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Randy G
10-21-1999, 01:38 AM
So I test drove a new 328ci the other day, hoping to get some glimpse of this great handling I've heard so much about. I realize that a 328ci is not an M3, and I will try to get my hands on a recent M3 for comparison. However, I have to say I was disappointed. I absolutely hated the Steptronic transmission--as far as I could tell it was an automatic transmission. Yes, under some circumstances it would let me change to a different gear, but it was much too quick to make up its own mind about what gear to be in. Shifts felt like any automatic, and I had that annoying feeling I always do when driving an automatic, that power was not available when I wanted it, and that smoothness was taking precedence over performance. Bleah.<br>Handling was ok, seemed relatively neutral with no strong tendency toward over- or understeer, but again, not what I had hoped for (do need to consider the fact that on a short test drive I'm not going to push too hard, even with the dealer not in the car (he wasn't)--very embarassing to wind up at the bottom of a hill upside down). Steering effort seemed on the heavy side, and the result of having to yank hard on the wheel was a reduction in feel--i.e., it felt numb compared to what I'm used to. I really wanted to like this car, but I'm afraid I found it a rather boring ride.<br>Now: I am *not* *not* *not* trolling for flames here, I was just surprised that the car seemed so un-sporty, considering the high regard in which BMW is held by people who should know. If someone has some *reasonable* explanations for why the car felt the way it did, I'd love to hear them.<br>I'm used to driving Hondas and small Acuras. I am really, really, not trying to diss BMW here, I'm still intending to buy an E46 M3 when they come out, and I know that FWD is the "wrong" thing, handling-wise, but I can't ignore what my senses told me. The Honda cars seem to have better steering feel, reasonably neutral cornering, and in general seem to do a much better job of inviting me to throw them around with abandon than the 328ci I drove the other day. I should also add that these Honda products are 1988-89 vintage, from back when cars were built much lower than current models--seems like everybody's trying to make their cars look like SUV's nowadays, unless you go for an out-and-out exotic.<br>Again: I am *not* trying to attract flames, and believe me, I was as surprised as anyone. Maybe there's just that much difference between the regular models and an M3? Do the automatic cars have the suspension detuned, or something? ???<p>-Randy

Bruce
10-21-1999, 07:09 AM
and the E46 is softer than the E36 (at least in the 323/328 models, who knows how the M3 will come, hopefully not soft like it's brothers)

h
10-21-1999, 08:38 AM
<i>: So I test drove a new 328ci the other day, hoping to get some glimpse of this great handling I've heard so much about. I realize that a 328ci is not an M3, and I will try to get my hands on a recent M3 for comparison. However, I have to say I was disappointed. I absolutely hated the Steptronic transmission--as far as I could tell it was an automatic transmission. Yes, under some circumstances it would let me change to a different gear, but it was much too quick to make up its own mind about what gear to be in. Shifts felt like any automatic, and I had that annoying feeling I always do when driving an automatic, that power was not available when I wanted it, and that smoothness was taking precedence over performance. Bleah.<br>: Handling was ok, seemed relatively neutral with no strong tendency toward over- or understeer, but again, not what I had hoped for (do need to consider the fact that on a short test drive I'm not going to push too hard, even with the dealer not in the car (he wasn't)--very embarassing to wind up at the bottom of a hill upside down). Steering effort seemed on the heavy side, and the result of having to yank hard on the wheel was a reduction in feel--i.e., it felt numb compared to what I'm used to. I really wanted to like this car, but I'm afraid I found it a rather boring ride.<br>: Now: I am *not* *not* *not* trolling for flames here, I was just surprised that the car seemed so un-sporty, considering the high regard in which BMW is held by people who should know. If someone has some *reasonable* explanations for why the car felt the way it did, I'd love to hear them.<br>: I'm used to driving Hondas and small Acuras. I am really, really, not trying to diss BMW here, I'm still intending to buy an E46 M3 when they come out, and I know that FWD is the "wrong" thing, handling-wise, but I can't ignore what my senses told me. The Honda cars seem to have better steering feel, reasonably neutral cornering, and in general seem to do a much better job of inviting me to throw them around with abandon than the 328ci I drove the other day. I should also add that these Honda products are 1988-89 vintage, from back when cars were built much lower than current models--seems like everybody's trying to make their cars look like SUV's nowadays, unless you go for an out-and-out exotic.<br>: Again: I am *not* trying to attract flames, and believe me, I was as surprised as anyone. Maybe there's just that much difference between the regular models and an M3? Do the automatic cars have the suspension detuned, or something? ???<p>: -Randy<p></i>

Gilbert
10-21-1999, 11:23 AM
While I don't agree with the 'E46 is softer' people--that can partially explain your disappointment. Like others have said a steptronic IS and automatic. However, I've driven Hondas, and would not describe them as neutral handling. All Hondas I've driven were front heavy and understeered in a not so favorable manner. I assume you are talking about integra/civic, which are smaller cars and may feel more manuverable than the larger/heavier 328Ci. I'm somewhat of a fan of a heavier steering feel, so I can't relate to what you said about that. (Reminds me of the 'good ole days' before power steering.) While I don't have any definite explanation--maybe you should go back, and drive a Ci with a manual transmission. I guess it has a lot to do with what you are used to. My BMW feels much better than my preivious car (VW Jetta.) And it reminds me somewhat of the Mustang I had previous to the Jetta.

//Andy
10-21-1999, 02:24 PM
I put about 60000 miles on my first car, an '89 Integra, which I had put a bit of effort getting it to handle as good as possible. It was nicely neutral, with just a little push that suited my driving style at the time.<p>After wiping out and totaling it, I got a '91 318is. Initially, I didn't think the 318 handled as nicely as the Integra, but after getting used to the differences, I think I could share some insight:<p>1. Both the Integra and 318is' power steering was okay at street speeds, but way too easy at highway speeds. Both BMW and Honda's speed-sensitive technology has made a huge difference here since these cars were made.<p>2. The Integra had a more immediate connection with the traction left on the front wheels. It was easier to jerk it into a turn and correct turning in too early by slipping the front wheels a bit. I think this is typical for most FWD cars -- they're easier to drive to a point. Heaven forbid you lose the front wheels' traction, or bring the rear around though, taking your hands and feet off the controls and screaming would be just as effective as trying to correct.<p>3. The 318 had what seemed like similar stiffness suspension, but a much stiffer body, and obviously liked to oversteer at the limit. Because of that, when I first got the car, warning bells would go off in some situations where I thought it was about to wipe out, but it really wasn't. In the end, once I broke my old habits and reset the warning bells in my head, the 318is ended up being a faster car. You could just push it as far as you wanted, and as long as you kept the rear in place, you were going fast. Even if it got a little out of place, you could put it back with variations in throttle, steering, or combinations thereof. Cool.<p><br>Now, earlier this year, at the Ultmate Driving Experience mini-autocrosses BMW put on, I drove an E46 323 and 328 on a short cone course, and I had deja vu all over again. We were carted over to our course in these cars, which, for all the hype I'd heard, and 50 miles ride up there in the M Roadster, were unobtrusive. Sedate. Like my father in law's 99 Accord V6 with the 'family' package. Okay, I thought, still should be more fun than sitting on my can. Then I drove 'em. Hard. When I got toward the limit in those cars, I found there was really a lot more to go. They seem soft and placid, (especially after the roadster ride) but did some extremely nice things at the limit. I think this is where modern BMWs really shine -- the extra potential that most drivers never use, but nutballs like me worship.<p>Dunno about the Steptronic -- I kind of like the idea and I'd like to try it, but I've seen articles that found it less than helpful for someone who thinks they know better shift points than the computer does. (Me!)<p>Long and short of it is I like BMWs and Hondas both. But they are different cars, setup differently, and will send you different signals because of it. Try taking a longer ride, or maybe accidentially on purpose hang the rear out a bit on that 328Ci. Fun stuff.<p>Andy<br>'72 2002 tii<br>'99 M Roadster<br>Volvo Wagon -- trying to turn it into an E46...

Randy G
10-21-1999, 06:44 PM
Interesting that a couple of people mentioned that the E46 is softer than the E36. That alone is enough to make me decide that if I do get an E46-based car, it will have to be an M3. Of all the cars I've owned, the ride I liked best was my Porsche 924 for the first week after I had new Bilsteins put on it. Yeah! Then they softened up, but it was nice while it lasted.<br>On my next test drive (which will definitely be an M3 with manual transmission), I'll have to find a place where I can push it a bit without going down a 100-foot hill if I miscalculate.<br>Anyone who's lost it in an M3 care to comment about how sharp the edge is, how much warning you get before you find yourself looking back the way you came? One thing I discovered when I had my Porsche is that almost all Porsche owners have a story about the time they spun out. That power-on understeer/trailing throttle oversteer thing bites, in more ways than one.<p>-Randy

Rick Key
10-22-1999, 05:25 PM
Randy, a couple of quick comments - Steering feel. On the one Honda I owned it was not so much feel as assist. The Honda had much more assist, a quicker ratio and OK feel. My M3 does not have as quick a ratio ... actually may even be a bit woolly. But feel is far better, I can feel every little nuance that the road has(not intrusive mind ya but the feel is there) and everything the tire is doing especially nearing breakaway. Speaking of tires and limits, Tires have a great deal to do with handling on the limit. The stock MXXX3s are great tires for that breakaway transition while a set of CZ91 (Contenentals) were very abrupt. Yoko AVS Sports are very similar to the MXXX3s with nice breakaway characteristics. I dont know for sure but it could be the shoulder design that makes for such a big difference. The CZs were very squared off while the Yokos and MXXX3s are a bit more rounded.<p>Just my .02cents<br>Rick Key<br>95 ///M3 JimC ///Motivated<p><i>: Interesting that a couple of people mentioned that the E46 is softer than the E36. That alone is enough to make me decide that if I do get an E46-based car, it will have to be an M3. Of all the cars I've owned, the ride I liked best was my Porsche 924 for the first week after I had new Bilsteins put on it. Yeah! Then they softened up, but it was nice while it lasted.<br>: On my next test drive (which will definitely be an M3 with manual transmission), I'll have to find a place where I can push it a bit without going down a 100-foot hill if I miscalculate.<br>: Anyone who's lost it in an M3 care to comment about how sharp the edge is, how much warning you get before you find yourself looking back the way you came? One thing I discovered when I had my Porsche is that almost all Porsche owners have a story about the time they spun out. That power-on understeer/trailing throttle oversteer thing bites, in more ways than one.<p>: -Randy<p></i>


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