When the BMW dealer handed me the plastic fob, he insisted I drive the 335i Convertible with the top down. Despite the cool, foggy San Francisco weather, I held the plipper’s unlock button down and watched the show. As the hardtop began its elaborate three part dance into the trunk, I felt that old familiar flutter. The feeling was born when I started driving lessons in my Dad’s 1963 Chevrolet Impala rag top, survived my first car (a 1962 VW Beetle convertible) and lead to my current stable of drop tops. Would the 335i live up to its predecessors?
Posts By: Jay Shoemaker
The last generation Audi TT had more show than go. The German roadster’s dynamics were tarnished by massive turbo lag, an over-eager paddle shift gearbox and an entirely flappable suspension. In fact, the TT’s iconic exterior design and interior quality were its only saving graces. Now that TT 2.0 has arrived, and a decent enough amount of time has passed since Hugh Grant’s loathsome character drove a TT in “About a Boy," is Audi finally ready for a little Boxster bashing? Yes and no.
I admire AMG. The German uber-tuners are the world’s largest purveyor of $100k+ automobiles, and deservedly so. Meanwhile, Alpina has been tweaking BMW’s in a similarly monstrous fashion since 1961. Unlike AMG, Alpina remains independent from the corporate mothership upon which it depends (although it builds its models at Bimmer’s factories). Hence Merc sells 25 AMG cars for every Alpina and brings AMG’s to market in strict cadence with their “normal” siblings. Hence Alpina sells Americans their B7, an M7 in all but name, only when they’re good and ready to do so. So now they’re ready. Are we?
This wasn’t the first time I’d opted for European delivery. In fact, after counting all the license plates I’d collected from these international adventures, I discovered I was on my eighth visit. Normally, when my wife learns I want to go to Stuttgart or Munich, she digs in her proverbial heels. So I had to package my automotive connection with a week in Paris. I made the arrangements to pick up a BMW 335 at the Munich factory. Here’s how the deal went down…
There I was, having fun, fun auf die autobahn, when nature called. Somewhere southeast of Stuttgart, I took the wrong exit and found myself outside the gates of Audi’s Neckarsulm factory. A large sign proclaimed the brutally Bauhaus industrial complex ground zero for the German automaker’s R8 supercar. I was immediately convinced I was destined to park one in my garage. Of course, by then I’d been chasing R8 ownership for over three years. So, do good things come to those who wait?
News flash! The 2007 MINI looks like the 2006 MINI. As there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the “old” model, BMW’s decision to leave things well enough alone shows welcome restraint. Well, almost. BMW’s added two extra inches to the new MINI– and we all know how meaningful two extra inches can be for guys (legroom!). But you’d be hard pressed to see any exterior effects– good or bad. So is it still all systems go for MINI’s V2 rocket, or does the new model (codenamed R56) prove that more is less?
Since its introduction in 2004, the fifth gen Maserati Quattroporte has been a sedan poised on the brink of greatness. Its fatal flaw: a clunky automated manual transmission ill-suited to the model’s luxury mission. Unlike some propeller-badged Germans we could name, Maserati’s Italian parent heeded the catcalls directed at its high tech gearbox. FIAT sourced a ZF six speed fully automatic transmission to cure the problem, subito. So, are we there yet?
I currently own a four-cylinder Honda Civic Hybrid, a BMW 335 coupe with an in-line twin-turbo six, a V8 Mercedes E63 and a V10 VW Touareg. Clearly, I need a car equipped with a V12. The effects of owning five vehicles with engines in the 4-6-8-10-12 sequence could unlock the secrets of the universe, or at least reveal the meaning of the Fibonacci Numbers. On the other hand, this could be another telltale sign that I have more money than sense. Regardless, I’m on the prowl.
A few years ago, I found myself comfortably ensconced in the back seat of a German taxicab. I was luxuriating in what I thought was leather (it was MB Tex, the convincing faux hide) when the driver cranked-up the engine. Smoke and stench poured from the Mercedes’ diesel engine. I scoffed– until the driver blew straight through 180kph on the autobahn to Munich. Even from the passenger seat, the torque was more intoxicating than the exhaust wafting in through the window. I was hooked.
Fifteen years ago, I lived in the Colorado Mountains. Naturally, I owned a Jeep. For someone who was constantly fording streams and driving through blizzards, the vehicle made perfect sense. Now that I’m living in California, I buy vehicles which make the most of the balmly weather and the pleasing plethora of paved surfaces. And yet my current employment has an agricultural element; there are times when I need a vehicle to traverse rocky trails and unpaved lanes. Workers who see me approaching to bum a ride in their truck have started to pretend they only speak Spanish. So I’ve been shopping for an SUV. I began with one of the brands I know best: BMW.
OK, I admit it: I’ve consumed way too much AMG Kool Aid. I own multiple sets of the Mercedes tuner’s black license plate frames and key rings, an AMG logo-shirt, a cashmere V-neck sweater, half a dozen hats, a pair of driving shoes, a winter coat and a limited edition AMG watch. I would have more of their stuff, but recently I was introduced to a gentleman from Italy who spied the AMG logo on the back of my car and pronounced it, “Eye-Em-Gay,” and that sort of cooled me off. And then I drove the E63 AMG.