Car of the Week 228: COTY GTS Finale

  • Thread starter Racer283
  • 3,110 comments
  • 660,341 views
Oooooooh, that was close!!

I have 11 million credits, and I JUST ABOUT went and splashed out on one of the 10 million dollar cars. :eek:
Cheers for the reminder!!!!

I figured doing it now gives people about 5 weeks to grind the 20mil. I know it's a tall order to get them but we've done others in GT6 days. Since these cars have been in the game since GT5, I felt like it was time to finally test them.
 
As a newer member of the COTW Gran Turismo Association of Drivers, I was eagerly awaiting my next invitation to another video shoot of car reviews. I sat in my apartment in Tokyo, shifting through Discord message galore as I drank some coffee at night. I love doing this, why wouldn't you? Sitting at home is one of the best feelings ever! Yeah... anyway. Some messages got in my inbox, about the upcoming review, and I knew I had to be there. I was told by the production team that the car I would be driving for the event was delivered and awaiting me at my vacation house that I own, in the Gunma region. Excited, I got in my Atenza, for a comfortable drive up there, and went out in the late night.

View attachment 940987

There was not a lot of traffic, since it was now almost midnight. It took a while from my apartment to get on the Shutoko Expressway, and I knew it'd be quicker by taking the alternative roads to the main city streets. I passed a DS3 as I thought what kind of car the team would give us for this review; would it be a continuation of the kei car thing? A Copen, perhaps? Or simply another Honda? Maybe a modern NSX or a concept car directly from them? Only when I got there would I know.

View attachment 940988

With it now being actually midnight, as indicated by my dash clock, the highway was almost empty. Save for "those people"...
A Hachi-roku and a NA Eunos Roadster passed me at high speed, racing each other down the wide lanes of highway. I decided I could play with them for a while; with a full tank of gas, I'd have enough to get to Gunma and have some fun on the way.

View attachment 940989

The Atenza surely was a big, well-equipped, diesel-engined sedan, but a highway race is all about power and gear ratios. This is no base-model Atenza, being the XD L Package, it had some of the sporty Mazda DNA buried deep within it's low RPM limit. Going down onto the C1, I took the NA on the outside of a fast right hander, and then the Hachi-roku on the straight-away, but they weren't giving up. The 4-banger coupés signaled by a light flash that we were playing now, and stuck to my tail, but I started to pull away; 69 (nice) extra horsepowers over them are no joke on the Expressway.

View attachment 940990

We took a stop at the Daikoku parking area to rest. We exchanged some kind words and the two drivers showed me around their cars; they were completely clean and unmolested. They told me they don't want to be some big Shutoko runners like the 1000hp Skylines and Supras, but rather casual enthusiasts of speed, and were impressed with the Atenza I drove. They asked me a lot about it, and were clearly interested, but sadly I had to go if I wanted to make it to Gunma, so we said goodbye to each other. They told me that they drive there every Monday night though, so we'd hopefully see each other again.

View attachment 940991

I pulled off the Daikoku PA and back onto the Shutoko, tuning onto the morning radio coverage by the multiple stations of Tokyo. The Atenza's stereo happily played the introductory music of the radio through it's stereo speakers, without disturbing me completely from the driving ordeal.

View attachment 940992

The radio went into some coverage of the ongoing worldwide pandemic of the coronavirus, and went again onto the recommendations of how to combat the problem and protect yourself from it. Good thing I had a helmet on, otherwise I'd probably be dead by now. /s? Maybe? Who knows. I drive with my windows up, anyway. I got to the Gunma tollbooth and paid the price to go through; and it was surprisingly empty, save for a customized RX-7 FD who was just in front of me.

View attachment 940993

The FD followed me up to Gunma, and eventually up to the ever-popular Mount Haruna. Yeah, that mountain. The Initial D touge. Takumi Fujiwara meme inserted here. Deja Vu inserted here. Haha funny! I turned off the radio to enjoy some sick 80s music as I made my way up the mountain to my house. The FD pulled into a parking spot a bit later, together with other JDM legends that were tuned as well.

View attachment 940994

Almost night-time now, and I pulled into a side road off the mountain, to finally get to my house. The garage and door were open, and the lights were on. My heart sank and I thought I'd been robbed, but happily, I saw the production team's Mazda Demio. Ah, that hatchback... and I spied a blue, two door, sports coupé with a Red Bull livery inside the garage. I parked my car and they introduced me to the car, and I couldn´t believe it.

View attachment 940995

An E46 M3, completely unmolested! Save for the livery, which looked familiar... too familiar. I liked it, but it looked like the livery was not suitable for the car. I told them to wait as I googled another car... an Audi A4 DTM.

...same livery.

...why is it on a BMW?

...sigh. Funny. The production team laughed off my poker face and walked me around the car. The 6-cylinder engine was untuned, so was everything else; the suspension was stock, the gearbox was still the same and only the rims had been swapped to go with the livery. I was handed the keys and fired up the Bavarian legend; with the B... B40? No? What's the engine code again?

...had to google that too, since nobody really knew. S54B30. I can see the 30 standing for 3.0, 3 litres. But S54? The 🤬 is that for? Bunch of gibberish and numbers built to satisfy usual German OCD. Anyway, the engine roared to life. The legendary high-revving Inline-6 was as lively as if it were just drove from the dealership, as the production team told me it was completely rebuilt from scratch to provide the best driving experience possible. And for that, I have to give props. We drove down the mountain on a small road trip to the Tokyo airport, to meet up with the other folks. We passed a white Trueno AE86 blasting eurobeat that was going up the mountain, and we both laughed. That guy has not changed... not even in 2020.

View attachment 940996

At the airport, we all shook hands and exchanged some "Nice to see you again"´s before boarding the planes with our cars as well. We sat down and went off to Croatia, and then driving to the Dragon Trail resort. I had been here a lot of times before in person, and it never ceases to amaze; the scenary and views from the resort are breath taking, and it's amazing how this whole area has it's two very own racetracks! We were briefed by the production team on the video shoot procedures, and they added that some of the higher-up's friends had actually delivered some Japanese and European sports cars from around the same era and class for us to throw around the racetracks as well, and to compare them to the M3, to round out the review with our thoughts in the most complete manner possible. However, for the first race, we all went out in our own M3's, to get acclimatized to the main car.

After the short qualifying session, we took our places in the starting grid and the flag was dropped. The M3's launch was good, probably highly boosted by the Sport Medium-rated tires. Not a lot of wheelspin, but enough for traction control to be able to improve the launch by some margin. Us being professional racing drivers (on paper), were racey and excited to try out the German engineering masterpiece, so heralded for it's circuit performance.

View attachment 940998
Three wide? Never a good idea. But hey. Makes for some good photography!

While we were all getting used to the car, I pushed it to the limit as much as I felt comfortable with, quickly finding out the characteristic traits of it's handling mannerisms. And I can very much say, that the M3 is as much of a driver's car as it is usually revered for. The German coupé has tons of usable grip while entering a corner, and will hold your hand unless you are massively overspeeding into it, where it begins to understeer noticeably.

View attachment 940999

Speaking of understeer, when it does happen, say; by slightly overspeeding into a corner, or getting on the gas too early at speed, the M3 communicates it to you gradually instead of suddenly becoming a brick on soap, giving you plenty of time to correct your steering and accelerator inputs. This was very obvious on the last and first corners of the Gardens layout of the Dragon Trail resort racetrack, as I almost understeered into the guardrail of the last corner on the qualifying lap. I was able to correct it thanks to this trait, but just barely; and I doubt the production team would've liked me to wreck the E46 before the first race even started.

View attachment 941000
Goin' driftn'? I don't blame you.

The gear ratios lended themselves well to the continuous corners of the Gardens track layout. You could clear a lot of them in 3rd gear without issue, as the S5...4...B30 (hah, I remember! Barely... dumb name...) has plenty of grunt at high RPM and it is very responsive and lively. It reminded me a lot of the Beat from last week; a well-made NA engine that had a linear power line without external assistance like turbochargers and superchargers and 10,000 computers controlling the cylinder count. Except the M3 has actual power output :lol:.

We finished the race off and the production team looked at the scheduled trip list. The list said that after our session at the Gardens, we would go to Sardegna, then Australia, then back to Croatia to race at the Dragon Trail Seaside layout.

...needless to say, everyone thought the production team had smoked a good one, and lost all common sense. We phoned them and said "hey, we're changing the schedule... you know... for conveniency. You know what that is, right? You don't? Eh, whatever." before hanging up and moving to the Seaside layout of the course. After watching how the M3 performed at the limit, I was one of the multiple drivers to ask to have a go in a different car, and I got the keys to a loaner Toyota Supra Turbo. Yeah, JZA80. Yes, bro, it's a Supra.

After the obligatory qualifying and formation lap, we were sent on our way on another grid start. Off the bat, the Supra felt like it had a better launch than the M3, with more traction, and on the run to the first corner, I was neck and neck with the BMWs.

View attachment 941005

Come the corners, and here's where I got to see what stuff this japanese GT car was made of when it was time to get cracking. To set the record straight, the Supra, unlike the M3, is not a sports car. It's a GT car with sports car credentials given to it by people that think it could beat a Porsche 911 GT3 (trust me, it won't), GT standing for Grand Touring, or as the japanese say it, Gran Turismo (ha, nice reference). Basically, it's a comfy cruiser that won't break your back over some bumps, but has power and handling to satisfy those that want a sporty experience. And for that, the Supra put up a very good fight.

The Supra felt to me as if the japanese took apart an M3, redesigned it, gave it a big ol' wang and a turbocharger, and let it off the rails, because it handled quite exactly the same. Well... not quite. It did have the stability and power that the E46 provided, but I didn't feel as confident in the Supra; it would understeer more than I expected around the long, fast esses that make the Seaside layout famous among drivers, on the 90° corner at the bottom right part of the track, and through the last corner, making me have to brake more than I expected. This is what happens when you develop your car to do everything instead of focusing on one thing and doing that one thing very well; you end up not being good at anything.

View attachment 941006

With this stability and understeer, though, came an improvement; the Supra never got wheelspin out of a slow corner like the E46 did. Maybe that big wing is indeed helping it, or maybe it's just simple suspension design and tire grip. Either way, it could also keep up with the modern Evo X that our fellow driver, Vic, was piloting, so I guess it still holds up as a sporty car to this day. The gearing was also a bit flimsy, as the power really dropped for a bit while shifting gears, courtesy of the turbochargers not spooling constantly and the upshifts dropping the Supra's famous 2JZ engine out of it's own powerband. This is another win for the M3 in my eyes, as it's starkly contrasting NA B5-ah whatever engine is always revving and always happy, always giving you it's fullest. The 2JZ felt a bit... dull, and quiet, to me at least.

I kinda binned it into the bus stop chicane, though, but nothing too major. Some dings to the right side of the front bumper and the mirror fell off. Good thing there were no big accidents, now, otherwise we'd have some major issues with the editors having to cut out so much of the footage... eh... yeah :nervous:.

After we completed our little ordeal, we got back on our way in our big trip around the world to do some car reviews (seriously, whoever has the budget for this show must be the pharaoh of Egypt because their budget is 🤬 infinite). Next stop, was Sardegna, in Italy. The windmills along the countryside, along with the smell of clean and fresh air hit us with an indiscribable sensation. Having been to Italy before, I can say that it feels very natural to simply be there, let alone drive on it's roads. We were put in the B layout of the road track, the one that cuts to the left after the second corner, taking it's drivers on a pretty cool and short challenge of fast bends combined with sweeping up and downhill corners before connecting with the tricky left-right final corner of the A layout, and onto the main straight.

I once more got in the M3, wanting to see how it would react along this circuit. Come race start, I turned on the traction control to get a better launch, and quickly off once we got going. Sardegna as a track is very good for racing, as it's tight, compact and packed with exciting corners, as I've said before. We had a massive accident on the fast left hand corner, and we ended up binning a few M3s, mine included. The front bumper was toast on mine, and fellow driver Square's BMW went onto a big spin, with his left fenders and door getting banged up after I hit him in the confusion. However, we were still able to push the cars hard since they were mostly okay mechanically.

View attachment 941001
Deja Vu! I just been in this plaaace befooore~

In a confused maneouver, Square tapped me in the rear (don't get your mind in the gutters, please...) and threw me into a slide as I clumsily tried to pull off to the side to let him by, but he tried to pass at the same time. Here is when the M3 really resonated BMW's mantra with me... "The Ultimate Driving Machine". Even with these grippy tires, I was able to hold the drift and keep the Bimmer out of the wall, as I quickly regained my composure and made myself look like a drift god.

Oversteer in this car is very controllable if you are a decent driver. You don't have to be a professional, just... decent. The M3 also oversteers gradually, never snapping you out or into a dorifto, just like how it understeers gradually. The Bavarians really know how to make a balanced car, don't they?

View attachment 941002

On the last laps, myself and another driver, Rick, had a good battle until I was barely able to pass on the last chicane. Props to him for the good race, as it was a lot of fun! I was unable to catch up with 3rd place, who went to Racer, but driving the M3 to the limit around the banked corners of Sardegna is something you have to experience for yourself; it's genuinely great.

For our next trip, we flew on our luxury COTW airlines to the land of Australia, setting up camp on Mount Panorama. The legendary race track is feared and revered by drivers all over the world; it's tight, with almost no runoff area on most of the corners, with barely enough room for two cars to go side by side. Fellow driver Square picked a loaner R34 GT-R for the race, another japanese GT machine. I could almost hear a voice yelling "The R is the legendary symbol of invincibility!", as he rocketed on the start past most of the M3s, courtesy of it's AWD system.

View attachment 941003

I was in second place, right behind the leader; before he went off track on one of the only corners with outside runoff area, right at the peak of the mountain. On the downhill, Vic quickly caught up to my rear, as I unsettled the E46 onto the final corner before the long straight-aways that are symbols of POOOOWEEEER! Again, thanks to the M3's great handling characteristics, I was able to hold the drift like the professional D1 driver that I am(not), and held onto my pole position, before binning it onto the quick left-right hander afterwards.

View attachment 941004
Nothing better than a RWD 340-ish BHP coupé going sideways.

While I personally don't hold the mountain of Panorama of Australia in high regard on my track list, I can respect the challenge it brings to the table, and the M3 rose to said challenge very well. There is nothing I haven't covered already; other than the braking, which, with it's high performance discs and rotor pads, is entirely up to snuff with the high speeds you can achieve. ABS is standard on the M3, which helps make it accessible to a lot of drivers; I guess that is part of the appeal, too. It's a global sports car. Anyone can drive it fast as long as they have common sense and some talent.

Our final trip took us back to Japan, to be more precise, Tokyo! Once more, the COTW producers were somehow able to get a thumbs-up from the japanese government to close off a section of the Shutoko Expressway, this time during the day. For this upcoming race, I swapped cars again, to what most claim to be the first japanese supercar; the Honda NSX-R.

It shares a lot of key strengths with the Bavarian sports car; a high-revving, well made NA engine that goes up to the moon with it's sound and power output, and it's agile through the corners, paired with an excellent gear ratio. I have said it before in person, but never in a review, but I think the NSX-R is one of the best driver's cars in the world.

View attachment 941007
The COTW photographers are damn good at their job.

The NSX-R has more of a limit than the M3, or so I've found. It launches much better, even without the M3's traction control, as it's mid-engine layout gives the rear wheels more weight and grip from a standstill. No wonder it could win a quarter-mile drag race against a Ferrari 348 back when it was first shown on TV. It's also even more agile, as it's lighter by almost 300kg, but it's handling characteristics actually make it a bit harder to drive than the E46, in my opinion. You cannot be as rough with the NSX-R as you can the M3; you must be more gentle or the rear-biased weight distribution of the Honda will bite you around long sweeping corners, and it gets quite tricky to get the hang of it.

However, I feel like the NSX-R is a japanese sports car that can put up quite a good fight against the E46 M3, even with almost 60hp less. As Colin Chapman said, "simplify and add lightness". It always, always, just works.

View attachment 941008

In the race, I was pressured by Vic, who was driving the wheels off another German sports car; the famed Widowmaker, the 930 911 Turbo. We were going at it hard, with some wall taps, hard braking and incredibly daring steering, but I was able to pull away in the end, while Square in an FD RX-7 caught up with him shortly after at the end of the final lap.

View attachment 941009

After the race was over, we made a drive to check the state of the guardrails; which were luckily in still good condition. We still packed up fast, and got out of Tokyo as fast as we could :rolleyes:, no ruined guardrails over here, folks! We took a long drive to the Suzuka Circuit, in the Mie Prefecture. Myself and Square came to an agreement before we went out on track to change cars, and I got to drive the FameD FD Spirit R Type A RX-7.

Sadly, the pictures were lost when the production team passed them to my personal USB drive. But I can still have words for a comparison, eh? Lucky us. Anyway, the flag was waved for the last time, and we set off. There were very few M3s in this race; with almost everyone taking another car to round out their comparisons; Racer took a 911 GT3, and Vic took an Impreza Version VI. The FD held it's own against almost everything except the Porsche, lacking in the top end compared to the German supercar.

However, comparing it to the M3, which is what we are here to do, the FD is more than a worthy competitor. As a widely known and renowned sports car, the FD has the handling and power to go up toe to toe with the German engineering masterpiece. It's got grip a-plenty and a high-revving rotary twin turbo engine, giving it power while weighing about the same as the NSX-R I drove previously. The turn-in and corner exit are signature for an FR powerhouse, and I got a lot of the same vibes from the FD as I did from the M3.

Unlike the Supra, which was a heavy, understeering blob only comparable on power and corner exit, the FD and the M3 can swing punches all day long without breaking a sweat. I found it the car that could be closest to the E46 out of the ones I drove.

And now that I am finally home, and had some good sleep, the verdict.

Is the M3 E46 a sleeper or a beater? Is that even a question?

Sleeper. No doubt.


*Power: The E46 has power-a-plenty, with it's 6 cylinder engine pushing out 356bhp at the top of it's high 7000RPM redline. Since it's naturally aspirated, it's power curve is linear and gradual, you can feel how it gains and loses engine speed smoothly, Nothing ever upsets this. It's enchanting, and it's satisfies the most primal desire: more sound equals more fast. And oh boy, it does have some sound.

*Handling: The M3 E46 has plenty of this. It's agile like a car that weighs 300kg less, surprisingly so. It almost never runs out of grip unless you want it to, and when it does, it's gradual and smoothly, just like it's engine. The wonder of German engineering lets you feel the understeer or the oversteer even before it happens, as if asking "are you sure about it? You are? Oh, okay, have at it", and lets you work with it as you please as if it were a feature instead of a negative. When you oversteer, it's easy to hold, and a pleasure to do so. You can look like a driving god just by putting Comfort Hard tires on an M3 and going out for some drifting. It's marvelous.

*Accessibility: And finally, accessibility. The M3 is expensive, but there's a price to pay for excellence. 84,000 Cr. will get you one of the best driver's cars in the world. Compared to the japanese competitors, the Supra is priced at 45,000 Cr., the NSX-R is priced at 97,000 Cr., and the RX-7 Spirit R is priced at 40,000 Cr.

I would say that the price point is more than worth it. The E46 is something that has to be driven to be believed and it is very easy to get accustomed to it; any kind of driver with common sense and a touch of ability can drive the M3 like if they were a professional racing driver. I guess that's why German businessmen love it; they can be pretend Grand Prix drivers within traffic jams :lol:.



Thx for the video!
 
This week's races by themselves have been super fun! I'm looking forward to writing the review, hopefully to come soon. Things are going swimmingly... I think... I hope.

Honestly, how long to take, to do this write-up? Probably longer, than my top 100 series...Jeez...👍

That one admittedly took almost the whole week :lol:, since we had a race on Sunday as well.

Quick side note first for @XSquareStickIt I definitely liked the reviews as it was a good throwback to COTW reviews of the past. 👍

Of course we’re not expecting you to bust out every review in that style, but every now and then it certainly adds a little extra shine to normal proceedings. :P

Thanks for the compliment. It's a commitment now!

The Beat is the B in the ABC of Kei cars, the A being the Mazda Act Z and the C being the Suzuki Cappuccino, but each one has unique difference.

I see the GT6 PTSD hasn't worn off for you :lol:

I'm really impressed by all the background info in your reviews. Do you look them up, or did you already know all that before writing? :crazy:
 
That one admittedly took almost the whole week :lol:, since we had a race on Sunday as well.

Insanity. :lol::cheers:

This is how I imagine you starting your review, as soon as you know the car:

giphy (16).gif


Jk jk :D

Everyone's reaction to your reviews:

giphy (15).gif


WhiteFlashyGoshawk-size_restricted.gif


giphy (20).gif


giphy (19).gif


And then you're like:

YjhJUc0.gif


And then everyone's like: "into maa veeeeiiiinnss!"

gAX91Jz.gif


And you again like: "Succumb to my genius my minions!"

kiPMApg.gif


And we be like:

giphy (1) (1).gif



I'm sleep deprived...

Also, is this somewhat how it actually goes down? :dopey:
 
Last edited:
This week's races by themselves have been super fun! I'm looking forward to writing the review, hopefully to come soon. Things are going swimmingly... I think... I hope.



That one admittedly took almost the whole week :lol:, since we had a race on Sunday as well.



Thanks for the compliment. It's a commitment now!



I see the GT6 PTSD hasn't worn off for you :lol:

I'm really impressed by all the background info in your reviews. Do you look them up, or did you already know all that before writing? :crazy:

A little from column A and a little from column B. :P

Some things I do look up are usually things I notice while double checking stats like power and weight, like the rarity of that Corvette combo for example. ;)

Other things like the ABC trio is basic word association for me with each of the models in question.

Another example of noticing something interesting while searching for RL stats is when I did a write up on the Auto Union Streamliner on GT6, It’s how the Mercedes T80 came to my attention amongst other things. :drool:
 
"You CAN quit, you know?", Esther the editor tells me straight to my face, with earnestness that is downright scary.

"Quit? Why would I? This is the most fun I've had with cars!", I retort, with palpable jittering.

"Right... I'm sure. Next week's car has been ready for a while, I'm told", she again props her glasses further up her nose. She seemingly does it as a hobby.

"There isn't a problem with how I race or review, is there? Did I offend someone in COTW? I thought we settled matters with the Beat's owner", I press, unable to loose that feeling of anxiety in my heart.

"No no, it's nothing like that. Forget I said anything. Please", she brushes me off, standing up and turning her back mid-sentence to pick up her sling purse, looking to get ready to leave. "The owner of this week's car is waiting. We're on a tight schedule."

With cautious confusion, I too, pick up the handle of the drag along suitcase packed with essentials of a several day long trip across a few different continents, and opened the door for us to leave. She isn't... concerned, for my personal well being, is she?

At some point while we were conversing indoors, a car had been driven stealthily as a cockroach to my doorstep and parked there, as obnoxious and uninvited as one as well. I didn't hear the thing coming at all. It looked to be an early 2000s Hyundai Avante in a dull, unassuming shade of purple, front bumper dented so much it encroached into the bonnet space, causing that to bubble slightly, leaving an unsightly gap between the bonnet and fender. The "VVT" badge on said fender has been mistakenly rearranged to read "TVV". I wasn't aware Singapore was prone to natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes. How else would you explain this car's... appearance? Aside from the banged up bodywork and badging, there is nothing on the car that suggests that anything had been done to it; not even a car wash before being delivered to me to hoon for a photo shoot and review.

"Are we flipping* serious?", I mutter in a low volume, almost asking myself even though the question was meant for Esther.
*expletives substituted

"I'm sorry, is a regular Grab car a problem for you, Mr. Lee?"
"Grab? I'm legally able to drive on public roads too, you know."
"I know. We're picking up the car and heading straight to the airport for Australia. There isn't space for your car to sit for a week where we're picking up the car. I believe as much has been stated in the itinerary I emailed-"
"Okay okay, I get it, we'll Grab", I raise both open palms up in surrender, head down in defeat. Anything to not have her harp on how I don't read my emails. Even if it means I leave behind a dream garage of FD RX-7s, NA NSXes, Skyline GT-Rs, Cayman GT4s...

Impreza 22Bs, Integra Rs, S2000s...

Vipers, 911 Clubsports, 86s, top secret prototype RX-Visions...

and FD RX-7s. Have I mentioned the Amemiya FD yet? I left that behind too.

...and opened the kerbside rear door of the Avante.

Once in, I applied so much alcoholic disinfectant on my hands it spilled over to my crotch, causing a cold burning sensation. The driver set off without a word, not even ensuring we're his customers, or that we've fastened our seatbelts. What an butthole. Maybe I should review Grab drivers on the side.

I look over to Esther behind the driver's seat. She's already belted up, calm as a cucumber on her phone informing our hosts that we are en route. After the call, I thought to ask, "So, what's this week's car?", in effort to strike up a conversation.

"As per my last email..."

"Okay, okay!", I sigh. There goes that conversation attempt. I dig into my pocket for my phone. Four password attempts and a timeout later, we arrived at our destination, and I'm still not into MY account. See, if I wasn't harassed to change my password as often, maybe I'd remember the obtuse combination of uppercase, lowercase, alphanumeric morse code and blood virgin sacrifice to gain the ability to commune with the unholy that is electronic mail.

Given visitor passes, we enter the premises and took the passenger lift up into the expansive building. Once at the correct level, the owner, with the press of a remote, opens up a whole row of garage doors to reveal...

...rows of immaculately preserved, showroom worthy E46 BMW M3 Coupés, in an assortment of body colours. They even have their dealer plates still attached, plastic covers on the seats, the works. These look like they've just been nicked from a showroom and just left to sit here until now... whatever the occasion is.

For a while, there was a heavy silence in the storage facility, as the owner and possibly Esther await my reaction... evaluation... or whatever it is I'm supposed to say or do at this point. Finally, the owner, probably because he was unable to withstand the awkwardness himself, breaks the silence: "Well... these are 2003 BMW M3s, the famous E46 model. Front engine, rear drive, 339BHP. They're all identical, right down to the options. Only in different colours. All showroom fresh, these babies. We have the papers ready to go when you've picked your colour of choice. Here are the brochures from when the car was brand new. I bought a bunch of them when they were brand new, thinking they'd be collector's items in twenty years. But with the M3 CSL and GTR... the value of these haven't moved. You guys are doing me a huge favour buying these at list price".

I relieve the owner of the brochure, still not saying anything, eyes not averting from the fate that awaits me for the rest of the week. The owner, sensing the tension, excused himself to let us have some privacy.

With him gone, I finally manage to say my first words since entering the compound: "Can I review the Avante instead?"

"Is... is there a problem?", Esther steps closer, studying my face.
"It's a BMW!", I exclaim, one hand outstretched at the very apparent problems before me.
"...is there a problem with that?", she asks, again.
"Have you SEEN BMW drivers on the roads?"
"I believe a few passed us on the way here, yes"
"That's not what... Argh. You don't drive, do you?"
"No"
"Have you MET a BMW driver?"

An short, but unexpected pause later, she continues, "Yes".

Sensing I struck a nerve, I opt for blissful, asphyxiating silence instead. Now, according to the broch-

"That's really unprofessional of you, Mr. Lee. As a journalist, you're supposed to be impartial and open minded." As if a switch was flipped, she was back to her calm and robotic demeanour. Is there a switch hidden on the bridge of her specs?

"I know", I respond, matching her apparent cold apathy. "It's just part of the character you want me to sell so much in my reviews."

"Then save it for the review."
"About what we discussed earlier..."
"Yes, what is it?"
"Can I quit?"

She leans further forward towards me, arms akimbo with a glare and pout. Her mouth opens to say something, but the primal instincts of crisis aversion kicked in and I stopped her, "alright, alright! I'll do it, sheesh! I'm kidding!"

The indoor garage once again reverts to dead and awkward silence after two deep sighs, one after another. I stood far back from the, one, two, three... twelve, open garages, each housing a different colour of the same car. As with a late 90s JDM NSX or any Viper, picking a colour for the M3 is an impossible choice to make. Unlike the aforementioned two cars however, it's difficult to pick a colour for the M3 simply because they all look like sheet. It's amazing how the folks over at Munich could come up with such variety of paint choices for the car, and somehow manage to make them all, ALL, look soul sapping boring. Yes, it comes in yellow. But with the hardly distinguishable, understated and grandpa looks of the car, it feels like a senior citizen trying to 1337 speak you. It's such a desperate looking, distasteful clash.

Sport sedans turned into coupés are so stupid. You're still dealing with the aerodynamic properties, wheelbase, mass distribution and structural rigidity of a sedan, only now with two less doors and less practicality. If you want a 2 door, front engine, rear drive sports car, why wouldn't you buy something that's designed and built from the ground up to BE a 2 door sports car? You could have an FD RX-7. An S2000. A Corvette. The only possible appeal I can see for these pretend sports cars is so people can go, "I have a family sedan, but it's so special because it only has two doors! So sporty!" Yeah little Timmy. Congrats on being special. You know what's really special though? A real sports car. "But there are people who like the unassuming looks and hail Mary performance!", I hear an argument before I'm even finished writing the review. "Unassuming looks"? Who's going to see four exhaust tips, a bubbled up hood, and wheel arches that could house the Hindenburg and think it's anything less than a souped up car? "I need something to fit my family in on the weekdays and hoon on the weekends", is another argument I can hear from a mile away. And to that I say: Why would you subject your loved ones to a 2+2? You could've bought an Evo, or an Impreza. Those are proper 4 door, 4 seat sport sedans, are they not?

I may understand the appeal of these cars if I think hard enough and try to make as many excuses as I can for them, but what I can never understand is the people who buy these cars. They're either good at lying to others that this is a normal car just like the base models, or to themselves that this is a viable substitute for a real sports car. Any sedan turned coupé to me is just an instrument of showing off, with no real track use. Coupled with its badge, this looked to me like the sort of car for old men to pick up ladies in. ...fitting, I suppose. Knowing you're old is one thing. Accepting the fact, and making the sensible choices to reflect that realisation however, is a bitter pill I've yet to be prescribed.

After a few more minutes of silence in my mid life crisis, internal raging, and trying to decide which shade of boring with which to write a legally binding will on a safety barrier, I decide to ask Esther, "What colour do you think looks best on it?"

"Huh?!", her head snaps up to look at me, as though struck by a bolt of lightning in a cartoon. She must've been as out of it as I had been when I'm undergoing my internal raging. She readjusts her specs, this time with both hands, after the huge shock movement of her head.

"What colour do you think looks best for the car?", I ask again. "I hear BMWs are popular with women. Do you like any colour in particular?"

"Uhm...", she goes, almost biting a side of her right index finger off. "The black one".

"Which black one?", I ask, seeing as there are two black paints offered on the car, conveniently set side by side to each other.

"...the black one", she restates, looking away in embarrassment. I'm... not asking much of her, am I? Then again, I can't pick a colour for the car, so maybe this is a legitimately difficult question to pose, the magnitude of which rivaling that of, "how to end world hunger?", or "why are we still here, just to suffer?" It hurts not because I can't afford it. It's the shame of spending my own money on a Beamer that hurts like putting my balls into a Rotary powered blender.

At least my choices are narrowed down to two. I elected for "Carbonschwarz", as it's cooler than simply "Schwarz", right? As if anyone could tell the difference.

Upon decision, the tyres were swapped for modern ones and filled to appropriate running pressures. The car was then filled with requisite fluids and given a fully charged battery before being started. The grandpa car awoke from its seventeen year nap with a menace that, quite honestly, took me aback. I had thought that BMWs would be civil and refined creatures until instructed to act otherwise, but the grandpa car was having none of it. It roared to life with a bark so sharp, raspy, and technical, it somehow reminded me of the NSX-R I have at home. A sound like that sets forth something primal and instinctive; if cold makes a person shiver, and if yawning was passed down as a sign of safety, begetting more yawns, then hearing this engine makes a driver want to give the gas a good ravaging with his foot.

Revving it in neutral, the engine responded exactly how it advertised itself to me three seconds ago: sharp, immediate, and savage. I'll admit, even someone like me was quick to get addicted to it, even taking light jabs at the gas pedal in neutral. Not only did I notice the lack of any telltale audio cues of forced induction, I also notice that there is no bogus hocus pocus BS fake engine noise being pumped into the cabin: the noise was all mechanical, and glorious. A one unit symphony of anger in a suit at your command. And lastly, the tachometer, attention commanding with it big, centred, and brightly coloured against a black background, depicts a redline of 8,000rpm. Automakers aren't... legally allowed to make tachometers that lie, are they?

Now you've got me... excited.

Having only driven a few metres out of the car's prison cell, I suddenly remembered to ascertain if the owner had the wherewithal to tick the most important option on these cars. At the touch of a switch that's gotten rather sticky and stiff with disuse, the power window on the driver side fully wound down with a whir. "Esther, could you please do me a favour?", I ask.

"What is it?"
"Help me check if the turn signals work?"

Behold: the most cursed image on the internet. Legend has it that the camera which took this photo promptly broke, and the only existing copy survived due to automatic cloud backups, which was hacked an hour later. Esther, who took this photo, suffered food poisoning at the airport after. As for me who pressed the hazards button... well... you'll see. Maybe.

Having made sure the car came optioned with equipment that makes it road legal, I took it out for a quick test drive to ascertain its condition. It didn't take long for us to find ourselves back at the compound, signing the last of the papers before we could drive away with the car.

As an incentive, the owner had even bid for a plate for the car: "SFE46X". While those were being affixed front and back, there was only one last small thing to put on the car before I could drive it on the road proper.

"Esther, could you request some COTW decals for me please?"
"No problem at all", she assuredly answers with immediacy. "This is the first time you've requested the decals. I've been holding onto the ones the office sends every week."
"Oh, cool. You have them on you right now?"
"Yes, this week's supply is with me."
"Good good GOOD!"
"This is... unusual of you."
"I just don't want anyone to think I'm driving a Beamer for anything other than work purposes."

She gives me a look of "really?", before digging into her messenger bag for a folder with the decals. With those haphazardly stuck on the front fenders and rear bumper, we set off for the airport for our flight to Australia.

At pedestrian, sensible speeds, the engine barely sounds awake, in spite of the gnarly startup sound. It was only about 45 minutes by car from the storage facility to Changi Airport, most of which is spent on the expressway. The engine is turning just over 2.2k rpm at Singapore's speed limit of 90km/h (~55.9mph) in 6th, barely over a quarter of the revs the engine is capable of. Its civil demeanour however, belies its own capability, as it's an engine so quiet and unassuming that you'll most likely pick up speed without realising it on the expressway. The instantaneous fuel economy readout dead centre in the dash under the tach tells me that, with Esther on board and our luggage in the boot, holding 90km/h in 6th nets me about 16.2km/ℓ. Neat, I guess, if not a little weird for a performance car to spend real estate to constantly tell me about fuel economy, and not even an average, but instantaneous. Because it's an instantaneous readout, it spikes to 99.9km/ℓ when off throttle, and wildly varies when using a wider range of the powerband.

I'm happy to report that the original owner of these cars opted for the 6 speed manual, as the brochure does mention an SMG-II automated manual with twin paddles. I'm inclined to believe the automated manual would be rubbish, as paddle shifters in production cars are in their infancy in the early 2000s, and even today companies are only starting to get them right. With a manual, city driving is so much more pleasant and smooth; much more so than even entry level cars with no power and auto gearboxes, like the butt clown driving the Avante from earlier can unwittingly prove. The ride supplements the smoothness afforded by the gearbox as well. It's taut and firm for sure, but not spine blending like a 911 GT3 of this era for example. The only real blemish in my short city driving stint in the M3 is that, like all Continental cars, the wiper stalk and signal stalk are switched, resulting in me activating the wipers when attempting to signal, and becoming *THAT* BMW driver on the road.

Goddamnit!

(Conversion to "Typical BMW Driver" Status: 23% complete.)

*********************************************
Ahh, Mount Panorama, my favourite racetrack in the world, and admittedly also probably the most dangerous that's still used in any sponsored and sanctioned racing events. One needn't look any further than the starting grid of the track to find danger, as the cars are lined up side by side, barely a car's length from bumper to bumper on a narrow straight with little runoff, setting the theme for the vast majority of the circuit. Seemingly every corner here is named after some tragic accident: Turn 1, Hell Corner, for the tree stump on the apex that would send motorcyclists flying. Turn 18, Forrest's Elbow, named after a motorcyclist scraping his elbow after falling. Conrod Straight, named after an engine failure at speed. Turn 23, Murray's Corner, also named after a racing driver who crashed there. This track oozes danger and death, and is not only unapologetic about it, but is special and proud of it because of that.

While recklessly dangerous with no runoff and steep, sheer drops should the safety barrier fail to stop you, Bathust may not be the best racetrack in the world - that distinction clearly goes to Spa in my opinion - Bathurst is my favourite racetrack, simply because its wide variety of corners and inclines test for and highlight the worst traits of any car, without ostensibly favouring any layout. One would think a MR car would be best suited for a racetrack, but the fast, downhill, rapidly slowing chicanes of Brock's Skyline unsettles and fishes out the rear end of any MR car. The tight, technical, often off camber winding ascent to that peak is an excellent test for a car's cornering prowess, punishing nervous cars at the limit, while rewarding those with enough give in the suspension for kerb abuse. The sharp descent and heavy braking zone into Forrest's Elbow cooks the brakes and tyres of any front heavy car, and Conrod Straight after is an excellent test of not only power and gearing, but aerodynamics as well, given the slight right kink leading into The Chase, again with a disruptive kerb at the apex. Many laud the Nürburgring for being the most demanding racetrack; lap times set there the holy grail of yardsticks. But for me, Bathurst does nearly everything the Green Hell does, at about a third of the time required. You also get a notable few opportunities to pass opponents here as opposed to the Nürburgring, meaning that it's a racetrack that, surprise surprise, you can actually race on. What a novel concept, right?! About the only thing Nürburgring tests for that Bathurst doesn't is jumps. Happily however, that is solely the task of the automakers, not car reviewers, so Bathurst has been my go-to course for longer than I can even remember.

Taking my first few corners at speed, the car was already a hell of a strong impression. It's shocking how refined the suspension setup is; it's taut, yet forgiving, and lets you play around with weight transfer through a corner with almost the ease of drawing the racing line with your hands. The understeer of the car on power is very gradual and controllable. As is the standout trait of NA engines, power is linear and instant. On corner exits, the linearity and precision of the power is matched only by the turning radius increase, forming gradual, stable understeer that you can control with your right foot. The rear end rarely threatens to step out on corner exits, and when it did, it let go so gradually and with such clear communication that you could correct minor slides with just counter steer alone without lifting. This is a very predictable car that allows you to be civil or moronic with it, is equally fun either way, and it takes all the abuse and neck wringing without ever breaking its stride.

Of course, every car has a physical limit. When you abuse the M3 too much, its safe word is "understeer". It never once threatened to bite your head off, or snap in an unexpected direction. It was rock solid, clear cut understeer that takes all the power from your hands in a safe manner. Truly, you would have to go banging on hell's gate with the reciprocating motion of the body of Satan's daughter levels of asking for trouble for the M3 to fight back, like flooring the gas pedal in 2nd while the car is severely off balance. Or just not braking for a corner.

And it is very, VERY difficult for the car to lose its composure. For as forgiving and gradual it is, and for as easy as it is to shift weight around in the car, the car's suspension at no point feel like permits any wasted or excessive movements of the body. There is just enough pitch and roll to put weight on the most relevant tyres, that's it. Nothing more, nothing less. Even the wide variety of dangerous corners at Bathurst couldn't unsettle the car. Truly, this car is a showcase of a master class of suspension tuning. It has a cohesion and composure in the suspension tuning that is an art form I'm hard pressed to find even today.

Does the car have faults on track? For sure. It's quite obviously heavy, both on the spec sheet and behind the wheel. Unlike, say, a GT-R for example, it doesn't try to hide its own mass from the driver. You're always aware of the heft of the brick you're flogging around. I find the front end a bit numb and indecisive under full braking, and it's hard to suss out how to place the car with the steering wheel under braking. The car feels very front heavy to me, as can be expected from something that started life as a sedan that now requires a bulge in the bonnet to accommodate a hulking engine, and nowhere is that clearer than at the precarious, hard downhill braking zones at Bathurst. BMW claims that the E46 M3 has a weight distribution of 50:50, but I'm personally finding that hard to believe. Maybe it's the suspension that's set up for more stability that's causing the sensation of nose heaviness, or maybe it's the centre of gravity being rather tall, but either way, trail braking, and braking in general actually, is a comparative weak point of the M3, given how brilliant the rest of the package is. The gear changes, even on this manual, feel a bit slow to me, as well.

This is full braking on the steep downhill into Forrest's Elbow. Camera is parallel to the horizontal. Notice how little pitch there is in the car in spite of the steep downhill braking I'm asking of the 1560kg (~3439lbs) car.

This, all this, is even before we start talking about the engine with due respect. The S54 Inline 6 NA powerplant of this car is not only gnarly sounding and linear as stated before, but is surprisingly peaky, to me, unlike the turbocharged engines of today emphasising low end torque. Peak power comes at a whopping 7,900rpm, and peak torque, 4,900. Remember when I doubted this car's indicated redline of 8,000rpm? Yeah, turns out that was a lie: this engine does 8,500 revs, though you'll probably want to upshift well before then.

Downshifting however, is an absolute joy in this car. The car's relatively poor stopping performance is almost by design to incentivise you to really heel toe at the earliest, most aggressive opportunity. One would think the sound of the engine would be reward enough by itself. I'm really fond of the gearing in the M3, because it never leaves the car feeling wanting on both acceleration and braking. And while the limiter cuts fuel at 8,500rpm on acceleration, on braking it seems to let you go a little higher than that. The end result is that I have revs for any and every situation, no matter how silly aggressive I think I'm being on downshifts. It's a real treat, this thing.

I came away from the drive thinking: This is really rather good! Surprisingly so, actually. Proper sports car rivaling performance for its day. I began to understand that there was a time before "M" stood for more than "marketing". A time when being an "M" car truly meant being special, before every entry level car and their mothers had that letter.

There is one other small thing, though...

*********************************************
The first race of the week was held in Croatia's own Dragon Trail, the "Gardens" layout... in reverse.

You guys think my reviews take time and effort? Have you met these people who make bespoke, full on racing liveries for their cars each week?!

Gardens being a track I'm not very familiar with, I was perfectly content to hang back and get reacquainted with the car after the long flight from Australia. The rest of the club, however, were out for blood, as always.

Side by side in the quick, quirky, quintuple left handers of death? What is with Vic and going side by side with Nat? Is it trust? Is it grudge? Is it love or hate? I can't even tell.

Seeing Nat gradually close the gap to me however, instincts began to kick in and the competitive, try hard side in me awoke.


Goddamnit.

I then cut Chicane of Death's cousin in Gardens too much, which hopped my car.

Uhm, physics, I respectfully disagree with your assessment of how my car caught air.

WHY CAN'T YOU LET THIS OLD MAN RETIRE IN PEEEEAAACEEEEE?!

NOT YOU TOO VIC! *waves cane in the air* Ow my back!



*********************************************​

After that embarrassing display, we were off to Italy's Sardegna Road Course.

And it's here that... um... things went very, very wrong, for almost everybody. It started with a wall. A very, very sturdy wall, jutting out into the racing line...

Photos with no happy endings: Exhibit A.

Second week in a row now Nat has nailed me on the side. I am calling for her immediate dismissal from COTW.

(I can't believe I forgot all about this GIF a week ago, when I was even in a red Honda! Argh!)


"I heard a lot of banging, and screaming... not the good kind" (Citation needed) - Racer283, the only known survivor of "The Sardegna Bincident"



After the mess, Vic attempted some drifts in the by all accounts unwilling M3. I finally got to see with my own eyes as it unfolded before me, the legendary grudge of Vic vs Tyres, and finally have my own photos of it to pass down onto the next generation:


*Eurobeat Intensifies*

I won the race, but that was only because Vic went drifting.

Looking through the GoPro footage of others, I realised that my car was the only one with a working fuel economy readout. Huh, my dealer really takes care of these things.


So sir, which will it be? 1km/ℓ or no km/ℓ?

It's also here that I realised the M3 has a very large and visible radiator fan up front that doesn't move. No, it doesn't come on even when idling or revving a standstill. I tested it after.


*********************************************​

Winning the last race put me dead last on the starting grid of Bathurst, my favourite racetrack in the world, and the stars couldn't be more perfectly aligned if I drew them (okay WHAT is that analogy?). It was this race that I borrowed an R34 GT-R from someone very, very close to me, to race a grid of 6 other M3s.

Can anyone please tell me why the reflection in my side mirror is upside down...?

Now, I understand that at first, this may seem like an odd comparison to make, but hear me out, okay? Both started life as sensible, everyday sedans, then turned into 2 door coupés. One model year separates the two. Both are homologated into highly successful racing cars. Both have Inline 6 engines up front that like to be shifted at around 8,000rpm, going through a 6 speed manual pushing around the exact same kerb mass at 1,560kg (~3439lbs). Both have noticeably flared fenders housing upsized rubber; 225/45R-18 front and 255/40R-18 in the rear for the M3, and 245/40ZR18 all four corners for the R34. While wildly different in appearance and cultures, the two are shockingly similar on paper once you put them side by side.

Where the R34 differs from the M3 however, is of course it has part time AWD, while the M3 is solely rear drive. The turbocharged unit in the R34 displaces less at 2.6 litres, in comparison to the M3's 3.2, and also makes less power than the NA unit in the M3; my car made a measured 340PS the day before the race, 3PS down from the claimed 343PS made by the Beamer. Of course, the biggest difference is that the M3 we have on our hands isn't the coveted GTR; the R34 I'm sitting in, IS a GT-R.

What I didn't tell anyone however, was that, prior to the meet, I had also ran the R34 around Bathurst, after forming initial driving impressions in the E46. The GT-R, in its spiritual stomping grounds, clocked in a 2:32.479 on Comfort Soft tyres, a whopping one and a half seconds faster than the M3 on the equivalent Comfort Softs. As self indulgent and boastful as it no doubt makes me sound, I wasn't at Bathurst for a race; I was there to make a statement: Why can't the M3 be THIS good?

Hey, I spent 86 THOUSAND USD on this car that I don't even like, before taxes! Do you know how hard I worked for that kind of money? Do you not sympathise with my pain and hardship?! I'm ALLOWED to be an butthole every once in a while! The world HAS to understand my pain and give me due reprieve! (Conversion to "Typical BMW Driver" Status: 56% complete.)

Exhibit B: Here we see Nismonath5 in its natural habitat, Bathurst, otherwise known as Mt. Nismorama.

The first lap of four went swimmingly, actually, with me gaining 6 places at the end of just the first lap. Only Vic stood between me and the win, and Vic being Vic and all, wasn't going to let me have it easily. I was still feeling out the limits of the GT-R and getting re-acclimatised with its unique handling characteristics, and so I was taking it easy, braking early, lest I hit someone, which would make for a very ugly mess to try to explain away when driving a wildcard car in a One-Make race, since others won't know how your car performs, and by extension, whether your move was reasonable or not.

Even when driving it at about nine tenths however, my R34 stuck to Vic's M3 like our bumpers had magnets attached to them. Corner after corner, no matter the shape, size, or camber, my R34 stuck to the back of the M3 like we were hitched together. On the straights, there was nothing between the two cars, either. I feel that the M3 has a slight advantage in the straights, as the R34 kept with the M3 sitting in the latter's slipstream, unable to gain anything substantial to make a move (Editor's note: the race was done on game Version 1.60, before 1.61 dropped a day after the race and nerfed the slipstream range).

Once comfortable with the GT-R, I decided to make my move at the start of Lap 3. Alright Vic, it was fun and all, but I'd like my position now if you don't mind.

Thing is, Vic did mind. A lot.

While I slowly came to grips with the GT-R over the first two laps, steadily increasing my pace, Vic on the other hand suddenly flipped a switch and unleashed a tidal wave of speed out of nowhere! It's almost like his car hid a bottle of NOS where no COTW official could find, as he even pulled a gap of almost a second on me on Conrod Straight Lap 3. It wasn't just the straights, either, he began to pull a slight, but noticeable gap on me on corner exits in the technical sections of the track, and I'm supposed to be the one with better corner exit traction! I'm wringing the neck of the GT-R, half drifting, half gripping into corner entries, like its ATTESA AWD system wants me to! I'm shifting the RB26DETT at 8,000rpm, like I should! Right?!

On display here is the GT-R's very weird cornering tendencies, where the front end grips and the rear end slips out on corner entry, only for the ATTESA AWD to straighten the car out on corner exit.

If it means I can catch Vic, I'll... I'll... even drift down Brock's Skyline!

Vic then proceeded to renew his fastest lap record by a whole SECOND with his third lap!

Did... did his car get lighter after burning NOS? Seriously, what are we doing here, Gran Turismo, or Need for Speed?! To quote another racer in a superior yellow sports car getting punked around a mountain by an inferior white sleeper car, "Am I seeing the ghost of a driver who died on this mountain? This is like a bad nightmare I can't wake up from... is my secondary turbine even working?!"

I'm sorry, did I say earlier that Vic wasn't going to let me have it easy? Scratch that; Vic wasn't going to let me have it. FULL STOP.

All seemed to be lost for me, as desperation began to set in, and I began to act on that desperation and stupidity, extending track limits and even grazing walls in my "rental" car. This is my win damnit! This is MY story! This is MY statement! What would I say in my review if I went and lost to a base M3, right here, right now?! It's not even a CSL, not even a GTR!

Next time we race, I'm folding my mirrors in.

The last "A" in "ATTESA" does stand for "All-terrain", does it not?

However, there was one area that the GT-R was undeniably, shockingly better than the M3 at: braking. Even with visibly smaller discs, the name "Brembo" must add about 20µ to the Coefficient of Friction to the pads and discs, because on the biggest braking zone of the circuit, The Chase, my GT-R closes anywhere between 0.2 to 0.3 seconds to the M3 from braking to apex. I suspect the larger front tyres in comparison to the M3 helps tremendously in that regard. Yet, to pass, I actually need to be within said 0.3 seconds of the M3, which is rather difficult considering my GT-R of all things actually gets outgunned on the straights, with the launch taken out of the equation.

Ugh! SO CLOSE!

With the biggest braking zone out of the way on the last lap, there was only one last corner to go. Vic seems to have this in the bag, lest I punt him out the way just to make a point in my review... I could do it... I COULD do it...

FUDGE! I can't do it! This is the EXACT reason why I quit formal racing!

I braked on time, conceding... conceding that... even with the vast speed advantage the GT-R has over the M3, it was not enough to compensate for the skill advantage Vic has over me. Yes, it was either admitting that a base M3 can hang with an R34 V・spec II Nür, or admit that I'm a sheet driver. I am a sheet driver.

Does he not know what's ahead? After this slow right, there's a sharp left! If you don't slow down, you'll go right into the ravine! I warned you, you're going too fast! There isn't any more space to slow down!

Nani?!

Kan-

KANZEN NI SHIMATTA!
(He totally screwed up!)

In a freak occurrence, Vic made a mistake! He braked too late!

He recovered it, but he's going slower!

We're side by side! Am I pulling? Am I pulling?! I AM pulling on him!

SAIDO BAI SAIDO DAA~!



What, you want me to TELL you who won after all that fanfare? Are you kidding? See for yourself!

Okay, fine, I won. By 0.045 seconds.

Rest of the photos from Bathurst:



Drifting in the face of the drifter? Dayum girl! You braaave!


Hang in there Pickle Rick! (gosh why is that name so fun to say?! PICKLE RIIIICK!)

Man I'm thirsty for some reason.

Rob: What are these guys doing...?




*********************************************​

Race 4 was at Dragon Trail Seas- wait, really? You made us fly from Croatia to Italy, out of Europe entirely, and now back to Croatia? Who planned these schedules, and what are they on? We also seemed to have lost Nat somewhere along the line, as well, as we weren't even on the same flight.

I went back to my E46 after being completely emotionally spent from Bathurst, and still reeling from it all. I think I made my point, keeping up with a vastly more skilled Vic. That said, I seem to have opened a Pandora's Box, as the grid now was a lot more varied, with others opting for other cars to compare against the BMW. Vic was in an Evo X, a car that basically has been stagnant and left to die since its inception 2007, but it IS a sports sedan, if only by definition. Being unable to source a comparable Audi sport sedan to pit against the M3 (who can blame the owners?), Nismo decided to go for the next best thing: An Audi R8.

A'ight...

The Evo had ballast dumped onto its passenger seats to match the mass of our E46s, and the R8 had to be downright neutered to match power and mass. Still, both cars are packing AWD, and at least one of them was a proper, bona fide supercar. A steep test for the E46, if not a complete annihilation of.

And then, suddenly, near the end of the parade lap and right before we took our positions on the starting grid, the distinct sounds of sirens could be heard, getting louder and closer. A few of us stopped in curiosity to look, only to see a white A80 Supra running from a gaggle of police cars, each with an officer sitting on the window sills, one hand clutching stacks of crumpled papers and shouting in what I can only assume to be Croatian.

The Supra joins the track after clearing security. The police officers weren't let in, seeing as we had the place booked (okay...?). Over the blaring sirens, we heard a familiar voice exclaim, "I'LL SIGN THE PAPERS LATER, THE RACE IS STARTING!"

...Nat?

The Croatian police members seemed to be motorsports fans, and agreed to hold charges until after the race, in exchange for several bags of popcorn, fizzy drinks, and VIP sky box seats.

Seeing as it was a "new" entrant to our little circle, track officials signaled for the Supra to take pole at the grid... Y'know what? I don't even want to pretend I know what I'm talking about or why things are happening the way they are anymore. I'm just here to race, man.


The Supra looked as factory fresh as my E46 when I got it. It didn't even have a license plate, let alone a livery. With ballast dumped onto the passenger seat of the Supra to match our E46s, and with it mysteriously already being up to temperature, the race was finally able to begin.

...wait, there's a Toyota showroom in Croatia with a preserved, stock, 1997 Supra RZ ready to be stole-

The lights went green as I wondered that.

At launch, the AWD monsters destrolished the mortals among us in RWD cars, as if that needed saying. With them in the lead, we RWD drivers squabbled amongst ourselves for earthly gains.

Hi. This is me. You may be wondering how I've managed to find myself in this situation, in an E46 racing an A80.

This is also me. You may also be wondering how I've found myself racing an E46 against an OH MY GOD IS THAT AN R8?! The answer is of course, GTPlanet Car of the Week, every Tuesday, 10pm CST!

(Editor's note: Why are you advertising the club within the club?)

Man, I'm too old for this sheet. You two go riiiight ahead. I had enough drama and tension for two lifetimes, let alone a week.

51K3!

(Editor's note: we think he means "Psych!", but we'll let him have his moment.)

While I spent about a third of the opening lap side by side with Nat. I'm glad that we at least didn't go side by side at the Chicane of Death! (and that she's actually behind me for once...)

Vic, pulling an S660 from last week, slowing down for the entire field to pass him after one lap? You might be giving the Evo X too much credit there, Vic!

A repeat of the savage move I pulled on Nismo two weeks ago in a GT500 NSX, at Seaside Turn 1 (...turn 2?). There was contact against Rob, but I stand by my driving as I was fully alongside, met and stuck to the apex.

HOLY WOW! Look at how close Nismo went to the wall out of the CoD!

A drag race into the Chicane(s) of Death!

Now now Nismo, I'm sure you're a smart, sensible person. I'm sure you're aware that this week is dedicated to the E46 M3, NOT the R8. BACK OFF!

A drag race with Nismo for rights to the racing line into the Chicanes of Death? I've heard the rumours, Nismo. If Initial D has "God Hand" and "God Foot", then you are COTW's "God Limbs", being able to shift sticks faster than anyone else... interesting! I shall see how I fare against someone like you!

SIDE BY SIDE INTO THE CHICANES OF DEATH!

RESPEEEECT!

SIIIIKE!

Meanwhile, Nat's like, "haha car goes vromm vroom".

Tch! Supra ga itsunomani...?! (when did the Supra...?!)

(Editor's note: He starts speaking in broken Japanese when agitated. Not sure why, might ask later idk)

WHOOPS! SORRY!

That's... not a pretty sight behind me. Hoo boy.

Is the Bavarian Army even paying me for defending their honour in this war?! Does ANYONE else see what I'm up against?!



This is too much for my old man heart.

Now, Nat. About the papers... and the dents in the Supra.

*********************************************
"I wonder how the RX-7 compares against it..."

Just from that one line, it became too personal. You can wonder that, Nat, but don't for a SECOND think that you'll be the only one driving a Rotary if you do. No way am I allowing myself to not be driving a Rotary if there's one on the grid!

And so, when we arrived at Toukyo for the next race, we had almost all decided on different cars. As the third newest member of COTW, I exercised my seniority and politicked my way into an FD RX-7. MY, FD RX-7. Rob was in my favourite 911, the 993 Carrera RS Club Sport. Nat was in the "better than the FD RX-7 in every measurable aspect" JDM, the NSX-R, Vic was in his happy, sadistic place, a 930 Turbo, and Nismo went with an Evo IV. Only Racer and Pickle were still in M3s at this point.

This isn't really about the M3 anymore, is it...?

Two of the purest, rawest sports cars to ever be produced. The 90s was truly a time of magic.

Old vs. New!

JACK DANIEL'S DELIVERY COMING THROUGH!

The Vic-est shot I've ever taken: Vic chasing the leader... sideways... in a sadistic widowmaker. You can drop my cheque in my PO box.

THIS is an interesting comparison...



BoP list for the cars used in this race as of Ver. 1.61. While the race is done on 1.60, 1.61 dropped just a day after the race, before I thought to check the values. I doubt the N300 BoP has been changed, though.

BMW M3 Coupé 2003:
Power: 90%
Mass: 85%

Honda NSX Type R 1992:
Power: 104%
Mass: 106%

Mazda RX-7 Spirit R Type A 2002:
Power: 101%
Mass: 104%

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV GSR 1996:
Power: 108%
Mass: 99%

Porsche 911 Carrera RS Club Sport 1995:
Power: 100%
Mass: 107%

Porsche 911 Turbo 1981:
Power: 100%
Mass: 106%

*********************************************
There wasn't a Race 6. Certainly not at Suzuka. Shoot everyone who tells you otherwise; they're lying (seriously, is Suzuka cursed for me or something? Almost every time I race at Suzuka something awful happens to me).

God's Note: His cat jumped up on his wheel, wanting her bed back. His family members walked across the screen several times trying to console the cat, fighter jets were roaring so loudly over his house he couldn't hear his car, and a lack of practice with the NSX-R in general meant he spun once every two corners. This was his curse for putting not only the signals, but HAZARDS on in a BMW.)

*********************************************
After the week's meet was over, I flew back to Australia for the third time this week. After Vic served me a slice of humble pie so humongous, it could end famine in the world, I began to wonder if I've actually really pushed, and in turn got to know, the M3.

Oddly enough, I can't embed more than 5 videos per post, so have a raw link:
https://youtu.be/RGCx2VkItdA

E46:

S1: 24.066/ 0:24.066
S2: 54.951/ 1:19.017
S3: 39.169/ 1:58.186
S4: 35.941/ 2:34.127
Top Speed: 250km/h (~155mph)

Oddly enough, I can't embed more than 5 videos per post, so have a raw link:
https://youtu.be/sqgpXMfjDhI

R34:

S1: 23.802/ 0:23.802
S2: 54.156/ 1:17.961
S3: 38.953/ 1:56.914
S4: 35.565/ 2:32.479
Top Speed: 247km/h (~153mph)

Oddly enough, I can't embed more than 5 videos per post, so have a raw link:
https://youtu.be/DYRTV6Hrzro

FD:

S1: 24.117/ 0:24.117
S2: 24.061/ 1:18.178
S3: 38.754/ 1:56.932
S4: 35.449/ 2:32.381
Top Speed: 248km/h (~154mph)​

Yes, the M3 still gets served by proper, bona-fide sports cars of its era. But by this point... I don't really care that much anymore if it was 1.5 seconds off a R34 and FD, because by this point, having been through the wringer both in and chasing it, I came to realise that it's good enough. In fact, it's freaking brilliant. Even though the R34 and FD were both faster, the E46 has a level of refinement and rock solid composure that neither Japanese car matches, or even aspires to have.

Yes, the R34 masks its mass shockingly well. It feels like a 1.3 ton (~2866lbs) car despite weighing the same as the E46. Yes, it is much, MUCH easier to drive, not only because of its athleticism, but also because of its AWD system and the impeccable balance built into its suspension system, as per most 90s JDM cars under the gentlemen's agreement.

Yet, I vividly remember that race with Vic right here at Bathurst, braking for Forrest's Elbow. My R34, overloaded from all the weight up front in the steep downhill braking zone from me pushing it a bit too hard, suddenly gave up on me with no warning and smoked the outside front tyre.

Even though I was in a faster car, I caught myself thinking, "The M3 wouldn't let this happen to me. The M3 will cuddle me and hold my hand firmer. It would've let me know when approaching its limits." It's a car that never betrays the trust it builds in its driver, unlike an R34 that makes you feel like a rock star until it gives out completely on you in a heartbeat. The R34 is, as I said before, already a very refined drive, but the M3 one-upped even an AWD car with a well balanced suspension setup with just RWD.

The FD RX-7 is even more of a driver's car than the E46. On a narrow, twisting mountain course with rapidly approaching corners, the FD dances with an agility and grace that the E46 simply cannot dream of. The way the FD balances and rotates right about dead centre of the car, where you sit as the driver, is simply indescribable bliss. You could almost always drive right on the edge of adhesion of all four tyres, and feel, manage, and manipulate each tyre's grip with your wheel and pedals. The truly lightweight car with a perfect 50:50 mass distribution actually feels it unlike the more stability inclined M3. The car was not only agile, but it felt pivoted right between the brake and accelerator pedals, right between your palms. Every action you make as a driver has an equal and proportionate reaction in the car.

However, the FD is only that fun when you're constantly flirting with the limits of the car, or even cheekily exceeding them a little. It almost feels broken if you don't wring it. The E46 I found was a very good drive even at 8 tenths, for example. And while the FD is that much more capable around the twisty stuff, it is every bit as willing to kick you in the nuts and bite your head off if you treat it wrong. It is like a cute, but psycho girlfriend, that demands every bit of attention you have at all times, and is always willing to stab you if you fail to give her what she wants. But holy hell, she drives like nobody else if or when you do appease her. And very much unlike an E46, its temper is only a hair trigger away at seemingly all times. The smallest of mistakes could lead to the biggest of disasters in the FD. And it makes for a very difficult, and intimidating drive.

Breathing a huge sigh of relief once I finally clocked in a lap I'm happy to showcase in the FD, I once again caught myself thinking, "The M3 wouldn't let this happen to me. She would cuddle me and hold my hand and tell me everything's alright and we can get through it together if we just work together."

For weighing 290kg (~639.3lbs) less at 1270kg (~2799.9lbs) kerb, having more front tyre with 235mm sections, and also coming with factory Brembos as a Spirit R while hitting lower speeds than the E46, my FD oddly enough uses almost the same braking points as an E46. It's quite honestly shameful. The FD is also only a five speed, a crying shame as I feel that it always deserved more.

Of course lap times aren't everything. Yet as a 2 door sports sedan, it's very difficult for me to put stock in any credential that isn't a lap time, especially when the on-paper specs are so ridiculously close to something I know and hold in high regard. The E46 M3 has shown me that it is a very different breed of sports car, one that, while not the fastest around a racetrack, is every bit as fun as the forbidden JDM fruits. It's like comparing apples and oranges, in that sense. And you'll probably live longer driving it, too.

The E46 M3 is born at the height of mechanical bliss in cars, right before the digital boom in the car industry. Never again will we have a modest, yet adequately punchy engine with so much finesse engineered into the suspension system, and made such a top priority. Modern cars fight on the spec sheet more than in the real world, resulting in smoking messes that can't even put their power down. And I must admit, I'm guilty of sounding like that crowd that forced manufacturers to turn to making cars that way when I first saw this car.

It really doesn't matter to me any more that the M3 is any worse, or better, than the R34 or FD. It no longer matters to me what it looks like, what colours it comes with, how much it costs, or the stigma around the drivers of cars that bear its badge. This thing is a sports car. A damn good one. This thing is more sports car than most modern cars even aspire to be, and it is a timeless, modern classic for it, just like my FD and my sister's R34. If I had kids, I'd tell them to be quiet and suck one in the back seats; the E46 is that good. People buy these cars for the understated looks and sublime performance, and it is exactly what people buy and revere it for: a sleeper. A sleeping beauty of a sleeper.

Editor's note: would you keep the car you bought, though?

EHHHHHH I mean, as we all know... clearly... verily, I say. Ergo! The manifestation of the existential paradigm is infinitesimally larger than the exponentially evolved humanistic peon; indeed this precept is fundamentally beyond the cognizance of any finite mind. Apples and oranges, you know? Ootsuki Hibiki, or Kururugi Aoi? When you ask, "what car would I buy, or keep", you are fundamentally asking me the equivalent of (Editor's note: redacted to save bandwidth).

(Conversion to "Typical BMW Driver" Status: 100% complete.)
 
Hello all,

With permission of Rob, I've modified and uploaded two versions of the COTW decal. I've made mask versions of the solid logo and the outline logo.

"You've made WHAT?"
Decals. These two green ones.


"Okay, so what do these do?"

These recolourable decals let the car's paint form the logo. So, for example, if you painted the car chrome, and masked the surrounding area of the decals with matching colours...

Ta-daa! Chrome COTW logo!

Colour shift paint? Go right ahead.

Carbon fibre? Gradient logos? Slip the appropriate decals underneath these masks and go nuts.


The links for the decals are shared on my profile, tagged "caroftheweek", "gtplanet", and "cotw". Download links:


Of course, the downside is that the rest of your car's body doesn't get to have fancy paint finishes; only whatever finish you set your decals to. It's a trade-off, at the end of the day.

I hope you enjoy these decals!
 
I've heard the rumours, Nismo. If Initial D has "God Hand" and "God Foot", then you are COTW's "God Limbs", being able to shift sticks faster than anyone else... interesting! I shall see how I fare against someone like you!
Heh, that Dragon Trail race certainly was one of the more intense races of recent weeks, I admit.

With permission of Rob, I've modified and uploaded two versions of the COTW decal. I've made mask versions of the solid logo and the outline logo.
That's actually a really solid idea! Her her herrrrrrrr....

So, I'm not sure why, but I seem to have stopped recieving notifications about when people post here. Pretty sure I've fixed it for now, so we shall see.

Also @XSquareStickIt I dig your video thumbnails!! They're epic!! 👍

The BMW, frankly I don't think it would be fair for me to judge it based on the racing. It may or may not have been apparent, but I was EXHAUSTED, had virtually zero fight in me and crashed out of most of the races. (Except for the R8 but hey, every rule has an exception.) Hopefully I'm a bit more awake for tonight's racing.
 
This "review", if it can even be called that, will be a very low effort, low production value one.

MITSUBISHI

Mitsubishi Motors, a company with a spectacular history in races like the Dakar Rally and World Rally Championships (WRC), has developed a special concept model for Vision Gran Turismo: This is the “Mitsubishi Concept XR-PHEV EVOLUTION Vision Gran Turismo”.

In the development of this special concept model, Mitsubishi Motors introduced their design team, Advanced Vehicle Research and Development Group, and Aerodynamic Engineering Development Group into this project in the same process they would normally follow to plan and develop real motorsports vehicles.

The styling of the car follows the basic concepts of the “MITSUBISHI Concept XR-PHEV” shown at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, while pouring in know-how gained from years of motorsports experience into its every detail. As a result the concept was evolved into a stoic racing machine.

The “Athlete Form” design concept was advanced further, emphasising the driving features aggressively. The iconic front grill is a study of next generation Mitsubishi SUV identity, and the shape that forms a wedge starting from the triple diamond mark is designed in the image of an athlete at crouching position on a starting line, evoking an intense image of tension and potential.

Applying advanced development technology from the Plug-in Hybrid EV System, the spontaneous power of the motor and powerful torque of the engine is transmitted through an 8 speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) to drive the 4 wheels. Its overwhelming drive performance is controlled precisely with the S-AWC vehicle dynamics control system that distributes the drive force optimally to the 4 wheels, producing a handling characteristic that moves the car exactly as the driver desires.

In addition, the carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) body reduces weight and greatly contributes to its agility, and the downforce produced by the aerodynamic form of the front and rear diffusers produces excellent cornering performance. The large diameter 20 inch aluminium wheels gives an impression of a tough suspension system, and the powerful appearance of the front and rear fenders is in the image of toned muscles of a powerful athlete.

SUBARU

Vision Gran Turismo is a revolutionary project established for car enthusiasts all over the world. The car provided by Subaru for this dream project, where the world, is an ultimate sportscar carrying Subaru's concept car motto "VIZIV; Vision for Innovation. The car is called the "SUBARU VIZIV GT Vision Gran Turismo".

Inheriting the design language of "Subaru's VIZIV 2 Concept" revealed at the March 2014 Geneva show, the Subaru design team have added dynamic and solid shaped to the model. Its shoulder line extends from the front exagonal grill all the way to the rear. Its tough-looking body seems as though it was carved from hard, solid metal. And with blister fenders extending its shape and enjoyable driving experience. Its larger diffuser, the roof integrated rear spoiler, and its shooting brake silhouette, which accounts for aerodynamic performance, will surely stand out among the others in the game.

Thorough weight reduction was a focus in the design of the body structure, and carbon materials have been utilized everywhere. As a result, the vehicle weight was held down to 1,380 kg despite being equipped with heavy batteries and motors. And propelling the lightweight body is Subaru's legendary 2 liter horizontally opposed engine that has been fully tuned with years of motorsports experience. The direct injection turbocharged engine that has been powered up with revised restrictor diameters is combined with one high-power motor in the front and two in the rear, which achieved a total system output of 591 BHP and 800 Nm (594.0 lb-ft) of maximum torque. By independently controlling each of the motor outputs, turning ability while cornering is dramatically improved, while the torque vectoring lamps built into the fenders visualize its movement. Thus, as with any other Subaru, the car is made controllable for anyone driving it, regardless of its extremely high performance levels.

Yes, all that was a direct copy and paste from the in-game description. Hey, my family paid 6 figure sums of money for my college "education", might as well milk it for some real world applications, right?

Ultimately, the reason why this is a low effort "review", is because these cars are low effort "cars" that aren't deserving of any deep, meaningful, or intelligent discussion.

I dream of being able to marry my favourite AV actresses. I dream of being able to match TRL_LIGHTNING's pace. I dream of having dreams that aren't so unrealistic, expensive, and environmentally irresponsible. I dream of having someone who isn't morally obligated to love me to show me some concern and love, and that I matter. I dream of being good for something, anything, that can put food on the table.

Everyone has dreams. Did reading about mine change anything for you? Did it mean anything for you? No? Cool. That apathy you feel right now is the exact same I feel towards concept cars.

I can design a car too. It makes twenty million PS, has 7 wheel drive, makes 50 megatons of downforce at a speed of 1 picometre per year, and is powered by the nutritious tears of Evo fans and the gases of vaping Subaru owners, supplemented by a Power Herb Geomancy.

I can tell you all that. I can say all that I want. But it doesn't change the fact that it means nothing to anyone, and that it doesn't exist.

What ARE these cars? What are they supposed to do? Who are they made for? What are they supposed to compete against? Without being able to answer any of these questions, how does one go around critiquing them? To what measure and standard should these cars be held? How do we decide if they've done their jobs well or not, if we don't even know what their jobs are?

But, you know, maybe I'll find someone else that kiiinda looks like my favourite stars? My insurance agent makes me feel cared for and I have her number, that counts, right? I'm within three seconds of LIGHTNING's times. That's basically the same thing, right? I can't speak without stuttering in person, but I can articulate my long winded thoughts in walls of texts no one reads. Same thing, right? I may not even have a car IRL, but I can drive in Gran Turismo. That's good enough, right?

Yet, will anyone consider me LIGHTNING's equal? Can I represent my country in what I love doing? Did I really mean anything to anyone in my time here on earth?

Hell no.

Even if manufacturers try to justify concept cars, saying things like they're studies for design language and direction for future production models... you don't get the exact car. Things get toned down or thrown out the window completely. XJ220, had a hulking 6.2L V12 before the drugs wore off and we wound up with a 3.5L V6, for example. Even if you just like the looks of the cars, how much of it can make production? How much would have to change to pass pedestrian safety laws? How would anyone wearing a skirt get over those door sills? How much wheel arch would need shaving off to make it clear a speed hump? Is visibility out of that narrow windscreen over the bulging hood good and safe enough to drive? At the end of the day, after being through the wringer of rules, regulations, and, you know, common flipping sense, you'll most likely just get the samey looking WRX, and the same generic SUV, regardless of how "exciting" and "different" these cars look. What, did you think automakers make the same looking cars because they want to?

But, hey, if they bear similarities, it's basically the same thing, right? It's good enough, right?

So what are these cars? Just designers' incomplete pipe dreams? Grown children in business suits in an *ahem* ego waving contest? Even Metallica's concept songs they later released were full, complete songs with deep meaning and real production value, complete with album art. They were complete, consumable products I was happy to pay for. These cars on the other hand, don't even exist in full even in the virtual world; neither have their interiors rendered for crying out loud. The Subaru doesn't even come with reverse lights. And I'm supposed to believe concept cars will carry over into production?

Low effort, zero meaning.

Make it happen. Then we'll have something to talk about. If I happen to marry all my favourite stars, if I truly did have the world record pace of LIGHTNING, then people would be interested. How did you do it? What sacrifices did you have to make? What sort of upbringing did you have? How do you stack up to your competition? What do you do similarly or differently from them? What makes you so goddamned special?

In 2020, is anyone still able to lie to themselves that Mitsubishi is even remotely interested in making exciting, sporty cars again? Mitsubishi themselves, maybe. "The Spirit of Competition" has long since Spirited Away, now reincarnated into bottom of the barrel scraping, barely functional cheap cars barely better than what little the Chinese export, that also hopefully don't cheat emission tests, like the Attrage.

If it has the shape of an SUV, why is it called an "Evolution"? What is it an evolution of? The Evolution? I get that the Darwinian Theory stipulates that it's not the strongest of species that survive, but the one that adapts. Yet, evolving into an SUV after a rivalry of a lifetime with the WRX isn't something I'd personally be proud of advertising if I were part of the team that designed it. Good thing I'm not. I imagine this car is as big a slap across the face to Evo fans. Oh, and guess what, Mitsubishi's SUVs since this concept shares NOTHING with this concept from 2013. It's not even called an Evolution. It doesn't have AYC. Instead, they're called the ASX and Eclipse, further slaps across the faces of their no doubt rapidly diminishing fanbase.

The Ph-ev... evo... eclipse... gto... tm... gsr... ayc... whatever the frick, is at least decent to drive. It has adjustible AYC like the Evos, though in locked setting lobbies and races, AYC is considered a modification - go figure - which means it's stuck at its lowest setting of 30 for our meet, which may go some way in explaining the understeer I personally find. Turn-in is rather horrible for a car that's pegged for being controllable "exactly as the driver desires", because every second I drive this thing, I desire to be dead. But I'm mercilessly alive. The car stops well, thanks to its rather light weight for its power output and SUV-esque dimensions, coupled with it's ridiculously short 8 speed ratios that means you always have revs to choke the car to a stop. This however, also means that your left hand will be very busy even on relatively short stopping distances, and deciding on which gear to use out of a corner is mentally taxing without due practice and making that decision ahead of time.

The car feels like it could use more front rubber, or just a differently programmed ABS, because I personally find it very difficult to trail brake in this thing, with how little is in the friction circle, and how the brakes monopolise it. It's one of those weird cars that will suddenly bite into a turn if you gave it a tad bit of gas to ease up the overloaded front tyres.

The gear ratios seem set for a rally track. They're so short and close together that, even with AWD and Sport Soft tyres, you'll be doing doughnuts with the best of American muscle. You'll even need 6th for speeds above 180km/h at a suffocatingly short track that is Tsukuba. Yet, this car, or rather, these cars, are both set so low that they scrape on the gentlest of inclines.

Also, yes, both these cars can take dirt tyres. You can drive these shadow scraping cars on rally tracks. Let that sink in for a moment.

I'm sorry, I'm supposed to take these cars seriously? How? Why?

The Subaru VGT is irredeemable garbage. It has so much power and torque it's wheelspinning in third like a LaFerrari... except, this thing has AWD. Who needs this? Why does it do this? Who designed it to do this? Has it even been test driven by ANYONE? At all?

The first three gears in the Vijizz are shorter than my reproductive organs in the sweltering summer heat. 4th onwards however, feel more in line with a production car, with 4th topping out at about 200km/h, perfectly normal for a "276"HP car, but not for a car with more than double that. Even with one less forward gear, the Scoobie hits 321km/h (~199.5mph) on Toukyo East, up from the phevo's 280 (~174.0mph).

The torque vectoring in this AWD car makes it a nervous, snappy mess, not unlike an old, badly sorted MR car. Confidence in Motion that I'll bury myself and the "car" into a barrier mid corner in conjunction with its wild power it can't control, I guess. It does appreciably help in long, sweeping corners, where the Subaru something or rather can take kinks flat out where most cars will need to lift. But confidence inspiring it is not. It takes some getting used to, and one can definitely get used to it, but I wish I had the option to tone it down like the AYC in the Evos, nonetheless. It also takes a markedly longer distance than the SUV to stop, more than 30 extra kilos (~66.1lbs) would have you believe. Around most tracks, the extra power of the Subaru would overwhelm the Mitsubishi, in spite of its nervous and wheelspinny messes in the twisties.

Both these cars are million dollar Beaters. Hopefully they'll beat each other out of existence and we can have something that actually means something next week.
 
Man you reaaaaally didn't like 'em, huh! :indiff:
I liked the Mitsu but the SBubaru... is irredeemable. :banghead:

To be entirely fair, it's mostly because I just dislike fictional concept cars in general, and less so because of the cars. I don't even like the RX-Vision that much, for context.

Both the Mitsu and Baru are flawed for certain, don't get me wrong, but not to the extent that I perhaps made it sound like.

I also have to admit I was in... SOME MOOD, when I wrote that "review". I'm not sure what got into me. I went to bed and woke up thinking "...why did I say all that, holy wow".

Can't wait for others to share their opinions on the cars though. I didn't detect a lot of Beater vibes from the lobby this week. Maybe it's just me.
 
I do get peoples' dislike for much of the VGT program, There was the same type of discussion back on day one of the GT6 introductions.

I fully understand why people dislike the SUV type VGTs and even worse, the Suzuki Copen type VGT cars also available for... $1 mil. dollars.

I people arent fully onboard with the BMW and Mercedes sport VGTs then how are people supposed to accept the SUV and hatchback type concepts???

OK there will be an element who are attracted to the Lamborghini and McLaren concepts...

I can sort of accept paying $1 mil. for a Bugatti McLaren type thing but the lesser ones???? WHat are they for? At least the Gr1 VGTs and the GrX high performance cars are useful in the leagues.
 
Well well, here we are again. It has been very fun, I will admit. And weird, as well.

On Tuesday the 21st, I was informed that I´d be picked up by a representative producer of COTW, in very short notice, to go review the next pair of vehicles. I was only told that they´d be concepts from two Japanese brands and nothing else, which had left me intrigued. I took a quick shower to not smell like I came out of my bunker just for this (which admittedly was the case), fixed up my hair and in a few minutes, a customized Lancer Evo was on my doorstep, and I shook the hand of the producer as we got in the car.

20200723184020.jpg


While we rode over to the meeting location which... is secretive, apparently per contract, the producer explained that Mitsubishi and Subaru were both interested in sending over some concept racing cars to the COTW assosciation, for testing. Testing, and pretty much free advertisement by saying "look what we´re doing over here! We´re buildin´ some cool cars!". Excited, I asked for more details that the producer couldn´t give other than "one´s an Evo, and the other is an Impreza from the future". I couldn´t believe it. Could they be bringing back the Evo? And updating the Impreza?!

We got to the agreed meeting location and... after this picture, the companies´ representatives said "no cameras, please". Sadly, no pictures from here, but there will be plenty in the races, so don´t fret, people.

20200723184027.jpg


While we accepted the whole contractual obligation (seriously, what is so secretive about a big glass structure in the middle of Tokyo next to some other buildings? Ah, wait, crap), we were walked around the cars. The Subaru was called the VIZIV-GT, and in my opinion, looks kinda sick. It has many rough edges, a big wing, and big wheels. Like every racing concept car, eh? But I could sort of see an Impreza buried underneath all the aerodynamic trickery and the futuristic interior... that we can´t show, either. Sorry, peeps. The Subaru people explained that the VIZIV-GT was a plug-in hybrid and I thought inmediately that they were crazy, but their promise that the battery lasted more than 2 miles kinda shot my hopes up a bit more. The Subaru also sported an advanced torque vectoring system to make it faster and easier to drive, as well as a top speed of apparently 300+ km/h, or around 200+ mph. Which... is good. Every sports car nowadays pretty much has to break 250 km/h to be considered one, and 300+ is supercar territory. Or super-sports car territory. Whatever floats your boat.

The Mitsubishi, was a step in the... other... direction. It was fat, wide and short. Big wing as well. Tyres that stretched slightly away from the massively flared fenders. 8-speed gearbox set for acceleration on tight corners. And the coolest damn indicators the world has ever seen. The XR-PHEV Evolution. Evolution of... I don´t know, because it certainly doesn´t look like an Evolution. Maybe of their crossovers? Would they really make a crossover that is pretty much on point with supercars around a track and name it an Evolution? The theory of evolution says that the species that survive are the ones that adapt... and even if you look at it that way, it´s total BS. There IS DEMAND for a sports sedan named a Lancer Evolution, not a crossover with a weird ass name. Still, we would have to wait and see. The XR-PHEV had all the qualities of an Evo; AWD, close-ratio gearbox, big wing, big brakes, and an interior that we can´t show either. Sadly. Sorry.

We went to Tsukuba Circuit for the first race of the weekly COTW meeting. There were many more VIZIV´s and PHEV´s available for the other drivers of the COTW too, which was good because otherwise it would be pretty boring. I picked the Mitsubishi for the first event, and so did a few others, like Vic.

The start was brisk, even in the semi-road-legal tyres, thanks to the AWD. I looked in the mirror and saw the VIZIV´s lag behind with a lot of wheelspin. Weird... but nevertheless, I was in second, after letting Vic pass since he was in the inside on the first corner.

20200723184037.jpg


Tsukuba is known as a track that is great for testing. You have a power section, a long corner, esses, hairpins and hard braking zones, which will let you see any faults with your car. The pseudo-Evo was... actually pretty good around it. Sure, it´s a big sports-crossover but it´s much lighter than you may think, coming it at a lean 1350kg (2976lb). The big tyres, wheels, and bodykit, with the AWD, ensured that the Evo was great around the corners, with no surprises while going around them; you brake, you turn, you go.

20200723184047.jpg


The brakes of the PHEV are also really damn big. Like... double my hand size. The ABS is really intelligent and it makes it stop on a dime, even with these sort-of-road tyres. After the hairpins, you go. And you reeeeally go. The Mitsubishi has a 3-litre V6 that pumps out 502bhp at 7500RPM, and an insane 103.5kgfm at JUST 1000RPM. WHAT. THE. ****. That´s 748.305 ft.lb of torque if my maths are right. The AWD gets aided by a S-AWC system that reduces understeer, as well as a VYC system that also came in later Lancer Evos, but we couldn´t adjust it. I think it could´ve been even better if we could. The race win went to Vic, as he barely stole the fastest lap off of me on the final lap, and I came in second.

For the next race, we traveled to Dragon Trail! Again! I absolutely adore this resort. We were put on the Seaside layout of the track; and while I had taken a good look at the racing crossover that wanted to be a Lancer Evo, I took the Subaru VIZIV on the high speed track. We were lined up, and it´s lights out and away we go!

Before we went, I noticed something weird. Revving the car... would send the weight backwards, like, really badly. The whole car would rock back and forth as I put my foot down and then took it off. The lights went green. Then, wheelspin. Wheelspin. More wheelspin. Up to 70 km/h (43.5 mph). Still wheelspin. The PHEVs were almost past me. Felt like FWD. And then it stopped wheelspinning, I took it to third gear, and it went.

The first few corners were already enough for me to see that this car... was no future Impreza. This was a pseudo-Impreza that had it´s legs cut and given more teeth for a more fearsome grim. It retained almost none of the drivability at low speed. The brakes are not as good as the Evo´s, since I almost caused an accident with Square while trying to defend; he wasn´t expecting me to brake a few meters before the normal braking point, but I had to. Sorry, Square. The VIZIV also has more weight than the Evo, sitting at 1380kg (3042lb), which doesn´t actually make that much difference on the track, it´s just that the brakes are worse, plain and simple.

20200723184059.jpg


The VIZIV also handles really weird when you lift off the gas. When you do, especially at high speeds, it feels like the torque vectoring system is having a brain aneurysm, and the car rocks and conks back and forth like when I was revving it at the starting line, and it is very off-putting. The only way to fix it... is by keeping your foot down, at a minimal position, while braking. But that also comes with it´s own problems. Braking with your foot on the gas screws even more with the car, as it seems to cut off the power or something.

Putting the power down at low speeds also makes the torque vectoring system have an aneurysm. It feels like the AWD goes "a´ight, I´mma head out" and just makes the car become FWD for no reason at all, and it causes a lot of understeer. Then you lift, and the car rocks forward, because of the earlier problem, and then you accelerate, causing more understeer... it´s a mess.

Because of this, and the absolutely shoddy brakes, I almost had a sBinalla moment at the second hairpin and almost killed Square. Sorry, again. I kept it off the wall, suffered through the wheelspin, and finished fifth.

20200723184110.jpg

That´s a close one...

Moving on, we went to Tokyo for another race. After that shocking experience with the "Impreza from the future", which is absolutely shocking around an actual race track, I didn´t even want to mess with it anymore, and went with the Mitsubishi. Pretty bad idea. We launched, and I went into first place, thanks to the Evo´s super glue grip off the line. Until the VIZIV´s kicked it into third gear, and all went past me like I had an engine off a Mitsubishi i-MiEV, instead of the monster 3 litre V6.

20200723184131.jpg


The thing I hadn´t mentioned, is that the VIZIV has 50kgfm at 5000RPM (361.5ftlb), which is pretty much half of the Mitsubishi´s. That´s also why the PHEV gets such a good launch; the acceleration is amazing. But the Subaru has 630bhp at 7700RPM. 128 over the Mitsubishi. That´s enough for it to start gaining on the PHEV in Tsukuba´s back straight; nevermind the never-ending straight of the South Loop of the Tokyo Expressway.

My plan was to take advantage of the PHEV´s way better handling, as to catch up to the VIZIV´s and keep the cycle going, hopefully to have a good race before getting screwed in the straight. It... kind of worked.

20200723184140.jpg


The thing is, the only slow corners around the South Loop, are the final double-apex corner and the first double-apex corner, and only the final corner slows it down enough for wheelspin to become an issue. Therefore, there was not enough advantage for the PHEV, because the middle of the track was all high-speed corners in which the VIZIV´s extra brake horsepower would abolish the poor Mitsubishi out of the corners, while the Evo would gain a bit on corner entry.

20200723184148.jpg

Why are we here... just to suffer?

Nevertheless, it was a good race... for the first lap, at least. I could only keep up for a quarter of the straight before being left in the dust and not seeing anyone else for the remainder of the race. Sadly. But I was determined to get the PHEV another win, as, in my opinion, it is the better car.

Red Bull Ring, the next race, would be my chance. Other concept cars and a historic racing car made their way into the starting grid, drove by none other than Vic. A Ford GT40 Mk4! Against futuristic concept cars! The race was on from the start. Old, versus new. Big brain, versus big engine.

20200723184156.jpg


And the race was blindingly close between the top four cars; both Drex´s and my PHEV-Evo, Vic´s GT40, and Rick´s Mazda RX-VISION GT3. While we would get very close in the corners to Vic, he would pull away once the GT40 got in a good straight, much like how the VIZIV would. But the VIZIVs were nowhere. Maybe they were too busy understeering.

20200723184202.jpg


I almost had another sBinalla moment into the second corner, but the Evo had AWD, and S-AWC. I had no issue holding the drift and coming back onto the straight. We had a drag race between the two Evo´s and the RX-Vision; the Evo´s had the acceleration but the RX had the top end and slightly began edging us on the end of the straight, but it was too late. Rick oversteered off the third corner, Drex had to dodge, and I went around them in an Albon-maneuver. Then, myself and Drex worked together to catch up to Vic, without attacking each other.

20200723184211.jpg


We caught up in around one lap, and I forgot how slow the GT40 had to be off the corners due to it´s lack of grip, and I accidentally edged Vic wide on the final corner, but I didn´t lift because I knew that the Ford would take it´s position back thanks to the sheer ammount of power, and so it did. An amazing race was brewing, and everyone started getting feisty with the handling and the track limits.

20200723184218.jpg


While Vic had the inside, I braked deeper and later and powered out of the first corner to start the fourth lap. I´m pretty sure I took Vic by surprise because I had no intention of backing off; of course keeping it clean, but I knew I could push much harder than him. I went around the outside, riding the sausage curb as the wide Mitsubishi had barely enough room to not go into the grass.

20200723184226.jpg


Then, on the third corner, Vic had a sBinalla moment and the GT40´s brakes betrayed him; he went off the track after missing his braking point just barely, and went onto the sticky gravel, with Drex and myself easily going past. The race was on now. Only driver skill mattered, a true battle. And... for this... I give the Evo another point. What? You thought I forgot about the review? No, I did not.

20200723184242.jpg


The Evo is absolutely a joy to drive fast around a track. It welcomes every kind of driver, because it´s easy to handle, and it´s intoxicating to see how far you can take that easiness, and how far you can push, even in pretty much road-legal tyres. This is why the racing around Red Bull Ring was so good. Everybody was on the edge of their seat. It feels like you never have loss of grip and like you can always gain another tenth on your fastest lap. On qualifying, Square had set a 1:36.7 if I remember correctly, with the RX-Vision that would later go to Rick. I thought "no way I can do that, I pushed the Evo enough and got a 1:37.4...". But I went out, and after a few laps, I set a 1:36.4, and then went even quicker and set a 1:35.6. Seriously. A one-make race of these things would be a lot of fun.

Back to the race, Drex and myself were very close on the final lap, down to the final corner. I had to defend a lot for the first few corners, but around the latter part of the track, I knew there would be no way to pass and put my foot down.

20200723184255.jpg

Track limits are non-existent when there´s down-to-the-wire racing, sorry.

And with that show of track limit abuse that could end up on a certain website, I took the chequered flag, barely. And also setting a 1:35.2.
Yep.
Drex was just 2 tenths behind me.
Damn good racing, let me tell you.

For our last race, since RBR had been an Evo fest, we took to Northern Isle Speedway. Yes, an oval! In COTW! I thought we´d die, but no death happened. Instead, we had a full grid of VIZIV´s racing at a constant 180 km/h (112 mph), with the leader, Square, just a second away from the last person on the standings. It was awesome, and I want to do it some more, some other time!

20200723184303.jpg


There was no working together this time. 15 laps of NIS, with about 50 second laps. It was chaos, but it was amazing! Some contact happened here and there, but I have not a lot to say, it was just NASCAR! But with Japanese concept super cars. Absolute bliss.

20200723184310.jpg


The VIZIV was... actually pretty good around the oval. Since you only turn left, and you don´t have to brake a lot, you can just decelerate and turn left into the banked corners, which guide you into grip that the Subaru desperately needs. And thanks to the banking, you don´t have as much understeer. I still hold my opinion about the car, as it´s a dog around an actual track, but... it was very fun. I took pole in the race, and then everybody departed for their own homes after leaving the keys to the cars. It was a great time.

20200723184317.jpg


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

And now, the verdict.
Mitsubishi XR-PHEV Evolution VGT: Sleeper
-I like how the Mitsubishi handles. I... arguably like how it looks. And, when racing, it´s enjoyable to push and drive it, welcoming any kind of driver with any kind of skill, and the car loves when you push it harder, and harder, in pursuit of those extra tenths of a second around a lap. Great acceleration, great braking (on par with Gr.3 cars), but... while easiness to drive is really good for the drivability rating of a car, I also want... some kind of danger in a racing car. I know it´s in the pursuit of safety for the driver, but if the Evolution was rear wheel drive, there would be some danger of spinning it out, right? I know, I know, it´s like a modern Lancer Evo, but hear me out; it requires more skill instead of brake, turn, go. Other than that, I really liked it! I hope Mitsubishi produce it sometime soon... probably not. But who knows.

Subaru VIZIV-GT VGT: Beater
-The Subaru, on the other hand, is an absolute dog outside of an oval track, as proved by the race at NIS. It´s weird to drive, unwieldy, not exactly easy to learn, and it´s only faster on a power section. I mean... there is some satisfaction on going "MAXIMUM OVERDRIIIIVEEEE!" and passing the Mitsubishi´s like they were standing still... but it gets old. Really old. Really fast. I want to race, not slow down ten kilometres before a corner. Sorry. But I absolutely despise this car.

Instead of uploading all the races, the production team and myself went through each race and got the highlights and funny moments of each. And here it is!



Thank you for reading and for watching the video, if you did. Have a good day, everybody.
Let´s have more fun, next week! Natty out!
 
Doing a quick Ctrl+F search for expletives, and substituting each with what Esther would've if she were editing my reviews as always, I submit my review, lean back on my swivel chair, and stretch vigorously, as if to expel the salt and toxin from my body from having to drive two horrendous cars this week. Gah, editing is hard work. Maybe I ought to swear less... nah, who am I flipping kidding. I couldn't hold back sheet if my life depended on it. It's a sign of honesty, you know? I blame the cars for being so monkey-butt awful.

This week's races and reviewing is done remotely entirely from my... residence, in Japan. Not that the COTW committee has gotten cold feet all of a sudden from the "big 19"; we've always had to undergo the most stringent of tests and take every precaution - rather, it's just that this week's cars were both virtual, a blessing to the unbeknownst masses of reality.

My "residence" in Japan is little more than a car storage facility, a sim rig dumped onto the driveway from the utter lack of space, and the spiteful bare minimum to sustain human life. It has a claustrophobic bathroom, barely a step up from the portable units seen in funerals and the like. It has a table and two chairs for dining and paperwork. What else do you need? A kitchen? The only thing I can cook are brakes and tyres. And I doubt those taste good even when done medium rare.

With the review out of the way, I'm free to do what I originally flew back to Japan for: my Viper's servicing is due.

Not that I like hiring people I don't personally know well to drive my babies, but in the Viper's case, I literally cannot let anyone else drive it. It is a dangerous, unapologetic, unhesitating monster of a murderer that makes even racing drivers of experience shudder at the thought of driving, and there is no waiver that I could write that would absolve me as an employer of responsibilities should, or when, a poor chap cannonballs this thing sideways into ten other cars at brisk walking speeds.

My car is a 2nd gen, 2002 GTS, the last of its kind. I don't have many American cars in my collection, so when I have to meet with American VIPs for social events I can't squirm my way out of, this car is the one I drive to meet them. Thankfully however, now that I'm no longer an active racing driver (...and most likely because of the "big 19"), these social visits have become just about nonexistent. The Viper always, ALWAYS, gets an enthusiastic reaction from these guests, petrolhead or not. With American cars, you have the Ford guys or the GM guys. But everybody can appreciate a Viper, if not for the car's majesty, then for the idiocy of anyone who would own one. I've always loved this thing, despite how it's always wanted to kill me. It's why I own it, in spite of it trying to kill me if I as much looked at it funny.

Removing its cloth cover, I am awestruck anew yet again by the timeless, muscular, cartoon character face and proportions of the Viper, dominated beautifully by larger-than-stock twin white stripes striking through the centre of its body, bathed in as close an approximation of GTS Blue as I can manage. In my mind, there is no other Viper as iconic as this one, in this colour combination. In fact, if you own a Viper without twin stripes, what are you even doing? Do you even own a Viper? It is the one every kid who played Gran Turismo drove, and it is the one every kid crashed in said Gran Turismo when they fully upgraded it into an undriveable mess. But god damn, you take one look at this beauty and tell me the pain isn't worth it. I don't know what or why, but something about this generation of Vipers just looks "right" to me, that later models have lost and failed to recapture. This is the exact, and perhaps only shape that comes to my mind when someone mentions the word, "Viper" to me. Something about it just... works. I can't explain it.

Reconnecting the batteries of the car even I don't drive much, the Viper roared to life for the first time in a good while. Gosh, when was the last time I drove this? Certainly not in a race. It might even be as far back as the last time I had to service this thing. Slipping into its spartan, spitefully barebones interior, I can already start to feel the heat of the exhaust pipes emanating from underneath the door sills. Once in, you're greeted by a steering wheel, gauges, three pedals, a stick, a handbrake, two seats, and seatbelts. What else do you need, a kitchen? It cooks me better than my FD RX-7 does, anyway. This thing IS an oven on wheels. I may have insinuated earlier that this thing could be lethal at brisk walking pace. But, really? This thing could kill you at a standstill without even resorting to carbon monoxide.

Out of two virtual beaters, and into a one that's too real. Ahh yes.

Almost as if to answer a prayer I never uttered, the garage door opened up to reveal a slight drizzle outside. I could laugh. I could cry. I could regret owning a Viper, but at this point, the Viper feels like part of my life, part of a portfolio I show my friends, again and again. "This is what I'm about. This is what has led me to where I am today. This is what shaped me. This is what I like." And, really, isn't that what sports, super, and hypercars are about? If performance cars are cartoon characters, designed to make you smile, designed to be fun, designed to be unique, then there is a very strong argument to be made for the Viper being the strongest, most compelling cartoon character. It's so in-your-face that it's almost impossible to be indifferent towards it; you either love it for all that it stood for, or you hate it for its ridiculously long list of flaws, many of which instant deal breakers for anyone with a shred of common sense in them. I'm lucky enough to love this thing, though perhaps to a fault, as my left leg can already attest to.

This generation of Vipers, and even the one after, came with no traction control or ABS. Stability control? I'm not sure the Viper understands either of those two words on their own, let alone put together. The suspension setup on this car feel like driving on clouds; weight transfer happens... sometimes... maybe? There is no feedback whatsoever from the wheels of the car. Steering feel is as soggy as the weather today. You turn the wheel, and the car turns when it wants to turn. You can't force it to do anything, especially turning and braking, as it will absolutely lash out and bite your head off if you think you have any say or power in this relationship. The Americans have a saying: "An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure." Imagine how much curing is required when it takes so much due care just in prevention in the Viper. You do NOT want to provoke this thing. Even when you think you're being civil with it, sometimes its limits will come to you instead of you approaching the limits. You can politely ask the car to do something, it thinks for a bit, and then replies with "nah brah, not in the mood", and suddenly you find yourself in some truly hairy scenarios. To drive this thing fast feels as precarious and precise an endeavour as dancing on a mattress while wearing stilettos. Don't ask me where I got that analogy from. You aren't masterfully utilising every millimetre of the track and shaving hundreds of a second off your lap times in this car like you perhaps would a lightweight Japanese pocket rocket of its era; instead, you take roughly the racing line and let the power do the rest for you.

Yes, every time I put my foot down in a Viper, I can't help but to smile. 450HP isn't a lot by today's standards, but back when every Japanese manufacturer were arguing about who had the best 276 horses, the Viper's 450 made men in bowties soil themselves silly in unabridged horror. And trust me when I say that these 450 horses are a very, very different breed from those of the Japanese. It almost doesn't matter when you shift this thing: there is torque EVERYWHERE. It's genuinely a car where I suddenly realise I'm in the wrong gear coming out of a bend, but by the time my hand is on the shifter, I'm already in the right gear. This engine pulls without a damn care in the world. Its plateaus of torque could make modern EVs look over their shoulders in a cold, acidic sweat. Yet, the car never ever felt like it was screaming, or even trying. It always sounds laid back and lazy, only sounding mildly annoyed at the last 500 or so rpm.

One would think that driving a 450HP, FR brute of an animal with no aids would be difficult because of its insane power, but really, that is not at all the case. Perhaps it's because I've been spoiled silly by the supercars of today with excess of 600HP, but I find the Viper's power to be very well contained and managed, so much so that, as long as you aren't actively asking for trouble and exercise due sensibility, even trying to drive this thing fast won't induce power oversteer. This I find is thanks to its gargantuan 335 section rear tyres, along with suspension so soft that there is always weight over the rear tyres by the time your steering wheel is reasonably straight out of a corner. It only starts to hint at power oversteer when fuel loads are low, and the rear end of the car lightens up.

That said, because of how soft the suspension is, especially at the rear, on power, the Viper's turning radius increase rivals that of some modern, 300HP FF hot hatches. It's a car you really need to straighten out before giving it a boot full. I find it difficult to precisely place the car as well, not just because of the aforementioned lack of feedback and soft suspension, but also because the driving position is freaking weird in this car. You're set so far to the left of the car, the driver side door almost feels paper thin, and the right extremes of the car feel like they're in another zip code entirely. You're also sat farther back in the car, thanks to the long hood having to swallow a hulking V10 longitudinally. I almost want to say there's some cant angle in the seating as well, but at this point, I might just be making excuses.


Gingerly, this 450BHP, 8.0L Lamborghini sourced V10 car tiptoed over to Mooneyes in Yokohama, mostly following much more sensible drivers in the centre lane, tactically avoiding cooking myself by utilising the Viper's sky high overdrive 6th gear, which causes the engine to damn near stall at 1,250rpm, doing Japan's highway speed limit of 100km/h. Cars do signal and give way, seeing this menacing shape in their rear view mirrors, but I'm going as fast as my balls and left thigh allow, dear Camry-san.

Support for American cars are scarce in Japan, but that is not to say it's nonexistent. While Mooneyes specialises in Hot Rod restoration and the like, they've graciously made an exception for this idiot and his Viper, and has been my go-to since importing the Viper into Japan a number of years ago. We've made special orders for the Viper's very oddly sized 275/35ZR18 tyres up front, and 335/30ZR18 in the rear from Michelin, and also for authentic American cuisine at their restaurant, which I had hoped to give up on when moving to Japan, to no avail. But other than that? Everything about maintenance is rather routine and normal.

Taking Route 8 back onto the... Wangan (there, I said the magic word, does my thing get more views now?), the skies have cleared up somewhat, and the roads were starting to dry quickly in the summer heat of Japan. As usual, I'm taking it easy in the Viper, especially on brand new rubber. An R34 GT-R approaches the rear bumper of my car and gives me two quick flashes of the headlights, a sign of a challenge. I put my hazards on to decline. I know what it looks like, but the Viper really isn't that kind of car. It's something you have to accept and deal with on a regular basis as an owner of a Viper.

After a few more minutes of pestering me, the GT-R pulls out and overtakes me. The speed and stability of these things will never stop being amazing to me. But, just as I thought that, a howl so piercing and loud seemingly tore the air apart, and a car appeared with such blinding speed in my mirrors I saw it almost only as soon as I heard it.

Not that I really got a good look at it, but the size and shape of it resembled that of a purpose built supercar; it was low, it was long, and by god was it loud. Its brake discs were glowing almost as brightly as the tail lights themselves, as it slowed down just in time to avoid nailing the rapidly accelerating GT-R that just pulled out from behind me, and with the same agility and ease, made an unapologetic go-around the GT-R, perhaps even before the poor chap in the R34 knew what the heck just happened to him.

The shape, size and colour, along with the noise... naaaah. But then I saw those boring tail lights... there's no mistaking it. But there is quite literally no way... Man, I've had a long day. I'm just going to go home after grabbing some "groceries". I'm starting to hallucinate. Must be the heat in the cabin.

I stopped over at the famous enthusiast gathering spot of Tatsumi PA, though with no more intention than to just grab instant noodles from the 7-Eleven nearby for more late night review writing and drive home. I mean, sure, the's another conbini* right by my place, but it's like a five minute walk!

*conbini: short for "conbiniansu sutoaa", or convenience store.

Perhaps due to the "big 19", it's much less crowded- ah, no, there's the crowd. They've formed in such a dense pack that I could not even steal a peek at what was causing such a commotion.

Even an American icon packing a Lamborghini V10 could not rouse a single eyelid in Tatsumi that day. Not that I was there for any attention, but I do have to admit it stung a little. Leaving the conbini saddled with bags of plasticky noodles, I returned to find that not only had the ruckus not died down, but it had grown almost twofold, scores of people now trying to climb over each other to take photos of the eye of the storm. Is there some sort of event happening today? I don't keep up with car culture much; I've got my own hands full.

Sticking my key into the door of the Viper to get in, I was approached by a foreign looking man, who had been sitting on a bench prior. I stopped the unlocking process, looking at the man with apprehension. I'm not sure what to expect at all. Caucasian men are a rare sight in Japan, and it's even more unsettling when you can't read facial expressions due to the masks we're all wearing.

"Ano... nani ka...", I begin.
"Ah, sumimasen, no speak.... nihongo", the man goes, forming a cross with both his forearms.
"Oh, er...", I stutter. I'm not very good at speaking in person.
"English, yes?", he offers, with a distinct accent that's quite hard to place, yet still somewhat familiar.
"English, yes, yes...", I continue to fumble over a wide open path of communication.
"Your car is very nice!", he goes.
"T-thank you..."

As with most times however, talking about my cars was a great way to ease myself into a conversation. It didn't take long for us to chat up a storm about the Viper, and I had seemingly forgotten how to stutter. Before I knew it, we had even shared a few personal stories, like how I used to be a racing driver, and quit because of how ludicrously dangerous the sport had become, and how lax and ridiculous the officiating has become. He had thought I quit because of the rumours and scandals of the higher ups fixing races, but that wasn't a topic I was very keen to discuss. I like to steer clear of drama in my life and just do my own thing.

"Can I drive it?", he suddenly asks.
"Wh-NO!", I reel back. Is this guy insane?!
"I'll let you drive my car in exchange."
"Oh, pfft, no. End of story."
"Are you sure? My car does the Nordschleife 26 seconds faster than yours", he cheekily teases.

It was at that point, with the perfect pronunciation of "Nordschleife" that I pinpointed the accent: German. No wonder it sounded so distantly familiar. I heard it way back when negotiating for my own ratios on the Cayman GT4. Let's just say I'm glad I've never had to hear it again since.

"Yeah, pshh. Irrelevant. Like anyone's taken this car to the 'Ring before. Please, don't-"
"7:35."
"What?"
"This car does the Nordschleife in 7 minutes 35 seconds."
"Bullsheet."
"Are you sure you don't want a drive in my car? It does a low 7 around the 'Ring."

I'm bad at excusing myself and putting my foot down in conversations, so instead of simply ignoring the madman and driving off, I said, "show me".

"Sure thing", he assuredly sings. He turns to lead the way as I extract the key from the door of my Viper. I really need to learn how to say no. I just want to be at home right now. We walked straight towards the droves of people, and I began to feel uncomfortable all over again. I straight up got pangs in my stomach when he made attempts to cut into the crowd of people, and I, clueless to everything, had to follow suit. Social distance my butt cheeks.

Once through, my eyes damn near popped out of my head, and I could only whisper under my breath:

Ho.

Lee.

SHEET.

In the eye of the storm sat, of all things, a McLaren F1. In the same shade of orange I saw damn near rear end a GT-R from earlier.

"You sure you don't want a go?", he, suddenly with the upper hand in the argument, almost gloats as he questions me.

Feeling slighted and immediately on the defensive, I call him on his bluff. "Start it."

With a nonchalant turn of his body, he presses on the remote that was in his hands the whole time, and sure enough, the F1 responded, flashing its hazards twice to signal its unlock. I might've gasped audibly when the F1 actually responded, but it was hard to tell in the sea of what felt like a hundred other "ooh"s and "aah"s.

Such is the response this car evokes from everyone present, that even unlocking its doors made you a superstar.

Kneeling on the right passenger footwell, he sticks the key into the ignition, and sure enough, the F1 roared to life. And at this point, I began to feel my knees weaken. Am I... really being offered a chance to drive a McLaren F1? It's... not a replica, is it? No one can be that talented, can they?! I refuse to believe that!

"Well, how about it?", he asks, yet again.

There are a few certainties in life. Death and taxes, for example. Certain things you don't do, as well. You don't spit in the wind, you don't tug at Superman's cape, and you sure as hell don't turn down an opportunity to drive a McLaren freaking F1.

"No no, you don't understand...", I begin to back off, slapped in the face by legitimacy and motoring royalty that I hadn't even in my wildest dreams dared envision. "My car's dangerous man, it doesn't have ABS-"

"Neither does this."
"Are you SURE you can handle a Viper, man?"
"I can handle an F1."
"No no, you don't understand. My car is flipping terrible to drive!"
"I've driven them before."
"But like... you're trusting me with an F1?"
"You said you used to be a racing driver, no?"
"That's not..."
"Please man. I really love Vipers. I miss mine."

In a deeply bewildered daze, egged on by empathy of losing a beloved car, I said, "A-alright...", and I handed him the key. It's... somewhat more assuring to know that he's had experience with Vipers. Yet, there are twenty million other things I ought to be concerning myself with, like insurance, speed cameras...

"Give 'er a good run, tell me what you think after!", the man tells me.
"Yeah man, no. I don't want to get you into trouble."
"Trouble? Oh, don't worry about the cops, man."
"What?"
"It'd be fine. They'll leave you alone."

The frick?

He left after agreeing to meet back here after an hour. With the gear lever on the right, I opt to get in from the left side instead. Crawling into the unique centre seating position of the F1 is an inelegant process, but I'll gladly suffer any indignity at this moment. It's been so long since I last felt like a kid in a toy store. Reaching for the handle of the A pillar hinged door, the cockpit of the F1 seals shut, almost like a jet fighter. As I engage first on the stick shift to my right and creep away from a standstill, the crowd of onlookers clear a path of the bare minimum gap and distance, still clamouring for more photos of the car, all the way until I made it out of the parking area in what felt like twenty minutes of driving.

It didn't take very long for me to work myself up to and feel for the limits for the F1. In fact, it was so easy to find a rhythm and groove with the car, it truly did feel like it fit like a glove. What immediately shocked me is how easy and accessible everything in the F1 is. Power is progressive, and never explosive and unmanageable, thanks in part to its tall as mountains gearing helping mask the violence, but never the surge. It is very usable power that is never intimidating; a sharp contrast to the performance oriented and record claiming hypercars of today. Weighing in at a scant 1,140kg (2,500lbs) kerb, the F1 also stops appreciably well as well, perhaps even better than most hypercars of today. Weight transfer is shockingly intuitive and almost immediate, even in mid corner. In fact, initial impressions driving this thing semi hard was that, it was super easy and accessible! So much so in fact, the first comparison that came to my mind was my NSX-R at home. Both cars are so easy to drive fast, with most of their performance usable and accessible, while being forgiving, to boot.

Yes, I find that the F1 is set up with forgiveness in mind. To that end, there's a degree of softness to it not AT ALL found in record claiming, performance oriented hypercars of today. This forgiving softness in the suspension however, does mean that you need to be smoother and slower with your inputs, especially the pedals. You have to ease the weight over the front tyres first before fully asking for the brakes when the car is off neutral, and you have to be gentle on shifts in sweeping corners, lest the F1 jerks and lurches around a racing line you're trying to hold.

But at no point did the F1 threaten to chew me up and spit me off. It was a very relaxing, calm, and composed drive, very much like a 634PS NSX. In fact, it's... better, than my NSX-R at home with only 280PS. THAT still threatens me from time to time. This... doesn't.

Yes, the F1 lacks ABS too, like my Viper. However, the lack of ABS is trivialised as much as possible in the F1. Of course, you can still get in trouble with it, but as long as you practice due common sense, the F1 happily obliges your every input. As long as you don't, say, attempt to brake and turn at the same time too too much, and as long as you don't ask too much braking of the car as elevation changes, the lack of ABS is barely noticeable in the car. The front tyres will start to squeak maybe a little even on full braking, but the car maintains its composure and line, all the way until you hit 2nd or 1st gear braking zones, where the front tyres will want to lock up. Yet, this I daresay is the easiest car to drive without ABS I've ever driven, by a shockingly wide margin. This is a car that isn't reliant on ABS to be driveable. There is always clear feedback and communication as to what each tyre is doing and experiencing, be it via audio cues from the tyres themselves, or steering feel. Even when the tyres do start to slip under braking, they are always just a small, minuscule adjustment of the brake pedal away from finding grip again. The friction circle on this thing is almost tangible in your hands, with the steering wheel slowly and proportionately letting you turn for the same steering force you're inputting, the more you let off on the brakes, while keeping the tyres screaming at the edge of adhesion.

So intuitive, easy, and accessible is the handling of this car with such shocking capabilities, with such fine attention to detail in the small nuances of handling, it blew my every fear and expectation clear out of the water with just a few minutes behind the wheel. Even the driving position, dead centre of the car, one would think takes getting used to. Yet, for a racing driver, it was second nature. The A pillars are barely in your peripheral vision when seated, and with only two haunches out the bonnet that remind me of things perhaps too dirty to mention, visibility was panoramic in the F1. Why don't ALL cars come with this three seat configuration? It doesn't take very long at all for anyone to realise that this car is engineered with the most meticulous of details and driving sensation in mind. Everything, from the suspension, to the aerodynamics, and even its driving position, felt set up just so, never excessive, never extreme, always easy, and ridiculously rewarding for the very basic requirement of treating it with due common sense. It's like getting a chance to flip your favourite actress with just a very basic requirement of just taking a shower to make sure you don't stink... you guys miss Esther editing these analogies out yet?

In fact, after a while, I started to get so comfortable with the car, my mind was starting to drift elsewhere. I began to think of other things in my life as I drove at speeds well in excess of triple the limit. It was that easy and reassuring. This car has a very... personal, feel to it. Driving this car feels as easy and trusting as talking to a good friend, one to one. You could almost see and feel a person in it. This felt like a car designed by a very small, tightly knit group, or even a single person, instead of a committee. It has a very cohesive feel towards a laser focused goal, one that is shockingly civil and pleasant, unlike the hypercars of today that scream performance and boast extremity almost as a rite of passage for legitimacy. Yet, I think they misunderstand. This is a hypercar that held the record for top speed of a production car for TEN YEARS, yet it is easy and calm to drive. You really could tell that, gatekeeping price tag aside, the designer(s) of this car really wanted them to be driven and exploited by drivers of varying skill levels.

I... love that.

I love this.

Give me more...

A while later into the drive, when I'm fully confident and familiar with the F1, I began to feel it asking me, "Push me more! I can handle it!" It felt like Billie Jean asking for your hand to dance. Yet, dare I? Am I the Michael Jackson of racing drivers? Do I dare risk it all?


It hurt all the more that this car felt so personal when I had to turn it down. At the end of the day, the F1 is not my lover; this is someone else's car on public roads, and I think I'm already taking liberties that I will regret in a cell for ten years after. With how composed and at ease the F1 both felt to drive and made me feel as a driver, it was, in all honesty, enjoyable even at about eight tenths that I was driving it at, with reasonable margin for error.

But god I wish I had one. I wish I could bring this out to a track to really feel for the bleeding edge of its limits. I love this. I want this. This car has purged every other hypercar from my mind. I really do struggle to come up with any legitimate criticism toward it. I hear maintenance for these things is a nightmare, and realistically speaking, no one's going to daily one, in spite of how it seemingly wants to be. That's... it, I think.

Yes, there are other cars that put down numbers that has far since surpassed it. Yet, none of them have this sense of cohesion, this ease, this accessibility, the sense of meticulous attention to detail, this natural feeling to it, this purity, this personal feeling, that's nigh impossible to put into words. Other cars may have bits and pieces of what I listed, but never all together. What a package it is, this car.

God damnit, I'm spoiled. I don't know if I'll ever be able to enjoy another road car again. I get that the 90s was a truly magical time for cars. I get that we live in a vastly, vastly different time right now. I understand that performance cars nowadays need to be set unforgivingly stiff and be as shouty as possible to claim the records the McLaren F1 once held, especially when now saddled with ever stringent safety standards. But... but I'm spoiled, nonetheless. I... almost wish I never had this particular cherry of mine popped, especially by a stranger whom I may never see again.

I arrived back at Tatsumi a little late, owing to having a... uhm... bit too much fun in the F1.

Once backed in though, I fumble about in the dark for the door handle of the F1, failing to find it. The man signals to reach downwards... to the side... oh, the door latch is underneath the passenger seat. Whoops.

"How was it?", asks he as the door swings open. I undo the buckle of the seatbelt, disappointed that it let go of me just like that. I had hoped there'd be a belt malfunction and I'd be stuck in the F1 for longer. Can you tell I'm struggling to accept that my time in an F1 was over? I just sat there dazed, unable to speak, unable to move. The man seems used to this kind of thing, and simply waits outside patiently without a word as well.

As soon as the guilt of making the owner stand outside waiting outweighed my reluctance to get out of the F1, I did. "So, how was it?", he asks again, beaming.

I take one look back at the F1 and I could almost cry. I want this. This is so unfair! I put one hand on the open door, and look down at its purposefully slim silhouette. I still can't find the words. Where do I even begin?

"Look... can I tell you later? I'm... kind of... overwhelmed right now."
"No problem man. Here, your keys. And my name card."

"O-oh", I barely respond with. I offer my name card as well. Somehow, this is the most normal thing I've done all day. I retrieve the key and survey my Viper. True enough, there wasn't a single scratch on it.

"So... um... how was the Viper?"

"Man I just LOVE this car! The handling is absolutely amazing! It's like it is throwing itself into the corners without spinning, sliding or even losing any speed. In fact its corner speeds are really, REALLY impressive! The engineers did a fantastic job here! Also it seems to have very nice brakes. For now it is my best driving car. And the looks man! What a sexy looking car. Also the under braking lit up Viper symbol at the back is such a cool detail! One of my favourite cars of all time."

...did we even drive the same car? Or am I just bad?

"We need to do this again, man", he says.
"Am I... of COURSE we should!", like a schoolgirl that just got asked out for prom, I lit up.
"Yeah, I only got 45 minutes out of the Viper."
"Was there some problem?"
"It's out of gas."

"Frick. Of course it is." I JUST filled it up after the servicing, did I not?!

"O-oh, f-f-for sureman", I begin to again stutter and fumble for words in the face of such an opportunity. I glance down at the name card in my hand to finally learn his name: "Alex... P?"

He beams in return. "The relevant people will know."

*********************************************
In a way of thinking, both of these cars are indicative of us as a culture, as enthusiasts. With values of the McLaren F1 now at almost twenty MILLION, it's shocking to think that McLaren struggled to even sell 64 of these things back when they were in production. Neither its looks nor performance I daresay has aged a day, and its innovation has hardly even been imitated since.

It genuinely breaks my heart that the Viper is dead. It upsets me so much that boarders on me taking offence. We as enthusiasts keep saying crap like, "we want proper manuals!", "we want NA engines!", and "we want proper RWD coupés!", yet when manufacturers actually give us what we say we want, we don't buy them, and they go out of production due to lack of profitability, making future proposals that much more difficult. Thinking about it makes me sick.

I get it. I'm lucky enough to own multiple cars, and therefore can afford a Viper that I myself rarely even drive. But I will never sell my Viper. It's a statement. Always has been, always will be. The Viper is a firm middle finger to trends, and it always felt like it was the product of a small team of very passionate people, building the car they want, instead of what the customer trends suggest. And even in spite of being the technological equivalent of beating someone with a stick, the Viper has always shown to be a very capable monster in the right hands. It has improved upon itself substantially through generations while staying true to its roots while constantly improving, something most beloved sports cars cannot lay claim to. Yet, it's a painful realisation that perhaps that is exactly why it went extinct: it stayed true to itself and adamantly refused to evolve and adapt. Yet, I think that's precisely what makes it such a great car, and why I love it so. Just like the F1, the Viper feels like a very pure, intimate, personal, and somewhat selfish car in a way. And I personally find it hard to not lust for, love and respect Vipers for that.

Nowadays though, I appreciate it more for it being a cartoon character, and a beacon of nostalgia moreso than for world beating performance. And maybe I'm in the vast minority in that thinking, but it doesn't take away from my appreciation of the Viper. And I'm very proud to own one.

*********************************************
@Natalie_GT Great review! I loved reading it! Made me laugh a few times as well. I had to Google what sBinalla was, though :lol:

@Nismonath5 It was fantastic seeing the racing from your end. Do you not drive with the stick shifter any more? I'm also really surprised you drive in chase cam with a wheel. I think you're the only one I see doing that combo.
 
@Nismonath5 It was fantastic seeing the racing from your end. Do you not drive with the stick shifter any more? I'm also really surprised you drive in chase cam with a wheel. I think you're the only one I see doing that combo.
It depends on the car and what transmission it has. The R8 I used paddles cos it's a semi auto in real life, whereas the Beat I was actually using a controller, I could catch it's sideways antics quicker with just my thumb and no force feedback to worry about. And then of course the Gr.2 NSX never had a stick option to begin with.

Also, I'll likely be missing this week too. Got a track day at Hampton Down's, gonna be shaking down my racecar for September, as well as some test mules with a little experimental equipment in them ;)

IMG_20190224_165123.jpg
 
Speaking of Track Days, had my first one in my own car thanks to the SCCA Track Night in America program last month. It was definitely a bit of a surprise to see the likes of a Corvette ZR1 and a Roush Mustang in what was supposed to be a "Novice" group, but this still ranks as one of the coolest things I've ever done.



And yes, I'm still active in PC Sim-Racing. And your resident "Oval Specialist" absolutely loves the '87 NASCAR Stock Cars that were released for iRacing last month.

 
I've been using the old sauber and the nissan as I find it more fun than the Tamahawk.. up to 14mil now... thanks for the advice. Never want to see this track again...
 
Back