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Caprigrip Reader
12/20/23 10:59 p.m.

I like your keeping the S2000 idea.   The comparison with the Integra vs S2k was a good one and from outside looking in, answers the question of which one stays.    We have all been there and you seem to thinking logically.   Can the xterra stay as a beater truck?   So S2k, 128 and Xterra stay ?  

OHSCrifle UberDork
12/21/23 9:29 a.m.

I think you need to test drive a 128i convertible and tell us where it stacks up. Or maybe even a 135i if you're feeling super daring. 

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
12/21/23 9:54 a.m.
Caprigrip said:

I like your keeping the S2000 idea.   The comparison with the Integra vs S2k was a good one and from outside looking in, answers the question of which one stays.    We have all been there and you seem to thinking logically.   Can the xterra stay as a beater truck?   So S2k, 128 and Xterra stay ?  

The Xterra would stay, at least temporarily. If I sold the Integra and Xterra, it would probably result in somewhere between 1/2 to 2/3rds of the funds needed to buy a new Maverick cash (market dependent). I don't think I want a car payment right now. So, the tentative plan would be to save up for 6-9 months, sell the Xterra and buy a Maverick cash. But who knows, I might just save up and decide I would rather keep the extra money in the bank for a rainy day. I don't really need a new car right now (I have a work car that I commute in anyway), but long term, I think I would like to pick up a Maverick. 

Fortunately, my 128i has plenty of small dings and scratches in it, so I would still have somewhat of a "beater". 

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
12/21/23 10:38 a.m.
OHSCrifle said:

I think you need to test drive a 128i convertible and tell us where it stacks up. Or maybe even a 135i if you're feeling super daring. 

I've actually wanted to find a 135i to test drive for a while now. They're tough to find out here (Colorado). Even tougher to find in a manual that's unmolested. Although I'm on the fence about driving one... I don't think I would like the additional maintenance that comes along with the N54/N55. While the extra power would be interesting, the N52 in the 128i seems much easier on the wallet- no turbos, no direction injection carbon buildup, no HPFP, the water pumps seem to last much longer, etc. I've read enough horror stories about the N54/N55 that I'm wary to say the least. I know the N55 is supposed to be more reliable than the N54, but still. 

Matt Farah from TheSmokingTire built a 135i about a year ago in a video build series that resulted in a giveaway at the end... in maintenance alone, he spent $10,000 getting the car back up to par (before the mods started). Granted, I'm sure he was paying a shop to do the work, but $10,000 is still $10,000. I'm sure z31maniac can attest to how quickly the 135i can break your wallet. 

When I bought my 128i is was ROUGH! I paid about 1/3 of what the car should have cost and spent the first few months making all necessary repairs/maintenance. I mean, someone really let this car go. The car had previously been in an accident- the body work was well done, but they didn't replace a few items that they should have after the accident. I did all the work myself to help keep the costs down and ordered a few used parts off of eBay that helped a bit too. I went overboard, essentially replacing anything that would ever need to be replaced in the next several years and even ordered a few upgraded bits (M3/1M control arms, CSF Racing all-aluminum radiator, silicone intake hose to get rid of the resonator, M shift knob, etc). Honestly, if I wasn't going crazy, most of the costs weren't that bad given the low price of the car. There were a few big ticket items that hurt the wallet a bit: 

-OEM Water pump $340 (it was still working, but throwing a code and they're considered replacement items)

-OEM thermostat $141 (I've never paid so much for a thermostat in my life! But, might as well while doing the water pump)

-Seat belt tensioner $184 (throwing a code after the accident, fixed in ~15 minutes)

-Bosch coil packs and NGK spark plugs- $186 (car had a stutter/hesitation, plugs looked like the factory plugs that were ~15 years old)

-BMW fuel pump (left) and fuel filter (right)- around $350 (again, car had a stutter/hesitation, plus the fuel gauge wasn't working- I'm pretty sure it was damaged in the accident based on what I saw when I pulled it out)

-OEM BMW steering shaft - $408 (unreal how much this little piece of aluminum cost- I replaced it when I replaced the rack and pinion)

-Remanufactured OEM steering rack and pinion- $526 (ordered from Rock Auto- the steering rack was shot, car wandered all over- it was terrifying on the freeway, not sure why, this is NOT a common problem on these cars)

-OEM VANOS solenoids- $316 (probably not needed, but I read a good amount about replacing them as preventative maintenance in a higher mileage car. They only take 5-10 minutes to replace). 

Other maintenance items were pretty comparable to most cars. Either way, even with a car that had been in an accident with a boatload of deferred maintenance (read: likely ALL deferred maintenance), I never came close to $10k in maintenance. Granted, I also wasn't paying for labor. The older turbo BMW's put a scare into my wallet. I've heard the B58 is much better, but it's also in a much higher price range- for a reason. 

Without driving it, I can give an abridged review of a 128i convertible: it's like my 128i, only slower and a bit more floppy. If it doesn't have the sport seats, the base seats are rubbish. I think that pretty much sums it up lol. 

OHSCrifle UberDork
12/21/23 11:43 a.m.

In reply to roninsoldier83 :

The potential money pit factor is exactly what I meant by "daring".

All your praise for the 128i has me keeping one eye on them...

docwyte UltimaDork
12/21/23 11:51 a.m.

In reply to roninsoldier83 :

The E90/2 have their own issues.  Rod bearings, throttle actuators, vanos, etc.  Plus for a V8 they've got no torque.  Especially up here

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
12/21/23 8:32 p.m.
OHSCrifle said:

In reply to roninsoldier83 :

The potential money pit factor is exactly what I meant by "daring".

All your praise for the 128i has me keeping one eye on them...

You make a valid point about needing to be daring to drive N54/55 powered cars. I'm not sure if I have the gumption (credit card overhead?) to take on that challenge. 

I would take my praise with a grain of salt. I'm probably a bit of an odd duck with very specific taste. But I do love that little E82. To be clear, by the time I fixed/replaced the steering rack, I had already swapped in the M3/1M control arms. People claim those control arms makes a heck of a difference, but I wouldn't know what difference they made as I couldn't drive the car hard (or really even in a straight line) before I replaced the steering rack. My car also has the sport suspension and seats (those seats are wonderful!), which, I imagine make a heck of a difference. If you go to drive one, I would hold out for one with the sport (or later M-sport) package and a manual transmission. 

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
12/21/23 9:53 p.m.

So, my wife and I had the afternoon off together today. We've been getting some unusually (for December) beautiful weather, so I took the S2000 out. We drove a couple of cars, back to back... one of which was off the beaten path a bit. We got our hands on a 2019 Ford Mustang GT w/performance pack and a manual.... then, we found a real gem of an E46 M3 coupe in a manual! 

The Mustang: 

To start, my wife absolutely loved this Mustang lol. I spent most of the rest of the night hearing her make a case for why I need this beautiful sounding V8 in my life. Where do I start? This thing is fun! 

The sweet Coyote 5.0 had an aftermarket exhaust on it and sounded The Business! Man, do I love that engine! We've driven an S550 GT or 2 in the past, but I think this was the first one I've driven with 3.73 gears. I now feel like the 3.73's are a must for this car. Without them, I feel like the gearing is too tall and doesn't fit the powerband of the engine very well. The 5.0 isn't exactly a mid-range monster (like the LS and my wife's 392 Hemi)- it wants to rev and rewards you for spinning it over 7000rpm! 

As I was trying to explain to the salesman why we weren't buying it, my wife was actively trying to do the salesman's job for him, explaining to me how great of a replacement it would be for the Integra lol. She was ready to buy the thing as soon as I revved the exhaust. Me? I'm not exactly sold on the big pony car. 

The seats are comfortable, but I had a bit of slight knee discomfort and I could pinpoint why: the rake of the lower seat cushion. Rather than adding padding to the front of the seat bottom for thigh support, they just added rake... if it wasn't for that, I'm confident I would have loved the seating position. The pedals were well placed and my right knee wasn't jammed into the console. 

This big pony rides pretty well, while staying fairly flat in the corners. It's a pretty good mix. Although you can feel the weight when pitching it around. The plus-sized Brembo brakes are very grabby at lower speeds, but when you start pitching it around, you NEED them to slow this big girl down! Back road cornering is NOT this car's strong suit. It's not terrible, but it's not nearly as confidence inspiring as the equally sized current gen Camaro (my wife used to have a 2016 Camaro SS). Going full throttle thru 2nd gear and then trying to slow down for a corner feels like you're playing a game of "gotcha" with the Grim Reaper and it's only a matter of time before he wins a round... 

We spent a good portion of the drive in traffic in the Denver Tech Center area, before finding some back roads to avoid the endless supply of cars that were hell bent on spoiling our fun. In traffic, the Mustang leaves a LOT to be desired. 

I'm fairly tall (6'2") and with the seat all the way down, I have plenty of headroom... but this car is big. The hood is tall and the shape of the fenders leaves me guessing where they are on more narrow roads. Add in the fact that the rear corner visibility isn't the best on earth and it makes for a car that isn't much fun to slice through traffic in. The car feels wide and clumsy trying to dart through traffic. The steering, while direct, is also pretty muted. I think this makes for a great GT car- I would take this car on a road trip in a heartbeat, but I certainly wouldn't want it as a city car. 

I liked the big Stang. I LOVED the Coyote engine! Sounds amazing and pulls like an angry silverback gorilla, all the way up to it's ~7500rpm redline! Although I'm not sure if I like the Coyote better than my wife's 392 Hemi- the 5.0 is a much revvier motor that I would enjoy on a racetrack, but in town, I think I prefer the instant mid-range punch of the big 6.4L. 

The clutch and shifter are very polished and easy to use. It's not the annoyingly abrupt left pedal of the Camaro, that I can't drive smoothly to save my life... however, they don't give much feedback and neither does the steering wheel. I never really felt connected to the car. The inputs feel closer to something more akin to a luxury car than a sports car. They would likely be easy to live with daily, but didn't set my hair on fire. 

If we lived in the country, or spent a lot of time on wide, uncrowded roads, I could see the appeal of the S550. As it stands, I don't want one. The car has a ton of speed, but on crowded public roads, or even twisty back roads, I don't feel like I could really use the speed, due to the car's size/weight and poor visibility. It's fun, but I don't feel like I would get the opportunity to use the fun very often, if that makes sense? 

I would love to take this engine and put it into something the size of my E82. 

Onto the E46 M3: 

To start, aside from the hideous looking oversized wheels, the car seemed like it was stock. This thing only has 48k miles on the clock and is in phenomenal condition! 

I need to be honest though, we've been avoiding this particular dealership for over a year now. My wife and I buy a lot of cars... but whenever we get into a "buy another car mode", we end up test driving a lot more cars than we buy. It's just the nature of the game. I think we wore out our welcome at this dealership a long time ago... I was hoping the guy we previously worked with was no longer there to avoid the awkwardness of asking for another set of keys... not only was he there, he's now actually the manager and recognized us immediately. He was not pleased to see us. But he did arrange for us to take the E46 out for an unaccompanied spin, so at least we had that going for us. 

Onto the drive: 

I'm just going to come right out and say it: I prefer my 128i over the E46 M3. Yes, I said it and I mean it. 

Pulling away in the M3 is a breeze. The clutch and shifter are smooth affairs that are easy to work. It's a fairly comfortable car, the driving position is just fine and the seats are decent as well. Although I would mention that I felt like I was sliding out of the seat a few times on the test drive. I don't have that problem with my E82. I didn't take the time to investigate why. I think maybe the leather was just a bit smoother and felt more slippery? I honestly don't know though. 

I was afraid to use most of the electronics... despite it's overall good condition, things like the heater didn't work. Either that or the interior temp sensor was lying about the temperature of the car. When we tried to turn the climate control on, set to 71 degrees (it was about 50 F outside), it blew only cold air (yes, the car was fully warmed up). 

I don't know why, it might have been a me thing, but something about the car seemed fragile to me. It might have been fine, but with such a nice, low mileage E46 M3, I was afraid to hurt it, so I avoided ragging on it too hard. 

My 128i feels more solid than the E46. The little E82 truly feels more planted and more confidence inspiring. The M3 was somewhat light on it's toes- it seemed willing to rotate and I could see it easily being a daily driver for someone that wasn't afraid to drive it... but everything inside my E82 just seemed a bit more solid. I don't know how to explain it, but my wife agreed with my assessment. We're not talking night and day differences, as they were fairly comparable, but honestly, the E82 just seemed like BMW made incremental improvements, tweaking small details that made the chassis better. I've read that the E82 is a better chassis than the E36/E46- while I haven't tracked any of them, I would believe it, as the E82 just inspires more confidence to drive it, at least at around 8/10ths or so. If you push the E82 much past that point, the rear end gets a little floppy (hence the recommendations to replace the RSFB's), but for sporty street driving, the E82 is very good. I have a feeling that the E46 would likely be better at 10/10ths, but I'm certainly not going to push it on the street, especially in a car I don't own. 

The M3's steering was good, shifter is good, chassis felt fine/good, nothing about the car was bad... but I never fell in love with it or felt much of a connection to it. It's the right size of car. I certainly think it would be much better than the Mustang in traffic, but I didn't lust after the car while driving it. Maybe that's my fault for not driving the hell out of it? I pitched it through a few corners- I respect this car, but I don't want it. 

The engine... it's a strong motor, with a wide, fairly linear powerband. Keep in mind, we had just gotten out of the Mustang a few minutes prior... comparing it to a much newer 5.0L Mustang isn't fair... the Mustang felt like it would walk away from the M3 with ease... below ~6000rpm, the M3 actually felt pretty similar to my 128i. It might have a slight low-end torque advantage over my 128i, but I don't think I would really notice. Now, above 6000rpm, the M3 screams to it's 8000rpm redline! It pulls pretty good... but I feel inclined to mention a comment my wife made later while driving the S2000 to dinner after the drive: "the S2000 feels faster than that M3". 

I want to be clear: no, objectively, the S2000 is not faster than an E46 M3. I'm sure the M3 pulled harder. But drive them both back to back (we did) and the S2000 gives a much greater sensation of speed, feeling quicker in the process. 

I think the comparison to the 128i to the E46 M3 is appropriate... but I'm not talking about selling the 128i, so it's a moot point. In comparison to the S2000, there's no doubt, the S2000 is far more fun to drive. The S2000 is impractical, rides firmly, it's borderline darty, it needs to be revved to the moon to get going and I wouldn't want to take it on a road trip... but on a back road, or even through light to medium traffic, it's an absolute riot to drive! The M3 doesn't come close to the sensation that the S2000 gives you. Objectively, the S2000 is a bad car; but subjectively it's a hell of a roadster! 

If you can only have 1 car to do everything, I can see the appeal of the E46 M3. Fortunately, I'm not in that position. You know what I would rather drive over the E46 M3? The combination of a 128i and an S2000. 


I suppose I should have titled this thread: Test Drives - 2023 Edition. 

docwyte UltimaDork
12/22/23 12:58 p.m.

Hmm, makes me wonder if the setup on the M3 was just wrong.  My M3 was super stable and always felt really planted.  It wouldn't get unstuck until I was on track and really pushing it.  

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
12/22/23 1:26 p.m.
docwyte said:

Hmm, makes me wonder if the setup on the M3 was just wrong.  My M3 was super stable and always felt really planted.  It wouldn't get unstuck until I was on track and really pushing it.  

That's certainly a possibility. I don't think the car had an aftermarket suspension (ride height seemed factory as did the ride quality- admittedly I didn't check/verify), but I'm pretty sure those wheels & tires weren't stock. I'm pretty sure the factory setup is a staggered 225/255 package. I didn't check the tire sizes yesterday, but I wouldn't be shocked if they were squared. I could see a square setup make the car want to rotate more easily. 

To be clear, it's a fine car, but other than the last 2000rpm of the motor, I didn't feel like it was much of an upgrade from my 128i. 

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
12/22/23 9:46 p.m.

While I decide what to do with the Integra (likely sell it in the spring), I put a stock seat back in it (I had an aftermarket seat bolted to the floor) and gave the keys to my wife. She does love driving that little car. 

docwyte UltimaDork
12/23/23 12:21 p.m.

In reply to roninsoldier83 :

I ran a square setup on my old E46 M3 for the track and for winter.  Still super stable car.  These cars chew thru front control arm bushings in a hurry, very possible that was wrong and probably rtab's too

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
1/6/24 6:42 p.m.

Well, it's been an interesting couple of weeks that have given me a bit of perspective. I dislocated my right shoulder about 2 weeks ago (long story). While this wasn't necessarily work related, in the professions I've spent most of my life in, injuries are not uncommon- although this is the first one that has put my right arm out of commission for a bit. It took about ~5 days before I dared to try driving a manual transmission. So, I've spent quite a bit of time driving my Xterra, as it's the only vehicle I have that's an automatic (not counting my work car and my wife's vehicles). It's made me think a bit. 

The Xterra isn't a bad vehicle. It's meant to be a winter beater and serves that purpose well. It's nothing fun or exciting, but it gets the job done. 

Nothing has changed since my last updates, I'm still planning on selling the Integra... but I'm reconsidering what (if anything) I might replace it with. After my latest injury debacle, I'm thinking something with an automatic wouldn't be a bad idea. After scouring the Internet (to include reading through a plethora of old GRM threads), I think I might have found something: 

I just got back from test driving a 2014 Infiniti Q50S AWD 7AT and I liked it. 

To anyone that isn't in the know, the early Q50 (2014-2015) is just a renamed Infiniti G37, with a slight face-lift and interior update, but is otherwise, the exact same car. 

My impressions: 

This car is good at everything... although it's seemingly not great at anything. The motor has plenty of power/torque. The steering (still hydraulic) is a bit on the lighter side, but seemed to still have decent road feel. The seats are comfortable, the driving position is very adjustable, making it easy to get fairly comfortable. The back seat isn't huge, but it's enough to put smaller adults in. The overall fit and finish of the car is exactly what I would expect for a luxury car. The spacing of the 2 pedals is decent- the brake pedal felt pretty linear, if not overly strong (admittedly I wasn't playing sporty car driver). Overall, it's a good package that I enjoyed driving in a very different way than my other sporty cars. 

I've driven a G37x in the past that hurt my knee to drive, so I kind of forgot about them... I also used to own a G37x that never bothered me, but it was many years ago, prior to my knee injury... I decided I would specifically search for one with the Sport package for one specific reason: the Sport seats with the BMW-esque extendable thigh support. I've found that having longer seat bottoms has been very helpful in some cars in the past (my 128i included). So, I specifically sought out a car with the proper seats- and it absolutely made a difference! I think at the beginning of the drive, I felt a slight discomfort in my right knee, but I think that was my fault for having the seat too far forward. Once I moved the seat all the way back, I didn't notice it again. 

I didn't drive this car hard or push it to it's limits. I have other cars for that type of work/fun. I drove it around in a manner that I would normally commute in, which I believe to be it's intended purpose. I've owned one a long time ago- I remember it being a pretty good daily, but I don't remember it being a whole lot of fun... I'm pretty sure that was why I sold it. That was at a time before owning multiple cars at one time was the norm in my life. 

It looks like they have pretty good reliability ratings. Looking at common problems, it seems like the biggest issue they had is the oil gallery gasket going out- which, it would appear Nissan/Infiniti addressed/fixed around ~2012. 

The car has everything I would look for in a normal commuter car. Although it does have 1 deficiency: the 7-speed transmission isn't very bright. There's a pretty substantial delay when pressing the Go pedal before it downshifts and when it does, I don't think it downshifts as aggressively as I would like... it seems like if you keep holding the Go pedal, it will eventually get to the appropriate gear, but it's not nearly as intelligent or responsive as something like the ZF 8-speed in newer Chrysler/BMW products. For the price (these cars depreciate pretty heavily, making for a great value proposition!), that's something I'm willing to look past. I'm sure I could likely put the car in a sport mode or use the paddle shifters if it bothered me that much. 

In recent months, I've also driven cars like the 2014+ Mazda 6 and the 3rd gen Mazda 3- they weren't for me. Since our oldest daughter started driving recently, the Suburban is no longer needed for kid hauling, so my wife was looking to get something easier to park and better on gas so she could stop using the Suburban so often. I love Mazda as a brand, always have. I liked both the 3 and a 6... but at my elevation, I found them to really be down on power (both with the NA 2.5L- even though my wife didn't mind at all). And that's coming from someone who owns 2 NA 4 cylinder Honda's... that's a problem I feel like a car like the G37/Q50 solves. I'm shocked that there's not much of a price difference between the Mazda 3/6 and the G37/Q50 (assuming somewhat comparable miles). 

Either way, I'm now having another wild idea: 

-Keep S2000 and 128i. 
-Sell Integra and Xterra. 
-Buy AWD Infiniti G37/Q50. 

I figure that with an AWD version of the Infiniti, I probably won't have much use for the Xterra, as I could/would use the G37/Q50 for heavier snows. The rear hatch/trunk area of the Xterra is MUCH larger than any sedans, but it's only something I really need about once a year or so on average. The Xterra has the ability to tow if needed, but I've never actually used it to tow anything... and with the money from selling the Integra/Xterra, I could easily pay cash for an Infiniti. 

Since I've decided to walk away from track/autoX work for a while, the Integra serves no purpose. My wife loves the little Integra, but she doesn't want to commute daily in a manual (I don't blame her). For a pure fun car, I can't deny, the S2000 is more fun than the Integra. For a sporty car that I can pretty much take anywhere, the 128i is my preferred chariot. The back seat of both cars (Integra and 128i) are really comparable, but equally useless for fitting teenagers/adults in them. I will say the Integra has a bigger/more useful trunk/hatch area, but both do just fine for getting groceries. FWD is a bit more stable in the snow, but it's January and thus far, I've taken the 128i everywhere for the majority of the winter, so... in a nutshell, the Integra seems redundant. 

Whereas I feel like the Infiniti could do the winter job of the Xterra, while being more enjoyable and more comfortable in the process. It seems like a vehicle I could enjoy driving that would serve a purpose. I also wouldn't feel bad about leaving it parked outside, as I see them as more of a disposable vehicle- if it gets hailed on, I'm sure State Farm will buy me another one. I can't see myself being emotionally attached to it the way I can get to the S2000 and even the 128i (to some extent). 

dannyp84 HalfDork
1/6/24 9:02 p.m.

The Q50 is a sharp-looking car. I thought the seats in the original G35 coupe were fairly comfortable, so I imagine the adjustable sport seats in the Q would be an even better version. Is the Q50 an n/a 3.7 liter or is a turbo 3.0?

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
1/7/24 12:31 a.m.
dannyp84 said:

The Q50 is a sharp-looking car. I thought the seats in the original G35 coupe were fairly comfortable, so I imagine the adjustable sport seats in the Q would be an even better version. Is the Q50 an n/a 3.7 liter or is a turbo 3.0?

I believe the 2014/2015 is the old NA 3.7L. The newer ones switched over to the turbo 3.0, if I'm not mistaken. 

lnlds Reader
1/7/24 2:39 a.m.

Would the qx50 (hatch/crossover version of the qx50) make more sense here? 

OHSCrifle UberDork
1/7/24 8:49 a.m.
lnlds said:

Would the qx50 (hatch/crossover version of the qx50) make more sense here? 

Same chassis. I really need to drive a 2016-17 QX50. 325HP goodness that was replaced the next year with a lower powered but more fuel efficient turbo 4..

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
1/7/24 4:45 p.m.
lnlds said:

Would the qx50 (hatch/crossover version of the qx50) make more sense here? 

Good question. Does the QX50 have the option of the extendable thigh sport seats? If not, I wonder if they can be swapped in from a different model car...? 

While a crossover makes more sense, I'm typically a bit wary to go down that path. I usually find that most crossovers are seemingly designed with the ergonomics of a small female in mind and don't fit me very well. And while I don't mind putting around in the Xterra when it's snowing, I generally prefer the handling dynamics of something lower to the ground. I'm not opposed to taking an older QX50 for a spin (assuming they're in a similar price range on the used market), but without the extended sport seats, I suspect it won't be a good fit. 

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
1/22/24 10:54 p.m.

Well, it would appear I'm back at it again; albeit not for the same reasons as before. 

I've been enjoying driving my 128i- it's easily become one of the best daily drivers I've ever owned. Although I need to be honest about one glaring issue: the AC doesn't work. By that time I got done wrenching on it last year (all work documented in previous thread), it was late summer, so I figured I would just avoid taking it on hot summer days until fall came. 

My plan was to troubleshoot the AC in the springtime. To be clear, I tried filling it was R134a freon- it worked great!- for about 3-5 days, then started blowing warm air again. I put another can in, this time with dye to try and find the leak... I thought maybe there were a few speckles on the compressor itself, so the plan was to replace the compressor in the springtime and put in the OEM oil cooler/warmer at the same time (easier to get to one of the hoses with the compressor out of the way). That was all fine and dandy, until I read from some other GRM'ers that when their AC went out in their E82/E90 it wasn't the compressor, it was the evaporator... berkeley. 

At first, I thought I would be getting off easy if it was only the evaporator... an OEM evaporator from FCP Euro is only ~$150, much cheaper than a compressor... then I looked at the labor involved. The entire dash has to come out to replace it. Book time is allegedly 13-14 hours for someone that knows what they're doing. Coincidentally, that the same book time (14 hours) is listed for an engine swap in these cars... I saw one of the fast-forwarded tutorials online- talk about a pain in the neck. When the video poster was asked about how much time it took, he said 3 days, working roughly 8 hours a day... for an evaporator. Most of the folks I saw online received quotes to replace it for around $2500-$3000, almost entirely labor costs. 

I love driving the little Bimmer... but I'm now debating just how much I love it. I've spent the past couple years putting in countless hours in the garage, which led to a torn labrum in my right hip and lots of physical therapy since then, trying to avoid surgery. One of the many reasons I've decided to put motorsports on the back burner and stopped building my Integra. Needless to say, I'm hesitant to take on a project of that magnitude in the near future- I've been trying to scale back the car projects to avoid further injury and surgery. 

I've considered paying an indy shop, but the bill is steep. I can afford the bill, that's not the problem: the problem is justifying a potential ~$3000 AC repair on a car that's likely only worth $10,000-$12,000. When fixing the AC would potentially cost 25-30% of the value of the car, well, it's given me some pause. 

There's always a possibility that the evaporator isn't the problem, but the symptoms are there and it's apparently a known (if not well advertised) issue. 

So, I've considered what any car-addict would do in this situation: I considered getting rid of it and replacing it with something similar. Enter today's test drive: the last year of the S197 Mustang, more specifically a 2014 Mustang GT California Special with a 6MT. 

The way I figured it, this car has some things in common with the E82: RWD, comfy interior, nearly useless back seat etc. So, I figured, what the heck! 

I drove the 128i to the dealership so I could really get a back to back comparison. 

I spent about 2 hours driving the car total. I wasn't planning on spending that long with it, but after the initial test drive, the dealer offered to let me bring the car to my wife, so I obliged. 

To be fair, I don't believe this car had the track package or beloved 3.73 gears, but it only had 11k miles on it- pretty much brand new! Someone took very good care of this car! 

My thoughts:

-Seats: they're not bad. Fairly high off of the ground, but also fairly comfortable. I wouldn't mind sitting in them all day. 

-Seating position/knee pain. Overall, not bad at all. I might have had just a tinge of right knee pain, but it was hard to tell since my knee was bothering me earlier this morning. The steering wheel is a bit of a reach (it doesn't telescope), but livable. Pedals were in a decent position and easy to work. I had to move the seat all the way back to have enough leg room, but seemed to fit comfortably. 

-Clutch & shifter: the clutch had some weight to it, certainly heavier than my BMW and Honda's, but not terrible. I got stuck in traffic a few times and it didn't seem to exhaust my left leg. It was enough weight to let you know it's there, but not nearly as heavy as say, my wife's old 2016 Camaro SS. It had enough weight that I could feel the engagement point without wearing my leg out. 

The shifter's throws are very short. I never missed a gear, but the shifter itself is more closely spaced (side-to-side) than I would like. The close spacing made the shift effort a bit higher than I'm used to, but not problematic. I'm not a fan of this shifter, but it's not bad. 

-The brakes were NOT confidence inspiring. They would work just fine in traffic, but I wouldn't want to use them on track or in the canyons. It did not have Brembo/track package, which might have changed things. The couple of times I leaned on the middle pedal, they were not eager to haul this big girl down. 

-Visibility was MUCH better than the last S550 Mustang I drove. A slight blindspot on the driver's side, but overall I felt pretty confident in the visibility. It felt bigger than my 128i, but smaller than the S550. I know the S550 is only about ~100 lbs heavier, but the S197 seemed like it was a full size smaller due to the increased visibility. 

-The steering lacked weight and feel. As in, it felt completely numb. Right towards the end of the drive, I found it was adjustable and I set it to Sport. In sport the weight and feel improved, but I didn't pitch it around to see how much it improved. If I wasn't trying to get back home, I would have spent another 20+ minutes pitching it around with the steering in Sport mode. I know some people like overly light steering, but I'm not a fan. If I owned one of these cars it would stay in Sport 100% of the time, as it made the car feel less floaty. 

-As always, the Coyote is a sweetheart of an engine! I love the noise that thing makes! I don't believe it had the 3.73 gears, so it didn't feel as angry as the last S197 I drove year(s) ago, nor the last S550 I drove. It never lacked power, but shifting the car, there's more of a "thunk" when going into gear that I'm not used to in my torqueless Honda's and BMW. I won't rehash what I've previously said about the Coyote 5.0, but I will say, I like it a lot better with the 3.73's. 

The first time I went full throttle, on a freeway on-ramp, in 1st gear (they have those stupid freeway entrance lights, so the car was in a completely straight line) the car got a little sideways on me and I let out of it. It required more judicious care of the throttle from a low speed in 1st gear, which made me a bit hesitant to drive it too hard. Temps were in the high 50's, so that didn't help (it was sunny outside though). At the time, I felt nothing thru the wheel and was a bit shocked, as I went WOT from a rolling start on relatively smooth pavement. The car didn't communicate what was going on and traction/stability control didn't really do anything to intervene. This isn't my car and I'm driving on a public road, so after that, I was far more cautious in 1st gear. 

-On the freeway, it rode pretty well, much better than anything with a solid rear axle has the right to ride! Ride quality might not have been quite as smooth as my 128i, but honestly, it wasn't far off. I could see this car soaking up miles. Although it certainly wanders just a tad bit more than I'm used to. The front and rear don't seem to communicate with each other as well as my other cars and it doesn't have the high speed stability/confidence of the BMW. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with the car, 99% of people likely wouldn't notice, as it is pretty good on the freeway, I'm just hyper-critical. Would I take a road trip in it? Actually, yes. But with the steering in the Standard setting (before I discovered Sport), it was a tad bit on the floaty/disconnected side. 

-Where in the world is the digital speedometer? The old school analog speedo is great for retro appeal, but it's not the easiest thing to read at a glance... the car has plenty of menus, with all kinds of gauges for all kinds of things, but I couldn't find a digital speedo. Looking for the digital speedo is what led me to the steering settings on accident! 

-Overall, it's a pretty fun car. I really liked it! My wife loved it! To be honest, if I had to choose from the 2011-2014 S197 5.0 or the 2015+ S550 5.0, I would choose the S197, as it feels more lively/fun and the added visibility made it much more confidence inspiring in traffic... although the rear end of the S197 definitely felt a bit more unruly than the planted S550. Usually I would prefer the more planted car, but in this case, it added to the charm of the S197. It felt like a big, dumb hammer use to smash things. I just so happen to like big, dumb hammers when there's something to be smashed...

...but I have some problems: 

-The BMW is a better daily. I immediately got back into the BMW and the overall ergonomics, shifter, visibility, clutch (softer) and steering feel are just better, making the BMW a more confidence inspiring vehicle to drive. The BMW was also just a bit easier to manage in traffic, making it a better place to spend time. The BMW is not a fast car, but it's also not terribly slow. The N52 3.0L is very responsive and I can use the throttle aggressively shooting for holes in traffic, without worry of the rear end stepping out... I can't say the same thing about the Coyote 5.0. Which is to say, the BMW is better in traffic and also feels more stable and planted/connected at speed. 

-The S197 feels like more of a fun, weekend car and less like a daily. Problem: it's not as fun as the S2000. 

Soooo, it's not a great daily (although it's actually not bad!) and it's not as fun as a dedicated sports car... leaving me not really lusting after it. I came away from the car liking it, but not loving it. If you could only have 1 car and it has to be fun, I can see the appeal. For my situation, I can't see it making a whole lot of sense. 

Truly, I haven't decided what, if anything, I plan on doing with the BMW. This was just a good excuse to go drive an alternative and share my thoughts. 

Evanuel9 Reader
1/22/24 11:23 p.m.

Maybe this was suggested - I only read the first two pages of the thread, but why not sell S2000 and buy a cheaper, rattier S2000 that already has dings and dents and everything that makes you not want to drive your S2000 as much? Find a ratty one, refresh the suspension and relevant bits, and leave the body less nice so you feel more comfortable driving it?

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
1/22/24 11:49 p.m.

In reply to roninsoldier83 :

Go drive an S197 Boss 302.  I still regret not getting one today.  

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
1/23/24 9:24 a.m.

In reply to Evanuel9 :

I know this thread has gone on for far too long and has now mostly just devolved into a test drive and review thread. After driving all of the things, I've decided to just keep the S2000, put a set of all-season tires on it and drive it more often. 

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
1/23/24 9:48 a.m.

In reply to AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) :

It's been a while, but I've driven one on a couple of occasions, including at an autoX event- my brother used to own one and we co-drove each other's cars (I had a Focus RS at the time) at a local test and tune day a few years back. We drove up to Wyoming to buy it back in ~2017: 

I think that's one of the only cars he likely regrets selling. I loved the color! I know he got pretty irritated when he owned it though- he used to complain that everywhere he went in that car people would rev at him and try to get him to race them. He grew tired of that quickly and made him not want to drive the car as often. Which, I can relate- that's by far the worst aspect of owning the Integra, it's even more irritating when you're just trying to pick your kid up from school or go to the grocery store and occurred even when the car was bone stock (it's tastefully modified now, but could still pass for a stock car). I can only imagine it was amplified in his Boss 302. 

Either way, I only drove the S197 GT yesterday as monetarily, I could probably buy one for not much more than I could sell the 128i for. The Boss 302 seems to sell for a lot more than a GT... they're also tough to find! If I happen to locate one locally, I might take it for a spin to see what I think these days. The only thing I remember about my brother's Boss 302 was that when he first bought it, the clutch was very heavy and it was nearly impossible to drive smoothly. I remember he replaced the clutch (or maybe just a pressure plate or something?) and it was a lot better/easier to drive smoothly after that. I remember it was a riot to drive at the autoX test and tune event we ran and got the tail end out in a controllable way- but I thought I remembered thinking my Focus RS was more fun to dodge cones with. I remember really loving the seats on the Boss 302- which is something I couldn't say about the more narrow/restrictive Recaro's in the FoRS (great for autoX, but terrible for a daily). Admittedly, beyond the autoX event, I didn't drive it thoroughly enough and with enough purpose to really review the car as a whole. 

docwyte UltimaDork
1/23/24 9:49 a.m.

You need to take the BMW to Nick Yanzito/Yanzito Imports and have him diagnose it.  Right now you're assuming it's the evaporator and dreading a butt kicker of a job when it might not be that at all.  AC is a 100% need for me here, I would never buy car without working AC.  I think if you want to sell the car, vs trading it in, you need to get the AC fixed period.

roninsoldier83 HalfDork
1/23/24 10:50 a.m.

In reply to docwyte :

Thanks for the recommendation! I just Googled his shop and it looks like it's just a few minutes from my house here in Parker! Talk about convenient haha. 

When I bought the car, it had a plethora of problems. I originally bought it to be a track car, wanting to build it to run NASA TT5. After I fixed all of the problems, I liked it too much as a street car and didn't want to ruin it by turning it into a track car- that was my first mistake. I fixed pretty much every problem the car had (in my build thread), except for the AC. After I started driving it more regularly, I planned on replacing the compressor in the spring, but I'm not convinced the compressor is the problem. My rationale: 

-If I refill the AC with R134, it works very well for several days, which would suggest the compressor itself works just fine. 
-When I filled it with a dye product and put the car under a UV light, I didn't see anything... I thought I might have seen a few specs on the front of the compressor, but was not fully convinced a leak that large (AC stops working after a few days) would only show a few small specs on the front of the compressor. 
-One of the signs of a leaking evaporator was a film/residue that builds on the inside of the windows, which is consistent with what I've experienced. 
-A couple of GRM members in previous threads mentioned both having evaporator leaks... which led me to searching the E82/E90 boards and realizing this was a common problem. 

I would love it if the evaporator wasn't the problem and I'll absolutely get it diagnosed before making any decisions, but I'm of the old school mindset of: hope for the best, plan for the worst. 

Looking into replacing the evaporator on the BMW has been a painful reminder as to why most of the cars I've owned in my life have been Japanese. The Germans seemingly refuse to engineer anything to be serviced. I've literally replaced every major AC component (as a kit) on a Honda or 2 in the past, in 2-3 hours time, tops. This is ridiculous. Fortunately, my 128i doesn't have any fluid leaks- the main leaks on these cars are the valve cover gasket and oil pan gasket, which all cars leak over time, but the difficulty of replacing simple gaskets on these cars is utterly ridiculous... the valve cover gasket is a 6-8 hour job (valvetronic motor and a wiring harness pulled pulled skin tight over the top of the valve cover don't help) and the oil pan gasket is a full weekend job that involves dropping the subframe to get to... coming from a guy that's wrenched on Honda's for years, that's nuts. I can swap valve cover gaskets on my Integra or S2000 in under 45 minutes (probably closer to 30 minutes, if we're being honest), and the last time I swapped a baffled oil pan onto the Integra, it was maybe a couple of hours, with me taking my time. 

Just looking at the valve cover (I considered doing MILVs for a few extra ponies), I have questions: whose bright idea was it to run a wiring harness (that can't be easily disconnected) on top of the valve cover, rather than around the engine, like almost every other engine on earth? Why couldn't they use a disconnect somewhere for the wiring harness, or at least leave some slack to maneuver the valve cover out? And why in the world did they insist on using a magnesium valve cover that can warp over time? Lord forbid they use cast aluminum and gain those extra few ounces... coming from someone that has been wrenching on primarily Japanese cars for the past couple of decades, my first thought is poor engineering, but then the truth hits me: it wasn't engineered to be serviced easily on purpose. 

The Germans engineer cars that drive very, very well... but by comparison, they are a nightmare to service, which, in this day and age, I believe to be intentional. Don't get me started on PCVs that are built into the magnesium valve covers ($600+ to replace), vs me changing out PCV's in ~10 minutes for ~$15, or the boatload of money I've spent on new bolts/hardware since they insist on single use bolts for everything, mainly because they wanted to save a few pounds with a magnesium engine block (technically mixed with aluminum, to avoid internal corrosion)... this car is great to drive, but at this point, I think my fun meter is pegged and I'm seeing red. /rant. 

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