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S54 M Coupe vs Cadillac XLR-V, S54 M Roadster

September 21st, 2012 Comments off

2006 Cadillac XLR-V

Scott and Vicki are fortunate enough to own an 2001 M Coupe, a 2001 M Roadster, and a 2006 Cadillac XLR-V which is a little bit of both. Here’s how they think they compare:

This article is not technically a “Coupe Comparison” but we still thought that readers would find it interesting.  What is our impression after living with both the S54 Coupe and Roadster?  How do they compare to the Cadillac XLR-V which is both a roadster and a coupe as it has a retractable hardtop that offers structural support?

The things that all of these machines have in common are as follows:  They are all unique, rare, super cool (in my opinion), holding their value, affordable, fast and fun.

We also have a 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8 that fits the same description but as a sport wagon it is too far away from the spirit of this article to be included.  You do not want to drive any of these cars if you are concerned about being the only black sheep in a herd of sheople.

2001 BMW M Coupe

2001 BMW M Coupe

We call our M Coupe “Max”.  The gentleman that we purchased it from named it that for some unknown reason and we thought it fit.  I was thinking along the lines of Max being the short for Maxwell Smart.  This is a love it or hate it type of car but it always made a huge impression on me and when Vicki brought it up one day, I knew I needed to find out more.  If you are reading this then you likely know the technical details of the car so I won’t waste time on that.  It is 1 of 2 in its configuration and we want to thank Mr. Martin profusely for helping us find it.  We absolutely love Max and would not have gotten it if Jon had not brought it to our attention.

We call the Cadillac “Vinnie”.  We let the gentleman that we purchased Max from drive it to the bank during the transaction.  When he got out of the car he said “that is the coolest caddy ever, its name is Vinnie.”  We laughed really hard but honestly the name fit so we have continued to call it that.

The XLR-V’s came off the same line as the Vettes in Bowling Green, Kentucky for four years, 2006-2009.  There were slightly over 2,000 produced in total.  The 443HP/414FP supercharged Northstar was individually hand built by one “superstar” builder.  0-60 in the mid 4’s.  It rides on the Vette’s MagneticRide system.  The fenders, bumpers and rear quarter panels are made from the same material as the old Saturns (flexible non-dent).  The hood, doors and trunk lid are made of fiberglass (Vette).  The retractable top is made of a magnesium/aluminum alloy for lightweight and structural integrity up top.

I fell in love with the XLR-V the first time I saw it in Car and Driver but never thought we could afford one.  Poor Vinnie was universally maligned in all of the publications for one reason, price.  It was up against the Mercedes SL550 and everyone agreed that for $100,000 you should buy the German instead.  This resulted in the Caddy having very slow sales (rare) and the value “dropping like a Cadillac.”  Although the car was really only maligned for its original price, it has never gotten the respect it deserves in all other ways.  They can be had now for less than half of the original price in new condition which is a steal in my opinion.

2001 BMW M Roadster

2001 BMW M Roadster

We call the M Roadster “99” as in “Agent 99.”  This is not really to say that the Roadster is more feminine than the Coupe but it just seemed like a logical choice as Max’s sidekick.  99 is a pristine little gem.  Again, Mr. Martin was instrumental in us finding this car.  If you are reading this you know what an amazing contribution that Jon has added to the M car community.

So which one do we love the most?  We love them all equally.  Vinnie is the car we drive if we are trying to impress for business or otherwise.  It is the fastest of the three but not the quickest or the most fun to drive.  99 is the most fun to drive.  The exhaust note sounds much better in the roadster than the coupe especially with the top down and is addicting.  It also seems to be a bit quicker than the coupe.  Max kind of falls in between the two.  It is exhilarating to drive and is very versatile with the third door.  It also is impressive in its uniqueness, rarity and cool color combination.

If you are trying to decide between the M Coupe and the M Roadster you can’t go wrong with either.  It all comes down to your priorities.  The coupe is more unique, versatile and rare.  It has better 360 visibility than the roadster with the top up.  It has better structural integrity for those who actually test the limits of their cars.  It also has the benefit of not having a top that wears out.  The roadster is slightly more mainstream but super cool nonetheless.  It is slightly more exhilarating to drive especially with the top down.  Roadsters can generally be found in better condition with lower miles and lower prices.  I value the coupe ever so slightly more because of the rarity and coolness of the color combination.  If the roadster had the same color combination I think they would be equal.  To each their own of course!

Vicki and I would love to hear from the few owners of those S54 Coupes and Roadsters that are Titanium Silver over Laguna Seca Blue/Black.   Mr. Martin might pass along our contact info to you if you are interested.  Sadly we are saying goodbye to Agent 99 for now based on budgetary considerations.  We plan on being back into an M Roadster within the next couple of years though as we are going to miss “her” greatly. (See the listing here)

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S54 M Coupe vs Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Acura NSX

January 16th, 2011 Comments off

Bill Phillips is fortunate to have owned three of my all time favorite cars (he’s a man of good taste). Here’s how his S54 M Coupe compared to his 2006 Aston Martin V8 and 1992 Acura NSX:

I sold my Cosmos Black S54 powered M Coupe in 2009 after 2 years of stewardship. I have been blessed with the ability to own this car, a 1992 NSX (since 1995) and a 2006 V8 Vantage (since new) simultaneously.

M Coupe

Primarily a track day pleasure, I only put 7-8K miles on the M Coupe. I added the TC Kline D/A suspension, some track pads and enjoyed several lapping sessions in the car. I would recommend this setup to anyone looking for a ride or performance improvement.

It’s a bit twitchy for most, the short wheelbase being the primary culprit.  Softening the rear dampers helped, but it is still a car that can get out of shape in a hurry.  Lurid slides at 95 MPH were not uncommon, as were ass-first-both-feet-in forays into the weeds.

I liked the M Coupe for it’s rough and tumble demeanor. If you want to be a hooligan, this is a pretty good car to do it in.  The S54 has power everywhere in the rev range with ample grunt to break the tires.  Great sight lines for picking your apex due to the high seating position and low beltline.  Loved the controversial look, too though this is certainly subjective!  Wouldn’t dream of owning the convertible version of the car or the less endowed versions.  Rarity was a plus along with the definite front engine / rear drive dynamics.

Dislikes?  The M Coupe is not very comfortable for those 6″-0″ or over due to the close proximity of the rear bulkhead. There are driveline concerns over the rear subframe, and the clutch takeup is a little squishy.  The Z3 architecture doesn’t lend the feeling of specialness, and the curb weight seems a little high for a car of this size. The sunroof delete model would be preferred if track time is in the cards not only for the weight savings but for helmet clearance.  As most BMW’s do, the car has a “heavy” feel derived from the large steering wheel, manly gear change and porky curb weight.

I sold the car (along with a MkV R32) due to economic conditions and other priorities. I have inquired with the young man that purchased the car as to the possibility of getting it back. No dice. I still visit the M Coupe buyers guide to see what’s out there and possibly get another. I miss this little car.

Aston V8 Vantage

Bill's 2006 Aston Martin V8 Vantage

Bill's 2006 Aston Martin V8 Vantage

I waited almost 2 years from initial deposit to receive the first customer car delivered in the U.S.  It’s a stunningly beautiful car and remains one of the best sorted designs on the road. With other track day weapons around, I have not tracked the car, as it might feel “abusive”. I have tracked factory Vantages and I can report that the handling is predictable, stable and easy to control with a muscular soundtrack The curb weight spoils the fun here at near 3600 pounds.  I think the early cars need a better low speed ride, and the later models addressed this issue. Unlike many, I am not a fan of the 2007 and later seats and think the 06 seats look better and are more comfortable, though access to the package area is via a poorly placed lever that is a little aggravating.  Spec on the early cars is a little sparse by modern standards, lacking dual climate controls, adjustable dampers or even an automatic gearbox (like you want one anyway) in 2006.  Visibility is great, once you learn to judge where the front of the car is. No B pillar sets up an easy swivel of the head to check blind spots, and the wing like mirror mounts leave a nice opening at the base of the A pillar. Most modern cars can eclipse the moon with the mirrors integrated into the pillar.

I feel the Vantage is more of a reasonably priced (second hand!), exclusive tourer than sports car. Maybe this is down to how I use it, but to drive this car at 10/10th’s will be expensive and not, in my opinion, especially rewarding. Dynamics are much like a 944 Turbo I once owned with similar drivetrain layout, with easy to read slides and slow rotation.  The first thing you will notice about the powerband is that there isn’t much poke down low and the throttle feels as if there is slack in there somewhere. Definitely lacking the edgy feel of a current 911S or even the M Coupe.  The lavish ambience of the car and sense of occasion are it’s most redeeming values. A dinner out with the valet not handing you a ticket is cool.  Admiring glances on every corner are appreciated at times.  Being challenged by every hot Camaro and Mustang and knowing you will be left for dead is not cool. The Vantage is competent in every way, beautifully constructed, even reliable. But Aston was caught off guard by the Horsepower wars of the past decade and handicapped by the existing VH architecture to be at the top of this segment.

Acura NSX

Bill's 1992 Acura NSX

Bill's 1992 Acura NSX

This is a car that forced the sports car establishment to pay attention. Still great to drive with the best view forward of anything out there. The 3.0 liter VTEC motor is a gem, with a mad rush to the 8K redline that brings to mind a good sport bike. More exciting to listen to than any cooking Porsche or BMW.  Once acclimated to the cabin, it is a comfortable car for trips and will even hold 2 golf bags in the trunk….  take that 911.

In the track, this car sounds and steers like a race car.  Better suited to fast sweepers than hairpins with the longish wheelbase, the handling is less forgiving than the M Coupe if tire pressures are off.  Depending upon rims sizes chosen, the tail can be very snap happy at speed. Careful in the rain !  I think the transverse engine placement might leave the car with a bit too much rear weight bias, but you couldn’t convince a Porschephile of that.  The steering is very detailed and lets you know what’s going on up front. Early models have no boost, so parking maneuvers might find the wife choosing another car for a run down to the mall….  darn it!

If you compare this car to its contemporaries from 1991, I think this might be the best sports car money could buy. NSX race cars won races for many years past its prime.  I’m disappointed that Honda has chosen not to update this car and provide a Japanese 911 alternative.  Drive this car back to back with any similar age Corvette, 300ZX, RX-7, 348, 911, 944 and most will feel like trucks by comparison. Indeed, it does feel almost fragile, but it’s most definitely not.  Oh, if you track the car, you will want a brake upgrade, and you may go through a few clutches if driven poorly. The 5 speed gear ratios are too tall for quick acceleration, so short gears, 4.35 ring gear or 6 speed from a later car would be advised.  If you are a purist, leave the targa alone. You can tell a rigidity difference in the first 50 feet of driving, and the top off experience is just not that good.  If a prospective buyer could find a ’97 or later coupe (good luck) it would provide the extra poke of the 3.2L, the additional ratio, plus the pure driving experience of the coupe. In 15 years of ownership, I have repaired the CD changer, the AC coil, a speaker and one clutch. A man on a tight budget can own and enjoy an NSX.

Think about this. The Lotus Evora is 20 years newer than the NSX, but doesn’t significantly improve on it in any area, given modern tire / wheel sizes are applied to the Acura.

Out to nice dinner? Vantage
Out to the track? M Coupe
Need one car for both? NSX

So where do I go from here? I’m thinking of a late model GT3, but if the McLaren MP4-12C comes in as a 220K car and not an “almost 300K” car, I might take the plunge.  Seems it could combine the best attributes of all the above machines in a 2900 pound package with 600 HP.  It’s what a 2011 model NSX should be given proper evolution of the species.

If you have a comparison to share, please send it to me at jon@mcoupebuyersguide.com and I’ll post it.

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S50 M Coupe vs E39 M5

September 5th, 2010 1 comment
Justin's E39 M5

Justin's E39 M5

Although Justin Cornelison is from my neck of the woods, he’s currently working in Dubai which gives him access to the U.S. forbidden, S50-engined M Coupe. Here’s his comparison of his recently purchased coupe to the E39 M5 he previously owned:

First off, where do I start? These are two completely different cars, with two completely different purposes. I am fortunate enough to have owned both cars (separately), first the M5, now the M Coupe.

Justin's E39 M5

Justin's E39 M5

M5-
The E39 M5 is an astonishing car. The power is always there, the ride is very smooth, and the cabin is quiet (mine had double pane glass, so I’m sure that helped). The M5 came with every option you could possibly want/need (wide-screen navigation, supportive two-tone leather seats, alcantara roof liner, etc…). It was such an amazing car to cruise the highway, and was great to take long trips in. New, they cost around $80,000, and now you can pick a decent one up for $20,000. So there is a lot of car for your money.

Justin's S50 M Coupe

Justin's S50 M Coupe

M Coupe-
The Z3 M Coupe has always been one of my dream cars since I first sat in one when I was 16 years old. The styling is so unique, you either love it or hate it. But if you are on this site, you obviously love it. Mine has the Euro S50 motor, which is rated at 321HP from the factory, so this is what I base my review on. Basically, the M Coupe is more of a Driver’s/Weekend racer type car, if that makes sense.

Driving the Coupe is a completely different experience from the M5. First off, you actually feel like you are going fast, where as the M5 was so smooth and quiet, you have to continuously look at your speedometer to make sure you aren’t going over the speed limit. Shifting is also a different experience in the car for me. The M5 shifted like butter, it was incredibly smooth, but with the Coupe, the shifts are so close together, and the clutch lets up quicker than the M5. The cabin is loud, and the ride is harsh. Performance wise, they are very similar. The M5 has 80 more horses, but also weighs considerably more. With the Coupe’s 7,700rpm rev limit, I think that they would be almost even in a straight line. The only difference is that the S50 in the coupe sounds amazing in the higher revs, where the M5 (stock exhaust, anyways) seemed to sound just a little bit more aggressive than my E38 740. If you have driven either, you know the sound that the M62/S62 makes around 4,000RPM.

Justin's S50 M Coupe

Justin's S50 M Coupe

I am only 24, so if I had to choose on one car I like more should seem obvious. The M Coupe is such a fun car to drive, I find myself just going on drives for the sake of it. I loved the M5, and I do miss it, but it was just the wrong time for me to own that car. If I had kids, or had a long commute to work everyday, the M5 would be my choice (it was nice being able to drive more than one other person in the car with me). But I am not married, my company picks me up for work, and I don’t have kids to haul around to baseball and football practice.

Also, you have to take in consideration the collector’s value. The M5 has dropped 75% in value since new (as almost all BMW’s do) and will continue to drop, but the M Coupe is destined to rise in value as the years go on. If you can own both cars, do it. They are both awesome in their own respect, but the Coupe is my favorite between the two.

Categories: Coupe Comparisons Tags: ,

S54 M Coupe vs Volvo P1800, Jaguar XKE, E36 M3, E46 M3C

September 4th, 2010 Comments off

Don Eilenberger has had the fortune to own some very nice cars over the years including his current S54 M Coupe. Here’s how they compare:

I’m on my second M-Coupe now. Had one in ’99 when they first came out, now have an ’01 S54 one.

Volvo P1800

Other cars of some interest I’ve owned (or own) – lots of Volvo P1800’s (S’s and an E). A 2,700lb car with 115-130HP. 0-60 was actually respectable for it’s time, a tad over 10 seconds (fast was ANYTHING under 12..) Handling was where the P1800 came into it’s own. Even with skinny 180-15 tires on it, it outhandled almost any sports car of the era that wasn’t a Ferrari, or.. Jag, which was my next neat car. The P1800’s set me up for 2 seat sports cars, with a short overhang, and the driver seat closer to the rear wheels.

1965 Jaguar XKE Roadster

Had a ’65 XKE Roadster. The view down the hood of the M-Coupe is about identical to the XKE view, except the XKE had functional  louvers in the hood and chrome washer jets – plus 3 wipers.

Handling was outstanding for narrow tall tires, ride quality was excellent due to the full independent suspension (rare at the time), and performance – the car weighed less then 3,000lbs, and had an honest 275HP 4.2Liter straight 6 in it. It did 0-60 in something like 7 seconds, outstanding for it’s time. Top speed was 150MPH, again, outstanding for the time. Mine would do an honest 140MPH with the top down.

Jaguar XKE 4.2 Performance

The driving experience of the XKE, bear-trap clutch pedal, direct no-power steering comes closest to the M-Coupe. It was a raw visceral car, easily capable of chirping the tires in 2nd gear at 40MPH, something I resist doing in the M-Coupe (but I’m sure it would if I turned off the DSC.)

1998 E36 M3

That car started my love of I6 engines. I owned a lot of BMWs through the years, but one other favorite worth comparing to the M-Coupe was the E36/M3. Had a convertible with the S52 engine and 5-Speed ZF. Much like the M-Coupe the grip on corners never stopped, and the S52 engine could pull like a freight train. It had a certain raw quality to it compared to the current E46/M3 convertible, which is much more civilized than the M-Coupe.

2002 E46 M3 Convertible

I now own 2 M’s, the M-Coupe and the ’02 M3C. If I was given the choice of only owning one of them, the M-Coupe is the keeper. The E46/M3C is my winter beater.. 🙂

There is more power in the E46/M3C, but it’s used less effectively (more weight by about 400lbs does that..) The shifter in the M-Coupe is far superior to the M3 shifter (which was fully reworked during a clutch job recently), having a much more precise pattern. Clutch on the M3 takes about 1/2 the effort of the M-Coupe, but the M-Coupe beats itfor feel once I removed the rubber hose (and restrictor) and replaced it with a flexible stainless hose.

I saw mention of the exhaust note on the coupe – I love it. It’s deep and not obnoxiously loud. Unfortunately – I also love the “rasp” the M3is imfamous for – it’s such a great mechanical sound I wish the M-Coupe had a bit of it (although it has attracted some undesired LEO attention once or twice.)

M3 radio, HVAC, seats, interior room, interior finish quality all beat out the M-Coupe, but it doesn’t actually matter. The M3 is a bit too civilized to really make my blood rush. The M-Coupe is a perfect combination of raw motoring and performance for me. That’s why I’m on my 2nd one. I bought this one after test driving one for a friend who was considering buying one, and I remembered just how much fun the M-Coupe was. It still is, and it’s usually the one I pick to drive if I don’t take my BMW bike to work.

If you have a comparison to share, please send it to me at jon@mcoupebuyersguide.com and I’ll post it.

S54 M Coupe vs C6 Corvette

September 2nd, 2010 1 comment

S54 M Coupe vs C6 Corvette

Taka recently purchased (stole) this beautiful black sapphire metallic 2001 M Coupe and is fortunate to also own a 2005 Corvette in millenium yellow. In his words, here’s how they compare:

The Corvette is a lot of fun to drive, but in a very different way. I think the car is more suited to use at a road course, especially if it’s not too tight, so you can really stretch the car’s legs and use that V-8 for what it’s worth. It’s definitely a lot faster than the M- having another 85 hp and only 200 lbs. would do that. My car has long tube headers, exhaust and will eventually have an intake and a tune, so I’d say it probably has a tad more than 400hp- I could feel the difference in power output even with the stock tune when I added the headers. I also never had traction issues with the stock manifolds (esp. with 305 Bridgestone RE-11), but I do now that I have the headers installed.

However, turn-in is much slower in the Corvette (the big difference in wheelbase is probably why) and you don’t get the feedback from the wheel and the seat of your pants that you do in the M- it’s more blind faith to really push the Corvette hard. It doesn’t help that the seats suck- they’re comfy on long trips but they give you zero lateral support- I’m really tempted to buy a Recaro Pole Position and use it as the normal seat so I don’t have to brace myself driving the car. The M’s seats are much more supportive- I don’t feel like I’m sliding around when I push the car a little. Note that I used to daily drive my Miata with a Recaro Profi SPG (the narrower seat compared to the Pole Position) and I’m not a skinny guy.

The exhaust note is much better in the Corvette- it sounds like thunder when you open the throttle. The BMW I-6, while being exemplary in its smoothness, has a terrible exhaust note- whatever BMW did to the S38, that engine sounds awesome. The S54 has none of that. Reminds me more of a big motorcycle engine.

The control interface is generally better in the Corvette- I find the pedal arrangement to be much better- I have a lot of trouble heel-and-toeing the M- the brake pedal and the accelerator are on a vastly different plane. The shifters in both cars suck- the Corvette shifter is heavy, imprecise and notchy (I made it even notchier and heavier switching to the MGW shifter, but a great deal more precise- I still think it shifts like a truck); the BMW shifter is very light (which is okay), has very little self-centering and the gates don’t feel precise (I’m thinking about getting a UUC Evo 3 to fix that). If you’ve driven a Miata or a S2000, you’ll know what I mean when the shifters in those cars are damn near perfect.

I also miss not having tilt and telescope adjustment in the M, as well as seat tilt, which a lot of people complain about.

With all of that, I think the M Coupe is a much more entertaining car to drive than the Corvette. I’m a little afraid that I’m not going to keep the Corvette (I’ve wanted one for years though and I’ve always wanted an American V-8 sports car) because the BMW is more involving to drive. Tactile feedback is better, the powerband is ridiculously good (I can lug it from 1500 rpm and wind it out to 7600, I don’t know any other car that can do that) and the handling is quite good (but can really be scary- this car will definitely bite you if you screw up). I doubt that I’d get rid of the Corvette, though- the only car I could think of replacing it with is a Porsche 997 GT3RS or possibly a C6 Z06 with Z07 (carbon ceramic brakes from the ZR1, shocks from ZR1, wheels and roof from ZR1).

They’re pretty much sports cars from very different perspectives and I count myself to be very fortunate to have both.

If you have a comparison to share, please send it to me at jon@mcoupebuyersguide.com and I’ll post it.

Categories: Coupe Comparisons Tags: , , ,

Coupe Comparisons

September 2nd, 2010 Comments off

As we all know, M Coupe owners have great taste in cars. Some of the more fortunate owners also have or have had other cool cars in their garage. While my passion is for M Coupes, I appreciate a wide variety of cars and am always interested in how the coupe compares to other performance cars. A couple people I have talked to recently have given me great, in depth comparisons on their cars, and they are just too good and informative to not share with everyone else. This new article category will feature comparisons of the M Coupe with other performance vehicles as described by the cars owners. If you have the privilege of having owned other cool cars besides you coupe, please share your comparisons with me at jon@mcoupebuyersguide.com and I’ll post them for all to see.