lot, brand new. For that reason alone, I was hesitant about keeping it outside of warranty, long term. Since then, Mazda has issued a fix for any cars affected: as it turns out, it has to do with faulty valve stem seals/exhaust valve seals. According to the Intarwebs, it would appear anyone experiencing this issue now, Mazda will foot the bill to replace the seals, free of charge. So, if I run into this issue again, I'll just swing by my local dealership. 

About the car: it's a one owner, personal use car with only 8000 miles on the clock! Clean Carfax, no accidents. The thing is practically brand new. Based on the Carfax date of purchase, it should still have about 2.5 years left under the powertrain warranty. A few small details lead me to believe the previous owner was likely a female. The car was about $8000 cheaper than the cheapest new one I could find in the country- for a pretty much mint car with 8000 miles on it, I couldn't justify the extra cash for a new one. I want to thank the previous owner for taking the massive depreciation hit. 

Why did I buy it? Easy- these cars are wonderful, AWD daily drivers that can be used year-round. It comes with an automatic that I don't hate. It's still under warranty for another 2.5 years and I can just drive a car for a few years without having to fix/maintain too much on a regular basis, which should give me some time to help my shoulder and back heal up. 

I suppose I should probably review this thing:

Interior: Mazda has really come up in the world in the last 5-7 years. I've always loved Mazda's- I've owned several of them (a plethora of Miata's, a Mazdaspeed 6 and a couple 3's), my wife's daily is a 2016 Mazda 6 6MT and our daughter has a 2010 Mazda 3 6MT- but their latest push to move more upmarket is noticeable. The interior looks and feels more like what I would expect in a modern Audi. The infotainment is a bit of an annoyance to navigate, but the rest of the interior is very comfortable and an easy place to spend lots of time in. Bonus: it doesn't hurt my right knee to drive! Mazda's ergonomics for someone my size are spot on! Dear everyone else: please figure out whatever Mazda does to fit tall drivers comfortably into relatively small cars. The seats, while lacking the sweet thigh extender of my E82, are very soft and appropriately supportive- easy to sit in for long periods of time. 

Powertrain: this engine is not a big fan of revving. It has over 300 ft-lbs of torque from a fairly low RPM, but runs out of steam above 5000rpm. It's the exact opposite experience vs my S2000. When I'm playing sporty car driver, give me a high revving NA motor and the glorious sound of an 8000rpm redline! In traffic? I'll take the low-end grunt from this little 2.5T any day of the week. It can't match the smoothness or the soundtrack of my BMW, but it has an extra ~100 ft-lbs of torque... it's a fair trade. The gearbox is a fairly well-programmed traditional torque converter 6AT- none of that CVT nonsense! It's not the fastest shifting gearbox on earth, but it's pretty responsive/intuitive to my throttle inputs. If you put the car into Sport mode it does a pretty good job of holding lower gears so you can have some fun pitching the car around. While not really a sports car engine, for a daily, I really enjoy the powertrain. 

Handling/ride/suspension: this is not a hot hatch. This is not a car that will set your hair on fire as you dream of sideways rally car glory. It's not nearly as sharp as my S2000... with that said, the suspension is fairly firm and the car is eager to be pitched around! This is absolutely a street car at heart- I think they hit the sweet spot, having just enough body control to make the car a willing dance partner, without going too stiff as to beat you up on the road. The suspension is firm- maybe too firm for folks that like an extremely plush ride- but I had zero complaints and thought it was a very fair trade-off considering it's poise in the corners. Body roll is very controlled, and while I haven't pushed it to 10/10ths in a while (since I owned my old car), it does a pretty good rotating for a front heavy, FWD-based car. Applying a bit of throttle in the corners, you can feel the rear axle is actually part of the equation. The rear doesn't play nearly as much of a role as say a Focus RS, but it's clearly involved in the equation. This little car handles better than it's torsion bar rear end would suggest. 

The steering weight is pretty decent. It's ever so slightly on the lighter end of the spectrum (at least compared to my S2000 and 128i), but not overly so. It feels like Mazda put some thought into getting the weighting correct, as it's light enough to feel playful, without feeling like a video game controller. The feel is not bad for an EPS rack. At the end of the day, it's still an EPS rack- it can't hold a candle to my BMW's steering feel, but for a modern EPS, there's at least something there that gives you some connection to the road (it hasn't been completely muted like most EPS racks). 

The brakes are adequate. The overall stopping power isn't impressive, but it's not terrible. I will give them credit: the brake pedal position is wonderful (cars with wide/awkward spacing don't play well with my knee) and they're very easy to modulate. They suit their intended purpose just fine. 

It's been a while since I've owned a newer car. I had forgotten about some of the modern luxuries folks get these days- these headlights are utterly amazing! My S2000's old school xenons are pretty good, but my other cars all had halogens that felt like I was holding up a lantern in an 18th century fog by comparison! Auto Hold. Oh my word, I've missed Auto Hold (being able to take your foot off of the brake at a stop light). This is one feature I wish every car had. I even used the adaptive cruise control last night coming home- I forgot how much of a relaxing feature that is on a traffic infested highway. While I still prefer mostly old-school, mechanical things, I can't deny that some of these features are very nice to have. 

So, I reluctantly did something I haven't done in a few years since I sold my last Mazda 3 Turbo: I took on a very small car payment. I sold the Integra and the Xterra, but the money I recouped was a bit shy of the cost of the 3 Turbo. I could have dipped into savings, but I don't like to touch my savings account or any investments we've made unless absolutely necessary. Technically, going from 4 cars down to 3, the drop in insurance alone pretty much covers the cost of the payment, so it's pretty much a wash financially. Although I despise debt in pretty much all forms- so, I should be able to pay off the small note over the next few months and be back to being debt-free. 

I considered getting a Ford Maverick, but to find a Maverick in similar condition (low miles, no accidents/clean Carfax/title), with cruise control and AWD, I was looking at an extra $3000-$4000, plus the cost of a fly-and-drive (locally, it's an ~$8000+ situation) for a truck with less features. I couldn't justify it when I really only need a truck about once a year or so. Conversely, the wife and I have regular downtown dates, where the Mazda is the easier vehicle to park. Translation: while I love the Maverick, the Mazda is actually more usable for me, more of the time; with the counter argument being that I technically still have 2 other small cars we could take if we wanted to go downtown (even if I avoid taking my S2000 to places where it might get dinged up lol!). 

I also considered the Mazda CX-30. I drove one a few weeks ago. It's really just a Mazda 3 on stilts. Only one issue: unlike the 3, the CX-30 didn't play as well with my knee. I actually took measurements at a dealership, and found the culprit: the CX-30's seats sit about an inch higher up (at their lowest setting). I considered trying to retrofit the lower 3 seats into the CX-30, but the fact that I also thought the 3 was more fun to drive (undoubtedly due to the lower center of gravity) played into the equation. With that said, if you're in the market, the CX-30 was very good to drive for what it is, and seemingly the market is flooded with them. 

I now have a bit of a debate going on in my head: between the BMW and the Mazda 3 Turbo, which one gets the garage spot? 

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
4/19/24 8:36 p.m.

Car driven: 2016 BMW M2 6MT
Driven on 4/19/2024
Background: I'm always kicking around the idea of getting rid of the S2000 for something interesting
Review style: abridged

Cliff notes: I loved this car! I don't know if I'm ready to get rid of the S2000 for it, but if I could trade my 128i straight up, it would be in my garage already! 

So, today before it started snowing, I took a spin in a beautiful blue 2016 BMW M2 w/6MT and about 94k miles on the clock. I think they were asking around ~$36k, which in my opinion, was a bit high considering the mileage and the fact it was modified: 

My word, these cars are beautiful! This one is even in the right color! And with the right transmission! I don't know what to say, other than: I loved this car! 

I haven't been doing many test drive reviews here lately for a number of reasons (although I still need to write a review for my wife's Mazda 6 6MT), but every once and a while, a car catches my interest. Per my previous thread, I'm always looking for interesting cars that could possibly take the place of my S2000 that I rarely drive these days. This is one of very few cars that I might consider selling the S2000 for, even if it's an entirely different animal. 

This thing comes across as a bit of a German pony car... except that I prefer its size over all the pony cars and its a good bit more confidence inspiring to drive. 

This one, at a minimum, was lowered, had an aftermarket intake and some type of "burble tune", which, I would have skipped the burble tune. It wasn't the worst sounding noise I've ever heard, but it was a bit over the top. With that said, take this review with a grain of salt, as I'm sure the car was a bit faster than stock. 

There's only 1 place to start: Speed and POWER!! This thing seriously hauls ass! At my elevation (5200 ft), it does in fact feel quicker than all the V8 pony cars I've driven in the past year. I'm sure there's a small amount of turbo lag, but I didn't spend much time in the lower RPM's, so I can't speak much to it. All I know is that when I put the pedal down, I was accosted with a mountain full of torque! And it just kept pulling! This is one of only a few cars that made my wife laugh when we put the pedal down! It wasn't quite as hilarious as the Jaguar F-Type R, but it wasn't terribly far off. 

You would think that being such a torque monster would mean it would have some burly, left leg tiring clutch... nothing could be further from the truth. The clutch was extraordinarily smooth, and hardly any heavier than my 128i's clutch. I've driven economy cars with rougher clutches than this car! Smooth. Easy to drive. Shocking. 

I could be wrong, but I felt like it might have an aftermarket short shifter, as the throws were pretty short. At first, it took me a second to find first gear, as slotting into 1st didn't give me a ton of feedback... but after I got used to it, it was fine. I rowed through the gears multiple times and never came close to missing a gear. It's a pretty smooth gearbox, even if, in typical BMW fashion, it's wasn't the most engaging shifter on earth. It felt extremely similar to my 128i. 

Other things that felt similar to my 128i: the seats! BMW makes the best damn sports seats on the market! And in typical BMW fashion, their ergonomics fit my larger frame perfectly. Why, oh why, can't more companies just steal BMW's ergonomics? For the love of all that is good and tall! 

The car seemed just a bit bigger than my 128i in every direction, without ever feeling like a "big" car. It still felt light and tossable, agile and easy to place in traffic... but maybe 5-10% bigger than my E82. 

While playing around, the big calipers were very very strong, while still being easy to modulate, giving me a ton of confidence in pitching the car around! 

I honestly couldn't find anything I didn't like about the car. As the roads were a bit on the cooler side, I even thought the traction/stability control were dialed in well. The traction light came on several times, but the car never abruptly cut power- it seemed like it just smoothly limited torque to the road conditions without feeling jerky or obtrusive in the least. Even the auto-rev matching worked well, making the car even easier to drive quickly. 

In typical BMW fashion, the car also felt well-balanced. I was admittedly a bit hesitant to give it full throttle mid-corner, as this girl has some power!- but overall the car felt like it was willing to rotate and hid it's weight pretty well. 

I was worried I wouldn't care for the EPS rack... I'm not a big fan of EPS racks... no, it doesn't have the feel of my E82's hydraulic rack, but honestly, for an EPS rack, it was pretty good. The weight of the steering was spot on! It had just the right amount of heft to feel planted, without making the car feel heavy. They also nailed the steering rack ratio- some racks are too quick or too slow- this wheel felt very measured and well dialed in. 

It's been a few years since I drove one of these cars... the last one was a DCT machine that was stock... I remember thinking it was too stiffly sprung, as it pogo'd around a good bit... I have no idea what was done to this one (it was certainly lowered), but whatever they did sorted it out! It was still on the firm side, but certainly no stiffer than my S2000. I also noted they threw a set of Continental tires on it- maybe the stock tires were run flats or something? All I know is that while I didn't spend much time at highway speeds, I didn't have any problems with the ride at all. YMMV. 

I can see what all the automotive journalists loved this car. There's a lot to love! I know I drove an E46 M3 a while back... and I know the E46 M3 is going up in value, while these cars might still be depreciating... if I was spending mint condition E46 M3 money, there's no doubt, I would skip the E46 and buy this generation of M2. In a manual. In this gorgeous blue. 

Will I buy one? Maybe. Eventually. The only way for me to come up with the cash to buy one right now without financing would be to sell my S2000... I loved the M2... but it's a very different animal than my S2000. If my lowly E36 M3box 128i was worth M2 money, it would be gone tomorrow, but alas, they're very far off from each other, price wise. 

Having driven this and the M240i x-drive, I would say you can't go wrong with either of them. The flared fenders give the M2 such a strong road presence- it's a car I could stare at every time I walked away! The M240i is still a good looking car, but the M2 truly looks special. For the daily grind, I would likely get an automatic M240i (I'm pretty sure the auto is the ZF 8-speed, which is by far my favorite torque converter box of all time), but for a weekend car, no doubt, the M2 with a manual is where my money would go. It should be noted: the M240i has the B58 engine, which is considered to be more reliable than the old N55 variant... I honestly wish you could get the early M2's with a variant of the B58- I believe the later competition models have that variant (someone correct me if I'm wrong), but comparatively, those cars cost nearly double what the early cars cost. 

I don't know when and I don't know how, but there's a 99% chance one of these cars will end up in the garage one day. 

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